interview

DEEP-ROOTED GAMES is series of four interviews with four game developers from four different continents who looked for narrative inspiration and found it in unusual places: In the folklore of their own people, region or family, and in other storytelling-corners of the world which are too often neglected by the mainstream.

DEEP-ROOTED GAMES is series of four interviews with four game developers from four different continents who looked for narrative inspiration and found it in unusual places: In the folklore of their own people, region or family, and in other storytelling-corners of the world which are too often neglected by the mainstream.

DEEP-ROOTED GAMES is series of four interviews with four game developers from four different continents who looked for narrative inspiration and found it in unusual places: In the folklore of their own people, region or family, and in other storytelling-corners of the world which are too often neglected by the mainstream.

Jim Rossignol used to be a games journalist before he ventured into games development with Sir, You Are Being Hunted. Now, his studio Big Robot is working on The Signal From Tölva, a single-player FPS set on an alien planet. I wrote about this promising project for Der Standard; here’s my full interview with Jim.

You have made the switch from writing about video games to creating them. How did that happen?

Gradually. In 2010 I worked on a project commissioned by Channel 4, and ended up forming a small games studio to get the game - an educational puzzler called Fallen City (sadly now defunct) - designed, produced and published. With the money left over from that, plus a Kickstarter in 2012, we raised the money for Sir, You Are Being Hunted. I didn’t work full time on that, because we needed to pay the designer, programmer and artists, and so I remained a writer at Rock, Paper, Shotgun through most of its development. Fortunately it did well enough that I was able to work full time for past two years on our new game, The Signal From Tölva. It has only being during that period that I’ve really considered myself to be a game creator, although the switch still remains sort of opaque to me, perhaps because of how slowly it has happened..

Tangiers has been on my radar for a long, long time. Announced and Kickstarted in 2013, the stealth game inspired by the surreal and dark imagination of William S. Burroughs has had a few delays. I talked with Alex Harvex, Tangiers lead developer, about games and literature, Burroughs and the experience of mixing literature and video games.

Literature - at least "serious", high-brow literature - and games usually remain worlds apart. What inspired you to try and take William S Burroughs' (WSB) work as the starting point for Tangiers?

Quite simply and quite selfishly, I wanted to make a game that I'd want to play! When I entered into thinking of making Tangiers, there was a significant trend of indie games relying on introspective nostalgia. The appeal of Fez for example was completely lost on me, and I found that incredibly alienating.

Thomas Biskup ist der Schöpfer eines legendären Spiels: ADOM - Ancient Domains of Mystery gilt als eines der ganz großen klassischen Rogue-likes. Seit 1994 entwickelt der Deutsche sein Spiel, vor kurzem ist eine kommerzielle Steam-Version mit verbesserter Grafik und GUI erschienen. Im Rahmen meiner Artikelrecherche für den GameStandard habe ich mit Thomas ein Email-Interview geführt - hier ist es nachzulesen.

ADOM ist so etwas wie eine Legende; wie würdest du seine Besonderheit im Unterschied zu den anderen großen RLs beschreiben?

ADOM weist eine Reihe von Besonderheiten auf: Es ist nicht wie fast alle anderen Roguelikes Open Source. Das hat aus meiner Sicht den besonderen Vorteil, dass viele Geheimnisse nicht einfach durch einen Blick in den Quelltext lüften lassen, sondern die Spieler selbst drauf kommen müssen. Insofern gibt es immer noch das eine oder andere Geheimnis, das von der Fangemeinde seit Jahren (fast schon Jahrzehnten) zu entschlüsseln versucht wird.

Zweitens: ADOM ist sehr stark auf die Story fokussiert - mir war es immer wichtig, eine Geschichte zu erzählen und nicht nur eine reine Taktikübung zu entwickeln. Und ADOM gehört sicher zu den komplexesten und vielfältigsten Roguelikes, da die sehr weitläufige Welt mit den hochgradig unterschiedlichen Lösungsmöglichkeiten für die Kerngeschichte unterschiedlichste Spielansätze erlaubt. Zuletzt ist ADOM immer noch maßgeblich von einer Person (mir) geprägt, während die meisten anderen Roguelikes von (wechselnden) Teams entwickelt werden. Natürlich lebt auch ADOM von den großartigen Ideen und Vorschlägen, die aus der Fangemeinde eingebracht werden… aber eben kontrollierter.

Manifold Garden is a fascinating project. For Der Standard, I talked to its creator William Chyr; here's the in-depth interview in full.

Your background is quite special for a game developer, and you describe yourself as "working at the intersection of art and science". Is the medium of games a logical fit for that? Is it a detour?

The medium of games has definitely been fantastic for exploring the intersection of art and science.

In games, you have the power to create complete worlds from scratch. You can actually write the rules of physics in the world you're creating. Also, because games are interactive, they allow you to experiment with those rules, and to learn from that process.

There’s also the actual development of the game, which requires a solid understanding of design, art, and technology. So not only does the game itself bring together science and art, so does the actual process behind it.

Am Montag, 19.10., eröffnet in der HOLLEREI Galerie in Wien eine besondere Ausstellung: Unter dem Titel „Viennese Video Game Aesthetics“ werden Bilder aus Spielen von Wiener Entwicklern vorgestellt – klassisch im Galeriekontext, in Form von hochwertig ausgearbeiteten Einzelbildern.

Der Kurator der Ausstellung, Christian Bazant-Hegemark, war bis 2006 selbst Programmierer bei Rockstar Vienna, ist dann zur Malerei gewechselt und hat vor kurzem außerdem in Kunstphilosophie promoviert. Ein Gespräch über Kunst, Wien und den Spagat zwischen Kunst und Konsum.

Mark Johnson is the creator of one of the most ambitious rogue-likes currently in development. Ultima Ration Regum still has a way to go until it lives up to Mark's vision, but already the game offers some of the most fascinating procedural world-generation, down to a level that is unheard of in most other games. Like Dwarf Fortress, URR's algorithms create an insanely detailed world; unlike DF, Mark Johnson's game tries to innovate the very basics of roguelike gameplay by sending players on a hunt for clues in the world's rich culture and history to "uncover an intellectual conspiracy to rewrite history in the most culturally, religiously and socially detailed procedural world ever generated".

Mark was kind enough to answer a big list of questions to discuss his game, literature and procedural narrative with VGT.

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In our ongoing series WORD/PLAY we look at the fusing of literature and games. The link to the the written word is almost as old as the videogame itself, and recent developments both on the side of literature and the videogame have shown that the relationship between the two media is as vital and strong as ever.

It's no secret that we here at Videogame Tourism are smitten with the work of the Swedish development studio Simogo. After all, we dedicated several thousand words to Year Walk, one of our favourite games of 2013. What we didn't talk about in such a verbose way, though, is that Simogo released a second game in 2013, Device 6, which is equally intriguing: A stylish fusion of classic graphic design, Cold War-thriller chique and typographical text that, thanks to Simogo's trademark cleverness in using the features of mobile devices, becomes navigable in hithero unknown ways. We talked with Simogo's Simon Flesser about literary influences, finding your work on the other end of education, going tactile, and much more.