Yesterday, I published an article detailing our 7 year struggle to bring Fractured Soul DS & 3DS to store shelves. Today, it was published on Fairfax Digital’s online newspaper network by Jason Hill of Screen Play. As a result, there were some interesting questions posted by MikeH in the comments section which deserve answers. Since the answers were too big to fit on the Screen Play site, here they are…
Why didn’t you just change platforms? Steam or XBLA certainly would have seen your product ‘on shelves’ years ago?
The main reason was that the art was all created for DS resolution. Stretching 2D art to fill an HD screen would have looked pretty bad, which means we would have needed a publisher anyway to fund the game so as we could re-do the art. With the 3DS that is not as big a concern, as the entire game is in 3D and it is designed with scaling in mind. I guess a secondary reason is that a dual screen game is a natural fit for the DS. But you’re right, and it’s certainly something we considered many times over the years. The short answer is, if we had the money to do so, we would have.
If the Slidatron design had gotten up, do you think it would have been a better or worse game than Fractured Soul?
There’s no doubt in any of our minds that Fractured Soul is a better game than Slidatron, and we’ve always consoled ourselves that this is the silver lining to the whole story – at least when the game finally goes to market, it’s a better game for the experience. I do think we made a mistake in the way we positioned the game as Slidatron; we should have always been reaching out to fans of classic platform games like Megaman and Castlevania, and those folks are older than young kids.
If I were in your shoes I’d have been very concerned about the passing years. If the idea is good then it is only a matter of time till someone else thinks of it, especially when your design doc has passed through 1000’s of hands. How did you protect your ideas for so long?
You’re right, and you quite simply can’t. Not in any meaningful way at least. Other duality games have been released since we started pitching ours, and it is unfortunate to read comments on the web where Fractured Soul is dismissed as a copycat. In any case, the way we’ve approached the duality is still different enough from other games to be considered quite unique.
What effect do you think the failure of the 3DS has had on developers looking to work on that platform?
It’s no secret that the 3DS has struggled a little, however hopefully the release of more (first party) titles will improve the situation. That does seem to be the case, with the release of Super Mario 3D Land resulting in a spike of 145,000 3DS devices sold this week. The DS also suffered inauspicious beginnings, so we’ll have to wait and see how the 3DS fares over the holiday period.
More broadly, developers will generally try to develop products on platforms that publishers find attractive. And publishers will almost always seek out product on platforms that are doing well right now. This is perhaps one of the more frustrating areas of game development.
At a recent trade event, I was speaking to a representative from a prominent European publisher, and he immediately announced he was not interested in DS product because products on that platform weren’t selling. So I asked if he was interested in any kind of handheld product and he said no, none of them are any good. So I enquired a little further by asking him what platforms he was interested in, and he exclaimed “none of them!”
The point is, if you’re always following where the market is today, and what publishers want today, it’s always going to be a tough sell. For a good game, there are opportunities on (almost) any platform. And for a bad game, the platform is probably not enough to make it sell. Therefore, all you can do is choose the platform that suits your game – and if it works on multiple platforms, so much the better.
Would you recommend the DS platform to other developers?
The DS is a great platform. But we are without doubt in the midst of a slow transition to 3DS. So if you were thinking of starting a game now, particularly as an original IP, you would have to choose the 3DS over the DS. The 3DS is also a very sleek platform to develop for. We’ve enjoyed the development of Fractured Soul on 3DS very much.