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Armikrog- A Game You Will Want to Play: Interview with Mike Dietz

Do you love funny games? Do you crave games with utterly unique art styles? Have you ever played The Neverhood, or been bitten by someone who has? If you answered yes to any of these questions (and even if you didn’t) then you may be interested in Armikrog. It is currently seeking funding on Kickstarter. At $650,000 it is still $250,000 short of its goal, with 3 days remaining.

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Armikrog is a point and click adventure game from Doug TenNapel, the creator of classic games such as The Neverhood and Earthworm Jim. Starring the space explorer Tommynaut and his alien dog/drinking buddy Beak-Beak, Armikrog opens with a crash on an unfamiliar world. The player will need to use their wits and the characters’ gifts to survive the planet’s dangers and escape the mysterious fortress, Armikrog.

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From what little has been shown thus far, Armikrog already is shaping up to be a quirky, funny, and immensely entertaining game. A fantastic team of voice actors will be working on the project, including Michalel J. Nelson star of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and Rob Paulsen of Pinky and the Brain. Terry S. Taylor will be composing an entirely new soundtrack, which is sure to be as hilarious as it is brilliant. If you have any reservations I encourage you to look up “The Lil’ Bonus Room”. I was able to reach out to Mike Dietz at Pencil Test Studios to conduct an interview:

What makes now a good time to create Armikrog?

Mike D – We were looking for a new project to work on, and it occurred to us that with the advent of Kickstarter, the time might be right to do another stop motion animated game. Our first stop-mo game, The Neverhood, still has a very active fan base and those fans have been asking us for years for another game. While we haven’t seen much support from the traditional developer/publisher model for another art driven stop motion game, Kickstarter now allows us to go directly to our fans and ask them if they want a game like Armikrog, and that’s exactly what we’re doing.

Will the fact that Armikrog is crowdfunded affect your approach to development?

Mike D – Not too much. I think the biggest difference will be that we’ll let the backers see a little more of the behind the scenes process during production than we normally do. They’ve earned that privilege with all their support.

Is there anything you’ve learned in the intervening years that you’re really looking forward to putting into practice?

Mike D – We continue to be students of our craft, always trying to learn and get better at what we do, so hopefully we bring more and more to each project we work on. We’re proud of games like the Neverhood, but I feel we’ve improved as artists, animators, game designers and story tellers since then.

What draws you to stop motion as a medium?

Mike D – We have experience in a variety of animation styles and mediums, but we find ourselves continually drawn back to stop motion. I think it has to do with the fact that you’re dealing with real world objects and lighting. There is something magical about seeing a real, tactile object come to life and start moving around on screen. That was the magic of stop motion 100 years ago, and that magic remains today. When I was a kid there was a sense of wonder delivered by my favorite movies and games that I think is lost today. Audiences today are more familiar with the technology used to create movies and games, and are savvy enough to recognize and be impressed with advances in those technologies. That’s great, but there’s a loss of innocence associated with that sophistication that mitigates the sense of wonder we used to feel. Stop motion, however, still manages to deliver on that wonder, touching people emotionally rather than intellectually. I’m not sure why that is. Maybe the small analog imperfections inherent to stop motion seem more alive to our brains than the clinical, orchestrated imperfections of digital animation. Or maybe it takes us back to our childhood when we pretended that our toys came to life. I don’t know why, but it still makes me feel that way.

Tommynaut has some physical resemblance to Klaymen but from the trailer alone it’s clear he’s much more vocal. Will dialogue play a large role in Armikrog?

Mike D – We get asked this question a lot, and the answer is that the nature of each project dictates the amount of dialogue needed. In the Neverhood, Klaymen’s journey as an innocent didn’t require him to speak much. Tommynaut, as more of a hero-type character, will have more to say, but we won’t overdo it. Dialogue will be used as needed to advance the story. One thing people tend to forget is there was a whole lot of dialog in the Neverhood – I know because I had to animate most of it and it was a lot of work! While it’s true Klaymen rarely had anything to say, Willie Trombone almost never shut up!

Terry Taylor will be returning to compose the soundtrack. Will Armikrog’s music have the same quirky, toe-tapping, and hilarious tone that was in the Neverhood?

Mike D – Yes, Neverhood composer and musical genius Terry S. Taylor is returning to provide a full soundtrack for Amikrog in his unique and unmistakable style. Terry has already delivered the first tune for Armikrog, which we featured in our Kickstarter video. You can see Terry sing the song in its entirety on the Kickstarter page in Update # 4!

I know that this is probably something you’d like to reveal later; but as a longtime fan of PvP I’m obligated to ask, who will Scott Kurtz be voicing?

Mike D – Sorry, I can’t answer that without giving too much away… we don’t want to spoil any of the surprises in store for the players!

I want to thank Mike Dietz for taking the time to answer my questions, for bearing with my desperate grab for spoilers. The Kickstarter is in the home stretch but it’s still getting plenty of attention. Nintendo believes in the potential of Armikrog as a Wii U game to the point that it pushed Pencil Test Studios through as an officially licensed Wii U developer. However, if this game is going to be made it’s going to need more support. So follow the link at the bottom of the page, and if you like what you see back the project and spread the word.

Armikrog Kickstarter