Frogmind talks development on current gen and caring about games more than platform differences.
Frogmind’s Badland: Game of the Year Edition recently released for current gen platforms (and some previous gen devices as well) but actually has roots in the mobile sphere. It presents a very interesting evolution from the days when smartphone gaming was still coming along and not completely accepted as “real” gaming. How did Frogmind handle the transition to consoles, especially when the original Badland released roughly two years ago? What is the current state of console development at the company and will there be a focus on more such titles in the coming days?
GamingBolt spoke to Teemu Mäki-Patola, COO at Frogmind, about this, including what new players can look forward to in the Game of the Year Edition of Badland and the company’s stance on the console wars, among other things.
"Bringing a game from tablets to consoles is difficult even if it would suit well for that. There is a certain stigma to it. It’s much more okay to do the other way around, even if the game would be totally the same on all platforms."
Rashid K. Sayed: Badland has a very interesting timeline. It was critically acclaimed when it released on mobiles two years ago and is now available for various consoles. What motivated the desire to bring the franchise to PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Windows 8, etc.?
Teemu Mäki-Patola: When BADLAND was initially released in 2013 on iPad, our goal was to create a console-quality game for tablets. Frogmind was just a team of two at the time, without the resources to enter the console market, but we always dreamed of bringing BADLAND also to consoles and Steam. Our backgrounds are indeed in making console games. Thanks to the game’s success on tablets we could fulfill the dream, gain new experience and reach new audience. We felt strongly that it would make for a great game on those platforms. Of course we needed e.g. to redesign the controls and do some changes to get there. Playing the game on PS4 or Xbox One from a big TV in Full-HD and with four players at 60 frames per second, we are happy with the end result and feel that the new version offers good value. But yeah, I do wish we were faster in bringing it over. The development took over a year of work even after all business and platform holder stuff was in order. But taking in 8 new platforms is plenty of work.
Rashid K. Sayed: For those who haven’t played Badland on mobiles, could you explain all the content included in the Game of the Year Edition?
Teemu Mäki-Patola: The GOTY Edition has 100 single player levels, 100 co-op levels (for up-to-four player local multiplayer) and 27 multiplayer versus levels where the players compete against each other. Both the single player and co-op campaigns usually take about 10 to 15 hours to play through. The game has large-scale trophies (1000 points) on the PlayStation platforms and 77 achievements on Xbox One & Steam. The PS versions support cross-buy (get the game for all PS4, PSVita & PS3 with a single purchase) and cross-save (syncs your progress between different PS devices – e.g. PS4 & Vita). The controls have been expanded to support full 2D movement (controlled with the analog stick). And all the levels have been modified for the new control scheme.
Rashid K. Sayed: The gameplay for Badland provides a mix of subtle story-telling and puzzle solving that demands both quick thinking and reactions from the player. How did you feel this would be received on consoles?
Teemu Mäki-Patola: Bringing a game from tablets to consoles is difficult even if it would suit well for that. There is a certain stigma to it. It’s much more okay to do the other way around, even if the game would be totally the same on all platforms. Playing the console version during development, we felt strongly that the game is really good on consoles. If you would play it without knowing anything of the background, you would not think that it’s coming from mobile. It doesn’t look or feel mobile. It feels like a good indie game and at home on the consoles. So based on the game, we expected it to be received well. Based on the genre of the game, we expected it not to be for everyone on consoles but aim to a specific audience that likes indie games, beautiful 2D graphics and puzzle adventures.
Rashid K. Sayed: The art design is also intriguing, especially with what’s happening in the background as well as the silhouetted foreground. How were the visuals enhanced for the transition to consoles and other platforms?
Teemu Mäki-Patola: There are more visual effects such as shaders, tweaks on level elements and assets and setting aspect ratios and safe zones to work on all console & Steam variations. But overall, the original hand painted art style works really well from a large screen. You notice much more details from the assets.
"The biggest difficulty was to make the game suit for natural console controls. We knew it could not be a one-button game. Once we changed the gameplay to controlling the 2D movement with the analog stick, all the timing based puzzles broke."
Rashid K. Sayed: The difficulty of the game has been talked about quite a lot. Was it always meant to be this challenging?
Teemu Mäki-Patola: Kind of was but we don’t feel its too challenging. We felt that some amount of challenge suits well for the console & Steam users. Many of user reviews say that the difficult parts can be frustrating but also that the satisfaction in conquering them is definitely bigger when there is some challenge.
Rashid K. Sayed: What are your thoughts on concerns of Badland being more suited to mobiles than consoles because of the nature of its segmented stages and gameplay?
Teemu Mäki-Patola: On consoles & Steam it is less for everyone than on mobile just for being a 2D-art indie puzzle adventure and not a giant AAA FPS production. But e.g. the level based gameplay suits the console platforms equally well. Our levels were always a bit long for mobile. Many of them take between 5 to 15 minutes to play through. The one button gameplay was a clear concern and that’s why it was changed to more expressive free movement.
Rashid K. Sayed: How difficult was it to translate the gameplay from mobiles to consoles? Did you experience any challenges in porting the control scheme from touch screens to controllers?
Teemu Mäki-Patola: The biggest difficulty was to make the game suit for natural console controls. We knew it could not be a one-button game. Once we changed the gameplay to controlling the 2D movement with the analog stick, all the timing based puzzles broke. So we needed to change the levels quite heavily to match the new freedom of movement. It wasn’t so much of a challenge but just something that needed to be done and required work. And to be honest, the hundreds of technical requirements require work too. Super happy that we had Blitworks and Frozenbyte guys helping us.
Rashid K. Sayed: Of the current gen consoles available, namely the PS4 and Xbox One, which has impressed you the most and why?
Teemu Mäki-Patola: We are not too eager to enter the console wars. We try to keep our focus in the games and less in the platforms. From our perspective, both PS4 & XB1 suited our game equally well. Both are definitely powerful enough.
Rashid K. Sayed: Furthermore, what is your take on the differences between the two consoles?
Teemu Mäki-Patola: Our take is pretty minimal for that. We are not pushing the limits of shaders, effects or polygon output and thus don’t depend on whatever small differences the platforms might have in regards to those.
"Consoles and mobile are getting closer to each other in respect to the power to express. There will be lots of games that can work on all of those platforms as long as the audiences wants that to happen."
Rashid K. Sayed: Badland: Game of the Year Edition on Wii U has somewhat of a delayed release compared to other platforms. Are you using the console’s Gamepad for some additional functionality?
Teemu Mäki-Patola: We struggled some in the beginning of the Wii U development and that started slower than development on the other consoles. The Gamepad naturally supports touch screen playing and playing even without the TV. But other than that, the Wii U version is very close to the others, also by with being 1080p at 60fps. But there has been a bit more iteration on the technical requirements and the testing & approval process is longer as well.
Rashid K. Sayed: What’s next after Badland and will it come to mobiles first or release on multiple platforms simultaneously?
Teemu Mäki-Patola: Our main focus is still on mobile with lots of cool stuff in development. You will see some already after the summer. We are working on multiple projects. Releasing them on other platforms will be considered later.
Rashid K. Sayed: What is your take on the differences between the indie policies of both Sony and Microsoft?
Teemu Mäki-Patola: Both have supported our project well. Microsoft maybe makes more of a statement of supporting the indie side with the ID- program.
Rashid K. Sayed: What is your take on the resolution and frame rate debate that seems to be all the rage on console games these days?
Teemu Mäki-Patola: It’s natural but pretty hardcore. Our approach to games focuses on other things than pushing the maximum amount of polygons per second. The games that are pushing that limit are great to look at but also require 100 man teams to work on them and their content. Of course they tend to be the hardware sellers as well.
They are one side of the industry and then there are lots and lots of awesome experiences you can create by focusing on other factors. We believe to convergence in the platforms: the iPad is already a rather powerful device. So are the best Android tablets. Consoles and mobile are getting closer to each other in respect to the power to express. There will be lots of games that can work on all of those platforms as long as the audiences wants that to happen. We care more about games and gameplay than about inventing standards by which specific platforms can be better than others.
Rashid K. Sayed: Is there anything else you want to tell us about the game before we let you go?
Teemu Mäki-Patola: The local multiplayer & co-op are a lot of fun, so definitely try those if you have a chance.