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Developer Interview: SnowCastle Games On Holding A Festival Of Magic On Wii U

Posted by Damien McFerran

"We miss the more thoughtful approach to turn based combat"

Nordic developer SnowCastle Games is bringing its epic RPG Festival of Magic to the Wii U eShop, adding yet another promising title to the console's expanding roster of independent releases. We spoke to studio founder Bendik Stang about the development of the game, its influences and the benefits of working with the Unity engine.

Nintendo Life: Could you tell us a little about your studio? When were you formed, and what previous experience do you have?

Bendik Stang: The studio was founded in 2009. Back then we were only four developers and we spent the first year doing small games for others while building our skills and adding new team members. By 2011 we were getting pretty comfortable with Unity3D and did our first self-published title, Hogworld. It was a children’s tale; basically a story for kids told the adventure game way. Between Hogworld and Festival of Magic, we have done some work for Massive Black Inc.

NL: I know it's early days, but what has it been like to work with Nintendo so far?

BS: I met with Dan Adelman and Tim Symons at GDC and they were very forthcoming and helpful. The process so far has been easy, and from what I saw and tried at GDC, building for Wii U with Unity3D seems as easy as anything.

NL: Would you describe yourself as a Nintendo fan? What systems and games did you grow up playing?

BS: My first system was actually the Nintendo 8-bit! I still miss that thing, so yes, I suppose I'm a fan. I don't discriminate when it comes to console systems though. I have the Wii U, PS3 and Xbox 360 at home and I use all of them regularly — I guess it’s part of the job.

NL: What are the benefits of creating the game in Unity?

BS: Unity gives us great freedom in building the game for a wide range of platforms. It's the engine we've been using since we gathered our current team so we are comfortable working in it. The powerful off-the-shelf tools it offers combined with the in-house tools we're building for it makes it the ideal choice for a studio our size. The Wii U devkit gives us the opportunity to "press play" in the engine and test it directly on the Wii U without making a build every time, so that's a huge benefit as well.

NL: What games have inspired Festival of Magic?

BS: The whole team loves story-driven games, so the list ranges from Beyond Good and Evil through Monkey Island, Harvest Moon to Final Fantasy 7 and Final Fantasy 9. Recently we have also gone through Ni No Kuni, Hay Day and Clash of Clans to test out some of their mechanics that we thought looked interesting.

I guess between all the team members we play most of the RPGs, Strategy Games and Adventure games being released. Whenever we find some game we like or game play mechanic that works really well, we all play-test it and discuss it. Playing games is very important for a game developer, in my opinion.

NL: You've described Festival of Magic as a Nordic take on an Eastern genre - could you elaborate for us?

BS: We know it’s kind of a cheesy statement, but in reality there’s very few games like this being made by Western developers — especially Northern European developers. We also want to make it clear that we’re not trying copy or emulate a Japanese adventure RPGs - we want to make something original.

NL: You've mentioned the ability to grow ammunition in the game - could you explain how this mechanic will work?

BS: The player will get access to an island home base early on in the game where you can grow and harvest different kinds of magical plants. The plants can produce consumables like spuds and pearls which can be used as ammunition, potions or spells during combat. You will also be able to obtain consumables as loot, but you need your farm for “mass production” and possible upgrades.

You will also be able to use consumables to feed pet monsters that you capture during quests or you can sell them to afford other things you might need.

Captured monsters can be used in asynchronous Player verses Player to fight other players’ party. We think this will be a really fun way to utilize Festival of Magic’s combat system and monsters, as well as getting user generated tournaments for the arena.

NL: What kind of combat system will Festival of Magic employ? Is it totally turn-based?

BS: It is completely turn-based. We feel that combining real-time and turn-based combat can easily become disjointed. We're trying to craft a combat experience that is strategy-based rather than stressing the player out with lots of running and gunning and at the same time, trying to think of what spuds and warrior/protector pairs are efficient against a particular enemy. We miss the more thoughtful approach to turn based combat and we're hoping that some of you out there feel the same way.

NL: When can we expect to see the Wii U version of the game?

BS: It’s a bit early to talk about specific dates at this point.

NL: How long has the game been in development so far?

BS: We have worked at this for about a year now.

NL: Roughly how many hours of gameplay will the final game offer?

BS: The farming, monster training and asynchronous PvP (Player team vs Offline Player Pet Monster Team) will be almost limitless and serve as our platform from where we hope to be able to release episodes 3 to 4 times a year. Each episode might be 5 to 10 hours, but this is just the plan right now. We would rather make 5 really high quality hours than 10 much less so. We would love to produce hours upon hours of episodes, but first we must make sure people like it and actually will pay us to make more. That is the reality of being an Indie. We simply can’t afford to make huge amounts of content without making money.

NL: Will you be looking to make use of the Wii U's unique hardware in Festival of Magic, such as the GamePad controller?

BS: Yes. We will definitely take the gamepad's unique control possibilities into consideration. We have already been thinking about utilizing a secondary screen for some gameplay mechanics, and the Wii U gives us that functionality right out of the box.

NL: Do you have plans for any future projects which could come to the Wii U?

BS: We wish to focus 100% on Festival of Magic for now with episodes 1 through 4 — and hopefully take the franchise further in the years to come. If Festival of Magic proves successful on the eShop we will definitely continue developing for the console!

Thanks to Bendik for talking to us and Emily Rogers for her assistance in arranging this interview.

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User Comments (37)

Grayjedi13

#2

Grayjedi13 said:

Wow, this looks really cool. The eShop needs games like this on it! Not sure what I think of the episode based format for games, but if the price is right I'd be willing to try it.

fceramic

#6

fceramic said:

@Royalblues I'm the Art Director at SnowCastle Games. It's true that the current faces are slightly creepy because they lack any kind of facial rig or animation (Amon has some eye movement however). This is will be addressed in production.

Dpullam

#7

Dpullam said:

It seems like an interesting game and the mechanics of growing your ammunition could be fun. I'll definitely keep my eyes on this closer to its release date. I just wonder what each episode will be priced at.

AaronB

#9

AaronB said:

@fceramic Great to hear from you directly. I think the art style looks fantastic. Looking forward to playing it.

TwilightV

#10

TwilightV said:

The art up top reminds me a bit of Beyond Good & Evil's boxart. Not that that's a bad thing, BG&E is a good game.

The lack of facial expressions is my only problem with this, but it seems to have been addressed already. Looking forward to playing this! :)

dumedum

#11

dumedum said:

it seems there are like a zillion kickstarter projects with Wii U as a goal. This means that one day suddendly the eshop will be hit with a hundred awesome RPGs and platformers and the world will be shocked, except those that followed this?

erv

#13

erv said:

I can't comment on the gameplay, but the movie seems to include soulless animations as of yet. Rigid, soulless animation that's not really designed, just styled.

As with anything, if it hits, I'll check out the reviews and make sure it's worth playing before I buy it.

rjejr

#14

rjejr said:

"...the list ranges from Beyond Good and Evil through Monkey Island, Harvest Moon to Final Fantasy 7 and Final Fantasy 9."

Guess I picked the wrong FF game when I commented last week ;-) Rest of my post still stands though, wait and see.


Well I'm intrigued. Looks like a cross between FF8 - turn based JRPG walking around if front of prerendered backgrounds - with the color scheme and exploration from Beyond Good and Evil. Two really good games, but I can't judge by that video how well they're going to mesh.


nik1470

#15

nik1470 said:

Really looking forward to this I miss pure turn based RPG's and a western take on the easten genre can work really well shadow madness and secret of evermore a great examples of this. PS love the art style its like bioshock anime.

Ultra64

#16

Ultra64 said:

I am also looking forward to this title. I feel it needs more texture though unless this is intentional. Keep up the great work guys!

fceramic

#17

fceramic said:

@Ultra64 We are experimenting with shaders and lighting. We want to achieve a very clean and painterly look, but it takes time to get there. Feel free to check out my website to see plenty of sketches and concept art for FoM - will give you an idea of what we are aiming for. http://fritceramic.com/
Cheers!

SunnyShores

#18

SunnyShores said:

I hope it comes soon. it looks good, sounds interesting and i haven't played a good turn based game in a while.

SunnyShores

#19

SunnyShores said:

Yeah. will buy. don't care about cost really. never do. i pay to play and am happy with that.

placidcasual

#20

placidcasual said:

Wow.

Looks like a cross between Harvest Moon, Wind Waker and FFVII. Which just happen to be 3 of my all time favourite games. This has just made the top of my wanted list.

Dpishere

#21

Dpishere said:

I am digging the art style! Just hope the gameplay and audio can help back it up.

fceramic

#22

fceramic said:

Thank you all for the awesome comments! Getting praise this early in development is a huge encouragement.
@Dpishere If you knew our lead programmer you would be assured that the gameplay will be spot-on (the guy is a classic jrpg fanatic with the FF7 comet tattooed on his arm). I think the combat system in particular will be extremely addictive with lots of tactical depth and the pairing mechanism is already proving quite interesting.
We're pretty much covered when it comes to music. We have an awesome composer who's also a JRPG fanatic - she's done some incredible acoustic renditions of classic FF songs. Make sure to check out her youtube channel: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XNiqqKE6rhg

Pod

#24

Pod said:

Heheh, this game has a lot of obviously danish design sensibility going into it.

It's very sweet looking. Looking forward to seeing how things like effects and animation will shape up over the course of production, and getting a better impression of the gameplay.

andrea987

#25

andrea987 said:

My interest stat for this just went up +1000! And I don't usually like episodic and/or digital only titles.

fceramic

#26

fceramic said:

@andrea987 I can see why people are skeptical to the idea of episodes, but in practice I think it's a win win model. Those who can't wait can start playing FoM as early as possible while people who want to experience the whole game in one go can wait to buy the entire season. :)

Pod

#27

Pod said:

@fceramic
Plus if you lose interest, you've never payed for anymore that you've played.

Not a fervent advocate of episodic content myself, but I've paid full price for quite a few games over the years where I never played more than the opening hour or the first third of the game.

burninmylight

#28

burninmylight said:

@fceramic

Looking forward to seeing some videos of the combat system. I love how open and professional you're being with all of the questions!

FleetwoodMackin

#29

FleetwoodMackin said:

Definitely see the potential of this art style.. good memories just looking at it. And the idea of a devoted turn-based mashed with the addictive nature of garden tending, a little monster wrangling.... and some classic wandering.. I am ready. If i keep seeing this kind of indie development i may have to actually get a Wii U before Zelda even comes out haha..

Dpishere

#30

Dpishere said:

@fceramic Nice! Game looks great and I have always enjoyed turn-based rpgs that have a bit more thinking involved in the battles.

capitalism

#32

capitalism said:

This just became one of my most anticipated games on Wii U. I like the idea of episodes because for one we won't have to wait as long for the game and for two we they can respond to community feedback along the way. I'm really liking the games Nordic setting and characters too, I'm hoping to see some runestones and some beautiful blondes :)

Dpullam

#33

Dpullam said:

@fceramic I actually like your viewpoint on episodic content. I've never really considered it that way before. Since your game is looking pretty cool so far I might just have buy your first episode since I would prefer to not have to wait too long to try it out for myself!

AJWolfTill

#35

AJWolfTill said:

This game looks so delightfully tailored to my interests.
The eshop is drowning in 2d platformers so this is a huge draw.
What programmes are you using for the designs? I've been teaching myself 3d animation and design and would love to get recommendations from such talented indie devs. :)

fceramic

#36

fceramic said:

@AJWolfTill Thanks! We use mostly standard stuff like Photoshop, Z-brush and Maya, but I will recommend 3D-Coat which is a phenomenal tool for texturing AND it's very affordable. You can even get it on Steam.

Striker667

#37

Striker667 said:

This has a story book magic feeling the way Fable did. I'm looking forward to this on Wii U for sure!

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