Plug & Play — Etter Studio produced a surreal short game
about the binary relationship of two characters and their plugs. Plug & Play
is an interactive animation drawn by Michael Frei and coded by Mario von Rickenbach.
"Plug & Play is about nothing less than love", explains its creator Michael Frei, "that's as much as I'd like to say about its meaning." The project started in 2012 when he published his first animation movie Not About Us on the video sharing platform Vimeo and was included in the highly popular Staff Picks. "I was surprised how many people watched my rather strange film. At the same time, looking at the stats, I was even more surprised how few of the viewers actually watched the entire movie to the end. There is a lot of scrubbing going on. I somehow thought I'm the only one who jumps around on the timeline of internet videos, but it's everybody."
His reaction was to produce a new short film, which eventually would become a short computer game, called Plug & Play. The idea was to give the viewers, who are all so eager to jump around the narrative, more control over his movie. At the same time he wanted to have more control over the way the audience experiences the film by not allowing to skip the narrative without interacting with it and therefore become part of it.
Michael started to collaborate with Mario von Rickenbach, an independent Swiss game developer. Mario, who's previous work includes Drei, started to develop a system where drawings, animations and physics could mix. After working sessions in Zurich, Tallinn, Berlin and New York, they eventually rented a desk in an office building in Geneva and worked almost a year to turn Plug & Play into a game.
"The contents of Plug & Play itself are very minimal, there are actually not more than a handful of objects throughout the entire game. That made it interesting, because it meant the little objects we have need to behave perfectly, there is nothing to cover up imperfections. The difficult part was to translate a linear frame-by-frame animation running at 12 frames per second into an interactive animation. We spent a lot of time prototyping to find the right balance between human and computer drawn animation", says Mario.
Mario von Rickenbach and Michael Frei.
Plug & Play often points to the relationship between humans and machines. Michael Frei drew every single frame on his laptop trackpad. “I was travelling quite often during production and had to get rid of paper and pens. I drew the film just using the integrated touchpad of my laptop using my index finger. Interestingly the word 'digital' originates from the word 'digitus', Latin for finger, and relates to the fact it was mainly fingers being used to count numbers before the invention of computers. It just made sense to draw a digital film describing a binary world by using my finger to turn pixels on or off."
Plug & Play is released worldwide on the 2nd of February 2015 for iPad and iPhone and was coproduced by Etter Studio and SRG SSR, the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation.
Let's Play videos of Plug & Play (like this one by jacksepticeye) have cranked up over 100 Mio views on Youtube.
DEVELOPMENT, GAME DESIGN
Mario von Rickenbach
Culture Trust of Canton Thurgau
Culture Trust of Canton Schwyz
University of Applied Sciences and Arts Lucerne
City of Amriswil
Japan Media Arts Festival 2016 (Jury Selection)
IndieCade 2015 (Official Finalist)
Ars Independent 2015 (The Black Horse of Video Games)
Sense Of Wonder Night 2015 (Best Arts Award)
Sense Of Wonder Night 2015 (Audience Award)
Independent Games Festival 2015 (Nuovo Award Nominee)