The Dream Machine
A handcrafted point & click adventure game made out of materials such as clay and cardboard. It's about a young couple trying to establish a new life in a new city. Unfortunately for them, they move into an apartment complex concealing lots of seedy little secrets.
What was your inspiration for making the game?
When we tried to establish the mood for the game, we looked a lot at Polanski's Apartment-trilogy, polish film poster art and Cronenberg movies. The game revolves around a pregnant couple that moves into a strange apartment building, so Rosemary's Baby seemed like an obvious starting point. But it wasn't until we rediscovered The Tenant that things started to click.
There's something about the universe in The Tenant that we really loved. It's dark and dirty in a distinctly European way. You know, moldy and dank. You can smell it. As a viewer you get caught up in this feverish conspiracy in a way that makes you feel more like an accomplice than an observer. The strange involvement you feel watching movies like The Tenant and Peeping Tom is something we were inspired by.
How is your game unique from others out there?
The most obvious thing is the hand-built graphics. It's not totally unique of course. We owe a great debt of gratitude to the pioneering works in the sub-genre of hand-built adventure games: The Neverhood, The Dark Eye and Blackout. They all came out 15 years ago though. We think the world is ready for another.
How long did it take you to make your game?
Three years so far, and we still have two more chapters to release.
What was the hardest part about making it?
Keeping up motivation has been tricky at times. We've been making this game for three years now, and on so long a time span your enthusiasm does tends to dip a bit. Luckily we've been portioning it out episodically so with every release we get a lot of feedback, which refuels us again.
Going to events such as Indie Game Challenge – meeting great people in similar situations – sure has helped a lot as well.
Any other unique or interesting facts about your game we should know about?
While at animation school, I read a lot about John C Lily and his experiments using LSD and Ketamin. He had this beautiful notion that he was visiting an alternate reality during his drug-induced hallucinations, a place with a coherent geography. He started drawing maps of what he had encountered once he regained consciousness, noting down things like landmarks, geographical features and coastlines. He thought that if he had enough map pieces and then spliced them together, he would be able to slowly chart this new reality. To me, that idea just sounded so naïve and beautiful. I had to make something of it. In our game we approach dreams in a similar way.
How did you pick the name of your game? Did you have any others in mind?
As I recall we decided on the name just prior to submission deadline. The form required us to state a name so we came up with The Dream Machine. I can't recall any others, but had I named it today I wouldn't have given it a name that totally spoils about half the plot.
Questions for the Team Leader
I'm from Malmö and Erik's from Allingsås. Both are cities in the southern half of Sweden, hence the strange characters.
I went to the University of Lund for a couple of confused years, before heading off to animation school. Erik went to an art school before he decided to try his hand at animation.
What is your gaming background?
Prior to The Dream Machine I made a handful of small browser-based games, among them Gateway 1 and 2. I did advertising games for a while, and worked for the company that did Ilo & Milo.
Erik has a background in stop-motion commercials and feature-length films. This is his first game.
How long have you and your teammates known each other? What's the story behind how your team got together?
Erik and I were paired up on one of the first days at animation school in some sort of icebreaker exercise. I can't recall what the exercise was about, I remember thinking that he seemed like a good guy. That was 15 years ago. Man, time flies…
What game or games are you playing right now?
I enjoyed the hell out of Botanicula and Dear Ester. And To the Moon, of course! How could I forget that? That might be my current favorite.
What is your favorite all-time game?
I adore Sam'n'Max: Hit the Road, Loom and Grim Fandango. Played them back in the day and still remember them as some of the most powerful gaming experiences I've ever had.
What is your least favorite all-time game?
We love games, but find the market oversaturated with bland same-y looking action clones. They're so generic I can't even remember their names anymore. Call of Halo? Medal of Duty? I just can't tell them apart. They're like the boy bands of the 90's.
What is your best game-related story?
I don't know if it's the best, but off the top of my head I fondly remember meeting John Romero. He's an old childhood hero, so naturally I wanted to take an awkward fan photo with him. He was nice about it and graciously posed with me. Apparently other people had had the same idea, so when they saw me fiddling around with a camera in front of him, they asked me to be the designated cameraman. So I stood there unsuccessfully trying to make sense out of all these different camera and Smartphone models, being painfully slow about taking each picture. To make things worse, I took about ten pictures with each camera just to be on the safe side. For each shot, I noticed John's smile getting more and more strained. I can only imaging what he was thinking. It took me about 15 minutes to finish the pile. In the end, as I was shaking his hand, thanking him for being a good sport, I forgot that I was holding a beer and managed to spill about half of it on my crotch before making a beeline to the exit.
First video game system you owned?
My first point of contact with video games was a Commodore 64. I have many a-fond memories playing on that.
Current favorite system?
I'm pretty much a system agnostic. They all seem pretty swell to me. However I have huge problem with the current trend in console gaming, were the word "player" seems to be more and more equated with the word "consumer". Owning a TV and a console used to be enough, but that's getting increasingly outdated. If you want to play the latest games, you have to plunk out for the plastic peripherals, the camera, the 3D TV, the motion sensitive controller. It's the PC graphics card race all over again. They're fragmenting the market nickel-and-diming the players like this.
The industry should move in the opposite direction – lowering the pre-requisite bar between the player and the game. Until that happens I'll remain unimpressed.
When you and your team aren't making awesome games, what other hobbies are you involved in?
About two years ago I started becoming more and more interested in cooking. It's a nice way to relax your mind grapes. I started doing it purely out of necessity. I didn't have money to buy expensive ingredients, so I had to try to make the best of what I could afford. That's a really good way of learning how to cook.
Erik has two small kids so he doesn't really have much free time. He's into tabletop games, preferably Lovecraft-themed.