Finalist | Nuevo Award

Tobias Zarges and Moritz Eberl created Close.

Each year at GDC, MFA students from the NYU Game Center interview the Independent Games Festival nominees, asking them three questions about their development process. In addition to this interview, you can read all the insightful interviews from 2017 here. These conversations, and much more, will happen when the Game Center returns to GDC in 2018. Learn more about the Game Center at GDC 2017.

Corey Bertelsen: What was the main concept or idea behind Close?

Tobias Zargas: There are different kind of core ideas or layers.  One is a question of what is unique to gameplay in an expressive sense – so what makes a game unique, expression-wise?  How can gameplay be a language on it’s own?  You don’t get your info from text or visuals, but you can interact, you can get your narration kind of from the gameplay.

Then there is this also atmospheric, meditative, I want you to be on your own – you can just kind of be in the game and do what you want.  You don’t have to achieve anything.  The game plays itself and develops its own goals while you’re playing it, but you can interact with it.  You can be a part of it, and in some ways you are always a part of it, but you don’t have to be.  At some point you maybe have to leave it alone to keep it going.  So there’s a relationship in the experience.

Corey: Can you describe a specific experience with another game or media that influenced you as you worked on Close?

Tobias: It’s hard to tell.  They’re mostly not games.  I don’t come from making games, so it’s mostly literature and film and sound, as a kind of experience thing.  So there are a lot influences in there from abstract and surreal movies and literature.  But there’s this poetic sense to Close.  It’s also like art or a painting or an installation that you can get into.

Moritz Eberl: In the beginning we talked a lot about Journey.  With Journey there’s the whole nonverbal communication in the game, not about the sense of going from one point to another, like the story in Journey, but about how the game unfolds.

Corey: Is there a specific tool or methodology that you feel was important in shaping a unique characteristic of your game?

Moritz: We would seldom work next to each other, so there was a lot of Skyping and screen sharing

Tobias: One thing that is special about the process is that it’s not coming from a game design perspective, so it’s kind of like an opposite design – we want to have this kind of feel of relationship and love, so we go through iterations and ask “does this feel right, are we getting the emotions right.”

Moritz: So we would be trying things out, ripping them apart, and going back at it again.  With the beginning of the game, we went through… I don’t know how many iterations, trying to get it to feel right, and seeing how players react to it.

Tobias: It’s something you can only tell when you are almost finished with it.  You can’t just say “well the gameplay works” or “well the system works” – you need to have all the atmosphere and expressions right to find out if it’s going to work.  


Corey, a recovering structural engineer from Minnesota, is studying game design at NYU.  He likes synaesthetic games, improvised music, and pancakes.