After discovering their game, The Floor is Made of Lava, an indie 2D platformer on Kickstarter, I reached out to Salvadora Studios to talk to founder Jacob Salverda about their game and what it’s like to reach out in the industry as a indie group.
TechRaptor: First off, tell us about yourself and your game The Floor is Made of Lava.
Jacob: Salvadora Studios has been a background dream of mine since high school, but I never took the idea seriously – at least until I asked myself “Why not?”. I enrolled for the Game Design course at Recording Arts Canada, and by the end of it I had made some great like-minded and skilled friends. We kept in contact after we graduated, and lamented the industry’s apparent standard of only hiring experienced game developers. We couldn’t find a break. Eventually, I grew tired of waiting, and considered my options. On a whim, I asked my friends if they wanted to just start out together in our own company, and they all replied instantly “Yes”. So ‘I’ became ‘We’, and ‘We’ became Salvadora Studios.
The Floor Is Made of Lava was one of the concepts I suggested to the class in college for what we should work on for our term’s final project. Everyone immediately clicked to it, and we created the very-simplified Flash version in a little under three months. I kept the idea while we moved into the next term and the next project, and continued developing Lava in the background. It became a much more fleshed-out idea, and together with the rest of the Salvadora Studios, we made some significant and freeing changes to the design. Those changes opened up windows for the music, art, gameplay, everything. It’s what inspired us to design the game around imagination and freedom. We spent months working out what we wanted from the experience, how the physics should work, how the controls would work best, even down to whether or not there should be fireworks at the end of the level (still undecided!).
Finally, we had enough figured out that we could start moving forward and begin building the game. We found Toon53 and they were excited to help us with the project. It was a blessing to find them – they’ve been so great with everything. They helped us refine Lava’s art style and really brought the game to life. Most importantly, they inspired us to get our butts in gear. We finally had a visible end goal!
So here we are with our Kickstarter, trying to raise funds to finish what we started, and hopefully create more time in our busy lives to get it done sooner. As far as we’ve come, we’ve got a long way to go ’til Lava is as polished as the rest of the big indie games.
TR: What games would you say directly influenced the project?
Jacob: I know we featured a picture of Super Mario Bros. 3 in our Kickstarter video, but I have to say my biggest influence while first designing Lava was Super Mario World. It was the first console game I ever played, and I grew up with it. It just had so much, and even though I probably spent hundreds of hours playing, I never found all the little secrets (I regret to admit that I never, not once, found the secret entrance to Bowser’s Castle). It was just… impressive, in many ways.
However, I didn’t want a Mario clone. I feel like I’ve played the same old Mario game every time since Mario 64 came out. I wanted to make the game more interesting, so I started piecing together ideas that other platformers bank on – things like walljumping, equipment, and a flair of action. I initially looked at Megaman as a prime example of those. After forming Salvadora Studios, we began discussing other aspects of similar games that we admired, and Castlevania, Braid, and Bastion were some the most prominent ones. Castlevania for much of the same reasons as Megaman, Braid for the amazing, intelligent puzzles and art style, and Bastion for the atmosphere and ideas they had for combat and equipment.
Of course, it goes without saying that most out of everything, we based it on “The Floor Is Made of Lava” (a.k.a. “The Floor Is Lava”, “Hot Lava”, etc.)
TR: Why did you decide to merge the two different types of art style?
Jacob: That’s a good question. I guess we just looked at it and said “That actually fits!” We knew we’d have to simplify Jimmy’s concept in order to animate him, but we didn’t anticipate that Toon53 would also make him look exactly how he should have been in the first place. A 90’s cartoon style suits him perfectly. But we took a step back and thought once again about the imagination aspect. It made sense that the environments would be grandiose and almost foreign-looking. The world of imagination is a fantastic place. So we saw an opportunity and went with it, and we’re quite happy with the result!
TR: What sort of person would enjoy your game?
Jacob: I really want to say everyone. Or at least everyone who enjoys playing video games and doesn’t get extra-serious about it. Lava is not a violent game. Sure, we have combat, but there’s no blood or gore or anything. We wanted to make it a bit innocent and lighthearted. I’m sure it’s sitting at a E-rating because of that, but we’re not targeting the game at kids. We’re mostly targeting it at our generation – The ones who will get the references to old games and other things from the 80’s and 90’s. But then again, if kids want to play, they’ll still get a great game out of the deal, which is our primary focus. We just want Lava to be a great game, which hopefully speaks to everyone as an indicator of what to expect from us.
TR: What do you think makes Lava unique?
Jacob: In a world with thousands of other platformers, Lava has a difficult time being truly unique in every way. However, the way we’ve put all the pieces together – giving players freedom of exploration and the tools to do so, making the levels as non-linear as possible, and giving it its own art style and living world – is like taking apart a well-used math equation and switching up and modifying all the variables to make it something new.
TR: What do you think the most difficult part of “going indie” is?
Jacob: Besides building up the courage to strike out on your own… I want to say the most difficult part is money. Not necessarily for the project, but even for living costs while you’re trying to make the project. We made it a point to ourselves to make this company and this game without dealing with publishers. While this allows us to make the game our way and keep our profits in the end, it also means we’re broke.
We’ve all put a lot into Lava so far in time and money, and we’re ready to do so again if we have to. We’re on Kickstarter to see if there’s a chance of making the process easier and faster. To see if people find the same value in Lava as we do. Hopefully that’ll be the case.
What do you think of this project? Comment below.