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An Interview With Odrez, The Mind Behind Fumiko!

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The other day, just as the Easter weekend had started, I got to sit down with, Sylvius Fischer, known online as, Odrez and also as the mind behind the platforming title, Fumiko! that launched this February.

The game tells the story of an artificial intelligence named, Fumiko, and her adventure through a dystopian network set in the year 2080. The title is a ballet of background fragments floating, and servers/worlds all connected through gateways, with firewalls and virus scanners on the hunt for Fumiko. It’s an abstract world that a fair few of us here at Big Boss Battle were incredibly mesmerised by, Lara ran a review on the title. but I wanted to find out more.

So without further ado, let the interview commence!

Ben: Thank you for allowing me the chance to talk to you about your title, Fumiko!. I have a few questions about the game that came to me in fleeting moments during my time with it. My first question is about the world, the world is heavily detailed with an almost complicated system of world’s being linked through gates, and servers. How long was Fumiko! in development for and what inspired you to create a digital world that we get to experience?

Odrez: I was very happy when you asked me to do an interview, so I have to thank you for giving me a chance to talk about my game. I started working on Fumiko early 2014 as a small side-project. I worked full time in QA for a medical software company and I was scared that my gamedev skills would get rusty if I didn’t have at least something small to work on. I found a base model on blendswap that was called “Female Body base cartoon” and decided to make some walking animations for it. After that was done, I wanted to walk around with my new creation, so I created small testing areas to implement basic player and camera movement.

One of these areas was very colorful and suspended in air, that was the first level that gave me the inspiration for Fumiko. Everything else came over time and there were many different stories that I liked and I had some memories of Serial Experiments: Lain that gave me some idea of the kind of “virtual network” I wanted to create. These ideas and inspirations really motivated me to create some kind of parallel world dystopia.

Ben: The lively world of Fumiko really impressed me, not only with it’s design, but also with the focus on precision jumping and it’s role in a world that -at times- has overwhelming vertical climbs – You mention that you created some basic character movements, but was there anything you nearly had to cut due to engine limitations?

Odrez: Oh, the engine was never in my way. Unity is a great tool to work with and does limit you in very little ways. If at all, the engine enabled me to create beautiful sceneries with its fantastic particle engine. I have worked with the Rpg Maker 2003 for a long time and engine limitations were so apparent that Unity felt like swimming in an endless ocean of possibilities. You can create really cool stuff with C# and I wish I had the technical knowledge I have now when I began working on the game.

Ben: Well Fumiko certainly shows what is possible with it’s surreal, environments that breathe fragments in the background, and the mixture of dangerous, clustered levels, to the levels with waterfalls, and a calm, serene break from the rush of learning more about the world. I’m a huge fan of the fragmented, and polygonal reality that is shown, and while it may be difficult to travel along without jumping all the time, it brings a unique element to the style. What inspired your art style, and was it linked to the “Female Body Base Cartoon” you mentioned?

Odrez: I modified the base model of the character because I wanted to give her a unique look. The thing I loved adding most was the flaming hair, which I tuned a lot over the 3 years of development. Especially to adjust the hair to the speed at which you can move around. The art style of the environments was a combination of the look and feel I had on that one testing level – you can still find it on YouTube today, along with the early walking animations. If I put the levels I created afterwards in a chronological order, you’d be able to see that each new level I made has learned from the previous one – a more defined color palette, more creative uses of the particle systems and unique meshes that got added whenever I wanted to.

The art style grew with the project itself and I always wanted to create something new with each level. I decided to go for the low poly art style mostly because I was working on the project alone and I didn’t want the creation of single textured meshes limit my creativity in making worlds.

Ben: The flaming hair, to me was always a unique feature that gave Fumiko her unique personality amongst the world of other avatars, and understandably Fumiko is the hero of this title, an artificial intelligence amongst others. What made you decide to create Fumiko as an artificial intelligence, lost in a world unknown to her?

Odrez: Artificial intelligence always gets me excited. It has so many facettes and there are many different ways to look at artificial entities. I like both the philosophical aspect of what makes a thing a form of life or some kind of sentient being and the technical aspect of trying to make a system make intelligent predictions or choices on whatever you throw at it. I think artificial life is something we’ll see someday and it’ll have a unique form, completely different from us. It’ll be the kind of after-human Nietzsche spoke about in his works, which many people often wrongly interpret as it being some kind of super-human. I like to believe that humans will create the life form that comes after them and that’ll be our purpose. My love for these philosophical aspects of it made me really want to write a story about an A.I. that doesn’t understand and is also misunderstood by its environment.

Ben: I really did feel for Fumiko, the body language was a great portrayal of her confusion during the cutscene themed moments, which brings me to another point. Throughout the title there is no voice acting, there is purely text, with a slight sound effect coming from the character who’s talking, and while the text speed, and the fonts do a fantastic job delivering a tone to the dialogue, was there a reason, from a production point of view for not including voice acting within your title, or was this a style you took inspiration from other titles?

Odrez: 
There was a time were I planned to add voice acting to the game, but I always thought of it as something I’d add when the story is finished. At the end I decided to drop that idea because I didn’t want voice acting to be in the way of rewriting or adding more story. I wrote so many text pieces for the game with different characters that it was also a financial aspect that drove me away from the idea. I thought about giving the main story a once-in-a-while voice acting like many games do, but I just never knew if it would be the right thing. I think it’s a good thing to decide that early in design and stick to it because you don’t want it to be shoehorned in.

Ben: Well, I personally found that the lack of voices made the game more powerful, and allowed the player to continue through the dialogue at their own pace, in the tone that they interpet. It wasn’t just that though, but the music drove the game where the dialogue could not. The soundtrack was calming, with beeps, piano melodies, and the swirling atmospherical synths, only the be interrupted by the intense change when enemies got too close, or an event took place, such as when approaching Eunomia, the music becomes more upbeat when the virus scanner comes into action. How did you go about finding the right musical sound for the mute world around Fumiko?

Odrez: It’s true, I really enjoy that the different players I have watched playing the game are giving the characters their own flavour, especially when reading them out loud. I love seeing that people can experience the story in a way they like and the missing voice acting allows that. That’s usually the same effect you have when reading a book – characters, voices and environments are completely up to your imagination. I am a hobby-musician myself when it comes to atmospheric electronic music and I already knew what kind of music I wanted to make for the game. After writing two unique tracks I realized what a ton of work it would require to write the whole soundtrack myself, so I spent quite some time on the internet trying to find royalty free music that matched the setting I had in mind.

I downloaded whole collections and listened to every single track to pick out the best ones. Sometimes I made a new level and there was no track that would resemble the mood I had in mind, so I repeated that process multiple times. In the end I made 2 original tracks, took 6 additional tracks from the albums I released over the past years and blended them with a bit more than 20 music pieces from different artists that matched the mood perfectly. Having different artists in a soundtrack also makes the experience more surprising and diverse and I really liked being able to add, like, an RPG tavern theme to Hyperion.


Ben: 
The different styles and moods certainly fit the levels, and the overall game wonderfully, so kudos to that! I now come to my final question for this interview which is the question on whether there was ever at any point a different future for Fumiko as a game? Did you plan it to be a different genre? Different setting? Or was this always set in stone?

Odrez: Sometimes I wish I had chosen a different genre for it, as 3D platforming is pretty tough to make convenient for the player. The difficulties that arise in a 3D platformer, like players not landing on a platform because there was a bad perspective or not enough vertical elements causing poor depth perception, got me by surprise. I’m currently working on a big update that fixes most of these situations and makes it easier to enjoy especially the first levels without falling, so that won’t always be a problem, but I’ll never know what Fumiko! would’ve been if I had gone for a third person, or even first person shooter. My main focus always was the narrative and art style, the characters and the world I was building.

Platforming only enabled me to build places that scale a lot in verticality, which I really enjoyed. I think that’s also why Fumiko! quickly gives players abilities that make them fly as best as they can – because it was never just about the platforming for me.

Ben: Thank you so much for taking the time out during your Easter to talk to us at Big Boss Battle about Fumiko! It’s a title that has got a fair few of our team talking, all mesmerised by the graphics and the music. I wish you all the best with the future updates, and please do let me know if you work on another title!

Odrez: Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share all these thoughts and I’m happy that I made something people enjoy. There’ll definitely be another title in the future, but first I’m going to give Fumiko! all the time it deserves. I’ll tell you as soon as there’s something in the making in one way or the other.

So there we have it! You can check out Fumiko! by heading to the Steam store, and there is a demo available for download so you can try before you buy.
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