Interview with Daniele Giardini and Isak J Martinsson, Creators of Goscurry

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In late January, we provided our first-ever interview here on the site. If you missed it then definitely check it out! We chatted with Michael Stearns who was one of the lead developers on Tiny Barbarian DX! This time around we interviewed not one both of the main people behind Goscurry – developer Daniele Giardini and musician Isak J Martinsson. We at Pixel Pacas are proud to present this great interview!

Pixel Pacas: How did Holoville Games get started? Were there any other independent developers you looked up to at the time?

Daniele: I jumped quite suddenly into the Unity game engine, because I installed it when I got a job where I had to recreate (along with Paul Harden and Grazia Genovese who made the graphics and the design) an interactive version of the lost Kircher Museum. After I finished it, I was in love with the engine, and wanted to do more. Games obviously, since I made some in the past, but Flash-based and super small, never taking them seriously. So I created the Games subdivision of Holoville (my tiny company, which existed since many years but for interactive stuff dedicated to museums, tvs, or things like that – and which I closed at the end of 2013 by the way, so bye bye Holoville Games).

I always had a passion for games, but my true passion were comics, which I loved, studied, and wrote/drew, while I didn’t really have a serious knowledge about the game development culture. So I wasn’t really looking up at anyone at the time: I just wanted to make games. Only later I got to know the indie scene more (a lot more), and was lucky enough to become friends with people like Isak and his wife Natalia, which I respect and admire, and to find great sources of inspiration all around.

PP: When designing Goscurry were there any existing games you found inspiration from? How did the cool and colorful minimalist art style come about?

Daniele: The only conscious inspiration were Canabalt and the first two GTA games, or Micro Machines. Those games that had a top-down view with controls relative to the vehicle and not to the camera. And obviously Canabalt, since it’s the first (and almost only) runner I played, and which inspired me to make one myself. After putting Goscurry on Greenlight, I saw people saying it was similar to Audiosurf. I actually didn’t know it, but when I searched for it, I was “wtf! it’s a ship! on a road!”, though the gameplay is indeed very different.

The minimalist style is first and foremost due to the fact that I decided to make Goscurry 3D, and 3D doesn’t make sense to me unless it’s minimalist. The colors are probably inspired by the colors I sometimes used for my comics, which in turn were inspired by the works of Lorenzo Mattotti, among others.

PP: The game is pretty difficult with players needing to hone their twitch reflexes to last on any stage. How long did it take to get the difficulty settings “just right”?

Daniele: Getting the difficulty “almost right” was pretty quick, and I think it took no more than a week. I used a playful approach to development, where I would just create the engine, add some parts, play like crazy with my lady (Jelena, who is very into games but not into action/arcade ones, so she provided a great alternative feedback), and then tweak it until it felt good. It was fun, and when I heard her screaming, swearing, and saying “one more!”, I knew I was going in the right direction. Getting it “just right” instead was a longer road, where the feedback of all the players of the first free online version was fundamental. I tweaked little parts of it for all the 6 months, maybe more, of development.

PP: You’ve been very open to input from the community of Goscurry players. Did they bring up some good points that you didn’t consider while working on the game?

Daniele: They did indeed, and it was great! The Friends list, the average score, the much harder difficulty that you can choose if you unlock every achievement, were all done thanks to feedback from players. And most of all, I have to thank KingOreO, who suggested me to add different sceneries after a given distance, in order to give players something to reach (and who was also the first player to show me that Goscurry, which I thought was very hard, could be almost too easy for a special kind of crazy gamers). That’s why I chose to create all the Goscurry cities. By the way, you know all the avatars in Goscurry? Many are invented, but many are also based on players who helped me somehow, as a small way to thank them.

If I can take a small digression here… I believe that, rather obviously, being open to the community of players is extremely important. Both because they give precious feedback, and because, what the hell, they’re playing your game, so they deserve your respect and your gratefulness. That said, it’s also a risk. As a developer, you would tend to implement everything they say, as long as it makes sense, to make them happy and to egotistically revel in their satisfaction. You have to pay attention there though, because you risk going astray and changing your game into something else. Instead, it’s very important to keep your vision (and to make it grow in future games, but that’s another story). So, yes, being open to feedback is very important, but it’s also important to keep your game personal, by filtering everything in the right way.

PP: An integral part of the Goscurry experience is its music. How did you approach composing the soundtrack?

Isak: Before I started making the soundtrack I listened to the 80s music revolution really much in an unhealthy way, because everything from that age sounds just happy and awesome. So for Goscurry I wanted to try make something to tribute my feelings I got from those magical years. Later on I found out about the wonderful style “Electro” and you could say the Goscurry soundtrack is like Electro on speed! It needed to pump the player, keep them pumped and dancing in front of the computers while struggling not to explode. I always test my tracks with my love Natalia first to see if she starts shaking with the beats, then it’s usually approved. Her body is a very good critic! And Daniele’s feedback was a great value, he seems to understand my irony and music sometimes better than me when I start gliding too far off the concept.

Daniele: I just want to say that Isak’s music blew my mind. He was, like, “hey, I could make a music for it”, and then kablam! He made Rackety (the first Goscurry song)! I first listened to it with Jelena, and I can’t describe enough our happy faces and the wohooos we emitted. I knew Isak was good, but that was totally unexpected.

PP: Speaking of the music, what inspired the names of the tracks? Titles like “The Secret Indie Circle” and “Swedish Taxes” come to mind. What are your favorite songs in the game? (I personally love “Abductination” and its use of theremin sound effects!)

Isak: The names are just my way of communicating with people, since none of my songs have vocals. And sometimes it’s just the lack of an idea to a name that creates something ironic from the essence of the song, or something like that. The secret indie circle (that’s misspelled forever!) came up after we made a crowd funding and learned a lot how the “indie elite” game development scene works, and it’s a weird thing. I just wanted to point it out, that there’s a secret circle. Like illuminati. And we don’t fit in that group. Swedish taxes is there just because I’m from Sweden and the taxes are sick! I was angry at that point of naming the song and felt it was the right one. Also, N.A.T.I is short for Natalia and I made the song for her when she was angry. I love all the songs, but my favorite must be Abductination. It was a long time the underdog and bullied song that nobody liked, but I found a way to make it special so it would be accepted.

Daniele: About my favorites, I love them all, seriously, each of them for different reasons. But my favorite one must be “Rackety”. Mostly because it’s the first one Isak made, and as I mentioned above it blew my mind. Sometimes, when I go to bed, even if I didn’t work or played with Goscurry, it just starts playing in my head. Another super-favorite is “Aaa”, which I find very epic in an anime way, but with a touch of hidden drama inside. Then “Abductination”, for the exact same reasons Isak said, and because it manages to be both energetic and deeply romantic. And “Face to Foot”, because it’s the first Goscurry song where Jelena and I had sex, while it looped over and over and we sometimes laughed and said things like “you see, the song is good”.

PP: What were some of the first video games you ever played? What do you play today?

Daniele: My memory really sucks, but the very first game that left a lasting impression on me was Loom, by the greatly missed LucasArts (Lucasfilm at the time). I was so little, that I didn’t even know you could save games, so I kept replaying it from the start each time. Nowadays, I play all kind of games as long as they don’t require powerful hardware, since my computer is pretty old, with a predilection for turn-based strategy. My favorite game for last year is definitely “Papers, Please”, for many, many, many reasons. Still, I keep getting back to Chivalry (the rare times it works and doesn’t crash because of some of its many bugs – which is a pity because otherwise it’s a really fun game), since my stepson Aki and I love to cut each other’s heads in multiplayer.

Isak: First game was Mario, and I played it for hours until our NES got a meltdown and we had nothing left. As for today, I try playing a variety of games when I have time but there’s a clear winner that has stolen all my time and that would be Dungeon Defenders. I’m hyped for the release of the second one!

PP: For all those who have yet to play Goscurry, why should they give it a try?

Isak: Anyone who enjoys dancing in front of the pc at the brink of rage but still hanging in there for just another try, to beat the highscore and be the champion of all, should give Goscurry a try! When you master the speed and obstacles, it’s really a very relaxing game to play when you had a stressful day.

Daniele: I suck at self-promotion, but I agree with Isak: weirdly, it can be a really relaxing game, in spite of its high difficulty. It deserves to be played at least to see if you can reach illumination in the midst of chaos. And because it’s really challenging, obviously!

Thank you both Daniele and Isak for taking the time to participate in our interview!

If you missed our Goscurry review, then go give it a read! Those who would love to support Holoville Games can do so by purchasing the game on their website, or by upvoting it on Steam Greenlight. Or, you can take a shot at entering our massive Goscurry giveaway!

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  • MrNinjaSquirrel

    “In late January, we provided our first-ever review here on the site.”
    Something is wrong with that sentence.

    Interesting interview, I’m surprised the dev didn’t know about Audiosurf, because that actually did come to mind when watching the trailer. Interested to get my hands on this sometimes, the music in particular has me rather intrigued (gotta love 80s electro).

    • I know (about AudioSurf)! It’s actually pretty weird how I made something similar (though also quite different — I have to repeat this each time I mention AudioSurf, both because it’s true and for my mental sanity) from AudioSurf without knowing it. The first concept of Goscurry was already of a ship running on an infinite road, but the road was initially purple, then white, and finally black, because I realized the other colors weren’t visible enough. The ship was there from the beginning instead, simply because I had no intention of creating a vehicle with wheels. Wheels suck 😀 And then, after I finished the free webplayer version and put Goscurry on Greenlight, I discovered AudioSurf, with its ship, running on a BLACK road. That was pretty crazy (awesome game by the way, at least from its looks, since I have no intention to play it until I complete Goscurry’s mobile version).
      A thing that might have influenced us both, is a very old game about a ship (again) running on a straight road, where you had to jump left and right. I can’t remember the title, but once a player mentioned it and something in my mind kind of clicked, so probably I played it when I was a kid.