Each winter for the past ten years, I've gone on a road trip to the south west. I fly out there alone, rent a car, and drive into the middle of the desert. There, I mostly bum around, write little poems, read books, drink beer, explore, adventure, and think. I love it.
At the time of my 2013 south west road trip Continue?987654310 was just a side project I'd been working on called "Seven Minute Legend." The original idea was to condense the experience of an entire RPG down to a quick seven minute game. I've since learned that another developer coincidentally had the same idea for a game, but they actually finished their version, titled "Half Minute Hero."
Several events that unfolded on this trip made me throw away the original idea in an effort to try to make something more meaningful.
After bumming around the desert for a week, I met up with a shaman to do the Peruvian jungle drug ayahuasca for the first time. Feeling adventurous I took a double dosage of the murky brown liquid. What followed was one of the most profound experiences of my life. I rollercoastered between deeply contemplative moments of bliss and violent bouts of vomiting and agony. I experienced visions, realizations, emotions, and a sense of being present unlike any I had previously felt before. Strange turns of phrases repeated in my head over and over again, the meanings of which I was only able to understand later (many appear in the game). I was able to see the world as being perfectly beautiful, but simultaneously stupid and meaningless. The most profound realization I experienced however, had to do with the idea of want, and the roll it plays in our lives. This would later become one of the main themes explored in Continue?.
After a couple days of recovery. I went out into the New Mexico desert, seeing the world with what felt like fresh eyes. I drove around all day, and it was perhaps the most beautiful day of desert driving I had ever experienced. In the afternoon, I drove into the mountains of Gila National Park. Though I didn't have a cell signal, I had a TomTom GPS unit to guide me. About 150 miles down the winding dirt roads in the forrest-covered mountains of Gila, I came upon a horrifying sight- the road forward was blocked by a road closed gate. My only choice was to go back the way I came, which I didn't have the gas for or take an unmarked side road and hope it was a detour.
The side road was barely drivable and eventually my car got stuck in small snowdrift that had blown onto the road. I dug for hours, but couldn't get the car unstuck. Even if I could get the car unstuck there was nowhere for me to drive. I hadn't seen a single other car or person for the entire 150 miles into the park and I knew no one would find me out there. So I did the only thing I could do...I started walking.
Night fell, but the stars and moon reflecting off the snow kept things surprisingly bright. Six hours down the snow-covered uphill path winding up the mountain's ledge, a mountain lion emerged from the forest. Standing only ten feet in front of me, it stared at me, with the moonlight reflecting off its eyes. I slowly backed away, and eventually, it casually strolled back into the forest.
I walked and walked and walked, knowing that if something happened to me out there, no one would ever find me. I had a bag of granola and ate snow to stay hydrated. After thirty-some miles, I stumbled upon a camp site occupied by a group of college kids. Barely able to walk, I called out for help. They rescued me, and drove me to the nearby town of Glenwood.
The next day the people there helped me retrieve my car. From there, I drove to Clifton, AZ (which is the mining town in the game). Clifton has been my favorite south-western town for many years. When the sunset reflects off the cliffs, there is a soft purple glow that coats the sad, crumbling mining town with a feeling of holiness. While there, my father called me, and I told him about my experience in the mountains. Breaking down, he said "You are our treasure."
That night, I had dinner, rented a room, and hobbled my way into the miner's bar (also in the game). There, I drank alone and thought about my life. I looked at the miners there, who pulled precious metals from the ground (treasure) and remembering the choice words said by my father on the phone, broke down crying. Hobbling and sobbing, I left the bar. Sitting in my car, all the self-hatred and self-doubt I had built up inside of me for years seemed to melt away. Being alive really did feel like a treasure…and it was the best moment of my life.
Coming home, and getting back my work, I wanted to express all of the things I had experienced, but since I made video games, this was kind of a challenge. It was a medium that tends to not mix well with deep shit, like contemplating the nature of life. So I paced around a lot, drank alone, thought, scribbled, acted eccentric, worked like crazy for about 8 months, and managed to get a lot of the stuff I'd been thinking about into a very weird video game. It's definitely not for everyone, but I think it's something pretty different from other things out there.
---> In trying to develop this game, I thought about how in music, a song by Nirvana for example, can have a series of abstract notions that combine to paint a picture of a larger idea. No one questions Nirvana for saying a bunch of things that don't make clear sense, because it's implied that we're supposed to try to glean our own meaning and interpretation of the artist's work. I wanted to see if I could do this with a game. Most games follow a very clear, linear, and non-abstract structure. Games that do have abstraction tend to not have any meaning behind the abstraction. What I wanted to do was to make a game that had a lot of abstract, but meaningful things it in order to explore deeper emotional and philosophical ideas. I wanted the interpretation of these things to be part of the challenge and progression of play.
So everything sort of symbolizes something or is contributing to a certain understanding of an idea. There is even a "Luke I am your father" moment that if you're paying attention and you wander into the right area, you will experience.
I also realized that games that do these things can be complete pretentious snore-fests, so I did my best to have plenty of action, strategy, and game dynamics to keep people involved.
Anyways, maybe all of this a bunch of overly lofty, self-absorbed, over-thinking pretentiousness, but I hope you like the game and I hope it causes you to take just a second every once in a while to contemplate existence, want, and the simultaneous beauty and stupidity of life.