Well, the title kinda says it all. This is the interview you’ve all been waiting for! A few months ago, I was browsing through the Kickstarter archives and stumbled upon this cool looking game called Savior. It’s a sprite-based Metroidvania with a really cool parkour movement mechanics, and the combat looks very unique as well. So, for the first time EVER in the history of Kickstarter, I donated toward the funding of a video game. A few weeks later, Savior hit and exceeded its initial funding goal! Is this all because of me? Yes, I take 100% of the credit you are welcome Starsoft for my $50 contribution to your $15k goal.
Haha, a week later I messaged the lead developer of the game, Weston Tracy, and was able to snag an interview before the swarm of gaming media discovers this soon-to-be hit game. So let’s dive right in! But first, as always:
This is me.
This is Weston.
This is a GIF of a “Kickstarter” according to Giphy.
Alright, Weston, we start all interviews with the same question: How’d you get started in gaming as a hobby? First console/game?
Well, I can’t remember a time when games weren’t a hobby. My mom worked at a software company in my early childhood and would bring home games for me to play. Her boss had an Asteroids machine in his home. I think that was the first game I remember playing. My first console was the NES…I remember opening that box like it was yesterday. I started with Super Mario Bros. and Ice Climber I think.
Dude that’s fucking awesome! So I haven’t asked this question to anyone yet so let’s give it a try: as someone (like myself) that grew up during the SNES vs Sega Genesis wars, what did you think at that age? I’m assuming you moved straight to SNES after NES.
I’ve always been a Nintendo fanatic. The crisp, simple sensibilities of Nintendo captured me from day 1. I couldn’t afford more than 1 console, but I don’t remember ever being sad about that. I just wanted to buy more Nintendo stuff. And yes, I got a SNES.
Gotcha. So as you grew up did you always know you wanted to be a game developer? What came first: game development or pixel art? I researched you a bit. And by “researched” I mean I Google’d your name and clicked the first thing that came up which just happened to be your Pixel Joint website lol.
I was trying to wrangle my fellow 4th graders into starting a game team. We were fleshing out levels and writing music back then. So I’ve wanted to be a game developer from the minute I opened my NES. But I went through the industry, learned 3D modeling and didn’t come back to pixel art until about 2010. But that was like coming home, like opening that NES up again.
You went through the industry? College and early jobs as a game dev?
I did a year of college before I got a job as a grunt artist at Dynamix (a division of Sierra On-Line). I was making $6/hour touching up 3D shadows but I was so happy to have a job. Within a year I was the main texture artist on Starsiege: Tribes. I worked there for 3 years, I think. Then I got a job at Lucas Arts, working on Starwars: Starfighter as a 3D artist making environments and ships from Episode 1.
So in total, how many years did you spend in the industry before you broke off and started Starsoft? And were you just making pixel art on the side in this time? Also, what pushed you to start Starsoft? Any specific instance?
I think I was employed in the industry for 6 years before I went freelance, then contracted for companies for another 4 before starting my first company, Black Jacket Games. Starsoft was formed in 2016, so I’d been working in games for around 20 years at that point. I really didn’t start doing pixel art until 2009, when I started a project called Slime City at Black Jacket.
So is Starsoft a merger of Black Jacket and more people or a completely new company?
Black Jacket was a partnership with my good friend Brian Ramage, but ultimately we both wanted to head a project so we parted ways. Starsoft is now me and 8-10 crazy talented freelancers.
How did you find all those freelancers for Starsoft? And did you all end up moving to one location or do you all work around the world?
I started posting art from Savior (then called ‘Into The Rift’) and it spoke to some people. I just started getting people volunteering to help out. Sam, our lead programmer, came on first. Then Rob, our lead concept artist.I’d worked with both of them before. The only people I reached out to were Dan Adelman, our biz dev advisor, and our voice actors. Everyone else found us.
Good deal. So do you all work in the same studio now?
Oh, I reached out to our sound guy, too. Me, Sam, David (sound guy) and Milo (writer) are all in Portland. But we all work from home. Everyone else is spread out around the world, Chicago, Miami, Lisbon, UK.
Ok cool. Let’s dive into Savior. So Savior has been your idea since 4th grade. Tell me about the original idea and how it’s evolved over the years.
In 4th grade, it was just that I wanted to make a side scroller Castlevania sequel. The story idea took root about 4 years ago and pieces have been forming since then. Making a Metroidvania is a beast of a project for anyone.
Ambitious kid. So that kinda leads into some of my questions about the mechanics: According to Steam, Savior is an action-adventure platformer, yet it looks like nothing I’ve ever seen. At the root it’s a Metroidvania, right? Was that parkour/fluid motion always part of the plan? What about combat?
Yeah, ultimately the world is broken in literal, functional ways and metaphorical ways. Your job is to fix it. But a lot of the ‘fixing’ requires beating up those who are trying to stop you and parkouring around to get things fixed. I grew up taking Aikido. I’ve always longed for more depth in video game combat. Even fighting games don’t really have clean blocks and fluid fighting mechanics. It’s all pretty stuttery. I’ve also been a Salsa dancer for 20 years. I love the fluidity of movement. So I wanted to do my best to weave that all together. I wanted to try to bridge the gap between 2D fighting in games and the awesome stuff in The Matrix or Drunken Master/Fong Sai-Yuk etc. I want the combat to feel real while being super simple to the player. There are only a couple input variations, but lots of animation to make it come alive.
That makes sense. Well, I can say without actually playing it that it looks so fucking cool, and I cannot wait to try it out in the alpha demo. I get this sort of anti-religion vibe from the Kickstarter trailer. Is that a big theme in the game/story? Metaphorical for religion in real life?
I’ve been a believer in a range of different ‘spiritual’ ideologies, and only recently started calling myself an agnostic/atheist. This was around the same time I rediscovered pixel art. I’m fascinated with the mechanics of belief and wanted to incorporate that into the game. So challenging the beliefs of The Chosen will be a central part of the story. It will be like so many Star Trek episodes, where your goal is to show a society that they’re believing in a false god. I want to keep the dialogue and belief challenging stuff interesting, super simple, and look to not have a single unnecessary dialogue branch.
I’m very interested to learn more about that. I’m not sure many games touch on that subject anymore. It looks like there’s going to be dialogue choices and stuff. Is it going to be deep like a Fallout style game where your decisions in the dialogue impact the story? Multiple endings?
Yes, the dialogue will impact your rapport with NPCs and that will decide whether they help you or not. And yes, we plan on having multiple endings, decided by how many of the Arcadians you ‘save’.
On another note, you hit your Kickstarter goal a few weeks ago. That must have felt awesome!
Yeah, it’s great to have that boost. We hope to get a lot done in the next few months.
Ok, gotcha. Thank you again for your time today Weston. Ready for some rapid-fire questions to wrap it up?
Favorite game of all time?
Hehe, probably WoW.
Nice. Favorite game you’ve played this year?
Toss up between Hollow Knight and GRIS.
LOVE both of those. Most overrated game of all time?
Oof, Minecraft? Just because I need some narrative in my games but it’s still brilliant.
Love how you worded that answer. “Good game, just not for me”. How about most underrated game of all time?
I’m blanking…The games I love tend to be huge hits. I thought Simon’s Quest was wonderful but people hate that game. GRIS is like an interactive experience with most underrated soundtrack of all time, I’d say. I think they should win a Grammy for that thing.
Oh, I agree. Trying to get an interview with that composer as we speak! Ok how about a game you refuse to play for whatever reason? I’m sure it’s WoW classic right? Haha too much work to do?
Uh, let’s see. I came up on WoW classic; don’t care for the new, easy version actually. I won’t play Super Meat Boy or Celeste because I don’t have that organ that makes you like re-running the same room 50 times. But again, I recognize the extreme craft that went into those two games. I just can’t handle the difficulty!
HAHAHA believe me its a curse. I’ve beaten Celeste and Cuphead. Both made me question the meaning of my existence haha.
I did go through that with the White Palace in Hollow Knight though…because they hooked me with the first 90% of the game.
Yea Hollow Knight is a little different imo too because of that. Just a masterpiece of a game. Give me one fact or tidbit about Savior (or Starsoft) that no one else knows?
Oh yeah, I don’t really do run and gun games like Cuphead but I have to play it because it’s so damn pretty. I don’t think I’ve told anyone outside the team, but I’m excited about our weeding mini-game in Savior. You’ll be able to pull weeds (ala Super Mario Bros. 2) but with a bit more skill involved (got to get the root, not just the leaves).
Ahhh maybe you’ll cure my hatred for gardening then haha. Alright last one, do you think Fortnite is a good game?
I’ve honestly never played it, just watched hours of streaming. It looks great, and I love the concept. So I’d have to go with yes. Is it derivative of PUBG or vise versa?
Oh boy…ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the prototypical indie game developer. He is THAT man that lives under a rock. Haha I’m kidding of course, but yea it’s a PUBG rip off which ripped off something else too so whatevs. I think it’s trash but I am in the vast minority.
Thank you again for your time Weston! Look forward to speaking with you again and good luck with Savior! Can’t wait to play the alpha demo next year!
Alright everyone I really hope you enjoyed that look into Savior. If you want to follow along with the development you can visit their website here or follow Weston on Twitter! See you next week for an interview with a member of the SUPERHOT team!