Interview with Behind The Stone
It’s been a long time since we did an interview so it’s time to fix that error. Our last guest was Massimo Guarini from Ovosonico – one of people who made Vita’s exclusive game Murasaki Baby. It’s well known that games dedicated to specific console are gold that can be decisive in selling hardware. Of course marketplace shows that only big productions can do it but it’s still nice to have smaller, unique titles in system’s library. That is why today we are presenting you an opportunity to learn about another European smaller studio, which is working on something interesting for us. Here’s Behind The Stone from Germany!
MyPSVita.pl: Welcome Western neighbors! We are glad that you decided to talk with us.
Behind The Stone: We have to thank you for this opportunity.
Before we start to talk about Sir Eatsalot, we have to learn about your beginnings. When did you found Behind The Stone and why did you choose that name?
We founded Behind The Stone two years ago. We wanted to create special games. Games that are different, and we wanted them to be gems and we thought that sometimes you have to look for gems at unusual places, for example behind a stone.
How many people are in your team and do you have any experience in creating games? You are young and Sir Eatsalot is your first game under the “Behind The Stone” flag, that’s why we are curious of your experience background.
Altogether we’re three people. Two programmers and an artist. Sir Eatsalot is our first commercial game, but everyone of us has a solid know-how in the respective field. At the beginning we only were two people, Slawa and Monika. Sir Eatsalot started as a simple Sidescroller which would only take a month develop. It was a small project to gain experience. We also created other little games we never released just for the sake of developing games and getting better at it. After a year we were skilled enough to redesign Sir Eatsalot. We decided the game should be more than a simple sidescroller. Of course we are still learning while creating the game, and since almost half a year we got us another freelance-programmer, Maurice, who is a big help, because he already has work-experience in the IT-industry.
You wanted to release the game on iOS at first? Is it that easy to create games and publish on that platform?
Yes, that’s right. As said before, in the beginning the game was designed way simpler. Consoles were out of the question, since back then it was still way more difficult to get on these systems. That’s why we decided back then to develop it for iOS, because the barriers to develop for it are very low. There are some details to keep in mind, but overall it’s easier to get your game on mobile devices than for example on consoles, even today.
So why did you decide to switch to PS Vita, what convinced you to do it? Have you found a contact to SCEE or did they reach out to you on their own?
When we started to redesign Sir Eatsalot we didn’t only change the artstyle but also the gamedesign, too. By doing this we realized that we weren’t satisfied with the mobile devices as the platform for that game. We looked at different platforms and thought about our gamedesign and the best way to implement it on them and the answer was clear really soon: the PS Vita was the one and only device to go, since our ideas matched with the fun Hardware-Features of the Vita. We did approach SCEE and they thought the game is cool enough to sent us PS Vita DevKits.
What do you think about the handheld? Did you own it before you thought about changing Sir Eatsalot’s platform?
Yes, we already did own a PS Vita, even before founding “Behind The Stone” and we love it. We think it’s a great piece of hardware. At the beginning the device kind of struggled with content, but now there’s a lot of it. From PS-Classics to original games. And it seems that the Vita is currently “transforming” into an Indie-Machine, which is great. So hopefully there will be some cool exclusives from other creative developers who will use more of the Vita features.
Yes, Vita extra features are an interesting addition but for some time now developers are cutting back mostly to touchscreen. What do you plan in that matter?
We plan to use every Hardware-Feature the Vita offers in a meaningful way. Of course we will use the touchscreen, but you can count on interactions with the rear touch pad, the rear camera and motion sensors.
What do you think about the PS Vita exclusive Murasaki Baby? Before its release the game eulogized us with its conception but later became a disappointment in the matter of short gameplay and low difficulty. Will Sir Eatsalot present bigger challenge and keep us in front of handheld for a longer time?
Puh, that’s a difficult one. Yes, we did play the game and to be honest we liked it a lot. We can’t compare our Sir Eatsalot to that particular game, it’s really different. Of course we want the player to keep as long as possible in front of our game, and we hope we can achieve that. Though Sir Eatsalot is a 2D Platformer it is not fast-paced like other games of the genre, like the Mario games for example. In fact it has a similar pacing to Murasaki Baby to be honest. Instead of rushing through the game-worlds of Sir Eatsalot the player gets immersed in the lovely detailed levels, which provide different tasks like solving riddles, fighting enemies, searching for secret collectibles and completing funny quests. We have a strong focus on level-exploration, that’s why the core-mechanics of the game are heavily connected to the PS Vita Hardware, especially the input features, to examine the level with these features. An example: if you are in a cave and it’s dark, hold the rear camera of the PS Vita in front of a light source to enlighten the cave. I’m afraid we can’t give a clear number of hours you’ll spent with the game, but we think that the level exploration, varied boss fights and minigames should keep the player busy for a while.
That sounds very promising. And what about trophies? We know that SCE has certain requirements and even Child of Light couldn’t get a golden cup. Will we find it in Sir Eatsalot or maybe you will surprise us with platinum?
Of course the game will have trophies, but we’re afraid we can’t promise anything for now.
OK, but we’re counting for at least few tough ones! It’s well known now that your production is a platformer. We all can agree that hero is, to put it mildly, ponderous. Won’t he have problems with jumping and other high-agility movements? Or maybe thanks to that he will gain special movements?
Let’s not get all realistic in a cartoony game world. Wario, for example, is almost as chubby as our little knight and can jump probably higher than any human being (laugh). So no, our knight has no problems with jumping, but of course he’s not the Prince of Persia.
Fair enough (lough). And what about enemies? Who and/or what will cross his way and will he face bosses in the end of every level?
Yeah, of course there will be enemies. There are a lot of minions of an evil witch who will try to stop Sir Eatsalot. And there will be boss fights. Not in every level though. We want the boss fights to be really cool challenges, that’s why there won’t be lots of them and each bossfight shall use different Hardware-Features of the Vita to keep the player on his toes.
It looks like it won’t be a walk on the park for him. Can you tell us why he will have to go on an adventure and are you planning a wider-scale storyline?
The game features a pretty linear and simple story, to be honest. The evil witch Hysterica poisoned the “Isotonic Waters” of kingdom Gluttington with sour lemonade and this damaged the environment, but didn’t reach the kingdom yet. So King Dietan III sent out his best knight, Sir Eatsalot, to stop Hysterica and detox the waters. We don’t plan a wider-scale storyline, but as mentioned above what we will have is a detailed world with its own charm.
How was Sir Eatsalot born? Of course I mean an idea for him and how it evolved to his current look?
Slawa came up with the idea. The idea of the character came almost ten years ago, while sitting in school in the chemistry-class. He was bored and drew two circles on the paper, a head and a belly, and called it “Sir Eatsalot”, a knight who loves to eat. Years later when we met each other, Slawa had the idea to use this funny little guy as the protagonist of a game and Monika liked the idea. We started to think about him. Who is he? What is he like, what does the world he lives in look like and so on. And then Monika started to shape him and the world around him.
Except drawings in general, we have to say that whole world looks great and interesting. Monika is in charge of design and she’s only graphic, right? Everything what she created for the game is fresh or it’s an effect of some inspiration? We admit that we didn’t notice any references in materials, which you already presented.
Yes, Monika is our only artist. We would lie if we’d say we aren’t inspired by anything else. Monika gets inspiration from other games, the real world, cartoons and so on. She collects these impressions and creates something new. The thing is we didn’t want to overkill the “Candyland”-Theme in our game. Lots of cartoonish 2D games have a similar theme, and we like those games, but we didn’t want to copy the whole theme, so it’s more about the details in Sir Eatsalot.
Hah! That’s even better! And what about music? In one of your developer videos we can hear a small fragment, which is catchy and suits graphic climate. Who is responsible for that part and will you add more pieces? Often not diversified soundtrack can tire gamer so we would like to know what to expect.
Yes. Very good friends of us, who are running a music production studio called “4 Horizons Productions”, create the whole soundtrack of the game. We do want an ideal soundtrack, which shall accompany each level with a unique track, and these guys know what they’re doing.
That all sound very inviting and make us hungry for the game! How long we will have to wait? What is the current status of the project and when do you plan to release?
That depends. The game has a lot of assets and we only have one artist, so we’re searching for a publisher who could provide some funding so we could hire an additional artist. That way we can release the game sooner. If that would work we can certainly release the game this year. We can’t promise anything, but we plan to release it somewhere between Q3 and Q4 of 2015.
OK, we will be waiting patiently. I also have to ask, on principal, did you thought about retail release and DLC?
We would LOVE a retail release, that would be a dream coming true for us, but sadly that won’t be possible. I can promise there won’t be a First-Day-DLC (laugh). No, we didn’t plan any DLCs at all for that game.
Too bad, our box maniacs will be disappointed. Can you at least reveal targeted price for digital copy or it’s too soon for that?
We’re afraid it’s too soon for that, but as soon we come up with the price, we’ll let you guys know!
Before the interview we were talking how translation apps sucks and how important are proper descriptions of the games in PlayStation Store. You already have secured Italian, Spanish, French and Polish (not mentioning German and English). Maybe it’s good opportunity to gather rest of them? What other languages do you need and were volunteers can lodge?
For now we’re still discussing which languages we should support. But if you think there’s a language which should definitely be supported you can drop a mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
We’re counting on gamers help! For the end I’ll ask about Poland. Have you been in our country and what associates to you with it?
In fact Monika is half-polish (but she can’t speak it, though) and part of her family lives in Poland. We associate really nice and friendly people with Poland and also really good developers (big fans of CD Project – the studio behind the great Witcher series). And we love pierogi!
Thank you for the talk, kind words towards Poland and of course reviling Monika’s roots! We are crossing fingers for smooth works on Sir Eatsalot and favorableness of SCEE. We also hope to speak to you again
Thanks for having us! We are looking forward to the next talk!
Behind The Stone also decided to show you few screenshots and concept arts, which you will find in gallery below. If you liked our guests and their game please check their social media profiles: Facebook fanpage, Facebook fanpage of the game, Twitter and of course official website (it’s in English)!