Old School Gamer Magazine chats with Romain Claude, Lead Game Designer of “Splasher,” a retro-inspired platform shooter that successfully combines elements from Super Mario Brothers, Super Meat Boy and Splatoon in an awesome way, effectively marrying both the retro and modern gameplay worlds in a super fun way.
Old School Gamer Magazine: How did you get involved in gaming?
Romain Claude: When I was 7, we were in 1994 but I didn’t know anything about the existence of video games at the time. It was summer and my parents visited friends of theirs in Corsica, where we spent 3 weeks of vacation. Their daughter, who was roughly the same age than I had an NES with Super Mario Bros (and an Indiana Jones game I barely remember). From the second I took the controller and saw that I was able to control a moving character on the TV screen, I knew that my life was about to change forever. It was not just a toy, but a revolutionary new form of expression. From that day I never stop thinking about video games, day and night.
OSGM: What are your fondest childhood gaming memories?
Claude: The one I mentioned above, but I think that what came after that, such as frequently discovering new games at friends’ houses on NES, Super NES, Genesis or even an old Amstrad CPC in an uncle attic, was kind of the golden age for me. My brain had an insatiable need of constantly find new games to play, anywhere, anytime. Then I actually built most of my gaming culture on PS1 & PS2. My first contact with 3D games, like Crash Bandicoot and Tomb Raider (the two games my parents got with the PlayStation in 1996) was actually the second blast in my gamer’s life.
OSGM: Retro gaming console of choice? Why?
Claude: PS1 (yeah not so old but already retro) It’s the console on which I’ve spent most of my childhood.
OSGM: What inspired this game?
Claude: A lot of games. Or let say a lot of things I like in games that are pretty good for me. Super Meat Boy is one my main inspirations. This game is actually a genius modern indie homage to Super Mario Bros, with a perfect sense of controls and level design. Other platformers such as the Crash Bandicoot series or the recent Rayman games inspired me as well, among others. Maybe you want me to say that Splatoon inspired me, haha, but it’s not the case. Portal 2 did … Initially, I was just making tests for blood spreading on walls and the idea of using different colors and make a gameplay feature out of that came earlier than the Splatoon announcement by Nintendo. So if we talk inspirations, the initial idea was more Super Meat Boy X Portal 2 paints, rather than the “2D Splatoon” a lot of people tend to describe.
OSGM: Why do you think games like Splatoon are so beloved?
Claude: I don’t know. Splatoon is probably the “refreshing thing” a lot of Nintendo fans were waiting for. It’s been a while that Nintendo tries new things on the hardware but way less on games (especially with the IPs they reuse all the time with characters that are always the same since the 80s). So Splatoon sounds like a fresh take on both gameplay and universe. The game has the “Nintendo” sense of quality and polish while being 100% new compared to what the company is used to produce.
OSGM: What was development like?
Claude: Quite long, passionating, sometimes very difficult, and full of good production lessons for the future. We started to make prototypes by the end of 2013, and we were only two in the team until 2016. I was designing and coding the game while my artist friend Richard Vatinel aka “Gromy” was making the graphics and animations. We did a lot of iterations and playtests on small gameplay demos before going into full production with the help of three others dudes. I do not regret these years at all because the result is worth it.
OSGM: How did this game change during development?
Claude: We iterated a lot on the controls and the design of the levels. As much as we were progressing in the prototypes, we always kept in mind that we wanted a few core mechanics with a high level of polish and a good diversity in the way they are used in the level design.
OSGM: What did you learn about yourself through this game?
Claude: Perseverance is the key (among other learnings …)I’ve also learned that once you succeed in shipping an indie game, it’s almost impossible to go back in a “normal” studio afterward. So that’s why I hope Splasher will be successful enough to make other games on my own and/or with friends after this one.
OSGM: Why is this a must-play on the Nintendo Switch?
Claude: Because it’s the coolest indie platformer you’ve seen since Super Meat Boy, and playing it in your bed or in the toilets is even cooler.
Patrick Hickey Jr. is the author of the upcoming book, “The Minds Behind the Games: Interviews With Cult and Classic Video Game Developers,” from McFarland And Company. Featuring interviews with the creators of 36 popular video games–including Deus Ex, NHLPA 93, Night Trap, Mortal Kombat, Wasteland and NBA Jam–the book gives a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of some of the most influential and iconic (and sometimes forgotten) games of all time. Recounting endless hours of painstaking development, the challenges of working with mega publishers and the uncertainties of public reception, the interviewees reveal the creative processes that produced some of gaming’s classic titles.