Saturday, April 3, 2010

Eufloria, Revisited: A Follow-Up with Rudolf Kremers and Alex May

Eufloria_Splash[4]Quite a long time ago, Craig did a write-up on a new indie game called Dyson. The rest of Charge Shot!!!’s editorial staff played it on his recommendation and loved it, which led to a full-on review of the finished product (now called Eufloria) and an interview with the duo responsible for creating the game.

If you happen to be in front of your computer this Saturday evening with no plans in particular, we sat down with Rudolf Kremers and Alex May once again to ask some follow-up questions, ranging from how they arrived at the Eufloria name to how interested they’d be in working on a game about pandas. Sound appealing? Read on!

Charge Shot!!!: First thing’s first: the name.  Eufloria was the winning entry in a contest you ran to rename Dyson.  Why the name change?  Does Eufloria express something you felt Dyson was lacking?

Rudolf Kremers and Alex May: Not quite, it has more to do with the fact that we were completely unprotected against legal challenges on the name. Nobody complained in the end but the Dyson corporation could well have decided to get annoyed by our usage of the same name they have trademarked. Also, we felt the game progressed enough to differentiate it from its freeware past, and give it a new life under a new name. :-)

CS!!!: You worked a thin thread of narrative into Eufloria's campaign - like the music and coloring, it seems mostly ambient. Did you need to resist the urge to add more?

RK&AM: Not at all, the point of the narrative is to place the action into a suitable context. No more and no less, and a minimalist approach was conducive to letting people fill in the blanks in their own minds rather than letting us spell it out in too much narrative content.

CS!!!: I found myself challenged by the waiting in Eufloria. More than once, I kicked back with a book and waited five or ten minutes for my trees to sprout more seedlings. As I was about to complain, it occurred to me that the game might be telling me to slow down, shut up and relax. Was it?

RK&AM: To a degree. We are so used to certain gaming conventions that we sometimes forget that playing without a timed challenge has its own rewards. We did want to give the player more alternative things to do though rather than being forced to sit and wait, and we ended up lacking time to do this well. It is one of the areas where the game suffered a bit in the end.

CS!!!: In our first interview, you said you consciously avoided the neon-on-black aesthetic of Geometry Wars - but here I am on the last level, my asteroids haloed by neon blue on black space. I'm glad you came around - how was it for you?

RK&AM: It was a happy accident, and it felt really good. We just played around with some RGB values in the level files and just for fun I chose all zeros. It looked so good we decided we needed more of it. :-)

CS!!!: On the technical side of things, Eufloria was having problems running on Intel's integrated graphics chips. As developers, how do you feel about having to program for hardware that is so unsophisticated yet so widespread?

RK&AM: This has now been fixed! The hardware landscape is what it is. We tried to reach as many people as we could, but there will always be compatibility issues on PC, especially for tiny teams with ONE programmer.

CS!!!: In his review, Andrew sheepishly asked for a multiplayer component. I'm formally echoing his request. Is multiplayer in Eufloria's future?

RK&AM: Alas, no. The time we would need to make this possible is better spent on other things in our opinion.

CS!!!: Being freeware, Dyson saw a number of releases and updates, including the Seumas McNally Award-nominated "IGF Build."  Will there be any follow-up content for people who purchase Eufloria?

RK&AM: Indeed, and there have in fact been several updates already. There have also been quite a few releases of user-made levels and mods and we are in fact working to make that even more viable. 

CS!!!: How did developing for a retail release impact the next stage of development?  How did your relationship to the game change with the knowledge that you'd be charging for the finished product?

RK&AM: In many ways it was positive, as it forces the mind to take decisions in development terms that would otherwise just drag on. In other ways it is not so fun as you suddenly have responsibility for the entertainment experience of thousands of players, and that can be a sobering realization. Overall it was a good thing to do though.

CS!!!: Now that the game is out, how is the great, unwashed gaming public reacting - and how are you reacting to their reaction?

RK&AM: Well, it has literally exceeded our expectations. Somewhat shy and nervous, we had to see how well the game would do as we are fully aware that Eufloria is a bit different from more commercially inspired projects, but the general consensus is very positive. There are no guarantees in life and although we had hopes it is still a relief that people like the game. There are some interesting reactions that stand out, some people think the game is too easy or is not strategic enough, or treat it through the filter of genre expectations. There are many many more people who have completely immersed themselves into the experience as a whole, and treated it for what it is in its own right, which was one of our goals. The game is not without flaws though and we have definitely taken peoples’ comments on board.

CS!!!: While it remains to be seen how successful Eufloria is financially, it does seem as though the two of you have made something that resonates with a lot of people. Do you have plans to work together on any projects in the future? Do you have any ideas brewing right now?

RK&AM: We always have ideas, and we definitely have future plans. We are in fact already working together as it stands and I hope we can tell you more fairly soon. :-) Without going into exact numbers the game has been successful enough for us to be able to continue making games independently, which is a massive boon, and since our first collaboration has turned out so well we definitely will seek to do this more often!

CS!!!: Sometimes you hear of indie developers making something impressive, and then being bought up by larger developers - for example, Valve hired the team that made Narbacular Drop and tasked them with turning it into Portal. Has Eufloria opened any doors for you professionally?

RK&AM: Well, interestingly there was a lot of interest in Eufloria from several major publishers, but Alex and I value our independence so we have only taken on those opportunities that leave our independence intact. We are both experienced games industry survivors so we don't really need to break into the biz in the traditional sense. Either way, professionally this has been a very good experience, the game has opened all kinds of doors and given us a wealth of new friends as well as business contacts.

CS!!!: For one last question, I'd like to bring it back to the Eufloria naming contest.  On your website you mentioned that the contest generated quite a few awesome but ultimately unusable names - my personal favorite being Panda Box.  Any thoughts on what a game called Panda Box might be?

RK&AM: The Panda Box was one of THE standout ideas. It is just so evocative! In marketing terms it could be a bundle, like Valve's Orange Box, or in game terms there are all kinds of bizarre possibility. Maybe a panda herding game where the player needs to make sure all pandas enter a box?

I must say that I truly hope that one day I will be able to work on a game that features pandas. :-)

Rudolf Kremers’ and Alex May’s Eufloria is currently available for $20 from Steam, Direct2Drive, and the Eufloria Web site.