Our interview with Jonas Manke about Omno


I had the chance to interview Jonas Manke, the indie developer behind Omno. You can find my review of the game here.

Here’s a trailer for the game:

Tobias(Game-Releases): ‘Could you please explain briefly what Omno is about?’

Jonas: ‘Omno is a third-person puzzle-based adventure game based on a 3D platformer. It’s a non-violent game. It takes you on a journey through different landscapes, including icy tundras, green forests or even above the clouds. To do this, you use the powers of a vanished civilization, following the traces of which you start your journey.’

Tobias (Game-Releases): ‘Was it always planned for Omno to be a game without combat?’

Jonas: ‘Yes, when I started producing, I still had very small children. That’s 5 years ago now. Now they’re bigger and also play Fortnite and stuff like that. But they were small back then and I wanted to make games that I wouldn’t have to hide when my kids came into the office. I work from home, also as a freelance animator before. My kids are used to the fact that when they come in and look at my screen they see things that they think are cool. It used to be animated movies like Mullewapp, Peterson and Findus, Bunny School and stuff like that and I wanted that to be okay.’

Tobias (Game-Releases): ‘Is the story of the staff bearer closed for you or would you like to return to the world of Omno and tell more about it?’

Jonas: ‘I think the story as it is is complete. I deliberately leave two questions unanswered, which give the players room for interpretation, but I don’t want to rule out telling more content in the long term. I can imagine that there will be another package either as DLC or maybe even an Omno 2. But you have to see that in the future. At the moment I’m still far too busy with the release to be able to say for sure. But it definitely offers enough potential for more.’

Tobias (Game-Releases): ‘What was it like being able to use your own imagination and desires in creating the game?’

Jonas: ‘I think that’s the great privilege for indie developers, that you can stay very close to your vision with short production paths, as a one-man studio anyway. I don’t have anyone to discuss any ideas with and give feedback. I can just produce whatever comes to my mind. Of course, this has enormous advantages, because you are completely free in your creativity and can realize it 100% yourself. But this also has the disadvantage that you are constantly questioning yourself. There’s no one to pat you on the back and say, “That’s cool, keep going.” Rather, when you have doubts about an idea, the whole production pipeline stagnates because nobody keeps working when you’re stuck as a one-man studio remain.’

Tobias (Game-Releases): ‘How important was it to you to be close to the community with Kickstarter?’

Jonas: ‘That was very important to me. Omno only started to become an issue for me when I showed a snippet on Facebook, more or less by accident, when my buddy said: “Show this to other developers.” I thought that was a total flop and then I showed it. Then I got hundreds of comments. That was never the case before because I was never social media savvy in any way and that was totally overwhelming for me. People have asked, “What’s the name of the game? Where can I sign up for a newsletter?” and the game didn’t even have a title, it was just a test. That really pushed me, because that’s when I realized there was something that might have value. Then I pushed it further for a year and then launched the Kickstarter campaign to find out if it’s just developers who think it’s cool because they understand the technical background or if it’s the consumers who think it too find it cool. These are two different things. I didn’t think it would go through the roof like that. Without the community, without the support of the fans, I would never have had the motivation to pull it off for so long. I probably would have thrown in the towel because of any doubts in between. I ultimately owe them the entire project.’

Tobias (Game-Releases): ‘How did it feel to release Omno?’

Jonas: ‘I get goosebumps when I think about it. It was turbulent and wild if you imagine you work on a project for 5 years, 3 years full time and the last year and a half double full time. I hardly had any weekends and worked late into the night. I never knew how it would turn out in the end, whether it’s what people expected, is it what people backed on Kickstarter, or are they all disappointed in the end. This mental pressure that builds up, not knowing if people like it and if the message gets through or not, was very difficult to bear the last few days before the release. But then the relief was all the greater when it became clear that the game was largely error-free and that people liked it. Every hour, kilos of loads fell off my shoulders because it was so liberating to see that everything worked and that it was worth it. That was crazy. That was very, very emotional for me.’

Tobias (Game-Releases): ‘Even if you don’t necessarily think that far shortly after a release, do you already have ideas for a new game?’

Jonas: ‘My long-term goal from the start was to establish an indie game development location that also publishes several games. I wanted to create a long-term perspective with it. Omno is the debut, so to speak. I definitely intend to make more games. I also have other games in concept phase right now. The priority is of course still Omno as well as the Switch version that is coming soon. But in the back of my mind I’m already bubbling over how things will continue with my one-man company.’

Tobias (Game-Releases): ‘I read in an interview that you taught yourself all this and, as I understand it, there weren’t any big problems for you?’

Jonas: ‘I had a past as a character animator for film and television, working on 3D programs. So I brought a little background knowledge with me of what it feels like to work digitally with creative programs on the computer in three-dimensional space. If I had come from a completely different direction, the transition would have been more difficult. So I already had prior knowledge. Between two film productions, I also made games and animated them for games. That’s how it happened that I was working for a studio in Seattle, on State of Decay 2. I animated a lot of zombies there and I really enjoyed it because it wasn’t just “Peace, Joy, Pancakes”. It used to be something a little more serious. I really wanted to know what it looks like when my animations, which I always animate against my empty gray background, are actually in the game. How do the animations intertwine, since they are animation snippets, unlike in films, where you animate the entire camera sequence. I wanted to understand how these systems interact, so I downloaded the Unrealengine. I watched it as a hobby with YouTube videos and the Unreal documentary and it was like a pull. I couldn’t stop as it was so fun to be creative. A few weeks or months later I had the said clip. The rest is history.’

Tobias (Game-Releases): ‘lolaigo27 would like to know if there were any specific inspirations when creating the game, also in terms of the character?’

Jonas: ‘The inspiration question is a frequently asked question and I’m still hesitant because it flows together from different directions. I can’t point the finger at the game that is the source of inspiration. That would be wrong. Creativity comes from mixing everything you know together in your own unique way. Finally, there are obvious influences from Journey and Abzu. These are games that I celebrated a lot. But there are also other influences, such as Mario Odyssey with the open world character, where you move in hubs. There are gameplay influences from different directions. As far as character design goes, I’m sure I’m also inspired by the simplicity of Limbo’s character. I knew it was going to be in a spiritual, almost meditative direction, so I also wanted the character to look a bit like a Tibetan monk too, with simple clothes and a walking stick. So the clothes are inspired in a way.’

Tobias (Game-Releases): ‘Do you have any recommendations for aspiring indie developers?’

Jonas: ‘In the course of time I’ve met a lot of people who have tried to start their own business with games or have decided to do so. What I see again and again, which is the reason for failure, is the lack of stamina. It’s a hard and long road to learn and teach yourself, but you just have to keep going and don’t expect immediate rewards for your efforts. If you don’t have a great game after two weeks of tutorials and then give up, you’ll never be able to build a game. You have to keep going and eventually the rewards will come. Motivation and perseverance are definitely the most important points. But before that, of course, there is also the announcement that you just have to start. Download engine, watch tutorials, just start. It’s not rocket science.’

Tobias (Game-Releases): ‘If you make more games, will they also be non-violent?’

Jonas: ‘No, that would be going too far. Omno is a non-violent game and with good reason. But that is not a credo that I as a company take up the cause of. I would definitely consider adding combat mechanics to the next game. It’s also fun as an animator, of course, if you’re allowed to animate fights. ‘

That ended our interview.

If you are interested in Omno, you are welcome to follow the link above to our test or visit the game’s official website. Of course, there are more pictures of the game to see in our test.

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Hi, this is Tobias. I'm currently studying and I like to spend my free time cooking and gaming. I prefer games with a good story, long-term motivation or a couch co-op mode.

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