Developer Frozenbyte brought back the old fashioned top down action game in a new way with Shadowgrounds, a sci-fi themed game with graphics and gameplay that rival the best first person shooter. With the game now available via publisher Meridian4 and also on Valve's Steam Internet service, FiringSquad thought it would be a good idea to get a post mortem on Shadowgrounds and got some answers from Frozenbyte's business content director Joel Kinnunen.
FiringSquad: Now that the Shadowgrounds has been released for a little while now, are you pleased with the reaction the game has received?
: The whole team at Frozenbyte is happy with the reaction, me included of course. There's always a couple of odd reviews and gamers who don't like any given game, but overall we are satisfied with the Shadowgrounds reviews and also with the response from gamers.
Since Shadowgrounds is our first game, we were anxious to see how the reviews would come out and what the general response would be. We knew all along that we had made a good game but just how good, that was the question. It was really exhilarating to see a new review each day and then read it with eagerness.
FiringSquad: Developing a top down action game is something that is rather unique in this day and age. Do you think the decision to design the game in this matter helped or hurt the game in the final analysis?
: It definitely helped but honestly we never even considered any other perspectives. The top-down perspective is part of the old-school roots of Shadowgrounds, and something that has defined the game from the get-go.
FiringSquad: Looking back what were some of the more interesting challenges that went into the release of Shadowgrounds?
: With no prior industry experience, the whole development process was a huge challenge as a whole. There were many hurdles that we had to overcome but in the end I think we got through them smoothly. Our lack of experience at the time probably shows in the story/dialogue, and perhaps in the non-gameplay player experience. For example, we underestimated the time each mission would take to complete, which means that our save system isn't as good as it should have been. And in general, we didn't realize how many different kind of gamers and playstyles there are!
These issues are quite minor in the end, though, so overall we are happy with the way the game turned out. A good example is a recent thread on our official Shadowgrounds messageboard, where users talked about their favorite weapons and tactics. All of the weapons were mentioned and not a single one came out on top, which gives a lot of credit to our weapon system and the weapon upgrades. All the weapons are useful and give the player a nice range of tactics to try.
All this said, I think we struggled more with the business and marketing side - mostly because that's not where our strength lies, at least not at the time. We had to learn A LOT, and there's still things we learn every day. The management side - that means myself and our CEO, spent countless hours talking to publishers and negotiating deals. In the end we managed to get all the necessary deals and we haven't been screwed over (at least not too bad) but next time we'll definitely be able to do a better job on this front.
FiringSquad: You also released two different demos for the game. Do you think the demos helped get more attention and how hard was it to make two demos of the game?
: A lot of gamers have told us that they first tried the demo, and liked it so much that they bought the full game. I would say that demos have been vital to Shadowgrounds' success.
We released two demos because it simply gives a little more buzz for the game. There's really nothing else to that. :)
Making the demos wasn't hard at all - it took one day per demo basically. We spent some time on the end splash screen and made sure that the demos were incompatible with the full game but that's about it.