Frozen Hearth Creator Morgan Lean on Indie Game Trends

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January 23, 2013 by khrisgolder

Frozen Hearth LogoFrozen Hearth, Epiphany Games’ action RTS/RPG indie title, is about to tackle Steam once it gets the Greenlight. Creator Morgan Lean is here to talk about the history of Frozen Hearth, Epiphany Games and the future of Indie gaming.

Khris Golder: Disney Infinity is getting an insane amount of attention right now due to its massive scope. I heard through the grapevine that someone from Epiphany Games used to work for the most magical place on Earth. How was it working for Disney?

Morgan Lean: Working with Disney was great. We can’t go into specifics, but Disney has a very good QA process. Had some interesting challenges with what they wanted to do, allowed us the time to do it (It was still a very tight turn around like most work for hire jobs), but we got it done, tested and shipped on time. The main difficulty was developing for an unreleased phone we just had the raw specs to go on but it worked out in the end.

KG: According to Sam Jensen, Lead Designer, it took two weeks to brainstorm Frozen Hearth. How long did it take to develop?

Morgan Lean: Frozen Hearth took about 2 years to develop, this is pretty normal for such a large game.

KG: Frozen Hearth uses a development tool created by Epiphany Games that you call Hydra. Hydra allows your team to flesh out many facets of the game without having to jump back into it and recode everything. It seems like a pretty useful design tool. Has Epiphany Games been able to implement Hydra into any of your other titles? Any other innovative, homegrown tools used by Epiphany?

Morgan Lean: We want to implement Hydra in other games, and it’s something we will be looking at right now. We are working on things to make it suitable for more games. We do have more home grown stuff. Our new product which will be available to indie developers later this year takes the pain out of persistent storage for mobiles and PC, networking and match making for PC, user account authentication and friends lists as well as achievements. It’s basically our version of some of the Gamespy or Steam like features combined with our multi-platform flavour… We also developed a bunch of stuff for the Gamebryo engine, including water, terrain, and environment.

KG: If Frozen Hearth receives the Steam Greenlight, do you plan on releasing it with any additional content?

Morgan Lean: Frozen Hearth has already received additional content in the form of our Christmas patch.

With Steam, we would probably do more sales so we could do more with our game. We thought of the idea of some custom skins on Steam as well. It depends how long it takes us to integrate Steam…

KG: Many of the stories, plots, and characters in the Epiphany Games titles are intricately developed. Would you agree that video games are a special form of media not bound by fairly permanent artistic releases like novels and movies? That in a video game, the developer has the opportunity to change the way the story is told through updates and downloadable content?

Frozen Hearth_1

Frozen Hearth, Epiphany Games’ story-heavy RTS/RPG, is pending Steam Greenlight

Morgan Lean: Video games are special, because you are able to show different perspectives to different players based on their choices. This leads to a different shared experience. This is one of the most exciting aspects of video games.

KG: What’s next for Epiphany Games?

Morgan Lean: We are working on two pre-production large titles Aki and Plizkin Co-Op Action RPG the next in the Ammora series and an Unannounced title which is basically a Multi-player RPG. Alongside those titles we have more mobile stuff coming out.

Frozen Hearth

KG: How is it working with Flat Earth Games on Township?

Morgan Lean: Really excellent, basically. I like the game play, core mechanics and the look of the game. I thought it was very promising when it was pitched to me. They have a great team working on it and I think its lots of fun. Whenever I receive a new version, I download it and greedily soak it up to give my feedback, and then brief my team with what’s happening. Because all our games share some technology this one is going to have access to our mobile persistence service so hopefully we will be able to do some cool things…

KG: Now that you have experienced a cooperative effort on an independent level, would you partner up with any other indie game developers?

Morgan Lean: Yes, provided our strategic goals aligned. Indie development is already hard enough, and I see that my studio is making it easier for other indie developers to have a space, but more importantly communicate with our very experienced team.

KG: There are a lot of third party consoles in the wings, and Ouya is looking like it might have the best chance due to its significant backing from Kickstarter. How do you feel about these Microconsoles, and do you think it will significantly impact  sales for indie game developers like Epiphany Games?

Morgan Lean: I think that new Android based TV centric devices/consoles, TV’s, etc will impact the games industry; I hope massively, but I’m not sure. For us, it’s another platform that we can release on, which is good. Getting titles that really fit the requirements of consoles is the tricky bit. Android development is not as easy as some may think. You have manufacturers messing with the OS and adding things or changing the way something works. This will slow down some porting of games. I’m ultimately positive and excited about more platforms to release on because over all that grows the games industry as a whole.

KG: Would you feel more comfortable releasing your game on the Indie platform of one of the Big Three or one of the upcoming microconsoles (when and if they become established)?

Morgan Lean: I would feel confident that the quality of our titles would make both sides happy. I think there is a lower barrier to enter on the new consoles as theirs probably (do not have) as lengthy of an approval process. The Big Three need to change the way they allow games onto their platform, but I don’t worry about the process. The new consoles should (also) do some form of QA, this is always good.

KG: Thanks for talking with us, Morgan. We hope to see Frozen Hearth get that Greenlight!

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