The Maze of the Space Minotaur
Hi, I’m Joe Fielder. I’m the game designer behind The Black Glove’s “game-within-a-game,” The Maze of the Space Minotaur. I have also created several casino games for CA players throughout the years. I thought I’d write a little bit about how it works, how it came together, and why you’d actually want to play this weird, 80s coin-op in the middle of a surrealistic, narrative-focused game.
THE SECRET ORIGIN OF THE MAZE OF THE SPACE MINOTAUR
When originally trying to figure out what the “games of skill and chance” would be within The Black Glove, I started first off by wiping out the idea of using minigames.
I’d designed puzzle levels in Stephen Spielberg’s BOOM BLOX, which was very different from the level work I’d done for first-person shooters before that. The control mechanic was simple and the challenge was to come up with quick game types that the player could grasp immediately, but took some time to master. It was kind of like hearkening back to the days of old coin-ops when anyone could walk up and start playing a game without being intimidated by complex controls.
Those levels were great fun to design and the game received a positive reaction from fans and critics, but I didn’t think puzzles would work here. I went down the list of games that had attempted something similar: Bully, Shenmue, and the like. None seemed appropriate. Pinball? Always loved it, always been terrible at it. Liar’s dice? Didn’t seem compelling enough to want to replay.
So, I started playing off an idea from my childhood about the coolest arcade game that anyone’d ever seen. The sort of beast that when you walked into an arcade, your mind might imagine smoke and light surrounding it and the attract taunts calling out just to you. I used to basically live in the casinos and the arcades from 19 all the way to 25. Nowadays I’m just playing games on the computer and fulfilling my gambling desires with great online casinos instead. Besides, you can’t get a bonus in a live casino and I wouldn’t play without a casino bonus in 2020, to be honest.
We’ll get to how concept artist Robb (Songbird, Sander Cohen, SHODAN) Waters developed the game’s fetching visuals and arcade cabinet side-art and our sound designers created its catchy retro audio shortly, but for now, let’s look at how it plays.
THE MAZE OF THE SPACE MINOTAUR RULES
In the game, you’re trapped in a labyrinth full of fearsome cosmic creatures. Some of them hunt by sight, others by sound. Some blunder about. Some run. Some teleport. Some hatch out of eggs that can be destroyed, if you’re quick.
You have four tools and weapons at your disposal: a laser sword, a blaster, traps, and a teleport pack. You must collect energy from fallen foes to power these items. Sometimes you’ll find extra charges lying in the maze, but you’ll rarely have enough for everything.
Your laser sword is silent and self-charging, but it’s weak. Your blaster is powerful, but is loud and will alert nearby enemies. Your teleport pack will transport you randomly across the maze, but is for emergencies only since it’s an energy hog and might drop you near trouble. Your traps are explosive mines that blast outward in all directions — a la games like Bomberman — a few seconds after being tripped.
You can use these tools in a variety of combinations against your foes. For instance, if you only have enough energy to power your sword, you can sneak up on a few weaker enemies, dispatch them quietly, collect their energy to power a trap, then tease a stronger foe into walking into it by letting it see you or making a sound with your blaster. Once the creature is caught in the trap, you can lead others into the explosive blast that follows.
We’ll be adding details about all the different enemy types and release animated gifs of each creature next week, but let’s discuss your goals in the game next.
ACCOMPLISHING GAMEPLAY FEATS
As we’ve mentioned, you accomplish Feats in The Maze of the Space Minotaur in order to summon The Black Glove and change the past of the theatre’s resident creators. It’s a game-centric take on William S. Burroughs’ cut-up technique, something he suggested was a way for art to communicate with the past.
If that sounds like the sort of logic remembered from a dream? Welcome to The Equinox…
Feats are an added layer of gameplay in The Maze of the Space Minotaur. The idea behind them came from how a few years ago I became woefully addicted to unlocking Xbox Live Achievements on games for the Xbox 360. If you’re not familiar with Achievements, they’re reward notifications for performing certain actions in a game, like finishing a level, beating a boss, completing the game on hard mode, or sneaking through a stage without being seen.
I always felt that Achievements worked best when they focused on some particularly fun aspect or ability in the game that you might miss otherwise.
In The Maze of the Space Minotaur, we use Feats to spotlight particularly fun aspects of gameplay and to teach you how to learn all the best strategies. They’ll start out easier, like simply escaping the maze or clearing the board, then grow into tough challenges like taking down the Space Minotaur without using your blaster.
Balancing Feats so that they’re fun to play and not an impediment to enjoying the narrative aspects of The Black Glove will be vitally important for us to nail correctly. My time working on BOOM BLOX taught me a lot about how to make a game that was fun for both casual players and for gamers who wanted a challenge (via its medal system). The proof will be in the final product, but it’s a challenge that I think is attainable with a lot of hard work and rigorous external testing.
THE SIGHTS AND SOUNDS OF THE MAZE OF THE SPACE MINOTAUR
Besides ensuring that The Maze of the Space Minotaur is super fun to play, we also set out to make it the coolest looking and sounding 80s-style arcade game ever.
Our concept artist Robb (Songbird, Sander Cohen, SHODAN) Waters developed the game’s amazing visuals and arcade cabinet side-art in a way that calls back to the days of games like Centipede and Tempest where your imagination was given a boost by elaborate side art meant to amplify the small iconic characters you were seeing onscreen.
And I’ll be damned if the in-game characters didn’t turn out looking great, as well.
We also wanted to have The Space Minotaur taunt you mercilessly during gameplay (a la Wizard of Wor and Bishop of Battle), so our audio designers created the deepest, darkest voice possible, making him sound like the lovechild of Darth Vader and the cylons from the 70’s Battlestar Galactica.
I’ve been writing the taunts for The Space Minotaur and it’s been my goal to hit the sort of nihilistic satire that Jack Kirby pulled off so well in The New Gods… so dark and over-the-top, it’s funny.
To cap it off, our audio designers have created amazing in-game sound effects for all the creatures and an incredibly catchy theme that reminds me of a mix of Tron-meets-Phoenix.
We’re not nearly done making The Maze of the Space Minotaur, but hope you’ll agree that it’s off to a promising start.
THE EQUINOX’S BOOGEYMAN
We’ve gotten a few questions about comments of how The Space Minotaur isn’t only the boss of the maze, he’s also The Equinox’s boogeyman.
We don’t want to go too deeply into that quite yet, but I can say that… certain aspects of this game will seep into The Equinox. There is a connection between the two worlds. it plays into some of the more surreal elements of The Black Glove.
When making a game steeped in mystery, you don’t want reveal everything up front, but don’t be too surprised if you see The Space Minotaur appear within the walls of the theatre.
MAKING A DREAM GAME A REALITY
Like I mentioned earlier, the earliest ideas for The Maze of the Space Minotaur came from my childhood. It was actually my first game design idea as a kid.
So, there’s an aspect to making this game-within-a-game that not only makes me feel a little what it must have been like to be a game designer back in the early 80s, it brings up that early fascination I’ve had for games since I was young.
It’s a funny thing to have our team go from tough times earlier this year to having an opportunity to make the game of our dreams. It’s hard to express how much we appreciate your help in making this happen. Thanks again and for helping us spread the word.
I’d read a few comments online worried about how this aspect of the game will play and be incorporated into The Black Glove, so I wanted to take the opportunity to elaborate a bit on the intended experience. Hopefully after reading this, you feel The Maze of the Space Minotaur sounds as incredibly fun to you as it does to me.
We’ll have further video, details, and a few surprises about this part of the game soon, but it’s only one aspect of The Black Glove. You can find a similar in-depth look into what you’ll see, hear, and do within The Equinox proper right here.
SPACE MINOTAUR ANIMATED GIFS:
#4: THE VOID
#6: THE SPACE MINOTAUR