A Journey into the Badland with Frogmind Games: A Developer Interview

The work of former Trials Evolution editor programmer Johannes Vuorinen and MotoHeroz artist/designer Juhana Myllys, Badland is an atmospheric side-scrolling iOS title that almost went unnoticed by yours truly.

As per the fledgling developer's homepageBadland is set in a "gorgeous forest full of various inhabitants, trees and flowers. Although the forest looks like it’s from some beautiful fairytale, there seems to be something terribly wrong. The player controls one of the forest’s inhabitants to discover what’s going on. Through his journey he discovers astonishing amount of imaginative traps and obstacles."

Recently, I was fortunate enough to speak with Frogmind Games' artist/designer Juhana Myllys for a glance into Badland's wondrous imaginative world.

Games Abyss: Tell us about Frogmind Games, what brought you and Johannes together?

Juhana Myllys: Me and Johannes have been working together since 2008. First in THQ owned game studio Universomo and most recently in a studio that Ubisoft acquired, RedLynx. We never really worked in a same team on either of those companies but we became friends and shared the same visions on how games should be made. After we finished our projects in Redlynx (Johannes Trials Evolution and myself MotoHeroz) we decided to found Frogmind. After that it has basically been BADLAND 24/7.

Games Abyss: Not to get off topic, but your bringing up THQ begs a follow-up question: What are your thoughts on the company's recent bankruptcy filing?

Juhana Myllys: It wasn't a huge surprise. When we worked there back in 2009, THQ already had some financial problems. If I understood correctly, the good sales of UFC Undisputed and Red Faction: Guerilla saved them that time but not anymore I guess.

Games Abyss: Moving on, tell us what a typical day in the Frogmind Games' office entails.

Juhana Myllys: We work probably half of our time in home and another half in the office. This is because we have very different circadian rhythm. I go to sleep around 5 o'clock in the morning while Johannes wakes up 6 AM. ^_^ We both go to the office around noon and spend couple of hours there. That shared time in the office we spend composing ideas and discussing on what should we do next. After that we go back home (to work). This works because our fields of what we do are so different. Johannes codes and I do the graphic/level design.

Games Abyss: Tell us about the early stages of Badland's development. How did it evolve from a simple concept to the anticipated iOS title it is now?

Juhana Myllys: We noticed that there were a lot of these one-touch games that were quite addictive – even though there wasn't much depth in gameplay. The idea was to develop a game that would have the depth but would still have extremely easy and approachable control mechanics.

Games Abyss: Was iOS the only platform considered for development or was a console release also a possibility?

Juhana Myllys: We are both avid gamers and we've been playing (and developing) with iOS devices from the very beginning when the Appstore arrived. It was very clear that what ever we start doing it's was going to be on the iOS.

Games Abyss: Let's talk a bit about the title's development cycle. How long have you and Johannes been working on Badland?

Juhana Myllys: We've been developing BADLAND since april 2012. It's been quite hectic 10 month period of coding, painting and designing vicious traps to the levels.

Games Abyss: Was the engine developed entirely in-house, or was an existing platform used as a starting point?

Juhana Myllys:  We use Cocos2D 2.1 as our game engine which we have customized a bit for our needs. Box2D is handling the physics and FMOD the sound. Also, we are using a bunch of great offline tools such as TexturePacker, PhysicsEditor and GlyphDesigner to speed-up development.

Games Abyss: Badland's visuals are absolutely stunning. What can you tell us about the art direction and its key inspirations?

Juhana Myllys: We were always frustrated how so many iOS games looked or tried to look like Angry Birds or Cut the Rope. Don't get me wrong, they are both very nice looking games but it seemed to us that so many developers tried to replicate that success by following those games from every step of the way. Mobile devices are pretty powerful these days; Games should and could look more like Pixar movies, not like Flash games from the year 2001. So all that being said, it was really important to us that we create a game that really stands out visually.

The biggest inspiration for BADLAND was purely nature itself. Visual process started by collecting colossal amount of photographs from all around the world. There were couple of movies that inspired a lot but most notably the whole Shrek series. Biggest influence in games was Amanita Design's Machinarium. I'm not even talking about the style of that game but the mentality behind that; They clearly just love what they are doing and the end result proves that.

Games Abyss: Visually speaking, Badland's beautifully silhouetted world has often been compared to Limbo and Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet. Do you think such comparisons help or hinder you?

Juhana Myllys: First of all, they are both great games. That's just flattering for us. But I don't think the black silhouette should define too much of either of those games nor BADLAND. It's the overall experience. I mean both of those games have a very different atmosphere, and so does BADLAND.

Games Abyss: I completely agree, but I'm sure that somewhere out there some guy on the internet sees Badland as just a mash-up of Limbo and Tiny Wings. What would you say to that guy?

Juhana Myllys: I would say try BADLAND. Once you play it, you realize it really doesn't have too much to do with either of those games. The gameplay and atmosphere is different.

Games Abyss: You recently released a bit of multiplayer footage, and it looks incredibly fun. Tell us about Badland's multiplayer component.

Juhana Myllys: It was just one of those silly "what if.." ideas. We prototyped it and it was just pure gold! Basically everyone who have played it are now addicted. It's also quite different than the single player. There's a lot of randomness and madness but in the long run it's a skill game. Usually the most experienced players win.

Games Abyss: As Badland approaches its March release, what's next for Frogmind Games?

Juhana Myllys: At this point all our concrete ideas have been around BADLAND. There are still some pretty awesome stuff that will expand the whole BADLAND universe. But more about that after the launch…

Games Abyss: Finally, for those who may not be familiar with Badland, how would you pitch your debut title?

Juhana Myllys: Super atmospheric, ultra addictive, immersive action-platformer!

Games Abyss: Sold!

On behalf of Games Abyss, I would like to thank Juhana for the interview. Badland is definitely one to look forward to; there’s no doubt that Frogmind Games is going to deliver a memorable iOS experience.  If you are interested in beta testing Badland prior to its launch, you may contact Johannes and Junaha at contact@frogmindgames.com.

Written by Andreas Asimakis, Editor-in-Chief. Questions for the author? Send an email to andreas@gamesabyss.com. Follow him on Twitter:@pantsguy.

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