Housemarque Interview: Talkin' Furmins
Super Stardust developer attempts to dominate iOS with a physics based puzzle game featuring a bunch of cuddly fur balls.
For the past 15 years, Housemarque has been the driving force of video game development in Finland, with titles across a variety of platforms.
That said, the company's popularity meter exploded on PlayStation 3, thanks to games like Super Stardust HD and Dead Nation, two hits that let fans destroy planetoids and zombies, respectively. Now the studio has turned its attention on iOS with Furmins, a cute and challenging physics based puzzler starring adorable critters.
For more info, we contacted CEO and co-founder Ilari Kuittinen to talk about this new IP, including its marketability compared to smart phone juggernaut, Angry Birds.
Housemarque is best known for its work on Super Stardust HD and Dead Nation, both of which are shooters. Why the switch to cute and cuddly critters?
Furmins isn't the first casual title we've worked on. We wanted to revisit the more family friendly games, so Furmins was the result of our curiosity and desire to challenge ourselves with new genres, game designs, technologies and platforms.
Some people know us from our award winning action platformer Outland, released in 2011. We're also known from our snowboarding games, so we really haven't stuck with only one genre.
We've also been working on several kinds of projects. For example, our PlayStation Vita launch title, Super Stardust Delta, was developed at the same time with Furmins. So we haven't completely switched on cute casual games. A few years back ,we also came up with Golf: Tee it Up!, a more casual title for XBLA.
What led to the decision to bring this game to iOS as opposed to PlayStation Vita? What advantages does iOS have over different platforms?
When we first started to work on the concept of Furmins, which eventually transformed into what the game is today, our aim was to publish the game on PlayStation Network and Steam. Early 2011, we switched our strategy to publishing the game first on iOS. There were several reasons for this. First, it was a lucky coincidence that the game actually worked best on the touch devices. It was a natural fit. We knew we could make a gorgeous looking and great playing game for iPad, so we took the plunge into the mysterious world of iOS development. The success of iPad was definitely a crucial factor when deciding the initial launch platform, not to mention iOS in general has a much lower barrier for self publishing than most of the other platforms. The process of getting your game out there is very straightforward.
Do you have even bigger plans for the Furmins? Is this just one game, or do you see it as a product line with sequels and plush toys? Can the Furmins go toe to toe with Angry Birds?
Sure, we are thinking of acquiring animation studios and transforming the world's amusement parks into Furmins themed centers.
Seriously though, we'll first have to see if the game gains any traction on iOS before we start planning our long time strategy. We do hope to bring Furmins onto other platforms in the future.
Comparing the potential of any mobile game with Angry Birds phenomenon is quite meaningless and doesn't really make much sense. Angry Birds is such a unique outlier in the history of both games and entertainment. It's almost like asking a guy, who has just started jogging, if he is going to go toe to toe on the 100 meter starting line with Usain Bolt in the next summer Olympics.
How many people worked on this game, and how long has it been in development?
The game went through various phases of development during the past few years. The predecessor idea was created back in 2008. After several rounds of prototyping and reworking the concept, we finally went into full production in early 2011. We started with a two to three strong team and added people when they became available from other productions like Outland. At its peak, we had a team size of seven to eight working on the game full time for a few months. I think it's fair to say Furmins has been a big production compared to the average game in the App Store.
You have two versions of this game, standard and universal HD. Why do that when so many games these days are universal from the start for one low cost?
It's possible to put a price tag on the game which could be anywhere between free and expensive. We hope our game is worth the asking price, and having two different versions gives consumers the fair option to choose what they want to pay for. We wanted to make available a very low cost option for those who don't have the iPad or who don't want to play the game on both iPhone and iPad. When we made the move on iPad, our intended price tier was substantially higher than it eventually turned out to be. The great success of the platform encouraged us to go with a lower tier priced universal build.
How is the iOS market different from that of PlayStation 3? What challenges did you face developing this title for that platform?
There are lots of differences. Some of them are due to the nature of the marketplaces and some are the result of the platforms in general. Furmins is obviously a more natural fit for the iOS market than for PSN. Fortunately, we didn't run into big iOS specific challenges during the development
Still, we ask ourselves the same questions over and over again, no matter what the project we're working on. How do we make a memorable and enjoyable experience? Is this the kind of product that will resonate with our audience? Can we offer a unique combination of audio-visual aesthetics and gameplay that is bringing something new on the table?
We are fairly confident that we have created something new and appealing with Furmins. A game with a "Housemarque flavor", if you will. Ultimately, gamers are going to be our judges, and we hope there will be lots of fans, new and old, that are going to enjoy playing this game.