Launching Eye of the Temple - this was my experience

My VR adventure Eye of the Temple, that I've been working on for the past five years, has finally shipped! It was released last month on October 14th.

Naturally this was a huge milestone for me after having worked on it for so long. And while I've released some smaller games for free in the past, Eye of the Temple is my commercial debut game. I actually did it! Wow, I say, patting myself on the back.

Shipping the game has been great, but also a bit confusing emotionally. There has been some big ups and also some downs. I might as well write about it here - mostly for my own sake, but who knows if it could be useful or just entertaining to someone else.

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Designing for a Sense of Mystery and Wonder

I play games to get to explore intriguing places, while challenge and story is secondary to me. But there still has to be a point to the exploration. I don’t want to just wander around some place - I want to uncover something intriguing and ideally mysterious. But the mystery lies not in the uncovering; it lies in the anticipation, or rather the lack of knowing exactly what I might find. In this article I examine that sense of mystery and wonder that’s tied not to story or themes, but to exploration. I’ll be using the word mystery as a shorthand for the kind of mystery and wonder I’m talking about here.

Zelda: Breath of the Wild from 2017 is an amazing game to go explore in, and one of my all time favorites. That said, while there are many things in the game that exude a sense of mystery - and certainly more so than in the average open world game - there are also a lot of missed opportunities.
Breath of the Wild reinvented the Zelda formula as an open world game.
I’ll compare Zelda: Breath of the Wild (BOTW) with Zelda: A Link to the Past (ALTTP) to try to figure out why ALTTP has a stronger sense of mystery than BOTW. A Link to the Past is a much older Zelda game from 1991 but I first played it in 2019.

Along the way I’ll be extracting four key design strategies for evoking a greater sense of mystery, and apply those strategies in the form of proposed design changes to BOTW. Finally, I’ll touch on some more general considerations to keep in mind when designing for a sense of mystery and wonder in general.
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