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I've been getting some PMs and reviews asking for some more info on Gray, where it came from, what the original intention was with it and all that. So I thought I'd write up a little post for you guys since NG dug it so much. :) Some of this might contain spoilers so if you haven't played it, and want to here's the link.
A little over a month ago, just before we headed off to GDC, we had this idea for a short, simple meaningful game that we wanted to experiment with. I wrote up a post about it on my blog, you can read it here.
That doesn't go into too much detail because at the time it was just a loose idea we were playing with. How we'd implement that was yet to be determined. We worked on it through GDC some, and then finished it up a couple weeks after pecking away.
Our intentions with this game were to present a mirror to the player through some basic hard-n-fast rules focused on that original statement: "A person is smart but people are stupid." We did that by casting "fun" and stuff like that aside in favor of highlighting the intentions of the game's message. For instance, an early prototype utilized a rhythm mini-game that could have been more DDRish that would have been more entertaining, but that didn't push forward the idea of opposites and meeting in the middle ground enough so it was scrapped for what you see in the game now. Sure, the game may have been more entertaining had we explored more stuff like that, but we just wanted to see what would happen if we went about developing the game with this strict focus on message over entertainment.
In fact, it ended up being that if the game were more focused on entertainment and the dialog/switching of sides was enjoyable, the frustration of "endlessly" going back and forth wouldn't have been as apparent or effective in conveying the intended message. While intially "A person is smart, but people are stupid" doesn't seem to have that much to do with switching sides and being frustrated, that's really the meat of how we could (hopefully) get the player to realize the duality of being in-control while simultaneously being out-of-control. When the player turns gray, that signals a kind of realization about whatever you want really. It depends on the player, how they related to the game and so on.
In the end those are our intentions, nothing explicit like: "This is about cons vs. libs!" or anything like that, but just about conflict in general and how we tend to deal with it as individuals, and as groups.
As for my own interpretation:
DISCLAIMER: This is just my personal opinion/interpretation, in no way does it mean yours is wrong or mine is right. Mike has his own interpretation as well, I'm sure it differs from mine. It's just what I think. Since so many people on NG have shared their own views, I thought I'd throw my hat in the ring as well. Just another 2¢ so please take it as such.
For me personally, I see being gray as a kind of hopeless but valiant position to be in. Most of us are actually "gray" but our surrounding society doesn't paint that kind of picture, instead they feed us a world full of good vs. evil, black vs. white, heroes vs. villains and etc. So for those of us that want to change the world, even making a real difference for everyone (not just one side) may very well be washed over by people's penchant for polarity. And in the end, you're just kind of alone and gray. It's sad, sure, and in no way do I personally think that people ought to be extremists, or think being gray is the wrong way to go, but I just wanted to convey this cold reality through a game as best we could. Humanity has many faults, this is one of them.
We're both really grateful for the reception our game got here, and frankly we're quite surprised. We didn't know how many people would give this kind of game a shot, and we couldn't be happier with everyone's responses.
Thanks for playing!