Mat@MDickie.com
The You Testament















The Yoga Of Jesus

This game is inspired by the teachings of Paramahansa Yogananda...


The Making Of A Prophet

An Islamic interpretation of the concept can be found here...

 


"Many people have wanted to see what you see, but did not see it."
- Luke 10:24

With my dying breath as a game designer, I thought I'd unleash my unique brand of creativity on a concept that you'll never see anywhere else. It's an experience that billions of people have prayed for, but which no ordinary artist has the wherewithal to deliver. A territory that many would have liked to explore, but which can only be navigated by one who has freedom and lacks fear. You've read the book, you've seen the film, and you've heard the music. Now LIVE THE LIFE, and leave no stone unturned as you finally understand that which has been misunderstood by many...


The Gospel According To You

Chances are you've already made up your mind about this project. You either think I'm a Bible-bashing preacher or a trouble-causing blasphemer. As with all bold assumptions, neither one holds much weight. The You Testament takes too many liberties with the text to be considered "preaching", and yet its message is too sincere to be dismissed as "blasphemy". That leaves us somewhere in the middle, as you come face to face with spiritual principles and get to make your own mind up as to what they mean. I've always been fascinated with the idea of games as a metaphor for the relationship between body and soul, and this is the most overt exploration of that yet. As your 3D character struggles to make sense of his existence, you might just come to make sense of your own...


The Last Supper

As revolutionary as this all sounds, the gameplay itself should feel quite familiar. It's basically a biblical remake of Hard Time, where you make your way in a society consisting of hundreds of other fully interactive characters - all presided over by an authoritative regime. Rather appropriately for my last project, it also doffs its hat to practically every other game I've ever made! The hand-to-hand combat is lifted straight from the wrestling games, the scenery is reminiscent of World War Alpha, and the survival concept has a lot in common with Wrecked (not to mention the spiritual undertones). You might dismiss this as lazy recycling, but it's actually a deliberate ploy to show the cohesion in my work and the divine destination it was tumbling towards. As the credits note, "No creative endeavour begins or ends in vain"...


Swords And Sandals

Despite appearances, Jesus isn't actually the star of the show. Instead, the game centres on a disciple of your own creation. However you compose your character, you can be sure they'll look different to how they did in any other game! One of the biggest challenges with this project was creating a baggy robe-based costume for the average civilian. It ran counter to the tight style of clothing I had become accustomed to in my wrestling work. Although it's not perfect, I developed the best system I possibly could without compromising the animations. It's certainly versatile. Instead of offering you one preset piece of clothing, this game breaks it down into two parts - an undergarment and a sash wrapped over it. You can then mix and match these as you wish to produce any colour scheme. It even applies to headwear, which has separate upper and lower components for things like turbans. And unique to this game is a cool little hood for that Obi Wan Kenobi look! All the while, the Roman authorities stand out in the red and gold uniforms they sported in World War Alpha...


Eye To Eye

In addition to the biblical costumes, another visual innovation for this game is that the characters now have REAL moving eyes! It was the first (and only) detail to be released early in the game's production and has gone on to be an effective part of the experience. Not only does it allow characters to look at each other eye to eye, but it also allows them to express much more emotion while doing so. The eyes squint in addition to moving, which - together with the eyebrows - helps to communicate anger and sadness. It's even possible for the eyes to close completely, which is good for both temporary winces of pain and being unconscious on the floor. If nothing else, the simple act of blinking makes them feel more human. And above all else, these eyes can of course be of any colour - from the darkest black to the palest blue - which ensures that even the same face can be made to appear different. The only downside is that the eyes tend to look quite similar on a structural level. They have to be in the same place on every skull, so it's no longer possible to have some of the unique looks I created with images...


Your Own Personal Jesus

One of the most interesting things about this game is that the entire cast can be randomized to look fresh. I felt it was important to include a stereotypical Jesus (whom you see in most of these shots) so that people could at least relate to what was going on. If you ever get bored of him, however, you can edit him by hand or ask the computer to generate an entirely random one! This throws up the rather controversial prospect of a Jesus of any race or gender. Although not historically accurate, it's great for challenging your preconceptions and makes the teachings more important than the man. The same applies for all the other key players - so John The Baptist and your fellow disciples can change each time too. It's even possible to discover that the Virgin Mary is actually a single father?!


God's Own Country

The look of the scenery has also evolved to match the improved characterization. The game breaks ancient Palestine down into a staggering 32 separate locations. To put that into perspective, Wrecked's island consisted of 5 and Hard Time's prison had 11. We're talking about extremely sophisticated locations too - which range from sprawling outdoor terrain to indoor architecture (and some that combine both). As ever, it's necessary to clear one scene and reload another every time you move on. A necessary evil I'm afraid. However, as in Wrecked, the process is made less painful thanks to a map that charts your journey while you're waiting! Appropriate segments of this map also pop up during the game as you approach an exit path, which - along with clear signposting - helps to give you a sense of direction... 


The Tree Of Knowledge

The terrain should look and feel familiar to players of World War Alpha. I've taken the same basic premise and fleshed it out with all manner of additional scenery. Most notably, the most diverse and realistic looking foliage yet - which ranges from big trees to tiny plants. It's achieved by displaying perfect 2D sprites instead of half-baked 3D models. The only problem is that 2D sprites don't look quite so "perfect" up close, but it's worth it to see some nice scenery in the distance (which is where it'll be more often than not). As ever, the game also brings additional atmosphere to the landscape with distinct times of day that come to pass in real time! The lighting slowly shifts from day to night and back again to give you a sense of living in a real environment...


The Eye In The Sky

You can enjoy the view with a revamped manual camera that's controlled by the mouse. Once you get used to it, it's quicker and more intuitive than stabbing at keys. Trust me, you'll be reaching for it when the cameraman gets tied up from time to time! The camera tracks your character from behind by default, but the scenes are so chaotic that it's not always ideal. The action is also accompanied by the most advanced music system yet. Instead of banging you over the head with one main theme, this time I composed 4 distinct ones and got the game to the fade them in and out at random. They're even provided as high quality MP3's instead of bastardized WAV files. That means it's finally possible to have background music in one my games without getting a headache! Although there is an option to break the volume down to zero if you disagree...


The Greatest Story Ever Told

The game essentially involves following Jesus around these various locations and enjoying the most sophisticated storytelling mechanism my work has ever produced. Most games tell a story with preset cut-scenes of some description, but here the actual game engine is used throughout. Jesus and his co-stars have a set place to be at a set time, and the game will conspire to put them there waiting for you to make an appearance. They will then act out a scene using the same input and animations that are available to you. That's both a blessing and a curse, because it opens up the possibility of the story being told BADLY! But it's worth it to have the sense that everything is real and anything can happen. In addition to a main storyline that unfolds chronologically, there are also hundreds of sub-plots that are linked to your actions. If Jesus sees you doing something or acting a certain way, he will give you an impromptu sermon about that - whether it's the folly of being violent or the benefits of a vegetarian diet. Likewise, there are conversations to be had between you and the other civilians - many of which are open-ended as in Hard Time and can go either way. A prime example is the issue of "denying" Jesus once he becomes unpopular. You actually have a choice in this game (although you WILL understand why Peter did what he did!)...


The Kingdom Of God Is Within You

A project about Jesus is controversial in itself, but one of the game's biggest revelations is that it attributes his powers to the Eastern art of meditation. We often think of Jesus in Western terms, but the Eastern influence is plain to see for those that can relate to what he's saying. He mysteriously disappears between the ages of 14 and 28, before returning with some radical ideas. Some scholars place him in India during these formative years. At the very least, it seems he was exposed to a pacifist Jewish sect which preserved the original teachings of Moses. Far from being "controversial", this is actually the key that unites ALL religions and unlocks their hidden meanings. The simple premise of closing one's two eyes to the outside world and opening one's "third eye" to an inner world is key to mastering the human experience. When one looks within, they are confronted with their psychological make-up and can set about purifying it by removing negative character traits. This perfected being then takes control of life instead of being at its mercy. Having sidestepped the illusion of existence, you find yourself able to "manipulate" it...


Lifting Up The Serpent

As far as the game is concerned, meditation is a means of elevating yourself above the average man and living a more meaningful existence. Once Jesus has initiated you, you can enter a meditative state at any time by holding the Space Bar. You're then treated to a sub-game where you direct spiritual energy throughout your body like a snake! By directing it into certain chambers (chakras), you can reap the benefits of up to 18 different powers that Jesus may have taught you. I won't spoil the surprise by revealing them all, but they're essentially legitimate "cheat codes" that you can invoke at will to make your life easier - such as conjuring items out of thin air, healing your wounds, becoming invisible, or being able to fly. Although they're exaggerated for the sake of entertainment, you'd be surprised how closely linked they are to the narrative. There are also some cool riffs on the notion of it all being a "game" - such as revealing the polygons behind the graphics you see! You essentially come to understand the real nature of things - much to the bewilderment of those that don't...


The Hand Of God

In addition to invoking powers from a seated position, you can also save them to your hand for a short time and use them while out and about. There's a whole button dedicated to that, which causes you to reach out with your left hand - even when you have no such powers! If you do, however, you should notice that the power has taken on a whole other meaning - effectively doubling the number of miracles to 36. For instance, manifesting an item while seated puts it into your hands and gives you a choice - whereas the standing version fires items out of your hand like missiles! Other powers are flipped on their head, such as being empowered to heal others instead of yourself. Whenever you reach out, your hand automatically aims directly at the nearest candidate and allows you to manipulate them in some way. Doing so may attract unwanted attention though - especially from the authorities who take a dim view of sorcery...


Mind, Body & Soul

The ability to work miracles is reserved for the virtuous. As in Wrecked and Hard Time, you're charged with the responsibility of keeping your character alive by making sure their physical health and mental health is under control. Losing all of your bodily health risks death, whereas losing your mind results in a nervous breakdown - which can be worse than death! In that state, you literally lose control of your character for a short time and have to sit back while he wages war on others and ruins your reputation. This game completes the holy trinity by giving you a "soul" to worry about too. A spiritual meter fluctuates alongside your mind and body, increasing with every virtuous act and plummeting into minus figures when you indulge a life of sin. It's up to you, but you need positive energy to access the various powers - so a sinful man is doomed to be "normal" until he works off his bad karma. That is, unless he's so despicably evil that he can invoke the power of the devil! A satanic character roams the world as surely as Jesus does, competing for your soul. If you turn to the dark side and listen to him instead, your spiritual powers can have a sinister edge...


Material Possessions

As ever, there are dozens of fully interactive items in the game to help you in your quest. The difference here is that half of them are edible, as you once again put food to your lips to consume it as you did in Wrecked. Your health is then boosted accordingly, which saves you having to recoup energy by sitting around. There are different kinds though - ranging from fish and meat to fruit and bread. Meat products are more nourishing, but they come at a spiritual cost because you're encouraged to adopt a vegetarian diet and fast occasionally. Likewise, liquid products are there to nourish your mind. You're supposed to drink from pools of water with the "Pick-Up" command, but handheld trinkets of wine are the sinful equivalent which have a greater effect! Alcohol leaves you in a drunken stupor though, so it's not always advisable. Handling material possessions (especially money) also keeps your happiness afloat, but once again it eats away at your soul over time. As you may have gathered, the game does a good job of simulating the spiritual life by making it extremely desirable and yet very difficult to attain!


Living By The Sword

Yet another controversy for a game about religion is that violence actually plays a major part in the proceedings. Not because you're supposed to indulge in it, but because there are lessons to be learned by being on the receiving end of it. The system is trimmed down from anything we've seen in dedicated fighting games, but it's still possible to throw out the odd kick or punch. Plenty of weapons are also available to give attacks extra impact. It's once again possible to steal too by using the "Pick-Up" command near a character that has an item in hand. As you'd expect, indulging in all of the above is a recipe for disaster because it amasses more bad karma than anything else - especially when your actions result in a fatality. On the other hand, being a victim of crime is considered a virtue and helps to stimulate positive energy. It's a miserable existence though, and can only be pulled off with spiritual strength...


Love Thy Neighbour

Another reason to refrain from a life of crime is that you have a unique relationship with every other character in the game and transgressions won't be forgotten! The more enemies you clock up, the harder and more violent your life will become. On the other hand, it's just as easy to develop friendships with the other characters. Using the "Drop" command near a potential recipient now hands an item to somebody else instead of dropping it to the floor, which is generally appreciated no matter what the item may be. Likewise, it's also possible to make friends by simply responding favourably to any conversations that arise. As in Reach, friendly parties are also prone to hug each other as a gesture of goodwill! It has mental and spiritual benefits in this game though, so it's all part of a positive lifestyle. Fraternizing with the opposite sex may have unexpected consequences though, because it's possible to impregnate them! After embracing a woman for too long, you may return to the scene to find that you have a wife and child to support. Needless to say, this is not exactly the path to spiritual enlightenment! They prevent you from meditating when they're nearby, and they snatch any food that you have to hand...


Into The Eagle's Nest

Your affections won't be returned by the occupying Roman soldiers who serve as a police presence! Like the guards in Hard Time, they're the first to react to any bad behaviour and will try to keep you in check. In addition to preventing crime, they also like to maintain order by having you sit down at night and not during the day. They're also likely to be suspicious of any items you're seen carrying, so it's important to avoid detection if you intend to break the rules. It's not just a beating you have to fear. As in Hard Time, they can issue a warrant for your arrest if you're a repeat offender. In these cases, they won't stop hunting you until they have you at their mercy - and then it's off to Pontius Pilate to face trial! This nods to the Barabbas story, where you're presented to the public alongside another criminal and pray that they choose to release you instead of him. If they don't, you could be on the receiving end of all manner of punishments - ranging from a stint in prison to having offending limbs cut off...


They Know Not What They Do

Of course, the most horrific punishment of all is crucifixion - and it's not just reserved for Jesus. Over the course of the game, you can see all kinds of characters crucified for one reason or another - people that were once walking among you. You'll feel their pain if it ever happens to you, because you literally have to hang there in a static state waiting to die! Stray crosses also exist in the game as items that you can pick up and carry over your shoulder. A cross might not be high on your Christmas list, but it's a necessary prop for the story when Jesus has to carry his own cross to its destination. It's also quite chilling to see other characters dragging a cross around from time to time. Doing so actually has spiritual benefits too. Although it's bad for your health and slows you down to a crawl, taking on such burdens will help to burn off bad karma...


Final Thought
The controversial content of this game suggests that it'll be seen by more eyes than any other, so it's a shame that it's not quite the most shining example of my work. Although it's as big and spectacular as an independent can muster, the concept itself may not hold up to much scrutiny. At times, the "game" amounts to little more than following Jesus around and having fun with the odd miracle he teaches you. As in Hard Time, the penchant for realism means that your existence can sometimes be as boring and frustrating as life itself! That's not exactly what we've come to expect from escapist entertainment. But for once, that's not the point. What we have here is an interactive story - and an important story at that. At this point in human history, the double threat of cynicism and fanaticism has clouded the way we view religious figures. The atheist's ego gets a kick out of going against the grain and delights at rejecting that which others hold dear (blissfully unaware that their pitiful attempts to appear "intelligent" are born of ignorance). Meanwhile, the fanatic's insecurity has him clinging to that which he loves so tightly that he almost kills it - alienating the very people he would seek to "save". Into the breach steps a man that sees the folly of both parties and ushers them onto a shared path - the only path that ever existed. The You Testament gives you spiritual principles as seen through the veil of a computer program. In this context, you will finally understand words that may not have made much sense on the page. And upon understanding, ignorance will cloud your judgment no more. If you happen to have a bit of fun along the way, that's a bonus. As we always seem to say when Christmas rolls around, it's the thought that counts...

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