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Unknown Pleasures 2009: Machinarium

Amanita Design have quietly made gentle adventure games for a few years. As well as the gorgeous Samorost games, they’ve also produced equally charming Flash games for the BBC, Nike and The Polyphonic Spree. Machinarium is their first full-length project, hand drawn and meticulously animated, about a city populated by robots. We spoke to front man, Jakub Dvorský, to find out more.

RPS: Can you tell us a bit about Machinarium? A poor robot’s been thrown out of the city, right?

Jakub Dvorský: Yes, the story is about a little robot who has been unjustly thrown out to the scrap yard, out of Machinarium, which is town populated only by robots. In the game he returns back to the town and meets the gangsters from Black Cap Brotherhood – they are just preparing a bomb attack on the central tower where the town ruler has residence. Of course our hero must stop them and also rescue his friend robot-girl.

RPS: We’re very excited at the idea of a full-length Amanita game. Why did you choose to go in this direction, making a longer adventure?

JD: It was my dream for many years to create full-length adventure with a little different graphic style. In a bigger game is more space for creating story and atmosphere, and the player is more sucked into it. We were also encouraged to make bigger game by the players of our previous games.

RPS: Has the process been very different?

JD: Yes it is different, mostly because we put together bigger team and the communication among us is now a very important part of the work. Therefore it’s more complicated, but we have also more fun and the results are better. Also we need more patience as the developing process is really long and it’s always difficult to stay concentrated on one project for such a long time.

RPS: Are you having to create puzzles differently?

JD: Perhaps it’s not because the project is larger but yes, we are creating puzzles much more carefully now. Everything is more logical and the player really has to think about the puzzle before he is able to solve it. No more brainless clicking :) We believe the game would be a good tool for brain training.

RPS: You’ve mentioned that the animations for the characters is a “cut-out animation technique”. Can you explain a bit more about this?

JD: It’s a simple classical animation technique when you paint all parts of character’s body separately, cut it out with scissors and the animate it frame by frame under the camera. It’s similar to puppet animation only it’s 2D. Of course we are doing all graphic parts and animations in computer so we don’t use scissors and camera, but most of the animations are done essentially similarly – frame by frame and very carefully.

RPS: The sombre atmosphere of the Samorost games perhaps came from the dark, worn organics and creaking, rusted machinery. The artwork shown from Machinarium shows similar themes, but slightly more optimistic, with glimmers of colour, and cheerful-looking robots. Can you talk a bit about the art design, and the reasons behind these themes?

JD: We wanted Machinarium a little bit more funny. There are some quiet jokes and funny characters, however we don’t like humor at any cost. On the other hand the atmosphere is still slightly dark so it’s in opposition to that funny side and that is interesting for us.

RPS: How did you first come to work with Tomas Dvorak? How important do you think his music has been to the success of your games?

JD: First I had his album Pocustone at home and I liked it a lot. I felt that his music would be perfect for our style so I contacted him and luckily he was very glad to work with us. He already knew Samorost1 when I asked him to create soundtrack for Samorost2. I consider our games as fully audio-visual-interactive pieces so the music is very important for us.

RPS: We certainly wish such things like Questionaut [an educational game created for the BBC] had been around when we were at school. Did the BBC respond positively to it?

JD: Yes they told us that it’s their most visited game and the feedback from teachers and players is very good. It was also nominated for BAFTA Children’s Awards.

Machinarium should be out later this year.

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John Walker

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One of the original co-founding robots of Rock, Paper, Shotgun, I'm now a senior editor and hero of humanity. Old and special.

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