[Interview] Artic Interactive Talks Frantic Fugu and the Future

The people behind ARTIC Interactive are a lively, aspiring bunch. I talked to three team-members about the developer's second release, Frantic Fugu.

It's Monday night, and I'm typing with one hand, holding my phone with the other. Three faces are looking at me as I try to wrangle technology and old fashioned note-taking. This is my interview with ARTIC Interactive, and I'm so nervous my hand is shaking.

The first thing ARTIC wants to know is how I found them. "I looked at your blog," community manager Amelia Chandra says, "and you don't cover many indies." It's a valid question. In the gaming industry, as in any other, journalists are often more interested in talking to the heavy-hitters than the up-and-comers. For a game studio like ARTIC - a four-person team with one shipped game, Crap Trap, to its name - approaches for interviews don't come along everyday.

I answer Chandra with the truth. I saw this tweet on my Twitter feed, and I wanted to know more:

That's exactly what Chandra, CEO Gavin Soebiantoro, and co-founder Andrew Chen want to hear. When I ask for their elevator pitch, Chandra describes ARTIC Interactive's upcoming game, Frantic Fugu, as "a very simple, cute arcade game." The team wants to market their upcoming release on its cute style, which Chandra likens to popular licensed characters from Japan. I can only assume she means Takochu: the adorable stacking octopus toys.

The simplicity of Frantic Fugu is important to ARTIC. Soebiantoro emphasizes that Frantic Fugu will be "very different" from Crap Trap, which had two control schemes and was perhaps too complex for a mobile title. When I ask whether they're hoping that scaling back complexity will help Frantic Fugu appeal to a wider audience, Chandra says she believes it will.

Don't think simple means easy, however. Chandra uploaded a gameplay video to Instagram on Thursday. It's clear, even from this short preview, that Frantic Fugu will truly challenge players to survive against oncoming hordes of pufferfish.

Control and puzzle complexity isn't the only difference between Frantic Fugu and Crap Trap, however. Where ARTIC monetized its first title with a combination of ad space and in-game purchases, Soebiantoro notes that Frantic Fugu will be free-to-play and feature ads, but no microtransactions. New playable characters - Chandra mentions baby jellyfish and baby cuttlefish - and other upgrades will be available for players to purchase with sponges collected in-game.

When asked about ARTIC's plans for the future, the otherwise quiet Chen speaks up. "We're looking into multiplayer," he says, adding that it's something the team would like to see, not only in Frantic Fugu, but also in all later releases. "ARTIC stands for 'Artificial Reality Connection,'" Chen says, expressing the developer's desire to create immersive games.

Chen hints that ARTIC has a future title in its concept stages, one that he and Soebiantoro have wanted to create for a long time. He says that ARTIC isn't yet ready to build its "Grand Game," which I liken to James Cameron's Avatar: a great thing to be delayed until it can be made perfect.

In the meantime, Chen and Chandra say, ARTIC has plans to bring out a third title, but that the developer has run into some problems. "It's a runner," Chandra says, "and it's not original. It's missing something. We have to find what that is." Original or not, what ARTIC divulges about this game sounds pretty fantastic: it's a runner, in which the player controls Dr. Frankenstein chasing after his creation, with a pixel-heavy art style and plenty of inventive enemy monsters.

When I ask about a timeline of development and release for Frantic Fugu, the team smiles. "Tomorrow," Soebiantoro says. When I assume he means the game will be available for download on Wednesday, Chandra corrects me. As it turns out, I've caught ARTIC on the day before the team plans to submit Frantic Fugu to mobile stores for consideration. She assures me that it will be only a few days until ARTIC's second game pops up for download in Apple and Android stores.

Published Jun. 30th 2015
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