An interview with Fabian Rastorfer, co-author of Slime-san (out on April 7)

Slime-san is a game available today. I have been pleased by its qualities, both artistic features (graphism, animation, soundtrack and sound design) and game design (the level design, that dash move…).

I am happy that Fabian accepted this interview one week ago. It was was conducted by email in one shot and is part ot the Game Developers Conference (GDC) blog post series published on this blog [1, 2, 3, 4].

You can find Slime-san on Steam here.

Slime-san is out on April 7. It is a platform game with one of the most powerful dash I’ve ever experienced. What original gameplay does Slime-san bring to this genre?

Slime-san takes several inspirations from previous fast-paced platformers, including Super Meat Boy, and injects something new into the genre with a couple of mechanical tweaks and additions. The biggest mechanical twist would be the morph ability. Anything that’s green, may it be a wall or an enemy, are usually solid but with the press of a button you can phase right through them. This allows for some pretty tricky level design where you have to be quick on your feet: « Do I want to go through that wall or jump up it? » « Do I want to bounce off that enemy or escape its maw by morphing? » Additionally, the morph ability also slows down time. You can use that as a crutch to platform more precisely but here’s the catch: the overall level timer does not slow down. Which means you can’t rely on the morph too much if you’re a speedrunner or are aiming for that trophy time. Coupled with an intensive dash that you can trigger in any direction, wall jumping as well as air hopping and you’ve got a unique arsenal of moves that will aid in your escape!

The game provides high-quality pixel art, smooth animations, precise level design, a crazy narrative with many places to visit in parallel to the adventure… how many people worked on that game, and how were the roles distributed?

Why, thank you! Believe it or not, only three people worked on the game full time. I was responsible for the visuals and level design. Ben Miller was the primary programmer and Edgar Castro aided with the level design and general quality assurance testing. Naturally, as a small team, our roles were much more diverse than that though. We split duties on implementation work, writing, UI design, marketing and so on. The team becomes exponentially bigger if you take part time work into consideration. Britt Brady did most of the sound design while Christina Tang and Sarah Boeving created the awesome posters.

Levels and gameplay of such a game need perfectly crafted level design and gameplay. How many hours of beta-testing did Slime-san require?

The game features a lot of content: 100 levels, another 100 New Game+ levels, speedrunning modes, boss rush modes, twitch integration, a hub town with over 50 characters, several shops and unlockables and even five entire mini-games. Because of that, we realized early on that we’d need a good amount of beta testing. We started the private beta January 2nd, with around 100 participants, which gave us almost three months of time to get feedback and bug reports. We are confident that the product will be very solid by launch.

The game’s soundtrack is great. It looks like you put much effort in it. Can you tell us something about it?

It’s a huge collaborative effort. We contacted all of our favorite chiptune composers, in the hopes that 1-2 would answer… But at the end almost everyone enthusiastically agreed to the challenge. Which means we ended up with a soundtrack that 14 talented composers contributed to. We’re talking about chiptune champions like Richard Gould, Adhesive Wombat, Tiasu, Meganeko, Inverse Phase, FantomenK, Kubbi and more. The music complements the game’s pixel art aesthetic but each track was also designed with a certain gameplay aspect in mind. We wanted to create a soundtrack that is worth the price of admission alone, and I think we’ve accomplished that. Needless to say, the album will be sold separately digitally and even on vinyl for the music enthusiasts out there.

Your press kit announces the game on PC/Mac/Linux, and also on Wii U. Is this console not dead yet? What about publishing the game on the Switch, PS4 or Xbox One?

You’ll be one of the first to know that our priorities have just shifted. The game will officially release on Steam April 7th and on the PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch in the Summer! It’s thanks to our publisher, Headup Games, that we have the opportunity of bringing the game to the PS4 and Xbox One. We originally planned for the Wii U as well, but Nintendo was kind enough to provide us a Switch devkit so that will take priority now. This doesn’t mean the Wii U port is out of the question, but it’s definitely on the sideline for now.

Which game engine have you used to develop this game?

Most of our projects were made in Unity, Slime-san included. We’ve perfected our workflow with it internally, including using custom plugins, that allow us to be efficient and comfortable developing any type of game. Its multi-platform support is a giant benefit to us as well.

You left Switzerland to go live and work in New York. Have you stayed in touch with the Swiss gaming scene?

I left after High School to pursue a “Design & Technology” degree at Parsons in New York. I was fortunate enough to meet my teammates there and after our first successful game launch we decided to fund a company right after graduation. We’ve been in New York ever since. I’ve definitely stayed in touch with the Swiss Gaming scene. I have several people I count as friends among them and I was fortunate enough to be part of the Swiss Games delegation for GDC this year. An honor I was most thankful of, considering I don’t currently reside in Switzerland.

What has being part of the Swiss delegation at the GDC this year brought to you?

A lot! Thanks to their generous support I was able to attend the GCA [Game Connection America], a business event that happens simultaneously, where I made several phenomenal business connections. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that we would not have gotten a Nintendo Switch devkit without access to the GCA. We also had a great booth in the center of GDC Play that got lots of foot traffic and therefore visibility. Last but not least I made some new Swiss developer friends that I cherish very much. I am super grateful for the opportunity of being a part of it all.

Yannick Rochat

Yannick Rochat est collaborateur scientifique et chargé de cours au Collège des Humanités de l’EPFL. Il est co-fondateur de l’UNIL Gamelab.