June 22, 2012 3:00 AM | Staff
Frogmind Games is a new independent studio from a veteran games industry duo. Johannes Vuorinen and Juhana Myllys both previously worked at THQ's ill-fated Universomo studio, and most recently at Ubisoft-owned Trials Evolution developer RedLynx.
Vuorinen in particular was the mind behind the Trials Evolution level editor, which the level designers at the company used to create every single track in the game, not to mention it was the same level editor that is provided for players to create their own crazy tracks.
Alongside Vuorinen, artist Myllys will bring his past AAA experience over to Frogmind, as the pair look to create digital titles for as-of-yet unannounced platforms.
Vuorinen tells Gamasutra that being an indie developer was always his goal, but that he decided to first try out mixing with a larger team to see how it gelled with his style.
"In spring 2010 when I joined the Trials Evolution team, taking the role as the lead editor programmer felt like a really big responsibility," he explains.
"I had just joined the team and I was still learning the code base of Trials HD. Although Trials HD already had a simple editor built in it, it was not much use as the plans for the Trials Evolution editor were really huge. So actually I started to code the new editor from scratch."
A few months of coding later and Vuorinen had a basic editor for the game in place that designers on the team could use. It was then a case of building on top of that.
"The pressure faded away and then it was all about adding features, and more features and even more features to the editor," he says. "It was really rewarding to see all the features I coded in action in the level designers' crazy tracks. And now, since the game's release, it is even more rewarding to see the editor in players' hands. The players have used the editor features in so many creative ways that I definitely couldn't have imagined."
Walking awayAfter the success of Trials Evolution, it wasn't an easy decision for Vuorinen to walk away from RedLynx, especially with the father-and-son relationship that he has built up with his editor.
"I had already considered going indie years ago, but I felt that before doing that, I wanted to be part of at least a medium-sized team creating a big game. I wanted to see and feel what it was like. Trials Evolution was the perfect fit for this."
Taking everything he learned at the studio on board, the designer says now is the perfect time for himself and Myllys to go indie.
"I had found a person who shares the same visions and the same enthusiasm with me. We want to create games that feel and smell in every aspect like they have been created by us. We love both to create and play games, and we want our games to reflect this feeling."
This shared vision between team members is the key to a strong indie studio, he states. "If the team members have different goals, the game they create will either be a mix of elements that do not work as a whole, or the team will only argue and argue and never finish their game."
He adds, "I am not saying that the vision should be exactly the same. It is only a good thing if there are slight differences in the visions. When the team discusses about these differences the game eventually gets only better."
Vuorinen warns other developers who are currently considering joining forces with friends that trust is a huge component of any indie team.
"There must not be a situation where someone thinks inside his or her head that we are heading the wrong direction -- and does not share [those feelings] with the others. Everything needs to be shared and talked about. Everything. When every team member can fully concentrate only on the development, [that teamwork] will be seen in the finished game."
These key fundamentals have been satisfied in Vuorinen and Myllys' relationship, hence the formation of Frogmind. "My tip to fellow developers is to look around you and talk with your co-workers and other friends about games in general, not just about the games in development," he offers.
"Ask them what their plans are for the future. In the process, you might notice that you share the same visions and dreams. The rest is just having the courage to make the decision. The game industry is not that big of a risk as most of us have already computers at home fully capable for game development. All you have to invest is your time. And there are so many great next-to-free tools available for us indies that you can fully concentrate on the game development itself."
Turning to development at Frogmind, Vuorinen says that the transition from AAA to indie has been relatively easy for the pair.
"I was given free rein with the Trials Evolution editor so it felt kind of creating my own 'subgame' inside the game itself," he notes. "Now in our soon-to-be-announced game I need to of course code the whole game. It means a lot of added responsibility but it feels great."
"In a more general level, a small team compared to a large team means less talking and much more concentrating on developing, which is definitely a good thing."
The team's first title, due to be unveiled in the coming weeks, is set to take inspiration from indie megahits Limbo and Machinarium, Vuorinen tells us, and will be coming to "digital platforms."
[This article originally appeared on Gamasutra, written by Mike Rose.]