Erin Hoffman's Inside Job

Erin Hoffman's Inside Job
Inside Job: Interview: Aquaria Creators Derek Yu, Alec Holowka

Erin Hoffman | 18 Jan 2008 21:00
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Continuing on the theme of the role of independent games in the future of the games industry, I caught up with Aquaria developers and 2007 IGF Seamus McNally Grand Prize Award Winners Derek Yu and Alec Holowka. They recently released the full version of Aquaria, which, with its stunning visual presentation, classic charm, and innovative control system, has been described as closing the gap between games that are identifiably "independent" and "professional."

Erin Hoffman: Derek, you’ve mentioned that you’ve always had a love for Metroid-style games. What were your influences for Aquaria? In comparison to many indie games, yours had a very traditional approach - what were your goals with the game that led you to choose the format you did?

Derek Yu: I've always been a big fan of the Metroid, Zelda and Castlevania series of games, and I'm sure players can see how each of those influenced Aquaria.

Alec Holowka: For me some of the main influences were Final Fantasy 6 and Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain, oddly enough! I don't think our development approach was very traditional, though. We restarted the process of making the game a few times before we figured out what felt right, experimenting with different game play ideas each time.

Derek Yu: Yeah! Ultimately, I think, more so than any other game, we were influenced by our own development. A lot of the game's storyline mirrors that experience, which had a lot of ups and downs for us. I also think the core experience is more influenced by more vague notions of exploration, loneliness, self-discovery, love, and so forth. These are, of course, common themes in some of the games we've mentioned, as well, but we tried to make them more personal to us and to our game's characters.

EH: Alec, how much did the game change from whatever future game vision you had when you showed Derek your prototype?

AH: We did a lot of "prototyping"; although we didn't realize many of the versions of the game that we worked on were prototypes until it became obvious that they weren't very good and we threw them out.

The original prototype was quite different. I was originally intending to do everything myself, so it had my own pre-rendered 3-D graphics. The character had white hair, but she was more of a traditional mermaid. You couldn't do much but swim around and interact with a couple of objects. Strangely enough, most of that original movement code ended up in the final version of the game.

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