The puzzle game Unpacking was released on Switch last year to much acclaim, as it walked players through a charming narrative with relaxing gameplay. At the 2023 Game Developer’s Conference, Unpacking’s creative director Wren Brier gave a talk titled: ‘Unpacking’ Zen: Designing a Game Without Fail States or Scores.

In this hour long presentation, Brier discusses the inspiration and concepts behind Unpacking, including what the game was meant to evoke and what challenges needed to be overcome. One of the team’s focuses was on something referred to as “subtractive design”, which Brier defines in the quote below.

“Subtractive design is all about strengthening the core of a game by removing anything that isn’t serving the core ideas. This subtracting happened very early on in our design process when we were first prototyping, so we were only subtracting conceptually rather than removing bits we’d already put in the game. That would be expensive. We challenged our own biases and questioned everything, even if it seemed obvious and even if it’s how a lot of games do it. Anything we do or don’t do on a game is a design choice. And every choice comes at a cost. The time it takes to implement something can be used to improve something else. And one choice may not be compatible with another choice that would have been better with the game we’re trying to make… We really had to understand what our game was about at its heart.”

[Wren Brier]

Click here to watch the talk in its entirety. It’s a great watch for anyone interested in the ins and outs of game design, or just fans of Unpacking itself. Unpacking is currently available on Switch via the eShop.

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Comments (3)


1y ago

Initially an interesting game, but deceptive in its child-friendly design. This game is not appropriate for children. It features a protagonist who moves in with her boyfriend, a boyfriend who, whilst eventually marrying the protagonist, by the end of the game engages in an ‘interesting’ dress sense to say the least.


1y ago


I tried looking up this interesting dress sense but couldn't find anything, could you elaborate on this please?
I'm also kinda confused as it seems that the female protagonist breaks up with the boyfriend and marries a woman in the end.

Pretty sure the protagonist is female, meaning it’s a guy she marries at the end. Interesting dress sense in the sense that he wears traditional western female garb.