Chapter 7

Level number
Date of creation
March 2009
Preceded by
Followed by

Down (also entitled The Great and Lovely Descent) is the seventh chapter of The Beginner's Guide and the first to feature a lamppost at the final screen.





The level begins at some distance away from a brown house, which is a café called "The Streetwise Fool", located in the middle of nowhere (an immense white environment with nothing but a slightly grey ground). Inside the kitchen of this café is a staircase leading downwards, similarly to a basement staircase. It actually leads to a huge black environment (as contrasting with the beginning) where several white, grey and orange three-dimensional multi-shaped blocks form kind of a path, also downwards. Although the player can stand above the blocks, it is not necessary as they can fall directly to the very bottom of this environment, where the third part of this level, "the prison", starts.

One interesting thing about the level's design is that just before reaching the abstract descent part where random shapes float in an infinite space, Davey's narration mentions how the Source engine lends itself to making blocky in-door corridors, and even directly asks the player to focus on Coda's architecture as the game progresses - which is obviously and immediately contrasted with the next space the player finds itself in as he proceeds downward.

The prison is a grey building with a sad atmosphere. There's a big hole at the ceiling from which the white brightness of outside emerges. The player makes their way to a central corridor where the prison's four floors of cells are seen. By opening and closing gates itself, the game "shows" the player's way. At a certain point, the player is lifted by an elevator to the prison's third floor and enters a small cell, whose bars close and stay shut for one hour (this time is reduced if narration is turned on). After the bars finally open, the player makes their way to exit the prison. In the outside, a blue sky with clouds and some green grass, suggesting freedom and relief, are finally seen. The next part begins after a door is opened by the same puzzle of before.

After passing through the door, the player goes through corridors with wooden walls and meets three characters sit around an inaccessible table, twice. Through the chat system, they make questions concerning the world above and the door puzzle. After this, the player makes the final descent leading to a terrace with a lamppost at the center.



The prison

Let's talk about video game development for a second. Every video game runs on what's called an engine, which determines what the game can and cannot do. So in other words the engine is a set of tools for game development.

To make all of these games, Coda is using an engine called Source. Like all engines, Source has certain things that it does well and it has certain things it does poorly. One of the things that it does very well is boxy, linear corridors. That is why so many of Coda's games are set in these large flat empty rooms, is just because he's working with what the engine does well.

The tools available to the creator shape what kinds of creative work they're going to end up making. You might consider paying attention to the architecture in Coda's games to notice now they seem to stem from an engine that is very good at producing linear, boxy corridors.

This prison, funny enough, in Coda's original design the door stayed shut for a full hour before letting you go. If you don't mind I think we're gonna skip that.

This is something he and I used to argue about a lot, you know, whether a game ought to actually be playable, whether it means anything if no one can get through it, and I would always defend that, you know, all this work goes into the game, why not make it playable and accessible? And so we just got into heated arguments over it, and there was one time that after one of these conversations he went home and a day or two later he sent me a zip file entitled “Playable Games,” that was full of hundreds of individual games, each of which was just an empty box that you walked around in and nothing else. Believe me, I played every single one of those just to find out if there was a gag hidden somewhere. There wasn't.

It's the puzzle again! With the exact same solution as the last time.

There's still no clear indication of what makes this puzzle so special that Coda is going to return to it over and over. But I promise I'll share with you my interpretation very shortly.

Here Coda begins using a kind of dialogue system that he fashioned out of the engine's chat capabilities. Use the 1-2-3 buttons on your keyboard to respond.

(If the player is using a gamepad) Here Coda begins using a kind of dialogue system that he fashioned out of the engine's chat capabilities. Use the buttons on your gamepad to respond.

(See dialogue section)

And so we make one last descent, down to the final floor of the level.



It's a lamppost. Okay, I can't tell you quite why but for some reason Coda fixates on this lamppost, it's going to appear at the end of every single one of his games from here on out. I'll tell you what I think, I think up to this point he's been making really strange and abstract games with no clear purpose, and maybe you can only float around in that headspace for so long. Because now he wants something to hold onto. He wants a reference point, he wants the work to be leading to something. He wants a destination! Which is what this lamppost is, it's a destination. We're gonna see it in the work as well, his games are going to become a lot more cohesive, a lot more fully developed, with more of a clear idea behind them. And as we go, that idea will get clearer and clearer and clearer.

Dialogue (Taken from In-Game Files) Edit


Dialogue rooms

Down Interview 1: Edit

You there! Did you come from up above? What was up there?

  1. Yes, there was a world stamped with whiteness. (Play 1a)
  2. Yes, there was an enormous prison I spent hours in. (Play 1a)
  3. Yes, there were these floating colored blocks. (Goto 1a)

1a: That's the world above! You've been there! Now this is important: Did you have to get through a puzzle with two doors and switches?

  1. Yes I did! That was literally the last thing I did before coming here! (Goto 2a)
  2. No I don't remember having to go through any puzzle. (Goto 2b)
  3. I'd prefer not to tell you. After all, we've only just met. (Goto 2c)

2a: Again, perfect! Now please, tell us how you solved it! Tell us the solution! Tell us how to get to the other side.

  1. I...I don't remember how I solved it. I'm trying to remember, but I can't. (Goto downfinala)
  2. I didn't solve it, someone else let me in. (Goto downfinalb)
  3. Trust me, you don't want to go over there... (Goto downfinalc)

2b: You don't? But how did you get here! The puzzle is the only way!

  1. There are other ways in and out. (Goto downfinald)
  2. I don't remember how I got here. (Goto downfinala)
  3. Wait, yes, I did solve it! I am the champion of solving puzzles! I can go anywhere I please! (Goto downfinale)

2c: What?? But don't understand. We are trapped here, that puzzle is our only escape, we need to get through it!

  1. You think you want to get through, but trust me, you don't. (Goto downfinalc)
  2. Let me describe it for you, let me tell you all about what is over there. (Goto downfinalf)
  3. Alright, I will tell you how to solve it. (Goto downfinalg)

downfinala: You must think harder, please! Try hard to remember! It is so important that we get out of here, we must escape this prison! Can you think harder? There must be something more. Please, tell us how to reach the end.

End of Dialogue.

downfinalb: You didn't solve it? So you have learned nothing. You cannot help us escape this prison. You are not the one I need. Surely there will be someone else.

End of Dialogue.

downfinalc: Oh no, but I do! We do! We need to get there! Do you understand? It is the most important thing in the world! We have to escape this prison! There must be an ending! I promise you, there is nothing I want more!

End of Dialogue.

downfinald: There are? But please, you must tell me! You must tell us! You don't understand, we have to get out of here, it is the most important thing! We have to get out of this prison! Can you hear me? Can you tell me how to get to the end.

End of Dialogue.

downfinale: …No you can't. You weren't on the other side at all, you have no idea what is on the other side. You cannot help us escape this prison. You are not the one I need. Surely there will be someone else.

End of Dialogue.

downfinalf: No, that isn't possibly enough, I need to actually be there. I cannot simply be told what it is. I must see it myself. I must escape this prison. There must be an ending!

End of Dialogue.

downfinalg: Wonderful! … …Well? What is it? What's the answer? Please, speak to me tell me how to escape! Tell me how to be free of this prison! I must know! It's the most important thing! There must be an ending!

End of Dialogue.

Down Interview 2: Edit



Hello. How did you get here? Was there a puzzle you had to pass through?

  1. Yes, do you want to know how to solve it? (Goto 1a)
  2. No, I've been right here this entire time. (Goto 2a)

1a: No no! We actually find the black space between the doors to be far more interesting. Have you seen it yet?

  1. Why would I care about the space between the doors? (Goto final1)
  2. Actually now that you mention it I remember feeling strange as I passed through it... (Goto final2)
  3. I don't recall a space between the doors... (Goto final3)

2a: I suggest you go and see the puzzle some time. It's not meant to be solved, but you can sit in the black space in the middle.

  1. What happens if I solve it? (Goto final4)
  2. Why would I sit in the black space? (Goto final5)
  3. Who are you? (Goto final6)

final1: There is a reason, but it may take time before you understand. Which is fine. You'll see it again soon.

End of Dialogue.

final2: Don't think too hard about it. You'll see it again soon.

End of Dialogue.

final3: Don't worry, I'm sure you will visit it again soon. Be sure to pay close attention.

End of Dialogue.

final4: Not sure. But if I have any suspicion, what you find won't be worth what it takes to get there. You'll have another chance to solve it soon.

End of Dialogue.

final5: Oh it's plenty peaceful. It may not seem that way at first, but you'll come to think so in time. Eventually.

End of Dialogue.

final6: Just go hang out there in that blackness for a bit. You may not like it at first, but it'll grow on you. Eventually.

End of Dialogue.

Walkthrough (no commentary)Edit

The Beginner's Guide - Chapter 7 Down

The Beginner's Guide - Chapter 7 Down