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Developer Dialogue: Mutazione Interview @ PAX West 2019

At PAX West, I had the opportunity to interview Nils Deneken. He is responsible for Die Gute Fabrik, the German game developer responsible for the upcoming indie title Mutazione (pronounced mootatseona). The game is often described as a “mutant soap opera”, following Kai in a beautifully-crafted island where people have become mutants. Living among them is Kai’s grandfather, who needs help in his sickly state. The game’s main focus is a musical garden in which you plant things that flower into music-producing beauties. Characters of all kinds and personalities give you an emotional journey through Kai’s grandfather’s illness.

Nils was good enough to sit down for an interview about this project which he claims to be a cornerstone in his life that has been ten years in the making:

 

Mutazione Floating Island

 

Brandon: “Over the past decade or so, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in the creation of ‘relaxing’ games, and a lot of them are received pretty well. Why do you think people should be and are attracted to these relaxing games like Mutazione?”

Nils: “I think it has something to do with the fact that people have a lot of work to do during the day, and they often get stressed out from work, and in the evening you probably just want to be passive and just watch a series or something. Or if you play something, sometimes it gets a bit exhausting to play a game that really challenges you a lot skill-wise, so perhaps something that you can play without having to think about, ‘How do I solve this puzzle,’ or ‘How do I get past this enemy,’ or ‘How can I be better at this game or level up,’ or something like that. Sometimes it’s nice to play something that just lets you progress and you can take at your own speed and your own pace, and I think it’s appreciated a lot.”

B: “Die Gute Fabrik creates games that recycle ideas from other games. Where does Mutazione pull its inspiration from?”

N: “It’s definitely older adventure games, as well as just newer influences… [Even games that are] very puzzle-oriented, [they have] a sense of place. It didn’t really help trying to rush it. It really asks you to kind of take it easy, so that’s definitely where a lot of the inspirations are from.”

 

Mutazione Gameplay

 

B: “If you were to choose one aspect of the game, what would you say this is a game about? Is this a game about story, characters, artwork, etc?”

N: “The main focus is really hard to define. I would definitely say it’s this narrative experience, like getting to know the characters, the environments, and experiencing the story of this universe. That really includes everything.”

B: “So, is the narrative where you originally started?”

N: “It started all out from this place that I wanted to create. There were different concept drawings. One of them was a girl going through one of the wildernesses, which is actually pretty much the same as it was from the concept sketch. The other one was this mutant village, this community of different characters, and the main character in the middle of it. I love this group photo and this ensemble cast, so those are the two elements there: the environment and the village with this setting.”

B: “This art style is really unique, and something that’s really cool is that everything looks like this flat 2D painting when, all of a sudden, you can find yourself going into and out of it. It’s a really cool visual experience as well as a narrative experience. How did you begin to develop your concepts for which art style you wanted for this game?”

N: “I think that came from my background. I’m educated in a design context. I studied visual communications, and I did a lot of illustration before that. I was always a big fan of 2D animation as well, like 2D graphics and not having to build models, but just being able to draw them and put those things one-by-one into your game.”

B: “It really gives you more of a canvas feel than a world surrounding you.”

N: “Exactly. It gives you more control over your environments as well, it gives you more control over the camera framing, the composition of the picture. Playing a 3D game is still really nice because then the player becomes the narrator of the game. Here I still have more control over that, which I really like being able to control the environment and what the player sees. 2D was always my favorite. I always work with vector graphics, so I sketch stuff in my sketchbook so every character comes originally from the pencil sketch, then I scan those and vectorize it.”

B: “It’s very beautiful. So, last question, when does it come out?!”

N: “It comes out very soon. We don’t have an exact date, but it may come out in September if we’re lucky. ”

B: “Thanks so much, Nils! I’m so excited about this one!”

 

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