Interview with Nicklas “Nifflas” Nygren – Creator of Knytt Stories and Within a Deep Forest
Anyone who has read just about any one of our posts knows that we’re big Nifflas fans, so it was a great honor when he agreed to be interviewed. I won’t bog you down with a bunch of blah blah blah, since you’re obviously here to see what Nifflas has to say, but it is tempting. I could rant for paragraphs about this; however, I guess I’ll just go with the following.
Thank you, Nifflas, for participating, and thank you, visitors, for reading.
“It actually took me around 7 years to realize I should keep my projects small.”
Nicklas Nygren was born in 1983 in Gävle, Sweden. Today he lives in Umeå, working with the intellectually handicapped at a newspaper. His game portfolio includes Knytt Stories and Within a Deep Forest.
You’ve done a wide range of work for your projects, including visual and audio art, besides the general design and engine creation. Is that a result of the difficulty of finding other people or are you just passionate about the entire gamut of game creation? Do you find it easier or more difficult to bring in outsider help as you become more well known?
It’s pretty easy to find help as long as you can convince people that you will actually finish your game. The thing is just that I like the graphics and music creation process so much that I want to do a lot of it myself. However, as you can see in the credits list of all my games, I’ve got tons of help as well.
About how much time do you spend working through the different aspects of game creation? How much time do you spend, for example, on level design as compared to the visual art?
The different aspects are very closely connected to me, when I do all those things in a rather random way. I often create graphics at the same time as designing the level by jumping back and fourth between Photoshop and the level editor. The same goes for music as well. By this reason, it’s quite hard for me to estimate how much time I spend for each thing, but I guess I spend more or less an equal amount of time on each thing.
Is there some overarching philosophy you follow when designing games? Something to guide you as you create?
For the moment, my games are all about expressing some kind of emotion and atmosphere, but I also try to make sure that anyone can play and enjoy the game by not making it too hard (that didn’t work for Within a Deep Forest though).
Were you surprised by the success of any of your games? Was your growth slow or was it somewhat of a shock when you found yourself a serious contender at the Independent Game Festival?
I started out with small games that even now remains very unknown (#Modarchive Story, Operator Status), so the games have become more popular with each new release, so it have been somewhat natural for me, but yeah, I’ve been surprised many times when I looked through my web statistics and noticed how much bandwidth my games eats.
I don’t know about the contender at IGF though, I haven’t been there and doesn’t really know so much about it.
What do you think of the community created content that you’ve seen come out of Knytt Stories so far?
It’s fantastic! There are many incredibly skillfully created levels with custom music, many that looks better than my own levels.
Is there any particular level that you favor? I’m sure any user of your editor would love to know that you were impressed by their work.
Trek by Terv at http://nifflas.ni2.se/forum/index.php?topic=1109.0 is really neat, and A Walk at Night by Quincent Cartographer at http://nifflas.ni2.se/forum/index.php?topic=1278.0 does have a fantastic atmosphere! I guess those two are my favorite levels, but there are many other fantastic ones as well!
Knytt Stories is presented as a level editor that comes with an example scenario, The Machine, but it has garnered a lot of attention and is marketed by Indie Gaming sites as a game in itself. When you developed it, which was your focus? Did you intend to release an editor with an example level or did you create The Machine first and decide to release the creator along side it?
I did actually intend to release the editor and made sure that the levels could be customized as much as possible through custom graphics and music, but the game is a lot about the levels that comes with it, as well as the ‘A Strange Dream’ expansion which is available at my website with three additional levels I have created.
Why do you choose to work through Fusion? Why choose that particular environment over, for example, Flash or Game Maker?
The main reason is that I don’t know how to use Flash, and I was never able to figure Game Maker out. I’ve experimented with MMF2 so long, and I’ve become a part of their community.
Oftentimes a player can tell what types of games a designer prefers, but the audio-visual style and general feel of gameplay in your collection is hard to compare closely to anything else. What are your influences? Is there a certain genre or developer that you favor?
I play more or less any games, but I prefer those which do have an unique feeling, where ambiance really matters. Fl0w is a great example, which is basically my inspiration for the An Underwater Adventure level in the official Knytt Stories expansion. I’m obviously influenced by other 2D platform games a lot, Seiklus for instance.
What do you think is the most difficult aspect of game creation?
I guess it’s judging the difficulty level the game.
The skill level demanded by Within a Deep Forest is much higher than that of anything in the Knytt series. When you were creating these games, were you aiming for a specific level of difficulty level or did they just sort of turn out the way they did?
Within a Deep Forest turned out the way it did, but in the other games I was aiming at not making them too hard.
What do you think is the single most important aspect of game design?
Definitely the atmosphere.
Would you be able to offer any tips for aspiring game designers?
The only one I can think of is that if you’re a small developer like me, don’t get started with projects that’s too large and can potentially take years to finish. During my time in the game development community, I’ve seen so much wasted effort and skill when people attempt to create games they doesn’t have a chance to finish. I started out that way too, it actually took me around 7 years to realize I should keep my projects small.