By Marty Mulrooney
Alternative Magazine Online recently reviewed the fantastic Machinarium here, an indie point and click adventure created by Amanita Design. Founded by Samorost 1&2 creator Jakub Dvorsky, the studio’s latest offering has received glowing reviews from the gaming press, showing that even the smallest indie endeavours can reach a larger audience if enough care and attention is given during the creation process.
Featuring exclusive artwork and insight into the creation of Machinarium, Alternative Magazine Online is proud to present an interview with the man behind it all, Jakub Dvorsky. Enjoy!
Hi Jakub! Thank you for your time, can you please tell us a bit about yourself?
Hi! I was born in Brno – Czechoslovakia and I still live here, however it’s now known as the Czech Republic. I grew up on early 8bit computer games, I owned an Atari 800XE and later I had my first PC 386. Of course I loved to play all those great games! Later on at grammar school I started doing my own games with some schoolmates and we enjoyed it a lot. My first game called Asmodeus was published 12 years ago.
Can you tell us some more about your studio, Amanita Design?
Amanita Design started in 2003 when I finished at the Academy of Arts in Prague with a free online flash game called Samorost as my thesis project. In 2005 studio animator Vaclav Blin joined and Samorost2 was created. Since then we have found several excellent collaborators – musician Tomas ‘Floex’ Dvorak, programmer David Oliva, painter Adolf Lachman, sound maker Tomas ‘Pif’ Dvorak and animator Jaromir Plachy.
Besides independent and commissioned flash games (Samorost1, Samorost2, The Quest For The Rest, Rocketman VC, Questionaut) the studio has also created a couple of music videos (Plantage, Na tu svatbu), websites, animations, illustrations and production designs.
We are now focused on games, but most of us have also done side projects; Vaclav Blin is preparing a very strange interactive music video, I’m working on production design for an animated feature film and Adolf Lachman is a freelance painter and sculptor!
Has the studio won any awards?
Yes we have won several awards, Samorost2 won the best web game category at the Independent Games Festival (IGF.com) and the same category at the Webby Awards. Questionaut was nominated for a BAFTA and Machinarium won the visual excellence award at the Independent Games Festival (IGF.com), best art at Indiecade Festival and also won at the PAX10 selection.
You have done some work for the BBC and The Polyphonic Spree. Did they approach you, or vice versa?
Every time we did some commissions we were approached by those companies. Now we don’t do almost any commissioned work anymore as we are able to live from our independent projects and continue forward doing only our own stuff.
What are the benefits of working in the Flash format?
Flash is quite powerful tool nowadays, you can animate there very well and make almost any kind of small game you can imagine. The biggest benefit is that you can put the finished game, animation or whatever directly in a web browser and people can play it immediately without downloading or installing which makes it very accessible for anybody.
Are there any drawbacks?
Yes unfortunately there are some drawbacks. The performance isn’t very good, you can’t use the right mouse button for anything as it’s reserved for the Flash menu, it’s still a little buggy, etc!
Your games are very visual, with little to no dialogue. Is this a stylistic choice, or something else?
We have several reasons not to include any language in our games. First of all I’m a poor writer, it’s also more accessible, easier to localize and funnier – I don’t have the patience to go through those lengthy dialogues in most adventure games.
Do you plan to stick with point and click adventures, or travel in new directions?
I like point and click adventures because of their slower pace. I like puzzles and storytelling and it’s a good genre for all of this combined. However, we want to experiment more with this genre and try to evolve it and enrich it with other gameplay mechanics. We don’t see it as a closed type of game which doesn’t need to improve its principles and mechanics. If we design a game where shooting or running and jumping will be required, we wouldn’t have any problem making it that way as long as there’s a real reason for it.
What games inspire you personally? Are you a gamer yourself?
I used to play a lot, but of course I don’t have much time for it now. Many older games inspired me, especially adventure games (Grim Fandango, Myst, Gobliins, Discworld, Neverhood, Monkey Island).
Now I’m very interested in the quickly evolving indie scene. My personal favourites are Windosill (http://windosill.com/), Knytt Stories (http://nifflas.ni2.se/) and World Of Goo (http://worldofgoo.com/). I love also Noby Noby Boy, Scribblenauts and Little Big Planet on PS3.
Machinarium took 3 years to make. Has this been the studio’s longest development cycle so far?
Yes definitely, it was our first full-length game and it took us more time than we expected.
Who is responsible for the soundtrack in Machinarium, it is fantastic!
Our composers name is Tomas Dvorak aka Floex and yes it’s fantastic We have worked with Tomas since Samorost2 and it has been a very fruitful collaboration. A small preview is available at:
Do you hope to get an emotional response from the players who play your games?
Yes we wanted to make the game warm, personal and emotional despite the fact it’s about robots.
How important do you think Indie gaming is when compared to the bigger studios? Does Independence breed innovation?
I think it’s really important for evolution of the whole media. Indies must innovate and bring original ideas in their small games. Bigger studios are focused much more on commercial success that’s why they are scared to experiment and try new ideas and IP’s.
What made you decide to have Machinarium as a download-only title?
Well it’s not a download only title really, we have boxed versions in several territories (English version coming probably in Q1 2010), but digital distribution is definitely the most important for us – it’s quick, easy and brings us a much bigger share from the price customers are paying (especially if they buy the game on our website www.machinarium.net).
What was your biggest challenge over the last three years?
The biggest was probably to stay focused and keep working on it all that time, it was a really long period and sometimes you could really hate it… The hardest work awaits before the release and also right after it and that’s a time when everybody is already exhausted!
What does the future hold?
It’s still too early to say, but we definitely want to continue in games development and we also want to experiment a bit more too!
Thank you for your time!