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Jay Tholen is the man behind Dropsy. In this interview he talks about his current project, game design and worldbuilding, Kickstarter, being picked by Revolver and even more!

Nico Saraintaris, Blogger

December 18, 2013

5 Min Read

Jay Tholen makes music, art and games. He is currently working on Dropsy, a surreal exploration based adventure game. And now he answers our questions!

1. How long have you been making games?

Oh man, I think it's been about 14 or 15 years now. I started making games as a kid, immediately after finding a demo of Klik & Play on a Sim Tower CD. There was a lull in my later high school years, but other than that I've never stopped.

2. Where do you find ideas for your games? Tell us something about your creative process.

Many places. Other mediums, especially music, also influence me in my design principles. On a less abstract level, I really like worldbuilding. The process of creating a mythos and filling/stuffing it with detail, as if writing a history book, is exciting to me. I've been on this kick for a while. I like the idea of creating a compelling, interconnected world, and making each game a glimpse into that world.

3. Wow, man. Dropsy. First of all, congratulations on funding it! How was your Kickstarter experience? Any favourite backer feedback?

Thank you! Kickstarter is an awesome avenue for funding, and I'm glad I tried again after our initial failed campaign. It allows you to make a real connection with the people investing in you, which is invaluable. Our 'final hours' show was a blast, and many of the backers were in the Twitch chat for it. Some of the European backers were up until the early morning hours to hang out with me. That was really nice.

4. Dropsy uses a “small but unique visual-dialogue system”. Where this idea come from?

The idea for the visual dialogue system came from necessity. Dropsy can only speak in seemingly incomprehensible babble, and isn't good at taking social cues. I felt it was very important to his character to keep this intact, so I had to think of a way of the player to engage NPCs without being able to directly 'talk' to them like you would in most adventure games. Dialogue is represented by a series of icons, not all of which you'll fully comprehend. This mirror's Dropsy's communication problems, and adds a unique challenge to the game.

5. Publisher Devolver Digital is working with you now. Can you tell us how all this happened and how is your experience so far?

I've been a fan of Devolver for a while, so I'm naturally thrilled to have them as Dropsy's publisher. I think they saw the coverage on Rock, Paper, Shotgun and emailed me about working together. They've been awesome, and the deal we've worked out is mind-bendingly fair. Still haven't seen Fork Parker's velvet-lined golden jet ski though. Maybe one day.

6. What are your favourite adventure games?

It's so hard to pick. I prefer Lucas Arts' games for the original settings and characters, and Myst/Riven for gameplay. Grim Fandango and Monkey Island II stick out in my mind. I just recently played Gabriel Knight for the first time and loved it. I've been to New Orleans a lot and they captured the vibe pretty well.

7. Your music is great, really mesmerizing. What are your influences?

Thanks! My biggest influence will probably always be 70's prog rock like Magma, Gong, Genesis, and King Crimson. I'm also a big Brian Eno fan, especially his first four albums. I enjoy Dub/Roots reggae, Krautrock, and rap as well. I know I'm namedropping a lot, but Soul-Junk may be my favorite musical act ever. His albums flirt with almost every genre.

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

Oh man, this is a really hard question.

1. Brad Muir - This guy is an excellent game designer. Iron Brigade/Trenched was brilliant and Massive Chalice is a classic in the making. He exudes positivity and comes across as a humble, unpretentious person It shows in his work too. We need more of those types in this industry.

2. Derek Yu - I've been a fan of his since he released Eternal Daughter in 2002ish. We were both active in the Klik community back in the day, and it's been neat to see his career blossom.

3. Steve Swink - I only just discovered him during his Scale kickstarter, but I can't wait to see what he does in the future. He's inventive, and understands what makes games fun to play.

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

Nope, not really. My newest console is a Nintendo Gamecube. I tried playing Planetside for a few months after it came out, but I'm just abysmal at first person shooters. I think I'm generally more of a slow paced RPG and adventure game type of guy. The last game I played a lot was Earthbound a few months ago. I did play into Day 2 of Gabriel Knight 1 recently, which I enjoyed.

10. One last random question. If you could turn into any mythical creature... which would it be and why?

Majestic Pegasus. Because it's a horse with wings and that's rad.


*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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