Four Sided Fantasy is a 2D environmental puzzle-platformer game built around a mechanic of locking the game’s camera in place which allows for screen-wrap, or the ability to exit the left side of the screen and end up on the right side. So, for instance, players might see that they have to reach a ledge on the right side of the screen, but a pit stands in the way. By locking the game’s camera, players can walk off the left side of the screen and appear on the previously-unreachable ledge. Unlocking the camera then allows players to progress. Puzzles like this illustrate Four Sided Fantasy’s big influences, which include indie puzzlers like Braid and Portal.
Four Sided Fantasy was developed by Seattle-based indie developer Ludo Land, a studio that consists primarily of graduates from the DigiPen Institute of Technology. In the Digital Selects tent at IndieCade 2016, held this year at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, I was able to chat with Four Sided Fantasy’s lead designer and programmer Logan Fieth. With the game already out, our conversation instead focused on Ludo Land’s origins at DigiPen and why indie developers might decide to partner with small indie-focused publishers.
Four Sided Fantasy is now available on Steam and PlayStation 4.
Can you tell me a little about yourself and what you do?
I’m Logan Fieth. I’m the lead designer on Four Sided Fantasy.
How long has Four Sided Fantasy been in development?
We worked on it for about two years, not counting the student prototype.
Having been at DigiPen, what is your sense of how many people have plans to go indie versus those that want to enter the more established publisher-controlled industry?
It’s hard to gauge how many want to go indie. I can definitely tell you how many have. It’s a pretty small number. A lot of them get scooped up by triple-A jobs. A lot of my friends are at Respawn Entertainment working on Titanfall 2. Just really cool triple-A positions. Typically, there are a few Kickstarters from DigiPen, similar to what we did. So, that’s the typical route. But there are not a whole lot of indies straight out of DigiPen.
Yeah. The biggest thing is just finding funding, which is difficult to do. Kickstarter is its own risk. A lot of publishers just want to help with marketing and not necessarily funding. Even if you have an idea, they want to see a prototype. So, if you don’t have money, how are you going to make that prototype?
I don’t know of too many indies coming straight out of DigiPen. That’s my sense of it.
What influenced Ludo Land to acquire a publisher versus trying to go another route and self-publish?
It’s interesting because I never really had plans for consoles for Four Sided Fantasy, at least when we did our Kickstarter. But when we did our Kickstarer, so many publishers contacted us about the game. They were interested in doing any sort of business deal or partnership.
We got an offer from Curve Digital. They wanted to do console ports. I was like, “I never really considered somebody else handling console ports. Okay, yeah, let’s talk.” So, we were in talks for a while with Curve Digital. Eventually we didn’t see eye-to-eye. We’re still really good friends with them. They are awesome! But it just didn’t really fit with this project.
Can you talk about the diverging philosophies there?
We had been in talks for a while for specific consoles. As we progressed in development of the game, it turned out that the game was fairly short. Their concern was that it might be too short for consoles. It wasn’t that they didn’t want to do consoles at all; they just had different plans for the game than the game ended up being. As we changed the game, the deal changed. And that’s totally understandable. I’m not mad about it. That’s how things happen.
We had known Serenity Forge [the publisher of Four Sided Fantasy] from Denver ComicCon. We had both shown there. We remained friends afterward. Then they were getting into publishing, and we said, “Hey, we’re looking for a publisher, are you interested?” That’s how that happened.
Then was your decision to partner with a publisher to get some finances to finish the game or get help porting to consoles?
The porting was still on my mind. After talking with Curve, I thought consoles could still be an option, since we were planning on it by that point.
The other thing was that we had gone over our Kickstarter timeline, as most games do. We did get funding from Serenity Forge to finish the game during the final stretch. That was awesome. They said, “Yeah, let’s do it. The game looks great. Here is what we’re offering.”
It’s definitely an interesting question. There are so many indie games right now that it is hard to get discovered. For example, when we recently launched Four Sided Fantasy, there were at least three or four other big indie games that I knew about. They looked super good. They were super awesome games. We had been avoiding other shipping dates because of other indie games.
There were so many games that I think having a specific marketing plan is important, a specific and unique one. Not just buying a lot of Facebook ads or something like that.
Because I’m not a businessperson or a marketer, what I look for is if a publisher has a unique way to market the game that we can’t do without them. I think that helps a ton. And like I said before, just funding, being able to get a good deal for funding. Knowing they are able to fund development but that they are not going to turn around and buy the IP [intellectual property] or take 90 percent of the revenue. That’s not a real figure, but you know – knowing the publisher is not going to take everything.
What is the value for an indie developer to come to an event like IndieCade?
I have a lot of thoughts about conventions. I try to show at every convention possible. It’s not really relevant right now because we just shipped the game. But play testing is huge and conventions are a good way to do that. Person after person will play test your game, and it’s a wide range of players.
And meeting other developers is great. I’ve been to back-to-back conventions. This is my third convention in two or three weeks. It’s great meeting tons of awesome developers that I never met before. This is definitely the place to do it. It’s nice to have a community. You’re going to support each other. You give each other feedback on your games. You support each other when you launch and make sure that you’re building each other up.
What’s your sales pitch for people who might be interested in Four Sided Fantasy?
Four Sided Fantasy is a puzzle-platformer game. It’s really relaxed and serene. It’s essentially about screen-wrap. You can lock the screen and then, like in Pac-Man, you can go from one side of the screen to the other. And you’re solving puzzles using that.
Another nice thing about the game is that it’s a nice game to sit on the couch and chill and play. The music is really calming and soothing.
One of the people who played the game said it was like Bob Ross Painting. Just hanging out and playing. The puzzles aren’t too challenging. You’re not going to spend an hour on one puzzle.
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