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Q&tAy: Askiisoft's Pause Ahead

When you need a break from your game, you can pause it, go get a soda or use the bathroom. What if pausing didn't stop the game, but helped you beat it?

That's just what developers at Askiisoft do in their Adult Swim featured game Pause Ahead. I caught up with Dave Zhang, lead artist, and things get a little meta about their game's unadulterated pausing action.


How would you describe Pause Ahead?

Pause Ahead is about poor programming and unintended glitches. The narrator represents the developer of the game, who in this case, is the 'god' of the game world. He built a dungeon you can't escape, but coded it poorly, allowing you to exploit the programming. It explores the role of a character in a game world, and questions whether these kinds of exploits and cheating are things the developer intended.

What was the inspiration for including pausing as a major game mechanic?

The game was first made for MolyJam 2012, based on Molydeux's tweet "What if the pause button was a weapon? Until developers think outside the box we're going downhill." Amano [one of the coders] came up with the pausing mechanic from watching live speedruns of classic platformers that exploited lag and glitches in the code to circumvent difficult sections.


The narrator gets more antagonistic as the game goes on. How did you want players to feel and react to this narrator?

I think Pause Ahead and Tower of Heaven have typecast us as a maker of “Super Meat Boy”-style frustration platformers, but in both cases, the difficulty is offset by the knowledge that, narratively, the antagonists intended the levels to be dead ends, so it's a huge upset every time you make it to the next room. Even after dying hundreds of times, the narrator's smugness is what keeps a lot of players going.


Will Pause Ahead be available for as an iOS, Android, or Ouya game in the future?

Probably not. We wouldn't want to be responsible for the aggravated destruction of mobile devices, as they just don't offer the degree of tactile precision the game demands.


What are you working on next?

Nothing we can talk about yet, but there's a certain pause message that hints at it, and a section the Games section of our site soon. Safe to say we're stepping outside our comfort zone for this one.


Tell us what the back of the box for Pause Ahead would say.

Given that the only box this would come in is a jewel case in a cardboard box in Akihabara, it might say "4 GB Rewritable" or something like that.


Pause Ahead is available, free-to-play, on Adult Swim.

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