I had the pleasure recently of being able to interview Rudolf Kremers, the designer of Eufloria. He talked to me about the game, the process of bringing it to consoles, and some of Omni-Labs’ future projects. It’s quite a lengthy one, so enjoy.
Rudolf: Pleased to meet you
Ben: Well, thank you very much for this interview. It was a pleasant surprise to get that message.
Rudolf: Well, I’m embarrassed I didn’t do it earlier.
Ben: Well, I played Eufloria a while ago, when it was still called Dyson. I was certainly surprised to see it coming to a console. What led to you wanting to put the game on a console?
Rudolf: Well, it’s quite a long story actually. Initially, it wasn’t a planned thing. We entered the game in to this procedural game competition, and it was a necessity for us to have something purely creative out there, not driven purely by commerce. But then after that, we got such a good response from players, that we thought we would take the competition version, add more to it, and send it to the independent games festival. Again, this was not motivated by commercial interests. So, we got in, but much to our surprise we also got nominated for the grand prize. We couldn’t believe it. Everything suddenly changed, as that meant there was a commercial dimension, suddenly people started emailing us, wanting to have the game on their platform. In a way, that sort of made the decision for us, not the least because Valve contacted us. You don’t take that for granted. Sony started to get interested as well. So we signed with Valve and Direct2Drive, and it evolved into a more commercial endeavour. We realised we had to add more to it, so we decided that after adding tons and tons of content, that it wasn’t the same game anymore, so it wasn’t fair to keep calling it Dyson. Also, people kept confusing us with hoovers.
Ben: I figured that name wouldn’t stick.
Rudolf: People don’t know the physicist Freeman Dyson, but they do know the company. Sad in its own right actually. We had a competition, where people offered new names, we had over 400 submissions. We eventually with Eufloria, and the PC version of the game, especially on Steam, did very well, to the extent that we were able to self publish on the PlayStation Network.
Ben: Ah, was Sony going to be the publisher then?
Rudolf: Well, we discussed these things, but we would never give up our IP. They did actually want it, they were making us an offer to publish it for us. But it meant that we would have to sell the IP to them in exchange. It was tricky, we have bills to pay. When a giant of gaming offers to bring out your game on the biggest console in the world, we had to stand fast. We had to look at other ways, and that turned in to the self publishing route. We made that possible because Sony were happy to include us in the pub fund. One of the qualities of the pub fund is that it’s a viable avenue for micro teams like ourselves, Microsoft don’t have that anymore. They have XBLIG, but that’s a whole different kettle of fish when it comes to revenue. All 3 console manufacturers approached us, but Sony had the right balance between us keeping our creative freedom, IP ownership, whilst it still being affordable to bring it out on a console. For multiple reasons, both Microsoft and Nintendo had too many hoops to jump through.
Ben: More trouble than it was worth with those two?
Rudolf: Yeah, for Microsoft the cost would be prohibitive, as they had all sorts of mandatory features. Multiplayer and the like. And of course you have to use their QA… The cost picture would be so prohibitive that self publishing would be impossible. And these days self publishing is impossible!
Ben: So, Eufloria. It’s sort of a strategy game.
Rudolf: Well, kind of. We actually never thought of calling it that!
Ben: Well, it’s sort of a defensive strategy game. Well, that’s what sprung up to me at least. How was the transition of the game from PC to a Console?
Rudolf: It was tricky, but the solution lies in accepting that it is a joypad. We designed a new user interface. The way that you send seedlings and other units around in the game has been completely changed to fit the joypad. We were shocked at how few games to that. I look at strategy titles on PSN, and most of them try to copy PC. What we ended up with is very playable. Of course, it takes a little getting used to, and the tutorials will guide you through the controls, but once you do get used to it it feels very natural. In my opinion of course.
Ben: It’s good to see a strategy game not try and shoehorn their controls on to a joypad.
Rudolf: Yes. It’ll never be as simple as a mouse and keyboard combination, not without taking away functionality. We’ve added all sorts of new things to the PSN version, so we needed more UI. Things like additional units, flowers and laser mines. We also have new trees, such as a specific tree that allows you to guide large groups of seedlings. We also have a tree that allows you to terraform asteroids. We’ve also exaggerated the atributes of the seedlings, so it’s more noticeable when they’re lacking in a certain area. You can tell which ones are really fast. We’ve also added collectibles, but not in the traditional sense. Throughout the game you’ll find hidden artifacts. We’ve also completely rebalanced the AI.
Ben: Good grief, that must have been quite the undertaking. Did you take in feedback from PC players when bringing the game to PSN?
Rudolf: Yes. However, even if you know the game well from PC, you’ll still find something different. Also, it’s harder. But we do have a chill out mode, where you can play the game to just relax. We also added a time lapse button. It’s an ambient game, the enjoyment of your environment is just as important as playing the game. But of course some people don’t want to wait, so we added a double speed button.
Ben: The visual style of the game is incredibly striking. How did that come about?
Rudolf: Yeah, that’s Alex. We don’t have an artist, we have a programmer with a very good sense of aesthetics. We don’t have art assets, we have these shapes. We wanted to do the opposite of what these games do, with a friendly pastel hint to the environment. Things like japanese paintings are a bit like that. A big part of it is how the game’s graphics are generated. Seeing those trees grow and bloom over time.
Ben: It’s incredible to watch.
Rudolf: Yes, it really is. The game actually runs at a full 1080p, with really makes it shine. We managed to pull it off! So yeah, I hope you’ll enjoy it. I’m nervous, but confident in how the reviews will turn out. With us only being a two person team, in practical terms, this will allow us to fund our next game!
Ben: Ah… would that be Starlit?
Rudolf: Starlit is my next game. Which I’m doing with a different team. So, there will be a slight divergence until we come together to work on a game again. Starlit is in the early stages of development, and the game is a 2D exploration game in a sci-fi fantasy world. It’s my ode to classic sci fi of the 70s, with bright colours and incredible worlds. It’s a shame that people don’t do that anymore. The game is in one of my favourite genres, exploration games. But I don’t like it when I’m punished for exploring, it becomes something other than actual exploration. It’ll hopefully give my interpretation of the classic arcade adventure, you can’t just combat creatures until you’ve seen them all. You’re going to have to research your environment.
Ben: Ah, I see. Omni Labs seems to be about taking traditional games, and putting your own spin on them.
Rudolf: Yes, I suppose it is! The other game is called Neopolis. It’s been on the go for a little while, and it’s purely multiplayer. It’s turn based, and it’s kinda like Advance Wars meets Chess in a cyberpunk setting. We’re quite early yet, but I know exactly what I want from that game.
Ben: So, you’ve got some quite diverse projects on the go right now.
Rudolf: I just can’t help myself, I want to do all these things.
Ben: Well, thank you very much for your time, I can’t wait to get my hands on the game.
Rudolf: I hope you enjoy it too!