December 22, 2017 7:13 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

If certain reports and rumours are to be believed, as I sit here typing out this interview intro, there is a Legend of Zelda game being developed for mobile devices. Such a game could never live up to the likes of Breath of the Wild, but if done right, it could at least be worthy of a comparison to The Minish Cap.

 

Only, instead of doing an editorial on what a mobile Zelda game could be like, as that is something any Zelda fan and writer could do, I thought I’d go one better and talk to our good friends over at FDG Entertainment. They might not have been the developers for Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas, but they are the publishers of it and helped with bringing it to iOS devices for the game’s initial release. So with Oceanhorn being the Zelda like game that it is, here is our interview with Philipp to learn more about the development for the mobile version of the game and how a made for mobile Zelda game could be like:

 

 

In typical interview fashion, would you be so kind as to introduce yourself to our readers and tell us a bit about your role with Oceanhorn?

 

Philipp Döschl: I’m one of the co-founders of FDG Entertainment and Executive Producer. As co-producer for Oceanhorn, I’ve been there with advice and feedback for the team, along with providing help wherever it was needed. After the launch, it’s mostly handling public and press related communications and promoting the game.

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Thank you, and now with the introduction out of the way, we can properly commence with the interview.

 

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Oceanhorn: 2 Years to Make and Classic Zelda Doubts:

Miketendo64: Now the purpose of this interview is get a better understanding into what went on for the development of Oceanhorn for mobile devices and with your help, talk about what a mobile Legend of Zelda game could be like, so with that in mind, first and foremost, how long was Oceanhorn in development before it came to iOS?

Philipp Döschl: Oceanhorn was in development for about 2 years before it was released. After we signed Oceanhorn, we brought Nobuo Uematsu and Kenji Ito on board, we took care of the voice acting as well as additional game and level design, asset creation and producing in general. We funded the additional development time and tried our best to contribute in a positive way to Oceanhorn, trying to make the game bigger, more diverse and deeper as it was originally intended, thanks to the additional budget. Developing games is a very dynamic thing and when you’re in the middle of the creation, you think “damn, this and that would be too cool to add”. This is what we brought in. Cornfox laid a very good and solid foundation and it was great to be able to work with such an experienced and talented team.

A mobile Legend of Zelda would be…. WOW! It would definitely be amazing and I’m sure Nintendo would make a version of Zelda nobody would expect. Something fresh and new, super creative and fun to play. I highly doubt it would be a ‘classic’ Zelda.

 Image result for Oceanhorn on ios

Oceanhorn: 2 Years to Make and Classic Zelda Doubts:

Miketendo64: Now the purpose of this interview is get a better understanding into what went on for the development of Oceanhorn for mobile devices and with your help, talk about what a mobile Legend of Zelda game could be like, so with that in mind, first and foremost, how long was Oceanhorn in development before it came to iOS?

Philipp Döschl: Oceanhorn was in development for about 2 years before it was released. After we signed Oceanhorn, we brought Nobuo Uematsu and Kenji Ito on board, we took care of the voice acting as well as additional game and level design, asset creation and producing in general. We funded the additional development time and tried our best to contribute in a positive way to Oceanhorn, trying to make the game bigger, more diverse and deeper as it was originally intended, thanks to the additional budget. Developing games is a very dynamic thing and when you’re in the middle of the creation, you think “damn, this and that would be too cool to add”. This is what we brought in. Cornfox laid a very good and solid foundation and it was great to be able to work with such an experienced and talented team.

A mobile Legend of Zelda would be…. WOW! It would definitely be amazing and I’m sure Nintendo would make a version of Zelda nobody would expect. Something fresh and new, super creative and fun to play. I highly doubt it would be a ‘classic’ Zelda.

 

Oceanhorn through the Years:

Miketendo64: Over the years, Oceanhorn has had some optimisations and newer content released, but as a comparison, would you mind telling us what the base game started off like?

Philipp Döschl: The content was the same as it is now. We released one content update that added fishing along with a couple of other things and tweaks. After the ‘Game of the year’ edition, the game was ported to PC. For this port, textures, models, lighting, shaders and many other things have been reworked and improved. This reworked version is the foundation for all other subsequent releases and mobile updates. With every new generation of iOS devices, the team worked hard in order to improve the visuals and make sure the game runs smooth on them. Check out these two screenshots, one from the lowest spec version, which such as iPhone 4 and the current iPhone X. The difference between those too is huge.

Oceanhorn_iPhone4_screenshot_3

Oceanhorn as seen on an iPhone 4

Oceanhorn-iPhoneX-Screenshot-3

Oceanhorn as seen on an iPhone X

Exploration is a Must for Made for Mobile Zelda:

Miketendo64: With there being a huge similarity between Oceanhorn and the Legend of Zelda games, it would only make sense that a mobile game could also be very similar. So as someone who knows Oceanhorn pretty well and a fan of Zelda, if you were making a Zelda game for mobile devices, what are features you feel the game would need to be a true representation and how would they be implemented?

Philipp Döschl: The sense of exploration is what’s most important to me. Zelda always has been an adventure with a bit emphasis on exploration and discovering a fantastic world. The funny thing is that even Hyrule Warriors managed to catch this vibe to some degree, even though the focus clearly is on combat. However, it still has this adventure feeling the original series has. Besides that, it has to be optimised to mobile and the controls can’t be as complex as in BotW. It’s essential to distill the key features of the series and adapt them to a mobile game.

 

3D Graphics is more Likely:

Miketendo64: Due to the Zelda series being a game well versed in the ways of alternate designs, is there a particular art style you feel would work best on mobile devices? For example, the Toon Link and play style first introduced in Phantom Hourglass, or even the revised Toon Link look that was used for A Link between Worlds.

Philipp Döschl: I’m a big fan of The Wind Waker art style, probably because I love cartoons, anime, comics and mangas since my childhood. I know it’s an art style many people don’t put in favor. However, I know I’m a weirdo when it comes to Zelda, as Ocarina of Time is one of my least favorite Zelda game. That being said, I feel that a more realistic 3D look is what always found most appeal in Zelda, so that’s what it probably would look like.

 Related image

Unity: No Go for Oceanhorn but very Possible for Mobile Zelda:

Miketendo64: With the likes of Unity being used for the mobile Nintendo games, how would this affect the Zelda mobile game? How would it have affected Oceanhorn?

Philipp Döschl: Oceanhorn would not have been possible with Unity at that time, simply because of its overhead. Unity is a great engine and it has improved a lot over the years. However it’s very challenging to achieve smooth and stable 60fps with it on mobile. Back in the days there was definitely no alternative to using a self built C++ / Obj. C engine. Even today it’s the only way to achieve the best performance. With devices getting more powerful, Unity being more and more optimised and people getting a better knowledge of Unity, it could definitely be used to create a 2D or 3D Zelda like action adventure.

 

The Best Fit for Smartphones:

Miketendo64: Given the release of Breath of the Wild and certain spin-offs like Hyrule Warriors, Link’s Crossbow Training and the Tingle games, should the mobile title be a true to form representation and be a full cannon game, that can be completed within 10 hours (for example,) or should it be like something else?

Philipp Döschl: I liked what Nintendo did with Super Mario Run. They could have done a ‘full’ 2.5D Mario. Instead of going the easy and straightforward way, they chose to go a new way that best fits the mobile devices. I think this is what they’d do with a mobile Zelda as well. Just look at the other mobile Nintendo games like Fire Emblem or Animal Crossing. They catch the vibe and feel of their big brothers but are fully adapted to mobile.

 Image result for 2D  Zelda games

Monetarizing a Mobile Zelda:

Miketendo64: While the mobile games are being created for fans to play and enjoy on their mobile phones, they’re also there to introduce Nintendo’s popular IP’s to newer players and to generate revenue from. So on the subject of money and a Zelda game for mobile devices, in your opinion, what would be the way you would go about it? One-off payment from the start or micro-transactions all the way that won’t break the game in anyway as it can be played without them?

Philipp Döschl: Since we’re using the same monetisation in some games, I’d love to see the same approach as in Super Mario Run: free download with limited content, one purchase to unlock the full thing. This would be best fit for an adventure game like Zelda. If they’d ever do a ‘real’ mobile Pokemon, other than Pokémon Go, F2P with everything that comes with it would be the best fit. You always have to find the best business mobile for each game.

 

Updates & Optimizations:

Miketendo64: Is there anything you learned, such as development issues, during the time of making Oceanhorn for mobile devices that Nintendo and DeNA might want to be aware of if they’re not already?

Philipp Döschl: I think the biggest problem nowadays on mobile is that games need constant maintenance updates for new hardware and OS versions. Apple did a pretty hard cut by excluding 32-bit apps from devices running iOS 11 and above. That’s something not known from consoles. Even on PC (Windows and Mac,) there are ways to run legacy software somehow. These maintenance updates can be really tedious. 

 Image result for 2D  Zelda games

Inspiration is Key:

Miketendo64: Other than what I have asked and you’ve answered already, do you have any other insightful nuggets of wisdom for how a mobile Zelda game could work/be like compared to your time with Oceanhorn?

Philipp Döschl: It massively depends where the inspiration comes from. I think nobody would like to see a F2P Zelda city builder à la Clash of Clans. But anything that deals with Zelda in an honourable way will be much appreciated by the community.

 

Super Mario Run for the Win:

Miketendo64: Since we are talking about mobile Nintendo games, do you have a favourite out of Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp, Fire Emblem Heroes, Super Mario Run and Miitomo and what do you think of them compared to the series’ the 3 of them originate from?

Philipp Döschl: That’d definitely be Super Mario Run. I enjoyed it a lot. Nintendo has shown again what they’re able to achieve, on the design and the technical side alike. It’s fascinating how the fit the Mario into a one-touch mobile game. The game is very diverse, offers lots of different things to do and collect. On the technical level I was surprised to hear the game’s done with Unity. There’s so much hate and rant about Unity everywhere,

I was hoping for a change thanks to Mario and other top games done with Unity. Unfortunately people don’t change. Unity is a great tool, certainly not the best one, but one that’s more than enough for probably 95% of teams out there. I was hoping the engine discussion would find a bit of an end, I just fear it still takes some time.

Also, they use a similar business model to the one we’re using in a couple of games, such as Red Ball 4, Lonewolf or also Oceanhorn on Google Play. We had a good reception.

Image result for super mario run

A Message for the Fans:

Miketendo64: And because there’s always time for one last question, here’s ours: Is there anything you would like to say to your ever growing fanbase and supporters?

Philipp Döschl: I’d like to thank all of you out there for your support and making 2017 a successful year for us. Everybody at FDG is super excited about what we achieved this year. With 2 games successfully released on Switch in the launch year, we definitely managed to fulfill a childhood dream. We’ll be back in 2018 with cool new games.

I wish all of our fans, supporters, families, friends and your readers great holidays, Merry Switchmas and a Happy New Year!

 

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Philipp, your answers are as insightful as ever and greatly appreciated, but if our readers think this is the last they’ll be hearing from you, they’re wrong as we’ve also got a Blossom Tales interview lined up, which will also be posted on Miketendo64 on this day of the 22nd of December, 2017!

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This post was written by Solid Jack

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