Synopsis: A quick chat with Jakub Dvorsky at Amanita Design about Samorost, Machinarium and the upcoming feature Kooky's Return. (If you like this, you may also be interested in reading 'Ten Trippy Interactive Narratives, Come On Down the Rabbit Hole'.)
Connectivity exposes us to voices and visions otherwise unseen, but the adverse affect can be the homogenization of end products - cross-pollination that results in a sort of creative collective middle ground. Glaringly not so with Amanita Design, an independent Czech studio that creates some of the most original games and animations anywhere. Their work is a true signature. Playful, sometimes confusing, always bizarre.
They are perhaps best known for creating the popular online games Samorost (1 and 2) and Machinarium, but in May, 2010, the release of feature film Kooky´s Return (a combined puppet and live action project based on a child’s fantasy of his lost Teddy bear's journey home) will mark their first involvement in feature films.
The film was written and directed by Jan Svěrák, with production design handled by Amanita's Jakub Dvorský, who was good enough to answer a few questions about how Amanita came to be, and where it's going next.
Jawbone.tv: Tell us about Amanita Design, how that came to be, and what sort of projects and processes you employ.
Jakub Dvorský: Amanita Design started in 2003 when I finished Academy of Arts in Prague with a free online flash game called Samorost as my thesis project. In 2005 joined the studio animator Vaclav Blin and Samorost2 was created. Since then we have found several excellent collaborators - musician Tomas 'Floex' Dvorak, programmer David Oliva, painter Adolf Lachman, sound maker Tomas 'Pif' Dvorak and animator Jaromir Plachy. Besides independent and commissioned flash games (Samorost1, Samorost2, The Quest For The Rest, Rocketman VC, Questionaut) the studio created also a couple of music videos (Plantage, Na tu svatbu), websites, animations, illustrations and production design. Now we are focused mainly on games, but most of us have also some side projects, Vaclav Blin is preparing very strange interactive music video, I'm working on production design for animated feature film, Adolf Lachman is freelance painter and sculptor etc.
Jawbone.tv: You have a very distinct Amanita style. Is that a conscious/deliberate thing?
Jakub Dvorský: Yes it's conscious but also somehow inevitable. It's a mix of personal styles of me and my colleagues. Our styles are somehow similar because we are of similar age and from the same place so our influences were similar, but it's also because I have chosen all Amanita members according to my taste.
Jawbone.tv: Please explain the general revenue models for projects like Samorost and Samorost2.
Jakub Dvorský: Samorost is free web game so there's no revenue or just very small from Google Ads. Samorost2 is also free web game, but only it's first half. To play the second half you must pay $5 and you'll be able to download the full game and also the soundtrack in MP3 format.
Jawbone.tv: Has that model changed with Machinarium?
Jakub Dvorský: Machinarium model is similar to Samorost2 - there's free web demo, which has just 3 levels out of 30 from the full game. We are selling the game digitally on our own website (machinarium.net), but also on other channels like Steam, Direct2Drive, Gamers Gate, Impulse, etc. It was also published in DVD boxed version for retail.
Jawbone.tv: We noticed the Machinarium soundtrack (limited edition) is available? Again, is this a primary revenue stream, just supplemental?
Jakub Dvorský: If you buy Machinarium via our website you'll get also the soundtrack as MP3s automatically, however if you are real music fan you can buy also limited vinyl edition (with original signature of it's composer). We (Amanita) don't have any revenue from the soundtrack - vinyl edition, everything goes directly to Tomas Dvorak who composed and recorded the soundtrack.
Jawbone.tv: We also saw the 'Indie Love Bundle'. Was that a success? Something we might see more of?
Jakub Dvorský: The bundle was pretty successful and you can definitely look forward to other indie bundles using the same system, hopefully soon.
Jawbone.tv: How do you approach getting your work into as many hands as possible, without multi-million dollar promotional budgets?
Jakub Dvorský: Of course it's a lot of work - we announced the game early, built website for it, blog, forum, started to communicate with journalists, made some sales, bundles etc. Of course screenshots, trailers and other videos from the game or it's development are very important. We also submitted the game for some competitions (most notably IGF) and managed to win some awards and finally we sent the finished game to journalists for a review.
Jawbone.tv: And of course, you are working on a feature film 'Kooky's Return' ... what's the progression from your previous projects to this one?
Jakub Dvorský: The production design for the film is just my own side project and has nothing to do with other Amanita crew, except of Vaclav Blin who animated the film's title. The film will be released on May 20 in Czech Republic. Unfortunately nothing is confirmed about foreign release yet, but we hope it will be dubbed also in English so it can go out.
Links to work from Anamita:
THE QUEST FOR THE REST (POLYPHONIC SPREE)
QUESTIONAUT (For BBC)
(If you like this article, you may also be interested in reading 'Ten Trippy Interactive Narratives, Come On Down the Rabbit Hole'.)