Epic Arcade: Where is My Heart?
The following interview is with Bernie Schulenburg, from Danish game developer, Gute Fabrik. (@gutefabrik on Twitter)
What is the best way to describe Where is my Heart?
If I may formulate it high-brow-style, then Where is my Heart is a personal and emotional piece of
experience cast into the mold of a video game of the 80’s. It pays tribute to those old video games and it
wants to evoke these childhood memories we all have.
In a more down to earth description, I would say that Where is my Heart is a platform puzzle game with
strange but hopefully interesting game mechanics, that are for you to discover.
The game is set in a temperate climate, the aesthetics are a mix of japanese 8-bit cuteness and central
european fairy tale traditions. For example the game’s hearts-boxes remind us of the Gingerbread House. And the game’s Antler avatar is based on the Wolpertinger, an alpine-bavarian mythical forest creature, half stag – half rabbit.
The game-play of Where is my Heart is somewhat strange and a bit hard to describe. It was derived from a graphical experiment. I wanted to see what comic panels would do to a platform game. So I painted up this mock-up image (below).
It caught my interest and I was wondering about how to turn this into a puzzle game. The sense of being lost is achieved by splitting the world up into these visual chunks, and misplacing them on the screen.
Where did the idea for Where is my Heart come from?
Where is my Heart is loosely based on a Sunday hike with my parents. We got lost in a forest and
this was a good occasion for our family issues to cook up. At that time our small family had just been
confronted with what I had expected all along: My father’s secret affairs. Ongoing throughout the years,
he had worked hard at concealing these affairs from me and my mother. There is definitely a tension
bearing down on the whole family – a tension that goes along with him deciding to live that kind of
secret life. The other family members may not know why, but the sadness definitely seeps into the
family’s reality. And when this finally surfaced, it was very destructive to our little family. The game is
inspired by the experience we had that day in the forest.
Was it difficult in getting your initial ideas and concepts into game mechanics?
To me, one of the best and most satisfying parts in making games is designing the rules and mechanics of the game world. I love creating strange, weird systems that work in their own logic. Because I’m into that stuff so much, I don’t mind pondering about these things. Quite often during the design phase Nils Deneken (the graphics artist) and I had a cup of tea over a long and ridiculously complex
conversation about the game mechanics. It helps a lot to talk about these ideas. We ended up having
a design document which was divided up in two parts: the first part was “Where is my Heart?” and the
second was titled “More Where is my Heart?”. If we had relalized both parts, Where is my Heart would
have been a very different game.
Instead, and out of neccessity we decided to stick with the minimal version of the game and save the
other ideas for later game projects. We had ideas about a more Zelda-esque world, populated by little
wood-people who have their homes in trees. You could enter the trees and have a little insight into
their lives. However that will have to wait for another game.
One thing we had originally planned for the minimal version of Where is my Heart were these ghosts,
they were called “Lies”. The plan was that they emerge from the Bat King’s bubbles, walk around and
have their effect on the game world. They would have been non-player controlled. It never happened
however, even though Nils actually had the animations for them ready to be used in his archives. The
animations Nils made suggest that the physicality of these ghosts is sometimes like a gas, but when
they fell down, while falling they behaved more like a fluid, splashing and then regathering on the
ground. I remember this one situation where we stood at the coffee table, cups placed on the table, so
that we could act out the fluidity of these ghosts. “Feel the fluid, be one with the fluid. Feel how it is to
be a Lie!”
Oh. This image, interestingly also contains something else that we were tentatively interested in. This is the employment of intentional glitch. You can see how the info bubble leaves a black trace, caused by its repaint procedure. I think glitch aesthetics are something that can be explored in games much more. Not only as an aesthetic, but I’m sure as game mechanics also. However, we had to leave these ideas in the drawer for now. Perhaps usable in the future.
How many people worked on Where is my Heart?
The core team is 4 people. Altogether during the whole process we had 7 people.
Nils Deneken (art/level design), Kay Küsgen (lead programming), Alessandro Coronas (music/sound)
and me (a bit of everything) were the core team members. For a while we also had two friends help out
with programming (Tim Garbos and Heino Jørgensen) and Dajana Dimovska took over the role of the
producer during a busy stage.
What other games have you worked on?
At Die Gute Fabrik we’re working in two tiers of games. One is more about traditional video games,
like ‘Where is my Heart’ and ‘Mutatione’ ( http://gutefabrik.com/mutatione.html ), and the other group of
games are social games like Douglas Wilson’s Johann Sebastian Joust ( http://gutefabrik.com/joust.html ).
Where can gamers get a copy of Where is my Heart?
You can get it on PlayStation Network in the ‘minis’ category. It runs on PS3 and PSP.
Any plans on adding Where is my Heart to Xbox or PC?
We are currently thinking about other platforms. But nothing’s concrete yet.
H3rc – A big thanks to Bernie Schulenburg for working with us.
Visit Where is My Heart’s website