Developer interview: Akumu games – Creator of new action, puzzle, adventure game ‘ikenie’

ikenie

Akumu games is an up and coming developer behind the game ‘ikenie’. ‘ikenie’ is a action, puzzle, adventure game made with RPG maker and a lot of hard work. I’ve also got a review of this game in the works so keep your eyes peeled for that! Akumu took the time to speak with me and answered every question so well I have very little to add up here so without further ado let’s get to it!

Do you work a day job and would you like to make games full time or keep it as a hobby?

At the time, I work part-time at a small security company dealing with numbers, reports, web programming and boring stuff like that. The part-time contract was my choice because I wanted to have time to pursue indie game development and I realized that having a full-time job would make that very difficult to keep up with (and probably because I’m lazy too… ehem).

Nonetheless, I’d like to believe this job is temporary. In the future, I’d like to work on my game ideas on my own full-time. I don’t see myself working for a AAA game company, I don’t agree with many of their policies and the way they prioritize business success over art.

IN: I certainly respect Akumu for his decision to follow his dreams and not work with a triple AAA just because it’s the safer choice. Always do what makes you happy! (Misky)

From my research I get the impression you make your games by yourself; did you have any help during the development or did you do everything yourself?

What gave you that impression? Could it be the lack of fancy painted graphics and a fully customizable tactical battle system? Well, excuse me but let me tell you… yes, I make them by myself mostly 🙁 Unfortunately, I’m in no position for hiring a team (for now, at least). Also, it doesn’t help being fairly unknown in the market when recruiting people who might be interested in joining a game project. For this, you need to have a portfolio or at least some screenshots or game-play to show, usually your idea alone just won’t do. In other words, you need to gain their trust before they commit their -unpaid- time to strangers. Originally, ikenie was planned to be created under a deadline of only one month due to a game contest I decided to take my chances in (IGMC)! So, bringing my idea to life was tough, no matter how you looked at it (limited funds, assets, skills…). I did all I could by myself (from high-level programming to minor pixel art).

For the most part, I employed the default engine assets and free resources from the community and went from there. Apart from that, I spent most of my -small- funds on getting an original soundtrack. I believe unique and fitting tracks were necessary for immersing the player into the meandering atmosphere of ikenie. Chris Porter really convinced me with the track “Relict” (which quickly became the main theme of the game). We even became good friends and he was kind enough to offer me a special discount just because he liked the game concept and he knew I couldn’t afford much either way.

Oh, also, a very friendly and talented artist who goes by the name of BlackRoseMii helped us with the CGs and some pixel art 🙂

I’m really grateful to them! After a month of hard work, I submitted the game entry having them as members of the “official” team.

A few other people collaborated with the voice overs of the game at the last moment. I don’t want to bore you to death by mentioning tons of names you don’t know or care about, so if you are interested in knowing them I invite you to check out the game credits :D!

IN: I also have a review in the works for this game and after playing it I must say the music was one of the best parts, great decision there! (Misky)

Would you ever want to bring on more members to your team or keep it how it is now?

I think small teams work the best. The problem is that it’s very difficult to find skilled people as committed as yourself. Game developing is a hard process and I think everyone should be very aware of that, regardless of your role. Luckily, I’ve had the luck to meet with some wonderful people along the rocky way but that’s not always the case.

Now that I’ve stated that, I can go back to the original question. Yes, I’ll most likely be looking for more talent to join our team in the future. Bigger ideas require bigger commitment (and risks). When or how? I’m not sure yet, but if you are an artist or writer looking to join a project, keep on polishing your skills and exposing yourself to the world. Someday, maybe, we’ll exchange emails 🙂

What programs do you like to use to make your games?

Mostly RPG Maker. I know some people think it’s a software for children or not a serious engine to work with, but for me it does the work: tell a playable story, from beginning to end.  In fact, it’s pretty customizable if you are willing to put the time and effort into it, most experienced users will tell you that as well.

Basically, it all comes down to our needs. It’s not worth it working on the latest engine if you can only accomplish five minutes of glitchy game-play after two years or more of development. For bigger studios, it’s a different story.

ikenie

What inspired you to make ikenie?

ikenie originally came from a simple idea: Escalate from the deepest of the Underworld to the summit of Heaven.

Believe it or not, the game focus is not the game-play, but the actual story/concept behind it. Those who have been paying attention to their surroundings, dialogues and characters in it will realize. The game-play design goes in hand with all this to help deliver the message better.

When writing my games, I follow one philosophy: game-play has to adapt to the story, not otherwise. So you can expect me to be jumping between game genres if the nature of it demands it 🙂 I used to spend hours a day playing games. I’m a fan of those with realistic and dark scenarios and characters (like the Shin Megami Tensei franchise). Like I mentioned before, I’m more of a story-oriented player, so I also enjoy visual novels a lot (my favourites are those of the Infinity Series and Fate/Stay Night). Of course, they had an influence in my writing as well. Actually, the final boss of the game is inspired by Kil’Jaeden from the game World of Warcraft :p

Nowadays I spend more time making them than playing them. I don’t know if this is because I grew up, or just because I got tired of seeing the same stuff over and over. Gaming industry is not what it used to be, and that’s why indies companies are growing steadily each day!

What exactly does that word ‘ikenie’ mean and why did you choose that as the name?

ikenie is a Japanese word (生贄) which means sacrifice (in the sense of scapegoat). I don’t want to spoil much, but the title is linked to the story and why are you there to begin with. You could also ask “Why Japanese?” Well, it just sounded right. I dunno. But if you’ve played the game you most likely noticed syllables popping up from time to time when you got hit or cast a spell, for example. Those syllables are words of power that allure to something in the “real” world. Coincidentally, they also come from the Japanese alphabet as well. To name one: when you hit through an enemy with a fire skill, the syllable KA (火) pops up above it. In this case, it makes reference to that same element. It’s not as straight forward though, since I went with what “sounded right” instead of adhering to grammar 😛

Anyway… i-ke-ni-e. See it? No? Don’t worry, I don’t either 🙂

All of the art and pages for ikenie all show the title with a lowercase ‘i’; is there any significance to this or am I just being silly?

Oh, you actually noticed! Yes, it does :)! When walking through the game, didn’t you, at some time, feel like a little grain of sand in the desert? If so I did a good job! I’ll leave the rest for you to meditate upon it…

Without spoiling too much what exactly is going on in the story and what is the the overall goal of the game?

I want the player to feel in the feet of the protagonist, a lost child who knows nothing about what’s going on around him or why or who put you there. But in any case, you know what you have to do: move forward. As you progress through the game it all becomes clearer. By the end, you’ll realize you are no longer the lost child you were at the beginning even though nobody told you anything about what’s really going on (the “neutral” ending in particular addresses the “why” and “who” original questions but at that point it should be of little concern to you).

If I were to put it in shorter words: it’s all about spiritual growth.

ikenie

Tell us a little bit about our protagonist; who are they and what kind of powers (if any) do they possess?

I’d love to but… I don’t know! No, seriously, you are the protagonist! Why should I know? What I can tell you is what you can expect to find in your journey. You’ll be getting hold of many otherworldly weapons, mastering the four elements (air, earth, water and fire), meeting powerful friends and foes and, above all, knowing thyself!

What kind of enemies will we be facing in your game?

Of all kinds! From vengeful spirits to thirsty vampires to ancient Egyptians guardians. Be careful to face them head on or you’ll find yourself in a hard -often deadly- position! But not everything is violence in the underworld, you will also have to solve many puzzles using your wits alone. The trick lies in adapting yourself to many situations and move always forward. No matter how difficult a challenge seems to be, stick to it and you’ll overcome it sooner or later. Repetition is the key to mastery. Now, repeat with me 🙂

Have you made many other games in the past and do you have any plans for future games?

ikenie is my first -complete- project. Before that, I was working on a free adventure mystery game called: Miraculo Island (you can Google it). I actually managed to release a short DEMO and it got good reviews but I decided to halt development because I wasn’t really happy with the direction it was taking. After much thought, I decided to make a remake of it in a more modern engine and with better overall quality (graphics, music…). This, of course, would require some major funding than ever before. I’m considering creating a Patreon page for it soon, and with it, release a short free mystery/horror game of the same style (which for now let’s call it R42) to show people what my games are all about as a marketing strategy. Hopefully, they will like it too! You’ll have to wait and see for now 🙂

All in all, I have learned a lot in these few past years working directly in my game projects. I plan on developing my skills as writer and game designer further. I really enjoy making and reading from people playing them.

Finally, do you have any advice to give to anyone out there who is interested in pursuing games development as a career?

Work, work, work, work, work, work, sleep, work, work, work, work. Seriously, there’s no easy way around it!

Even though I’m a random dude from the internet and I have nothing really but a few low-budget games to back up my claims, I think this advice goes for anything that’s worth in life. I’m sure you’d agree with me on that. Start small, grow big 🙂 That’s all? Phew! That was a long first interview! I’m sure I missed a thing or two but oh well, for the next time I guess…

I want to thank to the Orange Bison community for this opportunity and I hope to talk to you guys soon again 🙂

We at Orange Bison would like to thank you as well for taking the time to speak to us! It’s been a pleasure and I want to personally wish you all the best on your future endeavours. 

Hi, I'm Misky! I'm a huge video game enthusiast and I spend just about all my time playing one game or another. I can play the drums which I learned from playing Rock Band but unfortunately I've yet to learn magic or hand to hand combat despite many attempts at trying; I guess not everything you do in a video game carries over to the real world. I'm vegetarian and if I'm not playing video games I'm probably asleep.

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