Flynn: Son of Crimson – Five Years in the Making
09 Dec, 2021
Case Portman from Studio Thunderhorse tells us about the development of the critically-acclaimed action platformer Flynn: Son of Crimson.
Launching our first major game will always be a huge highlight in my career as a game developer. After working on two mobile games for iOS in 2015, both myself and the Studio Thunderhorse team craved something bigger, a juicier project on a much larger scale. Ideas for Flynn: Son of Crimson were growing at a rapid rate after deciding to take the plunge into the world of PC and console games, and we haven’t looked back since.
I’m sure so many other developers can relate to that addictive feeling of wanting to work on something new, and solid ideas for Flynn: Son of Crimson quickly surfaced.
Of course, these ideas didn’t just come out of thin air. We played a lot of games, discussed what we liked and what we didn’t and developed these ideas into something fresh that would work for our initial visions of Flynn.
Myself and Simon (founder, designer and writer for Studio Thunderhorse) grew up in the 90’s, which had us playing a lot of the classics of that time, such as Super Mario, Sonic the Hedgehog, Mega Man and Donkey Kong Country to name a few.
At the time of designing the many different stages in the game and its mechanics, we were playing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and this definitely inspired us too. Modern titles such as Shovel Knight and Hollow Knight were also super influential in the development stages, as many players have already picked up on! Without these games, Flynn wouldn’t be the game it is today, so we have a lot to thank them for.
Hurdles in Game Development
Developing any game is far from smooth-running. When creating Flynn: Son of Crimson, there were a number of hurdles in our way, some of which added years onto development and forced us to change our entire angle for the game.
We started out by creating more of a metroidvania style game for Flynn, placing you in a huge sprawling world, traversing all the nooks and crannies of Rosantica, Flynn’s home.
It took a lot of discussion and some reality checks to realize we wanted to aim for more focused stage design based around a level by level progression system to give players a better experience.
To come to this realization around 2 years into development was tough and it was hard for me to let go of so many ideas and progress. However, it turned out to be for the best! Who knows, maybe some of these ideas will show themselves in a future game!
Designing From Scratch
When I was a young lad, I would sketch my own stages for the games I loved in my school books when the teacher wasn’t looking and this never went away. The approach I take when designing levels for the games I work on these days starts with good old-fashioned pencil and paper too.
There’s something just much more fulfilling seeing a level come to fruition after starting on a slice of tree and flicking through the many booklets after the game has been completed is extremely satisfying.
Getting communication just right
Reaching the point of launching Flynn: Son of Crimson into the world in 2021 was something that was certainly a team effort, something which needed a lot of discussion and input from every one of us.
Communication with the wider team has been invaluable to me as a developer, and – even though the time differences between us all are crazy – we’ve managed to pull it off. (Thanks, Discord!)
Many are surprised when they hear the Studio Thunderhorse team have never met in person, but it’s actually been quite an easy-going process.
When you need the perfect person to create beautiful concept art, quirky animations and a soundtrack full of feeling, you don’t care where in the world they’re based!
Extremely talented individuals make up the Studio Thunderhorse family and if communicating online rather than face to face allows us to do that, then it’s what we’ll continue to do. It’s working well and I can’t wait to see where our team takes us in 2022!
Join Flynn and his mythical dog companion, Dex, as they embark on a journey, fighting together to save their home from the evil Scourge. Flynn: Son of Crimson from Studio Thunderhorse is out now on PC, PS4, XB1, and Nintendo Switch.
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