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Howl Interview: Mi’pu’mi discusses how its living ink folktale game made the leap to mobile

Howl Interview: Mi’pu’mi discusses how its living ink folktale game made the leap to mobile
  • Learn about the Living Ink feature that allows players to illustrate the game
  • How the studio's AAA co-development experience helped shape the game
  • The medieval folklore inspirations behind Howl's narrative

Originally released on PC and Switch last November to glowing reviews, developer Mi’pu’mi, in collaboration with publisher Astragon Entertainment, recently released its innovative living ink title, Howl, for iOS and Android devices.

Blending intuitive strategic elements with superb stylish visuals, Howl invites players into a dark folklore inspired mediaeval world, where a lone heroine must brave the dangers of werewolf infested labyrinths in an effort to find her lost brother.

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The adventure takes place across 60 levels, each one serving as a strategic puzzle where you must learn and predict the behaviour of its ravenous wolves in order to survive.

As a special treat for you dear reader, we recently chatted with the devs behind the game to learn about the journey they took to finally bring Howl to mobile. Enjoy.

First off, what do you feel Howl offers that distinguishes it from other apps?

We see Living Ink as a key feature and USP to Howl and are very proud with what we have achieved there. The idea that the player is writing their own prophecy while playing by painting a piece of art is something we haven’t seen that often in games. The metaphor of an endless scroll that is written or painted while you progress your own story is a very strong and immersive element of the player's experience.

The game’s central theme of a dynamic prophecy, being written as you play, inspired us to present the game as an illuminated parchment come to life. A large part of this was coming up with a way to show ‘Living Ink' instead of static ink, dead on paper; the colours should flow, morph, and travel across the page as you ‘illustrate’ the game by playing the game.

On a personal level, what for you are your favourite aspects about the game?

We try to acknowledge the fact that we are a European studio, located in Austria, pretty much in the middle of this continent. Instead of searching for stories and characters in different cultural regions, we want to dive into topics we grew up with and narratives we know well. This was the reason why we created The Lion’s Song a while back, a game taking place in Vienna, taking place during the “Wiener Moderne”.

With Howl we picked a story associated with the tales of the Grimm Brothers, literature most of our team grew up with. Combining the mediaeval setting with our newly created tech Living Ink and making the latter work, is an achievement we are very proud of.

Mipumi’s motto is “Great Games don’t have to be big”. We are happy to offer players an easy entry point with a steady curve increasing the difficulty level, but also enough trickiness for experienced players.

How has the fan reaction been to the mobile launch and has its reception met with expectations?

Mipumi’s team feels very privileged when it comes to players’ perception and feedback. Starting with the aforementioned first game The Lion’s Song, we received mainly positive responses for our titles over the years. Howl is no exception and was welcomed warmly by gamers, on all platforms. Many mobile players and fans of the genre had Howl already on the radar with the previous releases and are enjoying the prophet’s journey on their platform of choice now.

We are happy to have concluded our multiplatform journey that started on Switch & PC last November, continued on PlayStation and Xbox in January and is now ending on mobile. To live happily ever after, or so they say.

What were the biggest challenges you faced during development and how did you overcome them?

The development of Howl started during a creative day at Mipumi with a small team and evolved slowly. While defining the mechanics and the narrative we came up with the idea for living ink, a tech we developed explicitly for this game. So, a lot of time was spent on creating a proof of concept for living ink and making it work in the context of our story.

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Since we are used to working on multiplatform titles, we do our best to avoid decisions that restrict our development process further down the line, especially when additional platforms are added to the planning. Still, it is always a challenge to address the variety of different platforms and make sure all submissions with the platform holders are concluded in a short amount of time. The experience we gained on the AAA co-development titles we supported, for e.g. IO Interactive, Remedy Entertainment or MachineGames, helped a lot and is good proof of the existing skillset across all disciplines at Mipumi.

It goes without saying that the visuals are strikingly beautiful. How did the design choice come about?

While experimenting with a fitting art style we created our living ink tech that is based and inspired by illuminated manuscripts like the Book of Skells. We referenced a large number of illuminated manuscripts, watercolour art, and picture books in order to come up with an aesthetic that is close to a fable and created static images to illustrate the visual target.

All the while, we considered what it would look like if the ink was flowing before our eyes. We wanted game scenes to be drawn gradually and for the colour to come alive before the players eyes, to remain fluid and in motion, until they’ve completed a level “inscribing” their unique playthrough of a level into the parchment.
This captures the look of flowing watercolour, while still keeping the game easy to overview and interact with.

If you’d like to try Howl for yourself, then you can download the game on iOS and Android to play a demo version for free. The full game can be unlocked with an in-app purchase of $3.99 or your local equivalent.