Ska Studios Q&A
Today I had the opportunity to sit down with James Silva and Michelle Juett Silva, the folks behind the Dishwasher and Charlie Murder games. They took a bit of time to answer some questions about their latest title ‘Salt and Sanctuary‘and give some insight on the development process over at SkaStudios.
Console Monster: First off, thanks so much for taking the time to sit down with me today! Let’s start off with some of the basics; Who are you and what do you do?
Michelle Juett Silva: No problem! Thanks for having us. I’m Michelle Juett Silva and I’m the Art Unicorn for Ska Studios. I create art for our games as well as do community management, PR and event organization for whatever need arises.
James Silva: I’m James Silva, I’m Lead Dishwasher. I do coding, art, animation, level design, audio, and music.
CM: Your upcoming release, ‘Salt and Sanctuary‘, is a fantasy side-scroller that seems to feature a medieval, even ‘Dark Souls’ look to it. Can you tell me a bit more about the title?
JS: Salt and Sanctuary actually began as a bit of an experiment to see how the visual and gameplay aesthetics of The Dishwasher would (or wouldn’t) translate into a medieval RPG setting, with a lot of interesting questions coming up: should a warhammer feel like a Violence Hammer? Would a knight in armor rolling like The Dishwasher “work?” Where do ranged attacks fit? Evolving the world and gameplay around a happy marriage of our Dishwasher legacy and this broad setting of high fantasy that I’ve been a pretty huge fan of ever since The Hobbit.
CM: You’re based in Seattle, right? How would you describe the company and has your location influenced your games in any way?
MJS: We moved to the Seattle area about a year ago from Upstate New York. The move has been incredibly positive. If you’re not familiar, other than a few studios, Upstate New York is pretty devoid of game development activity. Moving to Seattle has introduced to us a plethora of developer friendships and events. It’s been amazing how motivating it’s been being in this very developer friendly area.
JS: It’s nice being within driving distance of PAX, Valve, 17-bit, Uber Entertainment, and the many industry meetups that happen here.
CM:Your previous games ‘Charlie Murder‘ and ‘The Dishwasher‘ series were critically acclaimed beat-em-up titles with a wonderful dark art style; what have you learned from your experience with those games and has that influenced any aspect of Salt and Sanctuary?
MJS: It seems like we keep making more and more involved games as we grow and develop our skills. Charlie Murder was a much bigger game than The Dishwasher games and Salt and Sanctuary proves to be an even bigger game.
JS: Salt and Sanctuarydefinitely combines a lot of stuff we’ve learned over the years, like the character building fromCharlie Murder: wearable gear (that, unlike most 2D games, affects your appearance), tons of stats, and leveling, and the tight, visceral 2D combat ofThe Dishwasher.
CM: What are some of your favorite features or moments in the game? And is there anything that you had to leave out that you wish had made the final release?
MJS: Well we’re still working on the game so we haven’t had to cut anything yet! As for older games like Charlie Murder, I had a lot of clothing and monsters I wanted to put in the game but they just never made it in.
JS: Like withThe Dishwasher, much of the design aroundSalt and Sanctuaryis about bosses as set pieces. I really want to establish these monstrous, massive creatures as impossibly destructive, world-filling things; but given some experience with attack patterns, they’re all totally defeatable.
CM: This is your first project ‘exclusively’ on the PlayStation 4 and PSVita, correct? What were some of the difficulties and/or benefits of working with this new hardware?
JS: The XNA to PS4 transition isn’t quite as clean as XNA on Xbox360, but not only is it always improving, but—and I can’t emphasize this enough—it’s the only way to get XNA legacy code running on a next gen platform, and its only supported on PS4 and Vita. Studios like us are just super happy to not have to throw out years of development time, and that was a big factor in our decision to go with Sony.
CM:The PlayStation 4 has some very unique features such as the DS4’s touch pad, light bar and gyroscopic sensor, did you support any of these hardware features? If so, what purpose do they serve?
MJS: We haven’t looked into it yet but I love the audio that comes through the DS4. I’d love to incorporate that somehow.
JS: The most important thing to me is precise control. I’m all for adding DS4 flavor, as long as we don’t compromise that precision.
CM: Music always seems to be a major factor in your games, such as the guitar mini-game in dishwasher and the extremely epic song featured in ‘I MAED A GAM3 W1TH Z0MB1ES 1NIT!!!1‘, does music play a large role in Salt and Sanctuary as well?
MJS: Absolutely! We have always made our own music with a few cameo song exceptions and we continue to do so.
JS: The soundtrack forSalt and Sanctuaryis in a pretty early stage, but, like most things aboutSalt, it comes across as somewhere betweenThe Dishwasherand a fantasy RPG. Chanting, viola, guitar feedback, a synth drone.
CM: What does the future hold for SkaStudios?
MJS: We’re pretty much working one game at a time. As long as we can keep making games that do well enough to keep making more games, that’s our ultimate goal.
JS: Also, we’ve hadThe Dishwasher: Vampire SmilePC in the works for a pretty stupidly long time (mostly becauseSalthas been such a priority).
CM: Speaking of other games, what are some of the current favorites of the you and team?
MJS: We’re huge Dark Souls fans. Other games include Borderlands 2, Killing Floor, Shadow of Mordor and Destiny.
JS: I’m struggling throughThe Evil Within. It is a stressful game.
I’d like to thank both James and Michelle for sitting down with me today, we look forward to seeing more onSalt and Sanctuary in the coming months!