Studio Inkyfox’s Omno, an atmospheric 3D puzzle-platformer, was published by Future Friends on PC, PlayStation 4/5, and Xbox consoles last week. One-man developer team Jonas Manke joined me via email to discuss the game for The Avocado.
Please tell us about your history in the game industry.
Haha, not much! I’m an animator by trade, mostly working in TV and films. I did some animation work on the State of Decay series, Risen 2 and a few smaller projects though, and was fascinated by the process. As someone who has always loved games as a player, I started digging into the Unreal Engine for fun and also to understand the process of implementing animations into games, and was amazed by how user friendly the tools were, even to someone like me with no real coding knowledge, and things just kind of developed from there!
For those unfamiliar with it, could you please give a brief description of Omno?
Omno is a single player adventure game where you play as a pilgrim making your way through an ancient world of wonders on a quest to find a mythical gate of light. It’s a game of exploration and traversal, where you’ll have to use platforming and puzzle solving skills to make your way through each world. Another thing that’s pretty unique about Omno compared to other 3D platforming adventure games is that there’s no combat at all – instead the focus is on interacting with the array of fantastical creatures you encounter, who in turn will reward you for your curiosity – often in fun and surprising ways.
How long did it take to develop the game and what were the greatest or most surprising hurdles?
I started working on it around 5 years ago now, at first just in my spare time for fun, really. It was only when I did the Kickstarter about 3 years ago that I realized this might be something serious, and decided to take the plunge and go full time on the project!
In terms of hurdles, almost EVERYTHING in game dev grows larger than you expect it to! Especially as a first time game developer, it can be really hard to predict how long things are going to take, simply because you’ve never done many of these things before. But I’m definitely getting better at that as time goes on, and was staying on track with my schedule far better near the end of Omno than I was at the beginning!
The Omno prologue released on Steam last year was very positively received. Did you make any changes based on fan feedback?
Plenty! Throughout the development process, I’ve been very engaged with the Omno community, doing tons of testing from the very start with some of the early Kickstarter backers and Discord members, which has been invaluable to me. Also, I’ve run closed alpha and beta tests with backers which gave me huge amounts of great feedback that allowed me to refine so many aspects of the game, fix so many bugs and generally just make Omno a more polished experience.
What specific works influenced Omno‘s dreamy visual palette? How about its platforming and puzzle mechanics?
Specific influences are always a tough one for me to answer, as I never really stop to think about it! I often don’t know myself. I draw inspiration and influences from all kinds of sources – games like Mario, Journey, Final Fantasy 7, even World of Warcraft (which I never really even played) have all been influential in some of my thought processes and design decisions for Omno, but I think I draw inspiration equally from art, movies, books etc too.
How did your experience working in animation, especially on the State of Decay series, impact your approach to your own game?
It all began with the character, which is very different to how most games start! Coming from an animation background, I wanted to learn the process behind implementing my animations into a game engine. I didn‘t really have a plan for a game yet, just pictured a monk-like adventurer that has a heroic and curious attitude, yet has a vulnerable, young appearance.
The art of animation can really breathe life into things, so although I was told otherwise from more experienced devs, I animated him very early in production. I wanted to feel his personality. It‘s a fine line of giving him enough specific attributes to make him believable while leaving enough room for interpretation and projection from the players.
Seeing him move, walk, jump and look around in an empty scene in the engine made me want to build a world for him to explore and enjoy. The curiosity I felt in him, the unstoppable will to seek for something “out there” and his fragility, his inexperienced and fearful side really made him interesting for me. He wants to prove himself, yet doesn’t know how to. In that sense, creating this character was the first prototype of the actual game.
What is your favorite character or area in Omno?
That’s like asking someone to pick a favourite child! (For the record, I have 3 kids, and love them all equally! 😀 ) For me, the final cloudy world is probably the one I’m the most proud of. It’s the first time in the game where you can combine ALL of the movement abilities, where everything finally comes together and the character is moving through the world with total freedom and expression. Likewise, designing an area that makes the most of all of those moves and combinations, giving them the feeling of being free and of mastering their environment was also the biggest technical challenge for me, so getting to the point where I felt happy with that area was a big milestone in the development journey. In terms of characters, I’m a big fan of the humble Shoob – those are the first creatures I created for the character to interact with, so they hold a special place in my heart 🙂
Are there any gameplay mechanics or story sequences that didn’t make it into the finished product? If so, what caused them to be cut?
As with any game (or any creative endeavor, really), there were tons of ideas left on the “cutting room floor”, so to speak. Over 5 years, it’s hard to even really remember specifics (the last few months have all been a real blur, to be perfectly honest with you!) but largely, it’s always the same reasons – anything that didn’t add anything meaningful to the greater whole doesn’t make the cut 🙂 The main things I can think of were puzzles I created that just didn’t fit the overall style of the game, or were simply too difficult, and creatures that felt a bit too threatening/dangerous for the world.
What are your plans for the near future?
Near future will be patching all the live versions whenever I come across issues, improving the game generally based on player feedback, and finishing up work on the Switch version, before hopefully taking a much-needed break with the family! In general, spending more time with my wife and kids is top priority for me now the main launch is over – we’ve all had to make huge sacrifices over the past few years to enable me to get this thing done, which I’ll be forever grateful for, and now I just want to give back as much of myself to them as I can for the next few weeks/months, until work on the next game begins!
Follow Studio Inkyfox on Twitter and tiktok to keep up with all the latest on this game and future projects. You can find out more about publisher Future Friends, who very kindly facilitated this conversation, at futurefriendsgames.com. If you’d like to see more from me, you can find me on Twitter under the handle @SinginBrakeman. Thanks for reading, and be sure to let everyone know what you think about Omno in the discussion below.