After appearing at PAX East and Day of the Devs during GDC, mutant soap opera Mutazione will be one of over 20 games exhibited at the digital convention LudoNarraCon hosted on Steam this weekend. Developed by Die Gute Fabrik, the game’s story begins when a meteor hits a tropical resort and mutates the survivors. They remain and form a new community, the eponymous Mutazione. Players take on the role of Kai visiting this community 100 years later to see her ill grandfather.
Cliqist was able to get in touch with Mutazione‘s Narrative Lead and writer, Hannah Nicklin, to discuss the game’s inclusion at LudoNarraCon, and what’s gone into developing it for release later this year.
Cliqist: How did you get involved with LudoNarraCon? Did you approach them, or did they reach out to you?
Hannah Nicklin: Fellow Traveller approached us following our announcement ahead of exhibiting Mutazione in Day of the Devs at this year’s GDC. We were immediately intrigued, as narrative games are fairly difficult to exhibit as part of a traditional show floor kind of experience. Day of the Devs is a great chill space, and other spaces, like Mild Rumpus, do a good job of providing an atmosphere in which people can enjoy watching others play, meaning they get a deeper/longer experience of narrative-driven work, but the online format allows for even more accessibility in terms of audience, so we’re looking forward to being involved and seeing how it works out.
What are your plans and goals for Mutazione at LudoNarraCon?
We’ll be doing a two-hour stream which will be looped throughout the day, it’ll be me and Die Gute Fabrik co-founder Doug Wilson playing through our GDC demo, and chatting about the design and writing. It will hopefully feel like a good director’s commentary. Although I’ll have massive jet lag when we do it, so look out for long silences from me where it’s 100 percent possible I’ll have dozed off. Only as a reflection on my ability to deal with timezone transitions, you understand, not as a reflection on the game, or Doug’s delightful company.
When playing the demo, I noticed the use of character dialogue and the moments of silence in between. How does Mutazione strike a balance between telling the story through words and visuals?
We hope that Mutazione will be open to a variety of play styles and pacing, and we’ve worked hard to enable that. There’s room to dig really deep into the story and backstory of all the weird and wonderful characters, or to just hit the key story beats, and spend time exploring the lush environments and do some magical musical gardening. Tune into the stream if you want to see more about how the gardening works! So we’ve tried to make sure that the player can follow their instincts on what pacing or kind of play they want to do by designing supportive narrative and gameplay structures.
How does Mutazione approach narrative and gameplay?
This is a big question! I can answer the narrative question more fully, but maybe I’ll just pick out one aspect, to save writing an essay for you. One of my key tenets when working on the game has been to build distinct voices for all of the characters. I came to the game about three years ago, and at that point, the character art was all complete, and Nils Deneken—the Creative Lead and artist on the game—had a very strong sense of backstory and universe. So to bring that to life, I’ve tried to build an ensemble cast where they don’t just look different, but they read and feel different; different cadence, lexicon, vocal and linguistic tics, etc. Working with such a rich ensemble cast is a real delight and a little unusual in a sphere so used to dealing with hero’s tales. It allows the story to explore the darkness and light in all of us, rather than the false binary of good vs evil. It’s been a really lovely challenge.
As for gameplay, despite being a narrative-driven game, one of the key features of the game is a piece of gameplay, and just like the narrative, it’s up to the player how deeply they want to engage with it. The magical musical gardens are at the heart of the puzzle of the game, but they’re also designed to be an engaging and delightful experience in their own right. There are scores of plants in the game you can harvest seeds from, different plants are suited to different growing environments and conditions, and they all have their own specific musical sound. So you’ll be composing magical musical gardens as part of the game.
What inspired Mutazione?
One of the parts of the story of making Mutazione is how long the idea has been around for. The game/idea is more than a decade old, there are sketches in university-era sketchbooks belonging to Nils, who is now settled down with kids, and there have been a few bursts of work on it to correspond with EU or DFI funding, before we were picked up by the excellent folks at Sony Strategic Content.
In terms of the first seedlings though, Nils often talks about an image he drew close to the beginning—a group photo. Most of the cast of the game are in that image, which is part of how vital the ensemble cast is to the game—it’s a story about a whole community. But the game has been growing for a long time now. It’s part of the privilege of working on Mutazione—to be handed such a rich and well-developed story universe and to work with a dedicated and passionate team on bringing it to life as best we can.
Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions. Good luck with Mutazione at LudoNarraCon!