It’s been a tough few years for any practising medical professional, and the developers at BUNTSPECHT.GAMES know this all too well. Aiming to convey those hardships, they have come up with Fall of Porcupine, which isn’t a simulation, but instead a narrative adventure with a hint of Night in the Woods. By following the story of a medical intern, Finley, you can empathise with the plight of the men and women keeping us healthy in a manner that is far, far better than clapping outside our doors.
To find out more about the process of making Fall of Porcupine, we approached their Managing Director with a clipboard of questions in our hands.
Hi, could you please introduce yourself and your role on Fall of Porcupine?
I’m Florian “Flo” Köster. Managing Director of BUNTSPECHT.GAMES based in Cologne, Germany and the executive producer of Fall of Porcupine.
Could you give us a quick explanation of the game?
Fall Of Porcupine is a unique and emotional story adventure that deals with the collision of work and daily life.
Players guide young Finley through his first weeks at a provincial hospital. He is on fire for his apprenticeship as an internist. Controlled by the player, he runs, jumps, and glides through the city of Porcupine. At first glance, the small town is a warm, friendly place where everyone knows and greets each other. But if you live there for any length of time, you’ll suspect not everyone is as honest as they pretend to be. Finley can interact with any character or interesting prop in his environment.
Players experience a lovingly illustrated world and explore exciting secrets together with Finley and his friends.
Being a medical professional over the past few years has been challenging, to say the least. Did any of that filter into the story you wanted to tell?
Yes of course! In fact Fall Of Porcupine is based on experiences patients and people working in the healthcare system had. We did more than 20 interviews with them before production of Fall Of Porcupine – during the development of the game the coronavirus hitted the world and the healthcare system. The burden to the people working there was – and still is – a huge burden. It’s as if we hit a nerve (unfortunately) with that topic.
So yes the situation of medical professionals over the past few years totally influenced our game’s story.
We get the sense that this is quite a bit more than a doctor simulation. Did your intentions for the game evolve over time?
No they didn’t. From the beginning it was our goal to tell a very personal story in the form of an adorable and highly polished story-adventure with exciting twists and turns – not only within the story, but also with the gameplay.
With fun mini-games, platforming and impactful dialog-choices, players shall experience a unique, heartfelt, and spirited story of friendship, self-sacrifice and self-love.
What are we going to feel by the end of Fall of Porcupine?
I don’t want to enclose too many details, but I can tell you that it’s going to be a bittersweet ending for Finley and through the game you are going to experience very different moods. The free prologue that is out now includes only the last days of summer leading to Fall at the end of the prologue.
There are two mentions alone of Night in the Woods on your Steam page. Do you embrace the comparisons?
We love Night in the Woods, it’s a great game and there’s nothing wrong with game comparisons! But story-wise we think our game is unique, also looking at artstyle.
Both games have humanoid animals as in-game characters and both games are story adventures with similar gameplay, so it’s understandable there are comparisons and it helps players to understand what they can expect.
The game is beautiful to say the least. What was the inspiration for the art style?
First of all thank you 😉
Our art style is inspired by a mixture of a children’s book series called “Pettersson & Findus”, which is very whimsical and cute, but also Alberto Mielgo’s use of color and shapes as well as the works of Mike Yamada. We then translated this mixture into a 2D game look.
The soundtrack – at least from the trailer – sounds like it will tug at the heartstrings. Is Fall of Porcupine a mix of score and songs? Who have you collaborated with for the soundtrack?
The soundtrack was planned as a pure and large score. Each track will be handmade and created exclusively for our scenes. But it is a creative process and we are open to the great ideas from our composer. For example, with the trailer, there were no vocals planned, but those lines were suddenly in his head, so he sang them. Which turned out really great!
We are working with composer PINSEL, who is making his first computer game just like us. A perfect match for us and the project.
Minigames and puzzles are so hard to get right, and can often confound or slow down the player. What’s your secret for the perfect addition?
Some might say that developing mini-games is easy and simple – but it’s not because they are so experience driven. The secret is to make them enjoyable for all sorts of players. For experienced and beginners. Fall Of Porcupine fits both, so we had to consider that too.
Minigames should not take too much time to solve (below 5 minutes) they must be visually pleasing and players need to understand what to do at all times, so the game needs to give you enough feedback visually or auditory.
The title tempts us with the ‘Fall’ of Porcupine. Is this a hint of what’s to come?
Yes, the seasons are a fundamental component of Fall Of Porcupine. In the main game, players begin to play in fall (the prologue is about the last days of summer before fall). I don’t want to spoil too much, but like I said the seasons are a fundamental story-telling element of the game reflecting the mood and maybe even Finley’s state of mind.
A prologue has been made available on all systems. Has it been beneficial to get a small portion of the game out there? What has the response been like?
Yes absolutely! We were able to achieve more than 25.000 demo downloads which is absolutely insane for us! We also received tons of positive feedback from players, especially because we included a huge cliffhanger at the end of the demo.
We recommend to all developers out there, who are making a story-focused game, to release a free prologue or demo. It’s a huge boost and fantastic help for future development.
What’s it like to be launching your first game as a studio? Is it daunting? And how is launching on virtually every system under the sun?
It’s exciting and exhausting at the same time. But as artists there is nothing more satisfying than feeling the fear and happiness of publishing your art. As an indie dev making a game simultaneously on several platforms is an extra challenge.
It’s tense to watch people playing the game, hoping that they understand what they have to do. It’s a great feeling when player guidance works, but also frustrating when you face moments, which are hard to solve with the given time. You are always moving through nice achievements when you script or your story passage works, and stubborn bugs, or story issues, which are hard to solve. But at the end, you are happy about what you created with the team.
We’re already getting direct messages and fanart from people who played the prologue. That boosts motivation for the whole team.
Is Fall of Porcupine based on any real-life situations, or on real-world places? Does it come from your experience?
As mentioned before, the story of Fall Of Porcupine is based on stories from more than 20 interviews from european patients or hospital employees. We did not write the story based on our own experiences – surely they influenced us in some ways but it was important for us to include a diverse set of stories and experiences.
We thought it’s important to hear several sides. We want to tell what patients have to say. We want to tell what hospital employees have to say. We also understand that our game won’t change the world, but if there is a slight chance to bring attention to that topic, that people will feel heard, that affected people feel understood, that at the end of the day will help someone – then it’s worth it.
Finally, could YOU pass the Head Doctor’s tests yourselves?
If we learned one thing from the interviews, it is that regardless of the position in a hospital – you have a huge responsibility on your shoulders and professional expertise.
To be honest, I don’t think we will pass the test.
We even think we only scratched the surface with that topic in our game. It’s much deeper and more complicated – healthcare issues are a global problem but so different in each country. But we hope that our story with Finley and his friends will be able to give many players valuable insights!
Fall of Porcupine is due out in 2023 on Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PS4, PS5 and Nintendo Switch. Like medical professionals ourselves, we will be waiting to deliver our diagnosis of the game when it launches. We have great expectations for Fall of Porcupine.
If you want to know more, check out the free prologue on Steam.