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Indie Fund, a funding source by and for indie game developers, announced the other day that it will be providing financial assistance to Loveshack Entertainment so the developers can finish work on Framed. I contacted Joshua Boggs of Loveshack to ask him some questions about what the support of Indie Fund means for the future of Framed and found out that things were looking pretty grim for the Australian development team before this happened.
Does this mean Big Things, or mostly peace of mind?
Both. Basically Big Things are just being able to fully realize what we want to experiment with in narrative, as well as more levels and polish.
Can you expand on that? What do you want to do that you aren't already doing?
As far as the narrative goes, we're wanting to tell a narrative that is largely inferred by the player. We want to leave information out, and allow the player fill in the gaps with their imagination. This not only fits with the theme and mechanics of the game, but when you let people infer events, you engage with them at a much deeper level compared to spelling everything out for them. It's "show, don't tell." It would be really easy to fall into a trap of telling a traditionally structured narrative; we want to allow the player the freedom to reconstruct events and infer the narrative for themselves.
Do you have an estimate of how much bigger the scope of the game will be, percentage wise, as a result of the extra funding?
The scope of the game won't really change, we're actually very wary of that because we don't want to dilute the overall game just to extend it's length. It's actually more that it gives us that time to refine and polish the game.
What kinds of polish are you thinking to add?
Polish mostly in design and play-testing. Framed has probably the most intense game design process we've ever gone through, and every time we play-test a level we learn about things that seemed clear in-house, and nuances to how people perceive how the page flows. These may sound like small details, but it's the details that lie under the surface that really make a game shine.
Do you have to find new play-testers every time you tweak a level, then?
We get some really useful feedback from a small group of people, so we send them revisions and are able to iterate on the finer details of the game with their feedback. The main drawback with this is that the more someone plays your game, the more accustomed they are to the initial problems or communication issues in your game. So festivals and trade shows are essential for us to see how people who have never played the game respond. We have no dialogue or tutorial text throughout the game, so everything needs to be taught through interacting with the game.
Indie Fund doesn't accept applications directly. Were you hoping to get noticed while doing the awards circuit, or was it a complete surprise when they contacted you?
From the outset our plan had always been to do the festival circuit. The relationships you make with real people are invaluable, and that grassroots strategy has been really effective for us to get people excited about Framed. In terms of Indie Fund, we were in contact with them, and had met some of the partners during GDC this year. After hearing about the struggle we were going through, they offered their assistance. I think Indie Fund are really hunting for games that are special, and have put in the work to get exposure and receive critical recognition.
Do you feel like you would have needed to find more funding elsewhere without getting support from Indie Fund?
Indie Fund was essential in helping us through a rough patch. We had each gone through all of our savings and were down to our last nickel and dime when they offered their assistance. I was about to sell my car to pay the next month's rent. If it wasn't for them, we would've had to shut down for a few months, which would've seriously hampered our progress and valuable momentum we'd built up over development.
Is this new development likely to push back Framed's release date?
Nope, not at all. We're not expanding the game, the extra funds helps give us the time to refine and play-test the game to make it the best it can be.
Is there anything you would like to say that I haven't asked about?
We <3 Indie Fund.