We’re excited to continue Silen Audio’s Developer Interview Series with Time on Frog Island. We asked Max Wrighten, the game director of the Half Past Yellow team, about this recently released game. Dive in to learn about the team’s path, hopes, and future for this engaging and adorable game!
Check out Time on Frog Island and join in on the fun puzzles and island exploration over on Steam.
S: Congratulations for creating your first physical release. What an adorable and interesting game you’ve created! How did the Half Past Yellow team come together and what was the journey like towards this release?
M: Thank you so much! Half Past Yellow was initially started in 2017 as a way to work on the games we wanted to make. Most of our co-founders met in Copenhagen during a university exchange program called EUCROMA. After graduating from our respective universities, we each returned to Copenhagen for different reasons before making the leap to starting the studio. Development for Time on Frog Island started just as Covid lockdowns hit Denmark so we actually began production while working from home. The big break for us was signing the publishing deal with Merge Games. It is always difficult making your first few game titles as you need to slowly prove that your team is reliable at shipping games, we are glad that we could get a suitable prototype together that displayed the idea of the game properly.
S: What kind of game is Time on Frog Island and what are some of its unique features?
M: Time on Frog Island is an exploration puzzle adventure game. It has been described by us as a point and click adventure for people with ADHD, because there are a lot of little things to do on the island and a lot of distractions to be found along the way. I think the uniqueness of the game comes from the open ended questions and pictogram “dialogue”, we really want players to learn the lay of the land, while experimenting with different items and solutions. Part of the fun of the game for us is the memory aspect of how the island fits together, which frogs need which items, interesting places or special looking items that could be useful.
S: Time on Frog Island (previously known as Trading Time on Frog Island) is a perfect name for this game. What decisions were made behind the final name you chose?
M: The name change from Trading Time was mostly due to SEO concerns. We liked the name, and we did have the game showing up in searches, but there were also a lot of articles about day trading, sports trading seasons, and crypto currencies. We felt that Time on Frog Island better represented the game to players and search algorithms alike.
S: There have been a lot of positive reviews, support and engagement from your loving fans. What sort of community are you nurturing for your audience around Time on Frog Island? What do you hope to bring to them?
M: Our hope is that we are fostering a community around Half Past Yellow (as well as Time on Frog Island). As a studio, we are interested in making games of different genres, styles, and scopes, so we are hoping to build a brand of quality that players can trust regardless of what genre of game we tackle next.
S: We enjoy the super cute and personal froggy language, which really adds a fun and mysterious spark to the adventure. What system did you use to form Time on Frog Island’s story and unique characters?
M: We aren’t narrative designers and we wanted the focus of the game to be on exploration of a new place, which led to us fleshing out the island and the world in the background and allowing the player to focus on their own story as they progress through the game. In terms of tools, we really just blocked things out in text and determined from there which pictograms we would need. Our sound designer, Goran, then looked to words in other languages and strange pronunciations to create the “language” of the frogs.
S: The graphic style is really charming and the movements are quite satisfying in this explorative puzzle game. How did you design the game and what challenges did you face?
M: The game’s design initially came from us wanting to link quests together and give the game a “there and back again” flow. Chains of trades like the Biggoron Sword quest in Ocarina of Time, or the One Small Favour quest in Runescape inspired us to take an extra step and create a game with multiple criss crossing chains. We had plenty of challenges deciding what information to give to the player, how long chains can be, and how large the island can be. Through testing and creating the free Prologue story, we managed to find a good balance for the final product.
S: We had a great time questing on this beautiful open island world. Is your game play inspired by any similar games that you love?
M: A big inspiration for us was A Short Hike, and Untitled Goose Game. We were also inspired by the trading quests I mentioned before from Zelda and Runescape. I don’t think that I have played a game exactly like Time on Frog Island, but when you break it apart into the components, the inspirations become quite clear.
S: The lush music and sound effects create a very calm and relaxing experience. How did you decide and make this pleasing sonic energy behind your story?
M: I think that is best answered by our sound team, Goran and Nino.
Goran (Sound Design): We wanted to create this tranquil state for the player and reduce any sense of rush or urgency. To feel enjoyable to get lost, explore, contemplate and immerse yourself in the island environment.
Nino (Music): Our fundamental idea was to create calmness and peace in a multitude of tones. We’ve played a lot with the idea and the deeper we dug, the simpler it became and less elements were required to narrate. I guess the secret formula was to look for a sweet spot, then add a new element to intersect and iterate in order to find the final sound.
S: Half Past Yellow has grown so much since your recent successful release. What are your future goals for your independent studio? Are there any exciting updates coming to Time on Frog Island?
M: After obtaining publisher funding we managed to bring on some of our frequent contractors full time (like for sound) and hire some additional help for art. All in all, we have moved from 4-8 over the last 18 months. In terms of what is next, we have a patch on the way that will fix a few bugs and add a couple of QoL features to the game, but our goal for the studio is to release quality games of all shapes and sizes. We may return to the world of Frog Island, but we will be moving on to a new project first.
S: Based on your experience and perspective, what tips/advice can you share for new and aspiring independent game developers?
M: I think it is always difficult to give advice to new studios starting out, because each studio’s journey is so different. We were definitely lucky in some places and unlucky in others. I think the main thing for me is to have a strong group of co-founders and/or advisors who know how to work together well. We all help and support each other and there is a lot of work in the day to day that requires trust. It is important to know that you are all aligned and have each other’s backs.