The brain is a funny tool in that it can selectively block out the bad memories we’ve endured, all while putting soft-focus and sepia-tone on the good times. The prior generations of gaming are no exception; it’s common for people to aggrandise consoles based on the memories they had playing them at the time, but when they go back in the present day – agh, why is Tony Hawk so jaggy?! Yet there are many people who still hold the fifth generation, early-3D era in fond regard, perhaps none stronger than 98DEMAKE.
If you don’t know the name, 98DEMAKE is responsible for the YouTube videos of the same name in which he pays homage to the polygon-poor era of games. I had to talk to him based on his channel, which has amassed millions of views and is well worth checking out for those who like feeling old. However, he has recently received renewed interest as he is stepping forward with a game of his own, styled in the same cutting-edge 3D graphics (and I mean that literally) that he himself is a big fan of. The game is titled OK/NORMAL and the trailer can be viewed here:
The preview, brooding and mysterious, piqued my interest big time, and I had questions burning a hole in the back of my head. Thankfully, 98DEMAKE graciously agreed to be interviewed, so I set out to find out more about his new game.
BEN: You’re the brains behind the wildly successful YouTube channel 98DEMAKE. For those that wouldn’t be familiar with it, what was the goal of that channel and what games did you cover?
98DEMAKE: The goal of the channel is creating these tiny animations of how modern games might’ve looked like were they made in the 90’s, aka “demakes”. I’ve covered 28 games, including Assassin’s Creed, Rocket League, Minecraft, Fallout, The Last of Us and so on.
BEN: So, your videos featured “demade” versions of these popular games; how much technical work goes behind every video? (for instance, your Max Payne video seems to be heavily based on the third-person shooter sections from Die Hard Trilogy II; is there any element of tinkering with the PS1 games themselves or is it all animated with Blender as you say?)
98DEMAKE: Each video takes anywhere from 10 to 50 hours to get done and, apart from P.T. and Mirror’s Edge, everything is painstakingly animated in Blender. The P.T. and Mirror’s Edge videos are actually recorded in Unity, so while playable, they’re still running on modern hardware. No exciting homebrew trickery here!
BEN: Was it a difficult transition from crafting these videos to a fully-fledged game in OK/NORMAL?
98DEMAKE: I’ve had a fair bit of experience with Unity, and Blender obviously, so the transition wasn’t that difficult. Obviously the experience of creating a functional, bug free game as opposed to an animation is a very different one.
BEN: What inspired the direction of OK/NORMAL?
98DEMAKE: I’ve always wanted to create a PS1-esque game of my own, so aesthetically the direction was clear. Other than that, I’ve always enjoyed obscure games of all kinds and have more interest in creating interactive “artsy” experiences, rather than traditional “game” games.
BEN: What does the title mean, without divulging any spoilers?
98DEMAKE: The name goes with the themes I built the game around, but seeing as I want everyone to form their own opinion of what the game means, I’d rather not dive too much into it.
BEN: This game, or at least, what we’ve seen of it so far, actually frightens me, but not in an obvious jump-scare way, moreso in a “We’re all going to die soon” kind of way. Was the theme of existentialism at the forefront of your mind while making this game?
98DEMAKE: In that case it’s doing what it’s supposed to! I love a good traditional horror game as much as the next guy, but I wanted to go in a completely different direction with OK/NORMAL. I want the player to be confused, frightened and, at times, even frustrated.
Thematically it does dabble into existentialism and even, to a degree, nihilism.
BEN: Some commentators on YouTube have (perhaps jokingly) referred to OK/NORMAL as being “vaporwave”. While that only seems partially true, the demo footage does have some visual references to the now-famous Floral Shoppe album art by Macintosh Plus, with the protagonist being a marble statue, and the usage of checked textures. Would you describe your game as “vaporwave” in any way?
98DEMAKE: Not specifically Floral Shoppe, but the aesthetic is definitely vaporwave inspired — which on the other hand is very much a 90’s inspired genre. As far as the game itself, I wouldn’t really call it vaporwave. It’s a fair bit darker than what vaporwave is known for.
BEN: Finally, how large is the scope of this game? Will players experience a shorter game, a longer narrative, multiple replays? What can we expect from the game ahead of release?
98DEMAKE: It’s a short, linear experience, with no real replay value. While it does have very traditional collectathon gameplay elements, it’s also a lot more than that. Or that’s at least how I feel.
If you have an extra 30-60 minutes for a weird experience reminiscent of the PlayStation era, give it a whirl!
Thanks again to 98DEMAKE for kindly agreeing to be interviewed. OK/NORMAL releases on the 18th of June on Steam.