Road to the IGF: Amanita Design's Samorost3

Gamasutra speaks to Amanita founder Jakub Dvorský about the studio's enthusiasm for real-world textures and what the studio hopes to achieve with its latest Samorost title.
Machinarium thrust Amanita Design into the popular consciousness -- its intricate and textured visual design made it stand out of the crowd. Now, its creators are back with a new, experimental game, Samorost3 -- the latest in a long line of IGF finalists for Amanita Design. The game's haunting trailer (above) is another example of Amanita's enthusiasm for the warmth of the real: Machinarium's handcrafted visuals brought warmth to a world that could have been cold; Samorost3's music brings forth its soul. Continuing our Road to the IGF series of interviews with nominees, Gamasutra speaks to Amanita founder and artist/designer Jakub Dvorsky about the studio's enthusiasm for these real-world textures and what the studio hopes to achieve with its latest Samorost title.

What's your background in making games?

I started making games when I was 15, and I was always drawing and designing fantastic worlds. Later I studied classical animation and then I founded Amanita Design studio, which is still slowly growing with every new project. Our most important games are Samorost, Samorost2 (Best Web Game, IGF 2007), Machinarium (Excellence in Visual Art, IGF 2009) and Botanicula (Excellence in Audio, IGF 2011).

What development tools did you use to build Samorost3?

We use Flash, Rebol, Photoshop, Cintiqs, pencils, papers, camera.

How much time have you spent working on the game?

It's been almost three years since we started seriously working on Samorost3, and I'm thinking about it and occasionally designing even longer.

How did you come up with the concept?

Samorost3 is obviously a sequel to the first and second Samorost, but this time it's a much bigger, more polished and more thought-out game. We want to make the game more logical, entertaining, and also replayable, so our approach to game design is different than in the first two parts. We also changed art style quite significantly. While the backgrounds in older games were collages from real photos and characters were painted in vectors in Flash, this time the whole game and characters are mostly digitally painted. Also music plays a more important role this time, so we invested more energy into it and the whole musical dramaturgy is much more complex and connected with the game itself.

What's the purpose of the recurring mini-series of Samorost games -- in terms of your work process overall?

When we were thinking about our next game, we desperately wanted to create a completely new game. So we started coming up with various game concepts, but most of them were way too crazy to take seriously. Then there were more interesting concepts of surreal science fiction games, games from some weird, natural worlds full of strange creatures, and games with some kind of spiritual dimension. And then we realized it's possible to create such a game -- but it will be dangerously close to the world of Samorost. So in the end we just decided to make another episode from this world which we love, and it's still very much alive in our minds. There are very little limitations for our imagination in the world of Samorost, so it's perfect.

What role does mood play in communicating meaning to players?

I think, the mood, atmosphere and these subtle things are very important in all our games -- in Samorost especially. We want players to be sucked into our world, and we offer them not only gaming challenge but also an audio-visual feast full of things which hopefully raise some emotions.

You were nominated for Excellence in Audio, and your games have strong original soundtracks with live instrumentation. Can you talk about why?

I believe live instruments are more evocative, warmer, detailed and simply more powerful than pure electronic music. We love the complexity of nature and natural things. In graphics we use textures photographed from real surfaces to enrich the visuals with another level of tiny details and complexity, and the principle is the same in music and sound design.

Have you played any of the other IGF finalists? Any games you've particularly enjoyed?

Yes, I have played a few. I loved DEVICE 6 for its simple yet innovative approach, I was addicted to Don't Starve for a couple of days (my girlfriend thought I'm crazy when I sat all Sunday starring at the computer and clicking on twigs and stones), Papers, Please is interesting but a little painful (I still remember communism here in Eastern Europe), Gorogoa has a great concept, Drei looks fantastic, and I had so much fun with The Stanley Parable.

What do you think of the current state of the indie scene?

Well, it's big :) I think the scene is in a good shape despite hundreds or thousands new studios which were established only for money making reasons. Games are on the way to become the most interesting art medium.

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