On the pulse of crowdfunded gaming

Q&A: Simon Karlsson unfolds A Song for Viggo

Posted by Olivia Cottrell on June 11, 2014 | Jump to 0 comments

We were amazed by A Song for Viggo on Kickstarter last week: a truly original-looking work where everything, from the character to the props to the environment, is handmade from folded paper. We just had to get in touch with creator Simon Karlsson and discuss the bleak story of a father who accidentally kills his own child.

BitPulse: Can you talk me through how you set up a scene for the game?

Karlsson: I often use cardboard to support walls or floors, which is then wallpapered with paper. But before I actually go to the work of building the scene I sketch out what kind of scene it is, and what’s typical for that particular scene.

Since I’m after this vision of a “normal American happy family”-home in a “normal nice looking society” I think of how and why certain furniture looks the way it does. Did the family buy typical IKEA-furniture when they moved into their home? How many years did they live there? Are they interested in design? Are they rich or poor? That’s the kind of questions I ask myself, and the game, in order to be as true to the concept as possible.

How I particularly build the scenes is basically paper, glue and patience. I cut stuff up, fold it accordingly to the vision I have, glue it, let it dry, work on something else. Making also sure that certain paper models are able able to interact with each other (like being able to open a drawer).

How many hours does it take?

That’s a good question, which I would love to know the answer to myself! It really depends, some more minimalistic scenes (inlcluding minimalistic furniture) might be quicker to fold, but then setting up the correct light might be a hassle. If it’s a really detailed scene (like the kitchen in the trailer), that took a week, also because of having to jump to the different positions in the process of actually making the game- I tend to want to program and make everything playable. So it’s like 50/50, workshop-hours vs making- the-game-playable-hours.

Is this your first game? How did you come to the idea of making it?

A Song for Viggo is my first serious project. Other stuff I’ve done have been more towards design-applications for education and such. I came up with the idea of doing something with my own anxiety (went depressed a couple of years ago and my shrink told me to do something with the anxiety). It later turned out to be this game about a parent who accidentally kills his own child. I’m inspired by difficult topics, or taboo subjects. But most of all, I’m inspired by making something new with games, since this interactive medium is a truly powerful tool for telling stories, and maybe even helping people.

More games seem to be tackling themes such as depression, grief and loss, however, it seems to be more attractive to indie games. Do you think indie games are a unique venue for exploring these themes?

If a developer wants to create a game about more unconventional themes (in games), it’s not like he/she can apply to a AAA-company and hope to make that happen. Because they do like action, guns and what people usually buy (people are probably affected by how medias has been portraying the term “entertainment” for a very long time). The indie revolution is taking things into its own hands, and that’s a good thing.

Making the environments is a lengthy process

Making the environments is a lengthy process

The way the game deals with grief and depression is very real: do you find it hard to find the correct tone?

It’s extremely hard, because if a game is too dark story-wise, no one would like to play it. The player still needs glimpses of home. A light in the end of the tunnel. I still wanna pluck the heartstrings while playing and the feelings of overcoming struggles in combination with a deeper despair.

Can you give me a little more insight into how the $20,000 will break down budget-wise if you’re successfully funded?

Most of the donations will be invested in working with this project full time, but there’s also scope for buying additional equipment (as one might see on the pictures I don’t have a decent tripod so I’m stacking bluetack and boxes for my camera to be in a certain height), but yes, mainly papers, lightsetups, additional diodes, licenses.

Could there be the possibility of a playable demo in the future at all?

It’s not at all impossible! I have a playable intro, but the characters are still in alpha and needs to be polished before I have the courage to let anyone play the intro.

Thanks, Simon- and good luck! You can find the Kickstarter here, and peruse an in-character blog from Steve, the protagonist of A Song for Viggo, here

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