Introducing Pillar, a collection of psychological mini-games for PS4

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Introducing Pillar, a collection of psychological mini-games for PS4

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.

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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.

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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!

You can follow the game’s official Twitter account at @PillarTheGame, where we’ll be tweeting updates and new details. You can also visit the game’s official website at www.pillargame.com.

If you have any questions, I’d love to answer them below! Thanks for reading.

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10 Comments

7 Author Replies

  • Looks interesting, and hopefully it’s as thought provoking and/or emotive as you suggest. Nice concept. Magnolia is a good movie…anything with William H. Macy is! :)

    Have to disagree with your notion that games mimicking movies is a ‘wrong direction’, rather I would suggest that there is plenty of scope for games of that ilk…as there are for all genres and styles of gaming. For me that’s part of the joy of gaming, if I feel like playing a ‘movie like’ experience…I can, if I want a non-plot driven puzzler, or a mindless shmup…or in fact any mish-mash of genres…I can experience all those, there is a place for any type of game I would think.

    Curious to know more about Pillar, and good luck with it! :)

    • Hey thanks a lot,

      Yeah, in retrospect I should have clarified, but I feel the same way! Games can do more than one thing, but my concern is that a lot of times the gameplay feels tacked on to the story. I don’t really enjoy these types of games, it feels like the designers picked a genre then threw the story on top. I’d like to see a focus on trying to marry gameplay and story.

      I’ve really been enjoying these “interactive novel” type games like Gone Home and Dear Esther. I’d like to see narrative in games go more in that direction!

      Good to see a Mangolia fan – definitely one of my favorite films. Actually, anything PTA touches is gold =-)

      Thanks for your comment!

    • Yeah I take your point, I suppose it’s just the nature of the industry, or any industry really, there’ll always be products, like Pillar, that are a labour of love, and then there are those that just pop off the assembly line…and everything in between. I guess it comes down to quality, finding a gameplay formula that works and tacking a story onto it can succeed if there’s genuine passion for it, but games which have a vision from the outset do tend work better if the talent and quality is there to execute it.

      Is Gone Home coming to PS4? Sure I heard rumours that it was… Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture is a game I’m looking forward to and I’ve been requesting for a while now that The Stanley Parable be brought to PS4, no doubt to no avail but you can only ask right?! :)

      PTA…I enjoyed There Will Be Blood too, haven’t as yet got around to watching Hard Eight or The Master though…

  • The game look interesting enough to force me to say if u guys can make it available on ps vita, rest is ur wish, but it would be interesting to hav this game on vita

    • Thanks! No Vita port planned at the moment, but a lot of people have been asking for it. Maybe in the future if the PS4 version does ok!

  • As a person who is interested in how the mind works, this has me very intrigued. :)

    Despite not having a PS4 yet I keep seeing lots and lots of titles gradually increasing my desire for one.

  • Psychological mini-games. Interesting. But it’s also very simple so I need to hear more.

  • We’re on the verge of something big here, imagine the day when children are diagnosed and or treated with video-games. Congratulations Michael (and the rest of the team ? is there a team ?) for Pillar. Doki-doki Universe is also a psychological, introspective type of game (we need a new genre name) – so I humbly suggest to dissect that game too. Some critics said it was repetitive and lacked a sens of progression and I do agree with them, so maybe try and avoid that. But I digress, every game like this is similar to a step on the moon.

    • Thanks so much, I’ve never heard of Doki-doki Universe so I’ll check it out! Yeah, we have a ways to go… but hopefully more and more designers get on board and we can push games more in that direction =-)

  • I WANT A VITA VERSION pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease!

    • If we had a large team, I’d order the programmers to start working on a Vita version now… unfortunately we’re only two people, so we’re going to have to go one platform at a time. Sorry I know that sucks, but hopefully in the future it happens!

  • Your hair looks cute, can I ruffle it?

  • Would you like to tell us something about the music? Is it brainwave tweaking in the background? Are there some music mechanics perhaps?

    • More details on the music later, but I’ll say it has a lot of typical instruments you think of for winter music: bells, piano etc. The music is very left-field for a video game soundtrack, can’t wait to share more!

  • nice but a bit tired of playing 8 or 16 bits like pixels games, or indies taht do not need at all the horse power of the next gen , meanwhile no major Triple A titles this holyday , like last year on this console… hope this game will be cool, but seriously we need more triple A exclusive on ps4…

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