Something wonderful is about to happy!
May 30, 2013 7:45 PM   Subscribe

Footage of the "Sync" level from the indie game Fez. While Fez is mainly known for its central gimmick – it's a 2D platformer set in a 3D world – and for the complexity of its puzzles (which include a constructed alphabet, a code based on Tetris tetrominos, and a "practically impossible" final puzzle) – "Sync" is a retro-colored world with blocks whose rhythmic appearances and disappearances trigger notes when the player is near them. The result is somewhat enchanting (as is the rest of the game). [the Fez soundtrack with the Sync backing track; a Fez remix soundtrack with the various block rhythms added in; Fez previously on MetaFilter]
posted by Rory Marinich (67 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite

 
(While Fez is a year or two old by now, it's only just been released on Steam this month, which is where I discovered it. It's hands-down one of the best games I have ever played.)
posted by Rory Marinich at 7:47 PM on May 30, 2013


This is the bizarre love child of Stranger in A Strange Land, Paper Mario, Cave Story, and the Hero of 1000 Faces. I think I blew my mind.
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 7:53 PM on May 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


QUESTION:

Will this play on my mac if I download the .exe and install via wine or somesuch? Or am I SOL?
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 8:02 PM on May 30, 2013


Possibly? I found it more convenient to install a Windows bootcamp, which is how I play it now. But that's because I tend to play a lot of PC-only games.
posted by Rory Marinich at 8:04 PM on May 30, 2013


I loved this game so, so much. And I didn't even find half the secrets, including this level. Thanks for this!
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 8:07 PM on May 30, 2013


That reminds me of a game I had on my Amstrad, I believe, in the 80s - it was a 2D platformer, but based around the outside of a cylindrical tower - as you jumped along, up the stairs, the tower rotated. Very cool.
posted by Jimbob at 8:10 PM on May 30, 2013


While Fez is mainly known for its central gimmick – it's a 2D platformer set in a 3D world

And here I was thinking that it was mainly known for corrupting save games and then Phil Fish being a dick to everyone and not patching it.
posted by Talez at 8:31 PM on May 30, 2013 [5 favorites]


Easily one of my favorite games this decade. If you haven't played Fez and you have any interest in it whatsoever, PLAY IT. NOW.

Also, yes, Phil Fish is a dick. But he's a dick that created Fez, so... well, he gets a lifetime pass as far as I'm concerned, as long as he doesn't become the next Hitler or anything.

Also, the Fez soundtrack is my favorite game soundtrack this side of Jet Set Radio Future, and I had no idea there was an official remix soundtrack. So thanks.
posted by Green Winnebago at 8:31 PM on May 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


That reminds me of a game I had on my Amstrad, I believe, in the 80s - it was a 2D platformer, but based around the outside of a cylindrical tower - as you jumped along, up the stairs, the tower rotated. Very cool.

This? Also here.
posted by curious nu at 8:36 PM on May 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


And here I was thinking that it was mainly known for corrupting save games and then Phil Fish being a dick to everyone and not patching it.

...no, I don't think that is what it is best-known for. I think that the people who have heard of Fez's saved game issues are probably a subset of the people who have heard of its premise.
posted by baf at 8:40 PM on May 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


Also, yes, Phil Fish is a dick.

Hah! I was just poking my head in here out of curiosity to see if anyone was bringing that up. Hilarious to see it made the seventh post. I'd really like to see this thing get carried further, to see his asshole nature steal the spotlight from his actual game (even more), maybe in the mainstream media or something. Maybe he gets punched out/assaulted at a party/conference or something, and then his photo shows up for 30 seconds on Fox News as he's used as an example of the pernicious and immature nature of gamers and those who make games. Maybe he makes a rape joke or says something racist and winds up on one of the Gawker sites.

Not that I'm saying I want someone to beat the hell outta him or anything, I just think it's hilarious that someone's notoriety is shared at an even 50% between his very popular video game and his self-destructive public relations tendencies.

Who knows where this will head next! Maybe childhood acquaintances will come forth! Ex girlfriends! Estranged parents! Alcoholism? Drug abuse? Ferrari crash? Hacked by Anonymous and outed as a pedophile?
posted by GoingToShopping at 8:50 PM on May 30, 2013


What's interesting is that the puzzle to find the third heart piece was brute-forced. No one knows the reasoning that leads to the solution. It's still a mystery that's out there to be solved.

In fact, only less than a month ago, new progress was made! The game's hardest puzzles that were previously known (including the mysterious brute-forced one) each lead to a heart-shaped block. When you collect them all, they form a larger heart that floats in a kind of trophy room. It was assumed that this was the final ending. But when Fez came out on the PC at the beginning of May, people decompiled the program and discovered that there's more to be found. The decompiled program revealed that you can enter a code in an inventory screen that causes the completed heart block to explode! This is even more cryptic than the previous cryptic puzzle. At least with that one, we know the puzzle and know the solution, even if we don't know how to get from one to the other. With this new one, we know the solution but we don't even know where to find the puzzle!

What's more, exploding the heart sets a flag, so there may be even more puzzles in the game (although it doesn't appear that there is anything in the code that checks this flag, so many people think that this really is the final end). And there is still a mysterious skull you can collect that seems like it should do something....
posted by painquale at 8:54 PM on May 30, 2013 [5 favorites]


I should also mention that the Fez soundtrack contains images that are only visible by looking at the songs through a spectrogram. It's highly likely that these images are meant to be used to get to either to the third heart segment or to the code that destroys the heart. In a recent AMA on reddit, Fish stated that the soundtrack still contains a lot of secrets that have yet to be discovered.
posted by painquale at 8:58 PM on May 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


i absolutely love the Fez soundtrack and the many remixes. Disasterpeace (previously) is one of my favorite composers/musicians.

That being said, the actual music in game was... different. Very uneventful. I kept waiting for the good parts to kick in, but they never seemed to.

Gameplaywise, I absolutely LOVED the gameplay! Levels like the one featured in this post were absolutely stunning and lovely.

However, the puzzles that were not jumping were incredibly frustrating to the point where I gave up on the game. The last thing I think I did was find a secret code that was only visible when moving the angle, because there was a throne in the way. Then, entering the code did nothing, because as it turns out, you need to also enter another code found in another throne room, on the other side of the game.

I don't want to take notes, I just want to play a game.
posted by rebent at 9:02 PM on May 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


Yes, I remember playing through this part and just smiling at how great it was. The game isn't perfect, but it really is wonderful.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 9:17 PM on May 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm kind of with rebent. Once you get past a certain level of involvement, game work begins to look less like fun and more like effort that could just as well be put to some productive use. Which isn't to say that game puzzles should always be easy, just that we're hitting diminishing returns of enjoyment here.
posted by JHarris at 9:24 PM on May 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


(I mean, spectragraphically analyzing the soundtrack for clues? That feels like going too far.)
posted by JHarris at 9:25 PM on May 30, 2013


It's not like you have to do the ridiculous puzzles to beat the main game, though... the code puzzles are all extras. You can beat the game and see 95% of everything without having to go into 3D mode, snap a QR code, or solve a single Tetris block code puzzle.

The ridiculously hard puzzles are just a little extra icing on top of an already amazing game. They're there for those who are interested, and if they're not your thing, you don't have to attempt them. If you're interested in them, some of the puzzles are absolutely brilliant, even if their difficulty ranges from really hard to utterly impossible.

They're like those incredibly opaque website puzzles where you have to figure out on your own that the only way to get to the next level is to do something you could never be expected to just figure out on your own: either playing around with the website's html code, or playing a sound file backwards in in slow motion, or something, just to get to the next page. Utterly frustrating if you feel the need to try to solve it right away. But as something that you can keep coming back to, churning over and over in your head until the answer comes to you out of nowhere in an epiphany, they can be invigorating. (Then again, I cheated and looked up some of the harder puzzles on GameFaqs, so maybe I can't talk.)
posted by Green Winnebago at 9:34 PM on May 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


Hah! I was just poking my head in here out of curiosity to see if anyone was bringing that up. Hilarious to see it made the seventh post. I'd really like to see this thing get carried further, to see his asshole nature steal the spotlight from his actual game (even more), maybe in the mainstream media or something. Maybe he gets punched out/assaulted at a party/conference or something, and then his photo shows up for 30 seconds on Fox News as he's used as an example of the pernicious and immature nature of gamers and those who make games. Maybe he makes a rape joke or says something racist and winds up on one of the Gawker sites.



I really don't. He's made a few impolite comments on Twitter. As a rock and roll fan, I consider that to be barely 'dickish', and it doesn't reflect at all on his games. We shouldn't require creators to be saints.

I loved Fez, and I solved only a quarter of the puzzles. The game is just so much fun to play around in, and the environments are gorgeous. There are few games this gen that are genuinely colorful and fun. There's this weird solidity to the world, like you could just reach in and touch the pixels. And the psychadelic ending is fantastic!

I'm not smart enough to solve Fez, and I don't care.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 9:34 PM on May 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


I love things like this, secrets hidden in games that aren't required to finish and that you may not even realize are there. The stars in Braid, the hidden messages in Trials HD, and now this. I don't really have any interest in trying to solve any of them myself but I really like reading about them and I appreciate the thought that goes into them.
posted by Nedroid at 9:49 PM on May 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


I thought Fez' Bad Ending was a lot cooler than the Good Ending.

I enjoyed playing it on my 360. I got it well after the whole bugfix patch drama happened, so it was pretty stable. Jumping around was fun, and taking notes to solve the puzzles turned out to be fun too, once I got into the groove. Admittedly I resorted to the Internet after a while - but cracking the code of the writing was a lot of fun!
posted by egypturnash at 9:50 PM on May 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Fez is much cooler for having super challenging puzzles in the background. One thing I've wanted for a while is a game like Puzzle Agent or Professor Layton, but where the puzzles aren't absurdly easy. Basically, I want the MIT puzzle hunt in video game form. Fez is one of the closest things to that, and they wrapped it in a package that made it so that players who don't care about solving complicated cryptograms could ignore that facet of the game.

I'm really impressed with the puzzles in Fez. There's a difference between hard puzzles and bullshit puzzles. A bullshit puzzle is one that employs arbitrary reasoning. A hard puzzle is one that makes you smack yourself afterward for not immediately seeing the clean and clever reasoning. Fez's puzzles are almost universally hard but fair. (I don't really like the QR codes and soundtrack spectrograms though. It makes it so that the game feels like just a piece in an ARG. I'd prefer for the game to be self-contained.)
posted by painquale at 10:13 PM on May 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


painquake, the QR puzzles at least were optional. You could get the same code by solving (admittedly much harder) puzzles that were entirely in-game.
posted by Green Winnebago at 10:17 PM on May 30, 2013


The best thing about the puzzles, though, was that they gave you another excuse to immerse yourself in Fez's world. For all the talk about how bright and cheery Fez was, the game's atmosphere was a lot more than merely colorful. At its best Fez managed to create a sense of otherworldly strangeness and wonder, that made finding every new secret like uncovering a new hidden world. At times Fez was goofy and colorful, yes, but at times it was beautiful, or haunting, or genuinely creepy.
posted by Green Winnebago at 10:25 PM on May 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't want to take notes, I just want to play a game.

Funny. Playing Fez, when I first realized I needed to grab some good ol' pencil and paper and start taking notes, I got really excited. I hadn't had to do that for a game in a long time and it was really satisfying.
posted by zsazsa at 11:02 PM on May 30, 2013 [6 favorites]


but at times it was beautiful, or haunting, or genuinely creepy.

I got chills up my spine in the graveyard level and started feeling a genuine sense of dread in the sewer level. I felt kind of embarrassed to be creeped out by chiptune music and pixely ghost shadows, but it really was an immersive, evocative experience.

BTW, these bismuth crystals reminded me of Fez.
posted by zsazsa at 11:12 PM on May 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


One more thing: the image of Harry S. Truman embedded in the soundtrack is of him in Masonic regalia, but not of him wearing a Shriner fez. That seems intentional.
posted by zsazsa at 11:20 PM on May 30, 2013


I really don't. He's made a few impolite comments on Twitter. As a rock and roll fan, I consider that to be barely 'dickish', and it doesn't reflect at all on his games. We shouldn't require creators to be saints.

Don't get me wrong, I'm just saying I find it all highly entertaining because it's more or less the first time I've seen something like this happen specifically in the world of games. It's amusing to me.

I apologize for my lack of information, but I'm a PS3 and Mac user, so Fez hasn't really been an option for me since it was released. If he's not really THAT big an asshole, I guess I have an incorrect reading of him, but telling thousands upon thousands of people to choke on your cock because you won an award is pretty...unique. Plus, he at least stands out among the crowd, his antisocial tendencies being referenced as quickly as the 7th post in this thread, and being held up as the archetype of asshole programmer in that other one. I guess what I was trying to say is that it's interesting to me because this is literally the first time I've found myself actually fascinated by a "celebrity's" tabloid-level shenanigans, I suspect due to the odd intersection between standard trashy pop celebrity drama and my most cherished of hobbies. The entertainment is as entertaining as the meta-entertainment?

Also, I think there's a big difference between being arrogant and rude and actually doing honestly, objectively awful shit. Fish is the former, not the latter, yeah?
posted by GoingToShopping at 11:38 PM on May 30, 2013


I think lots of gamers hate on indie devs for 'pretension' and whatever. Which is weird, 'cause games like Fez and Spelunky are super accessible.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 11:41 PM on May 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


I love this game. The way it goes from jumping puzzles, to pen and paper, to internet collaboration is just delightful. That it's still revealing more secrets just makes me even more happy.

Almost as happy as the wild indie-scene drama that Phil Fish provokes, makes me. Hopefully he hasn't burned all his bridges yet, and we'll see something more from him.

I just wish the damn thing was a little more stable. I'd love to have been the engineer on a project like this. Maybe once the mortgage is paid off...
posted by inpHilltr8r at 12:07 AM on May 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


Fuck this game. One of the main puzzles is so obtuse it's essentially impossible to get. As in there's no way to figure it out save divine intervention. And this coming from me after I read the solution and tried to piece together what convoluted thought process is necessary.

This man is literally worse than hitler.
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 12:21 AM on May 31, 2013


Oh, that's a neat level, but I have no idea how I opened it. I'd gotten the 3d glasses and was just wandering around looking for stuff I hadn't completed, then noticed a door I hadn't noticed before. Nothing special, no tetris codes to try, etc.

I don't think stumbling across this level has anything to do with the monolith puzzle, because I haven't even begun to decipher the alphabetic code (and had to have help with the numeric one).

One thing that does frustrate me about this game is that there is no possible denouement, ever. There could always be another layer, waiting to be unlocked via a complex series of ciphers and movement puzzles. And its 2d->3d premise just taunts you with the feeling that the new layer could be a whole new, magical "dimension".

That said, it's awesome soundtrack does kind of make up for this. It's a great world to get lost in and bliss out on the accompanying music.
posted by treepour at 12:32 AM on May 31, 2013 [1 favorite]



One thing that does frustrate me about this game is that there is no possible denouement, ever. There could always be another layer, waiting to be unlocked via a complex series of ciphers and movement puzzles. And its 2d->3d premise just taunts you with the feeling that the new layer could be a whole new, magical "dimension".


That sorta makes me love it more.

Back on the old InsertCredit/SelectButton forums, there was the idea of an 'Icebergvania'. It would be a game where most people can only find 20% of it, and most of the game is hidden from everybody, only found after years of searching. Its possible Tim Rogers' iPhone game is that game, but Fez could also count.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 12:40 AM on May 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


I will admit that optional puzzles for super mega secrets could be interesting.
posted by JHarris at 1:36 AM on May 31, 2013


One thing that does frustrate me about this game is that there is no possible denouement, ever.

This is not true. Some people have started disassembling the code. Once you get to that stage, it is a special kind of secret indeed that can survive a long time. Traditionally going that far has been obviously cheating, but when the game already requires the use of substantial out-of-game resources to find secrets, talk of cheating starts to sound silly. What is the substantive difference between going to your smart phone to decode a QR code and going to GameFAQs and looking up an outright answer?
posted by JHarris at 1:40 AM on May 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


Would it be considered cheating if looked around Phil Fish's apartment for clues? What if I tried waterboarding Phil Fish for answers? I mean, it's all fair game, right?
posted by Green Winnebago at 2:35 AM on May 31, 2013


Some people have started disassembling the code. Once you get to that stage, it is a special kind of secret indeed that can survive a long time.

What if you wrote a game that didn't have the whole source code.
Whenever you got to a particular point in the puzzles it would connect to a server, pass it some form of encrypted code and then that would download the needed code for the next bit of the game.
You could hide as much as you want in sequential code chunks, because all you'd have would be a key and a server address.
In fact, if you build the key from various game actions then you could have different code download for different game actions.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 4:59 AM on May 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


I enjoyed Fez but ultimately never finished it. It wasn't QR codes or crazy puzzles that finally got me to put down the controller, it was the age-old rising water level.

That shit wasn't fun the first hundred times people did it, and it's less fun now.
posted by Legomancer at 5:36 AM on May 31, 2013


The thing that's brilliant about Fez is that Phil Fish painstakingly made his platforming controls as satisfying as any platformer's mechanics that I've ever encountered, down to the point of creating the 3D-shift mechanic to justify how satisfying they are (the fact that you can shimmy across any ledge in the game is somehow my favorite platforming thing ever, because it feels so gratuitously unnecessary at first—except that it isn't), and then built a difficult game that had nothing to do with that mechanic.

Here's the thing. I love video games with satisfying gameplay. I also love video games with satisfying worlds that I can get lost in. But most games with meticulous airtight gameplay tend to give you a series of increasingly difficult puzzles, and then once you finish the last one, the game's over! No time to just relax and enjoy how awesome the game feels. Most games with rich, involving worlds, meanwhile, have gameplay that utterly fails to take advantage of how rich and involved these worlds are. Grand Theft Auto, Saint's Row, Skyrim, and games of a similar nature all piss me off because their gameplay is all still on the "go here and shoot a thing" level, basically, and the world is just an excuse to have an enormous number of very paltry video game missions. Or, worse, the "rich world" is just an incredibly well-designed world through which you must proceed on rails at all times.

What Fez realizes is that its incredibly satisfying gameplay is what lets its world be so fascinating, but that the world is ultimately more important than the gameplay mechanic. So it doesn't bother tying its mechanics into a series of puzzles with increasing difficulty; individual zones feature their own series of challenges and puzzles which get harder and harder to work out, but the REAL challenges, the anticube ones – which, it's worth mentioning, you can beat the game without solving – require you to understand the game on a level that has nothing to do with platforming. There are hints dropped everywhere about the nature of this world, and if you're willing to take notes and remember what you see you can figure out everything about this world pretty much without resorting to FAQs at all. Absurd as that might sound when you first come across the individual puzzles.

The alphabet gives you a few moments which make the entire thing much easier to decipher. Several of the tetromino puzzles are linked to rooms in seemingly abandoned ruins that explain something about how this world works, and once you understand what you're looking at you suddenly have access to a whole new layer of puzzles. It's astonishing how much is hidden within those innocuous platformer zones, and the puzzles towards the end which require you to access first-person mode and look for clues written on the ground you can't otherwise see are ridiculously satisfying. As are the puzzles which require you to wear headphones and listen to magnetic pulses.

But unlike the puzzles in Braid, which was one of those "brilliant mechanics, ended too soon" games I mentioned above, Fez actually wants to make those impossible puzzles easy to solve. Braid's "seven stars" puzzle was irritating because it hides four of the stars' locations from you, making finding those stars impossible to find without guess-and-check. One of the stars requires you to leave the game running for a few hours as a slow cloud moves across a landscape, which is itself kind of irritating but which I'd be completely fine with EXCEPT that the sixth star involves your piecing together puzzle pieces in an absurdly dumb way that has nothing to do with the rest of Braid's gameplay, and which (more importantly) you can't do if you've solved certain other puzzles in the game. At which point you need to erase your save file and start over, meaning another several-hour stint waiting for the slow-moving cloud. It feels dickish.

Fez, meanwhile, gives you a very convenient map that points out exactly where "secrets" are hidden. It won't tell you what those secrets are, but you know where to find them. And because its world is so large, there's always something you can be working on, should your current puzzle prove to be too frustrating. In the meantime, it keeps being ridiculously enjoyable just to navigate through these worlds, because the platformer mechanic is so well thought-out and the worlds are so well-built to take advantage of them.

Also, once you decipher the alphabet, you realize that the entire population of the ancient city you discover has been making fun of your rectangular head the whole time. Which is pretty much perfect.

My J Evans Pritchard-like theory of video games is that you can define any video game, meaningfully and effectively, by observing three things. What is the outcome that it's trying to make you reach? What are the powers it gives you to reach it? And what is the world that it's built for you to go through as you strive for it? Each of the three depends on the others: powers aren't important if the outcome's too easy to each, or if the world doesn't take advantage of them; outcomes don't motivate you if they're too frustrating to obtain, or if the world is not worth moving through; and worlds are less potent when the player has no reason to explore them or no interesting way to do so.

When you think about games this way, you realize that most of them emphasize one of these three over the other, and put a half-assed effort into the other two. You also realize that most games don't care too much about outcome: it's "rescue the princess by solving the puzzles" at best, or "rescue the princess, it's not to hard", or sometimes even "we don't give a shit whether you rescue the princess". But outcome is crucial for an ambitious game, because by setting the stakes high enough you can motivate players to really commit themselves to something multi-faceted and sublime.

Fez is one of the only games I've played that seems to've really thoroughly considered all of these angles and worked out a way for them to fit together. The objective is simple (collect all the cubes) but tiered (anticubes are harder than regular cubes), the powers you have start off basic and get more and more complex as the game goes on (rotation is basic, rotating items is more complex, using the rotation as a method of triggering codes is especially complicated), and the world is what lets all that stuff be interesting, by functioning at once as an engaging series of platformer challenges and as a compendium of deeper secrets which it takes a lot of time to work out entirely. But for all that ambition, it is deeply and wonderfully FUN. None of the pretense of Braid or Limbo, whose endings were each magnificently unsatisfactory; in Fez, beating the game means you get to WALK ON THE MOON IN LOW GRAVITY. Unlocking the secrets of the world will either give you access to a whole new series of puzzles – figuring out one mechanic will net you a whole bunch of secrets you can suddenly take advantage of – or it will give you access to a secret level that's deeply satisfying in and of itself. The series of tasks you have to undergo in order to get to Sync is kind of amazing: you need to find a certain door that only reveals itself to you at night*, and then you need to figure out the secret to the code which lets you actually get in. And once you do, you're treated to a series of completely sublime levels—within which, by the way, are rooms not featured in the FPP video, which require you to understand yet more code methods to fully explore.

I can't imagine playing Fez and finding it pretentious. Its joy is so damn simple. It might be the only game I've played as an adult and felt lived up to all my expectations for what a game ought to be. The best games of the next twenty years are all going to point to Fez as their model of how games should work. Heck, all of mine are going to.

* Oh right, because this game world has a day/night cycle with songs that cycle based on time of day, for seemingly no reason other than this one puzzle that I've found. And it also has a whole plethora of wildlife that each have their own adorable, unique behaviors, running around everywhere, again for seemingly no other reason than to hide one puzzle within all that mess. But more importantly, all that happens because it makes the world beautiful, and because Fez is completely devoted to being as satisfying a place to play as a game can be.
posted by Rory Marinich at 6:39 AM on May 31, 2013 [15 favorites]


I do wonder whether the sound spectrograms will unlock a whole new 100% series of accomplishments. It's fascinating that there would be a level of puzzles so difficult it takes even the Internet more than a year to solve or even discover them all.
posted by Rory Marinich at 6:41 AM on May 31, 2013


So when is that new Boards of Canada album coming out?
posted by pashdown at 6:57 AM on May 31, 2013


Fez is absolutely lovely. I didn't much care for the puzzles, and definitely not the meta-puzzles. But I loved the world, and the music, and the platform game mechanics. Total pleasure on those levels. That "Sync" gameplay video is fun because the player isn't super great at the game. He keeps falling in various places, just like a normal player. It does look like he's played the level before and knows where he's going though.

Also, unless you A) personally know him or B) write games for a living yourself, you have no right to call Phil Fish a dick. No, watching Indie Game: the Movie does not qualify as personally knowing him.

(Fez, previously on MeFi).
posted by Nelson at 7:07 AM on May 31, 2013


Whenever I read about the arcane stuff hidden in Fez, I am reminded about this thing (also here) and wonder if it's creator is okay.
posted by jbickers at 7:17 AM on May 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have not played the game, nor have I met the designer. Going off of Indie Game: The Movie, he seems like a very sincere person who has difficulty controlling his emotions. Given that the preceding is likely true of many randomly sampled humans, of which metafilterites are a subset, perhaps using his personal foibles as internet entertainment isn't the most charitable thing to do. Would we want that level of scrutiny applied to our own lives?
posted by selfnoise at 8:14 AM on May 31, 2013


"Sync" is a retro-colored world with blocks whose rhythmic appearances and disappearances trigger notes when the player is near them.

See also: Rez.
posted by four panels at 8:31 AM on May 31, 2013


I can't imagine watching Indie Game: The Movie and not feeling incredibly tender towards Phil Fish, or incredibly proud of him for what he succeeded at. But that's because I just passed the two-year mark of working on my own gamelike project, so I can completely identify with the intensity of his mood swings while working on Fez, and his game took twice as long as mine has so far.
posted by Rory Marinich at 11:34 AM on May 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


Are those basically the same mechanics as Paper Mario?
posted by Rocket Surgeon at 11:56 AM on May 31, 2013


No, they're quite different. In Paper Mario, you're a 2D creature in a 3D world. In Fex, you can rotate the world 90 degrees at a time, and whenever you do, the scene is flattened and all depth is lost. Most of the platform puzzles in Fez involve warping the environment in weird ways that wouldn't make sense in Paper Mario.
posted by painquale at 12:14 PM on May 31, 2013


I dislike the puzzles in Fez for exactly the reason Rory Marinich gives for his liking them.

I bought Fez expecting to play a Metroidvania with trippy ways around and through physical space. That game is there, but if I want to get the good ending I have to play this thing where I crack encryptions and shit. When I want movement puzzles I don't want encryptions. Is that weird?

So I guess Rory likes it when his games lie to him about what they are and what you do in them. I don't get it. I can recognize the appeal of games that are hard--I play Dungeon Crawl, and enjoy it when I've spent a hundred hours on a character and die of starvation anyhow. But this game is dishonest about it. The presence of the secret markers on the map isn't really relevant to that.

Rory identifies Braid as a game that does this kind of thing badly, by making you start a new game if you did the puzzles in the wrong order the first time around. I don't see how that's any more boring or less abusive of the player than including an equally optional puzzle that can only be solved by brute forcing some thousands of button combinations. Or at any rate, if there's another solution, disassembling the game's executable has not revealed it.

I don't think it's really the case that you can elect not to solve puzzles of this kind and still get the game you expected if you bought a Metroidvania. You have to collect all the Anti-Cubes in order to get the good ending, and they frequently require secret codes with obscure hints like this.

I, too, play games like this for the appeal of simply walking around in an immersive world. Fez's world looks immersive, and it has mechanical complexity and detail that could have made it immersive, but there is very little "story logic" to anything. The anti-cubes that were allegedly lost in the big cubesplosion at the start of the game are somehow hidden in places like a bell that was constructed with hints pre-imprinted on its sides. The villagers paint QR codes on walls because the player needs to scan them, not because Gómez has any clue what they are. The game is very fond of breaking the fourth wall, but I needed that wall if I were going to keep up the pretense that I am Gómez and he is me. If I can't do that, there's no immersion. I might as well be playing epic-level Sudoku.
posted by LogicalDash at 3:22 PM on May 31, 2013


I don't think it's really the case that you can elect not to solve puzzles of this kind and still get the game you expected if you bought a Metroidvania. You have to collect all the Anti-Cubes in order to get the good ending, and they frequently require secret codes with obscure hints like this.

It's not really a "good" ending. The 32-cube-ending cutscene is much cooler than the 64-cube-ending cutscene. The "good/bad ending" nomenclature is ported over from other games where you get a subpar ending if you don't do all the side stuff. Still, I can understand being frustrated at seeing all these puzzles and not wanting to solve them.

However, I also think that the very thing that is frustrating is also an aesthetic virtue of the game. "You can't see everything this game has to offer" is a principle that a lot of games stand by nowadays, and I think it's a really cool direction for games to take. The direction is probably due to the influence of MMORPGs, where it's usually not even close to feasible to collect all the cool stuff and see all the cool things. Game worlds are now often sprawling sandboxes, and its up to the player to carve out his or her own story. That's a kind of experience that's unique to games as a medium, because there aren't very many other artforms that give the audience so much agency.

Putting a ton of "optional" puzzles in Fez is a way of bringing this design philosophy to the platformer. No one who plays Fez solves all the puzzles on their own. Everyone interacts with the game in a unique way and decides when they've seen enough. That is neat. Still, a lot of players see all those side puzzles, and all those unobtainable anticubes, and are put off, because they don't want to engage with them. But why should this be offputting? Why not just accept that those puzzles are for people who enjoy them?

I think the frustration is akin to the frustration of being unable to explore all the options in a dialog tree, or the frustration of being too low a level to get all the drops from a world event in a MMORPG. Video games have historically (and maybe arbitrarily) had completion as the goal -- they have "win states" -- so not completing a game feels like failure. It's frustrating to be unable to experience it all. But on the other hand, being unable to experience it all is also a virtue. There's something very aesthetically pleasing about carving out your own story in a game world that is bigger than your own experience with it. I didn't find the stars in Braid and I sure don't have the fortitude to look for them, but that doesn't mean I'm upset they're in the game. On the contrary, I'm happy that they exist and that I can watch videos of people who made tracking them down part of their game experience.

I needed that wall if I were going to keep up the pretense that I am Gómez and he is me.

I don't really think the game is going for that kind of immersion. Platformers don't often encourage empathy with the main character. Super Mario Bros is a great game, but I don't think that anyone who plays it tries to keep up the pretense that they are Mario.
posted by painquale at 4:08 PM on May 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


Metroidvanias are a different deal altogether. The scanner in the three Metroids Prime especially.
posted by LogicalDash at 5:18 PM on May 31, 2013


I didn't really care about the stars in Braid precisely because they were not hinted at in the way that Fez's optional stuff is hinted at. I finished Fez without even finding one of the warp gates, and had the impression that the bell puzzle was the key. That puzzle actually yields an anti-cube, but the puzzleness of the bell was obvious to the point I was convinced it was vital. In actual fact the fourth gate is hidden behind some waterfall.

Basically, I wouldn't mind the game having a bunch of stuff I never see if it didn't keep nudging me about it.

Though the 32cube ending was cool, I was stubbornly paying attention to the scraps of crappy story I was being fed. The way the ending cutscene started was by derezzing the entire game world while you walked through it. The cutscene where you get the fez made you out to be collecting the cubes to prevent the fabric of spacetime ripping apart, something like that, so I thought the ending I got was a really pretty apocalypse.

You can see how I would not find that satisfying to end on.
posted by LogicalDash at 5:25 PM on May 31, 2013


so I thought the ending I got was a really pretty apocalypse.

But it ends with your little dude jamming out on the drums! That's no apocalypse!

The endings have a neat symmetry. The 32-cube one keeps zooming in and lets you see the game's microverse; the 64-cube one keeps zooming out and lets you see the game's macroverse.
posted by painquale at 5:38 PM on May 31, 2013


No, they're quite different

Well as far as mechanics go the later Paper Mario games play that same way. I'm not sure if this one of those arguments akin to "Portal is not an FPS" and "Katamari is waaaay different than Super Monkey Ball", but not really interested in going down that hole.

Looks like a fun game nonetheless.
posted by Rocket Surgeon at 5:56 PM on May 31, 2013


Oh yeah, I've played the Paper Mario games, but not Super Paper Mario, which I guess might use the same mechanic. (That would disappoint me, I guess... I thought it was unique to Fez).
posted by painquale at 6:16 PM on May 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


But that's because I just passed the two-year mark of working on my own gamelike project, so I can completely identify with the intensity of his mood swings while working on Fez, and his game took twice as long as mine has so far.

Thirded, entirely. After months and months of stumbling and having to work on other things just to make ends meet, I've finally gotten back on track with In Profundis, and have finally gotten meaningful hardware graphics acceleration to work with it. There are days when I just hate myself and my project with great fury and assume everyone who has been patient waiting must hate me tremendously, and it's amazingly difficult to carry on through that. It's getting better, but regardless, the road of the solo game designer/developer is a hard one.

On Paper Mario: all the Paper Mario games are terrific, amazingly well-written and with hilarious conceits. Super Paper Mario is no exception, and it did some of Fez's tricks a couple of years before it. It doesn't have Fez's deep puzzles though, and I think it's more like a different kind of game with some of the same underpinnings.
posted by JHarris at 7:23 PM on May 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


Fez is truly a beautiful game. I feel I'm better off for having played it, and it'll certainly have an influence on my creative output in the future. However, I agree with some of the comments above that the (spoiler alert!) meta-puzzles, tetromino passwords, and so forth didn't really mesh with the rest of the game. After I got through all the mechanical puzzles and gained access to every area, the remaining puzzles just felt like work. I was spending more time racking my brains and writing things down than actually playing the game. So now I'm stuck just a couple of cubes short of 64, with no desire to keep searching. (I guess I'll turn to GameFAQs eventually.)

Regardless, I've discovered that I really enjoy these kinds of mysterious, atmospheric puzzle/exploration games. La-Mulana is another one that's definitely worth checking out — I was completely engrossed, head over heels, until I hit some of the harder puzzles. So is Jonathan Blow's latest game, The Witness. Blow has mentioned that it's based around "epiphanies" and has over 500 puzzles. painquale, it sounds like it'll be right up your alley!

I used to fear that the sense of discovery I felt when gaming as a kid was forever gone from me. With these games, I've gone right back to that old feeling.
posted by archagon at 2:11 AM on June 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


Also, I thought this room was super cool.
posted by archagon at 2:21 AM on June 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Super Paper Mario uses something that looks like Fez's mechanic, but in a much more limited way. They're very different games.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 3:44 AM on June 1, 2013


I'm really looking forward to The Witness! I thought Braid was very uneven, and I'm not sure I trust Blow's sensibilities, but I'm a sucker for island exploration games like Myst and Miasmata.
posted by painquale at 5:02 AM on June 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


archagon, I absolutely loved that "corruption" room! I wish that video walkthrough had the music -- if I recall correctly, it was a delirious mashup of music from the rest of the game (sort of a musical equivalent of the visuals). Also, occasionally surveying the room in 3d mode was quite spectacular.
posted by treepour at 1:47 PM on June 1, 2013



I bought Fez expecting to play a Metroidvania with trippy ways around and through physical space. That game is there, but if I want to get the good ending I have to play this thing where I crack encryptions and shit. When I want movement puzzles I don't want encryptions. Is that weird?


I had the same reaction. The thing is, Fez cost, what, 1200 MS points or something? $15? Whatever it was, it was worth spending that money to spend a few hours in a gorgeous world. The fact that I can't solve a videogame puzzle harder than "shoot the glowing red weak spot on the boss" didn't hurt that enjoyment since everything I did felt like finding some cool secret.

And I loved the QR Code.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 4:24 PM on June 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wait a second.... an insanely complex puzzle solved by rotating cubes and designed by a crazy egotist? I'm pretty we've been through this before.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 7:28 PM on June 2, 2013


Ordinarily, the ability to draw in code and other days from an outside server would mean a game could harbor secrets that could survive disassembly, although the signs of it would be evident to the hackers, and it would mean the game breaks when the server goes down.

Except... Isn't this an Xbox downloadable game? And don't those games have rules against arbitrary downloadable code, code that couldn't be vetted by Microsoft's gatekeepers? So while out is an interesting idea, it seems doubtful here, not unless they were prepared to introduce sizable differences between ports.
posted by JHarris at 10:54 PM on June 2, 2013


CIS, I was thinking something more Timecube-y myself.
posted by JHarris at 10:54 PM on June 2, 2013


Except... Isn't this an Xbox downloadable game? And don't those games have rules against arbitrary downloadable code, code that couldn't be vetted by Microsoft's gatekeepers? So while out is an interesting idea, it seems doubtful here, not unless they were prepared to introduce sizable differences between ports.

Couldn't they hide it in normal patches, though?
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 11:19 PM on June 2, 2013


The word is that Microsoft's patch approval system is bureaucratic and very expensive for the developer. I don't think it's feasible to patch XBLA games for any less than dire bugs.

Searching for more on the issue reveals the issue broke, actually, with news concerning a rare save bug in Fez.
posted by JHarris at 12:28 PM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


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