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The beautiful and vivid landscape of Forgotten Fields (Image via Frostwood Interactive)

"Narrative and emotional catharsis": Armaan Sandhu on Frostwood Interactive's game development journey, influences, music, and more

Frostwood Interactive, an indie game development studio, boasts of an oevre of titles that are emotionally charged and visually spectacular. Be it Rainswept or Forgotten Fields, Frostwood's titles are "all about narrative and emotional catharsis, presented in a cinematic style."

Forgotten Fields (Image via Frostwood Interactive)

I recently had the opportunity to engage with Armaan Sandhu, the founder of Frostwood Interactive, where we spoke about his masterpieces, his developmental journey, influences, and more.

Armaan Sandhu talks about Frostwood Interactive's video game development journey, influences, and more


Q: As an introduction, will you please share a little about what Frostwood Interactive is and how it came to be?

Armaan: Frostwood Interactive is an indie game development studio based in India. I founded it for the development of my first game, Rainswept, and I have been making games under the Frostwood name, solo, for about five years now – though I do work with freelancers and contractors for music, marketing, etc.

Frostwood’s games are all about narrative and emotional catharsis, presented in a cinematic style. Although I was always interested in game development, the lack of an industry in India, especially a decade ago, forced me to give up on the dream. I took my love for art and joined Architecture, but realized I didn’t like it at all.

Rainswept (Image via Frostwood Interactive)

In architecture school, I fell in love with films and made a lot of short films and music videos. Upon graduation, I switched to films, but realized working on a film set really didn’t suit me. So I returned to architecture and joined a 9-5 firm.


It was here, as I looked for a way out again, that a friend suggested I make games. Reconsidering this dream a decade from when I’d given up on it, I realized that the picture had now changed – Steam democratized game publishing, indie games were doing well, and engines like Unity allowed people without hard coding skills to make games, all on their own. The dream was possible again.

I also realized that I could add my new love for films, cinematography, and storytelling into my games, making it the perfect fit for me. I spent six months learning the tools and working on a prototype for Rainswept alongside my 9-5, and in 2017 I quit my job to work full time as a game dev.

Q: Starting with Rainswept, what was the thought process behind making a murder mystery adventure game with a heavy dose of emotional entanglements? I noticed that all of your titles explore various aspects of human emotions.

Armaan: The decision to make a murder mystery was almost immediate once I’d decided I’d be making a game – my all-time favorite movie is Memories of Murder (2003), and the 90s small town murder mystery show Twin Peaks has been a huge influence on me. Both of them had a huge impact on the game, its atmosphere, and its style.


I was also interested in charting all the possible stages of a relationship, including all the ups and downs. I decided to mesh the story of a relationship with a murder investigation, which led to the parallel storyline in Rainswept.

Rainswept (Image via Frostwood Interactive)

For me, emotion, catharsis, and characters’ backstories shaping their psychology are the most important aspects of storytelling, or the ones that I enjoy the most. So when I make something or write a story, I can’t help but add all of that into my work. I do enjoy a bit of melodrama as well, something which Twin Peaks and Memories of Murder use to beautiful effect.

Q: Did any other game or work of art in the same murder genre inspire any element in Rainswept?

Armaan: South Korean murder mystery films were one of the main references when it came to tone and melodrama – the previously mentioned Memories of Murders, along with The Chaser and The Montage. As mentioned before, Twin Peaks was a huge influence, but other police procedural shows like Broadchurch, Luther, and Happy Valley were also helpful in writing a homicide investigation from a personal angle.


Video games like Deadly Premonition, Alan Wake, and Heavy Rain also influenced Rainswept, and though not a murder mystery, Night in the Woods was a major reference when it came to the game’s art style and presentation.

Q: A couple of the most alluring aspects of both Rainswept and Forgotten Fields are the art style and the soundtrack. Can you talk a little about the developmental process of the games? Did you face any hurdles? Was the final product different from what you had envisioned in the beginning?

Armaan: I feel the final product, for me, is always a little different from what I envision in the beginning. Due to limitations of skill, experience, budget, and just the general difficulty of accurately translating ideas to paper, the final game often ends up landing on a tangent to the intended route – but that’s a part of the creative process and there’s joy in discovering it as you go along.

It’s fun to create something which is a bit of a surprise, even to the person that’s making it.

Rainswept (Image via Frostwood Interactive)

The art style mostly comes from my own limitations as an artist. For Rainswept, the expected style for an emotional, noire-style murder mystery would be something dark, monochromatic, and downplayed. It wasn’t possible for me to pull that style off – it would be easy for the game to end up looking dull if not done well.

And so, I opted to go for something bright and colorful instead so that the game and its screenshots would stand out and be eye-catching. The roughly drawn, boxy style came from a need to produce assets as quickly as possible – all the artwork has been done by creating shapes with the lasso tool in Photoshop, and filling them with solid colors.

The art for Forgotten Fields came as a natural progression of that in 3D, as I experimented to find a style that looked good and gave a feeling of warmth and coziness.

Music is vital for me in my work, and as mentioned before, has cinematic influences. The soundtrack for Rainswept and Forgotten Fields has been composed by micAmic (The Cat Lady, Lorelai), and includes a lot of traditionally cinematic instruments like sweeping strings and piano, but also has electronic sounds through the use of drones and synths.

Rainswept (Image via Frostwood Interactive)

Apart from this, both games also contain licensed songs that play during pivotal scenes in the game, further adding to the cinematic feel of the games.

For me, the main hurdle ends up being motivation and procrastination. Funnily enough, this wasn’t an issue with Rainswept – probably because I was jumping into my dream career and the thought was enough to keep me excited through two years of development.

Once it became “normal” though, laziness and distraction became more common. This is made harder by working solo from home – something I’ve been doing since much before the pandemic.

It’s important to have a structure and to shake that structure up from time to time. I can also imagine it would be motivating to have your energy and ideas bouncing off team members. This is something I hope to materialize soon.

Q: Coming to Forgotten Fields, the game boasts of a perfect drip of nostalgia within its narrative. Did the story about a struggling author going back to his childhood home have any real-life inspiration behind it?

Armaan: The writer’s block was directly inspired by my own creative block at the time. I had just moved out of my parents' house in Goa after releasing Rainswept and had just moved to the big city of Mumbai. This was exciting, and I wanted to base a story set in an energetic city like Mumbai.

Forgotten Fields (Image via Frostwood Interactive)

But I scrapped every idea I came up with within a few weeks. The more I started over, the harder it became to come up with something good. Later that year, I took a trip back home to Goa, and everything fell into place. I decided to locate the story in a place like Goa – it’s something I know inside out, and it was easy to write about it naturally.

Meeting old friends during that trip and rediscovering inspiration while still struggling to translate that into something solid, slowly transformed into the plot for Forgotten Fields. I also realized the things that had inspired and motivated me until that point just didn’t hit that hard anymore, and I had to transform and move past those if I had to keep creating.

The struggle of accepting that and deciding whether to stick or move on also became a major plot point for the game.

Q: Unwording, the next title from Frostwood Interactive, is coming in September. I was particularly intrigued by the notion of reshaping reality. Did the experience with the previous titles influence any aspect of the upcoming game?

Armaan: To start, I should clarify that Unwording will probably not be out by September – sometime later this year/ early next year looks more likely.

For most of 2021, I’d been working on my other third title, a horror game that is currently on hold. The project felt a bit overwhelming, and I felt burned out, which is why I decided to take a break and work on something small for a while, with no expectations.

Unwording (Image via Frostwood Interactive)

I had been trying to understand my own experience with negative thoughts at the time, and had made huge breakthroughs and progress with it, which is how Unwording came about - a game where word puzzles spell out the character’s negative (and later, positive) thoughts, and these, in turn, transform the world around him.

My experience with, and the reception received by Forgotten Fields, was a direct influence for Unwording, but probably not in a way one would expect. Forgotten Fields didn’t do as well as I’d hoped, and to be honest, I wasn’t very happy with how the game turned out either.

There was too much talking, too many dialogues, with very little subtext. There were too many words. I even went back to the game in December 2021 to rewrite a bunch of the dialogue and make it all the more efficient.

Took about a day, but pretty excited to have a functioning leash in the game!
(Yeah, it clips with the ground, but still!)

#gamedev #indiegame #videogames #madewithunity

With Unwording, I wanted to challenge myself and tell a story using zero dialogue. I was sick of characters speaking their minds and spilling out their life stories with every click, so this game would tell a story without any of the characters saying a single word.

The name “Unwording” is a direct reference to that – it reflects removing negative words and thoughts from the protagonist’s mind, but it also refers to removing the excess use of words from my own work.

Q: What is it like being a one-man studio in the indie game development scene of the subcontinent? Do you have any advice for novice game developers who are looking to make a mark?

Armaan: I feel being a one-man studio in any part of the world is, currently, a similar experience. We all have the same tools – our desktops, an internet connection, storefronts like Steam, game engines, social media, and our own ideas.

Solo indie game dev is very democratized, and this is why I was able to return to it a decade after giving up on it, with my location not mattering the second time around. There is, of course, a major advantage we have - the cost of living.

I wouldn’t be able to survive comfortably on my games if I was living in the UK or the US. Selling your games to the world while living in India makes survival a lot easier.

Unwording (Image via Frostwood Interactive)

There is a challenge that comes with it though, which is when you decide to grow and move on from being a one-man studio. Other countries, especially the US and the UK, have tons of resources, facilities, an experienced workforce, conferences, expos, and systems built to exclusively support game studios.

It’s also nice to be surrounded by a thriving game development community and culture. But again - it costs a lot more, so survival is difficult. It’s a confusing one, and it’s something I’m trying to explore to get a better idea of currently.

For anyone looking to get into game development (and survive) I’d say it’s possible, as long as one has done the research, has the right expectations, and a contingency plan in place. I’d definitely keep the initial costs as low as possible – Rainswept was made on a shoestring budget while I lived at my parents’ place.

Not just that, but the scope needs to be planned carefully – you don’t want to spend five years on your first project and bet everything on it. Two years would be the maximum, in my opinion. Networking and marketing are paramount for getting covered by the press – Twitter, Reddit, and Expos, if possible.

Rainswept (Image via Frostwood Interactive)

Releasing demos and getting feedback (and free marketing) is important. And more than anything, try to stand out – don’t just make another rogue-like or platformer, there are tons of them in the market already. This would make an already difficult task even harder.

Stand out with something unique and attractive, try to see your game from a regular person’s perspective – would they click on it while browsing through Steam? But as long as you’re smart about it and do your research, it’s possible! And when it works out, it’s so worth it – especially in terms of creativity and career satisfaction, but also (hopefully) financially.

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