Interview with Daniel Linsson, Ludum Dare Winner & The Sun and Moon Creator

A few weeks back we got the chance to review a new game dropping onto consoles, The Sun and Moon. Well we got something extra special for y’all today, yours truly had himself an interview with the creator of said game, Daniel Linsson. Without further ado!

First up, the obvious, how’d you get into game development? Was there a specific inciting incident?

Daniel Linsson: Not really, I’ve always been really interested in game design and level design, even as a kid. It just grew stronger as I grew older and then when I started playing indie games seven or eight years ago it clicked in my brain that “I could be doing this, too.” Luckily I’d studied mathematics at university, and I’d mucked around a bit in RPG maker and flash, so I had a pretty decent background to work with.

The Sun and Moon is one of several titles you’ve won the Ludum Dare contest with, how’d you find yourself competing in those?

DL: A friend invited me to a small game jam. We made a pretty average one room platformer but I had a great time, so afterwards I looked up other game jams and Ludum Dare stood out to me as the biggest and (arguably) the best. For anyone interested in making games who hasn’t taken the dive yet, I can’t recommend game jams enough. After a pretty grueling weekend you (and maybe your friends) end up with an actual, playable game. Something you can show people and say “I made this!” And it feels incredible.

How does working in those accelerated conditions influence the games you create? 

DL: For a game made in forty eight hours to be as enjoyable as possible, it has to have something super interesting and unique about it, some core mechanic or maybe visual style that makes it fun to play and memorable. I always aim for that, and occasionally I think I get there, but what it means is that each of the games I make at least tries to take a really cool concept and explore it. The downside is that sometimes what you end up with is a great little package, but not something which can be expanded on into a five or ten or twenty hour experience. Some of my Ludum Dare games I’ve been the most proud of, like HopSlide or windowframe, have been taken about as far as possible in terms of content and challenges.

Follow up to that, The Sun and Moon is available as a browser game through your website, having played around with it a little bit it’s clear that there have been some changes between it and the console release. What went into/was the deciding factor in making those changes?

DL: My gut. I knew what quality I wanted the final product to be, and any part of the game that wasn’t good enough was scrapped or tweaked or replaced until it was. It was an iterative process, and it took a lot of iterations, sometimes involving the smallest changes which most people wouldn’t even notice. As soon as I decided to keep working on the game after Ludum Dare had ended, I immediately scrapped the original sound effects and music (it turns out a twenty second looping track gets very annoying very, very quickly). After that it was a really gradual process.

When you’re not working on your own games, what are you playing? Is there any genre or game mechanic that particularly excites you?

DL: At the moment, a lot of N++, XCOM 2, TowerFall and Kerbal Space Program. Though I’ll always set other games aside for a good Metroidvania or similar feeling platformers. But (and this is closely related) there’s a special place in my heart for games that let you explore a space and give you a real sense of adventure or fill you with wonder. When you’re playing a Metroidvania you get to watch the world open up around you as your skill increases and your abilities improve. In Kerbal Space Program you really get a feel for the vastness of space and the ridiculous size of the planets. That sort of thing.

What’s next for you?

DL: I have about half a dozen small projects and I’m forcing myself to wrap a few of them up and release them before I start anything new. I’m very excited about some of the projects towards the end of the queue but I don’t want to say much about them until they start to actually exist!

The Sun and Moon is available from the PlayStation Store, Xbox Live, and Steam.