INTERVIEW – In Conversation With Andreas Diktyopoulos (The Minims, beyondthosehills studio) by Marty Mulrooney
Alternative Magazine Online recently reviewed iOS point-and-click adventure game The Minims – A New Beginning, describing it as “a truly lovely and lovingly made experience that asks you to embark on a journey into the unknown and will leave you with a warm smile upon your face once the final destination is reached.” It is therefore with great pleasure that AMO presents an exclusive online interview with game developer Andreas Diktyopoulos from beyondthosehills studio!
Hi Andreas, thank you for your time and welcome to Alternative Magazine Online!
Thank you for having me and for your review.
When, where and how was beyondthosehills conceived? Is there any particular meaning behind the studio name?
A typical morning in March 2011, I came in the office and said “Let’s start making video games!” There was an office in downtown Athens/Greece at the cultural space ABOUT: which my wife Maria and I had founded in 2010. We have organized over 100 cultural events over the years, such as contemporary-classical music concerts, contemporary art exhibitions, lectures and workshops.
We had a different name at first, which was too encrypted and difficult to remember, too difficult to say even! At the very moment we finished the first major update of The Minims, we knew that we had to change the name and rebrand our team. The name “beyondthosehills” was conceived as a reference to stories’ opening sentences, as a symbol of beginnings of narrations in general…
I grew up in the countryside with my brother and every summer we would explore the whole area around our home. Exploring, and discovering what was beyond those hills kept fascinating me as a child. It was like a private journey which somehow concealed another basic concept which I was always fascinated by as well: infinity. Behind a hill there is another hill and so on…
How did the game change between the original release and the new (final?) version, A New Beginning?
It has changed a lot! Actually, we could say that it is a quite different game as far as the graphics, music, puzzles, the user interface, and the overall feeling are concerned. The only things we kept from the early versions were the main story (and backstory), the characters and the topology of the world.
What is the technology that powers the game?
The game was made with Unity and we were extremely happy when Unity recently added our game to their showcase gallery. Even if most people may believe that Unity offers a lot of out of the box solutions for game developers, most professional game developers would agree that in order to achieve a specific result, there are a lot of custom-made features you have to develop. So do I.
For the graphics part, I mainly used Lightwave. I know… not a common solution for game productions, but actually I’m very familiar with it since I have been using it for many years now, so it was the obvious choice for my workflow. Nevertheless, I think it’s a great 3D software, but I fully understand why it’s not preferred by the game production industry.
What is a Minim?
Minim is the singular of Minims, which is a species of creatures in the world I have created. It is not the main species of that world but it’s definitely the main species in our story. The characteristic of these creatures is their minimally shaped curvy body with a pair of eyes. So we decided to call them Minims as an abbreviation from the word minimal.
When our story starts the player sees only the main Minim character of the game, Mii, who tries to find his beloved Minim wife Mo. In the intro, we clarify that these are the only Minims left in this world, or so they believe…
Actually, we have a whole background story about the Minims and the world they exist in, which we would be grateful to exploit if a future opportunity arises.
The storyline feels deceptively simple at first but eventually deals with some pretty interesting themes. Did you want to leave some interpretation of Mii’s journey up to each individual player or is there a definitive explanation for the events that occur?
The story I have in mind is very specific. The events that occur have been designed and meticulously placed in a specific space-time frame. But there are a lot of things that we don’t clarify or reveal to the player. For example, we don’t say much about the story of Mo, or who the Elder-Minim is, nor what his particular role in the story and the lives of the Minims is. And of course, there is the “Intermission”!
At this point, I would like to clarify that my intention is not to define what is right or wrong or what someone has to do with his life. I just present the story of the characters I have created. This is the story of Mii. So when you have to choose to follow the path, you don’t choose for yourself. You choose on the behalf of Mii. It’s a predestined story.
Nevertheless, there will always be room for free interpretation on an abstract level about Mii’s journey that each individual player can make.