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.