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We Ask Indies: Cactus, creator of Hotline Miami and tons of other weird titles

Amazing swedish game developer Cactus talking about creative process, influences, collaboration, favourite gamedevs and Crystal Boys, his band!

Jonatan Söderström (a.k.a Cactus) is a swedish game developer making weird, rad and bizarre amazing games. He co-founded Dennaton Games with Dennis Wedin and made Hotline Miami. He also has a band named Crystal Boys. Now he answers our questions!


1. How long have you been making games?

A bit over ten years now.

2. How many games have you made? (We know you made a lot, yeah. But just to have a number, heh). Where do you find ideas for them? Tell us something about your creative process.

I've made a bit over 50 games, and probably three times as many unfinished prototypes. A lot of the ideas are based on tiny things I see in other people's games, other ideas come from paintings, movies, comics or books that do interesting things I haven't encountered before. Usually I try to expand on the initial idea that inspired me and if it turns out interesting I add mechanics to make it feel like a game.

3. Hot Throttle is one of our favourite Cactus games. Where did its idea come from?

I'd been reading a lot of Shintaro Kago's manga. Unlike most of the games I finish the idea was purely conceptual and had nothing to do with mechanics, which is why I'm not entirely happy with the game. I wish I'd had a better prototype that was fun to play before I started working on it.

4. You art (color palette, drawing style and everything) is amazingly cool. Do you recognise any influence from other artists?

I owe a lot to Messhof, jph_wachesky and TheAnemic/biggt. Mostly people who I encountered within the Game Maker communities.

5. Let's talk about collaborations. How do you choose people to work with? What do you seek, if anything?

I usually don't, most often it's people who contact me, or I'm at a game jam where you are more inclined to be social. I like working with other people, but find it hard to figure out who should take the lead.

6. Hotline Miami. How did you work the narrative elements of the game? Any reading, game or movie you remember that may have influenced the development of the story?

David Lynch is probably the biggest inspiration there, but also Drive with it's minimalist plot and lack of dialogue. I also really enjoyed Gordon Freeman's lack of voice in the Half-Life games.

7. Hotline Miami 2 will feature a level editor(This is not a question, just a cool fact about upcoming Dennaton Games' title).

8. If you have to choose three and only three game developers to follow their work closely, which ones would you choose and why?

TheCatamites (Stephen Murphy) is amazing. Right now he's making rather short games, but his bigger projects are usually the most inspiring to me. Vlambeer has a solid track record and they keep pumping out good games like there's no tomorrow. Lastly I'd say Ikiki who has been releasing a ton of great games for more than a decade now.

9. Are you a heavy gamer? What games are you playing now?

Not really. I play some Soul Calibur and Mario Kart Double Dash with my friends. Once we're done with Hotline Miami 2 I think I'm gonna give Dark Souls a try.

10. One last random question. If you guys at Crystal Boys could get a gig in any music festival in any part of the world, which one would it be and why?

All Tomorrow's Parties, mostly because I'm getting too old to sleep in a tent, and a festival at a hotel sounds awesome. But Primavera Sound always books great acts, so I'd really like to go there as well.


*We Ask Indies is an initiative by Beavl, an Argentinian independent game studio putting some teeth into videogames. You can check all the interviews here (caricatures are made by amazing artist Joaquín Aldeguer!).

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