SPOILERS AHEAD! PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK
While I've had positive comments on my game for Ludum Dare #41, I've also had confused comments. I like open endings and room to speculate, but I also think it's nice when things have a "definite" answer. In this post I will outline my thoughts and intentions behind the game such that those who need closure can get it.
The general idea is already briefly explained on the game's description page, however for the sake of clarity I will state it clearly here as well. As you probably know the theme of LD41 was "Combine 2 incompatible themes". I have a few theories on what it means for two genres to be truly incompatible, but long story short I was really interested in combining a point-and-click game with the painting genre of still-lifes.
The genres themselves have obvious meanings. A point and click game is a game where you interact and change the world by clicking on various things. A still-life painting is a painting of a scenery or object that doesn't move or otherwise interacts with the world.
The question is, however: what happens if you combine these two genres? Can I make a game that's point and click, but also still-life? More precisely: can you make a game where you never ever see something move or change, while keeping it fun to play? That's the idea that I'm trying to explore with this game.
The intro screen image is a clear nod to René Magritte's painting "La trahison des images" ("The treachery of images"). This is a surrealistic painting displaying a pipe with the sentence "This is not a pipe" in french below it. I like it for being so simple, yet it is very well known in the world of art.
Fields with man
The first painting is "Grunes Weizenfel" from Van Gogh. It was the first idea I had when I decided I was going to combine still-life and point-and-click. The idea of this painting is that there is a man in the distance, for those who missed it. When you hover over him with the mouse the next part of the story is triggered. Also, when you leave the view, the man is removed and the title of the painting changes.
While I liked this painting the most conceptually, I think it doesn't work all that well in practice. What can happen is that the player hovers over the man too quickly, causing the next part of the story to be triggered without them actually noticing the man. A better way to implement this part was probably to incorporate some kind of timer.
Bowl with fruit
The second painting is "Still Life Plate of Fruit" by Paul Cezanne. When zooming into this picture the door scene is triggered. This causes two doors to be spawned, one in the light and one in the shadows. Which door is interacted with does not actually matter for the story. This is something I had on my wishlist for the jam but didn't have time to implement. Interacting with either door advances the story.
Now, what's the message of this part? The idea is that kids are trying to steal your food. They do this by first tricking you into walking away from the fruit by ringing the doorbell (you can hear a kid run away after the doorbell). When you try to open the door the kids see the opportunity and take the fruit. After that you can hear them laughing at you for your stupidity ;-) The fruit is removed from the picture, the title changes, and zooming in advances the story once more.
Sky with stars
The third painting is just a random night sky picture I found on google. It has a two-fold purpose.
The first is initiating the final phase. In this phase the paintings start blacking out. Every time you zoom in to a picture after zooming into the night sky picture, the previous picture is blacked out. Each time you zoom in to a new picture the music increases a bit in volume. Once three pictures are blacked out the south, east, and west walls are removed. If you then turn around the picture is removed as well, leaving you alone with the rest of the universe
The second purpose is painting the sky with stars when the night sky picture is blacked out. There is not really a specific meaning behind the third picture; I mostly just liked the feeling it gave me.
I have described the reasoning behind the five main elements of my Ludum Dare 41 entry. Summarising, the main goal was to find out of a point-and-click game could be made that was essentially also a still-life. I tried to achieve this by making a point-and-click game where things only change when you're not looking, essentially creating a still life in the process. Some parts had a slightly deeper meaning, like the first and second painting. However, most of the design decisions I made because it tingled my "mystery" sense.
Thanks for reading!