Graphic Content: Where Infographics and Platformers Collide

Last week, we learned about a new, PlayStation Vita-exclusive game from Dutch developer Digital Dreams: Metrico. While just how the game will play is still pretty shrouded in mystery, Digital Dreams’ creative director and lead designer, Geert “Gene” Nellen, was kind enough to answer a few questions we had about what gamers can expect when Metrico appears on the PlayStation Store…whenever that might actually happen.

The studio—comprised of CEO and tech director Thijmen Bink, level designer Roy van de Mortel, and creative director Nellen—was actually founded on the basis of what many consider the enemy of games: homework.

geert nellen

Geert “Gene” Nellen, lead designer & art director.

“In 2010 I was a graduate student at the High School for the Arts of Utrecht—the HKU, the same school as for instance the Vlambeer & Ronimo guys studied,” says Nellen. “I needed a programmer for a graduate project when I ran into Thijmen, a programming student at the local University. It just clicked. When we finished the game and graduated, we founded Digital Dreams together with my best friend Roy van de Mortel, who studied at the HKU as well.

“During our education I worked at Playlogic on a game called Fairytale Fights, which released for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC. Roy worked at Triumph Studios on Overlord 2 for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC. At the time the studios were amongst the biggest studios in the Netherlands and it gave us valuable experience working in such a big team and learning how to get a game out on those systems.”

As for Metrico, the studio’s first game to appear on a major console, all we know so far is what we can glean from the trailer above. The game’s got some kind of mix of platoforming and infographics. And despite our questions, Nellen isn’t about to spoil the mystery of how the two concepts interact just yet.

“Actually, it’s such a strange combination that we can’t really explain it well in words,” says Nellen. “Even if we tried, it remains something you must experience in order to understand. It probably sounds a bit lame that we’re keeping it this vague, but we’re just waiting for the right moment we’re able to show everybody more of the gameplay.”

thijmen bink

Thijmen Bink, CEO & tech director.

And the story of how the concept for the game came about is similarly mysterious, though Nellen did open up a bit more about Metrico’s inspiration and origins.

“We get inspiration from all types of different art forms,” he says, “and have a strong fascination for graphic design in particular. Especially ways of visualizing data, which are also called ‘infographics’. When we say infographics, people generally reply saying that infographics makes them think about Excel sheets or PowerPoint and like that.

“But actually infographics can be absolutely stunning—while you don’t even need to know what they’re about! Also they have been around us more than most people realize. From the first London tube map from 1933, to all the graphs used in the news nowadays. It really evolved as an art form in the last couple of years. One day I simply woke up with the idea for the game, which we eventually developed into a prototype during a game jam.”

Since that day, Digital Dreams has been working on evolving prototypes of Metrico, and eventually hooked up with Sony’s pub fund in order to bring it to the Vita handheld console.

“We worked on different prototypes, after which we started pitching and sending the latest one in for contests,” recalls Nellen. “We got picked up and nominated for an IndiePub Indie Propeller award in the category ‘Best Design.’ After winning the award we got on a few radars. Sony was very enthusiastic and it was just a perfect fit with the PS Vita—that’s why teaming up with Sony was kind of a no-brainer. Seeing as we don’t really have a huge track record as a studio, we are glad Sony put their confidence in us and gave us this chance.”

roy van de mortel

Roy van de Mortel, level designer.

Nellen explains that Metrico will make use of several of the Vita’s hardware features, like the devices motion-sensing gyroscope, its camera, and its microphone.

“When we’ll show gameplay you’ll understand why these features make sense within Metrico,” he says.

As to what Digital Dreams hopes gamers will get out of Metrico when they finally get to play it, Nellen’s got excitingly high expectations:

“A couple of things, but mostly we hope people feel they had an experience they never had before and it was well worth their time.”

[Digital Dreams]

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