Armikrog: Interview With Pencil Test Studios

Armikrog interviewWe all have that game.

That game that you can almost play whenever you close your eyes even though it’s been years since it ever ran on your computer. That game you can hear and almost sing along to even though no music playing (that is, if you can grunt musically).

That game which defined the gamer you are today.

That game for me is The Neverhood. A clay-animated stop-motion game of awesome. Mention The Neverhood to me and I could go on for hours. I have so many fond memories of little Klaymen that it’s the only game left I have on physical disc because I just couldn’t bear to part with it.

So when I heard of Armikrog, from Pencil Test Studios, Inc. I got really excited. A new clay-animated game game from my favourite game developers! I think the majority of us from the glory days of gaming in the ’90s have played or at least heard of The Neverhood or Earthworm Jim so it’s exciting to see so many names coming back to bring us another chance to relive those past memories.

I tried to set up an interview with Pencil Test Studios, Inc. however as you are probably aware I’ve been having some internet issues and so we had to settle for an email one. Mike Dietz and Ed Schofield were very kind to answer my questions over the weekend.

How would you describe Armikrog.?

Mike Dietz — Armikrog is a brand new clay-animated point and click adventure game brought to you by the creators of the Neverhood and Earthworm Jim. While not a sequel, it’s been called by many a spiritual successor to the Neverhood as it’s being developed by the same core creative group and it comes from a similar place in our hearts. Featuring the unique characters and signature art style of creator Doug TenNapel, the magical appeal of stop motion animation, and the musical genius of Neverhood composer Terry S. Taylor, Armikrog promises to be a game that will deliver on the enjoyable challenge, whimsy and humor that made the Neverhood so accessible and fun.

Armikrog tells the story of a space explorer named Tommynaut and his blind, alien, talking dog Beak-Beak, who crash land on a strange planet and find themselves trapped within the walls of a fantastic, mystical fortress called Armikrog. Players will need to solve an array of entertaining and mind-bending puzzles to help Tommynaut out of his predicament, and will quickly discover that the epic Armikrog is much more than simply a fortress from which they must escape.

Clay isn’t the biggest use medium for making games, what made you decide to use it? (besides it looking like awesome fun)

Ed Schofield — Stop motion animation is very different from computer and hand drawn animation. The process of creating it requires you to have a very clear view of the motion you’re trying to achieve, and unlike other forms of animation you can’t go back and make changes once it’s been created. It’s a bit like a tightrope walker working without a net, but that’s what makes the process so much fun!

Mike Dietz — Plus there’s a certain magic and wonder you get from stop motion that isn’t present in other forms of animation. There’s something magical and mesmerizing about knowing those are real tactile objects coming to life seemingly on their own. You can see the thumbprints and analog imperfections that hint at the artists and process behind it, which makes it seem that much more magic – yet accessible.

I still remember the imagine from the Neverhood behind the scenes video of clay everywhere. How much clay will Armikrog, take? Are you able to walk around the studio or has Occupational Health and Safety laws preventing you from stacking them up the stairs and every floor space again?

Ed Schofield — There will be a lot of clay used in Armikrog, but we’ll also be using other materials as well. We don’t want to limit ourselves creatively, so if it makes sense to use plaster, metal or cardboard for to build certain things, we’ll do it. However, this time around we’re trying to keep the hallways clear!

Mike Dietz — But don’t worry, there will still be lots and lots of clay – it’s still the most fun to work with.

As a huge fan of the Neverhood soundtrack (I can still hear some of the tunes in my head), will Armikrog. again have a memorable soundtrack and will it be in the same sort of blue/folk style again?

Ed Schofield — The music for Armikrog will be done by Terry Taylor, the same musician who composed and performed the music for The Neverhood. Terry’s musical sensibilities are perfect for our games and he’s always delivered amazing and inspiring tunes!

Mike Dietz – Terry has already delivered the first tune for Armikrog, which we featured in our Kickstarter video. You can see Terry sing the song in its entirety on the Kickstarter page in Update # 4!

(Kristy: Kickstarter update 4 if you like to here Terry’s song)

Earthworm Jim and The Neverhood didn’t exactly have much talking besides in places – will Armikrog have more conversations or will you continue to use more passive forms of communication?

Ed Schofield — More expansive dialogue seems like a natural evolution to our games. In the Neverhood, Klaymen’s journey didn’t require him to speak much. In Armikrog there will be more dialogue, but it will be used to advance the story.

Mike Dietz – Actually there was a whole lot of dialog in the Neverhood – I know because I had to animate most of it and it was a lot of work! While it’s true Klaymen rarely had anything to say, Willie Trombone almost never shut up!

(Kristy: Is it weird that I just played the full back story by Willie in my head? It’s me Willie, Willie Trombone. Ack, now I’m getting a flowerpot dropped on my head).

Will there be a long and detailed history carved into a long clay wall that will take hours to read and involve many clicks to walk to the end?

Ed Schofield — There will be a place where the player can go to learn about the history and universe where Armikrog takes place, but the stories will be told with much more drawings as opposed to straight text.

Mike Dietz – If you think of the Neverhood’s Hall of Records as a novel, Armikrog will feature something more along the lines of a graphic novel. We promise we won’t make you walk through 30+ screens to read it all this time!

Game play wise, will Armikrog be more like The Neverhood where you find a puzzle and can take your time to solve it, or more like Earthworm Jim with jumping around and shooting things?

Ed Schofield — Definitely more like The Neverhood. Armikrog will be created in the same genre (point and click adventure game). There will be puzzles to solve mysteries to uncover, but it will also expand on the basic genre with some new mechanics as well.

Will you be able to die? And if so, will it be clearly signed?

Ed Schofield — Ha! We always love the responses from the Neverhood death…we tried to warn the player as clearly as we could. For Armikrog, we want to continue to encourage the player to explore and try new things, and not punish them by dying.

Mike Dietz – BTW, that long drawn out scream you hear during Klaymen’s death sequence – that’s Ed!

Your Kickstarter project is nearing the end and funding is getting close. If the unthinkable happens and Armikrog doesn’t get enough funding, what will the future hold for Pencil Test Studios, Inc?

Ed Schofield — The studio has other projects on the table that we would move onto, but Armikrog is what we’re most passionate about. So, of course we are doing everything we can to get the game funded!

Mike Dietz – Failure is not an option!

Such a girly question I know, but will your Kickstarter t-shirts be available in both men and women’s style? (I know I look terrible in a mens shirt!)

Ed Schofield — Hmmmm…good question. No one has asked us that one yet! I’ll have to look into that and get back to you…

Will we be seeing anyone from Pencil Test Studios, Inc at PAX in Australia next month? (please say yes, please say yes).

Ed Schofield — The Kickstarter campaign has really been an all-consuming event. Honestly, we haven’t been able to look at our calendars much past June 27 (the last day of the campaign). But you never know!

Mike Dietz – I’ve never been to Australia but have always wanted to visit. I’ve never met anyone from there who wasn’t super friendly and fun. We had a TV crew from Australia in the office the other day and we all had a great time.


If you missed out on playing The Neverhood, then don’t miss out on Armikrog. too! The Armikrog Kickstarter is only a couple days away from ending. If you would like to become a backer, please go to their Kickstarter page and pledge to Armikrog. Today.

Armikrog will be available DRM-free for PC, MAC and Linux through, The Humble Store and on Steam (visit their Steam Greenlight page and vote Yes!)