Into Developer Minds: An Interview With Autumn Rain Of Gardens of a New World & Sewer Rave
Welcome back to Into Developer Minds, a column where I interview different indie game developers about their latest projects and creative process!
In this week’s installment, I reached out to Autumn Rain, whose games have an incredible sense of atmosphere to them. Take her title Gardens of a New World– which was part of Haunted PS1’s Madvent Calendar 2021–a game that involves exploration through a surreal world. Autumn’s games involve palpable environments; spaces that exude an air of eerie serenity, that evoke emotion in their minimal, abstract nature.
Autumn’s games include an array of captivating visuals, forming dream-like environments that immerse players into psychedelic exploration. I asked Autumn about the aesthetics of her games, what she looks to create in an atmospheric mood, and what she finds compelling in games that rely on exploration.
Michael Pementel: Where did your journey with gaming begin? What were some of your favorite games growing up (for fun and those that would go on to inspire you)?
Autumn Rain: As a kid, I grew up with a lot of JRPGs, Pokémon being the main big one. I started out with Gold and continued to stick with Pokémon for a while. When I got the GameCube (which, I originally wanted JUST to play [Pokémon] Colosseum) I got into Paper Mario The Thousand Year Door. I was a Nintendo kid. Eventually when I finally gamed more on PC I got into Minecraft, Portal, and the Half Life series. I think these sort of developed my interested pretty heavily, really into first person exploration type games.
MP: What ended up driving you towards game design?
Autumn Rain: I’ve always been interested in making games. As a kid I liked to dabble around in RPG maker but didn’t get serious about making games until 2018 when I took a course about VR in college, where we had to use Unity. From there I decided I’d want to learn more about Unity; I’d always had ideas for games but never really knew how to go about making them. I finally had the know how to begin! Some games that really influenced me were Undertale, Diaries of a Spaceport Janitor, and Clustertruck.
MP: There is such a fascinating variety of aesthetics among all your titles. Each feels as if it’s offering its own unique space. What draws you towards designing the settings/environments of your games? What is it that you are hoping to create in terms of feeling? Or what do you want the player to experience?
Autumn Rain: Thank you! I do try to make each game pretty different stylistically from each other. (Besides the games that are in some way related to each other, like Artists of a Dead World and Gardens of a New World) I suppose what drives my settings is largely just, what I am currently interested in, and what my emotions are. I kind of hope that the art in my games will convey a similar emotion to whatever I was feeling when I made it. Sewer Rave was largely goofy happy party vibes, I made that at a time that was pretty good for me. Be Not Afraid A.K.A. Seraphim Horror Show is a little bit of the opposite. I wanted it to look cool, but also convey a weird nightmare that was chopped up pieces of things that are familiar.
MP: In your latest game, Sewer Rave, it appears that the primary focus of play is on exploration. What draws you into game experiences where exploration is the key factor? Where there is no combat, maybe some minimal puzzle solving. What is it about these experiences that you enjoy, and have possibly influenced your own work?
Autumn Rain: Well, Sewer Rave is far from my most recent game, in fact I first released it in 2018, releasing updates every now and then until recently I decided to finally rerelease it on Steam to reach a wider audience. Another game that influenced me a lot was LSD Dream Emulator. I liked moving randomly from one location to another and not being sure what you would find. I also liked the concept that everybody who plays it is going to get a pretty different experience and first impression. Another aspect of games I played a lot as a kid was how many rumors would spread about them. I thought if there’s a very small chance for something weird to happen, it’ll spur some conversation, and people would like to discuss the weird things they’ve encountered.
MP: Gardens Of A New World has a real intriguing and eerie feel to its atmosphere. What was it like to create that game? What are you really happy with regarding the finished product?
Autumn Rain: Well, the series of “Artists of a Dead World” and “Gardens of a New World” are based off of an old project a friend and I came up with a long time ago. It was a story and world we were making in a modded [sic] Minecraft project! It was huge and based on very many different things. The realm in Gardens of a New World was inspired by the Distortion World from Pokémon and the End of Time from Chrono Trigger. A summary, it is a limbo world where the residents of the “dead world” escaped to when their world was no longer inhabitable. Creating this game consisted of me looking back at the screenshots I took of that old Minecraft world and creating something that felt similar in the right ways. (I have a blog post available talking about that here: https://comradery.co/autumnrain/posts/76 ) Originally, I kind of wanted to lean more into the gardens aspect of this game and actually have plants you could attend to and get food for people, but I wouldn’t be able to have the time in order to prepare it for the Madvent Calendar, so I decided it should just be similar to the first game. I’m very happy with the animation at the end. I want to be able to do more animations like that in the future when I can.
MP: Across all your works, what are some of the best lessons you’ve learned (either artistically or personally)? How do you think those lessons will shape future games you create?
Autumn Rain: It’s hard to say right now what my best lessons are. I feel like I haven’t had the opportunity to really act on the best practices I’ve learned over time. But I think one of the best things I know when it comes to learning how to develop games is to keep scope down and know how long you want to spend to make something. It’s important to plan ahead in order for you to get something done. My biggest piece of advice for starting developers is to start small. A lot of people want to go into their dream ideas but it’s way too much when you don’t know enough. I struggled with that for a long time, constantly iterating ideas for a dream game and knowing no way to make them what I wanted. I needed to step back from that and make small various experiences to get to know my way around development.