Inside dev Dino Patti reveals more about new game Somerville and why he left Playdead
"There was some kind of fallout."
Last week Dino Patti, co-founder and former CEO of celebrated Limbo and Inside developer Playdead, revealed he was working at a new studio on a new game called Somerville.
Before then Patti had maintained almost complete silence since his sudden and largely unexplained departure from Playdead last summer. He sold his shares to former business partner Arnt Jensen and diplomatically walked away. But when I caught up with him at Gamelab 2017 in Barcelona last week he was prepared to say a little more.
"There was some kind of fallout," Patti admitted. "It is kind of delicate. It's also combined with other personal reasons. I really like Playdead, it's something that's deep in my heart. I love the people there, they're still my friends. I'm on speaking terms with 98 per cent of the people there...
"For me it was just time to do something else. I found a way to do it in a way where I could do whatever I wanted afterwards."
Patti reportedly left Playdead with $7m.
Patti and Olsen's working relationship began around the time Inside launched, in summer 2016. Patti thought the game Olsen was making, Somerville, looked good, so offered advice as a kind of mentor. "In the end I just came to the conclusion that I want to help this," he said. "I want to ensure that this vision gets protected and it gets out."
Somerville is a sci-fi action adventure reminiscent of classic games Another World and Flashback - all colour and elegant style, and predominantly side-on. "What will make it distinct," said Olsen, "is how we develop the core mechanic. It takes something very simple, which is colour as a language and ruleset, and plays with how those variables work in the world."
The Somerville teaser video also showed a little of how Olsen is playing with perspective, pulling it right back "way further" than you'd expect. It gives you a broader view of everything, of multiple characters, multiple situations. There's no need to focus your eye as a film would, Olsen said.
Film is very much the touchstone for Olsen, whose career up until now was as an animator on huge Hollywood projects like Lego Batman and The Avengers 2. He also had a brief stint as an MMA fighter but that's a story for another time. Olsen felt like he'd done everything fulfilling in film he could, and games, something always close to his heart, beckoned.
Somerville is Olsen's first game, one he's been tinkering away on for three years while learning the game-development ropes. Dino Patti helped him found the UK studio Jumpship to make the game, where they hope to grow to eight people by the end of the year.
Patti brings investment, exposure and vital experience to the table - as well as a game-maker's eye to challenge Olsen's ideas. But of particular importance to Patti is protecting Olsen's vision - and Olsen - from the strain of game development, ensuring he has time and space to make the best game he can.
"It's so easy to destroy original ideas," Patti said. "There's a lot of lack of quality in games - a lot of games value being done on time before they value quality. But it's really important to have it."
Limbo and Inside are testament to Patti's beliefs - games that took a long time to make but were well worth the wait.
How long Somerville will take to make, Patti wouldn't say, though the end is apparently "in sight".
"But I hate talking about it early," he said, "because you promise something... At one time at Playdead we announced a launch date and we thought we were going to hit it for sure. We said at E3 or something we were going to launch start of 2015 - we announced that at some point. Then we launched in the middle of 2016.
"Preferably," he added, "I would like to announce a launch three months before you're fully sure it's going to happen and you don't feel bad about making people excited about it."
Chris Olsen keeps a regular Somerville blog where you can see a bit more of the game.