We’ve all played lots of games in 2D and 3D, but 4D? That’s genuinely new, and it’s been the lingering promise of Miegakure, a wild puzzle game from designer Marc ten Bosch that’s been in development since 2009. Nearly a decade later, Miegakure is almost done. Maybe?
As part of an ongoing series at Waypoint, I’ve been fielding requests from readers about games they were excited to play. Games that seemed, at one point, tangible and real, but for whatever reason, they fell off the map, unclear if they’re delayed or dead. So far, I’ve taken a look at the sci-fi horror game Routine, the sad robot game Reset, and Michel Ancel’s prehistoric open world, WiLD. Today, we’re looking at Miegakure.
Miegakure is not a game that’s left the public eye since it debuted at a Game Developers Conference session for experimental gameplay demonstrations in 2009. Like 4D itself, Miegakure is elusive, but every so often, a reporter becomes entranced and inevitably writes several thousand words trying to explain what a game in the fourth dimension even means.
(If you’re looking for a deep dive, I recommend this Kotaku piece from 2010.)
If you’re unfamiliar with Miegakure, that question may still linger. 4D? It’s not time, as popularly depicted in all matter of science fiction. This trailer from 2014 should help:
Okay, but what does that actually mean? Are you just swapping between worlds? This layman's explanation from YouTube, cofirmed by the game’s own designer, is useful:
Anyone who’s wanted more info about Miegakure has been able to find it. It didn't disappearing into the shadows, trying to obscure what was going on. Bosch quietly updated a development blog about Miegakure since April 2009, in which he explains what it means to rotate an object in 4D, posts links to interviews with the press, and provides updates on the game’s progress. The game's just taking a long time.
One thing Bosch has been careful about is avoiding promises on a release date, even as the game, at least from an aesthetic perspective, appears nearly done. That said, he did break character when the game showed up at Sony’s PlayStation Experience event in 2014. Bosch predicted the game would release “next year,” aka 2015. Obviously, that didn’t happen; we’re halfway through 2018!
A few weeks back, I emailed Bosch about Miegakure, and he got back to me.
“Development is moving along smoothly as always,” he told me. “We were never in a situation where we were stumbling around looking for what the game should be, and never re-did any of the gameplay. The game has been a good game from the very beginning (if I may say so myself) and we just improved it in many ways.”
All the levels in Miegakure are locked, letting Bosch focus on the game’s visuals.
Bosch published an update in February, explaining how much of the work being done has little to do with the puzzles and a lot to do with making sure the smallest details are given the proper polish. This is important, he said, because of the game’s unconventional gameplay. He admitted “this freaking game is hard to make but so worth it.”
“People have very much figured out how to build 2D and 3D games: proof of that is that game engines like Unity exist,” he said. “In 4D, none of that knowledge exists, and it is more difficult to come up with because you can't fully visualize it and the math is more complicated. So anything a game developer would take for granted in a 3D game—like collision detection, lighting, sound, modeling props—is a new, difficult problem that has to be figured out. It takes a long time to solve these issues, but it is also extremely fun for me!”
Take collision detection, for example: he had to craft his own algorithms for 4D objects.
Beyond the sheer complexity of Miegakure’s 4D design, Bosch is developing most of the game himself. There’s a 3D artist, part-time concept artist, and sound designer contributing to Miegakure, but programming? Design? Story? Everything’s on his shoulders.
“In this game, the programming and design are so intertwined that I think it works better if you only have one person doing all of it,” he said, “even if it takes longer.”
But how does someone fund a game for nearly a decade? Bosch said he’s stayed afloat through a mixture of Indie Fund (a group of investors who put money into various projects), savings, occasional contract work, and revenue from a 4D experiment he released on iOS and Steam, 4D Toys. ( 4D Toys is especially impressive in VR.)
The person who asked me to investigate Miegakure wasn’t angry the game wasn’t out, they were anxious to play something they’ve been following for years. Part of the reason Miegakure hasn’t drawn ire is because it hasn’t asked players for any money, but it helps when Bosch is out there every few months, showing tangible progress.
“At the end of the day,” he said. “I am just announcing things about a video game when I have announcements to make. I haven't taken any money from fans. I wish I could talk more about what I am doing day to day, but I don't want to spoil the game for people. I don't go completely dark but I also don't do a lot of announcements, to save up for a giant push at the end. I do release about one big YouTube video per year, and these tend to do really well.”
Miegakure’s YouTube channel only has five videos, but totals more than 3.6 million views.
Knowing people have that level of interest in your game probably helps. Every day, Bosch wakes up and presses forward on the same game. And despite the many years he’s spent on Miegakure, he claims boredom hasn't been a problem.
“Maybe if the project felt like it wasn’t going anywhere or if I was bored with the topic,” he said, “but that is not the case.”
The development and release of 4D Toys, however, was a nice change of pace, if only because it let Bosch release something in a short period of time...instead of a decade.
As for when the game might be released, Bosch remains uncommitted, but when asked if Miegakure could possibly make it out before 2018 is up, there was hope.
“It might not get finished but it will be pretty damn close if not,” he said.
I wonder if it’s already released in the 4th dimension?