PGF_2015_Interview_Colton_Onderwater

As the founder of a Perth-based media outlet, I personally find it very rewarding when I’m able to contribute and get involved with our local industry. In the past, we’ve shown our support for several different events, but none comes close to the epic scale of the Perth Games Festival. This is the one day of the year where everything is laid out on the table, and where the public can try local games currently in development. To be honest, I thought I knew what to expect, but I was genuinely surprised by the number of new faces, and I was keen to talk with as many developers as possible. The first game on my personal list actually comes from one of our own, Colton Onderwater, who founded an independent studio earlier this year and brought along his newest project for us all to try out: Super Salmon Migration!

 

While some readers may recognise you as a Staff Writer at GameCloud, they may not be aware that you’re also a game developer. Could you tell us about Bear-Tooth Studios?


 
At the beginning of this year, I started making indie games, so I founded Bear-Tooth Studios. Essentially, I use it as a name to release my games or other creative projects under, as well as collaborations with other developers.

 

Having released your first game, Arbalest 3035, we understand that you’re now working on a new project called Super Salmon Migration. What’s your elevator pitch?


 
Super Salmon Migration is an endless swimmer where you play as a fish that has to dodge obstacles as you swim up-river. Going the distance will award you with fish bucks that you can use to buy sweet costumes for your fish.

 

Before we dig deeper into the mechanics and all the hilarious costumes, I have to ask what could have possibly inspired such a wonderfully quirky idea?


 
The game started when myself and the other two developers on the project (Jaymie-Ray Sargent and Jason Clark) where Studying at SAEQ and had to make a game that only required one input. After brainstorming, the idea of a fish swimming up a river came too. After Arbalest was finished, I met up with the other two devs and built on the prototype and decided to make the tone of the game fairly charming and quirky. Wanting to keep the core game simple but have enough content to keep people engaged we figured adding an array of costumes served that idea well.
 
SSM_screen1

 

Let’s first talk about the core mechanics. Super Salmon Migration is a mobile game that uses procedurally generated levels and one button controls. How does it play?


 
If you ever played the web browser game “Helicopter” in high school, it plays a lot like that. The player holds their finger on the screen, and the fish swims up and removing your finger causes the fish to drop down. Once the fish breaks the surface of the water, it will leap into the air. Using these controls, the players can dodge obstacles and collect items.

 

Can you tell us how fish-bucks, stock trading and costume unlocks are going to work, and how this system is going to provide longevity to keep players invested?


 
Fish-Bucks can be obtained by either collecting objects in the game or by completing achievements. While playing, you can collect things such as bugs, dragon flys and nuggets. These items can then be taken to a fish named Lawerence, who will trade them for fish bucks. The value of these items will constantly be changing so the player can stock up on a certain collectable until they are worth more, and, in turn, get a better return for more fish bucks. We’ll provide further information on that closer to release as the way the stock market behaviour works is still being designed. As well as this, various achievements, such as jumping a certain height or swimming a certain distance, will award fish-bucks.

Fish-bucks can be used as a primary means of purchasing costumes that you can place on your fish. Most costumes can be purchased, although, some costumes are only available once you have completed certain achievements. By having a fairly extensive range of costumes (we are aiming for around 50), we hope to keep the player interested as they strive to unlock more costumes to dress their fish up in.
 
SSM_screen2

 

The biggest question on my mind is micro transactions, and, surprisingly, your game is not going to include any. You easily could have gone this route, why didn’t you?


 
To be honest, I didn’t feel F2P elements such as micro transactions were something that I wanted associated with Bear-Tooth or the kind of games I made. The relationship between community and studio is very important for me, and in the current climate, especially in mobile games, I feel that things such as micro transactions put a divide between players and studios. Especially when studios use this system brazenly to get consumers to pay over $60 for a game that’s worth about $10. Looking at games such as Ridiculous Fishing, it can bee seen how a good mobile game can resonate well with players and still be sold at a premium.

 

About now, I’d usually ask how your game stands out from others in the genre, but considering its quirky nature, I think it’s better to ask how it stands out as a mobile title?


 
I suppose how the game doesn’t take itself too seriously? With such simple gameplay, we went for a ridiculous concept and doubled down on how eccentric it was. As well as this, I suppose we opted for an art style that reflected this tone but was endearing and something that set itself apart from other mobile titles.

 

Game development has its share of difficulties, and being in Perth can add a few more to the pile. What has been your greatest challenge working on the game so far?


 
Probably the inability of working together in the same room as a team. With the other members working full-time jobs during development, they work remotely from Bear-Tooth despite being in the same city. Issues such as implementing changes to builds and communication all come with this. That being said, this more so reflects the nature of game development than being in Perth itself. The Perth industry has been incredibly supportive of Bear-Tooth and Super Salmon Migration, and being involved in the local community has been a huge benefit.
 
SSM_screen3

 

How did it feel showing your game to the general public for the first time, and what were your impressions of the Perth Games Festival as a whole?


 
PGF was awesome! It was so cool to see the sheer number of people and how passionate the general public was about local games. SSM was a lot of fun to show to people as well as everyone was on board with tone and it was a lot of fun talking about costume ideas with people that played the game.

 

Can we expect to see your games at local playtesting events such as Playup Perth next year? Also, what release timeframe and platforms are you aiming toward?


 
For sure! As the game gets more complete, we look forward to showing it off whenever we can. We are aiming for a release early 2016 on both iOS and Android mobile devices.

 

Are there any other ways our readers can support your game and continue follow its development? Social media, blogs, etc. would be great if you have something?


 
For genral information about the game, please head over to: http://www.bear-tooth.com/super-salmon-migration/

For updates on whats happening at Bear-Tooth, you can follow my journal at: http://www.bear-tooth.com/journal/

Facebook: http://facebook.com/beartoothstudios/

And follow the devs of Super Salmon Migration on Twitter!
Myself (Designer, Artist): @Colton_Ondrwtr
Jaymie (Shop Programmer, UI Programmer): @DevJasonClark
Jason (Gameplay Programmer): @jayray_dev

William Kirk

William Kirk

Editor-in-Chief / Founder at GameCloud
Based in Perth, Western Australia, Will has pursued interests in both writing and video games his entire life. As the founder of GameCloud, he has endeavoured to build a team of dedicated writers to represent Perth in the international games industry, as well as unite his local gaming community.
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