We chat to Delirium Studios’ designer and creative director, Arturo Monedero, about new game The Delusions of Von Sottendorff & His Square Mind, Justin Bieber, Monkey Island, the European indie scene, and mosquitoes.
Forty people have been involved in the production process, over four years of hard work. This is a big difference from our previous work The Rivers of Alice, which was a much more intimate and personal creation. Von Sottendorff retains Delirium’s soul though, but we have completely changed our tone.
What inspired you and your team during the development stage?
We wanted to develop a new platform game, with a different and original mechanic - but in keeping with the flavour of the classics. We also wanted to recreate a more "European" aesthetic and atmosphere. One could say that there are three key references in which inspired the development: for mechanics, the 15-puzzle game; for its platform side, Jet Set Willy (a very old Spectrum game); and for the story & character, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (by Terry Gilliam). My own nice memories of those references have impregnated this development.
Can you tell us about your team at Delirium Studios? How you got started, where you're based etc.
Sure! This adventure began nine years ago in Bilbao - a beautiful city in northern Spain. Delirium Studios has three main partners, all there from the very beginning: Asier Quesada (CEO), Ivan Armada (CTO) and myself (CCO). We began developing advergames, animation and 3D. We needed to learn a lot before making the leap to the video games industry, and becoming independent developers.
After three years we got there, with Kinito Ninja - our first game. We got some revenues and some international awards with this first title, so we decided to focus on game development. At that point we left advertising agencies and “clients” aside. This was one of the most courageous decisions we have ever made in our life, but one that provided us more happiness…
Gradually, we accelerated our productions’ quality level, until The Rivers of Alice saw the light – a title as personal as it was strange, but the one which placed us in the national and international scene. Today, we have six people in the team, but at some points we are as many as twenty - crazy!
...It is a very difficult market - between AAA and indie developments, there is a tremendous desert...
How difficult is it for indie developers in this current market?
It is a very difficult market - between AAA and indie developments, there is a tremendous desert. The player is so demanding because he/she really does not care if your game is developed in Bilbao or New York - it is difficult to make a space for yourself on the international tablecloth. To achieve it takes time and hard work – a great effort.
In Spain, the situation is not particularly good, four hundred studios have emerged, and the country has no capacity to absorb all the titles going on sale. International communication is a must – not investing in it could mean your studio vanishes before you get to launch your second title. I would like to know what American indies’ point of view is in this regard… Would they feel the same as I?
What advice would you give to someone looking to work in the video gaming industry?
Years ago, I would have said to start up a studio with three friends and explore... Nowadays, I really think the levels of market saturation don’t allow enough space for trial and error... I would advise them to get experience from a larger company. It is interesting to get hired and learn as much as you can before: i.e. how do they work, how do they produce, why do they do what they do like they do, etc. Do not stop learning and observing until you have enough experience to make the leap and become a well-trained indie developer. We would probably only need four years to produce what took us eight…
What game(s) have had the biggest affect on your life, and why?
This is a tricky question, it is impossible to answer! LOL! It is true that there are games that become a milestone, such as Monkey Island, which taught me that games could be a story, could have humour... Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting Tim Schafer and I felt like a teen fan in front of Justin Bieber, hahaha!
There are so many games I can’t leave out, such as Flashback on the Mega Drive, Age of Empires, Journey (which reconciled me with current video games) or The Last of Us (which taught me there is already hope with AAA).
What are you hopes and plans for Von Sottendorff looking into the future?
We are very excited for our game to get out there, we hope players are gonna like it! We think we have made a great game, and we are very much proud of it – we paid particular attention to the little details. We think it's a great covering letter for Delirium Studios, and Nintendo the best possible framework. If you let me dream, I would like to see Von Sottendorff on other platforms later on, and if it gets some success, I would take out my notes to start with the second part! But I am a dreamer…
What's next for Delirium Studios?
Personally, I am in the funnest moment of my job, giving shape to new ideas to become new titles. It is like being faced with a clay block that you have to start molding. It is too early to say what is it going to be about or which mechanics will be included at this time. However, what I could say for sure is that we always aim to develop differently, to make very unique stuff or to tell an interesting story - otherwise, we wouldn’t develop.
If you were on a desert island (it has power) and could only take one console, what would you take, and why?
Oh! Lots of doubts: Do I have a TV? ... I see many logistical problems in there… and I don’t know if I will be rescued. Uhmm.. I think it would be more sensible to take a Game Boy, with a huge battery pack and hundreds of games. It's simple, it would never break down, it has great games and without a back-lit display, mosquitoes won’t bother me!
Thanks to Arturo, Asier and Alexandra at Delirium for the interview. The Delusions of Von Sottendorff & His Square Mind is out now for Nintendo 3DS - look out for our review in the coming weeks. Why not check out Delirium’s earlier work, The Rivers of Alice too!