Video Games

He’s no Mirage: Swiss Game Developer Mario von Rickenbach

We asked Swiss game developer Mario von Rickenbach, 24, about creating his surreal, artistic offerings. His title Mirage is a finalist for Excellence in Visual Art at the 2012 Independent Games Festival at GDC. Rickenbach says he’s influenced as much by animation like Terry Gilliam’s Monty Python work as he is by the games he plays.

Q: How did you get started as a game designer?
A: I studied at the Zurich University of the Arts, where I earned my bachelor’s in game design one and a half years ago. I actually started studying architecture, but the goal of creating a house was not very interesting to me. I looked for something else and found game design is the perfect connection between many disciplines like programming, designing, drawing, music, and sound.

Q: What was the first game you designed?
A: I did some small prototypes while studying. The first larger game was Oculus, which I made for an exhibition at the Fantoche Animation Festival 2009.

Q: Where did you come up with the idea for Mirage?
A: It wasn’t my goal to create a game at first. I just tried to create some kind of creature, a life. In the process I started to experiment and played with photos and collage… I wanted to have a modular creature and it was obvious to use human parts. We know how they work. It’s easy for a player to intuitively understand what a foot can do, that a mouth can eat. The game in its current form is more like a toy than a traditional video game.

Q: Why do you think the judges for the Independent Games Festival responded to Mirage?
A: Maybe because they didn’t understand it? It’s an unconvential combination of familiar elements, which obviously seems to be interesting to explore and to look at. It’s not normal, but it’s also familiar.

Q: How did you come up with your new game, Krautscape?
A: We started it before Mirage. We wanted to create a multiplayer, classic racing game with a twist: you build the track as you race. The goal is not to reach the end of the track but to reach some point in the space, and you can only get there by creating the track to take you.

Q: Did you play video games as a kid?
A: Age of Empires was one of my favorites around 1999, but when I was 17 I completely stopped playing games for two or three years. I was bored with it. Now I try out all the new indie games but I seldom finish them. I prefer making them.