The intriguing and unique adventure game TRAUMA (previously known as Illucinated) has been nominated in the 2010 edition of Independent Games Festival for Excellence in Audio, Excellence in Visual Arts, and for the Grand Price as well.

The game’s creator Krystian Majewski agreed to have his mind picked for a bit, so that we could find out more about the history of TRAUMA, while the game is already in its final stages of production.

Storywise, TRAUMA tells a story of a young woman, who survives a car accident. Recovering at the hospital, she experiences dreams that shed light on different aspects of her identity…

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YWQ8hBiYXLI]

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Could you introduce yourself and other people who help you with the creation of Trauma?

I was born in Poland. I’m working on own game projects since the age of ten or so. I currently live in Germany. I got a German diploma degree in design at Köln International School of Design. TRAUMA started out as my final thesis. I did most of the work on the game alone, especially the concept, story, visuals and programming.

Except I got Martin Straka on-board pretty early on. He is a musician I worked with before on a different project. He is responsible for the music and all sound effects in TRAUMA.

I also hired two voice actors Anja Jazeschann and Steve Hudson who did a great job at making the characters from the game come to life.

What does “adventure game genre” mean to you?

In my final thesis I went back and made a thorough analysis of the adventure game genre. I think the adventure games differentiated themselves pretty early on by focusing a lot on narrative elements and interactions with the environment that resemble situations we are familiar with from real life. If you compare Zork to Breakout, the contrast is quite jarring.

With time, other genres adopted a lot of ideas from adventure games and it became more difficult for them to stay ahead. I believe adventure games got stuck by focusing too much on item collection and manipulation.

You say that your game focuses more on storytelling than providing obstacles to overcome. What would you describe as the main hook and pay-off of the game’s interactivity then?

I believe the depth of the narrative and the unique style of the game are enough motivation for players. It’s not just a gut-feeling. Cyan, the developers of Myst, found the same in user-test. There was a significant group of players that enjoyed the Myst games without ever bothering about solving the puzzles. The were called “Tourists”.

If you think about it, the way we do games now seems almost schizophrenic. We put a lot of effort and money to create beautiful content. But then we go ahead and hide it behind all these puzzles so only a small fraction of players can enjoy it. That’s neither in the interest of the developers nor is it really in the interest of the players. If the content is valuable, it should provide entertainment by itself. Interaction shouldn’t lock away content. It should allow them to get more from it.

The title suggests Trauma’s central themes won’t be very light-hearted . What kind of a story and emotions did you set out to tackle in your game?

The game’s story went through a lot of change an iterations. But the general mood almost didn’t change at all. The first broad idea was to create something auto-biographical. The two most important events in my childhood were long stays at hospitals and the emigration to Germany. Both had a lot to do with feeling lonely and abandoned. The images I associate with these memories also take place at night – empty hospital hallways and anonymous railway stations in foreign countries.

With time the story evolved and changed to a topic that is more meaningful to me right now. But the general mood remained and there is a sub-textual relationship between the two. I’d rather not talk about it too much because I think the player’s own interpretation is the only valid one.

What kind of technical solutions are behind the unique visuals and gameplay of Trauma?

As far as photography goes I did a lot of experiments. I went out in the night searching for interesting subjects and pushing my camera to the limits. I’ve even built a robotic camera tripod out of LEGO to quickly shoot spherical panoramas at night.

During the day, I tried different approaches on how to construct the game out of the photos. An approach simlar to Microsoft’s Photosynth turned out to be the most promising one. I used Papervision 3D to make that happen.

I also stumbled over the gesture-based controls in one of the experiments. I used the Flash library from bytearray.org. They really made sense once I came up with light-painting as a method of visualizing them. The inspiration for this were my own photographic experiments and the Cologne art group Lichtfaktor.

But even then there is still a lot of hard work in doing on the visual design of interface elements and the production design of the CGI effects.

You run two gaming blogs – one is more of a typical game development blog, the other is for very critical analyses of both indie as well as blockbuster games. What is the origin of the latter website? And how does its main topic affect your own games?

I started the second one first, with my friend Yu-Chung Chen. Another friend of mine, Daniel Renkel joined in at first but dropped out at some point. I don’t know about Yu-Chung but one of the reason for me to work on games is that when I play games I often come up with ideas on how to improve them. GameDesignReviews.com was a way for me to verbalize and remember all those ideas. We created Game Design Scrapbook later on where we realized we needed something more freestyle for random stuff.

I found the blog actually extremely useful. It helped me structuring my ideas and recognizing the patterns between them.

What does being an indie developer and the term “indie” mean to you? Especially now that you have been nominated in IGF.

It becomes more and more difficult to nail down what “Indie” means. There is a lot of discussion about whether it is acceptible for larger teams to participate in IGF. I see the dilemma and I’m glad I don’t have to make the call.

I always think that the big advantage of being “indie” is that you can do projects that bigger companies can’t. This can mean many things – being intimate, provocative, extremely innovative, targeting a very narrow niche, etc. This is both – an opportunity and a necessity. If you are doing the same stuff that bigger companies do, you will loose because they can do it better.

Thank you very much for your time and good luck at the IGF finals.

the world of TRAUMA is created through arranging normal photos into 3D collages

1. Could you introduce yourself and other people who help you with the
creation of Trauma?

I was born in Poland. I’m working on own game projects since the age of ten or so. I currently live in Germany. I got a German diploma degree in design at Köln International School of Design. TRAUMA started out as my final thesis. I did most of the work on the game alone, especially the concept, story, visuals and programming.

Except I got Martin Straka on-board pretty early on. He is a musician I worked with before on a different project. He is responsible for the music and all sound effects in TRAUMA.

I also hired two voice actors Anja Jazeschann and Steve Hudson who did a great job at making the characters from the game come to life.

2. What does “adventure game genre” mean to you?

In my final thesis I went back and made a thorough analysis of the adventure game genre. I think the adventure games differentiated themselves pretty early on by focusing a lot on narrative elements and interactions with the environment that resemble situations we are familiar with from real life. If you compare Zork to Breakout, the contrast is quite jarring.

With time, other genres adopted a lot of ideas from adventure games and it became more difficult for them to stay ahead. I believe adventure games got stuck by focusing too much on item collection and manipulation.

3. You say that your game focuses more on storytelling than providing
obstacles to overcome. What would you describe as the main hook and
pay-off of the game’s interactivity then?

I believe the depth of the narrative and the unique style of the game are enough motivation for players. It’s not just a gut-feeling. Cyan, the developers of Myst, found the same in user-test. There was a significant group of players that enjoyed the Myst games without ever bothering about solving the puzzles. The were called “Tourists”.

If you think about it, the way we do games now seems almost schizophrenic. We put a lot of effort and money to create beautiful content. But then we go ahead and hide it behind all these puzzles so only a small fraction of players can enjoy it. That’s neither in the interest of the developers nor is it really in the interest of the players. If the content is valuable, it should provide entertainment by itself. Interaction shouldn’t lock away content. It should allow them to get more from it.

4. The title suggests Trauma’s central themes won’t be very
light-hearted . What kind of a story and emotions did you set out to
tackle in your game?

The game’s story went through a lot of change an iterations. But the general mood almost didn’t change at all. The first broad idea was to create something auto-biographical. The two most important events in my childhood were long stays at hospitals and the emigration to Germany. Both had a lot to do with feeling lonely and abandoned. The images I associate with these memories also take place at night – empty hospital hallways and anonymous railway stations in foreign countries.

With time the story evolved and changed to a topic that is more meaningful to me right now. But the general mood remained and there is a sub-textual relationship between the two. I’d rather not talk about it too much because I think the player’s own interpretation is the only valid one.

5. What kind of technical solutions are behind the unique visuals and
gameplay of Trauma?

As far as photography goes I did a lot of experiments. I went out in the night searching for interesting subjects and pushing my camera to the limits. I’ve even built a robotic camera tripod out of LEGO to quickly shoot spherical panoramas at night.

During the day, I tried different approaches on how to construct the game out of the photos. An approach simlar to Microsoft’s Photosynth turned out to be the most promising one. I used Papervision 3D to make that happen.

I also stumbled over the gesture-based controls in one of the experiments. I used the Flash library from bytearray.org. They really made sense once I came up with light-painting as a method of visualizing them. The inspiration for this were my own photographic experiments and the Cologne art group Lichtfaktor.

But even then there is still a lot of hard work in doing on the visual design of interface elements and the production design of the CGI effects.

6. You run two gaming blogs – one is more of a typical game development
blog, the other is for very critical analyses of both indie as well as
blockbuster games. What is the origin of the latter website? And how
does its main topic affect your own games?

I started the second one first my friend Yu-Chung Chen. Another friend of mine, Daniel Renkel joined in at first but dropped out at some point. I don’t know about Yu-Chung but one of the reason for me to work on games is that when I play games I often come up with ideas on how to improve them. GameDesignReviews.com was a way for me to verbalize and remember all those ideas. We created Game Design Scrapbook later on where we realized we needed something more freestyle for random stuff.

I found the blog actually extremely useful. It helped me structuring my ideas and recognizing the patterns between them.

7. What does being an indie developer and the term “indie” mean to you?
Especially now that you have been nominated in IGF.

It becomes more and more difficult to nail down what “Indie” means. There is a lot of discussion about whether it is acceptible for larger teams to participate in IGF. I see the dilemma and I’m glad I don’t have to make the call.

I always think that the big advantage of being “indie” is that you can do projects that bigger companies can’t. This can mean many things – being intimate, provocative, extremely innovative, targeting a very narrow niche, etc. This is both – an opportunity and a necessity. If you are doing the same stuff that bigger companies do, you will loose because they can do it better.