Alt Games’ Innovators: Moshe Linke

A huge, concrete slab of a building towers above me. I am on the moon. Green orbs, softly glowing tempt me forwards as more buildings come into sight. Giant structures, reaching up into the heavens.

If you’ve been following Itching For More, or walking simulators in general, you may have noticed Moshe Linke. Relatively new to the scene, his prominence has begun to rise, thanks to his incredible eye for creating mammoth landscapes, littered with brutalist architecture.

I crawl out of a space in the wall and begin to run. I’m an unknown in a distant future, one of concrete and neon, where nature is a rare treat. An abandoned city, automated systems still running stretches out before me. I head forward, a hazy orange glow framing my every move on the horizon.

Moshe Linke’s works ooze style and confidence. His love for both Blade Runner and brutalism is self evident both in his pieces and in this very interview. Large worlds which extend beyond your screen feel like they exist without you. A bubble of large structures and well placed contrast leaves the player feeling small, lonely, and excited to push forwards. Moshe Linke’s worlds are unique, and very much something which needs to be experienced.
In this interview we discuss brutalism, Blade Runner, and where he sees himself heading next.

Look up, beyond the structures, to the sky above. The sky is the true structure, one of immeasurable content. Tilting your head downwards, the sharp angles of the buildings intersect, pushing towards it. Soon, they will overtake it, leaving no sky, no sun, no moon, only sharp concrete.

Firstly can you introduce yourself? Who are you, what do you do?

My name is Moshe Linke and I create abstract artsy indie games. It started after I played the wonderful game NaissanceE by limasse five. I wrote to the developer and he told me that a second part for NaissanceE was not planned in the near future, so I decided to develop a fanmade sequel to NaissanceE: VoyageE was born. It was the first time I worked with unity3d and I failed a lot.

It was very hard to imitate the style of NaissanceE and soon I realised that I was working on something a little too big. I was extremely focused on VoyageE. I really love the aspect of walking simulators because I am very interested in art. I think that a walking simulator is nothing else than an art gallery you can walk through interactively. I am very interested in dystopian settings and I love the atmosphere they deliver. Blade Runner is one of the greatest movies ever made and I think there are not enough games with a cyberpunk / dystopian setting.

“A walking simulator is nothing else than an art gallery you can walk through interactively.”

The next games I worked on were all focused on cyberpunk. I also love Asian culture and the megacities that already seem dystopic. My newest game Wonders Between Dunes has all the influences of my last projects — It has the megastructures of VoyageE , the dystopian nature of Dystopia and the landscape/environment of Living With The Moonoliths.

Your games often have beautiful environments which encourage the player to explore. How do you go about creating theses? Is there a lot of planning, or is it quite improvisational?

My pre-production process often starts with surfing the internet for concept art or looking in some art books. After some time I get an image in my mind and I start working on it in unity. There is a lot of improvisation going on. For example, In Wonders Between Dunes the sky was initially blue until I played a bit with the atmosphere thickness settings and loved the warm dawn-like sky and I leave it there.

Your games have slowly grown and grown in scope, where do you see yourself going next?

The main focus of my games is always the atmosphere. I want to create a relaxing and otherworldly experience that still should feel familiar and pleasant. I would love to get some life into my games. I am not great at coding and at this time I’m currently learning some basics for AI. I would really love to get some characters in my games and tell a real story.

“I love how people form their own ideas around my games”

My games haven’t had a real narrative because I love how people form their own ideas around my games. In the future, I want to add some life and story into my games with strong interesting characters and fascinating stories. That missing narrative is often a point people dislike about my games.. once which I understand.

There are many different ways of conveying narrative in games — what forms of narrative most interests you?

I think what I already do is environmental storytelling. You don’t need words to tell a story. Often a strong picture tells a lot more. That’s why I love Dishonored by Arkane Studios. It does a great job with the scenery and you can learn a lot about the people that live in a room just by looking around. 
I would love to let the player interact with NPCs and talk to them. That’s what I love about the Fallout games. I don’t want to work with exposition, the player should find out by himself about the world he is in. Just by listening to a loudspeaker announcement like in Half Life 2 or Dishonored. I don’t really like cutscenes in games — I think they are a weak form of storytelling.

“You dont need words to tell a story”

Your games feature a lot of HUGE structures, what is it that draws you to them?

I think, these brutalist structures have a broad range of characteristics, which can be a perfect support for some games. On the one hand, you can create a specific atmosphere and mood with these large structures. The player feels totally lost and gets sucked into a relaxing state. Wandering around in brutalist structures can be fascinating and raises many questions… Who built the structures? For what are they used? Am I alone in this place? The player feels small and insignificant and all these buildings transfer an enigmatic and dystopian mood to him.

On the other hand, you can use brutalism to give your scene a very exotic or even strange touch. Just plant a brutalist building in the middle of a forest or other natural environments and you can see that it totally fits in. The sharp edges and striking shapes are the exact difference to the trees, grass, and bushes. The contrast is the important point to get a brutalist scene working — to create a complementary appearance.

At the moment, your games and style are defined by the incredible brutalist structures you create. Do you ever see yourself moving beyond these? What would you focus on instead?

Not really. I love to create brutalist architecture and I will continue to use them in my games as often as possible. However, I do plan to make them more realistic and detailed in the future.

What real world brutalist architecture would you cite as inspiration?

There is a lot of real world brutalism. Most of these buildings are in communist relation, for example, in North Korea, you can find a broad range of brutalism. My city, Hamburg, also has a great range of brutalist buildings. I love visiting them and taking pictures of them, in order to let them flow into my work.

Hamburger Flaktürme

At the moment I am actually working on a documentary about brutalism in Hamburg. It has taken some time for me to get the right feel for architecture in my work. To get the right proportions is not always easy and I am still working on it.

One of these buildings is the Hamburger Flaktürme

The music you choose and compose always seems to really fit the tone that you’re going for. What do you look for when choosing the music?

One of my all time favorite soundtracks is from Vangelis for Blade Runner. O try to recreate that atmosphere in the same way that he did. Vangelis made the music after the film was done and literally played the notes while he was watching the movie. That’s why it worked. His emotions to the scenery mirrored in his music and fit perfectly.

In today’s modern Filmmaking/game dev often developers use temporary music, which was chosen before the movie/game. It sounds good but doesn’t really fit. I like to choose my music after the game is finished and compose whilst watching my scenery. That creates the perfect mood. I try to not use a stereotypical orchestral score because it really is overused and sounds kind of cheap these days. Minimalistic tones and not too many instruments is my key.

Blade Runner

You’ve mentioned Blade Runner as a key inspiration quite a lot — what is it that draws you to that film?

Blade Runner is, in my opinion, one of the best movies ever made. It does things differently. Today all films have to be packed with action and explosions, but Blade Runner has such a slow pace and really manages to draw you inside its unbelievable detailed dystopian world. It was the first movie that established the cyberpunk genre. The atmosphere is so thick and dense that you totally sink into that city. The set is beautiful. The music is beautiful. The premise is beautiful. The Light. The Fog. The Rain. Texture. Mood.

(a further response comes a couple hours later)

And it has the best ending.

If you were making the next Call Of Duty, what would you change?

It is a hard question. The new WW2 setting is a good choice in my opinion. I would go back to the roots. The new Call Of Duty games are so overloaded with content and achievements that you have no focus. I would minimalise the gameplay, weapons, and maps. The music should be new. I would create a cool campaign with an interesting story and cool places. I think that modern games have gotten too easy. I am playing the S.T.A.L.K.E.R games at the moment and just love how minimalistic and hard they are. You really have the feeling of surviving. And also the sound design is very good and atmospheric.

Would you incorporate any themes of your own games into it?

No. They are two totally different worlds that should not collide. I love them both, but together it would not work.

Could you recommend

  1. a book,
  2. a piece of music
  3. a game
  4. I would recommend anything by Jules Verne. He was one of the first science fiction authors and he wrote some wonderful books like 20.000 Leagues Under the Sea. I love the way he tells his stories and also the worlds and ideas are very inspirational and great! He had clairvoyance towards the moon landing, submarines, nuclear power and much more. A true visionary.
  5. I would recommend the soundtrack to Blade Runner (big surprise). It is one of the most emotional and atmospheric pieces I have ever listened to. You can perfectly do creative stuff whilst listening to it or read or work with it. It never gets old and I listen to it at least once a week.
  6. To choose a game is quite hard. I love many games and it is not easy to decide only one. For people interested in this interview I would recommend a great great game called NaissanceE. It is the game that made me start making my creations. It is one of the most atmospheric and mysterious games you will every play. The architecture and level design are truly breathtaking. Fused with the perfect soundscape and music this game is an art masterpiece. 
    For people that want more action, I would recommend Dishonored 1 & 2. They are very atmospheric and have great level design. One of the people who worked on the level design for Half Life 2 worked on this game. There are a lot of parallels. True beauty.