Dec 14

Interview with the Fantastic Frozenbyte

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Video game developer Frozenbyte has certainly been busy this year! Known by many as the team behind the Trine series, they released the “strategy and action game with a roguelike twist”, Has-Been Heroes in March. Their newest game is Nine Parchments, a “co-operative blast ’em up of magic mayhem”, just released this month. Joel Kinnunen & Tuovinen of Frozenbyte were kind enough to speak with us about their latest fantasy-based efforts!

Congratulations on the release of Nine Parchments! What is one aspect of the game you are particularly fond of?

Frozenbyte: The co-op! It’s just super hectic and super fun, we’ve had lots of laughter here in the office, and some of the best moments have come from when we’ve been watching our friends or colleagues from other studios play the game. The group dynamics are also interesting to watch, we’ve had groups where there’s a clear leader, and groups that work despite lots of yelling. It’s been awesome to watch. :)

Nine Parchments includes a varied cast of personalities. Who is responsible for their creation, and did any of these characters go through any significant changes from concept to completion?

The characters are mostly the result of our art and writing teams working together, along with design providing the baseline regarding skills and gameplay use. There’s two ways to go about this – either design-first where the design and writing teams create a rough idea of the character and then the art team takes that idea and runs with it, or the other way around where the artists simply create something so compelling that the designers and writers immediately have a personality and skillset in mind. The characters in Nine Parchments evolved quite gradually, there’s a few that were left on the cutting floor and a few who had some changes during the process, but for the most part the characters have been similar to the way they are in the final game for a long time now.

Nine Parchments features both online and local cooperative play. My family loves cooperative games! What were some gameplay decisions you made to optimize the cooperative experience?

Friendly fire is an obvious answer – and we’ve seen some debate about this online, because right now you cannot turn Friendly fire off at all, which to many sounds like a problem or hindrance. However this is a design decision and a core part of the game – Nine Parchments is designed for “happy accidents”. (We have some ideas about how we could achieve the “I don’t want to kill my friends” solution that some people have been requesting, but we’ll see).

A key part of the fun and is also the resurrection of teammates which is done by standing in the circle they leave behind after dying – it creates some tense moments and builds on teamwork, also softening some of the friendly fire accidents as you can rescue those who you’ve wronged!

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Has-Been Heroes already has a strong community online, and recently received a substantial update that included some great free content. As someone who has been enjoying the game, I’d like to say thanks for the added content! Do you have any helpful tips for players just starting out with Crux the warrior, Metacles the mage, and Tam the rogue?

Thanks! We have plenty of tips – how many can you digest at one time? :) The crucial thing is to understand the stamina system (or “armor”, if you will). Each of the three heroes have a different amount of melee hits, and the enemies have different amounts of stamina, and matching those optimally is key to winning battles. Backstabbing (changing lanes and returning to the group while going through enemies on the new lane) is also helpful to know and understand. If you’re just starting out and are having trouble with the battles, it might also be worthwhile to explore the map a bit more and maybe even avoid battles, and instead collect items and take chances on e.g. the shrines that can grant additional powers or health. Picking up items has an extra benefit of giving +50 health, which helps in the beginning.

There are so many spells and items in Has-Been Heroes! What was the process for coming up with so many, and did they present any surprising challenges when playtesting?

Oh, we went with the method “wouldn’t it be fun if…” That’s really what we did. Of course playtesting and trying to create a balance was next. It was definitely a big undertaking to create all the hundreds of spells and items for the game, and we had to carefully balance them – however as a roguelike (or roguelite) game we didn’t strive for a perfect balance, it’s ok if the player gets a bit lucky sometimes, but overall we wanted to have each spell and each item to have a purpose in the game.

The three heroes of the Trine series — Amadeus the wizard, Pontius the knight and Zoya the thief — make an appearance in Has-Been Heroes. What was it like adapting the beloved characters for the game?

It was fun! I think they enjoyed it too, being 2D characters in a game for once, although it did take time away from their actual Trine quests and Zoya will probably be sad to learn she can’t take any of the items or gold with her when they return to the Trine universe…

Your games feature beautiful graphics that are full of color. What are some decisions made when going from initial idea to what we see upon release that gamers might not know is involved?

It’s become sort of a trademark for us, and these days it’s somewhat conscious – we want to make colorful games that stand out. But on the other hand, it’s not something we have to add to all games if it doesn’t fit the game (look at Shadwen for example). Overall there are a lot of decisions that go into making a game from concept to a finished game.

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From what I’ve read, the wizards of Nine Parchments are from the Trine world and the setting of Has-Been Heroes is different from the others. Could you elaborate on similarities and differences of these fantasy settings?

Nine Parchments is set in the Trine universe, i.e. it’s in the same world and story as the Trine games. Has-Been Heroes on the other hand is a separate fantasy world with its own world and story. In a way both worlds are more cheery than your typical fantasy world, and there’s a lot of humor involved.

Magic is featured in the Trine series, Has-Been Heroes, and Nine Parchments. If you could attend the Astral Academy, what spell from any of these games would you like to be able learn and use in real life?

Fireball comes to mind at first, but would that be very useful in real life? (Amadeus would surely say yes.) Charm from Has-Been Heroes would be interesting – making your enemies work for you for a moment… Blinking (teleporting) from Nine Parchments would be fun, but its short distance maybe makes it less useful.

Perhaps I would choose the healing spell from Nine Parchments – a temporary healing circle that heals me and my friends (well, enemies too, have to be careful!). I wonder if it would also deter aging?

Thank you to Joel Kinnunen & Tuovinen of Frozenbyte for taking the time to answer our questions!