Frozenbyte’s Kai Tuovinen gives us a sneak peek into the world of the indie developer

FrozenByte interview

Fronzenbyte are still riding high on the success of the Trine series. Now, with the imminent arrival of Trine Enchanted Edition, hitting the Wii U and PS4 respectively, we sat down with Marketing and PR Manager, Kai Tuovinen and discussed the past, present and future of Frozenbyte, including, the possibility of Trine 3…

To start off, would you like to introduce yourself and the team? Can you give us a brief overview of everyone’s roles within the company?
My name’s Kai Tuovinen and I’m the Marketing Manager here at Frozenbyte. So I do most of the PR/Marketing related stuff. Frozenbyte is now around 80 people so introducing everyone would be quite difficult, but I can do a quick rundown of the different departments we have: Management, Art, Design, Programming, QA, Support, Writing, Marketing, Catering.
We have the most people in Programming, Art, QA and Design which are the core for game development.
Frozenbyte was founded by Lauri Hyvärinen (Who is the CEO and Design Director) and Juha Hiekkamäki (Who works as a Senior Programmer, mainly focused on our graphics renderer).

Can you give us a little bit of history on how Frozenbyte was formed?
Frozenbyte’s story began with the two founders Lauri Hyvärinen and Juha Hiekkamäki. In 1999 they were both still in high school and did not know each other too well, but at one point Lauri casually asked if Juha would be interested in making video games, to which he replied ‘Yes’. So that’s where the journey of Frozenbyte began initially. At first they mainly just played games night andday, and the making of games was not the priority. Towards the end of 2001, Lauri and Juha began thinking about ways of becoming more professional, so a real company was founded, and Frozenbyte was the decided name.frozenbyte interview

In 2002 three more people, Tero, Jukka and Joel joined the ranks and slowly the team started getting things rolling. At that time, they were working out of Lauri’s mother’s garage in a mouldy and tiny space, but they were working on games and that’s what mattered the most. They had begun work on an RTS game called Disposable Heroes, but at some point it was abandoned in favour of a different game, initially called ‘Alien Terror’, which became Shadowgrounds in the end.

After some twists and turns, eventually Frozenbyte found a real office location from the New Business Center in Helsinki. In 2004 Lauri got a phone call from TEKES, an organisation that funds technology-related projects and small companies in Finland, and heard that Frozenbyte had received funding for 66,000 euros. This was a huge boost for morale and really got everything moving. At the end of 2005, Frozenbyte had completed Shadowgrounds and found a publishing deal, finally getting game officially released!

The rest is also a long story – but the 2009 release of Trine was the most important, as the success of the Trine series has made Frozenbyte to what it is today.
So basically a few young guys working on games in a garage initially with no pay and doing some school at the same time

We did want to be on Xbox too with both Trine 2 and Trine Enchanted Edition, but there was simply not enough time and resources to do that.”

You’re most known for the massive success of the Trine series, but where did the idea first originate?
Trine was originally a hobby project of Jukka, one of the oldest Frozenbyte employees, who had some inspiration from 8bit games that he had enjoyed. He had been working on the game for a while on his spare time, and at some point it was shown around in the Frozenbyte office to a bigger group of people. People saw a lot of potential, so the game transitioned into a Frozenbyte project.

The game was redesigned in a lot of ways and there was a lot of work even though Jukka had adapted it to the Frozenbyte engine. The graphics were remade, the gameplay was redesigned, the levels were made more straightforward and the characters were changed to be more distinguishable from each other. Also the emphasis on physics was greatly increased. Also the name “Trine” was decided as it was a tribute to the three playable characters.

One of the main differences I think came from the change of style – we went pretty much full-on color and wanted to have fun with the fantasy theme – to make it look like a fairytale world.

I am Trine obsessed! My Mum is a big fan too, she thinks Trine 2 is absolutely beautiful. Was the change in art style down to one person, or was it more of a group decision?
That’s nice to hear, thanks. I think the change of style was more of a group thing, our artists have pretty much totally free hands when it comes to deciding the art style in our games. I’ll definitely pass on the “Mum approval” message to the rest of the team!

There are a lot of excited fans who didn’t get the chance to play Trine Enchanted originally, will there be any added features for the other console ports?
There’s not really any additional features when comparing the console versions (Wii U and PS4) to the Enchanted Edition on PC.But compared to the original Trine (2009) there’s lots of graphical improvements, ability to save in the middle of levels, and online multiplayer. Of course some custom stuff if you compare the two console versions with each other. Stereoscopic 3D and high framerate / resolution on PS4. Wii U is awesome because of the gamepad gameplay.

Will the Trine Enchanted Edition be coming to the Xbox or does it look unlikely?
Unfortunately it’s very unlikely at this point. Since we did want to be on Xbox too with both Trine 2 and Trine Enchanted Edition, but there was simply not enough time and resources to do that.

Did you find it a challenge to bring Trine Enchanted to various platforms?
There’s always a challenge with new platforms, even if we have experience with them previously. The consoles are the most work because they require some custom things like controller input and other platform-specific features, but we are getting quite used to it all. We work on our own engine so once we’ve released one game on the console, the other games are a lot easier.

We’ve been working on a few different projects over the past few years.

I have read your blog and it’s nice to see other fans who are as excited as I am. How does it feel to have such a successful franchise?
It feels great of course and we’re very happy that people have enjoyed the Trine series so far. Reading the encouraging comments and feedback is very nice. We hope to keep people entertained with our future games as well!

The Trine series is clearly a very ambitious undertaking, was there ever a moment when the team worried about the game not reaching the incredibly high standards set for it?
I think the Enchanted Edition project became bigger than it was originally intended, so I think our goal was initially mainly to bring Trine to Mac and Linux, but the improvements came along the way because we wanted to match the Trine 2 standards.

Will Frozenbyte be expanding the Trine series within the future or are there any plans to branch out into a new franchise?
That is something we get asked quite a lot, and I can say this: We’ll definitely return to the Trine series at some point in the future, that’s for sure. We’ve been working on a few different projects over the past few years, so it remains to be seen what our next announcement is. I still have to keep dodging these ones until we make the official announcements, can’t just blurt out everything, but I can’t wait to be able to! I’m not that great with clues either, but hopefully you’ll hear from us in the upcoming few months.

If your development team could make any franchise game, what would it be and why? And how would you put your stamp on it?
Well, personally I’m a big fan of multiplayer games – ever since I first had access to the Internet from home back in the dial-up modem times. So something with a multiplayer-focus would be awesome to work on. I’ll just say Baldur’s Gate, since that’s been a long-time favourite game of mine.

That’s a very difficult one! I’ll probably get blasted for suggesting any changes to this beloved series. I love what they did with the storytelling so it would be very difficult to top the previous games in terms of the story, and the gameplay was spot on as well. Graphics-wise the games could be updated to the current resolutions – but that was already done to some extent recently in the Baldur’s Gate Enhanced edition. So it’s difficult to say, perhaps more epic and unique bossfights, those were always the highlights!

frozenbyte interview

How do you envisage the future of the indie market and what do you think the biggest challenges will be moving forward?
I think we’ll see a lot of great indie titles in the upcoming years. Discoverability is the biggest challenge at the moment, as getting onto the different platforms is much easier than before, and so many titles are getting released.

Do you have any advice for Indie developers out there?
I would make games for myself first and foremost. That way, if I enjoyed playing my own creation, I could be quite certain there would be others who felt the same.

What games are you most looking forward to in 2015 and why?
Based on my Steam wishlist: Pillars of Eternity, mainly because of similarity to the BG series I mentioned earlier, and I think this has potential to be awesome. Then there’s always big hype games like Star Citizen that I’m eager to try out (not sure when it’s getting released).

A big thank you to Kai Tuovinen for taking the time to speak to us here, at Made For Gaming.

Written by: Lisa Green

I'm a freelance writer with a slight addiction to RPG's. I have no real life, I only have a virtual one! When I'm not feeding my addiction, I'm out in the wild photographing all kinds of crazy stuff!