Machinarium

VIDEO: An interview with Lukas Kunce of Amanita Design

It's the week of the Game Developers Conference here in San Francisco, which means devs from all over the world are in town to show off their games, talk about how they're made, and throw business cards at strangers. 

Lucky for us, Lukas Kunce of Amanita Design, creators of point-and-click classics like Machinarium and the Samorost series, was kind enough to sit down with me away from business card firing range. We had a nice chat about their most recent game Chuchel, what they're working on now, and the future of adventure games. 

We also learned a bit about what the studio is working on now, including a horror game and another built of 3D scans of cardboard creations. For fans of fluff, we also discussed whether Chuchel will get the plushie treatment, what the hell the blockchain is, and brainstormed what an Amanita shooter would look like. (Hint: it won't look like anything.)

Listen:

Download the MP3 directly

Subscribe on iTunes

Grab the podcast RSS feed

Your flapping heads for this episode:

James Davenport

Lukas Kunce

Machinarium

You can find this eerie face on Jarom r Plach 's website, the only game project without a name or description. 

During a GDC interview with PC Gamer, Lukas Kunce of Amanita Design, creators of point-and-click classics like Machinarium and the slapstick comedy adventure Chuchel (which is a riot), confirmed that the studio is working on four new games, one of which is the studio's first attempt at horror. 

It's the most games the studio has worked on at once, says Kunce. "We usually had one game going on at a moment, but now it's four." 

While chatting about the musicians behind Amanita's games, Kunce gave us a few hints about what to expect.

Yeah, it's like Chuchel is a full out burst of comedy, this is a full out burst of disturbing things.

Lukas Kunce, Amanita Design

"Right now, Floex is not working on anything, but he's probably going to start working pretty soon on one of the four secret projects, and DVA are working on another from Jaromír Plachý, who just finished Chuchel," says Kunce. "And he's already almost finished another game." 

Jaromír Plachý is better known putting his creative energy into some of Amanita's more buoyant, pleasant games, but if he can do scary as well as he does cute, then we're in for some prime spooks. 

"It's going to be a horror game, actually. Yeah, I've already played a bit and it's so disturbing," Kunce tells us. "Yeah, it's like Chuchel is a full out burst of comedy, this is a full out burst of disturbing things."

We should know more by the end of the year, but Kunce didn't want to make any promises.

The horror game will probably be whatever the opposite of this is. 

When I asked if Amanita was always going to stick to 2D design, Kunce dropped a few details about one of the other three games in development.

"Well one of the games is played from the 2D perspective, but it's actually made in 3D, so we can probably say we're not 2D anymore."

He continues, "All of the assets and all of the buildings in the game and characters are made from actual cardboard and painted and stuff. And then they're scanning it into Unity and kind of animating it and post-processing it. It's got a super unique look."

You'll be able to listen to our complete conversation soon, in which we ask what an Amanita shooter would look like, whether Chuchel will get the plushie treatment, and what the hell the blockchain is.

Machinarium

Czech developer Amanita Design is currently holding a small sale on Itch.io. The sale runs through 3 pm Pacific this Saturday, December 9, and includes four of Amanita's best adventure games. 

First up, Botanicula, a humorous tale of seedlings. We called it a different kind of adventure that quickly grows on you in our review, and it still holds up as one of Amanita's finest. It's on sale for $3 at 70 percent off.

Next there's Machinarium, a veritable steampunk sister to Botanicula. It's every bit as excellent, and is also $3 at 70 percent off.

Finally, Samorost 2 and Samorost 3 are just under $2 and $6 respectively. Samorost 3 is arguably Amanita's masterwork.

If you're hungry for more Amanita, have a gander at the official trailer for their next game: Chuchel, the story of an angry hairball and his cherry. More on that here.

Machinarium

Every week, we ask our panel of PC Gamer writers a question about PC gaming. This week: what's your favourite game soundtrack? We also welcome your answers in the comments. 

Evan Lahti: Cuphead

I'll go with the best soundtrack right now, and surely of the year: Cuphead. The ragtime, '30s jazz looks to Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway as big influences, but it's so much more than an attempt to put a period-authentic sound into a game inspired by the animation of that era. Cuphead's music is inseparable in its style and tempo, and the big band/jazz sound enhances the calamity of its boss fights and platforming, where you're meant to feel off-balance and improvise to stay alive.

This great Paste interview with composer Kris Maddigan (who'd never written game music or this style of music before), highlights one unique approach they took to recording, too: "... [I]n most of the big band tunes you'll have some ensemble piece which is written out and then you'll have a section where someone takes a solo and then you'll have another ensemble section, and what we did with all the solo stuff is we recorded all of that separately," Maddigan says in the interview. "Once we had completed all the big band sessions we brought in half a dozen soloists and we recorded them playing over top of a lot of the solo sections on the charts. So that's why you might have one tune but six different versions of it. So each tune, you can have the same tune but it's going to have different solos on it, just to keep things interesting in the game. So if you die at a boss, if you leave and you come back to that tune, it's going to be the same tune but it's going to have somebody else soloing over it. We were conscious of it that way, too, trying to maintain a certain amount of interest on repetition like that."

It's also almost three fucking hours long. Runners-up: Any of the Crypt of the Necrodancer soundtracks, Samorost 3, Doom 2016, and Brigador.

Phil Savage: Command & Conquer: Red Alert

Obviously the correct answer is a Command & Conquer soundtrack. But which one? Clearly not Tiberian Sun. Its brand of dark, ambient electro is pleasantly late-'90s, but I played that game for tens of hours and I can't remember a single one of its tunes. Red Alert 2 is strong—Grinder is arguably the best bit of menu music in PC gaming. But HM2 is just a touch overproduced, and I'll be damned if I'm calling a soundtrack with the second best version of Hell March my favourite.

It's between the original Command & Conquer and Red Alert then. I have a lot of love for the former, mostly because of how weird and experimental it is. Act On Instinct is a legit good industrial pop song, soundtrack or not. And Just Do It Up is just amazing. Yes. But, if I'm honest with myself, there's something that feels slightly off kilter and embarrassing about it all, sort of like that time in Nine Inch Nails' Pretty Hate Machine where Trent Reznor—for no particular reason—recited the nursery rhyme “rain, rain, go away” and it felt inherently silly but we all collectively agreed to pretend it didn't happen for 28 years. So: Red Alert, the Broken to Command & Conquer's Pretty Hate Machine. It's full of driving, churning aggression trapped inside a harrowing machine, which is probably a metaphor or something. Also, it's got Hell March, so obviously it's the best.

Jody Macgregor: Bastion

Darren Korb calls the soundtrack for Bastion "acoustic frontier trip-hop", because he's a musician and they say things like that. It's a mix of folksy guitar, sampled beats, and instruments from all over the world that sounds unique to its fantasy setting. It's excellent enough on its own, but even better in context.

You're exploring and rebuilding fragments of a broken city, and one of the vocal tracks, Zia's Song, has an entire level built around it. You walk across rusted train tracks, cross wooden beams connecting floating islands, and as you do the music gets louder. Vocalist Ashley Barrett's singing gets clearer too, cutting through the reverb. And then you realize why—this isn't just a soundtrack you the player are listening to. It's being sung by another survivor, a lament both sad and hopeful, and at the level's end you meet its singer.

Bastion's music isn't just good stuff to listen to while you smack monsters with a hammer or shoot them with a bombard cannon. It's a part of the game that matters to its characters the way great music matters to us, that allows them to remember their past and look forward to a better future even while their world's in ruins. The soundtrack is available at Bandcamp

Wes Fenlon: Neotokyo

Here's a bit of an odd one: Ed Harrison's soundtrack for Neotokyo, a years-old multiplayer shooter mod for Half-Life 2. It's not that the music is odd—it's just a slightly strange pick for me, because I've never actually played Neotokyo. I once went hunting for moody electronic music that evoked cyberpunk, and I came across Neotokyo. It's the more menacing alternative to Deus Ex's peppier score, and for years one of my go-to soundtracks to write to. I could put it on, lean back into it, and enter a cyberpunk trance. 

You can listen to it for free on Bandcamp, and I especially like disc one of the double album. It all blends together for me—I can't call out any particular tracks—but if cyberpunk to you is more ominous than Vangelis, you won't be disappointed.

Austin Wood: Nier: Automata 

I love Nier: Automata's soundtrack for its quaking, operatic ancientness, but I'm highlighting it here because, like the game itself, it gets better with age. Automata's layered endings gain poignancy with each subsequent play through, and the music piles on verve in kind. Composer Keeichi Okabe did a fabulous job of not only keeping pace with Automata's replay value and preventing the music from getting repetitive, but also leveraging that design with a truly dynamic OST. On top of orchestral and vocal variants, there are low, medium and high intensity versions of most tracks—which add up to roughly six hours of music altogether. There are some real bangers tucked away in the song list, and the way versions build on each other is a tidy echo of Automata's central themes. 

Andy Chalk: Machinarium 

The one soundtrack I always seem to come back to is Machinarium, by Czech artist Tomáš Dvořák, also known as Floex. All of Amanita's games are beautifully musical, but this is the one that that's stuck with me. A lot of it is mechanically percussive, and some of the songs are really upbeat—the Robot Band Tune comes to mind—but what I particularly enjoy is the distant dreaminess of the ambient electronica in tracks like The Glass House With Butterfly or By the Wall. Wonderful game, wonderful music.

The soundtrack is available for purchase or free listening here: http://store.floex.cz/album/machinarium-soundtrack

The bonus EP is a free download: http://store.floex.cz/album/machinarium-soundtrack-bonus-ep-free-dwnld

Steven Messner: Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn 

MMO soundtracks are massive, messy beasts meant to accompany an entire world's worth of themes and flavors. But Final Fantasy XIV's soundtrack deftly explores new sounds and styles while still feeling true to Final Fantasy composer Nobuo Uematsu's original work. There's a stunning breadth of genres on display, but each becomes a piece of a mosaic that colours in the wider world of Eorzea. And like the best Final Fantasy scores, each composition becomes a part of the area it accompanies. I love the quiet, comforting piano that plays as I walk the streets of Ul'Dah at night.

One other aspect that deserves being recognized is how incredible the boss fight music is. It turns every raid fight into a WWE match, where the boss steps into the area accompanied by a theme that becomes inextricably linked with their persona. That music sets the tone and makes each raid fight feel climactic. Again, there's an amazing breadth of musical flavor on display, from the raging tempest of guitars that accompanies Garuda to the rousing and catchy Lakshmi theme.

Samuel Roberts: Silent Hill 2

If I had to pick a single entry from Konami's once-great series, it'd be Silent Hill 2. Akira Yamaoka's score is somehow extremely chilled out despite being the soundtrack for one of the best horror games ever made. The highlight is probably The Theme of Laura, as embedded above, but there are tons more great instrumental tracks that make for perfect working music. Heaven's Night, for example, or Restless Dreams

The series has fantastic music across the board, particularly the title tracks. A special shoutout for the grunge-infused and deeply mid-'00s Cradle of Forest from Silent Hill 4: The Room, which is a personal favourite, and obviously You're Not Here from Silent Hill 3. I saw Yamaoka and his band play a bunch of these live two years ago, and it was an amazing experience. 

My only gripe: Konami appears to have pulled Silent Hill 2's soundtrack from iTunes in the UK (you can still get it in the US), so even though I've bought Theme of Laura to listen to on my phone, I can no longer redownload it because they stopped listing the album, which is...shit. Ah, the digital future. The music's amazing, though. 

What's your favourite game soundtrack? Let us know in the comments. 

Machinarium

Machinarium, the point-and-click adventure about a bug-eyed robot named Josef and his girlfriend Berta, was originally released in 2009 and is very good—in fact, it was the game that hooked me on Amanita Design's later work, including Botanicula and Samorost 3. But it hasn't aged particularly well, mainly because it was built using Adobe Flash. So Amanita has updated it with a completely redone "Definitive Version" that's now available on Steam

"We’ve reprogrammed Machinarium from the scratch. The game is now using a custom made DirectX engine instead of Flash which has become quite old-fashioned in recent years," Amanita wrote. "Therefore you can finally enjoy Machinarium even on modern high resolution screens. And thanks to added gamepad support, the game works perfectly in Steam Big Picture." 

The updated version also features 12 Steam achievements, Steam Cloud saves, and even leaderboards for "Quickest Win" and "Explorer," which measures total distance traveled. It's also been localized with 14 different languages, and the studio said that Steam trading cards are also planned, hopefully in the summer. 

The Definitive Version update is free for existing owners of Machinarium, and it makes a tremendous difference: It looks fantastic at high resolution, and runs like butter. Machinarium is also currently on sale for $2.50/£2/€2.50 as part of the Steam Summer Sale, which runs until July 5. 

...

Search news
Archive
2018
May   Apr   Mar   Feb   Jan  
Archives By Year
2018   2017   2016   2015   2014  
2013   2012   2011   2010   2009  
2008   2007   2006   2005   2004  
2003   2002