Bringing The Surreal Characters Of Japanese Author Haruki Murakami To Life

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Japanese author Haruki Murakami has seen success all over the world and one of the people his surreal fictions has influenced is  Iranian game designer Sahand Saedi. He’s leading a small team at Bit Byterz creating a point-and-click adventure game called Memoranda.


Anyone familiar with Murakami’s work should instantly recognize his presence in Memoranda. You can see it in the strange characters and the magical realist premise. But to further investigate how Murakami’s work has inspired Memoranda, Siliconera caught up with the Saedi himself to find out exactly what he loves about the man’s work and what he’s taken from it.


What is it about Haruki Murakami’s work that you love so much? Are there any specific moments or stylistic traits of his that stick out to you?


Sahand Saedi, designer: Since I was very young I’ve loved magical realism stories. I can remember how I felt when I finished “One Hundred Years of Solitude”, “Midnight Children”, etc… It might be interesting to point out that my uncle was a famous writer in my country and some of his best works were written in this genre four to five decades ago. I love the way Murakami makes you believe impossible things and events. When you are reading his stories you are not surprised if an animal talks or a frog saves a city. I also like his knowledge on various issues such as music, technology, … and how he introduces them into his works.


What, specifically, have you looked to draw from Murakami’s work and into Memoranda? Are there any direct parallels to be made between the two?


The sense of suspense and weirdness. The story of Memoranda is inspired by his short stories so there are some direct parallels between the two. Murakami lovers can guess which stories inspired me the most when I was writing the game script.


You’ve said that one of the main themes in Memoranda is loss or "losing." How does this manifest in the game? Is this what drives the game forward?


There’s just one important loss in the game and that drives the game forward. The main character lost something and like most of the adventure games you have to find out the reason. But to strengthen the sense of loss in the whole game, I took away other things from some characters!


You have some interesting characters in Memoranda. How did you come up with their stories and look? Who are your favorites?


I read most of Murakami’s short stories when I was going to write the game scenario. First, I adopted two or three characters from them but during designing the game I came up with some puzzles and stories that needed additional characters. I decided to use some of my favorite ones who appeared in Murakami’s stories like a Super frog, a soldier with a bat, a human-sized elephant… Maybe they are not treated the same way they do in the stories but I found them interesting to be present in the game. And about their look… Well, the game artist is very talented and she doesn’t need much information about the characters to design them. I just told her the brief story of each character and she brought exactly the one I had in mind.


How did you construct the scenes in the game? It seems like there’s a combination of techniques applied to each one – is that right?


Constructing the scenes was the same as character designing in our game developing process. Again I described the scenes to the artist and she painted whatever she could imagine. If we needed additional elements or changes we discussed them together. Some puzzles and characters were added to the game during this process. I know it’s not the correct way to design a game but it was our first experience and we had no-one to help around. As I know the techniques applied to the scenes are nearly the same and a Wacom tablet was used to digitally paint them in Photoshop.


Does Memoranda play like a traditional point-and-click adventure game? Are there puzzles to solve? Is there an inventory to juggle?


Yes, it’s a traditional point-and-click adventure game but not one of those with Open, Close, Push, Use,… buttons (although those were my favorites when I was very young). The player can pick up things, solve puzzles, use inventory things on people, etc.  We know that nowadays people don’t want to spend much time on these kind of games but it is my favorite genre and we started the project for the fun of making an adventure game.


It seems that you were planning on launching a Kickstarter for the game at one point but never did. Why is that? What’s the current state of the game?


We wanted to launch the Kickstarter campaign many months ago but for some reasons it was cancelled. But at this moment I’m answering your questions it’s ready and accepted by Kickstarter guys. We just have to press the publish button and we’ll do it this week.

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Chris Priestman
Former Siliconera staff writer and fan of both games made in Japan and indie games.