When The Splatters first came out, I was fortunate enough to get to play it right off of the bat. I enjoy a good puzzle game, and this physics-based title is one of the best I have played to date.
I was a big fan of The Splatters, scoring it an 8/10 in my review, which was released for the Xbox 360 at the time. I was excited to hear that SpikySnail Games was releasing Super Splatters for the PC via Steam, and had an opportunity to chat with Game Developer Sagi Koren about several topics.
Me: What are your priorities for the next year?
Sagi: We’re launching Super Splatters on Steam this week for Windows,
Mac and Linux soon after – so I think this pretty much sets my
priorities for the next year. We want as many people as possible to try
out the game and have fun with all it has to offer. And we’ll take next
year to see that this happens.
Me: I thought the ability to
upload scores and videos was a nice way to show off and see some pretty
amazing shots. Has the reception to this been generally positive and
helped to build up a bit more of a sense of community in your mind than
other similar games?
Sagi: You’re talking about Splatter TV, which is a
really big part of the game. Splatter TV automatically uploads every
top-score game of every level you’re playing. So what we actually
created, is a huge YouTube-like place, where you can just watch a
complete levels of all the players from around the world. And since the
game is designed in a way that there so many ways to complete a level,
Splatter TV is the perfect to learn new moves and tricks and then try
them out for yourself. It’s also a place where you can just sit back and
have your jaw-dropped while watching the best player in the world
complete a level in ways you couldn’t even imagine. It’s really quite
As for the community, it’s really hard to tell. The XBOX
platform has it’s own community but doesn’t have tools where you can
connect with your community with ease through forums, FaceBook, etc –
like on PC. It’s not as easy to recommend a game to a large group of
people and even if you want to take a screenshot or record yourself play
(and upload it to YouTube). You need to have the right tools and
hardware to do that.
We’ve seen people pull amazing moves on
Splatter TV and we’re sure that if they had the ability to share it –
they would do so. We’re really hoping all of that will change for the
best as soon as we launch on PC.
Me: So why Xbox Live originally,
and not Steam or PlayStation Network? What appealed to you about working
with Microsoft to start, and do you think Splatters will find its way
onto PSN at some point in the future? What about on mobile platforms?
When we first pitched the game to Microsoft, it was quite early in
production and concept. They gracefully said no and we continued with
the PC path. During that time we also sent the game out to 2-3 major
competitions and were lucky enough to win and get the opportunity to
present the game on the floor on each one. One of those were IGF which
is part of the GDC conference. There, one of Microsoft Games producers
came by to say hello. And when we got back home, there was an email from
him asking if we want to pitch the game again. We got the green light
from MS pretty fast after that and signed the contract soon after with
MGS as our first party publishers.
To the question why XBOX
first. For us, being 3 people out of Israel that were working from our
homes (and still are, by the way) and this is our first game ever, it’s
pretty hard to say no to that deal. It wasn’t about money at all (we
funded the entire thing out of our pocket) it was more about thinking
that if the first step we ever take will be on the XBOX platform, it
could really help our following steps. And although the XBOX is a tough
market for indies these days. I still think we made the right choice.
for mobile platforms, our immediate step is to bring Super Splatters to
Windows, Mac and Linux. After that we plan to do two thing
simultaneously – try to find as much audience as we can for the game and
start thinking about mobile platforms. As for PSN, it’s not on the top
of the list but if the game is a hit on Steam, we might think about
doing something for PSN as well. We never rule out anything.
So to kick this question off – congratulations on the recent Steam
release. That has to be exciting for you – but I am sure it brought some
challenges as well. Did designing it for PC (and the typical mouse
& keyboard interface) present any particular challenges – or maybe
even give you some new advantages in how players can interact with the
Sagi: Actually the game started as a keyboard and mouse
thing (before we knew that we will release on XBOX first) – and it
really works great with that. We were fortunate to have a game that
works very well with Controller and Keyboard/Mouse at the same time. And
we plan to have both on the Steam version.
As for other
challenges – yes there are. First of all, regardless of the platform,
Super Splatters is not your regular port and I wouldn’t exaggerate if
I’d say that it was almost like designing a new game. It definitely felt
like it – and in a good way. It took a year to make simply because we
decided that there’s a chance here to take everything we didn’t have
time to put in the previous game and also change all the stuff we knew
that didn’t work – and shuffle everything together into something new.
We’re very happy about the outcome. The game is much more accessible
now, has a deeper progression and story and much more challenges than
Super Splatters is a challenging game to teach. You have
all these awesome moves and moments throughout the game that really
drives up your adrenaline levels. But on the same time, it take time to
get there. This was our main struggle over the past year. After watching
so many players on Splatter TV, we knew very well what wasn’t working
in our training levels. We saw people missing a very basic move or doing
it wrong and it has made their whole game worthless from that point. So
we worked really really hard to build the game progression in a way
that will guide the player through better training – but at the same
time will keep him excited throughout the process.
A couple of
months ago in PAX Boston, we put the game out for the first time. We saw
something we haven’t seen before. Player after player took the
controller and just played the game for about half an hour without
asking us anything. Then they stopped when they saw that more people are
waiting, turned to us, said ‘awesome’ and left. The situation proved to
us that we did something right with all the changes and that all the
hard work was worth it. It might not sound like a big deal – but it was
for us. Especially with a game that requires a skill to have fun.
What inspired you to make a physics based puzzle game in the first
place? Was it another game, something you found lacking in other games
or some other person or source that simply encouraged the idea along?
Niv, who coded the entire game and engine, had previous experience with
tissue and liquid simulation. He used to work in a medical simulation
company and they do a lot of those there. Se we decided to start there.
just sat down at his house night after night throwing out ideas. What
we liked – we prototyped and tested. What we didn’t like, we threw away
and moved on. The game slowly evolved that way. one piece after that
other. And in the back of our minds, we were always looking for the fun
factor. Something that will give keep you engaged and that will bring
you joy when you finally complete it.
The game completely changed throughout the development process so many times it’s hard to keep count.
I absolutely loved the colorful visuals and overall design of the
goo-like Splatters. How did you decide on these blob like critters as
the primary game component? Was this the art design from the beginning,
or did you go through a lot of different iterations before you found
something that felt right?
Sagi: This was a mutual process between Niv
and me. He created the engine, and together we decided what’s working
and what doesn’t work. He also iterated on those creatures and the
liquid simulation tons of times throughout the process. It was always
between stuff. A touch here and touch there. A lot of times I started
playing yet another prototype version and found out that the skin got a
little better. That the liquid got more realistic. It never stopped.
art and design wasn’t like that in the beginning but we always knew
that we wanted an environment that would look realistic but would fit
the crazy world of the Splatters. So the basic layout was always in our
minds, but the design kept on changing.
Me: People love the
saying that hindsight is always 20/20. Now that The Splatters has been
out for a while, is there anything you and the team wish you had done a
bit differently right from the start? Whether it’s a mode that might
have been left out or a feature you later wish you had thought of?
There are a lot of things we would have differently but we didn’t have
the time nor the people to do it back then. And most importantly, we
didn’t have the knowledge that we have now. Seeing so many people play
the game and us shuffling it like we did, really brought us back to the
beginning and made us take out our drawing boards and start over. We
kept the core mechanics that was working great but definitely chose
different ways to do other things now.
Me: Any lessons learned in general you would want to share with others who are trying to get a title of theirs released?
I really don’t want to bum out people but it’s a very tough industry
out there. I always tell people that it’s very much like the movie
industry. There the big hits who have millions for production and
marketing and from time to time you hear about an indie movie that made
it big. But you never hear about thousands of others that go through the
entire process each year but don’t make it.
So my advice is do
it because you love it and because you want to mark a big V mark on your
dream. Don’t be disappointed if you don’t make it big. Always be happy
that you created something on your own. It’s a great feeling.
Me: And finally, what games are you playing at the moment yourself?
Sagi: I wish I had time. 🙂