Developers Insight – Daedalic Entertainment

Daedalic Entertainment are the indie development team behind recent release Chaos On Deponia. I speak to Simon Nguyen, lead scripter and Jan Mueller-Michaelis creative, lead author.

Daedalic Entertainment are the indie development team behind recent release Chaos On Deponia. I speak to Simon Nguyen, lead scripter and Jan Mueller-Michaelis, creative lead author.

Q) How did you get into game development?

Simon: This was not a process happening over night. As far as I can remember I always loved to play computer games. After finishing school, I studied Media Systems at the Bauhaus University in Weimar, Germany. Some of the projects I was working on were dealing with a certain kind of interactive gameplay. This was probably the very moment when I realized I liked this specific type of interactive game. By the time I almost finished studies in Weimar, I was considering an internship before graduating. That’s the reason why I applied to Daedalic Entertainment in Hamburg, Germany. Back then it was a bunch of around 30 likeable people and I really loved my job there. I think they liked me and the job I was doing as well, since I got hired in the end. This was already 3 years ago.

Q) Where would you advise people who want to become game developers to start?

Simon: The first question they should ask themselves is along the lines of: “Do I like playing games?” or “Am I a gamer?” .The next step should be then to apply for an internship to a game developer in order to grow familiar with the gaming industry and to learn the ropes.

Q) What is the most essential skill for a game developer?

Simon: Team spirit and the will to learn new things are really important in the first place. Although it’s not wrong to know, what you are actually doing with your computer. Another essential ability required to create good games is being confident regarding communication. Special Skills, like becoming a Yoda in C++, you will acquire as time passes. There’s also always something new to learn; every day, every hour and maybe every minute.

Q) What engine would you recommend someone starting out to use?

Simon: I think Unity3D is a good thing to start with. It’s not primarily suited for 2D-Games, but it’s viable. If you have programming experience and you want to develop classic 2D Games, you can give “Visionaire” a shot. But if you have some programming skills, better stick with Unity3D anyway.

Q) How did you come up with the basic idea for Chaos on Deponia? (Poki)

JMM: In the beginning Deponia was planned as one single game. Therefore the idea for the second part already came up while working on the main idea. Actually there were even two different sparks that preceded the idea regarding the world of Deponia: first, I wanted to make an adventure set in a rather unusual scenario, which is at least as funny as more common settings. A planet made of trash seemed like an ideal adventure playground for point & click fans to me.

The second thought was to make a game dealing with the messiness of life. Every one of us has goals which are so out of our league, they appear initially unrealistic. The more fantastic and unreachable these goals are the more one has to step out of their usual sphere of action. But this can only happen at the expense current convenience. Thus, to discard a content and stable life may seem egocentric.

Occasionally the whole world appears to be one giant construction site, patch worked from things that actually should have been disposed. And this is Deponia’s motif. Rufus’ flirt with goals out of his league, namely the city in the sky “Elysium”, is reflected in his feelings for the character “Goal”. Under the cloak of bizarre ideas, the second part of Deponia puts emphasis on this love story.

Q) What engine did you use for Chaos on Deponia?

Simon: For almost all our adventure games we use “Visionaire Studio”.

Q) What were the key skills needed to use that engine?

Simon: You don´t need special programming skills for this engine in the first place: Having a logical way of thinking, though, is helpful if you want to create scripts more easily. However, you can do almost all of your scripts in LUA, the language used for the programming link. Sometimes this is a faster, but not always an easier way to do your scripting process.

Q) What limitations did you find using that engine?

Simon: Sometimes you have a scene or a room with many animations. Due to the huge amount of 2D-Images it’s possible to overload your graphics-memory. Especially out-of-date hardware has its memory filled rather quickly, because the engine isn’t working efficiently in certain cases. Although a lot of things changed since “The Whispered World” or “A New Beginning” – which by the way are great adventures – the engine back then was not as accurate as it is now in regards of Deponia 2. So some users reported crashes on some computers.

Another thing is the particulate pedestrian way of scripting. So especially if you have a programming background and you only want to do simple things – for example a logical combination of more than 2 Boolean Values – it´s really annoying when you need to do more than just some clicks.

Q) How did you counter those limitations?

Simon: Issues concerning the engine itself are assigned to our engine programmers. This way the engine can always be extended and updated. For the scripting issues we often have to find a workaround. So sometimes the dirty way is better than a clean one, because it works. In the end when it´s finally working the way the game designer want it, everybody is happy.

Q) How long did it take you to make Chaos on Deponia?

Simon: Actually we had not as much time for COD as for the predecessor. I guess we started with the prototype-script in the middle of January 2012. Until release we had about 6 months to finish the game.

Q) Where can the industry go in the future? (Poki)

Poki: I would like to say that the industry can go wherever it wants. But even though the gaming-industry is still very young it already grew into a sluggish clump. And obviously it’s actually subject to mass trends, not always leading to a beneficial direction. It’s indeed visible that the industry always moves inertially and blind towards new trends, promising short-term profit. Very often these green fields are already grazed before the masses even reached them. At that point it’s already too late to stop the process, though.

It’s the duty of small, flexible independents to find new ways, always with the fear riding on their backs that this giant clump is closing in on them if they stop to discover untouched green fields. Most of these mentioned green fields are still not discovered nor explored, and the already known ones are not fully grazed yet. New technologies always offer a perspective, but never a guarantee a successful reclaim.

I wish the industry would act more considerately and invested more resources to cultivate already developed areas, instead of just rushing into new ones like locusts. This could be the way to tap into the full potential of what is probably the entertainment industry’s most important medium in the 21st century.

Ryan Archer

About Ryan Archer

Gamer. Enough said.