The Intricate Worlds of RHEM: An Interview with Developer Knut Müller
by Becky Waxman
Can you describe briefly how/why you became a game developer?
From 1985 to 1993 I studied painting/graphics (at both the undergraduate and Master’s Degree level) at the College of Fine Arts in Leipzig. During that time I became interested in music/composition. Therefore I started additional studies in electronic music at the College of Music in Dresden. The most frequently used tool in the studio of electronic music at the college was the Apple Macintosh Computer, so I got familiar with it and bought one. I discovered a freeware "Myst-like" (Mac only) adventure game, "Das Tor der Minerva" (The Gate of Minerva). I was fascinated by this game and got the idea to make such a game by myself.
What was your chief inspiration for the RHEM games?
The beginning step in creating the RHEM games was to make contact with the developer of "The Gate of Minerva", Stephan Stoske. He was very friendly and helpful. The greatest help for me was to know that it's possible, that one man alone can make such a game.
The chief inspiration for the RHEM games – that’s not easy to say, because there are so many influences and ideas that come together in the world of RHEM. I remember myself as a 10-year-old boy, drawing castles and architectural ideas on large sheets of paper. I think that was the true beginning of the creation of RHEM.
How much do you think about the gamer as you construct a game? Have you ever been surprised by the reaction of gamers to various aspects of your games?
What process do you go through when you are plotting out game environments? Do you create a map first, or are you inspired to create individual spaces, and later connect them?
Do you use any particular strategies or techniques to draw the gamer into the gameworld and encourage him/her to explore the game environments?
Designing a game is like composing music or writing a story (or any similar creative process). Similar "abstract" rules apply, for example: dramatic effect, proportion of time and space, the relationship between surprise and logic.... The gamer needs something with which to identify in order to build a relationship to the gameworld. He/she also needs a quest and never-before-seen-/unknown rooms or buildings to awaken curiosity. The best result is when the player never experiences the feeling of playing a game, but instead feels as though he/she is exploring an unknown world. I try to create the world of RHEM so that the player thinks: "I can unravel the mysterious structure and story of this world with my own mind, using only the revelations and hints within this world."
How do you get ideas for puzzles?
I get the ideas at
different places and in different situations. For example -- during a
Will the puzzles in RHEM 2 be similar in style to those in the original RHEM? Will they be about the same difficulty?
The puzzles in RHEM 2 and RHEM 1 are based on similar ideas, because they are based on the same gameworld, the world of RHEM. The unity of puzzle and gameworld is very important for me. All the puzzles are logical; the gamer needs no special know-how, only simple, common knowledge about mathematics and physics. But he/she needs the powers of observation and patience. He/she will need to draw comparisons between different things and to digest many strands of data. Maybe the RHEM 2 puzzles are a little bit more difficult than in RHEM.
I've been admiring some RHEM 2 screenshots - muted, eerie colors, repeated geometrical forms. There's an industrial "feel" to the environments, with an emphasis on order and balance. Is this the mood you are trying to create?
What is the story like in RHEM 2?
Will there be background music in RHEM 2? If not, why not?
I understand that you have replayed certain games several times in order to analyze their structure. In your opinion, which games have the most to teach someone interested in game design?
It's difficult to
say which games have the most to teach someone interested in game
A) To learn about
puzzle/game design: play "Myst", "Riven", (partial) "Myst III", (partial)
For a game
developer working with Macromedia Director:
A year from now, what do you want gamers to remember about RHEM 2?