By Marty Mulrooney
Alternative Magazine Online recently reviewed ’90s style point-and-click adventure game Milkmaid of the Milky Way, describing it as “a wonderful, humbling experience” and “easy for AMO to recommend.” It’s a very special indie adventure indeed, evoking the classics of the past while forging its own highly memorable and unique identity. AMO is therefore delighted to present an exclusive online interview with the game’s friendly and talented creator Mattis Folkestad, aka Machineboy, where we talk all about the development process, writing in rhyme, kidnapped cows, spunky milkmaids and golden spaceships!
Hi Mattis, thank you for your time and welcome to Alternative Magazine Online!
Thank you, glad to be here!
Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself please?
I’m a guy from Northern Norway, living in Oslo with my wife and two daughters. I work as a web developer/designer by day, and do all sorts of creative stuff in my precious time off. I have a bachelor’s degree in animation, have been making music since I was a kid, and have been doing game design and development on and off since my early teens.
When did you first discover video games?
I have some early memories that are still very vivid to me. Playing Pac-Man on an Atari at my cousin’s, watching some dude playing Dragon’s Lair at an arcade in Denmark in the early ‘80s, and later on playing games in my friend’s living room on their Commodore Vic-20 and later on the C64. I got my C64 when I was around 12 years old, and having my own computer and my own games was pretty mind-blowing. I was never a great or patient video game player, but I loved trying them out, loved the aesthetics of game graphics and the creation of worlds and universes that games could bring.
When did you realise that you wanted to make them?
When I saw I could make my own programs in the Commodore 64 Basic language, I quickly started experimenting with simple games and interactive stories. Learning was hard, with very few tutorials, but creating stuff on the computer that could be controlled by a player was really intriguing. When I got my Amiga 500 (and later on the Amiga 1200) I made some smaller games and demos, and when I was 18 I released my first game, an adventure game called Madhouse: Indian Spirit. Back then I didn’t know if I wanted or even could make games, it was just one of many outlets for my creativity.
Congratulations on the PC release of Milkmaid of the Milky Way! As I’m sure you could tell from my review, I really liked it. How would you describe the game to new players?
It’s a retro-styled, rhyming point-and-click adventure game set in a fjord in 1920s Norway. You play as a young milkmaid, Ruth, who lives a hard life alone on a faraway farm after her parents passed. She wonders if this is the life she really wants, and then one day a giant, golden spaceship arrives.
Where did the initial idea for this project come from?
I wanted to make an adventure game again after I realised someone had written about the game I made as a teenager in a book about Amiga shareware games. That someone remembered, and even recommended, a game almost 20 years later really inspired me to try to do it again.
I had several ideas that I started off with, but all of them included a young woman in a remote place. I wanted to create a game about someone stepping out into the world, into the unknown, and I wanted to do a “big” story. I wanted to prove to myself that I could build a coherent, interesting universe like the great adventure games of the ‘90s and present it to a new audience.
The game is set on a remote farm in a faraway fjord in 1920s Norway – was there much research involved? Why did you choose the 1920s rather than a modern day setting?
Yes, I did quite a lot of research about dairy farms in Norway and life in the 1920s. I wanted to have an old-fashioned setting because it was an interesting time in Europe. Modern technology was slowly making its way into society, but the farms in rural areas were still run like the old times. Also, it meant that the spaceship and technology created an interesting contrast to this down-to-earth setting.
How would you describe the main character?
Ruth is spunky, creative, clever and open-minded, but also torn between her pledge to run the farm and to follow in her parents’ footsteps, and her own wants and needs to find her own place in the universe. She also wears pants, which was unheard of for women in the 1920s!
Why did you decide to write the game completely in rhyme?
It actually happened by accident! Halfway into production I wrote a line that by chance rhymed. It made me stop and wonder what a complete game in rhyme would feel like. I tried rewriting some scenes and found it much too bothersome and difficult, and promptly deleted the lines and continued the game production. But somewhere in the back of my mind I felt that the rhyming gave the game a unique flavour – almost a storybook, adventure-like feel. So I tried rewriting a few of the scenes again and after a few nights I decided to write the whole thing in rhyme. It was quite painful to rewrite the first act, but I think it was worth it.
Was it difficult to balance the comedy with the drama?
Yeah. It’s always difficult finding a balance between everything – comedy, drama, difficulty level, pacing. But I guess that’s what game design is – it’s a balancing act. Milkmaid has a quite serious story, but comedy is important to pull the player into the world.
Did you always plan to have a big sci-fi reveal part way through the game?
Yes! The story was written first, and I had a pretty good feeling of the whole story and character arc.
I’m guessing you’re a big fan of the adventure genre! Do you have a favourite adventure game?
I’m a big Lucasarts fan, and my favourite adventure game is probably Monkey Island 2. It has such excellent art direction and story, it just really pulled me in. I also really enjoyed Loom, which some people have compared Milkmaid of the Milky Way with – which I find quite humbling.
You’ve worked at the NRK (Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation) as a web developer, animator and designer since 2004. How do you find the time to make self-funded video games and apps? 🙂
Yeah, it’s not always easy finding the time or energy to do creative stuff in the few hours left in a busy day. But having a strict work ethic and a lot of love for a project makes it possible. Also I have a very understanding family. 🙂
In my review I made a favourable comparison between Milkmaid of the Milky Way and Another World. Was that classic game a conscious influence during development?
Not a conscious influence, but I loved Another World and the art direction of that game. The limited, beautiful palette and the storytelling was great in that game, a true classic!
The game poster created by illustrator Natalie Foss looks awesome! How did she become involved with the project?
I had seen some of Natalie’s work at some exhibitions, and knew that her style would look really awesome on a game poster. I was so happy when she said yes to do the poster, and thrilled when I saw the result! It was so cool to see a 32 pixel character drawn in her unique, wonderful style.
How have you found the response from players and critics?
It’s been very humbling and at times emotional reading the reviews from players and critics. I have spent so much time and energy trying to make this game the best I could do, and reading people’s personal connection with the game has been very fulfilling. I’ve gotten so many wonderful reviews, it makes me very thankful. It’s crazy that this game I made is up on Metacritic rubbing shoulders with the big guys of the industry, but most important for me is hearing that people have played the game and enjoyed their time with Ruth.
What’s next for you Mattis?
I’m working on a Norwegian translation of the game right now, along with a French translation that I’m outsourcing. I hope to do other languages as well. It’s a niche game, but in time I hope there would be a market for more games in the Milkmaid universe. And there are many more ideas in my notebook!
Thank you for your time! I really enjoyed playing and reviewing Milkmaid of the Milky Way and I can’t wait to discover your next project!
Thank you for playing and reviewing Milkmaid, it was a pleasure!