Finalist | Nuevo Award

Carl Burton created Islands: Non-Places

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 main concept, image or question began this project?

Carl Burton: I was influenced by surrealism in general.  But in particular, the book Non-Places by Marc Augé is where I got the title from.  It’s about liminal spaces where you’re not really supposed to linger.  We spend a lot of our time in waiting areas, airports, things like that, and the book is about these in-between spaces.  

Corey: When playing I felt like the situations seemed oddly ordinary, like I didn’t realize things were getting weird while they were happening

Carl: In a way I wanted it to be where from the point of view of the environments, the unusual things that are happening are very mundane.  I was trying to create a sensibility that what you’re seeing in these places happens everyday.  You’re seeing a routine, kind of, and you’re like a custodian in the spaces.  

Corey: You mentioned the book Non-Places and surrealism, but were there any other particular influences on Islands: Non-Places?

Carl: It was mostly that book, he kind of lays it all out there.  It’s great [laughs].  It was actually most inspired by the prologue to the book, where it’s literally just him describing a traveller.  It gets into heavy theoretical writing during the bulk of the book, but the prologue was just the description of a traveller moving through these spaces.  Like someone went to the airport, then he needed cash so he went to the cash machine, and about how every place and location that he goes to isn’t a real place, in a way.  It was reading that introduction that I thought was really inspiring.  

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

Carl: Everything is done in Unity and Playmaker.  I don’t really code.  Overall it was a very intuitive process; nothing was planned, Everything was made up as I went along.  I was never a level ahead.  I would just come up with the setting of the location, and then just work through where it would go, and then jump to figuring out the next location.

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