Since last week, I’ve acquired an intriguing new edition to my desktop, which lives alongside my work during my primarily computer-focused day. Mountain is a new game, or perhaps it is better described as an ambient companion, for iOS, Mac and PC, and it’s been rotating and humming and engaging with me at all hours of the day. Its creator is the prolific animator David OReilly, the mind behind the alien interactive game in HER, and the writer, director, producer and animator of the mind-blowing Adventure Time episode A Glitch is a Glitch.
Now that I have Mountain, instead of checking Facebook 3000 times a day in order to break up the monotonous day with more monotony, my obsession has shifted and I’ve been continually checking my personal mountain. It’s a living, breathing, peaceful kind of Buddhist tamagotchi, which slowly but continually delivers sparkling moments of intrigue and mystery and surprise.
If I don’t regularly check up on my mountain, which has been mysteriously generated through my answers to personal, philosophical questions, a serene ping will alert me to one of its fragmented, quizzical and always unique thoughts. I’ve arranged my screen so that it is always in my periphery, and sometimes in its distant yet weirdly personal universe it will be snowing, or sunny, or a misty night, or there will be a random object lodged into the side of its peak. I don’t understand it, and I like that, and it’s nice to know that in some way the mountain is personally connected to me, in a time of so many fragmented, random connections. I decided to find out more about Mountain by talking to David, and it turns out that his answers to my questions are just as enigmatic as his new work, and it is almost as if I’ve conducted an interview with the mountain itself.
What inspired you to make Mountain?
Beckett & Buddhism.
They are beautiful.
What is the relationship between the personal questions asked at the beginning of the game and the mountain that then gets generated?
This is a secret.
How do the mountains evolve over time?
This is something people will discover. It will be different for everyone who plays it.
You’ve designed the game so that every generated peak will be different and unique. How did you design it so that no two mountains would ever be alike?
There are multiple layers of influence on each mountain, on shape, colour, flora and many other things – the chances of overlap extend to the billions.
Can you explain a little bit more about the process of designing the game?
It was a back and forth between me and Damien Di Fede – who wrote the code and did all the sound and music work. I sent him a proposal of the idea, with some paintings and 3D sketch of how it might work. Damien wrote some amazing things from scratch, like the terrain generator and a new method of generating ambient occlusion. While he was coding I was creating assets and working on the design of things.
How has this been different from things you’ve done in the past?
Mountain is a very sincere project. It was made with love. I consider it the best thing I’ve done.
Do you think that you’ll make more interactive work like this in the future?
If I get the opportunity to make something as un-pitchable as Mountain, then absolutely.