Phantom Machines: An Interview with Amanita Design
Machinarium is an adventure game being released later this year, and it’s one of this year’s IGF finalists. Telling the story of an ostracised robot trying to save his home town, it looks to be blending a beautiful visual style with an odd ball story. Amanita Design are responsible for a series of wonderful little flash games such as Samarost and the educational Questionaut. As there isn’t a build of the game they is able to show us at this stage of development, we instead got in touch with them and asked a few questions about the game. We talked to Jakub Dvorsky, one of the lead members of Amanita Design and below you’ll find a tale of intruige, narrative, why hard puzzles are still good puzzles, and robot love.
The Reticule: You’ve been keeping your games quite brief and compact with Samarost and Questionaut, yet Machinarium seems to be a much greater undertaking. What has made you want to expand the size of your games now?
Jakub Dvorsky: It was my dream for many years to create full-length 2D adventure game, but it’s not that easy. We started with small projects and eventually managed to gather enough experiences and co-workers to begin with full size games:)
In a bigger game is more space for creating story, atmosphere and player is more sucked into it. We were also encouraged to make bigger game by the players of our previous games.
TR: The games of your’s I’ve played in the past have kept the puzzles very cohesive and logical, which makes it easier for someone who is not instantly familiar with adventure game conventions to enjoy the games. What are you doing with Machinarium to make sure it’s accessible to everyone?
JD: I’m glad you consider the puzzles in our previous games logical:) However it was easy to solve many puzzles just by clicking randomly on everything around. This time we design all the puzzles and quests much carefully, everything is more logical and the player really has to think about the puzzle before he is able to solve it.
It should be accessible for everyone because it’s very easy to control the game. There aren’t any lengthy boring texts, only short funny animations and everything is quite obvious, however I’m not saying it would be an easy game – some of the puzzles will be quite tough.
TR: Can you explain a bit about the story of Machinarium?
JD: The story is about a little robot who has been unjustly thrown out to the scrap yard out of Machinarium which is town populated only by robots. In the game he returns back to the town and meets the gangsters from Black Cap Brotherhood – they are just preparing a bomb attack on the central tower where the town ruler has residence in. Of course our hero must stop them and also rescue his friend robot-girl.
TR: Why robots?
JD: I like robots:) A lot of inspiration comes from old rusty machines and abandoned factories and industrial buildings and of course science fiction books and films (Stanislav Lem, Douglas Adams, Jules Verne, Ray Bradbury, Stanley Kubrick, Karel Zeman).
TR: Which comes first; the idea for the puzzle or the idea for the situation that requires the puzzle?
JD: It depends. First I create a lot of small assorted ideas – puzzles, characters, environments, situations or pieces of a story, then I usually make very rough drawing of some location and think about what should happen there and take some older ideas to use it here.
TR: The art style of the game reminds me most strongly of the Gormenghast novels by Mervin Peake. Is that merely coincidence? Was there anything in particular that influenced the aesthetics?
JD: Probably coincidence, I’ve never read Gormenghast. Maybe I should:) My influences are mentioned above.
TR: As the mechanics of adventure games are almost ambient in nature, the visual style and story would seem to take a front seat. Do you feel it is more important to create a compelling world and narrative in this type of game to others, like the more prevalent FPS or RTS genres?
JD: Definitely. The narrative part, the story, characters and the whole micro-world itself are the most important things in adventure games. This genre is close to films and books.
TR: You’ve been nominated for the Excellence in Visual Art category of this year’s IGF awards. How much of an effect has this had on your publicity and the general interest in the game?
JD: It helped quite a lot. The traffic on temporary Machinarium website (www.machinarium.com) is almost twice as big then before we were nominated.
TR: Questionaut seemed like a bit of a departure for the company, mainly because it was an education based game. Was this something that you did off your own volition, and something you’d like to do again?
JD: It was commission from BBC and they gave us text file with all the questions so it was easy to create that educational part. We enjoyed that work and we like it because we believe it’s good idea how to educate and amuse children at the same time. Maybe we will create something similar in the future, who knows?
TR: How are you planning to distribute and sell Machinarium? Will we see you on Steam?
JD: The PC and Mac version will be available for download on the official Machinarium website (www.machinarium.com), on Steam, Direct2Drive or other digital distribution services and also we’d like to publish it for retail in as many countries possible.
TR: Thanks for talking to us!
4 thoughts on “Phantom Machines: An Interview with Amanita Design”
Once again an excellent article and an intriguing discovery for me to behold =). I’m keeping an eye on this game.