We’ve been following Steph Thirion’s great Faraway game for years now — he’s been working on the game singlehandedly for just as long, and in a quick chat with us this week to see the game again at GDC, even he admits that his friends are starting to ask just why he hasn’t released it yet. It’s always been good, but Thirion says he wants it to be great, and though he admits, reluctantly, that perfection is probably impossible (“I want to reach a level where I’m 100% happy,” he says at one point, before catching himself and switching back down to just “99%”), he’s trying his darndest to get Faraway to a point where it’s as good as it can get.
Lest you think Thirion is just lazy, I’ll dissuade that notion right away: He’s definitely working on the game. It’s progressed plenty since the past few times I’ve seen it, and these days, it’s still got that early sense of mystery, though the mechanics are much more strongly emphasized. After a first little learning sequence, you’re sent out into the 2D galaxy, controlling a little comet flying across the screen. As you near various stars, they’ll light up as selected, and then holding a finger on the screen will spin you around the nearest star, until you lift your finger off the screen again. When you reach a certain galaxy, the game switches to a fixed view, where you need to draw lines around a specific constellation of stars, trying to depict a completed shape without ever crossing a line you’ve already drawn. Making a mistake will end the game, but if you can complete that shape, you’ll continue on to explore the galaxy further.
Everything is dynamically generated, and Thirion said that the better you get at the game, the more it will throw at you in terms of puzzle difficulty. Playing the game this time, I also came across a huge star, which could give you more energy and keep your comet moving faster. And I had no doubt that there were other wordless gameplay experiences to find out in that universe, that Thirion has created over all this time.
He says the game isn’t done, and he admits that even parts of the game that were once done aren’t any longer. “You look at the game sometimes,” he told me, “and it doesn’t look as good as it used to.” In that sense, Thirion’s finished version of Faraway really is a moving target, and you worry that he’ll never get the game to a point where he thinks it’s ready for release. But Thirion shakes his head at that. “The moving target is stabilizing,” he says.
In the meantime, Thirion has gotten to work on an update to his first game, Eliss, which arrived on iPhone four years ago. He’s calling the update Eliss 2.0, and while it’s not a new game, it will add new tutorials on how to play, a new stage selection screen, and a sandbox mode. He’s also tweaking the way the game plays, and hoping to make it slightly more accessible. “Hopefully people will finally beat it,” he says. Eliss 2.0 will be a free update, but Thirion also hopes it will attract some new users, and give the game “a second chance.”
Eliss 2.0 should be out in about another month or so. After that, Faraway is still being worked on. But hopefully we’ll see it in release form whenever it’s finally ready to go.