Narbacular Drop • Page 2

John Walker corners Kim Swift about the game that spawned Portal.

Eurogamer: As is true of all games. Do you think the restrictions on each year's project were there to force you to be more creative, rather than just slowly introduce new tech?

Kim Swift: Well we were learning game history at the time to as well, one of the first games we had to play in our games class was Zork.

Eurogamer: That's good to know.

Kim Swift: But mainly it's there to help get your feet wet. When I was going to school there we weren't allowed to use any other engines like say Source or Unreal Engine. So we had to build our own engines and heading right into DigiPen we didn't know how to use Direct3D straight off. So text-based was a good place to start.

Eurogamer: Makes sense. So three of your team were already together. Did you stick with each other for the rest of the years?

Kim Swift: Jeep, Garret and I stuck together and then Dave [Kircher] joined in a couple years later. Then the artists, Realm [Lovejoy], Paul [Graham] and Scott [Kintworth] didn't join until our Senior year. And that's the whole Narbacular Drop team that eventually went on to Valve.

Eurogamer: So it's the fourth year, and you're doing 3D and physics. Has anyone already had the idea for Narbacular Drop?

Kim Swift: The idea for Narbacular Drop started the summer before Senior year [that's the fourth year - Ed]. We decided that we wanted to get a jump-start on the game and actually have a good plan in place for once.

Good grief, it was brown.

Eurogamer: So what was the original seed behind the game? It's tempting to assume it was the portal. Did that come first?

Kim Swift: Yeah, pretty much. Dave had been working on the idea of having these portals you could look in and see out the other. And we all pitched in to try to find a good way to use them. Having the game be an environmental puzzler was somewhat of a mash-up of a couple game proposals.

Eurogamer: Do you remember what they were?

Kim Swift: Honestly, not really. I know I proposed some sort of puzzle game with fish.

Eurogamer: Do you still resent the lack of fish in the finished game?

Kim Swift: Not really, we had Lava Turtles. That was way better.

Eurogamer: Have you played Narbacular recently?

Kim Swift: It's been awhile. I think the last time I played was when I was getting screenshots for a GDC presentation a few years ago.

Eurogamer: What do you think of it now when you look back?

Kim Swift: Wow, it's very brown.

Eurogamer: That must be how John Carmack feels all the time.

Kim Swift: Nah, more like I've learned so much since school. And certainly giant heaping piles of gratitude. And the brown thing too.

This equals job.

Eurogamer: I remember the first time I saw it. A colleague from a rival publication showed it to me, excitedly. "Look! Look at this!" and then played with infinitely looping portals. It was a moment of: "Oh yeah! That should have existed since the beginning of time."

Kim Swift: Too bad they don't actually exist in real life.

Eurogamer: Yeah. This is technology someone should be working on. Although I know for sure I'd permanently be throwing the wrong portal and getting myself stuck in small rooms.

Kim Swift: Or getting extremely motion sick.

Eurogamer: So, then came that magical moment.

Kim Swift: Yep, us coming to Valve.

Eurogamer: What was your plan before that job offer?

Kim Swift: Well I was interviewing and hoping I might get a job with Crystal Dynamics actually. So basically looking for a job.

Eurogamer: And why didn't that happen?

Kim Swift: DigiPen holds an expo for game developers to come in and check out the work of graduating seniors. So Valve sends over a couple people to take a look. Robin Walker actually was the one who talked to us. First he proceeded to tell us everything we did wrong. He also commented that the game was very brown. And after we were sufficiently pulverised, he gives us his card and says good work, and stay in touch.

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John Walker

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