Valentinel Hopes is described as “an abstract open world platformer for hardcore gamers”, a brief and uncomplicated game where the player must speed down a narrow track through a world resembling abstracted, fractured glimpses of our own, unfolding in a stunning kaleidoscopic fashion. Its creator, known as Ika, has recently carved out a small niche for himself creating experimental games bent on presenting unique visual experiences:
Ika (also known as Aliceffekt) is a Montreal-based illustrator, designer, musician, and experimental game creator who managed to take a break from all that to answer a few questions about creating the amazing world of Valentinel Hopes:
Uncommon Assembly: First, tell me a little about yourself. What is your background and how did you come to start working on games?
Ika: I am originally an illustrator / designer but I am now doing music and programming as well. I learned programming, and the possibilities it opened up evolved as an interest to make games. I saw a good way of combining various mediums I enjoy working with.
In addition to Valentinel Hopes and Drypoint, how many game projects have you worked on? How long have you been making games?
Well my first game was Drypoint. I did a test with Unity about 2 years ago (Editor: a very interesting environment called Drownspire), but didn’t retouch it until the end of 2009 when I made Drypoint, Valentinel, and Cyanosis Fever within the same 3 months.
Did you find it difficult to transition from artist to artist/programmer?
It’s not especially difficult, it’s a lot more scary. I wasted so much time asking myself if I should learn to code instead of actually doing it. Now, there are a lot of tools that give you good transitional experiences.
Valentinel Hopes has a beautifully abstract art style with a strong graphic design sensibility. Can you tell me a little about how the idea for the look of the game was conceived, and how it was constructed?
I wanted something that gives you the feeling of flying into a fractal. It was all about distance fog and far object clipping, to give the feeling of things “blooming” in front of you.
I had just finished making Drypoint, and I really liked the distortion look of very small pixelated textures. So I wanted to try something with immense abstract objects that distorts 16×16 textures. All the textures are point rendered and scaled upon huge objects. All the objects have 6 sides, and even though a level has about 80 objects, it will only max out around 500 polys.
16×16 pixel textures from Valentinel Hopes
What tools did you use to create the environment in Valentinel Hopes?
I used Cinema 4D r11 on a Macbook pro, textures were done on Photoshop CS4 (they are so simple, Paint could have done the trick ). I assembled everything in Unity 3d, I did a few sketches in Photoshop beforehand to see what colours and composition I should go with, before just rushing an environment.
I understand that Unity has a reputation for fast prototyping. What has your experience been like working with it?
Fast prototyping is one way of putting it. The fact that all the assets are auto refreshing and that one click will bring you in-game makes it a great tool for sketching up 3d environments and finding good compositions.
To me, the environment in Valentinel Hopes gives the impression of buildings, roads, and highways under stress, being fractured and frozen in time, or floating in space. Suspended animation. Is there a message here?
Nothing precise, but I often draw things that seem underwater even though there is no visible water. If you were born underwater and never surfaced, you would have lived without even knowing you were in water.
The section of the game where you travel through representations of densely packed highway overpasses is stunning. Did this environment come out of the prototyping process, or was it something you envisioned before putting the game together?
It was something that came out of the prototyping process. I suppose, based on comments on forums, that I naturally make games that are very hard since I myself play these games a lot. I struggle at making starting locations, my games are intended to be a single level only. But I always end up adding more level so the learning curve isn’t as steep.
So what is next for Valentinal Hopes?
A remake in two years maybe, in another medium, something different but running toward the same feeling of flying.
And what is next for you?
I opened a store online and made a small designer toy, I hope I can find a way to quit freelancing and do production of prints, music and toys full time. I want to learn new things, try new things. I am going back to Japan in a month, hoping I will figure out these new things.