Interview: Beatshapers and Housemarque Field Our Questions on Furmins
Posted by Sammy Barker
Feeling fuzzy about Vita's cutest puzzler yet
Finnish developer Housemarque’s smartphone favourite Furmins is set to cuddle up to the PlayStation Vita next month. The adorable iOS outing originally released on fruity formats last year, where its whimsical take on old-school puzzlers such as Lemmings and The Incredible Machine proved an instant success. It’s being ported to Sony’s system by Ukrainian powerhouse Beatshapers, who only recently got finished laying out the bricks in the brilliant BreakQuest: Extra Evolution.
For those out of the loop, the pretty puzzler sees you arranging puzzle pieces in order to safely escort the titular fuzz balls to each stage’s exit point. It’s a simple premise, but in order to obtain a little more information, we caught up with Beatshapers’ head honcho Alexey Menshikov and Housemarque’s head of self-publishing Mikael Haveri to squeeze the full story out of them. We can confirm that both give excellent hugs.
Push Square: Furmins has seen a lot of success on the various iOS platforms. Why have you now decided to bring it to the Vita?
Alexey Menshikov: Well, we’ve been talking with Housemarque for a few years already about a possible collaboration on some projects, and when we released Jetpack Joyride last year, they contacted me about developing and publishing Furmins on the Vita. Signing great indie titles is still part of our company strategy, and Housemarque is a big name on PlayStation, so I said yes immediately. Amazingly, Furmins will be our 17th PlayStation release.
PS: Can you tell us a little bit about the core gameplay? It looks like a reimagining of The Incredible Machine – was that an influence at all?
Mikael Haveri: Absolutely, and many other games that included building blocks and directing things, such as Lemmings, for example. The game is about fine-tuning the location of obstacles and then watching as the Furmins bounce around and make it home. A lot of trial and error and fine-tuning goes into getting perfect scores, so it’s a classic puzzler, very much in the vein of the Incredible Machine.
PS: The title’s got a very painterly art style that’s a lot more exuberant than most smartphone games. Can you tell us a little bit about some the inspirations behind the visuals, and how you’ve gone about maximising them on the Vita’s screen?
MH: The style is something that we thought would be perfect for mobile high-definition screens: detailed, but still not overly so. A lot of inspiration came from the puzzle games that I mentioned previously, but also a lot of the current mobile hits with cute creatures in them. The Vita has a great screen to really show off the details, and the colours really shine through. Small adjustments had to be made, but in the end it all felt like a perfect fit, touch controls and all.
PS: The title went free-to-play last year on iOS. What model are you planning to adopt on the Vita?
AM: We decided to go with premium – well, trial and unlock – for Furmins. Free-to-play requires a lot more work for a proper monetising model that fits with PlayStation players, as we found after BreakQuest: Extra Evolution’s freemium release, so we decided to stick with premium. We’re also planning to release BreakQuest Pro, which will be premium only following requests from players. This doesn’t mean that we’re dropping freemium completely, though.
PS: Are you adding any new features to this re-release? Are you planning to use any of the handheld’s more exotic inputs – the rear touchpad, for example? How about features such as Near?
AM: We improved graphics, added more visual effects, implemented Trophies for outstanding performances, added scoreboards with filters – global and per world – and also implemented the rear touch pad, which we found works better than the touchscreen. So there is an option to toggle between touchscreen only and touchscreen for setup mode and rear touchpad for action mode. Also, we have an extra bonus world in the works with some of the most complicated puzzles in the game, which will be released as free DLC for the most engaged players.
PS: More and more smartphone games are starting to release on the Vita. Is this a consequence of the risks associated with launching in such a cutthroat market? Would you agree that, even with a smaller install base, Sony’s system is becoming an attractive option for smaller developers?
AM: Mobile is indeed a cutthroat market, and that is a reason why we at Beatshapers haven’t explored there yet. We love PlayStation’s core audience, and Sony’s very open to independent developers. We are just thankful to be a part of that. Also, it’s worth mentioning that the Vita’s install base is increasing significantly, which is great.
However, as a Vita owner and a gamer, I’m not overly happy about the number of ports coming to the system. I bought the console for exclusive content that pushes the hardware to its limits, not games that I can play somewhere else. It’s perfectly fine if they offer new content, but a lot of the titles being released are straight ports.
Granted, we are guilty of releasing a number of ports, too, but our reason is different: we are not backed by investors or venture capitalists, and all of our income comes from the publishing activity of our top indie titles. However, most of our games have exclusive content.
And that’s why our upcoming internal developed games are still PlayStation exclusives: ZRun [for the Vita], an unannounced racing game for the PS3, Vita, and PS4, and another super secret PS4 and Vita game. These are all for hardcore gamers, and we are reinvesting all of our income into developing these new intellectual properties. We still have a few ports in production – like Furmins, and a couple of PlayStation Mobile games – but our main focus is on brand new IP.
We’d like to extend an enormous thanks to Alexey and Mikael for taking the time to answer our questions. Are you looking forward to Furmins? Let us know in the comments section below.