The exciting new platformer from Joakim Sandberg is finally here; find out more about its development here.
There are certain things that are impossible without the love. Game development in general can be considered an industry fit only for those who love it. But there’s something obsessive in the love that went into Konjak’s Iconoclasts, developed over a seven year span by Joakim Sandberg and published by Bifrost Entertainment. As a mix of Metroidvania, shooter, cinematic story-telling and platformer, Iconoclasts is one of those games that just feels special.
To learn more about the game’s development, GamingBolt spoke to creator Joakim Sandberg. We asked about the game’s journey from Ivory Springs to its current form and the challenges faced along the way.
"Some days I would wonder if I was spending too much time off from making “gameplay” when I had spent hours on a cutscene, for example."
Iconoclasts has been hailed as one of the best game releases of the year so far by fans and critics alike, and some also call it your best effort so far. As a solo developer, did you have a different approach in the creation of this game and did you expect it to be as successful as it is?
My approach was simply an attempt to do a large action-adventure (took a lot longer than intended), and I managed that, which is fun. Success would simply be not starving or being mired in debt as a result, which I also avoided!
Ivory Springs was initially what Iconoclasts was set to be. What changed during development that made you decide that Iconoclasts had more to offer than what was already seen in Ivory Springs?
I don’t specifically recall what made me decide to return to it. I think I was falling out of love with a problematic game engine I had before that and must’ve replayed the Ivory Springs demo and thought “there is probably something to this, and if I will ever make a huge game alone, I should do it now”.
Were there any challenges faced, and what was the experience like in trying to bring the game over to the PS4 and the PS Vita?
In all of dev, motivation was always a challenge, with hiatuses here and there. Some days I would wonder if I was spending too much time off from making “gameplay” when I had spent hours on a cutscene, for example. After the game took several years, the worry that it may not be worth it also creeps up. Porting hasn’t been a challenge because MP2 Games made it so seamless.
Given the success and popularity of the game, are there plans to bring the game over to other platforms such as the Nintendo Switch and the Xbox One?
That would be great!
"Animation is massively key in how it feels to move a character. Just consider how it “feels” when you play a game as one character, then suddenly the controls are handed to a much shorter one."
What were some of the inspirations you drew on to create the game’s complex science-fiction narrative?
Hmm, I don’t think I can point to a specific story. It must be an amalgamation of many things. Fantasy or sci-fi, doesn’t matter. The much more important core was telling a story about characters reaction to a world designed around themes. A fantastical world is very useful for a game setting, too.
The game places great emphasis on its story which a little unusual for games in the Metroidvania genre. How do you approach the process of writing when making a game?
Being a solo developer on this, I never had a script. I had notes on moments and set-pieces I knew were necessary, and then let my established characters drive how and why the game reached those points, and what would be said. It somehow worked out. I had a goal, but nothing exact. If you know your characters, they should be able to act out the story for you.
Iconoclasts offers some noticeably wonderful animations which helps add a real sense of flow to movement in the game. Has such detailed animation always been a priority for you when making games?
Animation is massively key in how it feels to move a character. Just consider how it “feels” when you play a game as one character, then suddenly the controls are handed to a much shorter one. You feel a difference, despite it just being visual. A very smooth animation and a very harsh and quick animation are both things necessary for a game. They give different energies.
"Don’t quit any job before you have something working or lose friendships or contacts. None of these are game design tips, but they’ll be of great help for your health."
One of the great things about this game is its mix of great puzzles with some truly memorable boss battles, with no in-between fights feeling like filler content. Are there any games in particular that influenced this design philosophy?
Monster World IV is very similar in structure. Within dungeons, almost every room has something like a light puzzle, and there are several boss battles. There isn’t a deep crafting system, instead there’s a focus on being dynamic with the few abilities you have. So that game is very comparable to Iconoclasts.
What can we expect to see next from you as a game developer? Is there something you already have planned?
Ideas are the easy part for me. I know what I want to try. Much smaller things. I feel I finally learned how to “scale back” and not go crazy with the scope again.
As a solo developer, you’ve worked number of different games over the years. Are there any words of wisdom you would like to pass on to aspiring game developers?
Always that you should not sacrifice anything starting out, so you can remain as happy as possible. I made some of those mistakes, but at least financially I always had the ability to survive and accrued no debt even after 7 years. Don’t quit any job before you have something working or lose friendships or contacts. None of these are game design tips, but they’ll be of great help for your health.
Is there a specific reason why the game was not launched on the Xbox One?
Focus on the couple we chose, just to get it out there. We (me and distribution publisher) were all kind of green behind the ears, and making updates and changes to several platforms was enough work.
"PS4 Pro is a much bigger benefit to 3D games or 2D games with a 3D codebase or shaders. Iconoclasts is always going to look the same, so this wasn’t anything me and the porting guy discussed at lengths."
The Nintendo Switch version is lacking too. Why is that?
That’s just the same answer as the Xbox One.
What resolution and frame will the PS4 and PS4 Pro versions run at?
The game is pixel art, so it only really scales one way, but it should look nice and sharp.
In a recent interview, Mark Cerny, the lead engineer of the PlayStation 4 Pro claimed that converting a base PS4 game to PS4 Pro version is just 0.2 Or 0.3% of the overall effort. What is your take on this? Do you think that the extra work required to develop an additional Pro version is actually bigger than the number quoted?
This really isn’t the game to ask about this stuff, it’s a very simple game with very few shaders. PS4 Pro is a much bigger benefit to 3D games or 2D games with a 3D codebase or shaders. Iconoclasts is always going to look the same, so this wasn’t anything me and the porting guy discussed at lengths.
Is there anything else you want to tell us before we let you go?
I hope you enjoy the game with its many mixtures of gameplay concepts, I suppose that’s all!