Interview: Frima Studio on Zombie Tycoon and forthcoming minis Widgets Odyssey 1 and 2 and Young Thor

young-thor-1Frima Studio’s Zombie Tycoon was one of the most popular minis released last year, remaining in the Top Ten Downloads chart on the PlayStation Store for several weeks, so we were very pleased to have the opportunity to talk to Martin Brouard, executive producer at Frima, about the studio’s experiences of working with the minis program so far, as well as their forthcoming minis releases.

Could you tell our readers a little bit about Frima Studio and what your role is there?

Frima is based in Quebec City and with over 250 artists and programmers we are considered one of the most important independent game developers in Canada. Since 2003, the company has been developing world-class products for the Web, console, handheld, TV and mobile markets. Our company is especially focused on building next-generation MMOs for children. Some examples are www.buildabearville.com, Littlest Petshop Online and our own GalaXseeds.com My role is executive producer of all of Frima’s own Intellectual properties. That means I am responsible for developing our own titles and brands on many different platforms and media.

Zombie Tycoon is the first mini to be developed using the Vicious Engine. Could you please tell us how easy (or difficult!) it was to use, how impressed were you with it overall, and would you use it again?

The team really liked working with the Vicious Engine and grasped it pretty easily. I am no programmer, but from what the team told me I believe they found it pretty easy to work with.

We had a hard time managing fonts though and we hope this will be improved at some point. But we totally plan to use it again. As a matter of fact we are currently developing a new mini with it as I speak :-)

Zombie Tycoon is currently exclusively a mini. Are there plans to release the game on any other platforms?

With the release of the latest PS3 firmware, Zombie Tycoon can now be enjoyed on the PS3 via an emulator. As for other platforms and other Zombie Tycoon games we are certainly considering developing new hilarious Zombie Tycoon content in the future.

Zombie Tycoon looks fantastic. What inspired the look of the game and was there anything you wanted to do with the style, but couldn’t?

Frima is renowned for its very talented artists and let’s say that they were really happy to do a Zombie game. However developing a Zombie game with the minis limitations was a challenge. We really wanted the player to be able to control lots of zombies and therefore we had to limit the complexity of the models for the game to run properly.The same goes for the maps and building textures. So with those technical limitations in mind we went all Pixel art crazy on the buildings, which is one of the defining aspects of the game that we really like. And then we have some very good 2D artists so we couldn’t resist making super cool animated cut scenes and character portraits to accompany the dialogue.

The Zombie Tycoon dialogue is very funny and witty. Was this written in-house? Was it important to you that the script was as good as the visuals?

Of course, one of the main charms of the game is its funny story and the interaction between Tycoon, his stupid sidekick Ernest and the leaders of the human resistance. The dialogue was written in-house by one of our really funny designers Louis Lepage who also wrote the dialogue for our hilarious point and click PC adventure game Big Brain Wolf that you can get on STEAM or on www.bigbrainwolf.com :-)

Some people have said that the game is priced too high, what do you think about that?

I think the minis program might have been compared too much with the App store especially since many of the launch titles were ports of iPhone games. So I guess some people expected all minis to be priced around $1.99 and therefore were shocked to see Zombie Tycoon at $7.99. However most of these comments were made by people who did not actually play the game.

Zombie Tycoon is pretty big for a mini, it was not cheap to develop, and I certainly think it is worth $7.99. But since minis demos are not allowed I guess people have no way to see that for themselves. Therefore we have recently decided to lower the price to $4.99 so that people who were hesitant to purchase the game can finally enjoy this great game on their PSP or PS3 without going bankrupt :-)

The lack of a mid-level save point has also been commented on. What are the reasons for this and is this something you might be able to change?

widgets-odyssey-1This is a technical matter that has to do with the engine and some calls that are not allowed to be made with minis. Since we could not change anything about that we decided to create checkpoints when you destroy a clinic so at least you do not have to restart at the beginning of a level when you are defeated.

Do you have any future plans for the Zombie Tycoon IP or to develop any more minis?

We sure do. We have yet to decide what the exact plan is for the next Zombie Tycoon content, but in the meantime we currently have three new minis in production: Widgets Odyssey 1 and 2 are planned to be released in early April while Young Thor is targeted for late April.

Thank you for taking the time to talk with us.

It’s a pleasure. Thank you for doing a great job of covering the Minis.

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Comments

7 Responses to “Interview: Frima Studio on Zombie Tycoon and forthcoming minis Widgets Odyssey 1 and 2 and Young Thor”
  1. prince caro 19 says:

    being in canada, it’s nice to read an interview with a Canadian developer so thanks for that.

    but one thing that surprised me is: 250 people!?
    non-indie developers have less than that, im going to guess that it’s broken into 25 development teams :D
    and i’d like to hear a little more about those upcoming games

  2. JeremyR says:

    I’m not sure they qualify as indie, they seem to be mostly a web game developer for big corporations that have kid related properties that want game sites. Whatever pays the bills, I guess.

  3. prince caro 19 says:

    yeah, the description of them doesnt strike me as indie developers,
    but i believe that the definition of independent game developer is (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Independent_video_game_development) a developer that does not belong to a set publisher, so in that sense they are,
    but that seems to be the only quality that separates them from the traditional developer

  4. prince caro 19 says:

    yeah, the description of them doesnt strike me as indie developers,
    but i believe that the definition of independent game developer is (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Independent_video_game_development) a developer that does not belong to a set publisher, so in that sense they are,
    but that seems to be the only quality that separates them from the traditional developer.

  5. JeremyR says:

    You’re right. I guess the definition of “indie” is a lot broader (or different) than I thought.

    I was thinking indie meant that they developed games on their own funds (or time), rather than being hired by publishers (or some other company) to make them.

    This is sort of like session musicians forming a band and making music in their spare time. Which I guess is indie, but not really what you think of it as.

  6. David Black says:

    Great interview. I just picked up Zombie Tycoon but have yet to actually play it. Frima Studios seems committed to bringing some quality titles to minis so I’m glad to finally learn more about their future plans.

  7. Ali Tobin says:

    Definately hanging out for another Zombie Tycoon. Clocked it a couple of days ago.
    Fingers crossed for an all-out full sized PSP game.
    I never thought I’d hear a mad scientist with an Irish accent – I thought it was actually Ardal O’Hanlan when I first heard Tycoon speak.

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