Saturday, November 12

Jens Nilsson from Frictional Games : Thanks to Linux and Mac Versions We were Able to Survive as a Company

Connor Beaton from zConnection interviewed Jens Nilsson from Frictional Games. The interview covers everything about their journey and their future plans.

If you don't know, Frictional Games is behind one of the most scariest games of all time, Amnesia: The Dark Descent. Amnesia and their earlier games, the Penumbra series redefined the horror genre in computer gaming by introducing innovative physics based interactions in the game.

In the interview, Jens Nilsson talks about how they always wanted to make cross platform games and how developing the HPL game engine with multi-platform support was one of the best decisions. In fact, this has helped them in surviving as a company when Penumbra was released back then.

Excerpts from the interview:

Developing a game engine from scratch is a daunting task, particularly for a small team. “For him, making his own engine was part of the challenge, because he was a programmer, and that was our main reason for making the demo in the first place, to create our own engine. We were planning on making a living in the future, and in 2005-2006, if you wanted to have some kind of pre-made engine, they were quite costly. The only way for us, we figured, was to have our own engine.”

Later, we continued to use our own engine, but that’s mainly because there are no other engines that have the physics interaction, for example.” Another perk of the HPL engine is its cross-compatibility, running on Windows, Mac, and Linux platforms. It’s uncommon in large-scale productions, so I ask whether it was an important factor. “Yeah, it was,” Jens immediately tells me. “When I freelanced, I did a lot of Mac games, so I was nagging on Thomas a lot that I thought it would be a good idea back then that we should try and be cross-platform.”

We only wanted to have to make a Windows game, but if we had cross-platform support, it would be easy for us to do Mac and Linux as well, so we tried to have that in mind when we made the first game.

Then later, when we released Penumbra, we had a guy that did the ports for Mac and Linux, and then it turned out that it’s basically thanks to making the Mac and Linux versions that we were able to survive as a company. When we started out and released the first game of Penumbra, we got screwed by the publisher of the Windows version, so we never got any money.”

[...] We also have the capability to come to the conclusion that something doesn’t work. In the past, when something didn’t work, we always decided ‘well, okay, let’s throw it out, we’re not going to have that in the game for whatever reason’, because if something doesn’t work, it’s better to just remove it than keep working on it. This time, if something doesn’t work, but we feel we can rework it in some way, for the first time in our company, we feel like we can spend the time to make it work. So the difference is we have more time and we don’t have to worry about the bank accounts going to zero in a week like before.

[...] So, in five years, we’re probably – hopefully – perhaps around ten or twelve people, because I think that’s the kind of company we want to create. A ten or twelve person group that makes the sort of games that we’re making now. We don’t have any plans to become a big studio that throws around a lot of money.” We don’t know much at all about the next project from the Amnesia developer, but even if it’s a different kind of horror, this is almost a guarantee: it’s going to be scary as shit, and we’re looking forward to hearing more.

You can read the full interview from here.


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