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A Tech Deck is your controller in Doors to the City

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The tiny skateboard is your controller in this innovative indie game

Dante Douglas

Doors To The City is a dark and grimy mashup landing somewhere between a Tony Hawk game, Super Mario Galaxy and Jet Set Radio, and the combination of these three elements is what first caught my eye among the crowded show floor at GDC’s annual custom peripherals game showcase, alt.ctrl.GDC. It wasn’t until I got closer that I realized the game had its own set of unique control and visual attachments.

Players at alt.ctrl.GDC got to experience the game in its most interesting configuration: played on a finger skateboard and projected into a full 3D hologram rig. The game is a collaboration between audio designer Josh Craig and programmer Benjamin Poynter, both employees at Looking Glass in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

Like most hologram technology, capturing it in flat images doesn’t quite do it the justice it deserves. Poynter told me that the technology used to project the game into the holographic “box” was the specialty of Looking Glass, and it was a stroke of inspiration and brainstorming with Craig that gave them the idea to make a game designed around the technology.

Guiding your skateboarder avatar around the small, spherical world-spaces feels like a re-imagining of classic skateboard game mechanics, and lets tricks to ascend high into the stratosphere as you ride along the warped streets, searching for audio CDs hidden throughout each level.

The audio CDs represent a series of memories that the player needs to find in order to escape the twisted, dreamlike spheres of his consciousness. As you progress through the various worlds, a ghostly announcer taunts and encourages you, giving the game a feel of being constantly watched by an otherworldly presence.

The control scheme was a bit hard to get used to, and shared the trait with many alt.ctrl.GDC games of being prone to bugs, as handmade controllers are wont to do. Nonetheless, after a few failed tries and a lot of studying the control scheme, I got the hang of it, and found myself zipping through the worlds with (relative) ease.

Currently, Doors To The City is only available in a build for the Looking Glass Super Pepper and Holoplayer One hologram kits, but Poynter and Craig both assured me that they were hoping to release a version with a full story mode and standard keyboard controls in the future, though no date is set as of now.