“The ‘fourth-person’ idiom sprung out of us wanting to find something that could describe the player’s standpoint in relation to the world and the main character of the game. In Pavilion the player has no direct control over the main character and has to manipulate certain objects in the world to indirectly steer the main character towards a destination. This is a pretty unique and a different kind of player control which makes for the players to somewhat play themselves, in a laid-back observing position.”
Fourth-person in this case implies that the world and the character operates with or without the player’s interaction. What the player does do, however, is manipulate parts of the world to allow the character to get to where they are heading. It’s very similar to how a “god game” operates, though the main character in Pavilion will be much mess aware of the presence of the player, if at all. The result is, as Henrik Flink of Visiontrick tells me, a pretty casual experience that doesn’t want to challenge the player so much as allow them to enjoy the artistic merits of the experience.
“Essentially it will be a journey into an unknown and surreal world where you gradually understand its history and purpose.”
Visiontrick didn’t originally intend for Pavilion to play in this way, and in fact, a few years back Pavilion was a “pretty conventional generic puzzle game,” meaning that the game mechanics and visual style were noting out of the ordinary. It was only about a year ago that they found dissatisfaction with the prototype and decided to make the unusual decision to throw it all away and start fresh with a focus on “a few small really interesting ideas.” The move reminds me of how Ed Keys started work on Proteus with creating an RPG in mind, but slowly strimmed it back to the musical exploration game we know today.
“The premise of not directly controlling the main character is the essence of Pavilion and is forming the whole experience, both in the sense of mood and narrative. It is also the main part of the puzzle design, which has a big influence on the overall experience. Though we are not aiming to design the hardest or most complex puzzles as possible, but instead trying to communicate a new dynamic or concept within each, or most of, the puzzles.”
As far as puzzle games are concerned, Pavilion will not be a challenging one, then. Visiontrick are keen to ensure that there’s a difficulty curve present, but not one that adds “noise” over the top, and instead should ease the player through a fluent and none repetitive experience. The focus is bringing all of the game’s many elements together in order to create a dreamy and surreal audiovisual mood that adds to the intrigue of exploration. Paying close attention to this world and contemplating its relationship to the character and their movements is vital.
“To begin with, the world will be unknown both to the player and the main character. Essentially it will be a journey into an unknown and surreal world where you gradually understand its history and purpose. We kind of want to weave everything together and as the core gameplay is very dynamic so will also the perception of the world be. The player interpretation of the world is, to some degree, depending on exploration and what kind of clues and details the player pays attention too.”
Pavilion’s mysterious environments are an effort to capture the essence of 19th-century landscape painters like Caspar David Friedrich, and in particular the works of Arnold Böcklin. There’s a desolate beauty alongside the mystery in these paintings, as you see mystical ruins, baroque gardens and dreamlike landscapes that you’ll also find within Pavilion. But there are also plenty of modern references to TV shows and books that have inspired the development pair too, as they weren’t being exclusive when considering what kind of thing fits their vision for the game.
Pavilion will be released on PC and mobile platforms. You can see it in action in on a tablet in this gameplay video, or you can check out the teaser below too.