Posted April 12, 2014 by Peter in EGX

EGX Rezzed: Interview with Danny Garfield, “Concursion”

Concursion logo
Concursion logo

Games have regularly mixed genres, but rarely has it been for more than brief steps into minigames – solving a puzzle, responding to a QTE and the like. And where game types meet, it is often with clearly defined sections – having several game types running concurrently and needing a multi-disciplinary approach to progress is most definitely not common… Step forward, Concursion.

Concursion‘s approach is perhaps best summed up by its own trailer – a fantasy platform game, more fighting based ninja slash-em-up, space based jetpack challenge, side-scrolling 2D space-shooter, and Pacman-style maze game, all with different game mechanics but overlapping playing spaces.

Receiving its first public showing at the recent Rezzed expo, Games Fiends got a hands-on with the game and a chance to speak with developer Danny Garfield of Puuba Games.
Concursion screen
The demo showed four levels, each requiring more precision than the last and providing some very quick deaths. However, it also struck the right note with both quick reloads and semi-regular checkpoints to continue from… and while it pressed your abilities as a player, it never felt like your fate was out of your hands. The fantasy platformer seemed most prominent in the demo, but this was a mistaken assumption.

“Narratively, they’re all peers,” Danny tells me. “It’s one hero with the ability to shapeshift to suit his environment. Certainly with the first ones [demo levels] they’re anchored in the platformer, [but] not every level necessarily features every flavour.”

“We conceived these five games as if they were five complete games, though we never intended to make five stand alone games of them; so we’ve got a story for each of them, a whole world description, if this game existed on its own what would its plot be?, things like that. And we have a name for each of them – Rescue Island [fantasy platformer], Slash At Night [ninja game], Mini Torres [Pac-Man style game].”

The learning curve of the demo did feel pretty steep, but this turns out to be for good reason – the levels are from a way into the game, as a means to demonstrate more than the basics and tutorials. The dimensional shifts – the concursions themselves – were all fixed in place, and in most of the levels allowed a few moments of thinking time if you wanted to consider your approach. The fourth level was entirely on rails though, requiring you to have learned the mechanics of the game in the previous three. It was very rightly called the Challenge level (“Act 2 starts introducing the need for more complicated gymnastics,” Danny told me later. Having pressed very hard to make it through the level, that sounds very accurate).
Concursion screen
“What we brought [to Rezzed] was entirely levels from our second act; but as the game goes on we start to introduce the concept of ‘what happens if some enemies are immune to the effects [of shifting]?’ So you can have spaceships flying through the platformer, or meteors flying through the ninja game, things like that. And as the game proceeds further, what would happen if the borders between these dimensional holes move, shift and change, grow and shrink? Eventually we introduce intelligence into the bubbles, and they can pursue you – so imagine you’re flying in a spaceship, and a circle of the platformer is pursuing you. If it overlaps you no longer have an engine but gravity [works] and you’ll plummet to the bottom, possibly to your death.”

And that is a key part of playing. The borders of the different games are sometimes just small bubbles, something to allow a momentary change as you pass through it; but while abilities may change, momentum is consistent and learning how to take advantage of the situations is key to progression. Working out what is coming and how to react is the main focus.

“It is like a high speed platform-puzzle game,” Danny explains, while demonstrating a (non-demo) level which involves triggering several concursion bubbles to open so his momentary control of the ninja can double-jump to platforms his fantasy adventurer couldn’t reach. “I’d say most of the puzzles have multiple solutions. [...] It’s always a question of ‘what’s the way to get through?’ and ‘what’s the best way to get through?’ Sometimes that means safest, and sometimes that means fastest.”

I ask if that means he is encouraging speed runs of the game. “Totally,” he replies. “A lot of levels have a hidden ideal path for speed runs.”
Concursion screen
Music is a part of this too. Notably, the soundtrack has been composed by Christopher Hoag, a friend of Danny’s. “I’m quite lucky, he’s a good friend of mine for a long time, but he’s an Emmy nominated composer, he worked on the TV show House. And so I just brought this idea to him – ‘do you think we could do a soundtrack for a game?’. He’d never done game work; he was like ‘yeah, we’ve never worked together, that would be a ton of fun.’

“‘… Do you think we could do five flavours, beat-for-beat the same, they’d need to work cross-fade mixed together all at once, two at once or one at a time? They can never seem overwhelming or empty.’ ‘… let’s try it.’”

What this means in practice is not only that the soundtrack changes as you pass from game-to-game, but that you will also hear snatches of other parallel soundtracks if you are near a concursion into other worlds. Those moments of unconscious preparation for the change can be key.

Rezzed was the first time the public had had a chance to play the game, and I asked Danny how players were responding – especially if people were playing in ways he hadn’t expected.

“I’ve seen a handful; people just execute moves or tricks or get through puzzles in ways I hadn’t imagined. Which is kind of great – I am absolutely for that. If people can exploit the system to come up with tricks that the devs didn’t that’s perfect.

“We’ve brought Act 2 levels here as peoples’ introduction, and I’m still happy with what I’m seeing. I think people are… dying. There’s no reason to pretend they’re not, they’re being thrown in the deep end. But no one has really gone ‘and so I don’t like this’ and stopped, and everyone seems to have gotten the hang of it which is promising. If you’re able to jump into a late act and figure it out that quickly and have fun with it, I think that’s quite great.”

And having died an awful lot while playing but not once felt the need to rage-quit, I have to agree.

Concursion is due for release later this year. The game is also running a campaign to be Greenlit on Steam.


Peter can be described as an old, hairy gamer, a survivor of the console wars of the 1990s, and a part-time MMO addict. He has an especial fondness for retro gaming and observing the progressions in long running gaming series. When scandalously not caught gaming, he can also be found reading comics and fantasy fiction, or practising terrible photography.