“Kubrick’s work has inspired a lot of the design process”: Luis Antonio discusses Twelve Minutes and time loops

A cause for celebration (Image via Twelve Minutes)
A cause for celebration (Image via Twelve Minutes)

Twelve Minutes, Luis Antonio’s 2021 indie game, can be considered a great example of using the time loop mechanic to tell a story. In recent years, the gaming industry has showcased a penchant for utilizing the mechanic, be it in Outer Wilds, Deathloop, or Returnal.

In Twelve Minutes, players take on the role of a husband, stuck in a time loop, trying to decipher the mystery of who killed his wife’s father. They are given only an apartment to play around with. The claustrophobic nature of the title is further exacerbated by a top-down perspective.

Twelve Minutes has been one of those indie titles from the past year that gamers simply cannot miss. With its meticulous design, properly thought-out narrative, and nuanced voiceovers, the game manages to carefully weave an experience that will intrigue those who love a good mystery.

A psychological thriller (Image via Twelve Minutes/Twitter)
A psychological thriller (Image via Twelve Minutes/Twitter)

In a conversation with Sportskeeda Esports’ Angshuman Dutta, Luis Antonio, the developer of Twelve Minutes, gives an insight into the game’s making.

Luis Antonio on development, influences, and mechanics of Twelve Minutes

From nods to Stanley Kubrick to voiceovers by the veteran cast, Twelve Minutes is a beautifully crafted cinematic experience that users can immerse themselves in. In the interview, Luis explains the reason for preferring a top-down perspective, the limits of the mechanic of time loop, the story of grief and loss, and much more.


Here’s an excerpt of the conversation.

Q. Twelve Minutes was one of the most interesting games to come out last year. Can you describe the premise of the game to our readers?

Luis: Twelve Minutes is an interactive thriller about a man trapped in a time loop. You take on the role of the husband on what should be a romantic evening with your wife.

The night turns into a nightmare when a stranger breaks into your home, accuses your wife of murder, and knocks you out. However, you find yourself immediately returned to the exact moment you opened the front door, stuck in a twelve-minute time loop, doomed to relive the same terror again and again. This is unless you can find a way to use the knowledge of what’s coming to change the outcome and break the loop.

It’s an interactive narrative that blends the dream-like suspense of The Shining with the claustrophobia of Rear Window and the fragmented structure of Memento.

Q. First thing first, the fantastic voice cast, James McAvoy, Daisy Ridley, and Willem Dafoe. What was the experience like to collaborate with such industry stalwarts? What did they bring to the table? Do you have any interesting tidbits to share?

Luis: We were fortunate that this project caught the interest of such talented actors. Their performances brought a depth to the characters we had not foreseen, making the story that much more personal and memorable.

Early on, we defined a clear outline for each character’s traits, personality, and history, but the cast crafted the nuances and expressiveness. Since you never see the character faces in-game, a lot of nuance and emotion had to be conveyed through the voice acting, and they nailed it.

Q. Coming to Twelve Minutes, the mechanic of the time loop is used more and more in the medium of video games. A couple of the biggest games of the past year were Deathloop and Returnal. One of the best games of recent time, Outer Wilds, applies the same mechanic. What was your inspiration to utilize it? What do you think the mechanic of the time loop brings to storytelling?

Luis: Games, by their nature, are already time loops. Every time you die or fail, a level usually restarts, and you have to repeat it, but the characters are never aware of it.

For this project, I wanted to explore this idea of accumulated knowledge and see what would happen if the character you control keeps his knowledge of what he has lived and how that would affect his actions and perception of those around him. I was surprised we haven’t had more time loop games, and it’s funny that quite a few of them got released in the last couple of years.

Q. Another thing to be noticed in Twelve Minutes is its perspective. The top-down view provides a unique experience of the narrative. What was the reason for using it?

Luis: One of my goals for Twelve Minutes was to make an extremely accessible experience in terms of interaction without compromising any of the narrative gameplay design.

Early in the prototyping stage, I realized that by keeping the camera top-down and providing only 2-axis of movement, the challenge of controlling a character/camera in a 3D environment was removed, allowing for easier control of the character for non-gamers, where they can focus on the story itself.

Also, as an indie developer and due to current technology, pulling off believable facial animation work is an expensive and time-consuming process, especially for a heavy narrative title. The top-down camera allowed us to avoid this. Finally, the top-down visuals gave us this unique look, allowing the title to stand out from other games.

Q. The story plays out as one of the possibilities of remorse, grief, and love. How was it to come up with this story?

Luis: Creating the story was organic, without any predefined direction. The initial goal was to explore the concept of accumulated knowledge where, from each loop, you get enough breadcrumbs to drive the narrative without getting overwhelmed.

I quickly realized that dealing with loved ones and how we interpreted their intentions and past actions, and the process of accepting them (or not) was something I wanted to explore, and so the story was slowly built around that.

Q. The game focuses on a small area. Was it done to add something to the narrative, or was it purely a developer’s decision?

Luis: The time loop mechanic relies on the player having a very clear understanding of the consequences of their actions, so they can change their surroundings to their benefit.

The ticking clock (Image via Twelve Minutes)
The ticking clock (Image via Twelve Minutes)

Early on, the game had a bigger play space. However, reducing its size (as well as the loop length) allowed for a much cleaner understanding and freedom to explore and a clear focus on what elements are crucial without too much frustrating trial and error. This also ended up fitting with the claustrophobic nature of the story and the main character’s state of mind.

Q. The Shining homage in the game piqued my interest. What was the inspiration behind it?

Luis: Early on, the carpet texture was just a placeholder while I was designing the tutorial corridor area. But seeing as Kubrick’s work has inspired a lot of the design process and how lots of people reacted positively to it, I ended up keeping it.

A nod to the classic (Image via Twelve Minutes)
A nod to the classic (Image via Twelve Minutes)

Q. How has the response been to the game since its release?

Luis: It’s been pretty positive! We’ve had over one million players across all platforms, and the themes the narrative explores have been discussed and analyzed by quite a few passionate players generating exciting conversations. I’m glad people enjoyed and connected with the experience we designed.

Q. What are you presently working on?

Luis: Currently, I’m taking a small break, getting my energy back, spending time with the family, and filling up my inspiration before I dive back into another project. I have quite a few ideas I want to explore but am not quite ready to start them.