Viewfinder, Which Began as a Viral, Reality-Altering Unity Demo, Finally Available as Free Game Trial on Steam

I first wrote about Viewfinder by indie game developer Matt Stark over three years ago, when it was just an impressive Unity 3D demo which went viral thanks to a pretty unique gameplay twist: It’s a first-person puzzler where you alter reality by manipulating pictures within it. (Just watch the video above, for a glimpse of what I mean.)

The full game will be published later this year by Thunderful Games, but a free playable demo is now available on Steam here.

“It’s a few levels from near the start of the full game, followed by a couple from later in the game,” Matt tells me. “We’re aiming for a 2023 launch date so it’s largely representative of what the final game will be like.

“It’s come so far since the demos I posted ages ago. There’s lots of stuff in the demo I couldn’t have even dreamed of us doing back then. At the same time, it feels like the demo is just scratching the surface of all the stuff we’ve got in the rest of the game.”

One particular feature that wasn’t in the 2020 demo is fairly dazzling:

When you “fail” — for instance, falling off a cliff — instead of dying, you Rewind all of reality, going back in time so you can try again. Maybe another game has done something like this before, but I can’t recall.

Another feature that’s a favorite of Matt’s is picture filters.

“There’s one level showing some different art styles using picture filters, and that feature didn’t exist at all until about a year into development.”

If you’re wondering how he pulls off the “pictures alter reality” effect, here’s what he told me when the original demo went viral:

“When the player takes a photo I duplicate the environment, make it greyscale and slice the meshes to remove anything outside the photo. When they place it into the world I slice the environment’s meshes to make a hole for the photo.” 

Or to put it another way, he puts a copy of the world on top of the world, and erases anything that would cause those worlds to overlap, until they’re ready to do so.  

That process is still roughly the same, but, says Matt, “In a ‘ship of Theseus’ kind of way. Like we’ve replaced or reworked a lot of the individual pieces of the process and we’ve had to adapt it to work with various other features — like it’s all had to be adapted to work with rewinding.

More details and info on the Steam page. The demo also features a storyline and character(s), and I’m curious how those will interact with the gameplay mechanics.

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