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Introducing Pillar: A PS4 Psychological Minigame Collection

Michael Hicks's Avatar Posted by Designer/Programmer/Musician, Pillar

Hey everyone! My name is Michael Hicks, and I’m the designer/programmer/musician for a game I’m announcing today called Pillar. Pillar is a collection of minigames, where each game represents a different type of personality that we find in people. For example, there are introverts who lose energy from being around people, extroverts who expand energy from interacting with others, characters who make decisions with logic, characters who make decisions with feeling and so on. My goal is to express these traits entirely through gameplay mechanics.

Pillar on PS4

Pillar was born out of a confluence of ideas: the first influence I had was from Magnolia, a movie that examines multiple characters with different storylines but seamlessly weaves them all together. I realized this is something video games can do too but I’ve never seen it utilized in a way that’s as powerful as this film. For instance, in some games there are characters that have unique abilities, like swimming underwater or jumping higher than others, but rarely do you see these things linked together thematically – they are usually only there for variety.

I’m also a fan of psychology, one way of looking at this game is as a representation of the Myers-Briggs self-assessment test; every psychological preference in that test is represented in the game. While this isn’t a science, I’m often amazed at how insightful the results are into how I, and also my friends and family, work internally. The idea of experiencing how other types of people make decisions and operate through gameplay excites me, since this is something the test alone can’t do.

Pillar on PS4Pillar on PS4

The final thing that influenced this game was my desire to avoid popular design approaches we use for telling stories. While I empathize with the need for mature storytelling in video games, I think that designing a game like a film is leading us in the wrong direction. I wanted to make a game that tells a “story” non-verbally, through gameplay mechanics, without any cutscenes or dialogue. The philosophy of designers like Jason Rohrer and Jonathan Blow, who let the rules of the game speak the message, has been a huge influence on this game.

I hope that talking about some of the inspirations and ideas that led to Pillar has caught your interest, because as time gets closer to launch (hopefully this fall), I will be revealing more details, including how the game will play! You can follow the game’s official Twitter account at @MichaelArtsGame, where we’ll be tweeting updates and new details. You can also visit the game’s official website at www.pillar-game.com. If you have any questions, I’d love to answer them below! Thanks for reading.

Add Your Own

Suhn-Sol-Jashin said:

August 25th, 9:10 am

This looks rather interesting. I’ll keep my eyes on this one.

ulloamen1 said:

August 25th, 9:15 am

I do not like

mazmine2000 said:

August 25th, 9:19 am

This is so cool. I love the Myers Briggs.

ESIASON7 said:

August 25th, 9:44 am

Ok im interested. Im always trying to figure out myself and others so thisnsounds like my kind of game. Once it has trophies im sold.

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    Michael Hicks said:

    August 25th, 10:44 am

    Thanks, and good news: it will have trophies =-D

CrownedLion said:

August 25th, 9:44 am

“I think that designing a game like a film is leading us in the wrong direction”

I totally agree with you on this point. Though I appreciate the way that games have been inspired by films, I think it’s important to identify the things that make games unique, and develop interactive entertainment with those traits in mind. No other medium allows a person to “step into the shoes” of a character to the degree that gaming can. It opens the door for so many opportunities to empathize and understand other people and the experiences life can offer. A few of the games I’ve played recently have drawn me into their worlds more than movies ever have. Again, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with games being cinematic – I love cinema – but I think it could possibly stifle creativity, in some cases, and keep people from thinking beyond the scope of what has been done before.

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    Michael Hicks said:

    August 25th, 10:52 am

    I totally agree with that as well. I’m not sure why more designers aren’t looking at games this way, but to be honest the first few games I made were “complete the objective and get a voice over/cutscene” type of games. I played Gravitation by Jason Rohrer in college and it totally changed my view on how things could be done. Obviously Braid is another one, and more recently Papers, Please!

    Whenever I go through airport security I’m always thinking about Papers, Please and the things I picked up through that game. It really taught me to empathize with the workers there, and understand why they do what they do.

    I’m hoping Pillar will do similar things for players, at the very least put them in a different experience with each character. Thanks for your comment!

CrownedLion said:

August 25th, 9:57 am

I’ll be looking forward to checking out Pillar. Best of luck with the whole process.

Thwip said:

August 25th, 10:18 am

As an introvert that makes decisions with logic, I await more information before making a purchase decision, and hope that the game is single player experience only.

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    Michael Hicks said:

    August 25th, 10:41 am

    haha that only makes sense =-) More details when I lock down a release date most likely, and yeah it’s a single player game!

tusunami said:

August 25th, 11:50 am

I like the concept and hope there will be a demo for this at least. I feel this game would benefit from having a demo.

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    Michael Hicks said:

    August 25th, 11:57 am

    Thanks, there will be a demo! =-)

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Michael Hicks said:

August 25th, 12:28 pm

Just to clarify based off some tweets I got, the game doesn’t open with a questionnaire or anything like that… it’s just a representation of the test – purely gameplay, but if you were to play the game and look at the characters next to the test it would all add up. Hope that helps you get an idea!

paulogy said:

August 25th, 12:50 pm

Love the direction you’re headed in, as well as the things / people you are influenced by. Eager to see how this shapes up over time.

I would personally avoid the term “minigames” in the marketing though, since for me at least it has a bit of a negative stigma.

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    Michael Hicks said:

    August 25th, 1:29 pm

    Thanks! Yeah, it’s hard to find a way to describe this game. The closest thing I can think of is a party game (Mario Party or something), but obviously that’s not quite the same. I felt a “collection of minigames” helps get people on board faster, but I’ll definitely be thinking about other possible ways to describe it!

Jon-Hop said:

August 25th, 12:53 pm

As a recent graduate from a counselor education grad program it is refreshing to see developers crafting works like this. Reflective experiences that allow players to transcend the medium, ala Journey, amongst others, are always a plus in my book, so thank you for taking a chance with game like Pillar! Best of luck with the remainder of the games development.

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    Michael Hicks said:

    August 25th, 1:32 pm

    That’s awesome, thanks so much!

brisdevil said:

August 25th, 1:00 pm

Alright! I’ll be looking forward to play this game, sounds very interesting,

Alucard_VL said:

August 25th, 1:18 pm

How much time did you spent on making it, Michael?

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    Michael Hicks said:

    August 25th, 1:31 pm

    Hi! =-D I started working on this in August 2012… the first year of development we worked on it part-time, the second year was full-time.

    We’re just a team of two people, so that made it take a little longer!

Alucard_VL said:

August 25th, 4:35 pm

Thanks for the reply, you are kind of cool guy ;D
I hope you will make good sales, reception and game itself of course.

CraftyHero said:

August 25th, 7:43 pm

The description of the game definitely has me interested. Reason being, my girlfriend is totally an introverted individual with a negative opinion on games. This sounds like the perfect game to introduce to get and perhaps get a little insight into how each of us operates.

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    Michael Hicks said:

    August 25th, 9:01 pm

    Ahh way to put the pressure on me. =-P One of my goals is to make this a game that non-gamers would want to try… really hope it’s able to change your girlfriend’s opinion on games!

MrBS said:

August 25th, 11:18 pm

Interest premise. Good luck to you sir! I look forward to checking it out!

ColonelOCorn said:

August 26th, 9:09 am

Michael I’m a dude ENFP so I’ll probably procrastinate playing the game and then never fini

;)

LOOK A SQUIRREL!!!

Can’t wait to check it out.

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    Michael Hicks said:

    August 26th, 5:54 pm

    Yeah, as an INFJ, just thinking about your procrastination bothers me… I’ll have to set up a mailing list or something to help keep you more organized and planned! =-P haha thanks a lot!

neahcrow said:

August 26th, 5:53 pm

Late to comment but this really caught my attention. PTA is my favorite director, and I’m a huge fan of the MB personality test too. (INFP). This is a fantastic idea, and really shows what the medium of video games is capable of and hopefully can draw people who do ‘not like video games’ in.

Can’t wait for this game.

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    Michael Hicks said:

    August 26th, 5:56 pm

    Thanks so much, PTA is also my favorite director…. glad to see someone with similar interests (I’m an INFJ by the way) excited for it! =-)

ColonelOCorn said:

August 26th, 6:17 pm

Neah poor Michael can’t escape from the NFP’s…

Hey I appreciate you J’s. Without you, NOTHING would ever get done!!

:)

andrewatoz said:

August 30th, 3:59 pm

Is there a mailing list we can sign up for you be notified when the game comes out?

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