William Chyr wants to know if I've seen the movie Inception.
Christopher Nolan's sci-fi thriller from 2010 isn't the first thing I think of when I look at Manifold Garden, Chyr's gravity-centric puzzler that is equal parts beautiful and dizzying. It has obvious touches of M.C. Escher's work; there's something undeniably artistic about its colors and architectural displays. Chyr is quick to explain where Leonardo DiCaprio fits — remember that scene where he and Ellen Page take a stroll through the city streets in a dream? The world folds in two, creating a perfect mirror on top of itself, and DiCaprio and Page casually walk up this new wall as though nothing is out of the ordinary.
"That was kind of the initial inspiration for this," he said. "If [DiCaprio] changes gravity and he drops his wallet, does it fall in this new direction, or the old direction?"
Manifold Garden ( previously known as Relativity), is expected to launch within the next 12 months for Linux, Mac, PlayStation 4 and Windows PC. The game tasks players with manipulating gravity to solve puzzles. There's a color system you can see in the video above that plays into the game. If you're on a red platform trying to hit a red switch, for example, you can only manipulate red color blocks, and so on. This means that, in addition to figuring out how to navigate a world where you can flip walls into a floor at any time, you also have to account for how to move blocks to create shelves and steps.
"It turned out to be a lot better to make buildings inside games..."
There's more to Manifold Garden than pushing around blocks, however. The game's world loops infinitely, meaning you can actually explore anything you see. Chyr called the game a metaphor for the last 400 years of physics, in which famous minds like Newton and Einstein are playing with ideas of gravity, the universe and how space-time bends. It's also heavy on the architectural side — a clear interest of Chyr's, though he decided against pursuing it professionally.
"I sort of realized that it wasn't about making cool buildings, but buildings that people actually have to live in," he said. "It turned out to be a lot better to make buildings inside games, where you don't have to worry about plumbing or where to install the AC units."
There's also an organic, sort of Garden of Eden element — a nod to the game's title. Later puzzles will challenge players to grow trees by redirecting water and creating an overall sense of purpose in this world. That idea came after the game's original conception, when Chyr realized it felt "very sterile.
"It was very angular and very harsh and very barren," he said.
"I like the idea of bringing life to this world and I like the idea of cultivating something."