Indie Game Developer Spotlight – Squidlit (Nintendo Switch/Steam)

Indie Game Developer Spotlight – Squidlit (Nintendo Switch/Steam)

If  you were a gamer in the 90’s this game should have an immediate nostalgic look and feel to it. It’s made to closely resemble a Game boy game by limiting some of the features you’d find in similarly styled games. So there is :

  • No more than 10 8-pixel wide sprites in a line.
  • No more than 40 sprites at any time.
  • Four sound channels that are shared between “voices” of music and the sound effects.
  • 160 x 144 pixel resolution.
  • And a whopping 4 shades of… “grellow”.

As a huge fan of the Game boy I absolutely love this idea!

Squidlit was originally released only on Steam with the Nintendo Switch port released in January 2020. The game follows Plip; a Squidlit sent on a mission to the ‘Spoopy Castle’ that the previous Squidlit hasn’t returned from. You’ll traverse through different environments and encounter some unique enemies (I’m looking at you Sharkerpillar and Sharkerflies), along the way. This all adds to the ‘cute’ art style to make Squidlit a game full of charm and a pleasure to playthrough. It would fit in well beside Mario and Kirby on anyone’s game shelf. There are a few Easter eggs hidden along the way, so you’ll need to pay attention to the story or you might miss a few.

Once I finished the game I knew I had to reach out to the developers behind this game and ask them some questions, including will we see Squidlit embark on another new adventure?

The creators of the game are recently married 2 person team, Skwit Skwot (Samantha) and Squidlit (Alex). Fun fact : Skwit Skwot is a character from Dungeons & Dragons that formed inspiration for the villain in Squidlit. It is an honor to have them answer my questions, so let’s dive right in.

  • First of all thank you so much for agreeing to this interview. Would you like to introduce yourselves to the readers and tell them a little about yourselves and what made you decide to create a world for Squidlit?

Samantha: Hello! I’m Samantha Barrett, also known as Skwit Skwot. I’m a Developer and Producer here at Squidlit Ink., though I have primarily done development only on Super Squidlit.

Alex: Hiya! I’m Alex Barrett. I’m the primary dev for the first Squidlit game, and the creator of Squidlits. The world of Squishu was designed to be a place where only invertebrates live, because invertebrates are wonderful and deserve more exposure. Any vertebrate creatures there are not native.

  • What made you want to limit yourselves to the Game Boy’s hardware (as closely as you did)? And were there any compromises you had to make along the way that you wish you could have used?

Constraining ourselves to the limitations Game Boy hardware was a good way to make sure that the size and scope of our first project didn’t spiral out of control to the point where it wouldn’t be published. The hardest limitation to work with is definitely the 10 sprites per horizontal line. Plip for example is 2 sprites, her ink, which can overlap her for a frame, is 1, so we really only have 7 sprites to mess around with. Most enemies are 2 sprites, so we can only put 3 of them in a line in front of Plip before we have problems. Many Game Boy games used sprite flicker to add more stuff to the screen, but since Squidlit is mostly played on large backlit screens many times larger than a Game Boy’s we wanted to avoid flicker entirely.

  • How did you design the characters and what made Plip the ideal choice? I absolutely love the animations you created for the character.

Alex: Squidlits have been drawn and developed for more than 10 years now, I started drawing them as doodles my junior year of high school, but I always wanted to do something more with them. They were simple to draw and fit nicely into the size restrictions of a Game Boy sprite. Plip is a particularly adventurous Squidlit, so she was picked by the Squizard to go exploring. If you like Squidlit’s animation you’ll love Super Squidlit. There are over 1500 images that have gone into it so far, many of which are animation frames.

GameMaker was chosen as our engine since it focuses on 2D so well. All of the sprites were drawn in Gimp, except for some of the backgrounds, which used a Game Boy tile maker.

  • Wow that’s a lot, and it’s exciting to hear. So with Super Squidlit in the works do you have any similar limitations or are you thinking of it being based on a ‘newer’ system like the SNES?

Super Squidlit is made to mimic the Game Boy Color, which is mostly just a Game Boy with more oomph. We have a lot more cart space to work with, and twice the processing power, but most of the same restrictions as Squidlit. In Super Squidlit, Skwit Skwot convinces you to travel with her around the sea of Squishu in pursuit of a common foe. It’s shaping up to be several times as long as Squidlit, with hidden collectibles and lots more squidlity shenanigans.

  • Do you have any plans to release on other platforms (Squidlit or Super Squidlit)?

Since Squidlit draws so heavily on Nintendo hardware, It would feel weird to release it on other consoles. It will likely remain a PC and Switch console exclusive.

  • Yea that makes sense. As a collector I have to know if there any plans for a physical release?

Maybe for Super Squidlit! A physical Game Boy release would have to be reprogrammed from the ground up though, so it would only be for Switch.

  • What made you decide to release the game to the Nintendo Switch and does it differ from the Steam release?

We wanted Squidlit on the Switch because it’s really a continuation of the Game Boy line in our eyes. The Switch and PC versions are exactly the same! Well actually, I’ll admit, the Squidlit Oompah band wiggles for .5 seconds longer in the PC version to help get you an achievement.

  • During development did you have an idea of how long you wanted the game to take the player to finish?

We based Squidlit’s length on the length of other platformers of the time. Most of them didn’t save, and could be beaten in less than an hour if you knew what you were doing. With Squidlit, we didn’t want to artificially add length through unfair difficulty; we focused on its entertainment factor instead.

  • Have you seen any of the World Record runs? I came across one that completed the game in less than 9 minutes! Is that something you thought possible when building the game?

Oh yes! We’re fairly active on the speed running Discord. I could say we check in so much because the runners are really good at finding bugs, but actually we hang out there because everyone is so nice! I’m so happy that people are squeezing every last bit of replay value out of this tiny game!

  • I love the community spirit, so that’s great to hear. And note to other developers who are looking for bug testing, speed running could be the answer. Muffins are Squidlit’s source of health in the game, is there any reason you chose muffins over other items like hearts?

Squidlits like muffins and stress eat them when they get scared; it was decided by doodles long ago. Also octopus hearts are weird and in no way resemble the cartoony heart shape. Would we color them blue like octopus blood? At some point they would stop resembling the universal symbol of video game health. We also wanted to give a reason for health pickups to be available as you progressed as well, hence the muffin catapult at the beginning of the game. For indoors levels, all muffins either have a broken window to the east where they crashed through, or are in the possession of an enemy who picked one up outside. Also gore catapults are more of a WarCraft thing.

  • Yes I loved the catapult at the beginning; it worked well at letting the player know why they were there. I hadn’t noticed the broken window, which is an amazingly nice attention to detail! Squidlit is available for the bargain price (in my opinion) of £2, was there a reason you put the price so low?

Since Squidlit is only about 45 minutes to an hour long, we wanted to make sure that people were satisfied with their purchase. It’s also the price of bargain bin Game Boy games at our local retro game shop (shout out to Planet Fun!) and was the median price of ice cream on my ice cream truck business, Squidlit Ice Cream.

  • Lastly, a question I want to ask all developers who take the time to talk to me. For anyone who, after reading this, decides they want to get into game design. What advice would you give them to start them on their journey?

Don’t aim too big on your first game. Do a small game really well! Finish projects before starting another, and practice life drawings if you are the artist!

Once again I’d like to thank Samantha and Alex for taking the time to answer my questions on their first release. My review for the game will be following shortly. If you’d like to give Squidlit a try for yourself it’s available for :

$1.99/£1.39

USA
https://www.nintendo.com/games/detail/squidlit-switch

UK
https://www.nintendo.co.uk/Games/Nintendo-Switch-download-software/Squidlit-1702077.html

BN

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