For the game’s first birthday, we asked developer Dan Marshall about (probably) Lair of the Clockwork God’s silliest joke, the “infinite” splash screens.
Lair of the Clockwork God is a very funny game, in addition to being a brilliant genre mashup point-and-click-platformer filled with ingenious puzzles. But it’s not just the written dialogue in Clockwork God that will have you creasing up. Some of the funniest bits of the game happen mechanically, as solutions to puzzles. Sometimes they’re scribbled in the margin or even beyond the fourth wall.
Some of these moments are big spoilers – there’s ███ ██████ ████ ███ ██████ and ███ █████ ████ ███ “████████” ███ for starters – but there’s one that happens before the game even starts, so I’m comfortable it’s not going to spoil anything. It even has a trophy/achievement attached to it.
Did you know that Lair of the Clockwork God has infinite splash screens?
Now, when I say “infinite” I really mean infinite. As in, they will literally go on forever until the heat death of
the universe your PC if you let them. The aforementioned trophy/achievement – “Supplemental Achievement: Technochronos Syndrome” – will be triggered when you view at least 100 of these splash screens, but they do go on forever. Trust me. They do.
This is just twenty minutes of capture, but I actually watched the things for hours when I, er, realised my video capture was just recording my idle Steam client window and not the game. I didn’t have the heart to do it all again, so twenty minutes is all you’re getting. (I am a new parent and I haven’t slept in a very long time and everything is very difficult right now, shut up.)
Because of my own incompetence, I dropped the game’s developer, Dan Marshall, an email to ask him how Lair of the Clockwork God’s splash screens worked. I wanted to confirm, for my own sanity if nothing else, if they do in fact go on forever, and to find out what on earth he was thinking with what is probably Lair of the Clockwork God’s silliest joke. (Probably. Probably the silliest joke. There are a lot of silly jokes.)
“So, the infinite splash screens thing was a joke that went in quite late in the day; it’s one of those ideas that I loved but couldn’t justify the dev time on when there are bugs and things to fix,” Marshall begins.
“But I think those splash screens are interesting, and serve an important function: right off the top there’s a laugh, and an expectation that nothing in this game is quite as it seems,” he continues. “Nothing should be taken at face value. One of the fake companies in there is “Setsa Tone” foundation, because setting a tone is what this sequence is designed to do. It gets the player in the right frame of mind for what’s to come, which is important given some of the shit we’re trying to pull off.
“Once I’d realised that, that this wasn’t just a big frivolous joke, that it did actually serve some sort of important function, it went in without hesitation.”
So that answers the why, then, but are they actually infinite? And how does Marshall make them go on forever?
“I think there are 18 or so hand-crafted logos before we craftily slip into randomly generating them,” Marshall says. “I wanted the random generator to be good enough that they could pass for real, but daft and visually iffy enough that even very sleepy people would start to twig, “hang on, this has been going on a while?”
“It was inspired by some AAA game or other, which made me sit through a load of splash screens before I could get to the game. It feels daft, to me, do be delaying access to all your exciting content by crediting the people who make the physics. I know there’s a certain ‘cinematic edge’ to these kinds of title cards, but let’s be honest they’re very very boring and bad, and they’re a weird thing [that] games should drop. Players don’t give two fucks who made the game, they just want to get on with having some fun.”
So, as with most of Lair of the Clockwork God, the infinite splash screens are a bit of silly fun, but they’re also fundamentally important to the game and they offer a bit of commentary on the games industry while they’re at it. It’s a neat trick that Clockwork God succeeds with on multiple occasions.
Enjoyed this? Read our big interview with Dan Marshall on the reception to Lair of the Clockwork God and the future of Ben and Dan.