How we came up with the idea for our first game, Flat Kingdom.
first of all we want to introduce ourselves, we are Fat Panda Games, a video game studio based in Yucatan (Mexico) that has been working in our first big project, the adventure platformer Flat Kingdom for 2 years and three months. We'll launch it on PC and Mac by 7th of April, that's in less than a week! After a so long project, we have many stories to tell about this amazing trip in the game development world that has been creating Flat Kingdom.
Everything started after watching Indie Game the Movie, when it ended we asked ourselves: “Why not?” And we founded Fat Panda.
Our filosophy when we created the studio was to make games with unique style and balanced but challenging gameplay. We decided to develop a first project that would be a platformer because we love Nintendo classics, like Kirby or Donkey Kong and that way we got to the main concept of what would become Flat Kingdom. A curious fact is that the game was initially called "Flatman".... we had to change the name for legal issues because , just in case you don't know, there is a super hero with that name already.
The general concept of Flat Kingdom was allowing the main character to dynamically adapt to its own limitations and the ones in its environment, these limitations could have been colors, movements, but in our particular case we decided that the dynamics were geometry and the constant amount restrictions was going to be three, basically a character that can change dynamically between circle, square and triangle. However for this to make sense and deliver a real and complex challenge in the gameplay, these 3 ways would act differently compared to each other, for example, the circle can float and jump into the water, square can sink and walk underwater, and the triangle cannot swim but you can run very fast and pin yourself to the walls to climb.
Conceptually, Flat Kingdom is touched by many Nintendo classics like Zelda, Kirby, Donkey Kong and Mario Bros, but also have a strong weight in the gameplay from modern games like Super Meat Boy, Kingdom Hearts, Shovel Knight, Guacamelee, Ori or Fez. Originally it was going to be a platformer with a similar pace to Donkey Kong Country, but we wanted to have some slightly strategic / RPG elements, we’re not talking about stats, equipping armor, leveling up or merging the whole map like in a full metroidvania game; but rather the game is not just going from point A to point B, beat the boss and next level. During the game, Flat develops as a character, you get more energy, new skills and have the option to go back and explore the levels in new ways. As well as a journal that tells you more about the backstory of the kingdom and some characters, players who want to read it can fully immerse themselves in the world of Flat Kingdom, but those who just want to blast through the game can do just that.
Based in the concepts of geometry and taking great inspiration from the book Flatland: A romance of many dimensions (Edwin Abbott Abbott), the story will focus on a conflict between dimensions, 3D and 2D against each other making a kind of analogy of the gaming world in the 90s, where 2D games were brutally consumed by the 3D ones. Hence we made the character a simple being to contrast with the whole universe, Flat is a plain 2D character that can survive the change of dimensions because of his simplicity. Flat Kingdom’s story centers on a legend about an alchemist who created some gems of power in the past to stop the war between the bidimensional world and the Third dimension, we see how this actually affects the world at the beginning of the game. The geometric shape of each character predominate in the personality of not only Flat, but enemies too: regularly circular characters are gentle, calm and even somewhat benevolent, the triangles are aggressive and fast, and finally the squares are big and slow, but rather strong.
The characters are simple and friendly, like what we saw in old cartoons, where they had a lot of charm and personality by exaggerating their features and movements.
King Square is the sovereign of the Flat Kingdom, Princess Tri is the damsel in distress kidnapped by Hex, the thief also known the Shadow Born.
Originally the game art was a 90% 3D 10% 2D, but this changed during development so that you see the transition of the worlds during the story of the game (also because handling 2D graphics proved to be much much easier than 3D ones). This also allowed for a more interesting art direction, giving the feel of a pop up storybook and a child fairly tale.
Also, the level design had somewhat of a logic in their direction. For example, Flat Forest is practically a horizontal line, serving as an easy first world and teaching you the basic mechanics for the game. Flatlantis is a water level that starts pretty horizontal, but soon turns downwards and turns into a maze, mixing up the formula you learned in the first worlds. The next ones also deliberately introduce new themes and directions that complement their aesthetics and lores in-game.
The game stages are kind of a parody of the very achetypical videogame worlds, helping you to get an idea of the world and it’s theme with only their name, before you even jump in. Flatlantis is obviously the typical water world with ruins, and Flatsgard is the snowy mountain. The dialogues of the NPCs are very comedic in nature (sometimes being even absurd), like the dialogues of the Pokémon trainers who want to battle just because they like shorts.
It is worth to explain the several references in Flat Kingdom, from old-school to the more recent games. But first, let me illustrate them with this beautiful mosaic, how many hours of fun we have spent on those little but incredible worlds huh?
The Legend of Zelda:
Exploration, rich mythologies and races inhabiting the fantasy world.
Relationship between few but symbolic characters.
A strong and silent main character.
The Kirby Series:
Simple but courageous character with multiple skills and transformations.
Beautiful world with enemies that seem cute but can be quite challenging.
The Donkey Kong Country Series: Agile and fast paced gameplay, collecting objects.
Super Mario Bros Series: Gradual and fair learning curve.
Super Meat Boy: Introduction of acrobatic dynamics that increase in complexity along the game.
Kingdom Hearts: History seemingly innocent but more complex than it seems, use of journals to not bore the player with too much history, only for the people who are really interested in the lore.
Shovel Knight: Empower your character as it progresses through the game.
Guacamelee: Colorful and unique visual style.
Fez: Visual style and concepts.
Metroid: Revisit levels once you learn new skills to access new areas and find extra bonus.
Demon’s Crest: Every shape has its strengths and weaknesses.
And much more that you may discover when you play the game (including easter eggs :)) !
Overall, and after this 27 months of hard work developing the game, the point I feel most proud of when I play the final version is that we created a unique gameplay, which may seem complex at first, but it’s really easy to master (you’ll be an expert in no time!). We found a very own identity and flair for Flat Kingdom, something that is fundamental when you are a small independent game developer.
If you are interested in following the news about Flat Kingdom, check out the next links: