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Afterglitch Seeks to Stir Unknowable Emotions in Utopian Space

Afterglitch takes players on a spiritual journey through an almost-overwhelming vision of extradimensional utopian space.

Joel Couture, Contributor

February 20, 2023

6 Min Read
a person in a space suit floats through a plaid universe
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This interview is part of our Road to the IGF series. The IGF (Independent Games Festival) aims to encourage innovation in game development and to recognize independent game developers advancing the medium. Every year, Game Developer sits down with the finalists for the IGF ahead of GDC to explore the themes, design decisions, and tools behind each entry.

Nominated for the Nuovo Award and Excellence in Visual Art, Afterglitch takes players on a spiritual journey through an almost-overwhelming vision of extradimensional utopian space.

Game Developer caught up with the game's creator, Vladimir Kudelka, to talk about exploring spirituality in space, seeking the representation of extradimensional beings through the visuals of glitches, and how the game aims to stir up a feeling in the player that cannot be described with words.

Who are you, and what was your role in developing Afterglitch?

My name is Vladimir Kudelka and I come from the Czech Republic. I am a solo developer who worked on the game Afterglitch for seven long years. I even kept it hidden from everyone except my family for most of that time.

What's your background in making games?

I started making games with the arrival of the iPhone and iPad. These devices completely fascinated me. At the same time, I was studying at an art college where I was creating interactive installations. In 2012, the game Dear Esther impressed me and I began to believe that a new gaming industry was emerging and that I wanted to be a part of that community. In 2015, I completed my first major game, Rememoried, which was released on PlayStation, Xbox, PC, Mac, and Linux.

Astronaut walking on water with rusted spacecraft

How did you come up with the concept for Afterglitch?

The concept of Afterglitch gradually crystallized in me over more than a decade and I think I was mainly influenced by film. I have always loved Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. This was followed by films such as Danny Boyle's Sunshine and Christopher Nolan's Interstellar. At the same time, I felt that I wasn't a total fan of the sci-fi genre, but that I was looking for spiritual planes in space that I otherwise find in the films of Terrence Malick. My anchor in my mind is the film The Fountain by Darren Aronofsky.

What development tools were used to build your game?

Unity, Cinema 4D, and Photoshop are the tools I used to build the game. They are the three tools I can't do without. Since seeing Death Stranding by Hideo Kojima, I've also been fascinated with the use of photogrammetric models, which take the appearance of video games to a new level.

Afterglitch's visuals draw from utopian sci-fi. What appealed to you about this visual aesthetic? What made you want to use it in a game?

The utopian sci-fi aesthetic appealed to me. Aesthetics are very important in games for me. It was probably shaped mainly by sci-fi illustrations from the 70's and 80's. I was influenced by the work of Czech painter Zdenek Burian and also by Salvador Dali. Dali's famous work Corpus Hypercubus from 1954 became the basis for Afterglitch. It shows Jesus Christ crucified on a spread-out tesseract (hypercube). This led me to the fourth dimension and to think about how to portray it.

Glitchy visuals also play a part in the game. What interested you in using this look? What beauty do you find in glitches?

I started discovering the beauty of glitches in my interactive installations, but they found their way into the game naturally while I was looking for a representation of the fourth dimension. What would a multidimensional entity or object look like when it appeared in our space? It would probably look like some form of glitch.

astronaut floating with glitch effect

What thoughts went into the creation of the exploratory gameplay? Into exploring a kind of folding, twisting, kaleidoscopic space?

These were thoughts on the experience of transcending the boundaries of time and space that mercilessly bind us. It was a desire to bring the player a new experience beyond their expectations.

The game can be disorienting with its look. What do you want this appearance to make the player feel about themselves? About the possibilities and mysteries of the universe beyond our planet?

That's right. I wanted to take the player out of their comfort zone. In our world, the rules are generally clear, but they can completely break down in new worlds.

Players often need to figure out what to do with these stages. What ideas went into creating puzzles within the visuals and their behavior?

The main motif is essentially parallel worlds. If we accept that there is an infinite number of instances of ourselves, just thoughts can play an interesting game. Afterglitch is about repetition, reflection, and finding oneself. It does not answer questions but rather poses them.

Astronaut floating with planet in background

People may often find themselves feeling lost in these striking worlds. What was the appeal of letting players feel lost for a while?

To lose the player for me means going against conventional level design. That's what I've been trying to do all along. I often hear about the need to teach level design in schools, but I admit I don't know if that's right. Will games keep repeating? Is it enough to just slightly modify the grid?

The audio is fairly grounding within the work, seeming to provide an anchor while feeling lost in the visuals. What ideas went into the music and audio design?

Overall, I approached the audio quite minimally. First, a silent version of the game was created, and based on the overall visuals, I searched for appropriate audio. This final phase can be quite draining because everything has to fit precisely. I knew that I could multiply the overall impression but also harm it. The foundation is the tones at the beginning of the game, the astronaut's breath, and the unintelligible radio communication.

The visuals can be almost overwhelming in their complexity, seeming to speak some hidden meaning while they make my head feel heavy with some unknowable, infinite possibility. Was there some emotion or sensation you were hoping to evoke in the player through the game? What feelings did you hope to stir up with Afterglitch?

I wanted to achieve a certain transcendence. Something that cannot be described in words, and that's why I chose this medium. To reflect from the sci-fi genre and continue through philosophy to religion. Not to describe, not to illustrate, but to feel. Until the last moment, everything was even more abstract, and I gradually connected the fragments accumulated over seven years of development. I hope that Afterglitch will bring intellectual satisfaction to open-minded players.

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