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Frogsong Grapples With Identity Through the Lens of a Tiny Frog

Brenda Zhang

November 24, 2020

7 minute read

A frog with a knife, a diverse cast of froggy characters, colorful art, lively animations, and a compelling, personal relatable narrative to boot? Count me in.

Frogsong is an adventure that follows a frog named Chorus, who wants to be a warrior that protects the world despite society's expectations of a tiny tree frog from a religious, scholarly village. The synopsis of its narrative that I read on the website and Steam page when I was digging deeper into this cute frog-filled game convinced me that I, and many others, would relate to the small amphibious protagonist and learn something valuable during their journey to save the world and their loved ones.

However, though I knew the journey itself would be worth the wait to play, I could not wait to learn more about the world and the inspirations behind the game itself. Fortunately, I was able to get in contact with Brandon Braun, the developer and artist behind Frogsong to get a behind-the-scenes look at the ideation, development, and mechanics of the game.

I quickly learned that despite the lighthearted appearance of the art, combat, and dialogue, the game has much more narrative depth hidden under its cute and colorful layers.

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The Making of Frogsong: Progress and Inspiration

I saw there was also a musician behind the charming soundtrack, but otherwise is it just you working on Frogsong? How do you manage to do it all yourself?

For the most part it’s just me! It’s a lot of hard work, but I’ve been getting a lot of help from friends of mine who know how to program a lot better than me.

How long has Frogsong been in progress now, and what's been the most challenging part of the process of making it?

About a year and a half now. For the most part programming has been hard, since I’m not an experienced coder, but it’s easy to get help with that. Lately I’ve been really stuck figuring out the design of this one particular village in the game—and unlike coding, there isn’t a clear answer!

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Is saw you had an Indiegogo campaign end just a couple months, though I was unfortunately too late to catch it, and you were able to meet your goal and raise over $2700 USD from it. This number still seems like a very small amount—how do you make do?

Most crowdfunding campaigns tend to raise funds to live off of for the duration of development. The developers pay themselves and work on the game full-time. Pulling off a crowdfunding campaign like that requires either a huge following or a lot of luck, so unfortunately I’m not in a position to do that. The funds I raised are going towards things like commercial sound effects, platform fees, and additional software to make Frogsong the quality I’d like it to be.

Why frogs? Did you always have a penchant for the amphibian or otherwise what inspired you to choose a frog instead of something else?

Probably 4 or 5 years ago, when I was camping with my family by a lake, I saw toads at the lake and kind of fell in love with the little guys. I started doodling lots of frogs and toads and ended up drawing some frog villagers with axes and stuff. The idea for the game kind of all spiraled from there.

The shore area around Boreala and the villagers are based around that lake shore and the toads I saw. Chorus comes from a Tumblr post I made where I photoshopped a fake ad to show a frog holding a knife saying a threatening phrase. It suddenly went viral, and I kind of became attached to the knife frog!

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Worldbuilding, Development, and Self-Discovery

I love the touching message you want to get across with Frogsong, that it's okay to be small and that you don't always have to conform to what others expect of you. What was the inspiration behind Frogsong's story and main takeaway?

The story takes a lot from my personal experiences as a non-binary person, being what society doesn’t want you to be, being something society tends to be explicitly against, despite not actually doing anything wrong. Really a lot of it evolved naturally.

I had been doing a lot of worldbuilding and decided it would be cool if tree frogs tended to be religious since they live in trees, closer to the gods in the sky. When I decided the frog from that Tumblr post would be the protagonist, I did some research to figure out what species of frog it was, and I discovered it was a Pacific tree frog, which is a very small species.

Immediately, I got hit with the idea of this tiny tree frog who’s supposed to be one thing trying to be another. I went through the process of discovering my gender early on while developing the story, so a lot of very personal themes of identity made their way in there.

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Chorus moved to Boreala to escape expectations and achieve their big dreams.

The other things you mention are hope and found family. How big is the friendship and relationship aspect of Frogsong? How does it affect the player?

Throughout the story, there are a lot of characters who Chorus naturally becomes friends with, but there’s also a lot of side characters that you can develop different connections with. For example, in the demo you can meet Espo. He’ll show up in lots of different places throughout the game, and if you keep talking to him you’ll get to know him better!

Hopping Into the World of Frogsong

Is the story mostly linear or does the player get to make choices when it comes to relationships with different characters, dialogue, or storyline?

The main storyline is pretty linear, but a lot of characters will have different dialogue throughout the story depending on a few branching choices and whether or not you even talked to them at a certain point.

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Are there any quests in the game? And if there are, do they all relate to the main storyline or are there any side stories in there?

There’s lots of optional dialogue and a few minor side quests. Some of them relate to main themes and storyline, while others are their own separate stories. Chorus is the main character of Frogsong, but everyone else has their own lives they’re living, and you get the chance to peek into those lives.

Aside from story, the gameplay itself looks very fun—it's a good mix of relaxing socialization and challenging adventure since you get to both talk to villagers and fight enemies while roaming the different areas. Can players expect it to be a perfect split between both, or does it lean much more one way than the other?

I’d say there’s about an even mix between combat and socialization. Dialogue is very important to the story, but combat is also a major part of the gameplay. Even though it’s a story-focused game, there’s plenty of combat and bosses that are important to the story!

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Espo is thinking about what to say.

The combat in the game so far looks fairly simple: bugs and other enemies can be dodged with a dash, and Chorus swings with their little sword that they whip out of nowhere. How much combat is there in Frogsong—will it remain fairly light and simple? Can we eventually expect Chorus to either gain more skills or different types of weapons?

Chorus won’t be getting any different skills or weapons—partially because I tend to get confused by games with lots of controls and different forms of attacking, but also because I think it’s more interesting if the player has a very simple set of moves, and the enemies themselves are where the variety comes from.

Plus it’s not a game specifically about combat, so I don’t think it really needs as much depth as a game where fighting is more important. Either way, I’m hoping the combat ends up being really fun once the game is finished.

I played the demo, and it seems that there's a large and might empire trying to incorporate the small village of Boreala. Is this the powerful army you mention in the description of Frogsong? Is there anything more you can reveal about it and the mysterious rumor you mention?

Yep! The Taural Empire is trying to take over the entire country of Salia. Lord Lithos is sort of obsessed with the idea of a legacy, and wants to prove his power no matter the cost. As for the rumor, there’s not a lot I can talk about without spoiling the story. I can say though that the rumor involves the history of Salia, and will have some major consequences for the story. It’s a really cool and major part of the story that I’d love to talk about, but I just can’t yet.

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The Lord and his minions, plotting evil things.

I took your Frogsong personality quiz and got Basalt. What did you get?!

I got Basalt too! That really surprised me, because I was worried Chorus was a bit too much like myself!

Where are all the places people can follow Frogsong and stay updated on the game's progress?

Most major updates will be posted @frogsonggame on Twitter. There’s also a Discord server, and a Steam page where you can wishlist the game to be notified when it releases.

basalt

Meet Basalt, one of the most awesome frogs in the game, apparently.

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