Those that have been following the proceedings of IndieCade know that Honeyslug has been among the developers helping promote the event, as well as their upcoming release, Hohokum. Hohokum was among several games to be featured as a part of the IndieCade booth at E3 this year. Then Honeyslug suddenly fell off the radar — news regarding Hohokum and its ongoing development became scarce. It turns out it’s because Honeyslug had begun work on a special project.
That project is Frobisher Says, slated to be among the first releases for the PS Vita. Honeyslug made the unexpected revelation at Gamescom when they unveiled the first Frobisher Says trailer. Just like that, Honeyslug was front and center again, not only for Hohokum, but now for Frobisher Says.
With Honeyslug continuing through a pair of development cycles, now seemed like a good time to talk to designer and programmer Ricky Haggett about Hohokum and Frobisher Says. He was more than happy to take some time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions about their upcoming releases, developing for the PS Vita, and about Honeyslug.
Indie Games Channel: Tell us a little bit about Honeyslug. What brought the team together?
Ricky Haggett: Honeyslug had its third birthday recently! I started the company with Mark Inman and Nat Marco from the ashes of another small London-based studio called Morpheme, where we all worked together. Although we’ve gradually been working on bigger and more exciting projects, we haven’t grown by taking on full-time staff. Instead, we’ve found that working with different people on a freelance basis depending on the project works really well. Recently, we’ve been making games with my pal Richard Hogg, who is an artist and illustrator.
Indie Games Channel: It felt like things from your end were a little quiet, but then out of nowhere comes Frobisher Says for the PS Vita. How long has this title been in the works and what’s it about?
Ricky Haggett: We went out to San Francisco for GDC in February, where Hohokum was nominated for an IGF award for Visual Excellence. Before we left, we submitted a proposal to Sony for Frobisher Says — a strange and surreal party game for the Vita — where players are made to do the bidding of an odd little man called Frobisher, who might ask you to do things as varied as Scratch his Back, Stir his Soups, or Poke an Otter with a stick! The game uses all of the many control methods available on the Vita, and the aim is to keep players both bewildered and amused as they try to fulfill Frobisher’s increasingly frantic demands.
Ricky Hagget (cont’d): We returned from San Francisco planning to put Hohokum into full production, but Sony was keen to work with us on Frobisher Says on the basis of it being a showcase game for the launch of the Vita. This was just too good an opportunity to turn down, so we put Hohokum to one side, with the intention of returning to it when Frobisher is done.
Indie Games Channel: You’ve released one title on a Sony platform in the past (Kahoots) and this is your first time working with the technology of the PS Vita. Describe your experience with it so far. How easy or difficult has development been?
Ricky Haggett: It’s been a great experience for us. The hardware is really nice to work with — lots of things that were hard about console development on other platforms have been streamlined for Vita. It’s still fundamentally a console though, and so quite different from working in, say, Flash, where there are comparatively no limitations. But since we’re not trying to make something as technically complex as Uncharted, the power of the hardware gives us a lot of freedom and flexibility to rapidly prototype cool stuff, without too much trouble. We’ve also been lucky enough to build an awesome team for Frobisher — working with really good people is always highly recommended!
Indie Games Channel: Moving on to Hohokum, where did you get the idea for Hohokum and its vibrant world?
Ricky Haggett: The game evolved over a number of years, with Dick and I bouncing ideas off one another — sending playable prototypes and drawings back and forth. It’s never been our main project — we’ve been working on it in the gaps between other doing other things, which has given us a lot of time for reflection about where to go next. This shows in the game I think — it is whimsical and playful, rather than being directly goal-focused.
The gameplay has evolved over time — it’s been a music game, a platform game, and at one point it even had a weird mini-golf, pinball thing going on! But the sensibility and atmosphere, how we want players to feel while playing it, has remained fairly consistent throughout.
Indie Games Channel: Hohokum brings with it the art style of Richard Hogg. How did this collaboration come about?
Ricky Haggett: Dick and I were friends before we started making videogames together — we’re actually in a band together. We started talking about making a game together around the time Honeyslug started, and Hohokum was the result.
Indie Games Channel: You’ve designed games for the web, iOS devices, and for PSN. Have you had similar experiences designing for these platforms or has designing on one platform proven to be more difficult than another?
Ricky Haggett: We’re platform agnostic — we don’t design specifically for any one platform, but instead prototype games in Flash, before thinking about what direction to take them in and to what platforms. So far we’ve released games for the Web, iOS, PC and PSN, as well as some unreleased things on Nintendo platforms, and all of these platforms have their strengths and weaknesses. That said, we’ve found Sony’s developer support team to be really good at helping us resolving issues, and as a small team this can make a big difference.
Indie Games Channel: Hohokum was a part of the IndieCade booth at E3. Describe your E3 experience to us. What were some of the reactions to Hohokum from anyone that played it?
Ricky Haggett: We actually weren’t able to go to E3–because we were too busy working on Frobisher–but we had plenty of experience watching people play Hohokum at the IGF, which was really useful for us. It’s surprising how many different reactions to the game there are: some people are like, “Right, what do I need to do in this game?” — very much focused on a goal, despite the fact that the game doesn’t push you toward doing anything. Others are happy to meander around working things out at their own pace, sometimes arriving at the ‘objective’ late on — we probably saw as many different routes through the game as people who played it.
We actually made a number of changes to our build throughout the course of the IGF. A couple of times I was actually making small tweaks on my laptop right there on the stand, because the ability to see a problem ‘in the wild’, make a tweak to fix it, then swap the builds over to test that tweak is a super-effective way of streamlining the experience for players, and we’re keen to continue this approach of showing new things in public and observing the results, if people keep giving us the opportunities.
Indie Games Channel: One of the goals of events like IndieCade and IGF are to expose new indie games to a new audience. In your experience, what is the best way to market and create awareness for indie games?
Ricky Haggett: It takes a lot of time to build awareness for anything these days – there’s so much stuff out there! And this is especially true if you’re trying to do something that hasn’t been done before, and you don’t have a huge marketing budget. I think for a game like Hohokum, it makes sense to start showing and talking about something as soon as there’s something you’re happy with people seeing.
Of course, this has downsides too – we’ve definitely seen that people are excited about our game to the point where they’re actually frustrated about not knowing when they’ll be able to play it for real. But especially when you factor in the benefits of being to watch people play early versions of your game at events like IndieCade or IGF, the net result of announcing early is positive.
Indie Games Channel: Have you targeted a final release for Frobisher Says or Hohokum?
Ricky Haggett: Frobisher Says will be released in Europe when the Vita is. We don’t know when this will be, but expect it to be next year sometime.
Hohokum will be released late 2012 at the earliest, and probably later, but we’ve yet to decide a final plan for it (in terms of platforms and features). So, although we have a fair idea of what the single player game will involve, it’s impossible to be more specific about a release date.
Indie Games Channel: Thank you, Ricky Haggett for talking to us about Hohokum and Frobisher Says!
While waiting for Honeyslug’s highly-anticipated titles, be sure to check out some of their previous games, which include Kahoots and Poto & Cabenga. A full list is available on the Honeyslug website. Indie Games Channel will continue to follow the progress of Honeyslug, as we look forward to seeing Frobisher Says and Hohokum.
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