Mile Marker 16: Vessel

Mile Marker 16: Vessel

Tired of stodgy corporate games made by The Man and his minions? We’re playing the 31 best indie games for a change of pace – and so we can judge them. Today, Vessel.

In A Sentence

Man uses backpack that shoots fluids to solve puzzles in a 2D game that’s nothing like waterpack genre leader Super Mario Sunshine and instead an impressive, Totilo-Laptop-Crippling demonstration of fluid physics.

State Of Completion

Not playable by the public yet, the game is still in development but will be available to play in demo form at the Independent Games Festival in March. It got a nomination for Technical Excellence.


The earliest bits of Vessel ask you to manipulate levers and buckets to get fluid to fill into one container and then pour out into another. The way that liquid sloshes as you move the container from screen left to screen right is as impressive in the game as it is unimpressive when it happens in every real-world water bucket I’ve ever dragged. In other words, this game has the chops to do something realistically that other games simulate more simply and crudely.

But what fun is a good fluid system in a game? That’s what Vessel needs to prove and begins to do so a little later when the protagonist is using a new, luminescent and sticky green fluid to light his path through a wall. Imagine a torch that was painting light on walls. And imagine you sometimes had to vacuum that paint back lest you have too little deeper in a dark cave. That’s a game going in the right direction.

Answers We Demanded

Kotaku: The entries of the IGF are an eclectic bunch, ranging from esoteric art titles to straight forward drop-in-and-play casual games. In creating your entry what do you hope to accomplish with your game?

John Krajewski, Strange Loops Games: The reason we left the mainstream video game industry to go indie is because we want to take a different approach to games, we want to make games that focus the massive power of today’s hardware on gameplay, not just graphics.

The gameplay of Vessel is centred around a physics and fluid simulation and interacting with fluid characters, which is something that chews up a lot of CPU cycles and wasn’t really possible in previous generation hardware. Our goal is to experiment with new kinds of gameplay that are just now becoming possible, that’s something we’re excited about.

Kotaku: What was the inspiration behind your game?

Krajewski: I remember the event that first pointed me in the direction of Vessel, I was playing with a middleware physics engine demo, something that showed off the abilities of their engine. It had mini-games like knocking over stacks of bricks, launching catapults, objects floating on water, and it was just so fun to mess around with, that little demo was actually more fun than the games that made use of the middleware. That seemed like such a strange contradiction to me, that these highly interactive physical universes were possible, but they were always being relegated to mere aesthetic purposes, rag-doll simulations and other non-interactive situations. I wanted to make a game that would let you just dive into the simulation.

Kotaku: Name your favourite book, movie, album and game.

Krajewski: Book: Godel Escher Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid

Movie: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and 2001 Space Odyessey

Album: Radiohead – OK Computer

Game: Old-school Ultima Online, back in the chaotic early days

Make sure to check out the rest of the Independent Games Festival finalists as we head toward the March awards show.

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