IGF Factor 2010: Trauma

Trauma is unusual, and blistering with potential. It puts you as a girl, surviving a car accident, trying to piece together her identity via experiencing photograph-formed visions. Beautiful, unconventional and hauntingly atmospheric, I can’t wait to play the finished game. As it’s been shortlisted for Audio, Visual Design and the Seumas McNally Grand Prize in the IGF, I suspect I’m far from not alone. An interview with developer Krystian Majewski and footage of the game in action follows…

RPS: Firstly, a brief intro to those who may not know you. Who are you? What’s your background? Why get into games? Why get into indie games?

Krystian Majewski: I’m a designer from Cologne. I made my degree at Köln International School of Design. I’ve been developing my own games since the age of 10 or so – back then on my Atari 130XE. It continued like that pretty much through high school. Afterwards I went on working for Neon Studios, a pretty cool German development studio in Frankfurt. However I stayed there only very briefly because my design studies began soon. During my studies I realized that working in the games industry won’t give me the creative control over a project I really need. So I started figuring out how to get into indie game development. My final thesis was a great opportunity for a first project which later became TRAUMA.

RPS: And… the game. Tell us about it. What was its origins? What are you trying to do with it? What are you most pleased about it? What nags?

Krystian Majewski: TRAUMA began as one of many ideas. The initial concept was to make a biographical point & click adventure games using photographic visuals. I was inspired by Samorost back then but wanted a more realistic setting. And this was really just the starting point of a tremendous amount of research and a pretty intense design process. In the end, the story of TRAUMA ended up being far away from my own biography and the visuals developed in a direction I haven’t quite anticipated. Nevertheless, I consider the project very successful. Even though a lot has changed, I was able to nail the intended look and feel.

RPS: What’s your feelings on the IGF this year. Pleased to be nominated? Have particular love, bemusement or hate for any of the other entries? Is there anything you think is missing?

Krystian Majewski: I began my work on TRAUMA specifically with the intent to get nominated for IGF. But when you work on something like this for two years and experience all the ups and downs, you stop believing in such lofty goals. My last hopes were pretty much extinguished when I saw some of the titles on the IGF FTP server. So the nomination blew me away.

I haven’t played too many of the other finalists. The ones I know certainly deserve the nominations. However, I do miss titles like Auditorium or Windosill. I was certain I would be competing with them.

RPS: How do you feel about the indie scene generally this year? People have been relatively downbeat about 2009, after 2008 being so obviously incendiary. What are the themes, in your eyes? What are people missing?

Krystian Majewski: It’s hard to judge the games if I haven’t played them yet. Also, the indie scene has grown quite a bit so a singe might not be adequate enough to cover the entire spectrum of the scene. Generally I think we are doing great! Indie games become more and more a valid alternative to mainstream games and there is a lot of diversity too. There is only one thing I would like to see more often in the future – I would like to see more indies thinking about the meaning of their games. There are a lot of cool experiments with game mechanics and visuals but the results are rarely used to make a worthwhile statement about the world we live in. If computer games are to be taken seriously as a medium, we need to explore their expressive potential as well. If we don’t they might be will never be seen as anything more than mere escapism.

RPS: And how does the future look for you? What are you working on now and the foreseeable future.

Krystian Majewski: I’m really focused on finishing TRAUMA right now. The feedback I received so far war tremendously positive and I’m eager to let even more people play it. Otherwise, I’m currently also involved in eduction. I work for the Cologne Game Lab. It is a new institute of the University of Applied Sciences in Cologne. We are trying to establish a Master course in Game Development and Research with a unique perspective on games as a important cultural product or even art. The work will focus on developing and prototyping new game ideas. There are plenty of connections between this and my own game projects so I will stay here for now. But being able to go 100% indie would be a very nice thing to do eventually. I’ll do that when I find a way of making it work financially.

RPS: Thanks for your time.

Trauma will be released in the new future. You can follow its development here.


  1. Jet says:

    Damn, that looks good. Totally awesome take on story-based gameplay. Can’t wait for the finished product.

  2. Thirith says:

    There’s something about this that brings Hard Rain to mind, although I can’t put my finger on why I’m drawing that link.

  3. Taillefer says:

    This looks and sounds fascinating. I can’t help feeling the navigation may actually become a little tiresome, so hopefully that’s broken up somehow, but we’ll see. Looking forward to it.

  4. Pani says:

    I really like the German accent voice over, it really adds to the mystique.

  5. TimA says:

    Oh no please not mouse gestures.

    • Guildenstern says:

      Oh yes, please, mouse gestures!

    • Sonic Goo says:

      Mouse gestures can be good or bad depending on how they’r implemented. I never liked the way they were used in Darwinia, for example. There, it seemed gimmicky and tacked on. However, I’m currently playing through Trine and I do like it there. We’ll have to see how it works out here.

    • sfury says:

      Mouse gestures can be awesome and (pardon the pun) game-changing when they’re well implemented, e.g. I use them everyday in Opera for browsing and it’s a totally different experience compared to other browsers (even when they too have mouse gestures add-ons).

      I don’t remember much of Darwinia’s use of them (because I didn’t finish it and it was a long time ago) but for a more simple and 2D game like a quest I think they would be perfect.

    • HYPERPOWERi says:

      I love mouse gestures. Arx Fatalis, where you had to draw runes with the cursor to cast a spell, comes to mind. Also, Mount & Blade, where the movement of the mouse determines the angle of a swing.

      N.B. The article says that the game will be available in the new future. I’m too tired to make snarky remarks about this.

  6. RagingLion says:

    Yeah, I watched that trailer and checked out Trauma after the IGF nominations were first announced. It looks amazing and has a very unique design which I’m glad is being explored. I think this is a game I’d really like to play, almost more than all the other games nominated. I quite like what he says about games aiming to have more meaning as well.

  7. Alex McLarty says:

    Sounds and actions remind me of Deckard in Blade Runner interrogating the photo he found in Leon’s apartment.

  8. Brumisator says:

    ACH! Cherman Foice akting, Ja Ja!

  9. Jayt says:

    Looks amazing. Heads up the link to Cologne Game Labs at the end is borked

  10. Springy says:

    I’m loving all the IGF coverage and developer interviews. Wonderful stuff, RPS.

  11. col says:

    Nice use of Photosynth – alway’s thought it’d make a nice game mechanic.

  12. sfury says:

    Cannot wait for this to be released!

  13. TeeJay says:

    I like the art style, sound and voice-over. It reminds me a bit of Google Maps Streetview, except faster, sexier and spookier – kind of like a real-life location had been given a surreal make-over, the people had mysteriously disappeared and things infused with bits of magic and hidden ghosts. I’ll definitely check this one out when it arrives.

    • Rune says:

      As an IGF judge I played this game and how you describe it is exactly how it feels! It was one of the most exciting games IMO. Not the “fast-paced action” kind of exciting, but in a meaningful introspective sort of way combined with the feeling that this is genuinely a new kind of playing experience.

  14. Shadowcat says:

    Still totally intrigued by this. Voice acting seems excellent and appropriate, and the other audio helps to set the mood. Not sure about the rather loud transition samples (I’m hoping that they can be disabled, or the volume decreased independently), but everything else to do with the sound is really nice. Visuals are really nice, and I love the way you see a version of the possible next steps as you look around.