GDC 2024 Interview: We Talked With Newfangled Games About Their Game Paper Trail

We got to take a look at a new cozy-style game coming to Nintendo Switch!

By Alexia Huizar. Posted 04/01/2024 22:09 Comment on this     ShareThis

Two brother’s starting up from a basement and growing into their own studio, after 7 years of development, finally ready to release their first indie game. Henry Hoffman, Founder and CEO of Newfangled Games alongside his brother, Fredrick Hoffman, Art Director, were able to sit with us one-on-one to show us an exclusive preview of Paper Trail on Nintendo Switch which will be released May 21, 2024.

Paper Trail is a top-down puzzle adventure game about leaving home and setting out on an adventure in a foldable, paper world. You play as Paige, a budding academic, who decides to leave home for the first time in order to pursue her studies. Following Paige’s journey, you learn to fold the world like a piece of paper, merging two sides to solve puzzles, explore new areas, and uncover long-lost secrets.

While at this year’s GDC, I was able to meet up, grab a coffee, and delve deeper into the minds and creation of their first ever game, Paper Trail.

Nintendojo: So Henry and Fred, you two have your own start-up company for indie games, is that right?

Henry Hoffman: Yes, so we are called Newfangled Games and we had started up about 5 years ago. It’s me and my brother Fred working in a basement in Brixton, London and we decided to start a game company together. We started to prototype the game Paper Trail and it was just us two for awhile until we finally got to set up with an investment and expand our team to about 5 people in total now.

ND: How nice, so your company is based out in London?

Henry: We were based off in London originally but we moved out to Norwich, which is a small city about 3 hours away from London. We are like one of the only game developer studios located out there which has its pros and cons like the benefit of it is, that all the recent graduates from the university doesn’t really have anywhere to go, so we’re going in and scooping them up and getting them involved. The downside of it though is that there is not much of a game development community out there.

Fred Hoffman: We are the best and the worst game studio out there. Like an entry level opportunity.

ND: Any opportunity works out because it’s a growing experience for both your company getting recognition and those wanting to get into the industry. Your game Paper Trail, this is your first game to be released under Newfangled Games?

Henry: Yes! So I have been working in videogames for about 15 years or so and I have done a bunch of indie games before this. The game I am most known for is called Hue which is also out right now on the Nintendo Switch as well as other platforms. That was a side-scrolling platformer where you can change the background colors of the world and Fred also did some artwork on the game as well.

Fred: Yeah and that is where I came into game design is from working on the artwork for Hue and then begin designing for Paper Trail.

ND: So give us a little insight on Paper Trail, what it’s about, what is it’s origin and goals for the game.

Henry: Paper Trail is a top-down puzzle adventure game set in a fully foldable paper world. The idea is that each level in the game is a piece of paper and there is one environment in the front and a different environment in the back and the player can fold the paper to merge the two worlds together, which creates a pretty interesting puzzle mechanic. It is predominantly a puzzle based game using a folding mechanic to navigate solving puzzles and stuff. There are also loads of other stuff such as 25 weird characters as well as voice overs and narrative foldable cutscenes.

Fred: There is also original soundtrack and about 8 hours of gameplay.

ND: Did you two work on the original soundtrack yourselves as well?

Henry: We hired a composer from Canada who is an audio instrumentalist and she plays the harp, the flute, the guitar, and she recorded all the tracks herself. She does a lot of vocal stuff and you don’t really hear vocal soundtracks in video games that often, mostly in epic fantasy style, so we really wanted to have a fully vocalized soundtrack. Even one of the very last songs in the game is fully rendered and symphonized which raises the production value in the game.

ND: Could you explain each of your roles in the development of Paper Trail?

Henry: My roles are a bit of mish-mash. In the last game I did, I was doing a bit of everything from audio, programming, a lot of the arts, but for this one I do a lot of odd jobs while being CEO of this company, getting people paid, level design, character art, audio design, and bits of programming here and there like optimization making sure the game runs well on Switch.

Fred: I do a lot of the environmental stuff, concept art, all the general aesthetic design, animations, hand drawing and UI elements. A lot of bloody drawing.

Henry: And then we got a developer from Mexico. He was based in Mexico City and he had started working for us part time remotely and then he was like “I love this product so much, I want to come to the UK and work for you guys in the office.” We ended up getting him set up with a Visa and flew him out to us and now he is working for us out in Norwich; it’s a bit of a culture shock coming from Mexico City to England, but he seems to be enjoying it working in our office, fixing up bugs and adding crazy shader development to make our game really work.

ND: That is so cool to see a cultural development between you two and have this experience together. So what inspired you guys to develop Paper Trail?

Henry: My design philosophy has always been mechanic driven design, so coming up with an innovative mechanic that nobody has done before and then building an entire game from that. For Paper Trail, Fred and I were chatting on facebook messenger, Fred was in the UK and I was in Mexico at the time, and we were chatting about potential game ideas. Fred had drawn out some potential game maps on a piece of paper and thought it would be interesting if we could fold the maps over and then it affects your environment.

It became much more interesting mechanically when there was immediate feedback when you were folding the levels themselves rather than the map itself. Fred started drawing levels like side scroller platform levels on pieces of paper and started to fold them over, making two different levels merge into one, but the game became more interesting when it became a top-down so it creates this weird optical illusion where walkable space can be rotated by folding the corner or reverse but you can still walk around it, so we shifted it from side-scrolling to top-down.

Fred: In the early development days we had stacks of paper that had roughly scribbled puzzles on them. We were literally prototyping the game by using pieces of paper and  folding them around. Paper prototyping was the inspiration.

ND: What led you to make it into a puzzle-based game?

Henry: The mechanics really led themselves to solving puzzles because it creates this escheresque sort of illusion which has a bit of Monument Valley vibe. Monument Valley was a big inspiration for us as well. By folding the levels over, you can create this impossible geometry similar in a way to Monument Valley, so it just made sense in a way for the mechanic to shine its best when used as a puzzle game. We have also talked about creating some DLC with action elements, something similar to Bomber Man, that could work well with our paper mechanics.

Fred: Narratively, it’s like a big leap going from a gentle, cozy puzzle game to hardcore bombing.

ND: With these specified mechanics and then talks of potential DLC to mix up the vibe of the game a bit, do you guys have a specific target audience that you’re trying to go after?

Henry: We are targeting the cozy, wholesome audience.

Fred: Yeah, there’s these new phrases that’s been coming up like “cozy games” or “wholesome games.” The gameplay is very calm and gentle and low pressure.

Henry: Lots of nice characters with funny dialogue, you can pet the cats. Play testers were really upset you couldn’t pet the cats and that became very important. When we added a video promoting that you can pet a cat in the game, it became like our best performing TikTok that we’ve ever posted. Just a random cat that people wanted to pet.

ND: I can’t wait to give this game a try, I myself like playing cozy style games and luckily I have a Switch at home to try it out. What was the most challenging part for you two in developing Paper Trail

Henry: I think it was developing the game mechanic in a way that nobody has done before and then trying to figure out what puzzles would actually be fun to play as well as what mechanics would actually be fun to play. It took a lot of time and play testing started pretty late into the development so some people hated certain environments in the game so we had to go back to the drawing board and completely redesign new game mechanics and start it all from scratch again.

One of the things we do in the design is coming up with a new mechanic, we think it’s cool and add it into the game, but then some players think it’s cool but it’s disorienting or not fun to play. We had this one mechanic where the whole world rotates but it would make players feel lost and confused in the game and it became nauseating.

Fred: There’s a real difference between something being clever and something being fun. We tried to be clever and ended up designing too much for ourselves and not enough for the audience so we had to listen to what they felt and change it up for their fun. The last, I think 14 months has been “player feedback, make changes, polish, player feedback, make changes, polish”

ND: After the release of Paper Trail, do you guys have any new plans to work on or will you take a break after the release of this game since you have been working on it for so long?

Henry: We are already doing some prototyping on a new title that will be bigger and more ambitious but with the same mechanic driven approach like Paper Trail. We are also looking at doing some DLC work for Paper Trail like new environment ideas, newer mechanic details we would like to flesh out.

Fred: We spent so much time building this whole new system that nobody has seen before, it would feel like a waste if we don’t continue using it more. We would love to add in at least 3 new environments after the initial release game.

ND: Lastly for our Nintendojo readers, is there any other kind of news or final thoughts you would like to share for your future fans?

Henry: I would like to say we spent a lot of time on making the game feel right for the Nintendo Switch and it works very well on the handheld devices as well as full touch screen controls so you can play the entire game with touchscreen only if you want. It mimics the feel of folding paper which is quiet tactile and a nice touch. you can seamlessly switch between touch screen mode and docks mode with the game pad. We worked really hard on every little detail to perfect this game.

It was nice to chat with the Hoffman brothers and get a little peak at the design and play through of Paper Trail. The game will be released on May 21, 2024. If you would like to check out their press-kit and see more previews from them, head to their website: Tune in to Nintendojo for upcoming news!

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