Dr. David’s Indie Spotlight: Interview with Badland dev Frogmind

Developer Frogmind Games is currently gearing up for the launch of Badland, its debut title scheduled for iOS platforms on April 4. The team consists of two individuals who previously worked on Trials HD, Trials Evolution, and MotoHeroz, which delivered some incredibly exciting racing platforming gameplay. What has the duo of Johannes Vuorinen and Juhana Myllys taken from past projects and infused into the wondrous and atmospheric world of Badland? I had the chance to interview Frogmind about its upcoming endeavor and got an in-depth look at the visually stunning and highly promising iOS game.

GameZone: Can you explain what Badland is all about for individuals who may be unfamiliar with the game? What’s the premise? Is there an underlying story? What’s the environment like and does the game world act as a backdrop for any story beats?

Frogmind Games: Badland is best described as an atmospheric side-scrolling action-adventure game. The game happens in a gorgeous forest full of various inhabitants, trees, and flowers. Although the forest looks like it’s from a beautiful fairytale, there seems to be something terribly wrong — thus the name Badland. The player gets to control one of the forest’s inhabitants to discover what’s going on. Through his journey he discovers astonishing amount of imaginative traps and obstacles. The game starts in beautiful Dawn and eventually ends in deadly Night.

The story in Badland is in the backgrounds, literally. It's a design choice that we do not have cutscenes because we do not want to distract the player's gameplay with anything. We want the player to be in full control all the time. So when playing, you can see the forest evolve and see what's going on, but on the other hand, you can concentrate on just playing the levels and ignore everything.

We have totally fell in love in the place and really think the setting and the whole Badland's atmosphere in general is perfect.

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GZ: Frogmind is made up of developers who previously worked on the Trials HD and MotoHeroz games. Is there an inherent influence from those franchises in Badland?

FG: Badland is based heavily on physics as well as Trials and MotoHeroz, so that definitely is a similarity. We are also fans of skill-based games with precise controls and huge depth, which all three share. However, although Badland is skill-based, it doesn't mean it's hard to control — the one-touch controls make sure that everyone understands the gameplay mechanics instantaneously, but on the other hand, there's still huge depth in the gameplay. I may sound crazy to someone but you have to try Badland first. 

GZ: Flight is probably the biggest gameplay element in Badland. Is it difficult to switch gears and go from creating games that can be dubbed racing platformers to something with an aerial twist? How does this affect your take on physics-based gameplay? Is there a huge difference?

FG: Flight is definitely the biggest gameplay element in Badland but we haven't stopped there. For example, there are multiple levels where the game reminds a bit of a racing-platformer where the character is needed to be rolled over or under obstacles in order to survive. But this all happens still with the same one-touch controls. We believe that we have really taken everything out of one-touch controls. So I would say that we haven't switched gears — we have taken everything that we have learned from racing-platformers and have added much, much more to it.

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GZ: Will there be power-ups for players to utilize as they travel across the lovely world of Badland? If so, can you share a few of these abilities? Were there any mechanics you had to leave out because they didn’t mesh well with the rest of the game?

FG: There are a total of 12 power-ups at launch spread in the 40 single-player levels and 12 multiplayer levels, all changing the gameplay in unique ways. For example, there are ones that make the character bigger or smaller, ones that make it faster or slower, and ones that make the character roll forward or backward. Also, one of the key power-ups is the one that clones the character either one or even 10 times. That really changes the gameplay a lot and actually helps you to survive in Badland as only one of the characters is needed to survive to the end. You sometimes need to sacrifice clones in order to survive further. We have four more power-ups we haven't yet talked about. We are going to show one of them in our next gameplay video in the near future. It's really cool. We have still power-up ideas left for updates.

GZ: I’m getting a slight Limbo vibe here. Is that game one of you influences? If not, care to share a few titles that did inspire you to create Badland?

FG: Limbo was definitely an influence but not to the art style — more in general to the atmosphere. We wanted to create something that doesn't feel like a generic game with various HUD elements and some random game music playing in the background. We wanted to create a real place where the game happens and we wanted nothing unreal to get in the way to distract the immersion. We wanted to create a gaming experience which people will remember. And we think we succeeded in that really well. I recommend everyone to play Badland with headphones to get everything out of it.

The art style's influences came purely from the nature. The silhouette foreground was something that was not actually planned. First we had these beautiful backgrounds and then we tried multiple different styles for the foreground and eventually realized that the silhouette looks just perfect and is also gameplay-wise excellent. So we chose that.

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GZ: Badland will include both a single-player mode and a multiplayer component. How does the dynamic change when playing with other individuals?

FG: We have really focused on the unique gaming experience in the single-player mode by carefully thinking what to introduce and when, and constantly giving new kind of experiences to the player in forms of new kind of puzzles, power-ups, general atmosphere, and so on. Every level is unique — there's no repetition.

On the other hand, the multiplayer mode is more designed to be hectic madness. We have focused on delivering fun moments to the players and have various totally crazy sections spread in the 12 multiplayer levels. Gameplay-wise the modes are identical — you have the same controls, power-ups, etc., but the action in the multiplayer mode is more intense and hectic.

GZ: I’ve been following your posts on YouTube, and I’m well aware that the iOS version of Badland is your main priority right now. If this game takes off, would you consider a release on Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network, or the eShop? Additionally, do you hope to release games on those platforms down the road?

FG: Those platforms are indeed interesting, too, and we could totally see Badland fit into them. We do not see Badland as "only a mobile game." It's much, much more and fits very nicely to platforms outside mobile, too. We'll definitely consider other platforms after launching on iOS.

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I would like to extend a sincere thank you to Frogmind for taking the time to share some great insight on Badland. Watch out for the game when it hits iOS platforms next week on April 4.

Want to talk about indie games, Kirby, or cheap pizza? Follow me on Twitter @dr_davidsanchez.