We interviewed Simon Flesser of Simogo about designing fantastic narrative games for the mobile market, the unique atmospheres of Device 6 and Year Walk, and how art, sound, and story combine.
Simogo’s games are all different from one another—Device 6 is very different from Year Walk, both of which are different from Kosmo Spin, the studio’s first release back in 2010. While their games might vary widely from casual, kid-friendly mobile distractions to the deep, dark, and frightening world of Swedish vision quests, one thing remains constant: Simogo’s commitment to unique and atmospheric work that feels at home on any platform.
We chatted with Simon Flesser, who creates Simogo’s games along with Gordon Gardebäck, about the developer’s previous work and what we can expect in the future from this highly original team.
Simogo Creates Deep, Powerful Mobile Games
Mobile games have a bad reputation for being shallow, but Simogo makes games that in no way fit that definition. Rich, heavy experiences, the their games inadvertently challenge the bright and cheerful worlds we expect of mobile games.
“When we started in 2010, it wasn’t to [challenge] anything at all,” said Simon Flesser in an email. “We were interested in the user interfaces of the iPhone hardware, and that Apple had gotten so many things right when it comes to ease of development and [distribution] for small developers. We simply create the stuff we think is fun, interesting and worthwhile ourselves.”
And what they create fits their desires—Simogo’s games are unlike any others, playing heavily with text, graphics, and sound for totally unique experiences. In a two-person team there’s bound to be a lot of harmony, but everyone one of their games works in tandem, sound complementing visuals complementing story.
“Everything in a game has to sing together,” Flesser said. “There’s not one element that is more important than another, be that gameplay, art or sound.
Holistic, Harmonious Approach Characterizes Simogo’s Design
To achieve this level of harmony, Simogo doesn’t follow the same method of development as many other developers. “We don’t really make traditional prototypes, because seeing blocks moving around without the right feedback will not communicate the feel of the game at all,” Flesser explained. “Instead, our prototypes are more like vertical slices. We iteratively create a small portion of the game, in its finished state.”
You see this approach reflected in the finished product—part of Year Walk‘s appeal is how art, sound, and atmosphere combine. All three play an active role in forming the game’s puzzles and appeal, with nothing feeling wasted or inconsequential.
Simogo’s uniqueness carries over into their stories as well. Both Year Walk and Device 6 have a sort of meta aspect to them in that the player also plays a role in uncovering the full story, not just as a participant, but as an involved party.
This extends past their games, as well. “The fun thing is that a lot of people seem to think that we have made [year walking] up ourselves,” Flesser said. “It actually inspired a Swedish researcher to write a thesis about it too, after having played the game. So, we feel proud having been able to raise interest in something that has been so widely forgotten.”
It makes sense; the concept of year walking suits games so neatly that it seems like something they might have made up. But the truth is better still—Simogo does such an excellent job at incorporating real stories into their games that they seem as though they must be made up.
Games Take Priority, But Simogo Also Creates Other Engaging Media
While mobile games may have been where Simogo began, that isn’t all they’ve tackled. Year Walk is also available for PC and OS X, and a version for the Wii U is currently in development with a new set of tweaks and customizations for the platform. A short, secret project is also in development to coincide with the Wii U release. They’ve also released a complementary podcast set in the same universe as The Sailor’s Dream, demonstrating their efficient storytelling in a variety of forms.
Even so, Simogo is a game development team first. “We feel most home in games or interactive digital things and that will always be the heart of Simogo,” Flesser said. “It’s fun to try different things once in a while though!”
The Year Walk Wii U release and accompaniment aren’t the only things Simogo have in progress—they’re also hard at work on another game, though it is unlikely to be released this year. Whatever it looks, sounds, and plays like, Simogo’s future work is guaranteed to be as engrossing and inventive as their other games, perfectly blending several artistic elements for a unique gaming experience.