Exclusive interview with Johannes Aikio, game designer and composer in the Lucius games

Posted on Feb 27, 2016

SEGAKU has the pleasure to present this exclusive interview, which is full of content regarding music in the videogame world, as well as juicy details about the Lucius games and the future of the saga. Let’s unveil the details behind the devil boy simulator.

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Tell us about yourself, your career and background.

Well, my name is Johannes Aikio.  I’m 31 years old and live in Helsinki, Finland.
For the last six years I’ve been designing and developing games on company I co-founded called Shiver games. Before that, I worked on some other game companies after graduating from a games development program here in Finland.
Music for me has always just been a hobby. As a kid I took piano lessons for a decade and somewhere before my teens I started to fiddle with some music software.

What are the artists that inspire you?

There are so many. I tend to listen to a lot of different styles from all over the place. I get very passionate about the content and like to really feel something when I listen to things.
I like a lot of movie composers like Danny Elfman, John Williams or Hans Zimmer. From games I love Koji Kondo and Gustavo Santaolalla. Another inspiration would be Joe Hisaishi.
There’s just so many.  Recently Zimmer’s soundtrack in Interstellar for me was a real breathtaking experience and so was Sicario’s minimalistic soundtrack by Jóhann Jóhannsson. I was really inspired by it and immediately wanted to compose something myself.

How do you feel about the current status of videogame music? do you think users care more about it than before?

I think it’s always been very important. I have to say that my favourite tracks are all from the nineties, but I think mostly they do a great job these days.
I think users know that you can enhance the experience with your soundtrack and you can also take the player away from the moment. One good example of a new and interesting soundtrack is in the game “Mount your friends”. I think most people who played the game with me, commented on the soundtrack and felt like it made the experience what it ended up being.
I think guys like Santaolalla in Last Of Us are keeping the quality so high that overall there’s not much you can complain about.

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Is there a musician you would like to work with?

That’s interesting. I think I would be thankful just to work with ANY musician. I don’t think I would be much help for any of the geniuses that make the really great soundtracks.

The soundtrack of Lucius II has a lot of styles and instruments going on. Are you making the music all on your own, or do you have a bigger music group?

I do them myself. I use Reason for software and play the instruments with my keyboard. I tend have a lot of difficulties when trying to get things sound like the real instruments.

Tell us a little about the story of Shiver Games.

A friend of mine and I were working on Lucius as hobby project and decided to form a company to make it officially a game. This was in 2010 and it took us almost three years to finish the game. During this time we used outside composers for the soundtrack. In 2015 we released a sequel for Lucius and for this I made the soundtrack at home; the main reason for this was pretty much money. It was very difficult to make the game with this miniscule budget that we still had to keep ourselves in. So making the soundtrack was one way to save money and maybe get a better control to it all.  Since then we’ve grown in to a six person company and hopefully can start to work on a slightly larger budgets these days.
We are still going to be continuing with the same franchise. We are not exactly making a sequel right away, we are first publishing something smaller this year. We had to take a small break from these massive projects and give ourselves some time to design everything better.

With the current wave of indie games growing and growing, is there a chance Shiver Games step it up and leave the indie world behind?

That’s interesting. I don’t exactly really know what indie even means these days. There’s a lot of companies out there that are considered indie that don’t exactly fit the description 100%. I think we are currently on our limit of growth for the next two projects, but after that we hope to continue our growth slowly. We don’t have any plans to change the way we do business in the future. If anything, we want to be more independent as we come more financially stable.

As a founder of Shiver Games, how is the experience of team work as a musician? Do you have more duties in the company, other than musician?

Yes I do a lot. I do most of our programming and game design. I do also some small amounts of artwork and I try to handle everything business wise.
I tend to do all of the music on my free time at home so there’s not too much collaboration there.

Lucius became a huge reference in the indie gaming world as the “demon child simulator”. How did the idea come up?

Initially, we were just making a simple fps puzzle game with an atmosphere at first. It wasn’t until an accidental camera height, we noticed that making it from a child’s perspective would be nice. That led to immediately thinking of “The Omen” and actually being the bad guy. From there it took us several iterations to end up with an actual story behind the game.

There is one feature of Lucius (the character) that is probably the most frightening of them all, and this is that he doesn’t talk. Will we ever hear him talking? How do you guys use this feature to build up character in him?

We’d already written him to talk at least once, but then ended up deciding against it. I’m fairly certain that he will never speak so that we will we hear it. We will do our best to bring him some character in the future.
I think we will mostly be using other means to tell the story and bring forth the emotions, but our aim is to make the player care for him and his actions in the end.

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What is the future of Lucius? Tell us about future plans.

We are making a small detour first and revisiting the first game a bit. Lucius still has some work left on the prophecies. He is currently fulfilling mostly his father’s plans and doing things to bring upon the Rapture. It is possible that Lucius will not take this road so lightly in the end. He might end up in a situation where he will have to look deep and decide how he wants to proceed. Is his father’s choices really the best options for him or is there another path he could take?

Are there plans for other games, besides Lucius? What can you tell us about it?

We’ve currently committed ourselves for the next 3 years to work on Lucius. We do always work on some prototypes and new projects when we have the time but so far there hasn’t been anything we wanna go further with. Maybe later. We would love to change genres completely but it’s very difficult to leave all the fans behind.

Thanks a lot!!!

 

 

~Elisa

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