Back in September of 2018, experimental cult-classic “LSD Dream Emulator” was nearing its 20th anniversary. Not content with leaving the game’s legacy as a mere bump in the night, @atime_loop decided to host a game jam in its honor titled Emulated Dreams.
Two entries particularly stood out, shane yach’s (@tipsheda) “A Game With A TV In It” and Modus Interactive’s (@ModusPwnin) “NEKO YUME”.
I recently had a sit-down with the creators for a quick chat about their experiences and inspirations.
NEKO YUME – Modus Interactive
NEKO YUME is a feline feverdream cooked up by the developer behind Sanguine Sanctum. The furry labyrinth delivers on it’s promise of a surreal catty hellscape with nightmarish visages that create a sense of unease. With a perpetually shifting environment that never quite stays the same, NEKO YUME always keeps the player guessing and serves a successful homage to the original LSD Dream Emulator.
After diving into Modus Interactive’s inspired hallucination, we had a chat about NEKO YUME‘s genesis.
REBIND: No holds barred, tell us about yourself, your roots, inspirations.
Modus Interactive: I’ve always been interested in game development, but the catalyst that pushed me to start actually releasing games was Paratopic. I remember seeing a screenshot of it on Twitter and I instantly fell in love with the low-fi art style, I didn’t realize games could still look like that. The developers of Paratopic also listed the tools they used to create the game with, which I’ve been using ever since!
I also love sound design. I feel like the sound design in a game is one of the most important aspects of creating a compelling atmosphere. I try to make all of the sound effects myself, either by recording them directly or using a synthesizer.
My biggest inspirations in no particular order are: The works of Kitty Horrorshow, Paratopic, Yume Nikki, and LSD Dream Emulator. Kitty Horrorshow’s short, obscure games led to the quiet corrupted atmosphere of my first game Spirit– and were also my introduction to http://Itch.io . Yume Nikki’s influence has seeped into many of my games. It often has a sinister mood without directly threatening the player with enemies or hazards.
The dream worlds of Yume Nikki and LSD Dream Emulator are winding, twisting, and confusing. It’s easy to get lost within them, but once you learn the twists and turns you can navigate them with ease. There are many more indie devs I’ve been inspired by as well, Puppet Combo, 98 Demake, and Colorfiction just to name a few.
As for what I’m working on next, I would love to add more to Neko Yume and make it a full fledged game. I’m also working on a game about creating and combining glitch-like creatures. There’s still a long way to go on that project, but I post infrequent updates about my games on my Twitter account!
REBIND: NEKO YUME is blissfully bizzare, where’d the cats come from?
Modus Interactive: When I was starting work on Neko Yume, I actually wasn’t planning on making it completely cat themed. I was trying to figure out what I wanted this project to be when I decided to try to make one of my cats a character. It was my first time trying to make a model from scratch and the face ended up being warped and distorted. I loved it so much that I decided to leave the face how it was.
I had my friends playtest an early version where a few cats would follow you around an empty field and they all wanted more! I used photos of my other cats (I have 3) and asked my friends to send me pictures of theirs as well.
REBIND: Despite cats normally being associated with being a cutesy thing, you’ve managed to evoke a lot of surreal atmosphere from them. There’s some pretty bleak imagery here that borders on nightmarish, but you manage to have some very imaginative settings that are almost zen. Did it start out life as a lighthearted piece, or were you trying to play a contrast here?
Modus Interactive: The main inspiration for Neko Yume is LSD Dream Emulator, an obscure PS1 game. LSD has a very unique tone that can vary from fanciful and serene to dark and unnerving. My malformed cat-creatures were both adorable and somewhat disturbing as they followed me around, staring at me and watching my every move. Between the atmosphere of LSD and the unblinking gaze of the cat-creatures, the overall tone of Neko Yume took shape.
REBIND: Emulated Dreams, why did you participate in this particular Jam?
Modus Interactive: After I finished work on Sanguine Sanctum I was looking for inspiration for my next project. I had heard a few people mention that Sanguine Sanctum reminded them of LSD Dream Emulator, but until that point I had never heard of it.
Once I checked it out I immediately fell in love with the atmosphere and the strangeness of it all. Once I saw that there was game jam based on LSD Dream Emulator I knew I had to do something for it!
REBIND: Sanguine Sanctum, let’s talk about it a little bit. How’d the development of Neko Yume impact or influence it? Or was it the other way around?
Modus Interactive: I started developing Neko Yume pretty soon after I finished Sanguine Sanctum so they share a lot of DNA. They’re both first person exploration games with surreal environments and light gameplay elements.
They both focus on trying to create an engrossing atmosphere, making you want to see what’s around the next corner. They also lack any explicit explanation of what caused the world to be like it is. I like to leave things mysterious, letting the player figure out the meaning of their actions in game on their own.
REBIND: Trevor Henderson‘s Siren Head, what’s the backstory here for why you decided to make a short little survival horror piece around his microstory?
Modus Interactive: I can’t remember how I first discovered Trevor’s work, but I quickly fell in love with it. Disturbing, malicious, and mysterious creatures with small snippets of story to get you thinking about the implications of a creature like that existing; it’s right up my alley! I chose siren head because I thought it’s design would translate well to my low-poly art style, and I figured I could make a compelling short scene starring it. It also gave me an excuse to try out a more explicit story telling method, my earlier games have been mostly textless.
Modus Interactive’s catalog can be found at https://modus-interactive.itch.io/ and his twitter is @ModusPwnin.
Emily Rose is an indie developer who writes for rebind.io and resides in the pacific northwest. She’s often seen in the local VR arcade and developer community participating in pushing the medium’s horizons. You can find her on twitter @caravanmalice