Interview: Islands of Insight Game Director Hopes To Release Game On Consoles

Islands of Insight

Islands of Insight is every puzzle enjoyer’s fantasy game as it contains over 10,000 hand-made puzzles and thousands of hidden items spread across various biomes. Some players have compared its challenges to those found in The Legends of Zelda games, but it manages to set itself apart from other similar titles thanks to the range of difficulty in puzzles that players will find throughout their playthrough.

The game released a public demo that was available during Steam Next Fest. Throughout this period, players managed to solve a total of over 7 million puzzles collectively, with the highest number of solved puzzles by a single player being 25,638. With so much feedback and immense potential, we spoke with Elyot Grant, Game Director of Islands of Insight, to get more insights into their latest title.

Islands of Insight
Islands of Insight – via Behaviour Interactive.
Introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your work on Islands of Insight.
I’m Elyot Grant, Founder and CEO at Lunarch Studios, and Game Director on Islands of Insight. This project has been a dream of mine for almost a decade. I started doing paper prototypes around 2015-2016 and worked on the initial demo by myself in 2019.

My spouse Alyssa Carey started Co-Directing it with me in 2020, and from early 2021 we hired every Developer and Puzzle Designer who worked on the game and decided to partner with Behaviour Interactive. This project has been my baby and I’ve been heavily involved in just about every aspect of it.

Although not that explored, the open-world puzzle genre is still filled with some great titles. In what ways would you say Islands of Insight differs from those titles?
Elyot: There are many differences, but I could summarize them best as depth, pacing, variety, and scope.

We don’t shy away from puzzles that require difficult ideas to solve, but we also provide a very gentle on-ramp and many tools to help players understand those ideas. We don’t want players to just see a puzzle gimmick once and go “Oh, that’s cool.” We want them to learn to love these puzzles, get good at them, and be able to appreciate that the puzzles themselves are a canvas upon which our designers can paint an endless number of ideas.

One of the keys is the little bite-size snack puzzles that we add to balance the pacing of the beefier logic challenges. They allow players to self-select into the level of intensity that they want. Die-hard puzzle fans can blast through the tutorials and go straight to the trickiest challenges if they want, but more casual players can just pick their favorite types and solve them without any pressure.

And this all works because of the variety of puzzle types. When you need a break from a thinky challenge, you can go chase a shiny ball, hunt for hidden objects, or run through a maze. It uses a different part of your brain, which lets your batteries recharge. The variety in gameplay activities and freedom to choose what you want to do is the key to success for a lot of action-adventures and RPGs, and I don’t believe that it’s ever been done at this level within the puzzle genre before.

The sheer quantity of puzzles is also on a completely different level. We have 26 puzzle designers in the credits. Some players still don’t realize this, but the puzzles in our open world are on a daily respawning timer. If you log in tomorrow, they will be completely different.

Islands of Insight
Islands of Insight – via Behaviour Interactive.
Is there a particular reason you went for multiple islands rather than just one big Islands of Insight? Are multiple Islands better from a technical/development perspective, or was it something you wanted despite its own challenges?
Elyot: It wasn’t for technical or performance reasons. It was more of a separation that supported our design and production methodology. The enclaves are areas where the puzzle team and the environment team work very closely together to craft a singular journey for the player, often with the goal of tutorializing a specific mechanic or introducing a particular concept. You can see the greatest synergy between the puzzles and the environments in these areas. Meanwhile, the large open-world zones are designed for replayable free-form exploration. In this case, the environment team created a canvas for the puzzle team to paint on, and the puzzle team filled those zones to the brim with all different kinds of puzzles. It’s a similar thing that you might see with overworlds and dungeons in some other types of games, but we were able to keep everything on one map and avoid loading screens this way.
Why did you opt for an open world with puzzles as the central mechanic? The open-world genre is usually mixed with adventure/action elements.
Elyot: We wanted to showcase these puzzles in a manner that was as accessible as possible, and we felt the open-world adventure setting was one of the keys to making it appealing to an audience that largely likes puzzles but doesn’t tend to pick up more traditional puzzle games (for fear of them being too difficult or too niche).
Islands of Insight
Islands of Insight – via Behaviour Interactive.
What pieces of media have inspired Islands of Insight's environment, characters, and other design aspects?
Elyot: The game is inspired by so many things: mathematics, enlightenment philosophy, neuroscience, cosmology, physics, fantasy art. The lore is inspired by the philosophies of beauty and sublimeness.

For the puzzle designs it was more of a focus on a two-step process than pieces of media: discovering clever or interesting “eureka moments” and then packaging them up into challenges that lead players to those eureka moments in a satisfying way. And of course, we choose puzzle mechanics that support a deep and wide collection of those eureka moments while also trying to maximize variety and creativity. You’ll discover many secret themes, patterns, or bits of cleverness that you can unravel as you work your way through the solutions. A good puzzle achieves a high degree of communication between the puzzle author and the solver, and we hope that every puzzle will bring you joy.

Can we expect to unravel a strong story as we solve these puzzles?
Elyot: I love the story of this game so much! There are parts of it that are designed to be mysterious, parts that are funny, parts that choke me up every time, and parts that explore deep, existential questions. The lore is designed to be a bit of a puzzle itself—you collect fragments of memories of inhabitants of the Known Realm, and then you have to piece together what happened from incomplete information. As you complete your puzzle collection, you’ll also recover the Echoes of Time, which provide another perspective on the whole thing. There are many “eureka moments” lurking in the lore for people who pay attention to the details.
Islands of Insight
Islands of Insight – via Behaviour Interactive.
There was an open playtest in September 2023. What were some major aspects that you have revamped or significantly improved since? And what was the feedback like back then?
Elyot: The feedback was fantastic. But we did see many things that could be made even better. A big change was the addition of the puzzle awakening, which added a lot of satisfaction and the feeling of more progression in completing the campaign, as well as ensuring that players saw puzzle tutorials at the right time. We saw a lot of players who just spent a ton of time in the open world without ever progressing their quests, so the unawakened puzzles also helped by telling the players “Hey, you need to go do the enclaves!”

We did major passes on lore, costume art, luminous quests, many user interfaces, and several enclaves. The performance got a huge number of improvements, and especially better-looking art at low graphics settings. We simplified the progression and rebalanced the whole economy. We added new side missions like the Quest for Perfection. The Glass Temple is a completely revamped version of what used to be the second major enclave in Zone 1, and we did something very special with the pyramid instead… 😉

Are there any plans to release the game on consoles in the future?
Elyot: I hope so! Our goal is for Islands of Insight to be accessible to as many players as possible. But we have not announced any plans yet.
Islands of Insight
Islands of Insight – via Behaviour Interactive.
Do you plan to support the game for a while after launch? Can we expect to see DLCs coming eventually?
Elyot: There is so much more we want to do with these puzzles and this universe! Our initial launch is laser-targeted on introducing the world, puzzle types, and progression to players. We’ve built this world to have a lot of room to grow. There are countless opportunities for new puzzle types and variations on existing ones, new interactions, areas and Enclaves, and even new biomes to explore. Depending on the reception and players’ feedback we will define where this journey will take us. We hope to be able to keep exploring as much of that as we can (every game creator’s dream is to have a game that you can keep working on for 10 years!). So, needless to say, wishlist and give it a try if you’re a puzzle fan!
How long will it take players to 100% complete the game?
Elyot: It depends a lot on how you solve the puzzles, but we estimated around 300 hours if you wanted to do every hand-made puzzle that can spawn in the game. It might be even longer if you want to find all the hidden objects. There are over 10,000 hand-made puzzles and 5,000 hidden objects across 5 unique biomes, but it would be very very hard to find every last one of them.

You truly can reach 100% if you’re very dedicated though!

Anything else you would like to share with the readers?
Elyot: There are more secrets in the game than people realize.

Islands of Insight is a shared-world puzzle-adventure game developed by Lunarch Studios and published by Behaviour Interactive. It was released on PC on February 13, 2023.

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