Monday, February 16, 2009

23 interviews: Nifflas

23's (abridged) interview with Nicklas "Nifflas" Nygren

a very squished map of Knytt

Nicklas Nygren, also known as Nifflas is a Swedish indie game developer who has made such great "exploration platformers" such as Knytt, Knytt Stories (KS), and Within a Deep Forest (WaDF). His games are very well known in the indie gaming community, and his current project, Night Game, is a nominee in this year's IGF for both excelence in design and the grand prize. For more on the basics of Nifflas' design watch Wolfire's design review of knytt stories, as well as reading this, and trying out his games for yourself (all of which are free).

In Within a Deep Forest you play as a bouncing ball (he can't swim)

Here's his response when asked about some of his favorite games and influences:

Nicklas Nygren (Nifflas) (NN): I'm mostly into very atmospheric games. I really wish there were more of those

NN: An "Ico" isn't released on a regular basis

23: yea, defiantly, the only one I can think of like it are abstract puzzle games

NN: Ah, those can be great

23: they can, but it's defiantly a different feel, usually art games, I see yours as more... a mix between the art and fun games (for lack of better terms)

NN: heh, a bit like the Shellblast / Acidbomb games.... Basically a slightly more complex take on Minesweeper, but the atmosphere makes it so exciting

23: yeah, definatly
23: you mentioned "Ico" before, what is that?

NN: It's a PS2 game. I guess my fans are tired of hearing that whenever I'm asked to mention a favorite game, I mentions that. It's an adventure game that lacks almost everything a good game is supposed to have. It features minimal dialogue, almost no music, only 3 or 4 enemy types, almost no weapons, no stats or levels...
NN: so you pretty much explore a large castle, solve puzzles, and enjoy an awesome atmosphere
NN: It's still the game that have affected my own games most.

23: cool, sounds neat
23: I'll have to look it up

NN: It's neat, because they took almost everything away from what a game is expected to have, and still made something really beautiful

23: I love when games can do that, also, what else do you consider your influences?

NN: I take a lot of inspiration from places around where I live
NN: mostly the sounds, deep forests 'n stuff

23: that defiantly explains the relaxing and isolated yet not lonely atmosphere

NN: Yeah :)
NN: Personally, I think that if you get away from the city and either into the forest or to the ocean around where I live, either at early spring or fall, the atmosphere should be a bit similar to Knytt somehow :)

The basic design of knytt; colorful environments with ambient wildlife (you play as the mouse)

How Nifflas became an indie dev:

NN: I don't know.... I've always been interested, as a child I used to make drawings that I pretended was video games
NN: At early school I learnt qbasic and attempted to create some ASCII games (all failures)
NN: Later with Visual Basic (also failures)
NN: Then my parents gave me Klik & Play
NN: and well, I failed for a series of years to create games with that too (I upgraded to The Games Factory and Multimedia Fusion 1 during this period)
NN: I basically tried to create too large games, that I never had a chance to finish
NN: so I gave up completely, and started to create music instead until many years later when I decided to try creating small platformers instead of huge RPG's and adventure games X)
NN: ...and well, since then I've released games at a quite regular basis (although NG is taking a little longer than my previous games)

Even though it's a very peaceful environment there are dangerous enemies (you play as the girl)

On the topic of how he would describe his games/style:

23: so, how would you describe your games? (or at least knytt)

NN: The main focal point of my games so far have been atmosphere
NN: Hmmm
NN: Basically, I want the games to feel more like a place than a challenge
NN: if that makes sense :)

23: hmm, yeah, alright, it definitely feels that way

NN: So far my games have been non-violent and have a rather cute and helpless (but brave) character exploring a large world.
NN: I don't know why, but that express me best

Jump Knytt, jump!

Where the name "Nifflas" came from:

23: so, where'd the name Nifflas come from?

NN: Well, I once sat in a car with my uncle and his girlfriend, and a debate started between me and my uncle about how to spell my name
NN: As everyone knows, I spell it Nicklas, but on the paper it's actually Niklas
NN: so my Uncle doesn't fully agree about that extra c, thinking it makes it sound like "Nisklas" or something
NN: So my uncle's girlfriend got tired of our debate and told us to spell it with f
NN: and well, it was nailed pretty instantly

23: haha, that's pretty funny
NN: :)

The origin of the names and some charecter designs:

23: so, where do you get the names for these games?

NN: That's always problematic. I'm really horrible with names, but it have still always worked out somehow.

23: haha, alright, I think they fit pretty well

NN: My ex-girlfriend designed the Knytt characters, and named them Knytt from Tove Jansson's children's books.
NN: so I didn't name Knytt
NN: and it took me months to figure out that I could call the second one "Knytt Stories"

More charecter design:

23: so, you mentioned that your ex designed some of the knytt characters, did she design all of them?

NN: She designed around half of the characters in Within a Deep Forest
NN: And those from WaDF that I used in Knytt were hers
NN: She didn't draw any characters specifically for Knytt, but she did the patterns for the Knytt startup screen and credits screen
NN: both with are lovely :)

23: yea, who designed the rest?

NN: I designed most of the game, but I also asked at the forum for help with character designing. In the game credits list, a few people are mentioned who created extra characters.

23: cool, it's a nice and unique design

NN: Evil-Ville, TheoX and Mr.Monkey
NN: regulars of either my forums or music communities I've been into

And finally, what he plans for the future and end:

23: alright, and do you have any plans on what you want to do after your current projects?

NN: I have, at this moment it's all pretty secret
NN: but I sure have :D
NN: (and it's game related)

23: alright, that's good
23: I think we would all like to see more games from you in the future

NN: :)

23: alright, well, I think that pretty much covers it
23: do you have anything else to say?

NN: Not that I can think about, but it was great doing the interview! Thanks :D

23: yea, thank you
NN: no problem :)

You can find the whole transcript at this post on bluGrey if you want to see more. So go to his website and download your own free copy of Knytt, Knytt Stories, and Within a Deep Forest. You can also go here and get some of his older, less known, works. Expect a review of Nifflas' games soon and then an interview with Alex Austin and Edmund McMillen from Cryptic Sea. Have fun!

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