Creators of the Dream Machine discuss their handmade Polanski hallucination.


In a recent interview with Joystiq, Anders Gustafsson and Erik Zaring talk about how they made their award winning Dream Machine out of handmade puppets and watching Roman Polanski’s apartment trilogy. Chapters 1-3 are available on Steam.  

Erik: Our game is called The Dream Machine and it’s essentially a point-and-click adventure game, but we’ve handcrafted all the graphics using materials such as clay and cardboard.

Anders: The story revolves around a young, pregnant couple that’s trying to establish a new life in a new city. While they’re getting familiar in their new home, they uncover a seedy mystery involving the other tenant’s dreams.

What inspired you to make The Dream Machine?

Erik: Believe it or not, back in 2008 I was driven by some kind of altruism. I sincerely wanted to give something back to the world rather than being on the consuming end all the time. I had a passion for games, handmade objects and lots of pent up frustration to fuel the development of this endeavor.

Anders: While at animation school, I read a lot about John C. Lily and his experiments with LSD and Ketamine. He had this notion that he was visiting an alternate reality during his drug-induced hallucinations, a place he thought had a coherent geography. Once he regained consciousness, he would draw maps of what he had experienced, noting down things like landmarks, geographical features and coastlines. He thought that if he had enough map pieces and then spliced them together, he would be able to slowly chart this new reality. To me, that idea just sounded so naïve and beautiful. In our game we approach dreams in a similar way.

Anders: Prior to working on The Dream Machine, Erik used to manage a stop-motion-animation studio in Sweden, so he already had the knowledge and equipment required to build these strange and skewed miniature worlds.

Anders: When we tried to establish the mood for the game, we looked a lot at Polanski’s “apartment trilogy.” The game revolves around a pregnant couple and a strange apartment building, so Rosemary’s Baby seemed like an obvious starting point. But it wasn’t until we rediscovered The Tenant that things started to click.

There’s something about the universe in The Tenant that we really loved. It’s dark and dirty in a distinctly European way. Moldy, dank and old. You can sort of smell it. As a viewer, you get caught up in this feverish conspiracy in a way that makes you feel more like an accomplice rather than an observer. The strange involvement you feel watching movies likeThe Tenant and Peeping Tom is something we’re aiming for. How do we get players to feel something like that?