Developer Investigate North
Interviewee Christian Fonnesbechs
Game: Cloud Chamber
Before I start, congratulations on Cloud Chamber – the concept of the game is definitely a step in a new direction – a whole range of neat little genre boxes have been blasted open by it. When thinking of the concept behind Cloud Chamber, what were your initial thoughts?
I wanted to play a story that feels like my life feels… And I wanted something that could blow my mind. In my life, dramatic events unfold through the Internet, through social networks, through smart phones – without a fixed order and with all kinds of media types mixed together. I wanted to tell a story about a person who was getting lost in the Universe in a way that felt like life.
In my life, I have to make sense of the world through all these different input channels – and I’m not sure which of them I can rely on our whole team wanted to make a game out of that.
Have the ideas on what you expected the game to result in correspond with what Cloud Chamber is today, or has it evolved into something entirely different?
It was more like we had a vision of how it should FEEL – and then there were all the challenges between us and that feeling. A big part of the vision was that discussion could be gameplay. We also wanted persistence: it had to last. When you put those two things together, discussion and persistence, you get … trouble. A great deal of the game came out of us working with talented people to try to solve the challenge of bringing these two things together: discussion and persistence (and story).
How did you get into creating games?
My first love was books and comics. Then I spent my youth on home computers and Role Playing Games. Around the time of the Commodore Amiga, I fell in love with movies. 10 years and a bunch of short films later, I realized that the future belonged to networked computers … and now, 10 years after that, I’m here. Wow – Cloud Chamber is kind of a mix of all those things, isn’t it?
The studio, Investigate North, are a very talented bunch, with much experience. How did you come together, did you know many of them before the studio came to be?
I thought Mikkel Thomassen and I were the most closely knitted team, ever. We’ve made 35 game projects together. But then we met Fabian Wullenweber and Jakob Kusk (who directed and shot big parts of the original The Killing), and they were a pretty tight team – and then we met Lau Korsgaard, Sebbe Selvig and Dajana Dimovksa (of KnapNok games), and THEY were a pretty tight team. We needed a lot of very tightly knit teams, to make this project work.
Cloud Chamber mixes games, social networking, movies and space documentary. We are by no means masters of all those fields … but each of these teams ARE masters of one of these fields. I think the secret is that everybody got to do what they were best at, and everybody trusted Mikkel and I to keep the whole picture in our heads and to join the ends together.
A close knit team was required in Cloud Chambers’ creation, especially when taking into account the complexity of the game. How did the team react when you brought the Cloud Chamber concept to the table?
We couldn’t have done this project 5 years ago. Back then, game people weren’t interested in movies and movie people weren’t interested in games – and so on – but something is happening, right now. The different creative fields ARE beginning to get interested in what the others are doing. They don’t understand each other AT ALL, but that is where I get to have fun (because I get to work with all of them) …
So how did they react? They actually reacted with a lot of interest but also with very little understanding. It was a very organic process: we didn’t start out with a plan for the finished game that we could just show people. No, we started out with an idea of where we wanted to go – and how we wanted it to FEEL.
If we hadn’t had a track record, it would have ended there. But since we had a track record, some VERY talented people trusted us and came aboard and took part in developing that idea. And then more talented people came on board, and it got clearer and clearer and better and better. Managing that process is what it is all about – but it takes time and work before the vision becomes a game.
Cloud Chamber is a game, but it’s not a game. That must have been a fun one to explain! What would be, in your eyes, the most discerning feature of Cloud Chamber that people are unlikely to find anywhere else?
The story is the game. It’s a multiplayer game where the story is the game. I’m not sure that’s ever been done, before. But what I’m most proud of is that it is a shared emotional experience. I think we managed to make Cloud Chamber into just that: an emotional experience that you share with others.
What were the major hiccups/frustrations that you experienced in the different stages of development?
It took 4 years to make Cloud Chamber – and for long stretches of that, we didn’t know if we would get to finish it. I’m sure we can make the next one in much shorter time, now that we know how these things work together … but all that first time development took time – and there was definitely some sleepless nights, not knowing what would happen.
Sometimes, it felt like we were driving full speed towards the edge of a cliff while hoping for a bridge to appear …
After the fact, of course, that is also what makes it satisfying. We did something we’d never done before.”