MixedBag rightly earned praise for Futuridium EP Deluxe, which brought its colourful and high tempo gameplay to both the Wii U and New 3DS. Yet forma.8 was the first project we heard of from the Italian studio - it emerged in early 2014, was part of the [email protected] demo promotion during E3 2015, and has undergone at least one major visual revamp during its development.

An atmospheric game rooted in adventure and exploration, it's finally ready to grace the Wii U eShop, due to arrive on 28th February. Its stylish visuals and reference to a 'Metroidvania' style go some way to explaining its appeal, and it's also a reminder that Nintendo's current home console still has some interesting projects coming to its download store.

Ahead of its launch we had a chat to MixedBag co-founder Mauro Fanelli about the long wait for forma.8, what the game tries to achieve and the studio's hopes to bring its games to Switch.

With forma.8 in development since 2013, what are the emotions within the team now that it's reached its endpoint and is about to be released?

Not necessary in this order: extreme joy, relief, fear! We are so happy that we've been able to finally ship the game after all those years, but at the same time we're terrorised by the launch: keeping our finger crossed. Constantly.

As a project it's naturally evolved through that period, and at one point you took on a revamp of the graphics, for example. Can you talk a little about how forma.8 has changed and adjusted over its lengthy development cycle?

The core gameplay never changed too much, but the whole package changed a lot. First, we rewrote the game (almost) from scratch a couple of times to take advantage of various improvements that were introduced in the Unity engine. Then we redid almost all the graphics in 2015.

But the most important thing is that we kept adding more stuff and more gameplay mechanics to forma.8: the game turned out a lot longer and deeper than we envisioned when we started working on it.

At what point did you all agree, as a team, that you were on the 'home stretch' in development, in terms of your final vision for how the game would look and play?

It happened last summer. The game was pretty much content complete and we were targeting an August / September release date back then. We were quite confident and then… we missed it. Then we targeted December and… we missed it again! It was frustrating, but I hope in the end that the players will appreciate the extra layers of polish!

While there's combat and action in forma.8, I think we've put a bit more focus on puzzles: it's up to the player to come up to different solutions on how to progress in the game.

You describe it as a 'Metroidvania'; though the term is very familiar, can you explain how that style is applied to forma.8?

I know that right now if you say 'Metroidvania' you tend to think about a specific kind of game, with specific conventions: a 2D platformer with upgrades and exploration. I tend to not be so rigid and I think forma.8 is a peculiar take on the genre: yes the game is heavily focused on exploration and yes you get different power ups that let you further advance in the world. But at the same time it's not a traditional platformer, since the main character can fly from the beginning, changing the gameplay a lot. Also, while there's combat and action in forma.8, I think we've put a bit more focus on puzzles: it's up to the player to come up to different solutions on how to progress in the game. For example: all in-game bosses require some sort of lateral thinking. There's no 'shoot until it dies'…

In addition to gaining new abilities, will players therefore be expected to backtrack through the sizeable world?

I'm not a huge fan of backtracking in games. Let's say there's an optimal path through the game so you can pretty much reach the end without backtracking. Obviously if you want to unlock everything in the game and visit all nooks and crannies you'll have to backtrack. A lot. The game is full of secrets…

How important is lore and story in forma.8, and how are they communicated through gameplay? Are they driven by cutscenes, in-game narrative or perhaps a mix of approaches?

forma.8 is a very mysterious game and we wanted the players to discover the story by themselves. There's no text in game and no real explanation on what's really going on: we show in the intro that you're a robotic probe sent on an alien planet to recover a powerful energy source. You know what your mission is, but then forma.8 crashes on the planet and when he wakes up he's alone. There's an explanation for everything, but it's up to the players to put together the various bits of the story….

The videogame industry moves quickly, of course; have there been any trends or changes in the wider download scene, for example, that have impacted development in a significant way?

You're right: the videogame industry changes constantly and at an incredible speed. The market, and the indie game market specifically in this case, is totally different now, and we had to adapt to it. Indie games quality improved dramatically in the last couple of years, with a lot more funding available to smaller projects. The impact on development of forma.8 has been dramatic: we felt we needed to constantly improve quality to be able to stay relevant.

You've still brought the game to Wii U, which bucks the recent trend of projects migrating over to Switch and dropping the current system. What was the core motivation for seeing through the Wii U eShop release, and do you also hope to bring forma.8 to Switch in future?

We've promised a Wii U version of the game and there were no chances we wouldn't deliver on that. Especially considering that we had the Wii U version up and running perfectly from 2015.

We can't wait to work on Switch and we really hope to be able to port forma.8 and all our future projects on it. It's such a lovely bit of kit!

forma.8 definitely is a passion project for us: it's the first game we started working on, ever, despite being released after Futuridium. Actually we started MixedBag to make it.

Your projects as a studio are varied to date, with Futuridium being a fast-paced title. What drives that diversity in game styles, and is it fair to say that forma.8 (with its development time and approach) has been a passion project for the team?

We are long time gamers and we love a lot of different genres, and being a small indie studio give us the opportunity to experiment. Usually our approach is purely design driven: we come up with a gameplay mechanic that we find interesting and we try to prototype it. If it works we try to add more stuff and turn it into a full game.

forma.8 definitely is a passion project for us: it's the first game we started working on, ever, despite being released after Futuridium. Actually we started MixedBag to make it.

A while ago you also teased Gemini X, a top-down shooter with a 'stick dancing' mechanic; do you have any update on this?

No updates to share, we're fully focused on launching forma.8 right now! But we have an internal prototype of the game and we really love the idea.

Moving back to forma.8, do you have a big pitch for our readers? What do you most want them to know about this game ahead of its release?

If you like exploration, adventure, a mysterious story and a unique graphic style don't miss forma.8!


We'd like to thank Mauro Fanelli for his time.