Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your role with the development of Secrets of Grindea.
I’m Teddy, and I’m the programmer of the team.
How did you get started in developing PC games?
I decided to leave law school to pursue computer game programming in 2009. I met a guy named Robin Flodin at the university, and we made a little indie title called “Dwarfs!?” together. We released the game in 2011, but afterwards went separate ways as he wanted to work in larger teams while I wanted to keep it small. That’s when I teamed up with Fred Ström and Vilya Svensson, the other two thirds of Pixel Ferrets!
Where did the idea for Secrets of Grindea come from?
We got the idea when I was sitting down with Vilya and Fred talking about what our dream game to make would be. Turns out we had pretty similar ideas: we all think co-op is an awesome feature in games, we like RPGs (especially action RPGs) and Vilya and Fred had been doing some pixel graphics before. We realized there aren’t many games out there that combine these three elements, so we simply thought ‘why not’!
We were very inspired by the old classics for SNES that we grew up with. Zelda: A Link to the Past, Secret of Mana and the other big SNES RPGs have definitely been an inspiration to us when developing the idea further!
What are some of the successes and failures you learned from in developing Secrets of Grindea?
Getting people to test it early was really good for development, and has really made the game better. It has allowed us to dodge a lot of work by nipping bad design in the bud and focusing on what makes the game fun. Our biggest mistake was believing we could develop the game in a couple of years. Development takes a really long time. On the other hand, if we had known how long we’d be developing this game, perhaps we hadn’t begun development at all, which would’ve been way worse!
In its current form, how close is Secrets of Grindea to your initial vision?
Both close and not so close. We have to add a lot more content before it gets there, but it’s well under way! The feel of the content we do have is quite close to our vision.
Some devs admitted their games were too hard upon release because they became experts as they developed the game. Talk about setting the difficulty levels for Secrets of Grindea and if you faced a similar challenge.
We have been facing a similar challenge. We’re much more skilled at the game now than we were when we started, which means certain quests or challenges may seem too easy for us. We try to imagine what it would be like for someone who hasn’t played the game as much as us, and perhaps try to play a bit more sloppy when testing certain things.
For things like this it’s really good having a beta testers of different skill levels, though, which we’re lucky enough to have. If our most skilled players can’t finish something, we know for sure it’s too hard, and if we receive a lot of complaints in general about something being too difficult, we know what to look into.
Were there any challenges you faced in ensuring Secrets of Grindea would run on the various PC system configurations?
There are some basic limits with texture sizes that you have to worry about, as well as shader versions, but since Secrets of Grindea is running in 640 x 360, we don’t have to worry that much about such things. There are a lot of random factors with all PC setups, however, so I’m sure I’ll tear my hair quite a bit when the game reaches a larger audience!
Please talk about developing the art style, level design and music for Secrets of Grindea.
The art style is inspired by the old SNES RPGs, so before we started making any assets we studied closely and made notes about what we liked and didn’t like. Certain textures in the old SNES games feel kind of messy, and sometimes the color scheme is a bit more dark than what we like, so we decided to go for more color-blocking and lighter colors in general. We also felt like the way they use tiles limit what you can do when designing an area, so one thing we decided to do was to skip using a tile-based system at all. That means we handpaint all backgrounds instead of using a set number of pieces over and over.
When we do level designs, we do a very rough sketch first including all rooms and puzzles, and how they link together. We then put the sketches into the game as flat backgrounds. Imagining that the art assets are in place we then run through the sketches with our characters, noting if there’s any issues with the sizing of the rooms, if the level feels too long/short, etc. We only start doing final artwork when the area feels good enough that we won’t do any major changes.
As for the music, we’ve hired an awesome composer called Andrew Riley, but he also goes under his company name Lucky Lion Studios. In the beginning we’d send him a bunch of songs that ‘felt right’ for the music we needed to use as inspiration, but nowadays we just give him a couple of screenshots and free hands!
Outside of creating the game itself, what is the toughest aspect of being an indie developer?
Financial insecurity is the big one. I’ve been working on Secrets of Grindea for about 2½ years now, with 0 income. If the game doesn’t do well, we’ll all have lost out on a lot of income while building up student loan debt. We love our game but there’s no guarantee it will do as well as it needs to, and that’s a tough reality!
How did you go about funding Secrets of Grindea and did you receive financial or emotional support from friends and family?
So far we have been funding Secrets of Grindea out of our own pockets. In this case that means we’ve been taking student loans and studied in the evenings to fund the development. With the release of the Pre-Orders, we hope that we’ll be able to quit taking those loans and as a result open up those extra hours in the evening for more development time. Our friends have been great about it, even though we don’t have that much time to hang out with them anymore, haha! Some of them have become awesome beta testers. Our families aren’t really into the gaming thing, but they’re still there for emotional support.
Tell us about the process of submitting Secrets of Grindea to the various digital distribution platforms and if you encountered resistance in doing so.
It’s actually been a surprisingly smooth ride, so far! We were among the first batches of games to get Greenlit by steam, probably because so many were browsing the site in its early days and we were quick to submit.
Did you research similar titles when trying to come up with the launch price?
We were pretty familiar with what price range indie games generally come at as we play a lot of them, so setting the price for us was pretty straight forward!
Can you tell us why you chose to release a demo for Secrets of Grindea?
We chose to release a demo so people could experience the game for themselves before deciding to buy or not. It’s a totally different thing to look at a video of someone playing and actually play a game for yourself: the controls need to be smooth and responsive, something that you can’t really tell from videos. This way people know what to expect after buying the game, making it a safer purchase both for them and us!
How important is it to get instant feedback about Secrets of Grindea from users through online message boards and other social networking sites?
It’s very important, and we love interacting with the community. Thanks to them, we’ve been able to solve a lot of weird bugs and quickly so! It’s also really nice for telling what people like and don’t like about the game, which in turn lets us know what to focus on and/or fix.
How much value do you place on the opinions of those who review Secrets of Grindea professionally?
It doesn’t matter if you’re a professional reviewer or if you’re just some guy from the block trying the game out, all feedback is equally important in our quest to make the game as good it can possibly be!
How do you feel about the various indie bundle promotions and the “Pay What You Want” pricing methodology? Would you be interested in contributing to a project like that in the future?
I think those bundles are great for reaching people who otherwise probably wouldn’t have bought the games. Better 20 cents a copy than nothing at all. I can see Secrets of Grindea in such a bundle in the future, but that will most likely be after it’s been out for a while.
What are your thoughts on how the PC gaming industry as a whole are dealing with the problem of intrusive DRM and piracy?
We feel like people will always pirate games, there’s no stopping it. Therefore there isn’t much point in adding annoying DRM’s that make the game less pleasant for those who do pay for it!
We’d also like to believe that if people really like a game, they will pay for it later in order to support the development of more games like it. If they don’t, they probably wouldn’t have bought it anyway – and at least this way, the word might get around more than if nobody played it at all.
How do you feel about individuals posting videos and receiving monetization of Secrets of Grindea?
We love it! We don’t mind monetization at all, we’re just glad people enjoy the game and want to play it in front of others. That’s good PR for us, after all.
How do you feel about DLC and its current implementation in the PC gaming industry?
I don’t have strong feelings either way. Unless it’s blatantly anti-consumer like some of EA’s stunts I don’t see a problem with it. I didn’t play Mass Effect 3 because of their DLC approach, for example. In general I don’t buy DLCs, but many people do and I have no problem with companies catering to other people’s preferences!
How do you feel about the online modding community in general and specifically if mods were created for Secrets of Grindea?
It’s cool that people get involved with games by doing mods for them! It gives you a special connection to the game, I feel. It would be really cool if mods were made for Secrets of Grindea, but due to all graphics being 2D (which means you need to know how to animate pixel graphics in order to make new content that moves) and our backgrounds being 100% hand-painted, we don’t really have an ideal platform for modding.
What advice would you give up-and-coming indie PC developers who are trying to break into the business?
Well, we’re really just trying to break into the business ourselves at this point, so it’s hard to know what advice to give. If anything, I’d like to tell everyone to work hard if they have a passion for something. You won’t regret the skill you’ll gain from practicing doing what makes you happy!