Last week’s launch of Young Thor has been a tremendous occasion for our studio, and finally launching one of the biggest mini titles to date has brought up a lot of warm praise and even some questions from the fans. In short, I’d love to take this opportunity to tell you how this project came about, and fill you in on our unique approach to minis.
Nearly three years ago, an idea came to us for a project surrounding a fresh take on Norse mythology. We wanted to make something that we’d enjoy as hardcore gamers, but also something for all ages that our families could dive into at the same time. While we weren’t exactly sure where we would decide to take the game, our imaginations ran wild before we got into the actual game design itself. We created our own animated short for Young Thor that helped us wrap our heads around what we wanted to do. Once finished, we all knew that we still wanted to tell this story in game form, but we wanted to do so in the same vein as an animated short.
At the time, there just wasn’t really a platform for that.
We DID know that we loved the PlayStation platform, but we didn’t want to stretch things into a full-on retail game, nor did we want to go as big as a downloadable PSN game. We needed a format that could help us encapsulate the essence of a short animated film, yet retain the feel of the all-out epic adventure we wanted to enjoy. By 2009, we knew that Sony had exactly what we were looking for when the PlayStation minis were first announced.
This is what lead us to the launch of our first mini, Zombie Tycoon, a ghoulish take on the RTS genre that was designed to be played in as short or as long of bursts as needed. Once we wrapped on that project, we finally had time to go back to the drawing board on Young Thor. Not only did this mean a total redesign of the characters and the logo, this also meant we were faced with the challenge of creating not necessarily a ‘full-length’ action epic, but a ‘mini-length’ action epic. A game that would fit the tone for what minis are all about, yet still retain all of the same production value as a full-blown retail game.
I’d say that overall, this was definitely the most challenging piece of new territory for us, rethinking a lot of how we knew games could be presented and trying something fresh. In our story, we wanted Young Thor to travel through rich and vibrant environments, but we also only wanted to focus in on four of the Norse realms where we would follow him on his journey. This meant that we would give the player an epic experience, bashing their way through all four worlds, upgrading experience and finding rare items – but this also meant keeping the experience brief, or ‘mini’, as you will. This was an idea we fell in love with, but also wanted to see if we could flesh things out for the hardcore players like us. With this notion, we gave players the option to re-explore those same levels with a completely different set of enemies and challenges, also giving 50 different achievements to complete. This was precisely our goal: a short, epic story for everyone with plenty extra packed in for the hardcore gamers like us.
This is why we love the minis so much. We have the ability to create something for everyone, tell our stories, hook players in just long enough to finish, and then give them even more gameplay on top of it. We encourage players to check out all of our minis, and not to miss Widgets Odyssey II which launched this week and which echoes many of our same approaches we had with Young Thor. I also want to thank everyone again for supporting Frima, and we look forward to continuing our delivery of quality games on minis that come from big ideas.