Mike Dietz, founder of Pencil Test Studios on everything related to Armikrog.
Armikrog is being developed by the people behind Earthworm Jim and The Neverhood games, and guess what? Armikrog will be yet another stop motion clay animated adventure game. In order to know how the title is shaping up, GamingBolt caught up with Mike Dietz who is the founder of Pencil Test Studios. Check out the full interview below.
Rashid Sayed: Armikrog features one of the weirdest (in a good way) soundtracks I have ever listened. From where exactly did you got the idea from?
Mike Dietz: We made another stop motion game several years ago called The Neverhood, for which we hired musician Terry Taylor to create the soundtrack. Terry crafted a unique musical style for that game that contributed quite a bit to the overall success of the game. So of course once we began work on Armikrog Terry was the natural choice to do the music. And once again, he’s created a fantastic musical style for the game.
The game describes as a claymation video game. How difficult is to achieve animations that depict behavior of clay?
Well, technically it’s not “claymation”, since that’s a term trademarked by the famous Will Vinton. We’re creating Armikrog with stop motion animation techniques using clay and a variety of other materials. Creating performances in stop motion is quite similar to other animation mediums such as hand drawn and CG animation. However with stop motion is you are using real physical objects, so you do have to deal with the laws of physics more than in other mediums.
You are also animating “straight ahead”, which means you animate from the start to the end straight through without the opportunity to go back and rework the animation as you go, so it is a little more challenging in that respect. However, there’s a certain “magic” you can achieve in stop motion that doesn’t happen in other styles of animation, which comes from the fact that these are real, tactile and tangible objects that appear to be coming to life.
"Armikrog is a point and click adventure game and adheres to many of the conventions of that genre. There are third person environmental puzzles that require you to collect items and figure out ways to configure the environment to progress further."
Rashid Sayed: The game is scheduled for a launch this year. Do you guys have an exact release date locked down?
Mike Dietz: Armikrog will be out this Spring, but we haven’t locked down the date yet. We will make an announcement once we do.
Rashid Sayed: The game is being released across a number of platforms. How much of a challenge has it been developing across so many platforms?
Mike Dietz: We’re developing Armikrog using the Unity engine, which is built for cross platform deployment. The PC is our lead development platform, but Unity makes it relatively easy to deploy to other platforms. Certainly easier than when we were writing our own engines.
Rashid Sayed: You have a solid cast of voice actors for Armikrog. How do you plan to tell a solid story? Furthermore, how long will the game last?
Mike Dietz: We’re weaving the storyline into the game in a fairly traditional manner, through cinematics and other materials that you come across throughout the game. Similar to our old game The Neverhood, in Armikrog you are on a voyage of discovery, trying to find out where you are, the history of your surroundings, and what exactly it is that you need to do.
Rashid Sayed: We don’t seem to have much information on the gameplay mechanics. Will you be able to explain in detail the several elements of the gameplay?
Mike Dietz: Armikrog is a point and click adventure game and adheres to many of the conventions of that genre. There are third person environmental puzzles that require you to collect items and figure out ways to configure the environment to progress further. There are also first person puzzles that unlock items, story points and new areas in the game. We also have some more cerebral elements that allow you to make connections between visual and audio clues in order piece together the back-story of the game.
Rashid Sayed: There is a lot that is been made out of the power differences between PS4 and Xbox One. As a developer how much of that difference matters or is something that matters on paper and not in practical scenarios?
Mike Dietz: Every platform has its own advantages and disadvantages. Very often you need to develop for the lowest common denominator for all your target platforms, and then add in platform specific elements that play to the strengths of each platform. In the case of Armikrog, this game is far more about the art experience as opposed to the tech, so we haven’t felt particularly limited by any of our target platforms.
"It's been nice to see the user base and the game library for the Wii U increasing over the past year, and we think Armikrog will be a nice addition."
Rashid Sayed: What are your thoughts on the Wii U? Furthermore, how is the Wii Version of Armikrog shaping up?
Mike Dietz: It’s been nice to see the user base and the game library for the Wii U increasing over the past year, and we think Armikrog will be a nice addition. The Wii U version of Armikrog will be essentially a port of the PC game, with added enhancements taking advantage of the Wii U’s unique abilities and interface.
Rashid Sayed: As a indie developer, what is your take on the 1080p and 60fps? Furthermore, is Armikrog going to run at that standard across all platforms?
Mike Dietz: Armikrog will run in HD, but we’re only supporting 30fps. Stop motion requires you to hand craft every single frame of animation, so moving from 30 to 60 fps literally doubles the amount of animation production! Personally, as an animator, I’m not a big fan of 60fps. It’s definitely smoother, and it’s great for camera moves, but very often character performances can start to feel too soft and “swimmy”. I’ve animated at 24, 30 and 60fps and 60 is my least favorite.
Rashid Sayed: Is there anything else you want to tell us before we let you go?
Mike Dietz: I’d just like to say thank you to you, all our fans and all our Kickstarter supporters. We couldn’t do this without all of you!