Your first look at an intriguing new project from designer Michael Hicks
Hey everyone! My name is Michael Hicks, and I’m the designer/programmer/musician for a game I’m announcing today called Pillar. Pillar is a collection of mini-games, where each game represents a different type of personality that we find in people.
For example, there are introverts that lose energy from being around people, extroverts that expand energy from interacting with others, characters that make decisions with logic, characters that make decisions with feeling and so on. My goal is to express these traits entirely through gameplay mechanics.
Pillar was born out of a confluence of ideas: the first influence I had was from Magnolia, a movie that examines multiple characters with different storylines but seamlessly weaves them all together. I realised this is something video games can do too but I’ve never seen it utilised in a way that’s as powerful as this film.
For instance, in some games there are characters that have unique abilities, like swimming underwater or jumping higher than others, but rarely do you see these things linked together thematically – they are usually only there for variety.
I’m also a fan of psychology – one way of looking at this game is as a representation of the Myers-Briggs self-assessment test; every psychological preference in that test is represented in the game. While this isn’t a science, I’m often amazed at how insightful the results are into how I, and also my friends and family, work internally. The idea of experiencing how other types of people make decisions and operate through gameplay excites me, since this is something the test alone can’t do.
The final thing that influenced this game was my desire to avoid popular design approaches we use for telling stories. While I empathise with the need for mature storytelling in video games, I think that designing a game like a film is leading us in the wrong direction. I wanted to make a game that tells a “story” non-verbally, through gameplay mechanics, without any cutscenes or dialogue. The philosophy of designers like Jason Rohrer and Jonathan Blow, who let the rules of the game speak the message, has been a huge influence on this game.
I hope that talking about some of the inspirations and ideas that led to Pillar has caught your interest, because as time gets closer to launch (hopefully this autumn), I will be revealing more details, including how the game will play!
If you have any questions, I’d love to answer them below! Thanks for reading.