D-Pad’s Jo-Remi Madsen discusses Owlboy’s nine years of development

Alex Calvin
D-Pad’s Jo-Remi Madsen discusses Owlboy’s nine years of development

In 2011, indie development studio D-Pad released a trailer for their upcoming title, Owlboy.

The video promised a release date that same year for the indie pixel-art game. It would be another five years before Owlboy launched on digital storefronts.

Oh, we made so many mistakes,” programmer Jo-Remi Madsen laughs. We released the demo with that trailer and in the first couple of days a million people had downloaded the game. They started giving us feedback on it. We decided to rework almost the entire game based on their feedback. Even though the game was slated for that very same year, we ended up with five years of improvements and re-writing the story.

A lot of the reason why it was delayed was because a lot of things changed in our lives in particular. Therefore, things changed in the game, too. If you write a novel and change a character's name or give them a different trait, you need to rewrite the entire book to accommodate for the changes. That's essentially what we had to do.”

In total, Owlboy's development cycle was a bruising nine years, during while D-Pad was supported both by their parents and funds from the Norwegian Government.

In not hitting the initial 2011 release date, Owlboy also missed out on the start of the indie boom, which came into full effect in 2012.

To us, it was kind of frightening,” Madsen admits. But at the same time, we were happy that people started to embrace both indie projects and pixel art. This year, some of the greatest games are indie titles. We're kind of happy that, even though a lot of people are under the impression that indie IPs are unprofessionally made and smaller projects with no ambition, normally it's the other way around. Undertale was one of those titles that proved that point. They tried to do something that came as a huge surprise to everyone.

So I'm just really happy that people have changed their view on indie games. But it also means we are in for a bit of competition, of course. That's never really been a huge concern of ours because we're not a big company. Rather, it probably gives us more attention. Some of those games proved that you can make break-out hits even while using pixel art.”

So far, Owlboy is only available on PC. Madsen says that though D-Pad is planning on bringing the game to console, it simply didn't have the capability to do this on the same day as the PC release.

After all of these years of fans waiting for the game, we wanted to get it out as soon as possible as to not get torn apart,” Madsen says.

So that's why we released on PC first because it's much quicker to update and iterate on that platform, especially through Steam. It's the opposite on console – if you release a game there, you need to make sure that everything works.

Focusing on PC first was just a natural order of things. If we launched on console and PC simultaneously, it would put a lot of pressure on the team and I think it wouldn't have been received quite as well, because it would have had a lot of issues that we couldn't have fixed in time. That's why I'm super happy with the way we did things. Next year, we'll of course try and get the game out for consoles because there are so many people asking for it.

It would be stupid for us not to pursue that.”

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