Who are you, Hyptosis ?
- Hi Daniel Harris, aka Hyptosis ! You are an indie artist based in the United States. Can you introduce to us ?
Um, yeah I'm nothing special. I grew up all alone (only child, parents worked away from home) in the backwoods of a small town in Arkansas. Population 38. I had to learn to entertain myself early, so I made up stories and drew a lot. I'm self taught on both art and programming, as well as anything else I pretend to know how to do. :P
- You own the website Lorestrome and... you have provided a lot of games ! For those one who want to discover your work, what games shall we play first ?
I recommend Alice is Dead. Although the game is quite dated, it seems to be my first indie success. I've worked for a few studios and such in the past, comic books, novel covers, even on a few big movies, Cowboys and Aliens and Van Hellsing. But I prefer working for myself and not having a boss.
All you need to know about Alice is dead !
- Great ! Now let's talk about Alice is Dead, a three-parts point and click game published in 2009 et 2010. It's a very dark game inspired from Alice in Wonderland novel. It's very strange to play this game because death and madness are everywhere. Can you explain us your role in the production of game ?
Mike Morrin and I made the first Alice is Dead just for kicks over a single weekend. At the time I did not know how to program, so I handled all of the art, and Mike and I both contributed to the story. He's a better story teller than I, but I think we both tremendously injected ourselves into the feel of the game. He's awesome to work with, I owe him a lot.
- Why having chosen this novel and why a so sinister environment ?
(spoilers!) I think actually, it was Mike's idea to use Alice in Wonderland as our theme. And I started drawing pictures of White Rabbit as an assassin. Both of us love crime and heist movies. Reservoir Dogs, Heat, etc.
We both were playing a lot of Hitman at the time too, so we stuck with it and tried to not hide our inspiration for Rabbit there. Also, I at the time was not very familiar with Alice in Wonderland, which I think in the end helped us be original. I just barely knew the characters, I didn't know anything about them specifically from the original content.
- Lots of games are based on a poor design. On the contrary, Alice is Dead is an artistic game. Why ?
More than anything I'm an artist I think. I'm not a very good programmer, and I've been told several times I'm not a very good writer. I'm an idea man, and being your own artist is paramount if you expect to make it as an idea man. You can have great ideas, but they mean nothing if you can't show them to other people. Hiring someone else to build your ideas rarely works in my experience, unless you've got big big money. Learn to draw, so you don't have to rely on others. Then learn to program for the same reason. I now handle all aspects of my game creation, save for music. I still hire voice actors and music creators. But I cut out a lot of middle men handling the rest myself. I still owe a lot of people for helping me learn, and pointing me the right direction. I've never forgotten them. Make friends, and be good to them.
- There is such no animation in this game, only 2D art scenes. What does it bring to our user experience ?
The primary reason I use very little animation, is because it saves time. Animating takes a lot of time, and managing time is capital.
The second reason is that I've never had formal animation training. I worked in comics for years, and I worked as a storyboard artist for a few years. That is similar to animating, but to me it felt more like filming or doing more advanced comic book work. Just the keyframes I guess? I think you can tell a great story with keyframes and audio. And Mike did a good job of making it flow well in Alice is Dead, I give him full credit for that. He studies a lot of film, more than I do, as much as I should.
- There is a real story in this game, and action. Because lack of animation, can we say the goal is that player focuses more on the atmosphere of the game ?
Atmosphere was a primary focus for us. We talked about it, built and rebuilt around it, and never forgot it. It had a noir-like vibe and inspiration. We never forgot that. Pick your guns early, and stick with them. That's what I always remind myself. We knew we wanted creepiness, a cool swanky nightclub vibe, and a heist-like atmosphere. We tried to keep those through the entire project.
- As we can see below, Alice is Dead is a big success. Even so big that there is lot of fanart. Can you explain this ?
Honestly both Mike and I were very surprised. We never expected Alice is Dead to be as big as it got. I've worked on a LOT of projects, and honestly, it almost seems the harder I work on something, the more I plan and worry and test a game, the more poorly it performs. Alice is Dead was a sudden project, built out of love and without worry. My other most successful series The Sagittarian was the same way.
I made it in just a few days, for fun and love, and it did better than my other heavily researched projects. My advice is to make what you love, and try not to worry while you're making it. Make it for you. At least if you're indie. I'm still unable to predict what will be a success and what won't be.
- And what are your favourite fanart pictures ?
There are so many, it is hard to pick. I've saved them all, and I still discover new ones all the time. I'm not used to managing popularity. I miss so many kind words from players, so many fanart postings, and I'm not familiar with most social media. I'm not very good at responding and such, I'm trying to get better at it. I want my players to know how much I appreciate their kind words and support. But it's difficult to keep up sometimes. I've never been a very social person, having grown up with very little interaction with others.
- Alice is dead is a very short game. Even if you play three parts, we finish quickly the game. Why a short game experience ?
The primary reason for this was file size. Flash games need to be small, for them to go 'viral' they needed to be less than 10 megs. That's SO small, a single painting can be 2 megs. Audio is even worse. A song can be 3 to 5 megs. That's half our maximum file size. I know players don't understand this, but it is very hard to stick very much content into 10 megs unless it is all text. No one wants all text.
Make us discover new games :)
- Now it's time for you to suggest us games to play ! What kind of games do you prefer ?
My favorite games of all time are Arcanum, Final Fantasy 6, Chrono Trigger, and Mass Effect! :P In that order too. ^_^
- If we want to play another games around kid's novels, what games should we test ?
I'm not sure, I see a lot of Red Riding hood projects pop up on Steam, but I have not tried them. There are some promising looking children's-story puzzle games on Bigfish, but I've yet to test them either. I made a small Hood series based loosely on Red Riding Hood simply called Hood, and another small planned series based on Wizard of Oz, called Red Oz, it's going to be pretty graphic and jarring by completion, more horror than anything. It takes place in the same universe as Alice is Dead, unlike Hood which did not.
--> Test Hood Episode 1 on Newsgrounds
--> Test Episode 2
--> Test Episode 3
--> Test Episode 4
- Hardcore Joueur is fan of tower defense games. And of course some of games developers work with design artist. Which tower defenses do you advice us to play ?
I love tower defense games, I used to play (and make) them in Warcraft3! My favorite ever is Vector Tower Defense, the music and art direction is simple and cool and just fun. the music helps a lot.
- And I ask you to advise us games with very poor artistical design ? :)
Hrmm, I think there are many. There are some games with poor art design that are still a success. I think that says a lot about the game design and game play. Artists often get the short end of the stick in game development. In my experience anyway. We get paid less than programmers, yet art is the first thing someone sees about a game. Gameplay and the fun factor is the single most important thing, then the game needs to run well and have a good story, obviously, and then the art and audio should be good. So yeah, we're on the end of the list, but we're the first thing they see and hear. If a game looks bad, I personally don't want to give it a chance unless someone vouches for it. Artists need more respect, so do musicians, again in my limited experience.
Prison Architech is a good game, the art makes me cringe.
Minecraft too. HATE the art in Minecraft, but it's the biggest game around now. I'm a big fan of Dwarf Fortress, but it makes me mad there is no art in it unless you used complicating external tools. If I could program well enough (I can't yet) I would make Dwarf Fortress type games. I love procedural stuff.
- To conclude this fascinating interview, what can you tell us about your news ?
My personal news is that I'm making a game for steam release, called Wolfsong.
Here is a limited trailer here :
If anyone wants to keep up with the progress, they can follow my Twitter account. -- https://twitter.com/Hyptosis
- Thank you a lot for this interview !
Thank you! Stay cool. ^_^