TGS2023: Vikings on Trampolines and a Commentary about Unity


Continuing on our Tokyo Games Show 2023 coverage (there’s a lot already!), we had the chance to meet the good people from D-Pad studio at the show. If this name sounds familiar, it’s probably because you have heard, or even played one of their titles before, such as Owlboy. One of the unique features of Owlboy is its hand-drawn animation style, which gives it a distinctive and charming look that sets it apart from usual indie platformers. This time they were at the show to present their new game, Vikings on Trampolines, which is a fair and concise description of what the game is all about. Simon Stafnes Andersen (the CEO and a very talented Art Director) was presenting the current demo of the game and explaining the whole concept behind it. Basically he was looking to make a game that could be played by small kids - and the concept of Vikings jumping and trying to keep staying on trampolines came out from there - it’s indeed a game where very few controls are needed: mostly left or right and an extra button for some specific actions.

The gameplay is fun and simple, reminiscent of Smash brothers with its chaotic nature, but much easier to start and have fun with, even for people that never played games before. The 2D art is as amazing as you would expect from the Owlboy artist - still hard to believe that one artist can produce that much art, on that level of quality. Co-op Boss battles were also really fun and a good break from the free-for all, and each map lead to very different game experiences. If you want a good party game to play, with simple but fun mechanics, that you can start up quickly, you have it - and it is also a treat for the eyes.

We are very much looking forward to the release, planned sometimes in 2024.

About Unity, Godot and More…

Since Vikings on Trampolines is made using Unity, it was a good time to ask Simon Stafnes Andersen about his opinion related to the whole situation. We captured that part in video so you can watch it below:

Note that the timing is important - this interview was conducted on the 21st of September, just a few days before Unity came back with a new set of proposals following the incendiary feedback from game devs. Here’s a few extracts from the talk:

Simon: On one hand, they did this without any warning, which is a breach of trust. The second is that they went back and changed what their documentation said, which is a big breach of trust, and even if they backpedal and say that they are not going to do this, it means that they might do it later anyway. How do we have any guarantee that they won’t pull the same thing 6 months down the line?

We asked him about what options are out there:

Simon: You could port it (your game) to other engines, you have options like Game Maker, you have Godot, and you have FNA, all of those are viable options. The only problem is people who have locked in to the Unity development side of things, it’s going to take a lot of time and money to port things over. And that’s the sort of position that we are in with Vikings on Trampolines specifically. We can of course take some extra time and let things simmer for a while and port to a new new engine. But that’s not the same for Savant Ascent Remix that launches in one and half week!

About Unity:

Simon: Personally, I love Unity. I think they have done a lot of good work, and they have a lot of people on the team that do very good things. […] The problem, as far as I understand it, seems to be management. And it means that, even if they can talk to Management, they need to be able to have that trust with Management that they will not overstep their boundaries anymore. Of course, it does not really matter what I say, there are hundreds and hundreds of other developers out there right now who are in the same position. So if it turns out that they change a couple of things later down the line, it does not matter what I say, if say 300 developers have jumped ship now, they have already done the damage.

We were curious about what they knew about Godot and if they had tried it yet.

Simon: I have not tried it yet (Godot). I know, if I remember correctly, it’s a subdivision of Epic Games, same people that run Unreal, I have heard very good things about it, in fact it’s very good for 2D projects. I always err on the side of caution on these things. If Unity goes bankrupt, I don’t think that’s going to happen, but let’s take that as an example, their biggest competition is an engine owned by their other biggest competition, and you don’t want to create monopolies.[…] Make sure you diversify. If I were to suggest other engines, I would say Game Maker 2 is very good, and if you have the time and resources and know enough about programming, FNA is a very good option as well. Unreal is very good for 3D projects but I don’t know if I would recommend it for 2D projects.

If the above made you jump out of your seat a little, it’s normal, Godot is not owned by Epic Games since it’s under a FOSS license, MIT license to be exact. But I guess Simon may have got that impression from the fact that Godot received funding from Epic Games previously (250k USD in 2020), so this may be a little confusing if you don’t follow the project very closely.

In any case, we had an excellent time with D-Pad Studio, and we are really looking forward to playing Vikings on Trampolines and their upcoming games as well!