Less is more: Fez's subtractive design influenced by Ico
Fez, the game we’re not completely convinced will actually Ever Exist, was heavily influenced by Fumito Ueda’s “Design by Subtraction” paradigm; the same design which has vaulted both Ico and Shadow of the Collossus to fame. Phil Fish of Polytron credits the design for creating a lean and focused game. Before this, there were many different superflous elements such as weights, switches, even health, death and heart pieces much like Zelda. The game even lacks enemies, which is unusual for most platformers. So, what’s the reason for these design choices? Fez is going for a sense of loneliness, much like Ico.
“From Ico, I wanted to replicate that feel of a nostalgic, lonely isolation. Contemplative… quiet. The game is slow and there’s not much more to it beyond the rotation mechanics; without enemies or combat, it’s really about walking around and smelling the flowers. We decided on no enemies very early.”
Aside from this, the design choices presented a challenge when constructing Fez, the challenge being creating a game “without having to resort to the established mechanics that you take for granted.”