A LudoNarraCon Interview with Mipumi Games
LudoNarraCon celebrates a variety of games, all of which tend to have some sort of hook to them. In Mipumi Games’ The Flower Collectors, you play as a retired policeman who still has an itch to solve crimes. Unfortunately, being in a wheelchair changes your investigative capabilities. Nonetheless, you use your cunning observation (and binoculars) to watch the neighborhood from your balcony, finding clues to piece together a mysterious whodunnit.
The Flower Collectors is one of the many games featured during this weekend’s LudoNarraCon. To dive more into this mystery set in the late ‘70s, we talked with Gregor Eigner, CEO and managing director of Mipumi Games, to learn more about the studio and its experienced developers.
TR: Why is The Flower Collectors set in 1977?
Gregor Eigner: We wanted a main character in a wheelchair within the crime/espionage genre, in a time before internet to make the investigation more haptic, less digital. We wanted something outside of stereotypical U.S. crime settings—we read books by French and Spanish authors about the cold war and the Franco era, which ultimately were our main inspiration for the setting.
TR: Can you walk us through the game design process for The Flower Collectors, from concept to publishing? How much was the budget?
GE: We have a so-called Mipumi Day once a month at our studio. Every first Friday of each month, the entire team is enabled to work on game concepts (think of a short game jam), train themselves on new software, watch GDC vault sessions, or read about topics important for daily work. During such a Mipumi Day, the concept for The Flower Collectors was born. The idea was picked up on several months in a row to strengthen the concept. Then the project entered our internal greenlight process, where an advisory board (populated with a representative of each discipline) and management discuss a potential future of such a title. We have these greenlight processes at the end of every development phase, a stage gate the team needs to pass, in order to continue. This allows us to shape a project accordingly and control our investment. The design process starts with lots of research, creating first concepts for characters and environments. Followed by blocked out geometry to get a feeling for size, shape, and scope of a title. It’s always very important to create a “click-through” version that still contains placeholders as quickly as possible to better understand the beforehand mentioned criteria.
Mipumi Games is an independent self-funded developer. All our projects are funded out of our own cashflow we generate from our AAA collaborations with partners like IO Interactive, Remedy Entertainment, or Ubisoft. On top, The Flower Collectors was partly funded with a public grant by the Vienna Business Agency, a governmental organization supporting the creative and also games industry. As [a] small studio we need to pick our bets carefully and make sure we are capable of finishing and completely funding a game without external help. The budget for The Flower Collectors is ranging in the 6-digit figures.
TR: What will players most enjoy about The Flower Collectors?
GE: We wanted to show that a person in a wheelchair can have the same impact on an investigation as a walking human, that players will quickly forget how they get around over the more relevant actions. It’s important to us to convey a wheelchair is not a limiting object, but removes restraints for its owner.
TR: How would you compare it to The Lion's Song? Which was easier or harder to do?
GE: While both titles are narrative games, they have a lot of differences: The Lion's Song is an episodic game with a consistent overarching story and a restricted colour palette of six colours in 2D. The Flower Collectors is a game in chapters with a single environment, the rooftop apartment, in 3D and voice acting. We benefited from the experiences from The Lion's Song with storytelling and writing, while it took more efforts to establish the stage, our plaza in Barcelona. Both titles had their unique challenges and learnings. We hope we can learn and evolve, avoiding doing the same mistakes twice, as this is one of our credos.
TR: You co-developed Control with Remedy Games. How did you get involved with that project? Would you participate in an Alan Wake 2?
GE: The Mipumi founders worked way back in the 2000s on the Max Payne franchise. Nevertheless, the strong engineering background and the reputation working with IO Interactive and Ubisoft got us involved to work remotely as an embedded team in the areas of engine and tools programming. We are happy that we have the opportunity to work with Remedy, and as a big fan of Alan Wake it would be a pleasure to support such an illustrious title.
TR: The Flower Collectors is a murder mystery, with shades of Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window. How much do films or music influence your game ideas?
GE: We watched a lot of French espionage movies and read [John] le Carré cold war fiction, which influenced the cop/government angle. The main inspiration came from a book called The Shadow of the Wind.
It’s about the police in a post WW2 Franco era, set in Barcelona. Jorge was loosely influenced by Det. Hodges in Stephen King’s Mr. Mercedes. We tried to steer away from classic American B&W crime cliché as much as possible. If any movies influenced the game it’s the work by Pedro Almodóvar who combines crime/suspense with intense romantic and humoristic topics, usually set in Spanish cities. Lola is such a character.
For music we wanted something very close and personal that fit the location. Hence we picked the Austrian musician Florian Spies with a strong set focus on non-digital instruments. We wanted an instrument associated with each of the main characters and a sound that fits and supports the '70s setting in Barcelona.
TR: How did the tools used for the Hitman series differ from those used to develop Control?
GE: When we are working as [an] embedded team in various areas of engineering support our main purpose is to understand our customers needs and their workflows. This allows us to gather the necessary feedback from all involved departments to deliver with our best efforts a best-case scenario of an efficient tool set. We are always happy if we get the feedback that a certain tool or a workflow could be improved in order to help developing the actual game in the Hitman universe or establishing a potential new franchise like Control.
TR: What do you look for in a game that you co-develop? What are the essential elements of the original games you decide to develop?
GE: We are looking for enthusiasm and a spark of passion in the team we collaborate with. We need champions that have the vision and want to create a great game while it must also fit our skill set and experiences.
For our original games we are looking for a unique angle and a focus on a specific element either in a technical, a design or artistic challenge. We continue the journey we started with The Lion’s Song, telling interesting stories during exciting times in Europe, to help evolve games as [an] interactive medium. Stay tuned for more to come from Mipumi!
TR: What’s next on Mipumi Games’ plate?
GE: We just started to work on our next original game. You can find a small hint in The Flower Collectors :)
The Flower Collectors came out just in time for LudoNarraCon, and you can pick it up right now on Steam.
This interview was conducted by Sonya Alexander.