Folmer Kelly

Folmer Kelly is an indie game designer, pixel pusher and cat person. He is half of Sets and Settings (the other half being Andrew Nissen). He’s working on the amazing Trestle. And now he answers our questions!

Folmer Kelly by Aldeguer!

Folmer Kelly by Aldeguer!

1. How long have you been making games?

It feels like I’ve been doing it forever, but I’ve been making games since 2012.

2. Where do you find ideas for your games? Tell us something about your creative process.

I think that my ideas come from details, little things that stick with me for one reason or another. Some recent examples: A youtube thumbnail embedded on a forum (It was Future’s Coupe), a song I really disliked until the chorus kicked in, the way King Of Fighters R1 has idle animations for a couple of characters that show individual fingers moving… I was marching during the Pride parade in Stockholm this year and there was one person who made a point out of putting make-up and glitter on every cop they saw- it was non-threatening, the cops were good sports about it, and it would get big cheers every time. You can break that sequence of events and its context down into game loops in a hundred different ways.

So from there my creative process is, I make mock-ups. Everything I design always starts with the graphics. Even if I have a game mechanic in mind, I just find it impossible to start with placeholder art; I need to see the finished artwork in action to be able to determine whether or not a game concept works.

3. We love Set and Settings myth of origin. Can you tell us more about it? What was like receiving that email from Andrew? What were you doing at the moment? Why did you guys choose the name Sets and Settings?

So the backstory to this is that Andrew had started a thread on a forum challenging people to make a game based on a theme he picked every week, and I participated in that a couple of times. At some point Andrew was working on a game of his own that he thought had potential but he needed graphics, and since he knew me from that thread he contacted me. To be honest, I didn’t think too much of it at the time. I was basically like “yeah why not!”

That collabo, Cargo Breach, was cool, but the moment we realised our chemistry was special was when I was playing some of his older work- he had this game featured on RPS or PCgamer or somewhere, this minimalist platformer about switching gravity, and it gave me the idea for GRAVNAV. I remember I pitched that concept “it’s like Canabalt but with the gravity switching of your game!” to him on a friday, and we finished it on sunday. That’s when we decided to form Sets and Settings.

I always love it when people ask what Sets and Settings means because it’s usually not what they’re thinking of at all. ‘Set and setting’ was a concept in psychotherapy where they’d use hallucinogenic drugs on mental patients. The idea was that Set refers to the mental state or mood of the user, and Setting was their physical and social surrounding. To me that idea translates really well to games; the players bring their Sets to our Settings.

4. I remember playing lots of Irrupt on my iPhone. I mean, lots. Where did its idea come from? Irrupt has been our for a while now, any favourite feedback you remember?

Irrupt was somewhat of an accident. I was mocking up this weird little platformer and for some reason I rotated the image. So the floor and the ceiling became walls, the player sprite looked like it was flying, and the single tile platforms turned into falling blocks. As soon as I saw it I knew it would work on iOS. And at the same time, Andrew was getting into Matt Rix’s Futile framework so he was really excited about it. It ended up being the first commercial game made with Futile, something we’re still proud of.

My favourite feedback on Irrupt? I remember someone recording themselves for hours trying to beat their own high score. To not only play the game that much but also get it on video just to show to the creators of the game, that’s amazing.

5. Trestle is “a hectic arcade game about standing your ground, testing your skill, and grabbing as much weaponry as you can”. Where did its idea come from? It’s also a grid base game. What are your favourite grid-based games out there?

Trestle basically exists because I was looking at Mega Man Battle Network LP’s, loving the art and animations, and then getting SUPER FRUSTRATED to see the “paused” screen come up every couple of seconds. So I started thinking “what if this was action-based instead?” and it just flowed immediately.

Grid-based action games is a concept I fell in love with, I think most grid-based games aren’t really about action though. If pressed for a favourite I’d probably have to say Mega Man Star Force, which was the successor of the Battle Network series. It’s just weird and silly and looks fucking awful in screenshots. I love that.

6. Trestle is looking really good. Do you recognise any influence from other artists? Which artists working on games do you like the most?

Thanks! Trestle’s character design owes a lot to Peter Queckenstedt aka Scut, who does these great organic-looking robots and cyborgs.

As far as game artists go, I’m more into projects than individual artists. That said, I adore the work of Annabelle Kennedy who had this very distinct, intricate-yet-cute style of pixel art.

7. Trestle was selected by the Indie MEGABOOTH to be shown at the first ever megabooth to be at GDC. Wow, so many good games there. What do you think of this kind of initiatives? And what about festivals in general? Do you think they are important? Why? Any favourite anecdote concerning one?

Yeah, that was quite an honour! Sadly I couldn’t be there myself, so I asked Andrew what his thoughts were and he said “I think it’s important because it gets developers together that might not otherwise get together. Like, I would never have hung out with the barkley crew, or koop mode, or the lovers in a dangerous space-time people.”

We really appreciate that the Indie MEGABOOTH gave us that opportunity, there’s no way we would’ve been able to afford a booth otherwise. In general I think festivals and expos are great, although I haven’t been to any of the big names myself and some of the things I hear seem iffy. Like, I don’t know if I would do PAX. But then I was at A.MAZE in Berlin earlier this year, which felt more like an art gallery than a game expo to me, and it was amazing. I was looking at this game called Keyboard Mandala and someone came up to me excitedly telling me about the game. I assumed it was the creator but it turned out it was a fan of the game. That’s just the best thing ever.

8. If you have to choose three and only three game developers to follow their work closely, which ones would you choose and why?

Hm. That’s a toughie! Probably I’d say Robin Hunicke, who is one of the few people in games to not only do great things creatively, but also looks at the bigger picture, AND just loves life. Most game developers I follow tweet about their projects, some talk about the scene, Hunnicke is the only person I know who can instagram a dang sunset and make it feel like game design. Then Scattle, who needs to make more of everything. Then Phil Fish.

9. Are you a heavy gamer? What games are you playing now?

I’m not much of a gamer at all, and these days I mostly play stuff that people around me are working on. I’m very much looking forward to Hohokum, that’s going to get played to death.

10. One last random question. If you could turn any movie/book into a gameboy game, which one would it be and why? And what tagline/one-liner would you use to sell it?

Oh dang. Huh. Hmmmm. I, Fatty by Nick Stahl. I like the idea of taking something dark and involved and making people play it on a tiny handheld screen. Seems like it would be weirdly immersive and intimate. I don’t even know what kind of tagline you could possibly put on that one, maybe be all slick like “This is heavy.”

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