frecle is an independent team founded back in 2006 by Mikkel Fredborg and Lasse Cleveland. They are well known for creating the global illumination tool gile[s]. The guys at frecle are now working at Youropa, a platform game with interesting puzzle and adventure elements.
We haven’t heard any news about Youropa for quite a while, so we’ve decided to ask Mikkel Fredborg a few things about the game, about the team working at it and about his experience in the game industry.
GMZzz: We haven’t heard about Youropa for quite a while now. What’s happening to it? When can we play a demo version?
Mikkel Fredborg: It’s progressing as planned! We are a really small studio, two guys, and we are big believers of self-funding the development, therefore we are doing outsourcing and consulting jobs to make the wheels turn. It means that we cannot dedicate all our resources to the development of Youropa all the time, and thus progress is sometimes slowed down a little. But everything is moving along at a good pace, and we have recently hired a third guy, to help us complete the game in the best possible way. We expect to be in place to kick into full production during the next 3-4 months, and then complete the development, and ship it out the door. So as you may have gathered the final game and a real demo version is still some way off, so you’ll have to wait :)
GMZzz: Youropa’s graphic style looks very interesting and seems to fit very well with the game’s overall idea. Have you had any influences in particular for it?
Mikkel Fredborg: We wanted to do something a little different, so we have been looking for inspiration in different directions. In particular street art and designer toys have been big sources of inspiration. Also in general we have been looking at modern urban architecture (the game takes place above different European capitals), so we’ve been going to various cities to examine what defines them in terms of architecture, colors and materials. It’s a very nice source of inspiration and sets the game a little apart from the regular fairytale/adventure setting of most ‘cute’ platform/puzzle games. I’ve always been a big fan of surreal/abstract art, so that’s also been an inspiration on some level, although I think we’ve managed to make it digestible for most people.
GMZzz: Looking at Youropa, the first thing to notice, in my opinion, is that the game is a very ambitious one. Do you have another ambition planned for after you’ll finish with Youropa?
Mikkel Fredborg: Yes, it is quite ambitious, but then we have always thrived on challenge :) Our primary focus is to complete Youropa, but we are of course discussing different ideas continuously. I guess they are all ambitious, but in different ways.
GMZzz: Can you tell us a little bit about the team working at Youropa?
Mikkel Fredborg: We are 3 guys right now. When we started a long time ago, it was just Lasse (Cleveland) and I. We both come from an art/design background, and started working together more than 10 years ago for a couple of different game companies. I’ve been Art Director, Design Studio Manager, Technical Art Director and a couple of other jobs in between. Lasse has held positions as Animator, Lead Artist, and Lead Concept Designer and probably some more… But after having been through a couple of annoying situations with studios going bankrupt, etc. we decided that it would be much nicer to set up our own studio, and then just do the things we wanted to. Luckily we’ve been able to do that for more than 3 years now, and so far it’s been so much better than working at a ‘real’ studio. Today, Lasse takes care of art/animation, and I handle coding and some of the more technical art. And just in is our third guy who is a very talented level designer straight out of university. So that’s the team in brief words.
GMZzz: After 10 years of experience in the video games industry, what would be the first thing you would tell to someone who wants to become an indie developer?
Mikkel Fredborg: Do it, but be realistic about it. If you’re green, make sure you keep your day job. If you’re experienced, make sure you have a way to finance at least one year ahead, either through savings or contract work. Don’t try to make a MMORPG (or whatever the abbreviation is), you are almost guaranteed to fail. Don’t do the same as everyone else, someone else has probably already done it better. Don’t spend ages on technology, use readily available tools/engines like Flash, Unity, Blitz3D or similar. A game is primarily about interaction and less about technology or shader model X. Prototype and fail, and continue until you’re onto something worth pursuing. When your idea is formed, write it down and exhaust it. Ask yourself: Is this fun because I made it or is it really fun? Make friends, know people who are also making games or love games, and discuss with them. Show your game, let people try it, it doesn’t matter if it isn’t finished, feedback is very important. Don’t fear criticism, embrace it. Believe in your idea. Work really hard. Finish it. Win!
No, we didn’t follow all those advice, but then we are idiots :)