ULTROS and the palette of surreal sci-fi

Game design is a bold and dangerous undertaking for Niklas Åkerblad, who creates under the name El Huervo. When describing the artistic process behind it , a neon-speckled platformer set in a diabolical cosmic childhood, it’s about introspection and pushing against the sharp edges of the mind, drawing from wells of creativity buried deep within one’s psyche. It seemed as if he could slip into any of these wells at any moment, never to be seen again.

“I had a pretty strict discipline when it came to creating the world ULTROS” Åkerblad told Engadget. “It involves deep meditation while maintaining 100 percent focus and working to know when harmony is achieved while working with an intense flow of form and color. It is almost impossible to analyze this process with the brain, but it is something you have to feel, so any external disturbance can greatly affect the process. Perhaps not something I recommend others do without proper experience in creating visual art.

Niklas Åkerblad, AKA El HuervoNiklas Åkerblad, AKA El Huervo

Niklas Akerblad

At the same time, Åkerblad is extremely practical when it comes to game development. He has been in the independent scene for years and has had incredible success as a collaborator providing covers and other assets. Hotline Miami and its continuation. You know the vibe – bare but bright, with the threat of violence in every other pixel. He also composed several songs for these games, including “” and “,” and it continued to evolve a 3D adventure set in a digital city of hackers, artists and activists with programming as the main mechanic. Else Heart.Break() It came out in 2015 and was a finalist at the Independent Games Festival that year.

His latest project, ULTROS, is a 2D exploration of the Sarcophagus, a world orbiting a black hole that circles players through environments infested with alien plant life and evil demons. In every scene ULTROS full of detail and bright color; the backgrounds are alive with monsters and organic machines. Black stripes demarcate walkways, ceilings and platforms, contrasting with a changing rainbow of brightness.



There’s a lot inside ULTROS At any given moment, however, the hero stands out with his bright green helmet, merch outfit, and arsenal of evolving platformers. From a lesson another nausea() Åkerblad fed ULTROS It was the idea that games could have more fun with the color palette. ULTROS purposefully full of visual interest.

“I felt that video games were biased no Push the boundaries of colors far beyond ‘green is good’ and ‘red is bad’ and the dimensions used for loot levels,” he said. “I feel like there’s this misunderstanding in design that less is more and my gut is telling me the opposite and I’ve worked on it. many heavy ULTROS to prove my theory. No doubt there will be those who disagree with me, but I think this has more to do with taste and personal or physical preference – if such a thing exists – than academic truth.

As a period Metroidvania title, ULTROS It’s quite different from Åkerblad’s previous projects, but it’s definitely El Huervo. Actually, in this case, it’s Hadoque – around 2017, Akerblad and game director Mårten Bruggemann started creating a prototype. ULTROSeventually bringing the composer Oscar “Ratvader” Rydelius Fe designer Hugo Bille. Over the years, other artists joined in and they called themselves Hadoque, a loose organization of creators who could pop in and out as a project called to them.



“We wanted our group to be connected to its work, so we decided on Hadoque,” says Åkerblad. “It’s a nice name that sounds a little weird, and it suits our weather. In addition, it allowed everyone to still be on their own side of the business and not legally bound to anything if they wanted to pursue other locations.

El Huervo AB remains Åkerblad’s own corporate entity, useful for handling the bureaucratic aspects of video game development. Through El Huervo AB, Hadoque received support from the gaming fund in 2019 also supported titles such as Sifu, Rollerdrome, We OFK, Sea of ​​stars, Spiritist and Chia.

“El Huervo AB just functions as a kind of bureaucratic condom, while Hadoque functions as a name to be used when a group of developers come together to create art like a game,” said Åkerblad. “Like a band name. People come and go, but the vision remains.”

ULTROS is a game about life, revival, aliens, monsters, and peace, all set in a technicolor dreamscape of evil creatures and beautiful foliage. This is a surreal sci-fi palette for Åkerblad.



“Topics explored in ULTROS it’s existential and spiritual, and I think surreal science fiction is a good genre to explore those themes because there’s a long tradition of that.” “In this regard, Ursula K. Le Guin was a great inspiration. I hope that what we manage to instill in the players is a sense of introspection and comfort.”

Despite his deep reflections on the nature of art, science fiction, and gaming, there is no singular message that Akerblad is trying to convey. ULTROS. Instead, he and Hadoque’s other developers encourage players to define their own journey through the Sarcophagus. As Akerblad says:

“Please enjoy ULTROS Do not try to look for the “true” interpretation in the way you want, but find your own meaning. I think this applies to any art in general. Translation is purely subjective, and I want to continue telling stories that allow that subjectivity to exist.”

ULTROS does currently available Published by Kepler Interactive on PlayStation 4, PS5, Steam and Epic Games Store.

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