Amanita Design’s Phonopolis game wins prestigious prize in San Francisco


The Czech independent studio Amanita Design has won the award for Excellence in Visual Art at the prestigious San Francisco Independent Games Festival for their new game Phonopolis. The hand-crafted adventure, set in a dystopian city made of cardboard, was inspired by George Orwell’s 1984. I discussed it with Amanita’s producer Lukáš Kunce and I first asked him about the inspiration behind the game:

Lukáš Kunce | Photo: Barbora Linková,  Czech Radio

“The inspiration for Phonopolis for the artists and the creative team behind the game comes mainly from the interwar artistic movements, like Constructivism, Futurism and Suprematism, as well as the entire Avant-Garde movement. It can not only be seen in the visuals but it can also be heard in the music by Tomáš Dvořák aka Floex, as well as in the sound design.

“The game tells the story of the city of Phonopolis, which is under dystopian totalitarian rule by a person named the Leader. He has installed a system of loudspeakers all over the city and he's using these loudspeakers to issue commands and orders to the inhabitants of the city. As a result, the inhabitants live under the impression that they are part of this perfectly functioning society, but of course that might not be the case.”

The game is handcrafted from cardboard. Why have you chosen this specific material? And can you tell us more about the creative process?

“One of the reasons the team picked cardboard was that they wanted to spend some time away from the PC while working on the game. Everybody at Amanita likes these tactile things. Being able to work with something physical like paper and cardboard gives you this tactile feeling while working. It also gives the tactile feeling when the person is playing. The players can actually see that the materials are real. They have specific textures that you would not really be able to achieve using just standard digital techniques.

Photo: Amanita Design

“In terms of the creative process behind it, basically every texture, everything that you see in the game, starts as a hand painted texture on a piece of cardboard or a piece of recycled paper. We use acrylic paints to paint on the cardboard. And then we take pictures of these handcrafted assets and we use them as textures on 3D models in the Unity Engine, which is a software that we used to develop the game. This way we achieve the unique final look.”

How long did it take from the original idea to the demo version?

“It has already been a while. Under Amanita the project has been in development for over eight years already and it's probably going to take another two years to complete.”

I also wanted to ask you about the title of the game, Phonopolis, which suggests that sound also plays a crucial role in the game. Is that right?

Photo: Amanita Design

“Yes, absolutely. As I said, the city is operated by a system of loudspeakers and the inhabitants don't know if they can protect themselves from the speakers. But our hero, the main character Felix, finds a pair of headphones in the beginning of the game and becomes the first person in the city to realize that it is possible to block out these commands. He is no longer impacted by them and so his mind starts working in a different way and he starts to realize that maybe the society isn't as happy and as perfect as everybody thinks.”

Finally, Phonopolis has just won a prestigious award at the San Francisco Independent Games Festival. It's not the first award for Amanita Design from this festival. How important is it for you winning this award and will it help you to promote the game among players?

Photo: Amanita Design

“Yes, of course. It's been our fifth award, which is kind of surreal to think about and it is absolutely a great honour, especially for the artists who have been working on the game for such a long time. I do believe that it serves as a validation or assurance that even though the game development takes quite a lot of time, it's worth it. It also shows that the players and the jury of the festival can actually see the amount of work behind it.

“And yes, it definitely helps the promotion of the game. When speaking to potential partners, it will be nice to have this award under our belt, as it is one of the most prestigious awards that an indie developer can receive.”

Author: Ruth Fraňková
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