Developer Spotlight: Erik Habets – Studio Erikson
Studio Erikson is a games and art studio founded by Erik Habets and located in Maastricht the Netherlands. Erik is not only a game developer but has also been making sculptures, paintings, drawings, animations and installations for the past decade. He has won prizes and received grants and commissions in the art scene. In the last few years he has dedicated himself to the creation of games.
Studio Erikson is developing Fromto which in Erikson’s words is “A horrible, childish sandbox racing game with in game track building’. Having played the game I wanted to speak to the man behind the game and find out a bit more him, the studio and the game.
How did you get into game development?
That is a long story. Well to make it short. I studied fine arts at the art academy after I graduated as primary school teacher. After that I worked as a professional artist with a passion for playing and plain fun for over a decade. I made use of a lot of different media. I went from sculptures to drawings and paintings to installations, comics, animations and back. Eventually I decided to try to make a game and before I knew it a few years past by just learning to code etc.
Where did you learn to code?
I learned coding from YouTube mostly and following some online courses.
So what inspired you to get into game development?
The art world was always a bit too serious for me. And I have always seen Games as a form of art in which I would be able to put all my creativity together. But the source, the game that inspired me most to start making games of my own is Worms.
Have you worked at any other studios before? Or what have you worked on previously?
I haven’t worked at other studios. I have always worked alone as an artist aside from some community arts projects from the Union by Fiction foundation which I managed as (artistic) leader.
How did you go about starting Studio Erikson? Is there a story behind it?
As I mentioned before I first studied to become a primary school teacher. There I was mostly bored during the classes and started drawing a lot of clumsy comics called FAMME. (Front Anti Male Minority). It was about a star trek- like crew of guys preventing some evil girls from destroying the planet.. The characters where all my friends. Anyway back then I called myself, the ‘comic artist’, studio Erikson for the first time. And it kind of stuck on me.
What games did you use to play as a child?
I have always been a pc gamer. I played a lot of Dune 2, Diablo, Duke Nukem, Warcraft, Red Alert, castle Wolfenstein, Double Dragon, Xenon 2.
What genre of game do you most enjoy?
Tough one. I am pretty much an all-round gamer. I really like to check out a whole lot of cool and refreshing indie games. As a genre specific I would choose strategy.
What games if any do you play now?
Yes I play a few at the moment. (Aside from Fromto, which I play and test a lot).
For example: They are billions, Graveyard Keeper, Forager and Hollow Knight.
You are also a contemporary artist. What kind of art do you do and what was your focus areas in art?
Mostly gigantic sculptures for the public space with a bit of absurd angle. I always use weird stories and history as an inspiration to create weird accumulations of partially recognizable things and partially abstract forms. Made from all kinds of materials like polyester, wood, found objects or casted in aluminum.
What is Fromto?
Fromto is a hilarious sandbox ‘racing’ game where players build the level together. Place traps for your friends and other helpful track parts to make sure you make it to the finish first. It is partially drawn by my kids from 2 and 5 and looks ‘different’. That makes it weird. You have to taste it a bit first before you will fall in love with it. It is best played with some friends on the couch.
What was the inspiration for Fromto?
As I was feeling ready to create my own first real game. I was thinking about the concept all the time but couldn’t make a good decision. During that period my daughter started to make her own first scribble artworks and I decided to go and have a look at my own. The drawings I made as a kid. Then I came across this drawing of a little car going through an obstacle course on one sheet of paper. Then I knew that this was the idea for my own game which became Fromto.
You also see Fromto as an extension of art – or an artist game as you describe on your website. Art can mean different things to different people. What did you want it to portray?
Well, I hope to make people feel a bit like a child again and play in the same way without borders or grown up conventions of what is possible.
A bit more about the true heroes in developing this game; your Children; its great that you have got them engaged in it. How did you think to get them involved?
Because of the inspiring power of the child’s drawings. And I really love the expression and aesthetic of what they make. And it helps to emphasize the childish feeling of the game.
I found the gameplay nostalgic and reminded me of games I played as a child on my Atari ST. Is that what you were going for?
Oh wow! That is cool. I didn’t intentionally go for that but as I used to play a lot of those games myself I think it might just has slipped in there.
The music in the game is fun and energetic how did this come into play?
I have some friends who make music and gave them the free hand to create what they felt was best.
So when will gamers get a chance to experience Fromto?
I hope to release the game before the end of the year. But since I am alone and I am still working on many new stuff and features it is a race against time. For example the leveleditor and the gamemode where all players race at the same time still have to be fixed. Fromto will also come out on Nintendo Switch and I hope to release them simultaneously so the Switch port is also an ongoing process.
Do you plan on developing any other games?
Ow yeah. I love making games.
What games current or soon to come out are you most looking forward to seeing?
Well I am looking forward to play Flotsam and I haven’t yet tried Pummel Party, Baba is you or Totally Accurate Battle simulator. Those are some of my highest entries on my wishlist.
As an artist I am guessing you have a list of other ventures? What other ventures you looking at doing after or during the development of Fromto?
For the moment Fromto takes all my time and more. And I am ok with it because it is so overwhelming and consists of many different and fun work. But I am also thinking about the concept of my next game. Which isn’t quite shaped yet.
Fromto the game which reminds me of my childhood drawn by the creators kids and is horribly fun to play. I wish Erik, his children and the Team every success in getting this game out soon. I highly recommend checking out Fromto Party Crash which is a demo of what Fromto will become and is available for free on Steam https://store.steampowered.com/app/916180/Fromto/. And to keep up-to-date with the progress of Fromto you can subscribe to their twitter feed or join their facebook page. Details below: