FNE Film Meets Games: Q&A with Lukáš Kunce, Producer of Czech Amanita Design

    Lukáš Kunce Lukáš Kunce photo: private archive

    PRAGUE: FNE spoke to Lukáš Kunce, producer of Czech Amanita Design, about their current activities, as well as the state of the Czech game development industry.

    Central and Eastern Europe is one of the most important locations for global games developers and studios, and artists in the region are increasingly working for both film and games. FNE looks at how these two sectors of the entertainment industry are converging and why this trend is important for the future development of both.

    FNE: When was Amanita Design founded and what have been your main missions and strategic projects so far?

    Lukáš Kunce: Amanita Design is an indie games company that was founded in 2003 by our studio director Jakub Dvorský when he made his first game Samorost 1 (which was his diploma thesis work) available to the public. Since then, we’ve been focused on creating adventure games set in unique, tangible worlds, with great emphasis on quality artwork and audio. Our most successful title is Machinarium (2009) which has sold over 5 million copies across various platforms. The studio operates in several smaller, independent teams, hence we’re able to work on multiple games simultaneously. Right now, there are three new projects in the works, as well as a few ports of previous games.

    FNE: What is the current situation in the Czech gaming industry and what distinguishes it from the industry of other countries?

    Lukáš Kunce: I believe Czech games are doing really well. Population-wise, we’re quite a small country, yet we’ve got several studios here producing games which are popular all over the world: Beat Saber, Kingdom Come: Deliverance, ARMA, Factorio, and more. Also, it’s worth pointing out that there are no government programmes to support video game developers in the Czech Republic. But that will hopefully change in the foreseeable future.

    Still, even without this governmental support, there’s loads of talented people working in either small indie studios or bigger teams. In the case of Amanita, we’re very much influenced by the traditional Czech animation, legends of the craft such as Břetislav Pojar, Jan Švankmajer, Karel Zeman or Jiří Trnka. I believe they’ve had a huge influence on the art styles we use in our games as well as the general moods of our titles.

    FNE: Film and games convergence is a hot topic now. What can you tell us about the relationship between the gaming industry and film in your experience? Do you have any experience using VFX in terms of games?

    Lukáš Kunce: There doesn’t seem to be much of an overlap between film and gaming industry in the Czech Republic, at least in our field of operation, which is independent, hand-crafted adventure games. As for our use of VFX, our production mostly relies on hand-crafted or hand-drawn assets which are further adjusted using technology, as well as precise animation rather than VFX.

    FNE: Are games going to IPO on Czech stock market and do the companies going to IPO include a film person or film projects?

    Lukáš Kunce: None that I know of.

    FNE: Are there any Czech films that are being turned into games or Czech games that are being turned into films or TV series?

    Lukáš Kunce: There have been a few attempts, but nothing major I’d say. I remember there was an adventure game based on the popular Pat & Mat series. There was also a game based on The Mole series, but those were smaller titles with no large impact.

    FNE: Which Czech games would you single out that have had international success, on which you worked? Which films also do you single out from your portfolio?

    Lukáš Kunce: It depends on what you define as success, but I’d say that all of Amanita’s titles have seen international success to some extent. But clearly the most successful Amanita game to date would still be Machinarium. As for other Czech games, the previously mentioned Beat Saber, Kingdom Come: Deliverance, ARMA 3 or Factorio would definitely be among the heavyweights, each having sold millions of copies.

    FNE: How much is the turnover and the percentage of expected growth in the Czech games industry? What can you tell us specifically about your company numbers?

    Lukáš Kunce: I can’t speak for the entire industry, but at Amanita we’ve been doing very well in the past few years. In 2021, our revenue was a bit lower than in 2020, mostly because the sales of one of our most ambitious games Creaks (2020) naturally decreased over time, and our latest title Happy Game (2021) was released late in the year and only on PC and Switch, therefore it didn’t have that much of an impact on the revenue. But we continue to be fully independent and in a good enough position to work on several projects simultaneously.

    FNE: How do you see the development of the relationship between the film and gaming industries?

    Lukáš Kunce: It doesn’t seem very connected in our country, but right now there’s a big budget Czech film about Jan Žižka, Petr Jákl’s biopic Medieval (produced by JBJ ) coming to cinemas in September 2022, and reportedly they’re partnering with a studio which is making two games as a follow-up to the film sometime later: a mobile AR title and a PC/console 3rd person action game. I find that quite interesting and unusual for Czech video game projects, and I’m looking forward to seeing how international audiences react to these.