Why you should make friends with a frog
Frogmind’s Teemu Mäki-Patola on bringing Badland to Hatch and finally adding online multiplayer to a classic of the smartphone era
It was just over four years ago when a pair of Finnish game developers – who had left behind careers at AAA studio RedLynx – brought their independent project Badland to app stores. A bold bid to bring console-quality play to mobile, the richly atmospheric side-scrolling puzzle adventure went on to win Apple’s iPad Game of the Year in 2013, and saw Game of the Year-edition ports to all the major consoles in 2015. The studio, Helsinki-based Frogmind, has become one of the great Finnish indie success stories, growing from the founding duo to a team of 14, releasing Badland 2 and developing several highly anticipated forthcoming new titles.
Badland has always had a popular local multiplayer functionality, with a fun co-op mode and a brutally competitive Vs. mode. But online multiplayer proved too difficult to implement in the original Badland – until now. With Hatch soon releasing an exclusive version of the game taking full advantage of the cloud-based platform’s online multiplayer capabilities, I sat down with Frogmind Chief Operating Officer and Chief Marketing Officer Teemu Mäki-Patola to talk games and all things Badland.
Badland is one of the great games of the 2010s and the smartphone era. How did the concept originate?
It started from an idea inspired by iCopter where you fly trying to avoid stuff on your way. And then lots of iteration on top of that. Make something that works, play with it and get ideas. Add them in, rinse and repeat. It’s kind of an evolution. And then when the visual idea is born, it gives context and further ideas.
The art style is very distinctive, combining 2D silhouette action with very rich, colourful backgrounds. How does this help create the world of Badland?
The aim was to create something that stands out, looks like its own universe and is made to console game-like high quality standards (which back then didn’t happen much on mobile). Making the game world come alive with believable atmosphere through vivid visuals and sounds and with minimal user interface between you and the game world were all intentional. The silhouette style can be made stylized and high quality even with small resources. Badland was made by just one programmer and one artist. A practical benefit of the black foreground is that we could make very different levels out of overlaying a limited number of elements with different sizes and orientations.
Can you tell me about the name Frogmind? What makes a Frogmind game a Frogmind game?
How many times have you considered what a frog thinks about, what’s going through its mind? It’s different. And making friends with it, you would probably notice that.
Our games strive for uniqueness. Being their own things. That and awesome gameplay. We focus a lot on making the core gameplay as good as possible.
Until now, only local multiplayer has been supported in Badland. What has been the main barrier to synchronous online multiplayer prior to Hatch?
As a 60 frames per second physics-based game, keeping multiple game instances in perfect sync is very demanding on network latency and clever tech. Hatch’s streaming tech kind of makes the synch issue nonexistent. But for good gameplay, low latency is still required. From what I have seen, Hatch reduces both problems enough to allow this without us needing to develop specific tech ourselves.
What excites you about bringing Badland to Hatch?
Badland is played a lot in the local multiplayer mode. I always wanted to see an online multiplayer version, but it wasn’t feasible enough before.
Does Hatch’s online multiplayer capability change options for game developers?
It certainly makes expanding a local multiplayer into an online one quite easy. I suppose that other online multiplayer games could also be made in a simpler way using Hatch. But you would need to be able to show different views for all players in the multiplayer match. I don’t know what is supported and will be supported by Hatch on this side. Curious to see.
For developers we have an API for that in the works, it’s in our long-term road map. Same game instance, but different screens drawn for different users. But enough about us – what’s your all-time favorite game?
That’s tough. I’m not gonna pick one as different games cater to different moods and needs. Some games that I have spent a lot of time with: Supreme Commander: Forged Alliance, Red Alert (most of them), Call of Duty (many of them), Quake III Arena, Clash of Clans, Clash Royale, Descent (old), Liero. Also really liked Warhead back in the stone age on Amiga 500. And the original Elite way back as a small kid.
What are you playing now?
Right now I’m playing Clash Royale on mobile, a lesser known recently launched game called Mr. Shifty (a Hotline Miami boosted with Nightcrawler teleporting) on PC and Horizon Zero Dawn on PS4. All great!