Interview: Behind the Stone & Why They Made Sir Eatsalot
In the year 2018, Sony's PS Vita is easily forgotten, but still much loved. The recently released Sir Eatsalot is among a handful of original Vita titles recently released to the handheld, and when I was writing my review for Sir Eatsalot I began wondering about the small German game studio behind the colourful title starring a hungry Knight with a seemingly insatiable sweet-tooth. I got the opportunity to ask co-founder and programmer, Slawa Deisling, about how Sir Eatsalot came to be, and his opinion on the future of Sony handhelds in today's current gaming climate.
Dylan: Behind the Stone was formed in 2015, officially, from what I could gather, and Sir Eatsalot started as an iOS game? What was the cause and effect of changing to developing on the PS Vita?
Slawa: Yes, it started as an iOS game. At some point, Monika, our art-director, and I sat down together and reviewed the game. Back then it was just a Super Mario Bros. clone. A bad one. It was not fun. It looked terrible. We just weren't satisfied with the state of the game back then. So we talked. What shall we do? Make another game or adjust it? We decided to revamp basically everything: the art-style, the game design and of course the platform.
Dylan: One of my critiques of Sir Eatsalot was that it used too many of the Vita’s features and I found it cumbersome at times. When you decided to make a Vita game, was it decided at the start of development to implement as many of its features as you could, or were more added later after the core gameplay and platforming?
Slawa: Yes, the moment we decided it should be the PS Vita the features of the consoles were interlinked with the game design of Sir Eatsalot. As developers, we didn't want to create just another 2D game which can be played on the PS Vita. If we wanted to do that, we could develop it simultaneously for other platforms as well. But we wanted to create a game FOR the PS Vita.
Dylan: The Nintendo Switch was announced towards the end of 2016, well after you had put out the announcement video for Sir Eatsalot — what was your reaction to the reveal at the time? And now, with the Switch being used by a lot of people (myself included) as their main handheld, and seeing how Nintendo is handling the nindies program, have you considered trying to port Sir Eatsalot? And does the heavy Vita feature set make that nearly impossible?
Slawa: I think we had the same reaction like most folks had: the Nintendo Switch is what the Wii U should've been or wanted to be, but couldn't. That being said: We love the Nintendo Switch! So much that I want every game ever to be released on the Switch. It's a great device and we can't wait to develop games for it. As for a potential Sir Eatsalot port: we might look into it. The Vita features don't make it impossible, we just have to change or cut specific features to get it working, but that might compromise the overall experience we intended for the game. The best place to play the game would still be the PS Vita.
Dylan: As a supporter of #VitaIsland what do you think about Sony attempting another handheld with the Switch now its major competitor?
Slawa: To be honest, I don't believe that Sony will make a dedicated handheld device again, at least not in the near future. The PSP was great back then, sure the Nintendo DS sold more, but it could hold its ground. The Vita couldn't in the long run, but for a multitude of reasons (VitaIsland!) it's still afloat and just refuses to die, but Sony does not show any life support besides helping developers releasing their games on that system. There's just no interest there.
On the other hand, big companies like to copy successful things. Maybe Sony will come up with their own version of a Switch and a certain twist. And maybe that twist will only be better performance. I doubt it, but it wouldn't surprise me.
Dylan: Finally, what’s next for Behind the Stone and what would you like to do with Sir Eatsalot 2? The first game heavily implies you would like to do a sequel.
Slawa: Uh, depends a lot on the sales. If we don't make enough, we have to shut off the lights, if we make enough we'll keep going. Yes, there will be a sequel eventually, but it won't be the next project. We love that chubby bastard, but as of now, we're full of him. Right now we're fooling around with some prototypes, we can't pinpoint the genre yet, but it will be a 2D game again since that's what we want to excel at.