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Twelve Minutes

A look back Twelve Minutes... and forward

Luis Antonio is currently exploring new concepts and ideas for his next project and gives a tip of advice to those entering his acclaimed time loop today.

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The fresh and different adventure Twelve Minutes was one of the most acclaimed games in 2021 in categories such as "best narrative" or "indie game of the year". Before the year ended we caught up, at Fun & Serious, with almost-solo developer Luis Antonio, who took a look back at the success of the project and at the feedback he had gathered from the audience, while also suggesting what's the best way to play it, on top of a couple of hints about what he might be creating next. Same as we recently did with Deathloop's Dinga Bakaba, we're now back in the time loop recovering some of the most interesting comments that could have been missed from the original video.

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In the interview, Luis Antonio clearly mentions the inception of his next project, which is to be similar to 12 Minutes in terms of scale and creative freedom, but we wanted to know more about potential ideas for its premise.

"Throughout Twelve Minutes I had some concepts for games that I wanted to explore, and some of those overlapped with the game", the Portuguese dev recalls. "And that is how Twelve Minutes grew into something that I didn't know what it would be. There were ideas that I really wanted to explore, so I started a prototype very slowly. It was just at the beginning, but mostly I like this merge of storytelling and gameplay. There is this interweaving of the two elements without any break in the flow and also just exploring this cause and consequence. I'm trying to see, 'could I pull off something similar to Twelve Minutes in terms of how... like you don't have this classical theme of you play a level, you fail the level, you lose, you go back to the start of the game'. So in Twelve Minutes failure was part of the experience, but what if you're not wrapped up in a loop but you actually have a continuity, how would that look like? And still be able to tell an interesting story and have some gameplay that you're clearly in control and trying to answer some of these questions and see how they would look like as a game".

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"I like this merge of storytelling and gameplay (...) and cause and consequence, but what if you're not wrapped up in a loop but you actually have a continuity, how would that look like?"

Released as a temporary exclusive to Xbox and Game Pass, Twelve Minutes recently released on PlayStation and Nintendo Switch platforms. Being this more like a point-and-click adventure, we wanted to know if the new versions were taking advantage of the touch controls.

"Ah, no. For Switch we're not using the touch controls [on handheld]", Luis Antonio confirms. "We're using mostly the advantages of the pads [referring to the shoulder buttons] both on console and on Switch so that you can navigate the inventory faster, but the game needs you to have a pointer that you move around for some of the late-stage puzzles, so I had to keep it consistent with the kind of the mouse control. We did some work to increase detection radius for certain items, so it's easier to snap on to them, especially for Switch, which is like a smaller screen, but we try to be as faithful as the PC and Xbox versions".

But what about the handheld experience then? Other than the streaming-based version Xbox consoles and xCloud can offer, the Switch offers this natively, so we wondered if might allow for an interesting way of playing this brief-loops-based game?

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"I think so, I honestly actually think so", Luis Antonio admits. "I remember very early on when I was working on it and even thinking if this went like iPad or something along those lines. Because the loops are so short, and a lot of the game is about, you know, planning what you are going to do. When I see people streaming on Twitch, there is this desire to play the whole game in one sitting, and when you get stuck in a puzzle there is this frustration of 'I want my answers right now' versus when I was a kid playing the Monkey Island games, I would be stuck during 2 or 3 weeks and then I would speak with a friend that had played the game and might have an answer... The game was designed a bit with a slow burning, thinking about the process discussing with someone, and I think on Switch you know you can play like 3 or 4 loops. Maybe you're on the subway, you close it, you think about it, you open it again, you do a quick loop to see if your idea actually worked. And the format of the apartment, it was designed 16x9, so it fits the screen perfectly. I think it is actually pretty cool. Testing it [on Switch], it was one of my favourite platforms to try it on. It is like you have a little world there. Exactly, like a diorama or a model".

Twelve Minutes

Seeing as how this slow-burning approach might be the best way play the game, we finally asked Luis Antonio if there was anything else he wanted to share with the community that have been enjoying Twelve Minutes recently. And given player feedback and the more cryptic endings the game offers, if he wanted to send a message to those new players.

"Yeah! Actually, that was a pretty good question. I would say: instead of looking at this as a game, look at it more as an interactive thriller, so take away those preconceived ideas like 'I am going to get all of the achievements', 'I want to win the game', 'I want to get all the points', 'I want to unlock everything' and digest it more slowly, it is a slow-burning experience so don't try to get everything and win anything and just take it all in slowly. Then just don't take things at face value either, and if you're stuck, it's healthy to be stuck and to be frustrated and lost, it is part of the experience, so don't go quickly to the Internet to find out how to move forward because it is going to spoil it, and the game is all about the knowledge you get".

When this interview was recorded, Luis Antonio was in Canada -he lives in San Francisco- "figuring out what to do next and how to do things next (...) relaxing, supporting the game and prototyping new ideas", before game festivals come back hopefully in 2022.

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