Founded in 2019, Newfangled Games is creating premium mobile, PC and console games focusing on original IPs with an artistic flair and emotionally engaging stories. The studio was founded by brothers Henry Hoffman, a BAFTA award-winning game developer and his brother Frederick Hoffman, an award-winning artist.
From small beginnings to new games and partnerships, Newfangled Games is now set to release a top-down puzzle adventure game, Paper Trail. We caught up with creative director Frederick Hoffman to discuss the evolution of Newfangled, the upcoming release of Paper Trail and making a partnership with Netflix.
Pocketgamer.biz: How did Newfangled come to be? What was the starting point?
Frederick Hoffman: The studio had pretty dodgy beginnings in a very shady illegal basement flat in Brixton. It was a maker's studio, artist squat kind of situation with no windows and lots of chaos. Henry and I had been working in our respective fields (game design for him, illustration for me) for a long time, and we wanted to start something ambitious together that we could have real ownership over.
We’d really enjoyed working together on his previous game ‘Hue’ and wanted to start a business based around growth and sustainability instead of the more typical solo dev approach of making a game, dissolving the studio, starting again, rinse and repeat.
There have been a few points in the journey where we had to pinch ourselves and look at how far we’ve come.Frederick Hoffman
How do you reflect on those beginnings to where Newfangled is now?
Haha, it’s come a long way from there, that's for sure! It was a long time before I even had a desk to work on, and I would be propped up in bed, balancing my drawing tablet on my knees, trying to paint concept art. I'm happy to say we all have desks now, and windows!
The most rewarding and surreal part has been watching the team grow from just us brothers to a fully international ragtag bunch of puzzle enthusiasts. We’ve got team members in Canada, Mexico, Japan, China, and the UK now! On top of that, we sponsored our lead programmer's visa application to come work here in Norwich with us directly. So all very serious things.
There have been a few points in the journey where we had to pinch ourselves and look at how far we’ve come. From the first award we won (best mobile game at the Taipei Game Show), to our double page Edge feature, to signing a deal with Netflix?! It’s wild to think it all started with a casual video chat, followed by brainstorming over beers.
And how about Paper Trail? Where did the idea for the game come from?
We can’t remember which of us originally came up with the idea, but it started out very different to how it plays now. Originally, we were looking at having a paper map in your pocket that you can take out and manipulate, then when you look up from it, the world around you has changed to match the map.
We literally sketched that idea out on paper and began messing around with folding the map, trying to work out what puzzles might look like, and then we were struck with the idea: what if the world *was* the map? From there, we moved on to the top-down click-to-move structure that now underpins the whole game.
It’s nice to be able to say that Paper Trail actually started on paper.
Paper Trail is making its way to mobile through Netflix Games. How did this opportunity come about?
We like to think it's just because we’re a really good fit for their platform, but there’s a healthy dose of luck here too! We were very fortunate that whilst we were exhibiting at Gamescom, a player loudly announced, ‘damn, this game would be great on mobile!’ whilst a Netflix representative was hovering nearby.
We’d been in contact with them for a while, and they’d been following along development with interest, but that interaction, followed by us winning ‘Best Family Game’ at the same event, seemed to be the final thing that swung it for them.
From now on, we’ll be hiring stooges to go to events for us and proclaim how perfect it’d be for -insert platform here- whenever there’s a rep nearby.
We love what Netflix is doing on their end. The games they’re choosing to represent and amplify align with our core values.Frederick Hoffman
And why do you think Netflix Games is the right place for Paper Trail?
A premium subscription service was the goal from the very beginning! When we were pitching the early prototype, our eyes were firmly on Apple Arcade. We wanted to bring high-value, artistic and innovative games to mobile - specifically through subscription models. Apple gradually moved away from the types of games we wanted to make, and we were content with making the game we wanted and releasing it on multiple platforms. Until we started looking into that whole Netflix Games thing, we became more interested in them the more we saw what they were up to.
We love what Netflix is doing on their end. The games they’re choosing to represent and amplify align with our core values. They’re getting amazing indie titles like Oxenfree and Before Your Eyes in front of millions of people who may never have been exposed to them otherwise. I think they’ve got the potential to be a tremendous force for good in the indie scene, and to be a part of that is a great feeling. It’s early days, of course, but if they keep doing what they’re doing, well, it’s very exciting.
Paper Trail is releasing across mobile, PC and console. How important do you feel cross-platform gaming is?
It’s an interesting challenge because each platform has a different expectation of a good gaming experience. Developing for all platforms forces us to make accommodations for more casual players whilst also working to ensure a rewarding challenge for hardcore puzzle enthusiasts. We love making new mechanics and approaching the puzzle genre in a novel way, and we want to get more people excited about it too. Having as broad a reach as possible and making the game as accessible as possible is a big part of that. Not everyone has a top of the range gaming PC or a switch, and by working with a wide variety of platforms, we want to open it up to as many people as we can!
What are the long-term goals at Newfangled? More games, bigger team?
Bigger games and team! We want to move into the next dimension, so we’ll need more people. You can expect the same mechanic-driven philosophy that drives Papertrail but a bigger and more ambitious world. We love puzzles and want to keep stories that surprise and delight. With more people on board, we can try things we only ever dreamed of! Personally, I’m super excited to bring this illustrative 2D aesthetic into three dimensions. We’ve got tons of ideas, and hopefully, there will be some bold new things to show in 2024!
Finally, what is the release date for Paper Trail? And is there anything else we should be on the lookout for?
Paper Trail will be released on all platforms in Q1 2024! You can follow along on socials, as we still have plenty of announcements to make between now and then - lots of new mechanics that haven't been seen yet, new characters, more puzzles, and a fully illustrated story told through foldable (of course), interactive cutscenes.