Most videogames today are focused on graphically-advanced killing, with little chance to make an emotional connection with the players. That’s why A Song for Viggo, a Kickstarer game being developed by Simon Karlsson, is such a breath of fresh air. It focuses on what is real—real situations and real artwork—in order to evoke real emotions.
I recently got a chance to talk to Karlsson, who was able to tell me more about the point-and-click game and the unique process of creating it.
A Song for Viggo begins its emotional journey on a somber note. “The first thing you have to do is arrange your own son’s funeral,” explained Karlsson.
After that, it becomes a game about everyday people living everyday lives, only with the haunting memory of a dead son in the air. Players will play as the father of the family, and can move around a large world using point-and-click style of gameplay that spans five chapters.
“The gameplay and the game is not really supposed to be hard in a mechanical way or a typical gaming way,” Karlsson said. Instead, it is about real life choices that a father has to make on a day to day basis. And just like in real life, every action has a consequence.
“I want the choices to make it replayable, and still not have the players know what they did to make a certain event trigger,” he continued.
For example,Karlsson explained that one of the choices you must make is whether or not you go to see a therapist to help your character deal with his son’s death. Players can choose not to go, but it will have certain consequences later in the game. Just like choosing to go will lead you down a different path.
Even simpler things, like doing chores, will have an effect on outcomes down the road. One of the interesting things about the gameplay is that these choices are virtually invisible. No pop-ups will come up asking players to choose between A and B or anything along those lines. Players will not know when a choice is being made—instead, things will happen as a result of an action, just like in real life.
Following in the view of realism and wanting the game to be realistic, Simon choose to not use 3-D engines to make his graphics. Instead, the world of A Song for Viggo is made of paper, real paper, that Karlsson painstakingly folds together into 3D models. He then takes images and film in a similar way that claymation movies are made—by using stop-motion techniques.
In order to do that, Karlsson turned his closet into a little studio where he could film his paper people, houses, and cities. He explained that the project is huge, and he has to rely on different creative methods to make sure everything comes out right.
For example, Karlsson outlined how he had to “ apply strings to drawers and doors to make them move slowly at the time without my fingers being involved,” and find other creative ways to make things move.
In the end, though,“it’s just about folding, and gluing stuff together, and cutting stuff—making stuff look pretty,” he explained with a laugh.
On top of being a game developer and an apparent master paper-folder, Karlsson has also composed the music for his game. A pianist, he wrote beautiful melodies that go along with the theme of each of the five chapters of the game. His music can be heard on Soundcloud. The piano compositions are haunting, and actually link more closely to the story than regular videogame music might.
“The wife in the family starts to learn to play the piano in order to cope with her own grief… she’s really lousy in the beginning but suddenly gets better in each chapter,” Karlsson explained. The game music links up with that, giving the story another medium in which it can connect on an emotional level.