Won­der Lands

Down the rab­bit hole with Amanita De­sign, the in­die stu­dio grow­ing at its own pace

EDGE - - CONTENTS - BY JEN SIMP­KINS

When Amanita De­sign founder Jakub Dvorský isn’t mak­ing games, you might find him tend­ing to his plum trees. In the sum­mer, he and his fam­ily es­cape to their cot­tage in the east of the Czech Re­pub­lic, far away from the tourists and the noise, and Dvorský loses him­self in his gar­den. As we sit and sip black tea in Amanita’s cosy, eight-desk stu­dio in cen­tral Prague, his lat­est crop is pa­tiently fer­ment­ing some­where, ready to be made into plum brandy. “It’s great, homemade,” he says. “When you’re mak­ing it homemade from your own fruit, from trees you cared about, it’s a great feel­ing. If it’s rot­ten or some­thing, you don’t put it there: you pick only the best plums. And then you can feel it when you drink it, that it’s there. It makes me happy.”

For Dvorský and his multi-award-win­ning stu­dio, mak­ing games comes just as nat­u­rally. That’s not to say it comes eas­ily. Amanita has built a rep­u­ta­tion on cre­at­ing fan­tas­ti­cally de­tailed worlds through art and an­i­ma­tion, which brings sur­real set­tings and char­ac­ters to charm­ing life. From the finely mossed tree trunks and cav­erns of the Samorost series, to the hand-drawn steam­punk city vis­tas of

Machi­nar­ium, or even the sheer amount of an­i­ma­tions crammed into the cherry-fu­elled slap­stick of Chuchel, ev­ery­thing Amanita makes is painstak­ingly, beau­ti­fully done. Each game is a lit­tle ode to artistry.

Amanita’s worlds might look like won­ders from the out­side, but from an in­side per­spec­tive, it’s all quite sim­ple. In­deed,

try­ing to coax a stu­dio of Czechs – famed for their rather di­rect man­ner – into dream­ily philo­soph­i­cal ex­pla­na­tions of why Amanita does things the way it does is no easy task. Amanita has its “own way”, Dvorský says: the stu­dio sim­ply has its vi­sion for a game, no mat­ter how odd it may seem, and it works pa­tiently un­til it is done to a stan­dard ev­ery­one is happy with, no mat­ter how long it takes.

But there are mys­ter­ies to un­pick: how a stu­dio filled with tra­di­tional artists found it­self mak­ing games at all, for in­stance. Or why they’re made to such an ex­cep­tion­ally high artis­tic stan­dard, over more years than is prob­a­bly sen­si­ble for an in­die stu­dio. And how, af­ter 15 years of Amanita, the five games we’re shown dur­ing our visit (not all of which are ready to be an­nounced) show the stu­dio fi­nally branch­ing out from the pointand-click genre on which it made its name – to card­board cre­ations, and hor­ror games, and even an open world. Was it fi­nally time to freshen things up, we won­der? “No, no,” Dvorský says. “It’s kind of an or­ganic thing, an or­ganic de­vel­op­ment. It’s just co­in­ci­dence.” Amanita, like the red -and-white spot­ted mush­room af­ter which it is named, is a nat­u­ral prod­uct of its en­vi­ron­ment, some cul­ti­va­tion, and per­haps a bit of chance. To Dvorský, ask­ing why Amanita is the way it is is like ask­ing why a mush­room grows. We get the feel­ing he’d pre­fer us just to eat the damn mush­room.

As the son of two artists – his fa­ther an il­lus­tra­tor of an­i­mals for sci­en­tific jour­nals, his mother a film di­rec­tor – Dvorský grew up among fan­tasy worlds. He loved to read, write, play on his Atari, and also to draw. “Small lit­tle things, like cas­tles, and maps, es­pe­cially me­dieval maps – I loved it,” he

“I DIDN’T EVEN IN­TEND TO MAKE A GAME, AC­TU­ALLY – I WANTED TO MAKE SOME IN­TER­AC­TIVE PROJECT”

says. “I was in­flu­enced a lot by Tolkien’s books. I made a comic book of The Hob­bit when I was about 12 or 13. It took me a year to make it. It was re­ally de­tailed.” When he got his first PC, he be­gan to ex­per­i­ment with an­i­ma­tion, us­ing a mouse to draw. De­spite his par­ents’ skills, he was de­ter­mined to learn on his own. “I’m that kind of per­son. Some peo­ple read man­u­als, some peo­ple pre­fer to go the trial-and-er­ror way. It’s less ef­fi­cient prob­a­bly, slower, but it’s more sat­is­fy­ing, for me at least.”

He was 15 when he started mak­ing his own games, and re­leased three of them along­side Tomáš Dvorák (now Amanita De­sign’s CFO) while study­ing in high school. “I was pretty dis­ap­pointed by the whole in­dus­try be­cause we were screwed by our pub­lisher,” he says. “I re­alised that this is a dirty busi­ness, full of busi­ness­men. I was re­ally an­noyed. Even the Czech press at that time was kind of ter­ri­ble and cor­rupted. It was the ‘90s, a wild pe­riod, es­pe­cially here in East­ern Europe.” He set his sights on a dif­fer­ent goal, free­lance graphic de­sign, and en­rolled in the Academy of Arts, Ar­chi­tec­ture and De­sign in Prague to study an­i­mated film. It was here that he met an­i­ma­tor Vá­clav Blín, and later sev­eral oth­ers who would go on to be­come col­lab­o­ra­tors at his stu­dio.

The course cen­tred more on film than an­i­ma­tion, but Dvorský was con­tent, free to ex­per­i­ment with his own projects. Samorost was one of them. “It was a very ex­per­i­men­tal project. I didn’t even in­tend to make a game, ac­tu­ally – I wanted to make some in­ter­ac­tive project, and I didn’t re­ally know what I was do­ing.” At the time, he was ex­per­i­ment­ing with col­lage, ven­tur­ing out to forests to snap pic­tures of moss, roots and mush­rooms and con­struct­ing a lit­tle world with them, an­i­mat­ing char­ac­ters in Flash. “In the end, it hap­pened that I had to ad­mit to my­self that it was a game.” It even­tu­ally be­came his diploma sub­mis­sion, and re­ceived a B from Dvorský’s highly tra­di­tional art school. Else­where, it was a dif­fer­ent story.

Samorost ac­ci­den­tally launched Amanita De­sign as a game stu­dio, and Dvorský’s ca­reer. He had orig­i­nally come up with the

“I WAS AL­WAYS GO­ING AGAINST THE HERD, IN A DIF­FER­ENT DI­REC­TION THAN EV­ERY­ONE ELSE. IT’ S MORE FUN”

stu­dio name as a brand for his pro­fes­sional cre­ations as a free­lance graphic de­signer, il­lus­tra­tor and an­i­ma­tor. But the In­ter­net was chang­ing ev­ery­thing about the in­dus­try he thought he had aban­doned. “Flash was very im­por­tant, be­cause I was able to build the game with­out a pro­gram­mer. I think it helped to build the whole in­die scene, be­cause many peo­ple were able to just quickly pro­to­type things and ex­per­i­ment. Even put it on the web, so many peo­ple could play. I put [ Samorost] on the web, and that was it – I didn’t need any pub­lisher, which I re­ally liked.” It scooped a Webby award and at­tracted a great num­ber of ad­mir­ers, and that was that. Dvorský was a game de­signer.

He and Blín con­tin­ued mak­ing games to­gether: com­mis­sion pieces for com­pa­nies such as Nike and the BBC. But Dvorský knew it was cru­cial to find the right struc­ture and di­rec­tion for his young stu­dio. The idea was for it to op­er­ate al­most like a record la­bel, which would al­low the team to work freely on their own side projects as well as main­line games. “I ad­mired Bull­frog a lot, be­cause they made very di­verse games – Syn­di­cate, and Dun­geon Keeper, and Magic Car­pet,” he says. “But all those games had some­thing sim­i­lar, or some at­mos­phere or feel­ing.”

Dvorský’s hir­ing strat­egy fo­cused strongly on artists, rather than ex­pe­ri­enced game mak­ers, and of­ten on rec­om­men­da­tions from friends. “With artists it’s eas­ier this way, be­cause we are this small coun­try and ev­ery­body knows ev­ery­body, the com­mu­nity is quite small,” he says. “And I un­der­stand art, so it’s eas­ier for me. It’s much more com­pli­cated with pro­gram­mers, be­cause I don’t do that.” It’s al­most cer­tainly the rea­son that the stu­dio stuck to mak­ing games in Flash for so long, from the first Samorost all the way up un­til its most re­cent re­lease, Chuchel. Amanita’s first full-length game, 2009’s

Machi­nar­ium, how­ever, re­quired a proper pro­gram­mer. David Oliva re­sponded to a job post­ing on Amanita’s fo­rums. “We met, and I re­alised, ‘I know this guy from the bar!’ He lived in the same square as me, in Brno.” Not all hires have worked out, how­ever, and it’s clear Dvorský is pro­tec­tive of Amanita, this bizarre lit­tle stu­dio grow­ing out of the cracks in the pave­ment of Prague. While his stu­dio has glee­fully pro­duced games akin to au­dio­vi­sual hal­lu­ci­na­tions, the rest of the Czech dev scene has grown into a very dif­fer­ent form around it. SCS Soft­ware has seen suc­cess with its Truck Sim­u­la­tor series; like­wise Bohemia In­ter­ac­tive with its mil­i­tary sim­u­la­tion games. “This re­al­ism, it’s com­mon to a lot of Czech com­pa­nies – not to us,” Dvorský laughs. “We are a to­tal op­po­site. And maybe that’s also part of it – we’re like the op­po­si­tion. I was al­ways go­ing against the herd, in a dif­fer­ent di­rec­tion than ev­ery­one else. It’s more fun.”

Over the years, Dvorský has ad­justed to a lead­er­ship role, even if he doesn’t re­ally think of him­self as ‘the boss’. “I didn’t have any am­bi­tions to do that, but it hap­pened some­how, nat­u­rally,” he says. It took him a long time to re­alise that he needed help with the day-to-day run­ning of the stu­dio, and to

trust that other peo­ple would be up to the task: for a long time, he was per­son­ally han­dling all of Amanita’s PR. “I am a bit of a con­trol freak,” he ad­mits. “And I am also a per­fec­tion­ist. But com­pared to my col­leagues, it’s noth­ing – they are so much more.” He has plenty more col­leagues nowa­days, all per­fect­ing their own projects un­der the Amanita De­sign la­bel. Along­side a few of its own in­ter­nally de­vel­oped games, Amanita has se­lec­tively ex­panded, help­ing de­velop and market a cou­ple of ex­ter­nally founded projects – Pho­nop­o­lis, a gor­geous-look­ing mo­bile puzzler de­signed en­tirely in card­board, and Creaks, an at­mo­spheric hor­ror puz­zle-plat­former with a twist.

But the glue that holds it all to­gether is that Bull­frog-es­que idea of a com­mon pur­pose that unites ev­ery­one’s (now quite var­ied) work un­der one la­bel. “I think it’s the art, and an­i­ma­tion,” Dvorský says, when we ask him to de­fine Amanita’s ver­sion of it. “We like to fol­low on this tra­di­tion of Czech an­i­ma­tors and film­mak­ers. And hand­i­craft – there’s a lot of hand­i­craft in our games. Some kind of play­ful­ness. And it means some­thing. Wellthought out, with an artis­tic mes­sage to ex­press.” A child­hood spent play­ing ad­ven­ture games such as Myst and The

Nev­er­hood meant that Amanita’s out­put nat­u­rally tended in that di­rec­tion from the very be­gin­ning. And there was some­thing that specif­i­cally drew Dvorský to mak­ing games in the point-and-click ad­ven­ture genre above all else, the one thing that in­spired Samorost all those years ago at art school. “The worlds,” he says with a small smile. “The worlds.”

You have to be a lit­tle bit ob­ses­sive to make an Amanita game. You cer­tainly wouldn’t guess im­me­di­ately from the looks of its idyl­lic Prague head­quar­ters. It’s a space that looks and feels more like a home than an of­fice – it’s warm and cosy, with bi­cy­cles parked out­side and shoes left at the door. A ket­tle is boil­ing in the kitchen. Two comfy so­fas face one an­other right in the mid­dle of the main workspace, an in­vi­ta­tion to lounge. With its open-plan lay­out, fan-made Amanita char­ac­ter stat­ues and the odd empty bot­tle of Pil­sner adorn­ing the desks, the air is light and ca­sual.

Look­ing closer, how­ever, there are clear signs of the kinds of peo­ple that Dvorský has care­fully added to his stu­dio in the past few years. The first thing we no­tice is all the card­board. These painted scraps form part of Pho­nop­o­lis, a mo­bile puz­zle game whose sets are de­signed and con­structed in card­board. It has spilled out from be­yond the loose con­fines of de­signer Oto Dostál’s makeshift ‘work­shop’ on the left-hand side of the room, along­side plenty of PVA glue and pots of paint­brushes – their tiny bris­tles used by co-de­signer Petr Filipovic to paint mod­els, of­ten one mi­cro­scopic dot of acrylic paint at a time.

In­spired by the bold aes­thet­ics of Fu­tur­ism and Rus­sian con­ser­vatism, Pho­nop­o­lis’ art

style blends phys­i­cal and dig­i­tal. Ev­ery sin­gle visual el­e­ment of the game is de­signed on a com­puter, then flat­tened into 2D tem­plates and printed onto card­board. Back­grounds, char­ac­ters and ef­fects are then cut out, slot­ted and folded into 3D dio­ra­mas, and painted in bright acrylics. The edges of the mod­els are dis­tressed us­ing sand­pa­per. “And scalpels – re­ally rough!” Dostál says. “If you put these things back into the com­puter, you lose some­thing. So it’s bet­ter to ex­ag­ger­ate, and then most of it will still be vis­i­ble.” The idea is to evoke the kind of nos­tal­gia one might feel when open­ing up an old box full of wooden toys: scuffed, well-loved, some­how warm and real. Then, the mod­els are pho­tographed and scanned back into a com­puter for post-pro­cess­ing.

It is in­tri­cate and painstak­ing work – we are handed a gi­ant stack of crum­pled pa­per and card­board and are told that this com­prises just two short lev­els – but the ef­fect is mag­i­cal. No won­der Dvorský felt that Pho­nop­o­lis should be an Amanita game. Dostál felt it should be, too. “When it comes to games I re­ally like, style-wise or at­mos­phere-wise, there is just Amanita De­sign in Czech Re­pub­lic, ba­si­cally,” Dostál laughs.

Pho­nop­o­lis was con­ceived in the spare mo­ments be­tween his and his team’s free­lance work on mu­sic videos and other projects, but af­ter se­cur­ing some fund­ing from the Me­dia Euro­pean Fund, they were able to cre­ate their first real set of vi­su­als. Then, they got in touch with Dvorský. “So it slowly be­came an Amanita game. They just de­cided to sup­port us,” Dostál says.

There’s a spirit to Pho­nop­o­lis that makes it feel like the right fit for Amanita: the hand­made feel that the team strives to achieve and re­tain through­out the process is a huge fac­tor. “When I was con­sult­ing with these guys, I al­ways loved the way

Pho­nop­o­lis looked,” Dvorský says. “Not only did the con­cept art look great, the world was in­ter­est­ing, and thought­ful. I felt there was a mes­sage. And I felt that it could be our game, eas­ily. It was very close to us.” As one seam­less whole, the tee­ter­ing tow­ers of sprite sheets, care­ful hand-de­tail­ing and post­pro­duc­tion trick­ery trans­form into some­thing mag­i­cal. A tiny house folds it­self into new shapes and rooms – a kitchen, a work­shop – at the swipe of a fin­ger. The bob­ble-headed Ar­chi­tect marches down the street with mega­phone in hand, as rows of march­ing bal­leri­nas trot be­hind him. Above all, there’s this feel­ing of won­der, that we’re peek­ing into a place so char­ac­ter­ful and so be­liev­able that it might be real.

It takes a lot of ef­fort to make things look easy, we sup­pose, and that’s one of Amanita’s trademarks. “That’s true,” Dvorský says. “Some play­ers don’t re­alise how much work we put into it. Es­pe­cially games like Chuchel – it looks so sim­ple and eas­ily an­i­mated, but very few peo­ple re­alise that there are three hours of an­i­ma­tion, maybe more. It’s like an an­i­mated fea­ture film, or even two fea­ture films to­gether. Few peo­ple re­alise what it takes. But in our minds it’s fine: as long as it looks fresh, and light, and not too heavy or overe­lab­o­rate. I like Chuchel be­cause of the feel­ing that it was made eas­ily.”

“CHUCHEL L OOKS SO SIM­PLE, BUT IT’S LIKE AN AN­I­MATED FEA­TURE FILM, OR EVEN TWO FEA­TURE FILMS TO­GETHER”

Part of Dvorský’s job as CEO is to pro­tect and nur­ture this feel­ing. There have been tough times in the stu­dio’s his­tory – Dvorský re­calls the point at which they were fin­ish­ing up Samorost 3, at the end of a very long five years, as a par­tic­u­larly dif­fi­cult pe­riod. Gen­er­ally, how­ever, Amanita is in the for­tu­nate po­si­tion of be­ing able to grow slowly, do­ing its best work at a sen­si­ble pace. It’s cur­rently cheap to live and work in the Czech Re­pub­lic, which eases much of the bur­den, leav­ing the group free to de­velop the kinds of games that don’t nec­es­sar­ily need to top the charts to keep Amanita afloat. “We would need two or three times more [money] if we were in the UK, and that’s a big pres­sure,” Dvorský says. “We were re­ally suc­cess­ful with our other games, so we are fine, and that’s why we can af­ford to spend as much time as we need.”

Hor­ror puz­zle-plat­former Creaks has taken six years, and it shows, the game shot through with Amanita’s sig­na­ture at­ten­tion to de­tail. Shears hung on the wall of the rick­ety house laugh snip­pily, and teapot lids gently snap open and shut: get closer, and they sud­denly stop. The ram­shackle old house is more creepy than scary, punc­tu­ated with lad­ders that our char­ac­ter must climb and de­scend to avoid ob­sta­cles and en­e­mies. Creaks is Amanita’s first move away from the point-and­click genre – we’re mov­ing and hop­ping over plat­forms us­ing the ar­row keys – and also into a slightly more com­plex, con­sis­tent and tra­di­tional brand of puz­zling, as we fig­ure out how to use light to re­pel and re­po­si­tion me­chan­i­cal guard dogs and move past safely.

In fact, it’s all slightly ho-hum at first – at­mo­spheric, with its au­di­ble shud­der­ings, squeaks and, yes, creaks, but not quite as strange and new as we might ex­pect. But we can see how it fits with the stu­dio’s work ethic: plenty of it is or­ganic, from the hand­drawn back­grounds down to the me­chan­i­cal paint­ings, which are done in acrylics, then pho­tographed and digi­tised. “One of the back­grounds was 12 A4 sheets which I had to scan separately and then con­nect in the com­puter again,” lead de­signer Radim Jurda says. Since be­ing picked up by Amanita, the work­flow has been sim­pli­fied some­what, with Jurda cre­at­ing cus­tom brushes that give the ef­fect of hand-sketch­ing for later lev­els. “But a big part of the game is like this, I think the first two worlds are like this com­pletely. I think some­times we want to do it sim­ple, but in the end it ends up like this!” He laughs. “I guess we are all per­fec­tion­ists at Amanita, and some­how, it’s kind of nat­u­ral for us.”

And then we see it: an­other all-im­por­tant flash of Amanita. We’re made to turn on a light just as a guard dog walks un­der­neath, and find our­selves do­ing a dou­ble take – and laugh­ing – as the crea­ture promptly morphs into a bed­side cabi­net. Here it is, that bit of whimsy we were miss­ing. And it is so Amanita, this theme of the mind play­ing tricks, that we’re al­most sur­prised that the stu­dio hasn’t pro­duced a hor­ror game be­fore now. “This idea with the imag­i­na­tion be­com­ing real some­how, it was some­how for Jakub the mo­ment to help him make up his mind to go for it,” Jurda says.

It’s an il­lu­mi­nat­ing time in which to visit Amanita. Af­ter 15 years of build­ing an iden­tity, the stu­dio is branch­ing out, but al­ways in a man­ner con­sis­tent with the core vi­sion. It’s clear Dvorský does things at his own pace, but we can’t help but won­der why all this di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion is hap­pen­ing now. Does he feel he’s done ev­ery­thing he wanted to do with the point-and-click genre? “To some ex­tent, yes,” he says. “I think it’s pos­si­ble to evolve this genre even more, and maybe we’ll con­tinue. But right now, I felt like I needed to try some­thing dif­fer­ent.” He men­tions Amanita’s new­est project, a game we have been shown a lit­tle of on some­one’s phone. “It’s still in very early stages. But it’s open-world, not a lin­ear struc­ture like pre­vi­ous games. The whole in­ter­face is a bit dif­fer­ent, even though it’s still an ad­ven­ture game, sort of. I wanted to ex­per­i­ment.

“The in­ter­est­ing thing about this game is that we don’t have a proper pro­to­type yet,” he con­tin­ues. In­deed, the charm­ingly ba­sic hub and in­di­vid­ual in­ter­ac­tive scenes (in which puz­zles have mul­ti­ple pos­si­ble so­lu­tions) aren’t yet con­nected to­gether as a work­ing whole. “I re­ally don’t know if it works or not at all. I still be­lieve it will, but it’s to­tally pos­si­ble it won’t, or that it won’t be fun.” And then there’s the shock­ing hor­ror game be­ing made by Jaromír Plachý, the artist be­hind

Chuchel. We’re al­lowed to play a brief demo, and leave feel­ing quite nau­seous – but con­vinced of its Amanita fam­ily re­sem­blance. If you thought Chuchel got weird in places, you haven’t seen any­thing yet.

Amanita’s broader growth into new gen­res such as hor­ror, Dvorský tells us, is “an or­ganic de­vel­op­ment. Creaks is made by a new team, so it’s their vi­sion. So it’s just co­in­ci­dence. And Jaromír’s game, I don’t know – he just evolved into this stage for some rea­son, no­body knows why. He looks fine, and happy. So again, it’s kind of a co­in­ci­dence. But there was a cer­tain dark­ness in all our pre­vi­ous games. So maybe it was just some kind of nat­u­ral evo­lu­tion, and who knows what will come next.”

More artists, in­evitably – al­though not too

“I THINK IT’ S POS­SI­BLE TO EVOLVE POINT-AND-CLICK MORE. BUT RIGHT NOW, I FELT LIKE I NEEDED TO TRY SOME­THING DIF­FER­ENT”

many, so as to pre­serve Amanita’s cul­ture. “But what I un­der­stand is that I prob­a­bly won’t come up with some ge­nius ideas in the fu­ture, be­cause I’m not young any­more,” Dvorský laughs. “But I can help some young tal­ented peo­ple maybe, and that’s what I’d like to do in fu­ture. But I hope we just will con­tinue do­ing our own stuff, our own way, and I hope we will be still en­joy­ing it, as we do now. That’s the most im­por­tant thing, oth­er­wise it wouldn’t make sense.”

In the end, all of Amanita’s en­ergy goes into cre­at­ing some­thing that can open a door to fan­tasy lands that only their artists could dream up; to cre­ate places that feel at once real and un­real. Per­haps that’s why Dvorský named his stu­dio af­ter Amanita mus­caria, the red-and-white spot­ted toad­stool that can in­duce pow­er­ful hal­lu­ci­na­tions, of­ten as­so­ci­ated with Alice’s Ad­ven­tures In Won­der­land. “Mush­rooms are kind of mag­i­cal,” Dvorský says, smil­ing. Given the amount of ref­er­ences to mind-al­ter­ing sub­stances in his games, we have to ask: has he ever taken them? “Oh yeah,” he laughs. “Sev­eral times. It’s hard to put it into words, what it’s like.” We sug­gest that per­haps he puts it into games, in­stead. “There is def­i­nitely some kind of in­spi­ra­tion. Those ex­pe­ri­ences are life-chang­ing, so ev­ery­thing is in­flu­enced by it a lit­tle bit, to some ex­tent. But Jaromír’s games are much more trippy, and he’s never done it. It’s in his head. But the thing is that all the psy­che­delic stuff, frac­tals and colours, is not in those sub­stances, def­i­nitely not. There’s noth­ing. It’s just a key which opens some­thing in your mind. It’s al­ready there.”

Many of Amanita’s games, such as Machi­nar­ium, are el­e­vated by fiendishly cre­ative mu­sic and sound de­sign. In­cred­i­bly, both tal­ented cul­prits share the same name – Tomáš Dvorák – al­though the com­poser goes by the alias Floex

Even Amanita’s un­usual game ti­tles are crafted with care. “The game is part of your life, and you’re mak­ing it for so long,” Dvorský says. “You al­ways say this word, and you have to feel right about it”

Jakub Dvorský, founder and CEO of Amanita De­sign

Samorost3 was the first full-length game in the series. Its five-year de­vel­op­ment re­mains one of the most test­ing pe­ri­ods in Amanita’s his­tory

“I think our games af­fect our side projects,” Dvorský says, “be­cause all those side projects are solo projects, but we work on the games to­gether”

This “panda” (above) is one of the less dis­turb­ing things we see in Jaromír Plachý’s unan­nounced hor­ror game. Its hero seems to take in­spi­ra­tion from the one in his mu­sic video for Ves­per­ing (left), a song by Amanita house band Dva. “Our games are def­i­nitely in­flu­enced by the art of all of us,” Dvorský says. “It doesn’t re­ally mat­ter where you put it, this vi­sion, if it’s pup­pets, film or a game. The vi­sion is still there”

Vá­clav Blín is one of Dvorský’s old­est friends: they started col­lab­o­rat­ing in 2004. He’s also one of the peo­ple be­hind Amanita’s first open world game

Each an­i­ma­tion sprite is painted at least four times, dif­fer­ences be­tween frames cre­at­ing a stop-mo­tion ef­fect. “Not sit­ting in front of the com­puter all the time, ac­tu­ally mak­ing some­thing phys­i­cal with my hands, it’s a nice change of pace”, Dostál says. “You just put on head­phones with mu­sic, and do dots”

Pho­nop­o­lis is Amanita’s first ten­ta­tive step into 3D. “We use forced per­spec­tive to make it half 2D, half 3D, to make it some­how flat,” Filipovic says, “so it looks like some­thing be­tween re­al­ity and a pic­ture”

From top: de­signer and an­i­ma­tor Petr Filipovic; de­signer and tech­ni­cal artist Oto Dostál

Pho­nop­o­lis is a love story set in a con­flicted so­ci­ety brain­washed by sound: many of its light puz­zles will re­quire a keen ear

Radim Jurda, lead de­signer and lead artist

The psy­cho­log­i­cal phe­nom­e­non parei­do­lia was a source of in­spi­ra­tion for Creaks’ un­set­tling world – Jurda even con­sid­ered it as a ti­tle

The story takes place over a sin­gle night, and sees our hero help­ing five bird-like char­ac­ters to pro­tect their world from a gi­gan­tic fe­line mon­ster. Creaks is also the first ever Amanita game in which the pro­tag­o­nist can die

Creaks es­chews the tra­di­tional Amanita hint sys­tem: in­stead, if you’re along the right lines with a puz­zle so­lu­tion, the mu­sic builds en­cour­ag­ingly

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