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Expand - experimenting with the game


A NEW experimental game that combines music with a maze into a hypnotic experience is gaining international attention while still in development.

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To be released later this year, Expand by South Australian developer Chris Johnson, was one of only 14 games to be featured at the recent Out of Index, experimental game festival in Korea.

The single player video game forces players to evade an ever-moving labryinth of twists and circular turns to progress through various levels to find the pattern revealed at the beginning.

The minimalist game was conceived in 2010 when Johnson set up a ‘game jam’ with a gaming club at Adelaide University.

This idea came to him in the event’s final days, after a week of failed attempts.

“I went to bed the Friday night and the game had to be finished on the Sunday night and I had a little bit of a dream where I pictured a game that looks much like what Expand is now,” said Johnson.

Johnson took an early version of Expand to that year’s AVCon, the annual anime and video games convention in Adelaide, South Australia. The game received a mixed response, but he did meet South Australian composer Chris Larkin. The two then collaborated on the game’s next stage of development.

“There is a very loose relationship between the animation in the game and the beat of the music,” explained Johnson. “It is a subtle affect that not many people notice, the music is also used to drop people in to a certain state of mind.”

He said the music helps players get into a state of ‘flow’ –  to become so absorbed in the game their actions feel like an extension of themselves.

“That’s the kind of state some game designers really aspire towards and it is something we really try to achieve with the music by making it tie together with the movement as well,” he said.

Johnson returned to AVCon this year with his latest version of Expand.

“(Players) really got what we were trying to do with it, they understood the style and why it looks the way it does,” said Johnson.

“I think part of that is because the execution is much better now than it was a few years ago. But it is also that there’d been a series of games that have come out in the past few years that have really done abstraction and minimalist art style really well.”

Expand recently made its World Premiere at Out of Index, the Korean independent and experimental gaming festival.

It was chosen as one of 14 games, from a short list of 80, to be featured in the annual showcase.

Johnson has also been approached by an independent publisher and is exploring the next stage of development.


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