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Road to the IGF: Analgesic Productions Anodyne 2: Return to Dust

Road to the IGF: Analgesic Productions’ Anodyne 2: Return to Dust

This interview is part of our Road to the IGF series. You can find the rest by clicking here.

Anodyne 2: Return to Dust seeks to heal the denizens of a surreal 3D world, asking the player to do so by shrinking up, entering the 2D dungeons of their minds, and vacuuming out the poisoned dust inside.

Gamasutra spoke with Melos Han-Tani and Marina Ayano Kittaka, developers of the Seumas McNally Grand Prize-nominated game, to talk about the development companionship that fuels the ideas of Anodyne games.

Here, they open up about the joy they felt in creating a game of two very different visual styles, and sharing the power of healing and togetherness through their games.

Dream walkers

Kittaka: I’m Marina Ayano Kittaka. I was the lead writer, artist, and co-designer of Anodyne 2.

I grew up around hobbyist game dev communities like Game Maker and OHRRPGCE. None of my projects really picked up steam until I connected with Melos through a mutual friend during college (2012), and we made Anodyne 1 together.

Han-Tani: I’m Melos Han-Tani (previously Sean Han Tani). I’m the programmer, composer, co-designer, and I lead the business/marketing. I did a little bit of writing (Geof, Pastel, Orb, Iwasaki).

I did casual Cave Story mods / VB / Java games in grade school on my own, I also arranged music. In college, I started making small games and composing, hanging around game forums like TIGSource, /r/gamedev, Twitter.

An evolving 3D space

Kittaka: Melos had just made All Our Asias (a 3D game) and we were curious to try working in 3D together. I had just made a small 2D platformer prototype that involved shifting between 3 different scales. So, we sort of combined these ideas. Things really took off, I think, when we decided that the mid-scale was 3D exploration and the small-scale was 2D action puzzle levels (large scale was adapted to ridescale/car mode). The story evolved from how that format cast some of the themes from Anodyne 1 in a new light (Melos note: in particular: the role of Dust, cleaning, and the trio of Briar/Young/Sage).

Han-Tani: At the end of 2017 we had a bunch of e-mails. To handle the 3D, we decided something loosely SOTC-inspired — NOT in gameplay, but in sense of 3D space — might be good. Before any coding, we decided that it might be good to limit the game world by making it a round island. We also decided that it would be good to limit the Big Form’s power by having a radio tower control how far it can travel. This evolved into the Center. By the end of December, Marina had a loose story in mind as well as the general shape of Palisade’s character. I think I was also concerned about scale, so I suggested we do a lo-fi style — because it would also be appealing for a number of reasons (elaborated on in a below post.) I also suggested the narrative tone be a bit easier to follow.

After prototyping over a few months, we decided on how to combine mid and small-scale sizes as Marina discussed above.

On the tools used to create Anodyne 2

Han-Tani: Mainly Unity for the game, Ableton Live for SFX/Music, and REAPER for mastering. We use Discord/Google Docs for correspondence and I use Evernote for note-taking/writing.

Kittaka: Unity. For art, I mainly used Blender and Photoshop CS5, with a little bit of Aseprite and Pro Motion NG. For 3D textures, I relied heavily on free images from Textures.com and Pixabay, which I then messed with in Photoshop.

Inhale and exhale

Kittaka: To me, Anodyne represents a very particular working «mode» where Melos and I are kind of prototypically ourselves in a very self-indulgent way (Whatever that means at any given time). Then, we glue it all together with themes and dream logic. It’s a wonderful way to work, but we also like to alternate with other games that feel more grounded or have more constraints. To vastly oversimplify, with our games it’s sort of an inhalation and exhalation. Or, like working out a muscle by tensing and releasing. Not that we’ll necessarily always alternate making Anodyne games with making new IPs, but that is how we’re working so far.

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Han-Tani: Artistically I’d agree with Marina. There’s something about our approach to Anodyne games that can be very loose in a satisfying way (for ourselves), as long as we’re careful to keep some common thread holding things together.

On the business side. well, I guess to be totally honest I was eating an overpriced taco in Chicago in August 2017. It’s like, hot, really hot outside, I didn’t have sunglasses and enough water. Maybe I was stressed out and so was brainstorming how to make money, while eating this taco, following the financial failure of Even the Ocean (which is coming to consoles this year!! I believe in you, Even the Ocean!).

Anodyne 1 was quite popular, so a sequel seemed like a good idea. I rambled about it on Twitter and Marina was down with the idea, but then we both forgot about it till December as we were both working (I was making All Our Asias too).

The trick, of course, is that we wanted to make sure we stayed imaginative with the «sequel»-ness. It was never going to be «Anodyne 1, again!». Also, if we set the expectation that we’re more a Final Fantasy 7 8 9 10 than a Dragon Quest in terms of changing things up a lot, it’ll allow us to come back to Anodyne in the future knowing people won’t demand there to be Zelda-like dungeons all the time.

On Anodyne 2‘s low-poly visuals

Kittaka: It’s a collision of a lot of different factors. I think it’s a really beautiful space. Also, very efficient. To me, lo-fi art is less about capturing any one exact era and more about getting the most bang for my buck with the tools and time that I currently have. Certainly, we’re taking cues and inspiration from artists of the past. We don’t shy away from the power of nostalgia, but it’s never my intention to create a work that is primarily referential, or that treats the past as a static object to be remembered or recovered. The histories we hold in communities or the memories we hold as individuals are constantly in flux.

Han-Tani: I like those visuals a lot. Not enough to want to exactly replicate them — Anodyne 2 might look like what you remember PS1 looking and feeling like (at least that’s how I think of it), but if you go and compare, PS1 games are visually rougher.

Abstract art styles can suggest more detail than actually exists to a player, because their minds have to fill in what’s not there. There is a practical reason (for 3D) because it’s quicker to just use simple lighting and low-poly modeling. It’s not even that Anodyne 2‘s world is practical, but if you go ‘loose’ on the visuals and create an odd surreal feeling in the player, it’s super easy and time efficient to complement that with writing and music.

Also the visual style is nostalgic for some. The nostalgia has a few uses. For someone with no nostalgia, the game still looks unique and pretty thanks to Marina’s art. For someone with nostalgia, we can short-circuit the communication of the game being whimsical/unexpected/fantastical, since one might associate their PS1 nostalgia with childhood discovery of games. This is powerful when combined with marketing and outreach. Not enough to be a viral phenomenon, but enough to do Good Enough.

The key with visual nostalgia is to not let it drive too much else. Like in Anodyne 2‘s case, the gameplay/story have nothing to do with nostalgia.

The fun of two different visual styles

Han-Tani: 3D was tricky with programming the movement and camera, but the 2D was easy because of our prior experience. We generally put things in 3D or 2D if they would be more efficient to make in those dimensions, as Marina mentions below. Other than that, it was fun. 3D’s fun to concept and mock up because the final thing will be pretty close to the initial mental image, and it was fun having the game be able to fit in these different 2D areas into different 3D spots. It was also motivating because we were using 2D/3D in an entirely novel format!

Kittaka: It was honestly a joy and a privilege! I would get really tired of the 3D grind and then switch to an entirely different headspace to work on pixel art tilesets for a while. Creating loose exploration comes very naturally in 3D, while tightly designed puzzles are much simpler to make in 2D. We were very intentional about structuring the game so that the pieces felt fun to make. That’s not to say there wasn’t a lot of tedious, tiring work, but I think having the different styles was well-suited to our situation.

The metaphor of dust

Kittaka: Dust is a really potent metaphor. It was in the very first tiny prototype that I played of Anodyne 1 nearly a decade ago (Good choice, Melos!). It’s all around us, appearing magically as a constant reminder of entropy. I feel like the world of Anodyne 2 takes part in a long tradition of people associating cleanliness (order, discipline, harsh delineations of space) with morality and value.

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Han-Tani: Something I thought about was how fixing/curing people can often have ideological baggage, especially in the mental sense. A lot of ‘fixing’ nowadays is about making us more efficient workers (something another Grand Prize nominee, Eliza, touches on!). So, we structured the game into four main sections with a different take on cleaning (Cenote, Blue Vale, Dustbound, Outer Sands). There’s also an interesting theme my spouse pointed out about who, in Anodyne 2‘s society, is being ordered to carry out this cleaning, or this therapy, and bear all the emotional weight — Nova, a woman, who’s manipulated and exploited over the course of the game, for the ends of a particular social order.

On what they sought to touch upon with the game’s music

Han-Tani: Most straightforwardly, a fit between visual style and music. I did focus more on strong melodies this time around. The game doesn’t stick to any era in particular, and mixes ‘contemporary’ synths with SNES or Genesis samples if needed. The 3D areas were sometimes more atmospheric, based on the Ambient-Melodic idea I started with Even the Ocean (using sounds/phrases that are almost sound-effect-like to construct a melodic-feeling, background track). While I did try to make the 2D areas sound a little rougher/’older’ than the 3D ones, and did this by usage of older-sounding samples or synths, I don’t think it’s strictly necessary for ‘something that looks like game boy’ to be paired with ‘game boy sounds’. It’s just a useful shorthand for creating a sonic contrast between 2D/3D, in Anodyne 2‘s case.

Overall the Anodyne 2 OST is as eclectic and unique as the things that happen in the game. Like any good game OST, it exists outside of genre and easy-to-pin-down descriptions, and is best experienced by playing the game, and then listening to on repeat.

I want to inspire future composers to really push beyond what’s possible to imagine, sonically, from the standpoint of the song itself. Anodyne 2‘s music is some of the most interesting stuff to be coming out of games music right now, so I hope it inspires a lot of people! And I hope one day my music gets more recognition, too!

Exploring healing

Kittaka: It feels a bit silly to say it outright, but I’ve experienced healing in various ways, and it’s made my life dramatically more enjoyable. I’m very sensitive about evangelism, I would never want to imply «you should do things like me, because I have X». Nonetheless, I feel like I am constantly changed by the people around me and by art, and I want to engage in that exchange of energy. I want to visibly act out pieces of my own story and thoughts, both to feel validated and to have others include small pieces of me into their own patchwork lives.

Han-Tani: I owe a lot to small online and offline communities in terms of personal growth, and I’ve learned a lot by just being there for other people and listening. Small communities or friend networks (that can push you towards growth or self-reflection) are such an important thing to have throughout life and I want to reinforce that. As I release more games, I’ve been starting to develop a sense of wanting to also provide valuable experiences for the people who play our games, too.

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“Единственное в своём роде сплетение стилистики PS1 с 16-битной аэстетикой и устоявшимися условностями, испещрённое самосознательным юмором, печалью и тоской.”

“Мне нравится проводить время в Anodyne 2, а особенно мечтательное настроение игры и её большой, сюрреалистичный мир, внутри которого другие небольшие миры — почти как супер-инди версия Breath of the Wild (два человека работали над игрой).”

“Anodyne 2 — одна из тех игр, которые напоминают вам о том, почему вы в принципе влюбились в видеоигры. Она запечатлила ощущение чуда, что удавалось лишь немногим разработчикам. Она должна попасть в летописи инди-игр, и если вы фанат таких игр, вы однозначно не должны пропускать подобное.”

Об этой игре

Спасите загадочный остров от поражающей сознание чумы!

Нано Пыль инфицирует островитян Новой Земли, поражая их чувства и извращая желания. Вы играете за Нову — Нано Чистильщицу, которая должна исследовать остров в поисках больных и уменьшаться внутрь их тел, чтобы очистить их от Пыли.

Anodyne 2: Return to Dust совмещает в себе кинематографичное повествование посредством захватывающих 3D сцен и простоту взаимодействий в 2D зонах в стиле приключений Zelda. Исследуйте 3D города, долины и пустоши, выполненные в аэстетике, переосмысляющей стилистику PS1 и N64, и уменьшайтесь в 2D ментальные миры персонажей, которые варьируются от озарённых сияниями заснеженных долин до вулканических строительных зон!


  • В 3D: прыгайте, ездите и исследуйте потрясающие и необычные местности, общаясь со странными и запоминающимися персонажами.
  • В 2D: используйте ваш Нано Пылесос, чтобы собирать пыль, всасывать объекты и выстреливать ими во врагов, пытаясь помочь справиться персонажам с их внутренними переживаниями и проблемами.
  • Узнайте захватывающую и волнующую историю о Нове. Её судьба ясна: она — Нано Чистильщица, которая спасёт Новую Землю. Но болезненные переживания и те, кто встретятся ей на пути, испытают её верность своему делу.
  • Сами выбирайте, куда хотите идти! Распростёртые виды Новой Земли открыты вам для исследования.
  • Карты, которые вы найдёте в своём путешествии, позволят вам посетить самые дальние края Новой Земли.
  • Не нужно ждать лошадей! Мгновенно трансформируйтесь в автомобиль и быстро передвигайтесь по всему миру.
  • Используйте вашу Искру, чтобы уменьшаться внутрь тел инфицированных и лечите их, исследуя 2D зоны в стиле Zelda внутри них.
  • Насладитесь загадочными, сказочными и поразительными пространствами в 3D и 2D, нарисованными художницей Мариной Киттака.
  • Услышьте более 50 песен в многожанровом саундтреке от Мелоса Хан-Тани, идеально подходящем разнообразным локациям Anodyne 2.
  • Новая игра от дуэта создателей Anodyne 1, All Our Asias, и Even the Ocean.
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Роскошный, сюрреалистичный лоу-фай 3D и 2D мир

Anodyne 2: Return to Dust использует современные технологии, чтобы переосмыслить старый 3D арт времён PS1, PS2, и N64, а также 2D визуалы GBA и SNES. У каждой зоны своё собственное визуальное настроение и свои персонажи.

Если вам нравится исследовать красивые места и погружаться в драматические истории — мир Anodyne 2 приглашает вас исследовать его!

Нужно ли мне сначала поиграть в Anodyne 1?

Нет! Как и в серии Final Fantasy, нет нужды играть в первую часть, чтобы понять историю второй, но фанаты первой части заметят некоторые взаимосвязи! Если захотите оценить обе части, вы можете приобрести их одновременно по скидке!

Anodyne 2: Return to Dust

  • Summary
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  • Summary: Nano Dust infects the islanders of New Theland, distorting their emotions and desires. You play as Nova, a Nano Cleaner who must explore the island, seeking out the sick and shrinking inside their bodies to suction up the Dust.

Anodyne 2: Return to Dust combines the thrilling scale and Nano Dust infects the islanders of New Theland, distorting their emotions and desires. You play as Nova, a Nano Cleaner who must explore the island, seeking out the sick and shrinking inside their bodies to suction up the Dust.

Anodyne 2: Return to Dust combines the thrilling scale and cinematic storytelling of 3D games with the tight design and easy-to-pick-up satisfaction of 2D Zelda-like adventures. With art that re-imagines the PS1 and N64 era, explore 3D cities, valleys, and wastelands then shrink into the varied 2D mindscapes of characters, from snowy, aurora-lit valleys to perilous volcanic construction sites! … Expand

  • Developer: Analgesic Productions
  • Genre(s): Action , Platformer , 3D
  • # of players: No Online Multiplayer
  • Cheats: On GameFAQs
  • Rating: E10+
  • More Details and Credits »

Critic Reviews

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User Reviews

Anodyne 2 looks and feels like one of the most intentionally artificial things I’ve seen in a long while — the opposite of seamless, its Anodyne 2 looks and feels like one of the most intentionally artificial things I’ve seen in a long while — the opposite of seamless, its boundaries are made extra-visible and its structures are playfully implausible. With abrupt changes in dimension and playstyle, and disturbingly designed characters presented in obscure ways, this game is almost demanding you stop looking at it, to accept what it’s saying first and foremost, and then find a new way to look at it. And then it removes a new boundary, and another, and then it places more and more artificiality on top of itself. It’s quite dazzlingly silly, sometimes.

I think that the decision to make its central plot far clearer than Anodyne 1 was smart — it’s still patched together from the things people worry about in dreams, but the choices they make about feeling, pain and forgetting were loud and clear, and the characters get to be a bit bolder and funnier. And what I give it most respect for is how deeply it argues for and against its options, and the people who choose one way or another are not lesser for it. And more respect still for — having argued both sides — not being ambiguous in its own ultimate choices.

It is sometimes a little too retro in terms of gameplay, but never in an obnoxious way — it’s a tiny team, rather than a team who is trying to make things less fun. I think if you’re past the visuals and ready to give it a go you’re barely going to notice. And the sound is always either lovely, or appropriate.

All in all it feels like a really personal, thoughtful experience — is it weird to feel strangely proud on the behalf of the developers? … Expand





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