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[ Interview] Ska Studios on Salt and Sanctuary  

[ Interview] Ska Studios on Salt and Sanctuary
EdEN, Owner

We loved Salt and Sanctuary and its merciless approach to gaming, so we got in touch with Ska Studios to talk a bit more about the game and how it was made. Welcome! Good to have you here at Could you please help us a bit by presenting yourself to your readers?

Hello! We’re James and Michelle of Ska Studios. We’ve been making indie games for 9 years, including The Dishwasher and Charlie Murder for Xbox 360, and more recently, Salt and Sanctuary for Playstation 4, PC, and eventually Vita.

PS4B: We had a blast playing Salt and Sanctuary for review, and we do have to say it’s a very fun, punishing, clever and dark slice of gaming. How did the team arrive at making an experience that has been called “2D Dark Souls”?

James: Cool! Salt and Sanctuary most definitely began as silly experiment. I had been reading through A Song of Ice and Fire when I absolutely got bitten by the Dark Souls bug. I’d heard it said that Dark Souls is the first true 3D Castlevania, and I started wondering what a game that tried to meet the formula halfway in the other direction — with a heavy smattering of our Dishwasher-style combat — would look and play like.

So I started building content and showing it around to our friends. We always have a few projects in the works, but everyone was absolutely crazy for the prototype that became Salt and Sanctuary. So we caved!

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PS4B: How long did it take you to go from initial concept to pre-alpha build to “We have released Salt and Sanctuary on PS4!”? How much did the game change along the way, and why did you make said choices?

James: We launched our last game, Charlie Murder, in August of 2013, and shipped Salt and Sanctuary two and a half years later, in March of 2016. But I had started building some of the underlying systems for Salt a year before shipping Charlie, including the hierarchical skeletal animation system, which Michelle likes to remind me I implemented during our honeymoon in 2012.

Michelle: If anything, the original game concept was much more ambitious than the final game. James and I had a few no-limits brainstorming sessions early in development, where we put together a bunch of really cool ideas that never saw the light of day — systems for online play, per-weapon skill trees, and more. We also scrapped a much more complex upgrade system. Some cuts were for simplicity’s sake, some were because we didn’t have time to get to everything.

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PS4B: I have to say, Michelle’s art really shines on PlayStation 4. What was her inspiration when designing the monsters and areas in the game?

Michelle: Thanks! A lot of our designs come from a simple “wouldn’t it be cool if-.” Wouldn’t it be cool if there was a giant metal tree covered in hanging bodies, or a humanoid bird whose skirt is a spike-laden bird cage, or a Cthulhu-esque sea monster?

The blue trolls that barf eggs are actually a specific reference to twitter trolls, though.

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PS4B: The game is out on PlayStation 4, and our readers are wondering how far along the PS Vita version is right now.

James: It’s getting there! It’s actually being handled by a studio that specializes in that. We don’t have an ETA, but we’ll let you know when we do.

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PS4B: Are you considering additional content for Salt and Sanctuary to expand on the game’s universe or do you feel that you need to step back from the game for a while before thinking about that?

Michelle: We’re trying to figure that out now. We’d like to make more content in the universe, but we’ve also got a ton of other ideas.

PS4B: What’s next for the studio? Do you already have a new game you’re working on? Anything you can share on that?

James: Our current focus is getting “everything” released on PC, starting with Salt and Sanctuary. After we get Salt in working order on PC, I’d like to get The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile and Charlie Murder released on Steam as well.

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PS4B: Thank you for your time. Would you like to add anything else before we go?

Michelle: Thanks for the interview!

James: Thanks!

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