Hey Dylan PC Games

Quadrilateral Cowboy (PC Game) [Open Letter Series]

quadrilateral_cowboy_coverHey Dylan,
Quadrilateral Cowboy 
was, for me, interesting in that it combined a sort of dystopian technocratic future with a puzzle game that, in terms of its own mechanics, was more serious (it made me think of The Witness, only insofar as how non-casual it sees itself as a puzzle game).  It’s hard not to analogize, like a more serious Portal. But — there is a thematic darkness in this game that is not humorous like Portal or zen like The Witness. Rather, it seems to be constantly lonely. It seems significant that all the jobs in the game are set up, clearly, to protect something, and yet there are no other people. Your enemies are all objects.  I found this loneliness the most appealing part of the game, the way it shaped and informed the coding and my presence in the game.

The train heist at the very beginning, especially the car that just had desk after desk after desk in it, was in many ways the perfect example of this. Train heists are generally depicted as  about the of three things around the object to be stolen: moving vehicle, moving people, self. By eliminating the other people, you’re suddenly wondering about the point in an existential way. When you walk through a train car full of empty desks, you can’t help but wonder about where everybody went.

Aesthetically, I thought the game was beautiful, and obviously recognizable from Blendo Games’ earlier work. I thought this game took advantage of the familiar aesthetic in a particularly compelling way. Maybe that’s because there is something gratifying about squares in a game that is about subverting objects. And I immediately loved the desktop interface. When I first went to save and it popped up, I think, was the moment when I really got sucked in.

Imagine my surprise when I realized that I had been playing the game offline, and thus did not have access to what seems like a small thing at first but turns out to be thematically important: sticky notes left by friends playing the game. What is really interesting about that feature is that it changes but doesn’t absolve or resolve any of the isolation in the game. It almost makes it more real and more complex.

I ended up replaying much of it on tourist mode, which was for me personally an even better experience, because my own preference would be to avoid timed puzzles. In tourist mode, you don’t actually have to do any of the coding, because the doors and etc just open with a click, but you can still do all the coding. It was basically the best. I was also really taken with the obvious encouragement to mod the game, and build community. I hope it becomes a cult classic, where in some odd number of years, some weirdos will be famous for having built brilliant levels!

I got really lucky in that I didn’t encounter any bugs — probably a side effect of accidentally playing offline — but when I started to dig around for why you weren’t coming up, I saw that there are some bug reports coming in. While obviously not ideal, the good news is that a developer who is active within his own community is more likely to encourage consistent participation in that community. Overall, I was really taken both with the actual game, the look of the game, and the spirit of the game, and I hope it lives to see some cool mods.


Be sure to see Dylan’s reply here, and my reply to his letter here.

By jtp

Joanna Tova Price has a lot of heart.

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