Hello Sergey. Last time we talked about your work in general. Today, let\’s discuss your new work «7th Sector». What prompted you to create it? Did seven apples fall on your head making you cry «Eureka!» and run to make your masterpiece? Or maybe you’ve watched “Blade Runner” for seven hundred and seventy-seven times, and decided: “Why not?”
Work on the «Seventh Sector» began almost immediately after the release of «35MM». However, initially the project was designed as a completely unpretentious puzzle for mobile phones, which I expected to complete in 6 months. In the process, the game was becoming more complicated and supplemented, resulting in a project that developed into a full-fledged and quite massive gameplay. The game received its name «7th Sector» due to the corporation, which is an important governing structure and the main participant of the events in the game world. It is a powerful organization working in the field of defence, weaponry and robotics. Among other things, it is engaged in scientific research. The company has several sectors, each of which performs its function. The main one is the seventh sector. It was originally planned to make the the sixth sector main, analogically with the day of the creation of man, but then this thought seemed to us too hackneyed and often used.
Did you enjoy working in the cyberpunk setting? What does this direction attract you with? Were there any difficulties in accessing the new environment in which the action took place? After all, when you cross a river for the first time, you probably come across potholes…
The cyberpunk setting itself seems very attractive to me. As for the gameplay genre, I have not yet decided. There were various film works and gaming environment which presented me inspiration for a new project. The starting impetus, of course, was the revision of the 1982 \’Blade Runner\’ and the introduction to the \’Inside\’ game. I was very impressed with the Playdead company game and thought at that moment: “Wow! A platformer can be really serious and cool! Cooler than Dwayne Johnson spreading a crowd of enemies with his one little finger and keeping the helicopter falling into the abyss with the second one!” I had a great desire to work in the new setting, to change both the visual and gameplay style. Though, I wasn’t sure about what would come out of it, but I needed to make an experiment. I often looked through the cyberpunk art works, flipped through all sorts of public pages, watched films on this subject. I remember that “Judge Dredd 3D” has left a very pleasant aftertaste (besides the film by Ridley Scott). It seems that the public wasn’t very enthusiastic about it, but I was impressed. I also remember how I admired visual and sound style of the «Ruiner» game
(by the way, there is a reference to it at one of my game locations). In addition to the above, I was inspired by a large number of other game projects: Half life 2, SOMA, Observer, Alian Isolation, Last Night (not yet released). Futurism, bright neon, wires and holographic advertising posters in an endless array of concrete luminous buildings started to fill me with an incredible aesthetic pleasure. I really wanted to transfer such images into a new project, but according to my own vision. I should say that it was not so easy and much of what I wanted to implement wasn’t included in the release. In the process I had to face a large number of pitfalls, both technically and in world and level design. Motivation of the player was. an important task for me The gameplay contains many mathematical problems, equations, puzzles with symbols, etc. So that this would not quickly bore the player, it was necessary to combine such moments with something new and unexpected. Therefore, the task was set — to introduce a number of different mechanical features into the game, which depend on what kind of «character» we play.
Creativity is always hard working and overcoming obstacles. But this is also a pleasure. What did you like most when developing the project? What brought you satisfaction and joy?
The greatest pleasure was the construction of locations and backs. Well, this is my favorite part of development process in any project. It is very interesting to observe how a small world gradually emerges out of nothing, where events will take place in the future. Any location begins with basic objects, landscapes, general plans of streets, buildings or rooms. The base is assembled first, and then it is filled with various details and interactive objects. City backgrounds with neon signs, texts and advertising posters gave me special pleasure. Also, when developing this game, I needed to create several types of characters with imitation of artificial intelligence. This intellect turned out to be very primitive (due to my inexperience in programming), but it was really interesting to watch how the NPCs, at times, acted unpredictably and randomly.
All your works are beautiful not only inside but also outside. And it’s not just graphics or effects. Your worlds, their environment are very interesting from an artistic point of view. Where does this come from? Did you often draw on asphalt with chalk in your childhood or did you attend relevant courses at a later period of your life? When and how was the artist born in you?
Probably my previous replies will be the answer to this question. Apparently, early artistic experience, children\’s art school, practice in painting, drawing and decorative art gave their fruits. For as long as I can remember, I have always had a craving for atmospheric visual
images, mostly associated with natural and urban landscapes. Dark, rainy and somewhat gray pictures are particularly attractive to me, inspiring a sense of melancholy, hopelessness and loneliness, allowing you to immerse yourself in a fictional world and wander a little there. I usually try to reflect such images in my projects, although sometimes I can play with contrasts (the same neon in the “7th Sector” or a bright summer day in the “Light”).
Do you have your own motto? Or maybe a battle cry, with which you start your creative day?
I’ve been trying to come up with something creative for a long time, but could I just answer — no? There is no motto, but there is a principle: usually, if I face a complex and voluminous task that cannot be solved in “two clicks,” I will puzzle my mind until I find a solution. Often such a principle is very exhausting, but otherwise I simply cannot calm down, relax and think about something else. Such an approach may be useful for business, but it is unlikely for emotional and personal comfort.
Do you clearly plan what you will do, or do you act on a whim?
As a rule, I always have a general scheme and idea of a project in mind. But there’s usually no clear plan and many things are thought out on the go. I’ve already wrote that I consider this scheme incorrect and it would be more correct to build a strategy and plan of action in advance. But the habits, alas, are difficult to change. Moreover, this approach is usually very fascinating, since you never know yourself what will happen next. However, in any case, it is better to think the main points, the architecture of the game, mechanics, etc. in advance, because in the future, with the introduction of new elements, difficulties may arise.
Your work always raises many questions, guesses and discussions. The «7th Sector» was released on March, 5th. You have probably already received many messages and letters in which people expressed their opinion about the game, exchanged experiences and thoughts that it aroused. Did gamers feel the main idea you were trying to convey? And were there people among those who appealed to you who surprised you with an unusual point of view, an original look at the work?
To my great regret, the «7th sector» did not evoke the response from the public that I had hoped for. This fact is especially depressing, considering that I’ve thought out the history of the world and the events of the game in quite a detail. But, apparently, the players could not be so involved in the process and immersed in the universe, so that it encouraged them for deep reflection. I tried to convey the story through numerous details scattered around the locations: secondary characters in the background, minor scenes, notes, photos collected in the menu, etc. But, as I can judge, this was not enough, or the performance was not correct. Another possible reason is the lack of emotional attachment to the main character. Since the game character is an indefinite person at the beginning of the game, and it was not at all clear for many users what was going on for a long time (and for some even to the very end), the events taking place probably could not evoke proper interest and emotional inclusion. Finally, judging by some reviews, solving intricate puzzles with non-obvious logic and control-focused tasks caused the well-known BH syndrome, and the players gave up learning the sense of the game. I haven’t almost met any posts and reports with reasoning and guesses about the plot. This state of affairs is especially upsetting in comparison with my previous works. On the first day of the release, «35MM» caused a burst of comments and online discussions, much more than all the current results.
Seemingly, it is worth going back to origin and doing what has already proven itself — RPG-stories about people in dirty half-ruined Russia. By the way, I have some thoughts on this. Firstly, the practice of developing a puzzle game has shown that creating adventure games from a first-person perspective is in some sense simpler. It is enough to make an atmospheric location, put a camera with “legs” on it, and a certain part of the game is ready! Yes, this is only a sketch, but it may already be exciting, it is interesting to wander around and explore the environment. Everything is somewhat more complicated with the platformer and the puzzle, in my opinion, especially if we have restrictions on the movement of characters in three-dimensional space. If you do not solve the tasks set by the game, then there is nothing special to do there. This, of course, does not apply to all projects of this genre. The second point is related to the fact that the author usually expects something similar from the author who already has some works in his portfolio. Therefore, a course change can often be perceived ambiguously. This is very tricky: on the one hand, I want to develop and expand horizons, to try something new, on the other hand, luck is more likely to appear in what has been tested and re-tested. All in all, the issue is very complex and ambiguous, there is no single recipe for success, I think.
The main idea in your games never lies on the surface and hides somewhere between the lines. What is the “Seventh Sector” for you personally, and what thought did you want to convey with your work?
In the «7th Sector» I tried to touch on the idea of dealing with a system and ambiguous perception. The thing that at first glance may seem to be good and solve the problems, in fact, turns out a threat to life and freedom. In addition, something that is good for one person, can be extremely dangerous for the other. Further there may be spoilers. The story tells about a certain entity in the form of a spark locked in an artificial system of wires and devices of the Seventh Sector. This spark has the ability to connect to various units and be implanted into the robots, which will be available to the player during the passage. The entity doesn’t act randomly, but according to a well-defined plan, since from time to time one can observe someone in the background (a man in the engineer’s uniform with a helmet on) who supports and creates favorable conditions for passing the game. All this is part of a global plan to overthrow the regime and disrupt the work of the corporation. And now it\’s more like a spoiler. On the one hand, the corporation is doing a good thing — it gives the elderly, disabled, mortally ill people a chance for a second life, but in a slightly different form: as robots. However, the adequacy and fairness of this program is questioned, because a person in this guise is no longer a person in the literal sense of the word, but a tool. For me, the “7th Sector” is a reflection on what counts as a boon, and that many things may not appear what they seem and what they are shown to us.
Well, the last question that you’ve probably heard a hundred times: What are your plans for the future? Are there any sketches or ideas for the next project?
There are no ideas for new projects and, most likely, there will not be in the near future. At the moment my main task is to tie up all loose ends. I would like to refine what is done, to add some new details into the «35MM» for greater convenience, perhaps, to add DLCs (both in «35» and the «Seventh»). Also, I plan to release two of my first games, Sveta and Trains, on Steam (with a lot of redraft, of course). Something like this.
Thank you very much for your time, your answers and sincerity. We wish you good luck on your way, many new ideas and successful implementation. Goodbye and we hope to see you again.
Thank you very much for your interest, it was very nice to share experiences and thoughts, good luck to all!