The passions of the Kraken Academy developers influenced its artistic design and marketing

Much of the video game industry in 2021 is dominated by massive AAA budgets and iterative releases. from Activision Call of Duty the series is often seen as a poster for this, with several development studios leading to annual entries like Call of Duty: The Vanguard a little after Black Ops Cold War and Modern war (2019). While the developers undoubtedly put their passion into these games, it seldom shows through as with indies such as Kraken Academy: A casual adventure game available today on PC.

Kraken Academy is the product of Berlin studio Happy Broccoli Games, which has just three full-time employees: founder, artist and writer Annika Maar, programmer Joni Levinkind and marketing director Irene Preuss. Freelance writers Svyatoslav Petrov and Damion Sheppard helped with music composition and sound design, respectively, but it all stems from a prototype Maar created in two years on her own that set the direction of the project. Game Rant spoke to Maar and Preuss about how they were able to focus the design and marketing of Kraken Academy in a way that got them excited.

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Artistic direction of the Kraken Academy

happy broccoli games interview september 2021

Maar had to learn to code herself when creating this initial prototype, using GameMaker to develop a 10-minute proof of concept. The desire to create a video game using the recycled idea of ​​an unstarted comic book came suddenly one night, and was a somewhat drastic change for Maar – a trade illustrator known for his fantastically detailed works. One of the biggest hurdles was the art style of the game, and she eventually went for pixel art although she hadn’t before.

“When I first started out with the game, I was trying to figure out how I, one person, could make sure I do it with the art style that I can do the fastest. Obviously, I can’t do my art. fully delivered because it takes 40 hours to do – absolutely impossible. ”

She describes the pixel art of the game as “very minimalist”, with little in the way of bells and whistles like shaders. Its rectangular shapes and figures were inspired by Heart Machine Super light drifter, which showed him that pixel art people don’t need to be short and stocky; too “cute” to match Kraken Academyblack humor. She said he’s also been compared to Digital Sun Moonlight, although Maar only played the game after the Happy Broccoli Reddit community recommended it. “It’s super pretty, but it wasn’t necessarily an inspiration.”

Maar is satisfied with the design of Kraken Academythe pixelated world of, especially its colors and shapes. Go from fantastically detailed renderings at home to tabletop games like Dungeons and Dragons at minimalist pixel art was easier than expected as she was able to apply “art fundamentals” like color theory. However, it has some drawbacks, namely the difficulty in showing emotions for dramatic and comedic scenes. “I think that’s why there is so much fire in the game,” Maar said. “It’s something big that I can show off. I love explosions, it must be super over the top.”

Nail the dubbing

happy broccoli games interview september 2021

Part of the emotional release is captured by fully rendered character portraits, but even then Maar lamented that he could only use a set amount that expresses happiness, sadness, surprise, or anger. So, it became important that “the vision that I had in my head extends with the voice actors”. As a thriving actress herself, with experience in a virtual reality game called Supernatural freaks and two credits in Kraken AcademyMaar said it was crucial to bring the dialogue as much life as possible with limited resources. She said that when 80% of the game is read, it helps to hear the perfect voice playing in her head.

Kraken Academy is not fully doubled. There are 34 named characters played by around 25 actors – including Brian David Gilbert, former Polygon video producer perhaps best known for the web series. Disentangled. After leaving Polygon in 2020 and expressing his interest in dubbing on Twitter, Maar said Happy Broccoli offered him the role of Kraken AcademyPaul’s main character, because “that was a good fit.”

Most of the other characters cast in the game had over 100 audiences, according to Maar, but there were instances where only one matched his vision perfectly. The characters have a few fully dubbed lines and only make sounds at other times, due to budget constraints, but even then it was often difficult to manage.

“I think for future projects we’re going to use less voice actors and then more people will do multiple characters. It’s a lot of work to message each one separately.”

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The importance of smart marketing

happy broccoli games interview september 2021

A large area in which Kraken Academy could be more creative in its marketing. Preuss said the team took advantage of “standard” practices; attend events as needed, post a demo on Steam, build a community on Discord, stream an animated trailer at the Guerrilla Collective’s E3 2021 showcase, and more. However, Maar said they wanted to break away from “boring things” like talking to the press (this interview was notably initiated by Game Rant) by adapting a strategy that capitalized on what would make them personally excited about an upcoming game. .

For example, Happy Broccoli asked a friend to make an Alternative Reality Game (ARG) that would draw people in through custom websites and puzzles. Some of these branches can still be found online, such as a 2003 simulated blog by Kraken Academy character Kostadin Kazanov called “The Truth of Kostadin” who digs into conspiracy theories about the “evil and capitalist” soda company from the game Mepsi Corp. lead people to play and, more importantly, provide them with additional knowledge. Preuss said: “It was super fun watching the streamers play the game for the first time, then find the ARG and go down the rabbit hole.”

Streamers have been another key part of Kraken Academyis marketing. Happy Broccoli has set up a campaign around E3 2021 for streamers to play the game, and another is happening in the middle of its official launch. There will also be a fan art contest, and Preuss said he has produced merchandise – including stickers, pins and a plush toy based on the Broccoli Girl mascot character – which are sent as a “thank you gift” to some. players and collaborators. .

“Merchandising takes a lot of work, we have to put it away with our hands every time, even if it’s time we could devote to the game. But it’s a lot of fun, we enjoy it and it’s more personal. . ”

Adding those kinds of personal and fun touches has boosted the game as much as its growing community. Maar said: “It’s not very tangible how much return we would get on the merch or the ARG, and someone more traditional could throw it all in the Facebook ads.” But that’s what they would gravitate towards in other games, and it seems to have worked for Kraken Academy. In fact, now that the game is out, Maar has said that there is already a prototype developed for a new game set in the same universe – one that might not necessarily be a sequel. “If it was just the three of us to play a game it would be so much more boring,” said Preuss. “To have this community is amazing. ”

Kraken Academy is available now on PC

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