It's tough to be both an indie developer and an indie publisher. Apparently no one told that to Fabraz Company. At Play NYC 2018 they brought a pair of games with them. Slime-San is one they developed, a love-letter to action platformers. Here you play as a goofy slime that gets eaten by a giant worm, and his goal is to escape while collecting as many apples as possible. The other game they brought was SpiritSphere DX, which they published the Nintendo Switch version of. This game is closer to a fantasy version of Pong, and has two players hitting a ball back and forth while using special abilities.
I got a chance to see both the game and wanted to talk to the people behind them. Thankfully I met lead programmer Ben Miller and level designer Edgar Castro, both of whom were happy to have a quick chat with me.
TechRaptor: So I just played Slime-San and SpiritSphere DX, two games, one of which that you guys developed and one of which you published, that you have here. Can you tell me a little bit about the games?
Ben Miller: Sure! So, Slime-San is kind of a twitchy fast-paced platformer. You play as a little slime that gets swallowed by a giant worm and the game, at least the main campaign, is you running and jumping your way out of the worm and avoid getting digested by stomach acid.
Edgar Castro: Then for SpiritSphere, it's one part tennis and other part magical beat down where you can play as different characters, solo or compete with friends, for fantasy Pong goodness.
TechRaptor: So since you guys developed Slime-San, how did the idea for this one come about?
Ben: So initially I think it actually started as a setting. So having a little-- playing as a slime, a character that is kind of universally the first enemy you kill in a RPG. I jokingly like to call it a affirmative action protagonist, it's someone who's not really what you usually get to play as or see their perspective. So we want to make a game about someone you're normally beating down in RPGs. It's also our love letter to platformers and getting the most out of that.
TechRaptor: So about how long would you say it took you guys to make Slime-San?
Ben: Probably a year and two or three months, give or take. But then we've also been doing post release support for about a year as well. Adding a new campaign and content and stuff and polishing it up more.
TechRaptor: And what role did you two have in the development?
Ben: So I'm the main programmer for the game.
Edgar: Level designer and QA tester.
TechRaptor: Why don't we start with that. Give me a run down on, say, what went into designing one level.
Edgar: Ok. So usually it's, uh... We have a tile editor where we use to place all the tiles, and usually we have a theme set for each level that we make. So I try to build out the level based on that theme. Weather it's like rotating platforms or something like that. Then since every new mechanic or new hazard gets introduced every two levels or so, I take some of what Ben makes and see if it fits with the theme of the level. So it's designing the level, playing it and seeing if it feels fun, tweaking it if I need to, then adding visual flourishes and stuff to make it look pretty.
TechRaptor: Now is there any, while you guys were designing one of these levels or any other level, did you guys run into any problems in how they were made or... what unexpected difficulties did you guys run into?
Ben: To some degree, probably all the time, 'cause like moments just when you're designing a level or designing a mechanic there's... you have the idea initially but you have to see how it actually tumbles out in practice. There's also moments where a mechanic may combine with another mechanic in a surprising way we didn't anticipate. So lots of moments of you try something, you test it out, and then you return back to see what you have to tweak or modify to get it to feel and play the way you want it to.
TechRaptor: So SpiritStone DX. Why are you guys publishing it, how did that come about?
Ben: It looked like a lot of fun when it was coming out on Steam and it wasn't coming to the Switch, and we thought we could help with that.
Edgar: Especially also because, you know on Steam it's difficult to play multiplayer games that are not online. So we thought the Switch was the perfect platform for it, we had just recently gotten the Switch devkits, so we felt it was a good pair up.
TechRaptor: So you guys basically just reached out to the devs and said "hey let us port this"?
Ben & Edgar: Yeah, pretty much.
TechRaptor: [Laughter]. I'm sorry.
Edgar: It's very casual.
TechRaptor: That's okay, that's how it's supposed to be. So I'm watching some of the SpiritSphere gameplay-- [signaling to Edgar] thank you for having it on your shirt because I want to keep calling it SpiritStone.
Ben: [Laughter]. The Power Stone crossover we all need.
TechRaptor: [Laughter]. Alright. I keep watching SpiritSphere and one of the characters is... well the point of the game is you play this tennis and the winner gets a wish, right?
Ben: Yep, more or less. It's kind of like Dragon Ball rules where you get the SpiritSphere and you get the ability to wish for whatever your heart desires.
TechRaptor: What is Slime-San wishing for?
Ben: Probably apples?
Edgar: Oh. I thought it was to stop being swallowed up by huge creatures?
Ben: How is he going to get apples otherwise then? That's his day job!
Edgar: It's a catch-22 I guess. Need one to get the other.
Ben: Actually I think the real answer should have been "you'll have to play to find out".
TechRaptor: There we go.
TechRaptor: Nah, it's okay, this is more fun. Alright, well I'd like to thank the two of you for taking the time to talk about these two games. It's really awesome getting to see these.
Ben: Yeah, awesome, thanks for dropping by to chat.
Edgar: Definitely, yeah, thank you.
We'd like to once again thank Ben and Edgar for taking the time to talk with us.