Late last week, we got to chat with Grant Davies of Endgame Studios on their latest game, Fractured Soul for the Nintendo eShop. This game has gone through an eight year development process, and we got some great details on the game (which we’ll be reviewing tomorrow). Haven’t heard of Fractured Soul or Endgame Studios? I’d recommend checking out this interview, and to buy this awesome new platformer. Continue reading for the exclusive interview!
Grant Davies: We describe it as “Mega Man on both screens of the 3DS” – a classic style platform game where the player can tap either shoulder button at any time to switch between the two screens of the 3DS. This is necessary to avoid enemy bullets, hazards and to navigate the level. There are five different worlds, and in each one there is a unique element – for example, slower movement or inverted gravity on one of the two screens. Fractured Soul is built for time trials, and we’ve added in online leaderboards so gamers can compete with their friends or the world. If you’re a fan of platform games, you’ll likely enjoy Fractured Soul.
Fractured Soul is now available on the Nintendo 3DS eShop for $11.99, where you can purchase a number of other great titles for about half the price. What do you think makes this game worth the extra cash?
Fractured Soul was initially designed as a retail game – so it would have had a $25 or $30 price tag on it. A lot of eShop content at the moment is more “bite-sized,” and had we initially targeted it at the eShop we probably would have made a much smaller game for a cheaper price too. We decided not to cut the game in half because it wouldn’t have been the right thing to do by the game, but the higher price tag was necessary to cover the enormous costs of development over the last 8 years. I realize it will be too expensive for some people, but cutting the game in half would have been a worse outcome for the people who do buy the game.
It is been well-publicized about how long it’s taken Fractured Soul to go from concept to market. It certainly could have been smoother over those years. It was very difficult at times trying to contract our game dev services out to pay for Fractured Soul whilst trying to develop the game. Constantly stressing about finances does put a lot of strain on the team. It was also difficult because in order to make it more appealing to publishers, we had to promise certain features in pitches that we didn’t really want to do (publishers love back-of-the-box USPs), so our attention was always being pulled from where we wanted it to be – just concentrating on building a fun game. In an ideal world, we’d be able to just sit down and make the game we want to make without constantly worrying about all these other factors. Maybe in the future we’ll be able to do that.
Endgame Studios have developed titles for a number of different platforms. Which one has been your favorite to develop games for?
3DS is pretty cool – the tools and support from Nintendo get better with each piece of hardware they release. That said, PC probably offers the most flexibility in technology and general game design.
At one point, Fractured Soul had a completely different look. What influenced your decision to change the game to its updated look?
We felt that we were innovating in terms of gameplay, but not really in other areas, so we wanted to see what we could do to push things in other areas and art was one area where our art director felt we could take things in a new direction. He came up with an edgier, more modern and more fractured look for the game. The fractured nature was really what sold me on it – the idea of having gameplay, the storyline and the artwork all pulling in the same direction was compelling.
I really hope it is not the end of Fractured Soul. There’s a lot more we can do with the mechanic. As I mentioned earlier, if we could sit down and make a game on our own timeline without having to worry about external pressures so much, incorporating what we’ve learned from making dual screen puzzles in this game, and taking into consideration how gamers react to all the parts of the game, I believe there’s a lot more that can be done with Fractured Soul in the future. The dream is for Fractured Soul to do well enough for that to become reality.
One thing I’ve noticed is reviews commenting on the difficulty of Fractured Soul – some say it’s a good challenge whereas a couple cannot conquer the difficulty curve. I did a talk at Game Connect Asia Pacific talking about the challenges we faced in balancing difficulty in the game. In one of our earliest playtest sessions we did with our friends at Iron Monkey Studios (now Fire Monkeys), after playing the first few levels they wanted to punch us in the nose, because the game was so hard. We asked them to rate the difficulty out of 10 and they couldn’t – it was too far off the charts!
After that, we entirely scrapped the first world, and when we went to playtest it a second time we realized something interesting about the game: once someone has played the game, they reach a point beyond which they “get” the screen switching. It’s a skill that demands mastering, or at least learning. Once a player gets to that point, they feel very clever and powerful, but they also start to find the game significantly easier from that point on. This meant whenever we gave the game to anyone to playtest, they would be tainted afterwards and we couldn’t use them to playtest again.
So we had to find new playtesters, and we gave them the new version of the first world to playtest, confident about it being significantly easier, and they also wanted to punch us in the nose because it was still off the charts too hard! So we scrapped the first world again and rebuilt it from the ground up. On our third round of playtesting, we finally managed to get a rating out of 10 for the difficulty of the first world, and we knew we’d found our mark. Finding the right difficulty has been the biggest challenge of Fractured Soul, and I will be curious to see how gamers respond, but I bet we get replies across the full spectrum.