New studio Jumpship details the origins of sci-fi debut Somerville
Produced by former Playdead CEO Dino Patti, and the brainchild of film veteran Chris Olsen, Somerville prompts awe and dread. “I’ve always loved strong graphic framing, that confidence to give something relatively still a lot of life and allow the viewer to soak it all in,” Olsen explains. “On top of that, an emphasis on gigantic scale. The monolithic paintings from John Harris, the locked-off wide shots in Evangelion – they were a great source of inspiration.”
Composition is critical: like Limbo and Inside before it, Patti’s latest project is a side-scrolling adventure, though here colour is everywhere, dystopia is now apocalypse, and there is combat as well as the usual panicked escape. “I’m drawn by aesthetically pleasing games that have interesting gameplay integrated into a moving narrative,” Patti tells us. “This is what I saw the seeds of in Somerville.”
Sci-fi is as old as the hills, however, and hard to make fresh. “The secret to making anything distinct or worth anyone’s time,” Olsen says, “is to start with something that is deeply personal and hold onto that until the end. When you extract from yourself an experience, you imbue it with something that can’t be replicated whilst also giving it the care that it deserves. What becomes important is not the need to be different, but how best to communicate perspective.” This may have been Olsen’s game, but it already has Playdead’s signature: there’s no release date, and Patti and Olsen are in no mood to hurry.