Amanita Design 2024 Interview – Jakub Dvorský on his career,Phonopolis, Vinyl soundtracks, Pilgrims, Apple Arcade, Coffee, and More – TouchArcade


Amanita Design is by far one of my favorite developers out there, and it has been releasing quality games on mobile and other platforms for a long time. I’ve enjoyed just about every game by the team from the legendary Machinarium back in the day to newer releases like Chuchel and Happy Game. We’ve also seen Amanita release Pilgrims (Free) on Apple Arcade, and it recently left the service to get a standalone mobile release on iOS and Android. Following that launch, I spoke to Jakub Dvorský (Studio Director and Designer/Artist on Pilgrims) about many topics including his career, Apple Arcade, Machinarium, vinyl soundtracks, coffee (of course), Phonopolis, and the future.

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TouchArcade (TA): Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do at Amanita Design.

Jakub Dvorský (JD): I’m director of Amanita Design, a studio based in Prague, Czech Republic, which I founded 20 years ago. I started as an artist and animator, nowadays I’m mostly a game designer and project lead.

TA: Before covering the games you worked on that most of our readers know and love, I wanted to go back a bit. Let’s talk about Dračí Historie and how you’ve changed as a designer over the years since then to now. What learnings have you taken from those older games and even early Amanita Design titles to your current work?

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JD: Dračí historie (Dragon’s History) is a traditional point’n’click adventure and it’s the first game I worked on as an animator. It was released in 1996 I think so it really is history now. Since then I’m still learning, mostly how to make game design, how to create games more effectively and how to collaborate in a team. I’ve learnt a few tricks which seem absolutely obvious but everybody needs to go through some mistakes and find their own way. For example, now I know it’s really important to think everything through before you start producing all the art assets and building the game for real. I know prototyping and playtesting is important and inevitable. I had heard this wisdom before, but now I KNOW that it’s true. Personal experience helps a lot.

Image source.

TA: Have you ever revisited your older games like Asmodeus and Dračí Historie?

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JD: No I haven’t, but I revisited early Samorosts and other things many times – these are more important for me. I’ve noticed a lot of things I would do better now but some aspects of these games still work well and it’s interesting to realize it and learn from it.

TA: Samorost was the first Amanita Design release, but almost everyone I know, and myself, discovered your work through Machinarium. Tell us a little bit about how you approached that project.

JD: While the first two Samorost games were small (primarily web-based) projects, Machinarium was intended as our first proper or full-length game for PC. The main game mechanic comes directly from Samorost but it’s a more traditional adventure game, with an inventory, menu and everything. Also the puzzles are harder and it’s aimed at gamers rather than the general public, even though it’s still quite accessible even for non-gamers if they are interested. Luckily this approach worked well, the game was a success so we ported it to many other platforms including mobile.

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TA: I still adore Botanicula, the release that followed Machinarium, and loved playing it on iPad. How was it for Amanita Design to start working with Apple’s iPhone and iPad back then?

JD: Our games are and always were great for touch controls so it was natural and obvious we needed to bring our games on mobile platforms. When I first tried the iPad I fell in love, because it had a fantastic hi-res screen with beautiful colors, which wasn’t the case for most of the PC screens at that time. Also you could play our games on a couch or in a bed, which was fantastic.

TA: I think Machinarium is your most ported game ever with it even coming to PS Vita, Blackberry Playbook, and Xbox One. Aside from that, your games are usually on mobile and PC consistently with Switch sometimes. How has it been for the team working on so many platforms?

JD: Of course it’s a lot of additional work and hassle to get and maintain our games on so many platforms. However each platform has a slightly different audience and its own advantages and drawbacks so it’s interesting to get the games on as many of them as possible. Besides PC and mobile we are now also focused on consoles and game controller playing which is very satisfying when it’s made right.

TA: Can you tell us a little bit about the educational game you worked on for the BBC?

JD: The game was called Questionaut. It was a little Flash game built around quizzes from various school subjects such as physics, chemistry or mathematics. We created a tiny planet – a little puzzle for each theme – and the main character traveled from one to another with a blimp. It was fun to make it, but we did it just to make some money so we can finish our own work-in-progress project Machinarium.

TA: In recent years, it feels like Amanita Design has been pushing creative boundaries even more, and I love everything being shown. How involved are you in titles like Happy Game and the upcoming Phonopolis?

JD: Happy Game was created by Jara Plachy, author of Chuchel and Botanicula. It’s so weird and distinctive that it was almost impossible to help him with design decisions. Phonopolis is still in development by a new team in Amanita that hasn’t released a game yet. I’m helping mostly with game design ideas and currently also with the production pipeline as we are slowly getting closer to the finish line.

TA: Pilgrims on Apple Arcade was a lovely game, and it recently saw a standalone mobile release following it leaving the service. Is there any chance Amanita Design will do more short games like that?

JD: We don’t have anything like Pilgrims in the making right now, but it might change in the future. I enjoyed this little experiment a lot.

TA: Out of the many games you’ve worked on before and with Amanita Design, what is your favorite, and looking back is there any game you wish you had done more with?

JD: My favorite is by far the one I’m working on right now, which is unfortunately still unannounced so I can’t talk about it.

TA: Tell us a little bit about working with Apple on the Apple Arcade releases. Will there be more Apple Arcade games in the future?

JD: Apple Arcade started at the right time for us as we had 2 games nearing the release when Apple approached us. So we were able to release both of them (Creaks and Pilgrims) on Arcade quite soon. AA helped us to reach a new big audience and it was also beneficial financially. Apple had a clear vision of what kind of games they wanted to support on Apple Arcade and why. Unfortunately this vision changed since then so I’m not sure about the future of this service.

TA: I mentioned how I discovered Amanita Design through Machinarium, but the most impressive thing back then was seeing it have a vinyl soundtrack available. I missed the original pressings sadly, but this and Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery have amazing music with vinyl releases. Amanita Design has always been doing vinyl releases and I’m glad to see it. How has it been doing those releases over the years with how the vinyl industry has been growing?

JD: We’ve had an amazing partnership with Dan Dudarec from Minority Records – a Czech indie music label – ever since the first Machinarium vinyl pressing. He’s been doing all the production work, schedules reissues, deals with manufacturing plants, helps with distribution… And it’s very much thanks to him that all of our vinyl releases – except for the two limited editions – continue to be available. The Machinarium LP is without a doubt our most popular piece of merchandise – it received its 12th pressing last year!

In general we just love vinyl. It’s probably the prettiest, most tactile music format out there. There’s just something magical about a large spinning disk that has grooves in it that contain music… They come in all sorts of colors and transparencies these days, and with some art prints included, it’s a nice collectible even if you don’t own a turntable.

TA: In the latest issue of EDGE magazine, the feature on Phonopolis mentioned how it is Amanita Design’s first proper 3D world. I always thought it looked incredible, but this stood out to me. Has it been the largest project for the studio?

JD: It’s undoubtedly been our longest and most complicated project to date. The art and animation techniques, as well as the entire creation process, are incredibly challenging and time-consuming. Nevertheless, we remain committed to the original vision. No matter how long it takes, we’re a stubborn group of developers.

TA: Is there any chance we see Phonopolis on mobile soon after or at launch?

JD: Mobile is part of the plan, but I can’t say if it’s sooner or later after its PC launch.

TA: What’s next for Jakub Dvorský?

JD: A couple more games to make and that’s it. Life goes fast.

TA: What have you been playing lately and what was your favorite game of 2023?

JD: I played The Case of the Golden Idol, Viewfinder, Storyteller and The Invincible – all great games which I fully recommend. Currently I’m stuck with Balatro which is fantastic and unfortunately too addictive.

TA: How do you like your coffee?

JD: Black, Turkish coffee is preferred but I drink mostly green tea and Pu-erh anyway.

I’d like to thank Jakub Dvorský and Lukas Kunce for their time and help here.

You can keep up with all our interviews here including our recent ones with Akitoshi Kawazu, Kenji Ito, and Tomokazu Shibata here, Dave Oshry of New Blood, Digital Extremes for Warframe mobile, Team NINJA, Sonic Dream Team, Hi-Fi Rush, Pentiment, and more. As usual, thanks for reading.

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