Insider Q&A: Badland’s Johannes Vuorinen
“You hear the name Badland, and it gives you a hint that there’s something wrong in our forest.”
That’s how Frogmind co-founder Johannes Vuorinen describes the dark storyline surrounding his award-winning stunner, Badland, a dark, atmospheric adventure Apple thinks so highly of, the game not only won the coveted Apple Design Award, but was even featured in the new iPhone 5C advertisement.
What fans of the game might not realize, however, is this indie darling is the work of just two men who were on a 365-day mission to finish the game.
But don’t think all of the accolades and studio success is going to their heads.
“We just hired our third employee,” laughs Vuorinen, “we’re huge.”
Inside Mobile Apps caught up with the Finnish designer over Skype to get his thoughts on Badland’s new update, the game’s style, and potential plans to bring his game to the Xbox Live Arcade.Inside Mobile Apps: What’s the origin story behind the Frogmind development team?
Johannes Vuorinen: We started the studio about a year and a half ago. We are just two guys who previously worked at a studio called RedLynx, working on a game called Trials: Evolution. But then RedLynx got acquired by Ubisoft, and we decided that we wanted to do something on our own, so we started our own indie studio. We didn’t want to get any investors or any publishers who would get in our way. We just wanted to create a unique game and unleash our own wish entirely. So we started the Badland project in the spring of 2012, and we just concentrated on the game itself. We announced the game summer 2012, and then we posted the first gameplay video in October. And that video, a video with just the game running on an iPad, being recorded by a cheap camcorder, we actually got an e-mail from Apple that said, “Hey, this looks interesting. When are you going to release this?” In addition to that, we got multiple sites to write about the game, so we just kept publishing new videos, and everything went smoothly from there. Then when the launch came, we got the Editor’s Choice globally in both the iPad and iPhone store, we won the Apple Design Award, and they chose us to be part of the five-year anniversary of the app store where we were one of five free games offered. It has been quite an interesting year, I can say that.
IMA: How tough was it to work on a game with no financial backing other than your own savings? Every day, did you work knowing you had a limited time to release the game?
JV: Yeah, basically we used only our own savings, but my wife was a big help, working a job that brought in a regular salary. It was a tough year in that sense, but it allowed us to not concentrate our efforts on how to finance this thing. I’m really grateful to my wife for that.
IMA: How far along were you in the development process when it hit you that you might have something special?
JV: We thought had something precious or special ever since we had the first gameplay prototype and concept art, but since we were just two guys, we weren’t that sure we had something with huge potential globally or anything like that. So when we created that first video, that was the first test of whether or not the world thinks that this is something cool. The day we released that video, that was the scariest day of development. Launch day, we were excited, but the day we released that video, that was such a mix of being frightened and excited all at the same time. But after that day and the reaction we received, that’s when we knew we had something cool. That’s when we knew it was going to be big.
IMA: What was the inspiration behind Badland?
JV: The inspiration comes from many games, and the art style comes from nature. We wanted it to be a perfect fit for touch devices. We both had enjoyed games like Jetpack Joyride and other endless runner games, but we thought that there wasn’t so much depth in those games, so we added physics, we added power-ups, and we added atmosphere and sound and all the beautiful graphics there. We wanted to create something unique, and we feel that especially the cloning power-up, really makes the game feel new and fresh.
IMA: You guys are known for never really giving any details out about the game’s storyline. Why don’t you want to reveal anything about the game?
JV: We decided that we never wanted to tell the player too much about the game. We wanted it to be something that the player discovers himself or herself. When you start, we wanted to create this world where you see this beautiful place and everything seems nice, but then when you progress through the game, you start to notice that there’s something wrong in this forest or swamp. When you see the name Badland, you should already know there’s something evil waiting for you.
IMA: Was it ever a thought to make Badland free-to-play, or did you design it with the thought of making it premium all along?
JV: For us, it was obvious that it was going to be premium. We didn’t want anything between the player and the game itself. We didn’t want anything from the real world like dollar signs or anything like that into the game. It’s you in the world of Badland, so we didn’t want any in-app purchases there to ruin the experience. It was clear from the start that it was going to be a premium model.
IMA: You guys just released Day II: Dusk last week. What should fans expect from the new update?
JV: New surprises, that’s what we do in every update. We don’t want to just use the existing content, we want to brign you something new. So in the Dusk update, you’re going to see gravity modifiers that cause obstacles dropping to the roof instead of the ground. You’re also going to see something called “Time Stoppers” which stop everything except your character. These additions create some new, interesting puzzles and some new surprises for the players. We’ve already received some great feedback about what we added in the update.
IMA: In the future, do you see more updates, or are you guys already working on a sequel?
JV: The plan currently is more updates. We’re also going to be on Android and Blackberry soon. We are bringing Badland everywhere. We want everyone to be able to play it, not just iOS users. That’s our idea, but of course, we also want to update the game. Players are constantly asking for more content, so we bring it.
IMA: Have you been approached to bring the game to Xbox Live Arcade or PlayStation Network?
JV: Yeah, that’s definitely an interesting option. We are checking those platforms out at the moment, and the game looks awesome on TV. We have already checked it out, and it would be nice, but I can’t confirm anything, but we are definitely looking at those platforms, too. It looks awesome, I can say.
IMA: So with just a two-man team, how much of the artwork or design or sound did you guys need to outsource in order to make the game in one year?
JV: All of the artwork was made completely by Juhana Myllys, who is the other founder, and I made all the code. We only outsourced the audio, that’s the only thing we didn’t do. Everything else you see in the game, that was just made by the two of us. It was one year, seven days a week, working crazy hours every day, but it was definitely worth it because it was the project of our dreams, and we put everything we had into it, our soul and our hearts.
All images via Frogmind