Interview with the Creators of the Game Anodyne

Sean and Jon are the two piece duo behind Analgesic Productions which recently release their debut indie game Anodyne. Think 16 bit Zelda meets twilight zone, updated for the internet age, complete with cats.

This game really draws you in with it’s masterful craft and unique, moody, gameplay. You’ll appreciate the humour and nuanced design as you explore it’s abstract dreamscape. We wanted to give Sean and Jon a chance to talk about their game and the challenges independent creators face.

There have been different descriptions of Anodyne on the web but I’m still curious as to how you would describe the game to someone?

Jon: I would probably describe Anodyne as a game in which you explore and fight your way through a diverse and atmospheric dream world. Talking about it as a Zelda-like or Zelda style game helps to convey the basic mechanics of the gameplay, but our goal with Anodyne wasn’t just to replicate the experience of playing Zelda. We hope that the atmosphere conveyed through the graphics, music, text, etc, is intriguing and valuable in it’s own right.

The comparisons to early Zelda makes sense to me. What other forces inspired you? 

Jon: In terms of graphics, I took influence from games like Final Fantasy VI, Chrono Trigger, Seiken Densetsu 3, etc. I also tried to draw on expressionist painters such as van Gogh and Monet. The dialogue was mostly inspired by my own experiences and things that I had heard or read that stuck with me.

Sean: Any games that really set a good mood or create an immersive world have at least passively influenced me, even if I don’t remember the game off of the top of my head – in addition, lots of sort of experiences in lives (taking a walk, walking up a quite staircase) have all been good for building up a sort of vocabulary for writing songs for areas.

One of the things that most impressed me was the fact that this awesome game was made by just two people. Over what period of time did you craft this together and what are some things you enjoy doing between making awesome games?

Sean: I started it in March and did some basic groundwork before Jon jumped on board. Outside of that I like to compose music and… I guess that’s mostly it! I’ve been trying to get into reading more and drawing. I do computer science in school and will graduate soon.

Jon: I’ve been working on Anodyne since midway through this summer. Aside from games, I am interested in comics, books, and animation. I’m currently finishing up an art major at Carleton College.

The sound design in Andonye is really fantastic and I saw that you’ve even offered the soundtrack on Bandcamp. What are your thoughts on how sound shaped this game? 

Sean: We used sound and visuals to sort of restrict the sphere of interpretations of the game to be similar to the themes we designed the game around (this was a good way of thinking about the game my friend Etan brought up). In that way, sound can definitely set the mood. I think I should have done a lot more ambient sound effects, but I’m pretty happy with the game as is, helping to set a mood for a forest, mountains, etc.

I’ve noticed lately that the indie game scene really embraces psychological exploration more than big studio games. I really love this trend but what do you think is behind it? 

Sean: I think a lot of creative work is done to express something that we think about a lot, or a certain mood. It’s easier to do this when you are working alone or in a small team, and it’s become easier and easier to make games in the past years, so that possibly might be a reason why the whole psychological exploration idea is growing!

There is a rough consensus among indie game devs that I’ve chatted with that while platforms like XBLA (Xbox Live Arcade) and XBLIG (Xbox Live Indie Games) are nice and provide decent markets the barriers to entry are quite high for small teams. Do you think that platforms like Steam and soon OUYA can solve this issue? 

Jon: Steam certainly helps a lot through Greenlight and by allowing devs to easily patch their games. Steam also is less picky about exclusivity, which I think is really important for small teams. I don’t really know what kind of impact Ouya will have, I guess we’ll wait and see.

You guys happen to have something in common with our founders in that you both have very progressive views on piracy. Let’s say I were to pirate, play, decide that I love it, and then give you money e.g. via Flattr, what are your thoughts about this play first pay later model? 

Jon: It’s interesting. I like it in the sense that it really allows the game to get out to people who might like it, and it allows us to really partner with people and create a community around the game instead of having an antagonistic relationship with people who pirate the game.

For me personally, however, I’m not sure if this method would lead to the best experience of games. I think if all of my game purchases worked like this, I would approach games more like demos–in a way looking for reasons not to buy the game.

I’m not sure if I could totally just forget about the financial aspects and obligations and just appreciate the game and be immersed in it. That’s just how I feel though, maybe I’m old-fashioned. I am certainly in full support of the general concept, and would never try to fight piracy of my own games with negativity or DRM.

What’s next for Analgesic productions?

Jon: Well, we’d like to work together on a game again at some point. My involvement with games in the near future will depend a lot on how Anodyne does, as that will affect how much freedom and flexibility I will have after graduating this spring. So, we’ll have to wait and see, I guess!

Sean: Same as Jon. We’ll see how Anodyne does!

Anodyne is available for Mac, Linux, Windows, and Android and if you would like to support the work of Sean and Jon play their game, be sure to vote for Anodyne on Steam Greenlight and send them a flattr here: