a bontegames interview with ... MATEUSZ SKUTNIK

Welcome to a new episode in the series of interviews with game designers, answering questions from bontegames readers.
Mateusz Skutnik is famous for his Submachine and Daymare Town point and click adventure series and has been featured dozens of times already on bontegames.
I'm thankful Mateusz took some time to answer your questions, so let's hear it for Mateusz Skutnik!

What first sparked your interest in making your own games Mateusz?

There came a moment when my computer skills grew sufficient enough to comprehend the then-emerging game building software for noobs and not-really-programmers, meaning - me. The year was 2001 and the software was Ďthe Games Factoryí. Though it had itís limitations, I was able to create my first platformers using my own graphics (strangely enough - it was graphics from my comic book ďthe MorfsĒ which resemble Daymare Town. So even back then I was kinda going in the right direction).
Of course things got a bit more advanced once I was introduced to the Macromedia Flash software. That was in 2003. Still hooked on platform games I discovered website lazylaces.com which was a hub for escape games, unfortunately itís no longer active. After playing some of those games I thought: ďWait. I can do this betterĒ. And I created Submachine. The rest is history.

Is making games now your full-time job?

Yes. Itís been this way since 2008, so for more than half of a decade Iím doing nothing but my games to put food on my table. Best half of decade ever.

Are you autodidact or did you follow art education?

The closest I got to actual artistic education was studying architecture on technical university. That actually gave me the ability to look at game design from a slightly different perspective. Thatís why I call myself games architect. Other than that - no, I never attended any artistic school nor taken any classes or courses. However it took me 15 years to finally learn how to draw so that it doesnít look like crap. I already knew how to tell comic book stories by then, so it clicked nicely.

If you had to name one of your games you're most proud of, which one would it be and why?

I think that would be Submachine 2. It was the largest leap in my game dev advancement. Of course, each game that came after that was more complex and better, but this one marks that moment when my abilities just blew up. My eyes opened back then.

Do you have an entire series planned out before you create your first chapter or do you continually expand a series?

No, of course not. That would actually be pointless and kind of stupid. You see, when you create a series, new ideas pop up in your head from time to time, and planning ahead would mean disregarding those ideas. Weíd loose a big chunk of content and storyline this way. I create my games the same way I create my comic books. Often I start the story and donít know where Iíll end up with it. Good example would be Daymare Town 4. Through out almost entire development I had a different ending in mind. But the game evolved in such direction that I found a new ending, the one that's better suited for the situation we were currently in. Normally a player doesnít see that, but each game is jumping through countless parallel universes, where in each the storyline takes a different turn. My job is to float with it and steer the story in the right direction.

What was the inspiration for the Submachine series? Would you love to design actual machines?

The works of Amanita (Samorost mainly), Wada Che Nanahiro (Memory Park, Treasure Box, TCB Museum), also Crimson room, Viridian Room and MOTAS. All of them I learned through lazylaces.com. Those were masterful works, I never imagined competing with them. But besides those there were loads of poorly designed and drawn games - thatís where I stepped in.
The actual machines? No, I don't think so. My thing is drawing and telling stories really. Not creating installation art.

Is submachine 10 going to wrap everything up or is it just going to leave us with more questions?

The tenth Submachine wraps up the main storyline. Which is - us following Murtaugh and Liz through time, space and dimensions. Will it explain everything? I doubt that. Thatís almost impossible. If it was to explain all questions then it would be a book, not a game. And thatís why I leave the door open for possible submachine standalone games after finishing the main run. Those standalone games would try to answer some burning questions left out from the final game.

What prompted you to choose the two-color design for the Daymare Town series of games? Is the design process for these games very different/faster than your full color games?

The main idea for the Daymare game was this: how about a game thatís so damn hard - no one will be able to say itís too easy. How about making it in sketches only. By then I also already knew Nanahiroís work, and Daymare is kind of derivative from his Treasure Box.
Is it faster? No, not at all. On the contrary - when making a color drawing I can just fill some spaces with color and not bother with them anymore, while here - I have to render each surface, each nook and cranny with just lines, shadowing, pores, structure and so on. Itís actually harder and takes longer than, letís say, creating a submachine view.

Will we ever see something photography inspired like the 10 gnomes series again? Do you do a lot of photography?

Well, 10 Gnomes are not dead. Itís an ongoing series, since the main project ended in 2008, Iím creating one additional game yearly. Not sure if Iíll be able to keep it up, but for now - itís going well.
Do I do a lot of photography? I donít think so. Right now everyone with a smartphone is a photographer. Itís nothing uncommon. I am not a photographer, Iím just a dude with a camera.

Are you planning to bring your games to mobile? Is it helpful when we buy the HD versions of your games?

The mobile market is very unpleasant and unforgiving. When youíre not backed by a large promotional campaign, youíre toast. We learned that the hard way when Pastel Games went mobile in 2008 and in less than a year went belly-up. But - we might try again, this time with a better plan. I canít really talk about this, but something is brewing.
As for HD games - those have literally nothing to do with mobile versions. Buying HD versions is very helpful though. Thanks to those purchases Iím able to live, feed my family and work in peace not bothered by some additional work that Iíd have to do for somebody else for profit. Iím self-sustaining entity and thatís something very important to me. The creative freedom that comes with it is priceless. Big THANK YOU goes out to everyone who bought a game from me. Or a comic book. Thatís also possible, you know.

Can we expect more Pastel Games from other artists or are you mainly concentrating on your own games now?

Well, thatís a good question, but addressed to a wrong person. Youíd have to ask the creators of respective series. Weíre not pushing anybody to work with us and we donít actually manage those people. Once they do something and it lands on my desk for me to program - then I do it and the game is out. It was always like this, lately those people probably have something more important to do. From what Iíve heard, the Fog Fall 5 is in the works (and has been for the last two years, so there).

Are you playing a lot of games yourself? What recent games did you enjoy?

Not really. I donít have time. Especially since the beginning of 2014 was jam-packed with work (Submachine 9, new comic book, now JayisGames game). I didnít play anything since January and that saddens me. I have a backlog of games waiting in line for me to play them. Theyíre even installed on steam, just waiting, updating from time to timeÖ. This line includes second season of the Walking Dead, Metro: Last Light, Hard Reset and lately I added TransistorÖ The only exception is ďthe Child of lightĒ - Iím playing that with my daughter in co-op on our PS3.

What can we expect from you in the (near) future?

In the near future - letís talk the remainder of 2014. You can expect the entire Submachine series in HD, as well as Daymare Town in HD. Thatís plan A. Besides that - probably new Gnomes game and for sure Where is 2015. Besides that - another update to the Submachine Universe (reaching for the 100th location). Comic book wise - I just released a book, but Iíll be making another one this summer. It should be out in October. Thatís another book from my Revolutions comic book series. This time itís entitled ďRevolutions under the snowĒ. Thatís all I can say for now. So, busy spring, busy summer and busy autumn. Iíll rest in the winter. No biggieÖ

Thanks for the interview Mateusz!

You can find all the games by Mateusz here and buy games, comics and art by Mateusz here

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