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Interview: Phil Fish (Fez)
AUGUST 30, 2008
It's been close to a year since the last published interview with Phil Fish was posted on the web, so we decided to do a bit of catching up with the designer of Fez and new face of IGF by asking him a couple of questions to find out what he's been working on.
Hi Phil, can you tell us something about yourself and what it is exactly that you do?
I'm Phil Fish, and I co-founded two things: Kokoromi and Polytron. One is an experimental game/art collective, and the other is a company. I do art and design on all my projects. And I guess I'm mostly known for Fez.
Any plans to put out something before the release of Fez, or ideas on what to do next after Fez?
I'm working on a couple of different things. I can't write a single line of code, so I always have to work with a good programmer.
Right now I'm collaborating with Alec Holowka on a little iPhone game that will probably come out way before Fez. It's a bit early to commit to anything yet, but Alec and I are making this cool little game that's all about multi-touch. You play as a little dose of medicine inside people's bodies, and you have to cure them.
And Kokoromi is making a game for GAMMA 3D this year (we didn't make one for last year).
Tell us more about GAMMA 3D then.
GAMMA is in it's third year this year, and this time around the theme is stereoscopy (of the red/blue variety). It's taking place in Montreal, on November 19th. All the details can be found at www.kokoromi.org/gamma3d.
I noticed this cool fact the other day. GAMMA, BLiP, T.O JAM and the I AM 8-BIT show are all three years old this year. So I guess 2006 really was the year of the cultural game related annual event!
Any central location where we can get the games submitted to GAMMA from previous years?
All the games that were released by their creators (some weren't) are available on the Kokoromi site.
When will the games from GAMMA 3D be made available for download, for the people who cannot attend?
That's all up to their creators. Developers retain all rights to their games. But usually, yeah, most of those games end up being released online.
What were your favorite GAMMA games from previous years?
Last year saw some truly awesome games. Petri's Bloody Zombies was great fun, and so was Mr. Heart Loves You Very Much. Both made great use of their clever little gameplay twists.
And of course, Jason Rohrer's Passage blew everybody's mind and went on to make waves everywhere for months and months.
Since GAMMA 3D submissions requires 3D glasses, any recommendations on where to get the proper equipment to play the games once they're available for download?
Yes. You can buy really cheap 3D glasses from eBay. They cost like 40 cents each.
We had this meeting with this stereoscopy expert friend of ours, and we asked him what our options were. And he gave us three options. We could use polarized lenses, with special projectors and special screens, all very expensive, and practically impossible for the developers to test on a computer. Then we had these crazy double-matrix TV of the future, that can work WITHOUT GLASSES, but then again, super pricey and impossible to test.
And so remained the good old anaglyphic glasses, which can easily be tested on any kind of screen, monitor or projector, is super cheap, and has that nice little low-fi aesthetic that lends itself so well to the kind of experimentation we hope will take place. We did some tests recently, at the venue, on their projectors, and just a simple rotating wireframe model was spectacular.
Do you have any plans to take GAMMA out of Montreal?
We'd like to take it on the road, actually. Since so much of the fun comes from actually being at the party, we're thinking of taking the party to other cities.
What are your future plans for GAMMA?
Well, we'll wait to see how things go with GAMMA 3D before we start thinking about GAMMA 4.
How did the idea for GAMMA 3D came about?
Funny story, the idea for GAMMA 3D came to us on the cab ride home from GAMMA 256. Last year, our cut for the night (there is a cover) was something like 30 bucks. So we just used it to pay ourselves a cab ride home.
And on the way home, I mused about how since year 2 was 256, we should try to come up with a theme that incorporates the number 3. And the first thing that came to mind was GAMMA 3D. We immediately became super excited about the prospect of a stereoscopic gamma. And it was pretty much decided right there and then.
Then at GDC we met with some gentlemen from Texas Instruments, who wanted to show us their crazy new 3D TVs that use shutter glasses for amazing HD stereoscopy that runs at 120fps. They showed us all sorts of cool 3D stuff in games, but all using games like Call of Duty and Project Gothams. The games jumped out of the TV, and it looked incredible, but there was no gameplay to it at all. But it was fantastic HD 3D.
And that got us even more excited about GAMMA 3D, because stereoscopy in games is still totally unexplored territory. Even the few next-gen games being developed now with 3D modes, they are still being developed to be played on regular TVs.
Since the game is still developed for the lowest common denominator, who's a dude with a regular TV, the stereoscopy remains a flashy extra with no consequences on gameplay. So, if you think of GAMMA 3D as a unified platform where 100% of the users are equipped for 3D, it becomes really interesting.
Will there be free flow of drinks at GAMMA 3D?
Some of it will be free, yes.
Anything you're looking forward to playing in IGF this year? Early predictions?
Well, I'm not sure exactly who's entering what, but I can't wait to find out. IGF just keeps getting better and better every year. And I'm really looking forward to seeing Annabelle's game, Ciellus.
Any plans on participating in another IGF competition?
If I can some other year, yeah sure, why not. It's great fun, and it helps me to have a rock solid deadline. I can submit FEZ+!
I'm really excited to be on the other side next year. And I'm glad I have a good reason to go to GDC again!
What are some of your favorite indie games? And what's your favorite IGF entry from last year?
Well, I don't like to play favorites. So in no particular order I'd say Braid, Crayon Physics Deluxe, Everyday Shooter, Rescue: The Beagles and I totally consider Geometry Wars to be an indie classic, considering it was a one man job, and is totally amazing.
My favourite last year was definitely Crayon Physics Deluxe. It's just such a pure joy of a game. Petri and I have a little idea we want to get started on. He's crashing my place for GAMMA, so hopefully we can get started on that then.
Final question then. Anything you'd like to say to the eager fans of Fez?
Winning the IGF was great and all, but now we're being real careful not to be victims of premature hype. We knew the game was going to take a while to make, considering it's pretty much just me and Renaud. We didn't want to sustain a year-long hype campaign, and it's so bizarre to have fans of something that isn't even out yet!
But if you think you like it now, just wait. JUST YOU WAIT.
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