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Interview: ThroughLine Games discusses its Ghibli-esque platformer Forgotton Anne

Interview: ThroughLine Games discusses its Ghibli-esque platformer Forgotton Anne
First published: | Updated:

iOS + iPod
| Forgotton Anne

Unless you've been living under a rock this past week or simply don't check in with us here at Pocket Gamer very often (in which case, shame on you!) you'll have no doubt come across our recent announcement that Forgotton Anne has launched on iOS.

In case you haven't, now's the perfect time to check out said announcement

Having already launched Forgotton Anne to a wealth of critical praise on Switch, console, and PC, developer ThroughLine Games decided to team up with publisher Hitcents to bring its visually stunning platformer to mobile.

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We recently spoke with the development team behind the game: Alfred Nguyen (Creative Director) Michael Godlowski-Maryniak (Lead Programmer) Ingvi Snædal (Producer), and Alexander Kramerov (Artist), to find out what it took to bring this Ghibli-inspiredplatformer to our hand-held screens.

To kick things off, what do you think Forgotton Anne offers that you can't find from any other title on the App Store? Alfred Nguyen: "I think we’ve achieved a level of detail and immersion with a 2D animated adventure game seldom seen on mobile. It's an interactive cinematic adventure we've tried to make seamless in the sense that while playing you won't experience any loading screens, there is no gameover, just constant immersion in a beautiful fantastical world where your choices impact how you experience an emotional journey filled with mystery and wonder." Ingvi Snædal: "A single-player, offline experience. :)

"With more and more games requiring a constant connection and micro-transactions, loot-boxes, etc, it’s not every day that an old-school single player game that you buy once and OWN appears. Forgotton Anne is that kind of experience which you can enjoy anywhere, even offline."

Is the development process for mobile significantly different to PC? Alexander Kramerov: "It’s very different. When you're developing for PC in a style which isn't very demanding performance-wise - you get sloppy. This is especially true if you'e part of a hard-pressed indie team. Other problems tend to divert your attention. On the mobile platform you need much more discipline to make it work." Were there any major changes you needed to make for the mobile version? Michael Godlowski-Maryniak: "The biggest difference compared to the previous platforms we have released on is the touch interface. We had to completely rethink how players would interact with the game. Also since our mobile interface is visible at all times, but still hooks into our current system, we had to think of a way to gracefully hide and show buttons when certain parts of the control scheme were enabled or disabled. All in all we didnt want to change too much in the way players experience Forgotton Anne, even though point and click was brought on the table, we chose to go with what we felt would give our players the most genuine experience. Without giving too many spoilers away, do you have any personal favourite Forgotling characters or moments?

Ingvi Snædal: "One of my favourites, and one that has caused many double-takes during livestreams, is the animation film (created by Denmark’s first animator, Robert Storm Petersen) played on-screen in Scrappers, the bar, which Anne can watch." Alfred: "I think some of my favourite scenes involve Magnum, the police chief (a trigger-happy gun forgotling). In the story he is a big fan of Anne, the player character, and so there are moments where his behavior can be both amusing and repulsive at the same time." Michael Godlowski-Maryniak: "I must also say Magnum, he is so blinded by his affection for Anne it creates some very amusing moments.

"Another funny moment which comes to my mind is when Anne is inspecting a train and questions two of the most suspicious characters who claim they have not seen anything suspicious at all! Anne accepts that, haha."

Alexander Kramerov: "Amp! He is a new deputy on his first day working for Magnum so he is very insecure. Also I voiced him..haha." Alfred Nguyen: "Yeah, by the way everyone on the team has voice cameos in the game, so amidst all this great voice acting from professionals you might find a line or two seemingly different hehe. But you did a great job Alex!" What was the most challenging aspect of developing Forgotton Anne?
Ingvi Snædal: "Deadlines. Haha" Michael Godlowski-Maryniak: "As Forgotton Anne was our first game at ThroughLine Games it was quite an ambitious project to start out with, it felt like we were making a playable movie, so the question was how to achieve this. We needed to be in a constant iterative mentality as everything was being defined and new systems were being developed at the same time. Also we were releasing on 3 platforms at the same time, which included consoles and none of us had any prior console porting experience. We are still facing new challenges for every port and have to come up with creative solutions every time. Looking back I am extremely proud of the whole team and what we were able to achieve so far." Which part of the game are you personally the most proud of and what aspects of Forgotton Anne do you feel players will be most excited about?

Ingvi Snædal: "Gameplay-wise our mission was to create a strong empathetical bond between you, the player, and Anne. This applies not just to the frame-by-frame animation but also to the controls themselves. You’ll notice that when you flip a switch or perform an action in the game, you won’t be pressing a button on the screen to ask Anne to perform the action. You’ll have to hold a button, simulating a grab, and then pull in the direction you want the switch or object to go. This creates a one-to-one relationship between your input and Anne’s actions, creating a stronger empathetical bond between the two of you. Your ability to choose responses also colours Anne based on your input. Who Anne “is” is in part determined by your actions. All of this serves to make Anne’s journey your own." Alfred Nguyen: "I think it is this feeling of presence and immersion I'm most happy about. That we can manage to transport the player and make them forget about the real world for a moment." Michael Godlowski-Maryniak: "From a technical point of view im very proud of how we managed to integrate Anne into the world. How her 2D hand drawn animations smoothly move over obstacles, stairs and ladders. It really improves the immersion and makes you feel like this really is a playable animated movie."

If you'd like to check out the sensory-splendor that is Forgotton Anne for yourself then be sure to download it now from the App Store. You can also share your experience of the game and let the devs know what you think of it by joining its official Discord.