We had the opportunity to interview Frederic Hein from Blindflug Studios on their newest game on the Nintendo Switch, Airheart: Tales of Broken Wings
Tell us about Blindflug Studios
Blindflug is a small indie developer from Zurich, Switzerland. We were founded in 2014 with the aim to create beautiful, imaginative and incredibly fun games that center around complex, real world dilemmas and through that might create interesting new game mechanics and involving settings. We believe that games are an incredible medium of letting players experience the most complex of problems as they are playing. With this in mind we've created games about nuclear weapons, migration, the reformation and - with Airheart - about overfishing.
Airheart: Tales of broken Wings follows a young girl named Amelia which features some steampunk aspects in the game. What influenced the creation of Airheart?
Airheart is the sequel to Cloud Chasers, our 2015 mobile game about migration. Back in Cloud Chasers you guided Amelia and her father to a better place, and now in Airheart you take the role of Amelia in what that better place actually is. The game mechanics of the two games are totally different, and that comes from our desire to try out new things. As for the steampunk, for us it's actually dieselpunk, and that comes from the airplanes that fly around. A big inspiration was the time when airplanes were something new, and there were no jet engines etc. - so you'd find a lot of airplanes from around WW 1 and some of WW2 in our inspiration folders.
The music is beautifully woven into the game, and intensifies as you go up in the stratosphere. Can you tell us the process about how you incorporated the music?
The music evolved together with the game. We were working with a longtime collaborator, Michel Barengo, who also created the soundtracks for all our other games. As we involve him into the creation of the game at an early point, he got to start recording some music already in the first month of the Airheart development. Then on that prototype we added layer upon layer with the new levels and higher up to the later levels, and with that too, he gets to see what the levels look like, what happens and gets to do his work before everything is finished. With that, we can then listen to the music while we further work on the game and with his music inspiring us, it also influenced what we create. So I think what's very important with that kind of process is that it's not a one way street, and I think that's what makes it so good.
What were some of the challenges that you faced bringing Airheart to the Nintendo Switch?
When we started working on Airheart, the Switch was not yet on the market - I think it wasn't even announced. So at first, Airheart was designed for PC and the existing consoles. But as soon as the Switch was announced and we got to try it out, we knew that we wanted to have Airheart on there - it seemed to be the perfect match. As a small team - and without a publisher - the biggest problem was that we then could not manage to release on all consoles at the same time, it's just not possible. Also, we wanted to have multiplayer on the Switch, because we love to play co-op on there. Because of that, we decided to postpone the release for nearly half a year. This also gave us time to adjust the game for the less powerful hardware. The Switch is an amazing machine, but it just can't deliver the same power as a PC, consoles or also newer mobile phones. So we had to do a lot of optimization, especially regarding the visuals and for memory management, but when we see the result, it definitely was worth it.
What did you learn about yourselves when you were creating Airheart? Were there any aspects of the game that you wish you could have incorporated but didn’t?
That there are hard limits with resources, and they don't do well with a boundless world like the one of Airheart. Our earlier games were definitely designed in a smaller, more manageable scope, but with Airheart, we wanted to hit Early Access and see where it's going. Looking back, bringing Airheart to PC first maybe wasn't the best idea, because it's designed for controllers - and on PC, many people just play with mouse and keyboard. So it didn't take off as we hoped, and this kind of reduced the runway we had. We had to go back to the drawing board and cut off a lot of things to adjust for this, things like additional airplanes, enemies, levels and a more involving story.
But actually the thing that I miss the most was something we cut after the very first prototype. Back then we had two topics for the game; overfishing and inequality. We realized that we wouldn't be able to create a game for both, so inequality was cut, but it would have been such an interesting topic to cover. Parts of it are still around, when you look e.g. at Granaria, you see that there is a top side that is beautiful, and a lower side that is dirty and has no sunlight. But as for the game mechanics, there was nothing implemented, so it's just that. I hope we get back to that topic and some point, because inequality is still a thing.
What’s next for Blindflug Studios?
We're currently working on our next game which will be revealed to the public in the next couple of weeks. It will be something totally different from Airheart, and as an artist it was very fun to shift gears and aim at something new. Make sure to follow us on social media to get the news when we drop them!
Follow Blindflug Studios on twitter: @BlindflugStudio