Melbourne mobile-game dev studio Fraktalvoid, with a team made up of former members from Square Enix, Sega, Konami and Nintendo, has just released its first game, Speed Blazers. Come with us behind the scenes as we chat with Fraktalvoid founder Chris Concepcion.
Speed Blazers seems to be the first game from Fraktalvoid. Can you explain a little bit about it and how it came to be?
Speed Blazers is a 3D-platform racer with crazy obstacles set in rich and stylised anime environments. The players are equipped with Sonic Particle Blades (SPB) — special boots designed for players to glide, jump unbelievable heights, perform insane tricks and boost your character's ability to perform devastating super moves.
Speed Blazers came to be when I was watching a number of anime and Parkour, and playing a number of platform games. I then thought, "what if we can make a racer with tricky obstacles, and make the characters glide instead of running so they can perform tricks?" Also, at the same time, we always thought about the gameplay and what kind of controls that people were comfortable with. So this is when we started prototyping and mashing in ideas early.
There's massive competition in the mobile-gaming market. What do you think Speed Blazers offers that other games do not?
There is no surprise to us that there will be massive competition in mobile gaming; every year, quality and unique gameplay has astounded us all.
Speed Blazers is packed with different features compared to other racers on mobile devices; it offers a fast-paced, beautifully designed 3D environment, challenging, over-the-top obstacles with unique player controls and a combination of having a D-pad to control and jump, and swiping on-screen to perform heart-pounding tricks. Speed Blazers highly focuses on obtaining and clearing achievements, and winning to be the top on all levels.
Were there any particular challenges you had to overcome in setting up your studio and making Speed Blazers?
Fraktalvoid was really tough to set up, and there were lots of challenges in learning the games business and marketing. I guess to us, everything was a challenge, nothing was ever a walk in the park. We started off as an art-outsourcing company, but due to the challenges of the Global Financial Crisis and our Aussie dollar skyrocketing, it was very hard to score work, especially when we're up against China and other Asian countries that offer not only cheap services, but comes at great professional quality as well.
So as a team, we decided to create Speed Blazers and aim to create a special game to help understand the limitations of current mobile devices.
Since the team consisted of ridiculously talented artists, we handled and overcame the obstacles of creating artwork. The hardest part is finding a good programmer. We had to create tools that can be merged onto future games, and make the development easier for everyone without bothering the programmer too much.
We are a young studio, and we have lots to learn and lots more obstacles to overcome. I think I am very lucky to have such a dedicated, super-talented and persistent team; even through tough times, they still had a proud smile and believed in creating this cool game with me, and together we have realised it.
What do you think is the essential ingredient in a truly awesome mobile game?
To us, unique gameplay is the essential ingredient. Where the developer has truly focused on their target audience, and love making their games as a team!
Just to sneak this in, the second is having great, polished artwork and game.
Your website mentions that the Fraktalvoid crew have a lot of experience in AAA development. What led you to mobile gaming?
Most of us have worked in top developers around the world, such as Sega, Konami, Square Enix and Nintendo, to name a few. We have experience working on exciting AAA titles. What truly led me to focus on mobile gaming is from experiencing, learning and while working in tech-savvy Japan. They had TVs, super-fast internet and great games on their mobile phones seven years ago. Even during that time, they already had free-to-play running years ago, and it is just recently I feel the world is catching up. So, using that experience as an inspiration, I felt we should create games for mobile platforms, since we had experience with working on PSP and Nintendo DS titles, as well, which helped us know the restrictions of mobile devices, which are almost similar when it came to developing for them.
It also came down to the time and costs in winning publishers for work, which is a super-tough gig to get.
What have you found different about mobile-gaming development, as opposed to console and PC development? Is it better or worse?
The major difference in mobile-gaming and console/PC development would be the amount of time, team, budget and freedom in creating a game.
Mobile development is faster to create and build, depending on different games. You can have small, agile teams working on different projects.
You can control and budget small teams a little easier. The freedom of creating the kind of games you want to make as a team and for the audience is what we are loving most.
I believe it will be much better in mobile gaming! There will be lots of game variety and exciting projects, since many developers are capable of creating new ideas. Although console and PC gaming are rapidly changing as well, so there will be a transition later with digital distributions, which will then open more doors to new possibilities, such as browser gaming and set-top TV boxes.
What advice would you offer aspiring mobile devs looking to set up their own studio?
The best advice I could give is research a lot, work super hard, stay happy and make sure you enjoy what you are doing!
Find great team members that are super talented, dedicated, share ideas and then share the same vision.
Create great artwork. Artwork is what attracts people first, especially when marketing your game.
Lastly, prototype and experiment. Constantly test your game, and have gamers play-test a reasonable demo.
What's next for Fraktalvoid?
Speed Blazers still has a couple of months to go. We still have updates — new characters and levels near completion as a free update. At the same time, we have started two new un-announced projects that we are very excited about.
We are aiming for a more next-generation platform look with intense visual graphics and gameplay, almost matching console quality with the new generations of mobile devices.
We are also focusing on expanding to online digital downloads on console and PC for our next titles, and looking forward to the new, powerful devices and technology in the near future.
Speed Blazers by Fraktalvoid (AU$2.99, iOS)