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Interview #025: Mikael Forslind - Elden Pixels

The days of 8-bit gaming are alive and well with Elden Pixel's debut title, Alwa's Awakening. After having the opportunity to review this title, see link below, we just had to learn more about the developers. So please welcome Mikael Forslind, co-founder of Elden Pixels!

Read our review of Alwa's Awakening here.

Purchase Alwa's Awakening from the Nintendo eShop here.

Thank you Mikael for speaking with me today. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Why of course. I’ve actually only worked a few years in the gaming industry, before that I was a store manager at a video store for many, many years and it was an absolutely brilliant gig. Now I run my own small indie studio called Elden Pixels together with a few others and I’m having an absolute blast. We just released Alwa’s Awakening on Switch and it couldn’t have gone better! What was the first console and game you remember playing?

It was either some Game & Watch game or the Famicom back in the mid eighties. I was fortunate enough to have a dad that imported toys and electronics from Japan so very early when Famicom become big in Japan I got one. I can’t remember what games I played, but one of my earliest memories was the first Zelda game. Me and a friend (we were about 8 or 9 at the time) used to play it and since we didn’t speak English we always had to have this dictionary with us when playing. Although the first Zelda isn’t very heavy on dialogue we still looked up a few words.

Was is your fondest childhood video game memory?

Oh, where do I start? I have so many. Playing Civilization for weeks on end on my Amiga, playing all these Sierra text adventure games like Leisure Suit Larry and Police Quest. Those games were where I learned so many English words. If I remember correctly, very early in Police Quest 1 you had to “examine” a table in order to find a walkie-talkie. I remember learning that word and thinking it was a weird word, like ex-a-mine-eh? All those months of playing Goldeneye with four players on a 14" inch TV. Oh, those were the days.

Growing up, did you always want to work in the video game industry?

Not really, but what sparked the whole idea of actually getting a job in the gaming industry was that I quite randomly applied for a job at Nintendo in 2011 and I didn’t get it. That triggered something in me which led to my getting a degree in business & marketing and I spent about three years doing everything I could to improve my skills so I could finally land a job in the gaming industry. All of this ultimately lead to me forming my own company. About a year ago, Nintendo actually called me and offered me a job, but since I’m already doing what I want to do I politely turned them down. That felt kind of surreal, but still very good.

Prior to co-forming Elden Pixels, you worked for Image & Form and Zoink. How long were you with these companies and what was your role?

Around two years at both companies, so four years altogether. The title on my business card was PR & Marketing Manager and I jokingly always said that I handled everything the devs were too busy to think about like actually making the game available to purchase, store assets, ratings, marketing, publishing, conventions, website, keys request, interviews etc. At Zoink, my job also transformed into Office Manager, which meant I also was responsible for the office, purchases and who had keys to the place. Being an organized kind of person, I thrived at these places and I learned so much. The games are of course the main reason both Image & Form and Zoink have reached the level of success they are at now, but I feel good knowing I helped facilitate that success by successfully launching and marketing them.

During your time at Image & Form and Zoink, what was your favorite game to work on?

SteamWorld Dig on Wii U was the first game I worked on with marketing and publishing so it was quite exciting to start talking to Nintendo and actually making the game available on that platform. Besides that I think both SteamWorld Dig 2 where I was a game tester as well as Zoink’s newly released Flipping Death are both amazing games that everyone should play. Let's talk about Elden Pixels. Alongside three other friends, you opened up a studio in 2016 to create I. Can you provide some background on the game and how an idea turned into a finished product?

I was at a friend’s house drinking a beer or two and the three of us first played Battle Kid on NES and then we finished the entire Trine 2 game in one sitting. Then, I had this idea of a NES styled platformer focused around this small magician whose main power is not fighting, but instead clever use of magic. Within a few days I had written the entire Design Document and I foolishly had this idea to make it into a game. I realized my first order of business was to find someone who could take my placeholder art and turn it into something beautiful and I knew of this pixel artist who previously did some art for a website I also worked on. I didn’t know him personally, but I reached out and asked if he was interested. I then asked a friend of mine if he wanted to make music, and he did, and all of a sudden 3 out of 4 members of Elden Pixels were assembled. Lastly, we found our programmer, which I met through work and now the whole team was ready. That was four years ago and we’ve been making games together since!

This 8-bit adventure released on Steam last year and has received numerous awards since then. Additionally, the Nintendo Switch version will be releasing on September 27th to many eagerly waiting fans! How does it feel to you and the other members of Elden Pixels to see such a positive reaction to your title?

Still kind of weird, but we knew when we made the game that we wanted to make something we’d love to play as kids and when I read reviews that this game brings people back to their childhood, I know we’ve succeeded. I’m still always super nervous when I see there’s a new review or podcast and although most people like the game, every now and then we get a negative review and I’m fine with that.

Currently, a digital retro-inspired manual is available to download here and a physical NES cartridge with the soundtrack is available to purchase here . The next question has to be if a physical cartridge of the game itself is planned?

It’s funny because when we first released on Steam, a lot of people went “Please release on Nintendo” and then when we released on Nintendo a lot of people went “Please release on cartridge.” We have no plans at this time, but we’re always open if a publisher were to reach out. Being a small team though, all of these decisions are so important because every week or month we spend on Alwa’s Awakening takes time away from our next project.

Are you able to tease the studio's next project after Alwa's Awakening and if so, will we see this on the Switch? Unfortunately, we’re far from announcing anything yet, but I can say we’ve learned so much the last years so for our next game we’re really taking it to a whole new level. Just this week we announced that we’re hiring so the scope of the game is so much bigger. We can’t wait until the game is announced and we can finally share all the goodies we’ve been working on.

Besides your own, what game(s) are you currently playing and looking forward to? One of the downsides of working in this business (at least for me) is that you play less and less games. I find it hard to after a whole day of just living in the world of games to go home, relax and play more games. But I do play every now and then. Just recently I got Timespinner on PS4, which I enjoy and my wife and I have been playing Overcooked 2 for the longest of hours. I don’t want to brag too much, but we’re an impeccable team and we’re pretty darn good at the game. We’re about to hit that New Game+ now.  

Is there anything else you'd like to share today?

We just released Alwa’s Awakening on Switch! If you’re at all into adventure platform games, please check it out. We’re really proud over how the game turned out and it feels amazing to see it on a Nintendo platform.

Lastly, we’re EldenPixels on pretty much all social media platforms so please go and follow us there. Thank you!

Read our review of Alwa's Awakening here.

Purchase Alwa's Awakening from the Nintendo eShop here.

Follow Elden Pixels




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