‘IDEA’ shows that in the golden age of Spanish indie video games there is room for risk

Ideas are hidden everywhere, you just have to look for them… and know how to guide them so that they flourish. Based on this seemingly simple premise, the TLR Games studio has developed IDEA, a video game indie “about wonder, discovery and sharing”, whose starting point is found in an award-winning short film by Finnish video artist Olli Huttunen.

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When the Basque developer Arturo Monedero discovered the homonymous work by Huttunen on the Zoom Net program, he had no doubts: he wanted to follow the path of the small lightbulb that advanced through different landscapes captured from a drone. “There was an immediate crush and I knew it had to be a video game”, recognizes its protagonist, who speaks of being “tired of saving the world”, so “I was looking for something different”, although he qualifies that this does not mean whether it’s “better or worse”.

The filmmaker says that, in his case, he had “a vision of how different objects could roll down the street”, which is why he thought of a lamp as an international icon through which to talk about “the path that ideas follow”. , an “abstract concept, but at the same time concrete”. He says that when Monedero contacted him, he was thrilled that his work was related to him. “While making the short, I had a feeling it was going to be a good video game, so I’m glad someone thought of it and gave it a chance,” he reveals.

In this way, based on a reflection on how to find an idea and who is looking for it, the paths of both creators crossed. As a result of the intersection, an experimental proposal was born, —a “metroidvania pachinko”, in his own words, metroidvania like non-linear platform adventure games and pachinko like something similar to a arcade—, which arrived this month on PC, iOS and Switch to show that in the Spanish industry there is talent and space for different projects.

The development of an idea

In IDEAthe player directs a lamp that, through different landscapes, must advance as if from a arcade it was before finishing the beautiful music composed by Daniel Tejerina. As you make your way through its screens, abilities are acquired that allow you to gain momentum, in more ways than one. With these simple mechanics, the puzzle game offers a relaxed experience that transforms everyday environments, seen from a bird’s eye view, into small puzzles that follow the rules of physics at the click of a button.

Sometimes it is inevitable to feel that the fall is eternal, as in certain artistic developments. Other times, the destination is not even reached. In addition, there is a movement limit per screen, which shows how energy conditions creativity. Despite everything, it is possible to reach out to someone and light their way, as reflected in the seven endings that are spread across the extensive field of play. “You don’t come to win, you come to lose yourself”, clarifies Arturo Monedero, who says he doesn’t want to put a map so that people don’t try directly to go through all the holes, he prefers to explore at his own pace.

But even when the bulb gets stuck, it can come in handy. Each time the user “loses”, he has the opportunity to leave a message that other players can find, read and even save. “The inspiration really comes from a failed idea that was left in the drawer, from a kind of social network of anonymous ideas”, says the developer, who with this wanted to reinforce the thesis that “in the beginning, ideas are much more difficult to hold.” ”, which is why he opted for “an inverse difficulty level design”. .

At TLR Games, they’re thinking about adding characters to encourage more audience interaction, which until now has focused on motivational or humorous commentary. In addition, Monedero reports how they perceive differences based on the nationality of the players, since “at public fairs in Japan – the country where the IDEA It has worked very well, because what in Europe are common landscapes, there they are perceived as exotic – they were cut when writing messages”, while in Argentina they had no problem. What surprised him is that they barely had to take notes on its content, which he considers a “symptom that whoever comes to the game understands”.

Create creative connections

The creative process is not the same for everyone. However, in this case, both authors share an interest in linking with other artistic disciplines. The graphic adventure was born precisely from the creative connections alice rivers, which departs from the music of Vetusta Morla to tell the story of a girl who must overcome her fears. Developed by Monedero within Delirium Studios, his previous studio, it shows his passion for generating meeting points between different creative fields.

“We’ve always tried to leave the pure and hard world of video games and find cultural partners that could attract us”, he recognizes, before speaking of “small cathedrals of inspiration”, alluding to those spaces where the inventive spark emerged. “What is clear to me is that the office is the workshop and out there, living, traveling, is where you find these inspirations; But I’m not talking about expensive things, I’m talking about traveling to the neighboring neighborhood, going to a bar with friends, going to the theater, consuming culture… You have to look for mechanics and different ways of telling”, he insists. .

In turn, Olli Huttunen uses it in short films such as the dust hunter game engines like Unreal Engine to develop short pieces. “I’ve been playing games all my life and I’m very interested in these tools, which offer very real results, are free and allow you to learn on your own, so that you can become the producer of your own film”, he says. Another of his passions —which is, in turn, a new link between the two creators— is his fondness for drones. “I’ve always been interested in this view, from a distance, although familiar thanks to the satellites, because as we move away everything disappears, just like everyday worries”, he confesses.

I’ve always been interested in the view from a drone, from a distance, because as you move away, everything disappears, just like everyday worries.

He also explains that, despite having recycled the materials of the short, they also made new images captured with drones in 4K resolution, always focused “on what is behind the gates”, to show “a different side of Finland, which is a country very beautiful.” Thanks to them, IDEA creates a unique scenario, which knows how to play with the elements of the environment. Precisely because of the originality of its proposal, it has already won several awards, such as Best Visual Design at IndieCade 2022, one of Monedero’s dreams, which defines that moment as one of the “most beautiful” of his life.

Communicate, Collaborate, Create

In some way, all artwork is an exercise in communication and connection. This is a topic of particular interest to Huttunen, who in his short film messages He was already exploring different avenues of interaction. In the interview, he reflects on how television and platforms like TitTok have changed the way we view content. “There is so much competition with thousands of videos uploaded to YouTube every day, that video games are a new opportunity to reach people, as they have a very wide audience and, therefore, there are people looking for different experiences.”

“We have less and less time in life and I don’t want to spend a hundred hours playing either”, adds Monedero. He prefers the shorter alternatives, even if they don’t always interest people. “I’ve learned from experience that critics and audiences don’t go hand in hand”, he agrees, despite pointing out that it’s also true that players have grown along with developers. “Talk about That Dragon, Cancer any Journey Some time ago it was unthinkable, but we creators are no longer 20 years old and that allows us to make different proposals, especially now that this educated public has also landed in video games”.

As professor of video game design at Creanavarra and vice president of development at the Spanish Videogame Association (AEVI), there is no doubt that there is a golden age for Spanish indie. “There are many very risky projects, the problem we always have is visibility, because in the end all media is taken over by blockbusters”, he clarifies. He compares it to the situation in the cinema, where most of the screens are occupied by big Hollywood productions, so that independent films are more relegated.

The Golden Age of Spanish Indie

The current state of national development is due to several reasons. For starters, the survival of studio veterans with a lot of experience. “I think we’ve learned a lot from failures and setbacks,” says Monedero. Then, he highlights how “the new generations are super strong and super talented”, as well as “twinning” in the sector, since “veterans transfer a lot of knowledge to young people”. Furthermore, as in other countries, he considers that in Spain there are multidisciplinary artists.

“This series of ingredients makes us attractive to distributors like Raw Fury or Devolver Digital, who are investing because the games are doing well and because they found a potential niche that was not explored”, he explains. At the same time, there are projects that defend the national indie scene, such as Blasphemous, Have got has got any Monster Prom“a dozen stable titles that have worked very well, something essential for continuing studies.”

For all these reasons, he guarantees that this is a good time for works like yours, although he considers that, in order to establish itself, the national industry needs to improve its “deficiencies in the sale of products, marketing, visibility and funding”. About his own future as a creator, he states that he is “a person who is always looking for co-productions”. Hence his study, after working with the Brainwash gang in The Longest Road on Earth, is immersed in another project along these lines, although he says he doesn’t know if it will see the light of day. What is clear is that “I felt I needed to develop myself again and enjoy myself again”. “One of the premises was ‘I want to keep making games with the people I love around me,’” he continues. At the same time, he insists that they will bet on “small productions so that they don’t stretch too much and you don’t have to get into the stress of the office”.

Yes IDEA works well, they even value getting a DLC [contenido descargable nuevo] or even a second part based on other concepts that were left in the drawer. Anyway, he would like to focus on aerial images of the Basque Country, his homeland. “If it doesn’t work, it’s a worthwhile idea”, asserts Arturo Monedero naturally. For his part, Olli Huttunen confesses that he has already thought about moving on to video game development, but, as they are processes that take years, he preferred to be part of a team. Time will tell what new paths that lighted lamp with your collaboration illuminates.

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