By Quentin H. / September 15th, 2021
Green Lava Studios is one of those small indie studios that appears, on the surface, to make just random and crazy games. When you look beyond the surface of what you first see, however, you instead find a wealth of unexpected titles that ask questions about who we are as people, how and why we love the way we do, how do we achieve our dreams, and more.
After playing a variety of Green Lava Studios’ titles, I sat down with Eduardo Ramírez, the owner and game designer for the company, for an interview. In Part Two of our two-part interview, we talk about renaming Fenix Rage to Fenix Furia, what lies in the future for Green Lava Studios, favorite mayo dishes, and more.
You can read Part One of my interview here.
This interview has been edited for content and clarity.
Operation Rainfall: In 2019, Green Lava Studios released Birdcakes. Can you tell us what that game is, and why you decided to go back to the randomly generated gameplay that we previously saw in Fenix Furia?
Eduardo Ramírez: Fenix Furia was not randomly generated, but it is as hardcore. The things that they share is that Fenix Furia is a really hard game, as hard as [Birdcakes] or maybe harder. We made this prototype really fast- we started working with a shooter concept, the same concept as Pancake and then Cupcake. And that’s weird, because ‘cupcakes’ are named ‘piecakes’ here.
But it was a shooter and after that, the truth is that Birdcakes was called Project Cupcake and was going to be a party game for families of up to eight players. It was going to be a three-year development, and life got in the way. So we have to make some changes. And those changes were so big, that yeah- this solid prototype felt really good but I didn’t want to cancel it because it was too hard [to do].
Cancelling was hard because we were talking with publishers and well, we didn’t have luck. After all, I didn’t want to cancel the game because it was really big. So let’s make something that you can play over and over again. The only thing I could imagine was a procedural game, a randomly generated game. So that’s the reason why I decided ‘yeah, let’s make a level that’s generated by itself and use some of the enemies we’ve made and place them in a game.’ And that’s the result. Birdcakes is a product of a really big product that didn’t come out.
OR: Along those lines, why did Green Lava Studios change the name of Fenix Rage to Fenix Furia?
ER: There’s an article about that. *laughs* id Software tried to sue us because of the name ‘rage’. The thing is- we make Fenix Rage. We announce it on June 2014. And we launch it on Steam that same year. The next year on January 2015, we receive a cease-and-desist letter from id Software saying ‘that’s our name, if you keep using it, the law will get you’, right?
The thing I realized after that is that they got the word ‘rage’ in Costa Rica after we launched Fenix Rage. And because of that, we had to change our name. Some thoughts that will always stay in my mind repeatedly- that is something really sad for a studio, for us. I believe I’m getting over it after what, five years? Maybe more?
That was the reason we had to change [the name], it was mandatory for us. Of course, by that time, we didn’t have money to fight back. Maybe today, I would get some lawyers and say ‘let’s fight.’ But at that time? That was our first game for console.
OR: Most recently, Green Lava Studios put out a small game called Fenix Box and The Legend of the Cookie, which was originally developed in 2012, onto Lurkit. Why did you choose to re-release this 2012 proof of concept title, and why through Lurkit?
ER: So this game was really made before Fenix Rage/Fenix Furia, because Fenix Box is the prototype of Fenix Rage. We made Fenix Box as a joke: ‘let’s make a really hard game for you Diego.’ And I made him pass it, and he was like ‘haha this was too easy’ so I was like let’s make it harder and harder and harder. Eventually, we have a game and let’s publish it on Google Play. And we did it, and it got a half-million downloads, but it was a free game. After that result, we were like ‘We should take that concept and make it a complete, robust game.’ And that’s the reason Fenix Box exists. It was based on a prototype.
And Lurkit? I’m learning to use Lurkit. I want to use the Lurkit technology for future launches. I was trying with some of the games that were [available] for testing, and that was Fenix Box.
“We [have] had some success and it would be great if not only us have it, but others [too].
So if we can [give] really significant help to studios that are starting, then that’s a ‘win’ for the region.”
OR: So on April 26, Sean Callaghan, your PR Manager over on Green Lava Studios Twitter, posted that there was one ridiculous easter egg yet to be found in Fenix Rage, and he said he would post if he found it…and it appears that he hasn’t.
ER: So I know what is the easter egg- I made it. But I want him to find it. Eventually, he will find it. I will ping him ‘you found it yet?’
OR: Are there any easter eggs in other games that Green Lava Studios has put out that people haven’t found yet?
ER: There are many easter eggs. I believe it’s really only something we will understand. Maybe, maybe, some people will understand as well. What can I say? All games are part of other games. We try to make this connection between the games.
For example, in Birdcakes, there is this power where you get the complete health, you will regenerate. This power comes from a jar of mayo. So you try to use the same characters in other games.
OR: You recently partnered up with Limited Run Games for an April 1st-only title titled Green Lava Studios, Volume 1. How did that partnership come about, why for one day only, and are there any plans for a Volume 2?
ER: I have no idea, [but] I really hope so for Volume 2. I don’t know with what [games]. The idea came in 2017 or something like that. They were like ‘we should make this joke’ and we were totally in, ‘let’s make it’, but the game was not profitable. The game was only like one dollar. So then My Name is Mayo 2 came out and we were like ‘okay, let’s run it out together and it may have sense.’ So thank you for buying the game, that’s awesome!
So that’s the reason- it was intended to be a joke like the joke we are. *laughs*
OR: How did you decide to include Mr. Massagy in with the two Mayo games?
ER: It’s like the same line of humor. If we put Fenix Furia there, it would not be consistent. So that was the reason.
OR: You’re not just releasing games through Limited Run Games and Lurkit, you’re also sponsoring e-athletes. Can you tell us about that? Your Twitter account shows that you’ve sponsored Martin Schaer.
ER: Yeah we were sponsoring him with some stuff. As part of the sponsorship, we made some of the cars for him to complete in Nashville competition. He just won in our hearts. It was really fun.
OR: How do you go about designing a car, of all things?
ER: That was me. It was like the final competition, match, run- I don’t know how to say it. I was like ‘let’s make this ridiculous, let’s put all the Mr. Massagy things there.’ And during the competition, everyone was talking about that car. So that was nice. *laughs*
OR: You also have a program called Green Lava Backgrounds. Can you tell us about that?
ER: Yes, so that’s mainly for the region because we’re not that developed in the gaming industry. The whole idea is that if there is a studio or a group of students or whatever that wants to [have] a better chance at launch, [then] we can help on strategy and planning and some feedback, so they can get success as well.
We [have] had some success and it would be great if not only us have it, but others [too]. Because we’re a small studio- we’re what, two guys and some contracts with other studios to make our assets? We’re very small. So it’s not like Intel Costa Rica that comes here and gives a lot of jobs. So if we can [give] really significant help to studios that are starting, then that’s a ‘win’ for the region.
And yeah, the Backgrounds program is completely free.
OR: Have you worked with any promising groups or studios yet? And if so, can you tell us a little bit about it?
ER: Yes, I am working with three studios right now. And four maybe by January, because they are formalizing- I cannot say who, but they are a group of students that want to make a studio but they don’t know how to start as a company. So I am helping that, and if they start as a company then next year we can talk.
“If you’re going to work with new people, try to know the people first. Because if that person is really talented, but doesn’t ‘click’ with you, then…right? Especially for indie games. For bigger companies, it doesn’t matter.”
OR: Back to the mayonnaise for a moment. Do you have a favorite recipe that involves mayo?
ER: Yeah, it was a Dutch recipe that had ginger. Yeah, super weird, but I really liked it.
OR: What kind of dish is that with mayo and ginger?
ER: The mayonnaise has already the ginger itself, so it’s a really weird mayonnaise. But you can eat it with fries. I really liked it- I really enjoyed the mayonnaise.
OR: Towards the top of the interview, you talked about a ‘blue ocean’ approach for Green Lava Studios. Are there any particular genres that you want to go into that you haven’t explored yet?
ER: There are a lot of them. Massively Multiplayer Online Games for sure. But that’s a really big investment, so I won’t do that. But that’s an example of what I would like to do. Right now, we’re working on this- we can’t [name] it- but the game possibility will be launched in January. But we’ve been working since 2017 or 2018 on this RPG game. So this is the first time we’ve been making an RPG, it is a really big game. I hope that it comes out the way that we’ve had it in the game plan and we don’t reduce it. If that happens, I will be very, very sad. Because that game is being funded by mayonnaise. There is no other income for us than our own sales. So if mayonnaise keeps selling, we’ll have more time to complete this RPG and in the worst case scenario- we will contact a publisher or a crowdfunding, I don’t know. Right now, we’re alright with- we really hope- that we can finish it in 2022, 2023.
OR: Is there any ‘teaser’ things you can tell us about this RPG?
ER: It’s really weird. It’s really, really weird. It’s not a typical RPG- I will say that. Expect the existence pains [from] My Name is Mayo. It’s the same thing, same thing.
OR: Aside from this RPG, what’s next for Green Lava Studios?
ER: We will announce it in two months.
OR: Will it involve more mayo?
ER: I don’t know. I can’t say. *laughs*
OR: Last question- to someone that sees that you’re an independent studio who got up from the ground and built partnerships, developed your own games, and released them. What advice do you have to somebody who is starting from the same place you were with no experience in the industry?
ER: You have to be tough, because there will be a lot of frustration in the way if you cannot manage depth perception and frustration in how everything will be done. At least, that was for us. That’s how it was for us.
Be patient. If you’re going to work with new people, try to know the people first. Because if that person is really talented, but doesn’t ‘click’ with you, then…right? Especially for indie games. For bigger companies, it doesn’t matter. That’s my advice.
Also, maybe try to save all you can for a trip. That is a business trip to whatever is closest to you. It could be GDC, it could be Paris Game Show or Gamescom or whatever. So you always have to save money.
OR: Thank you very much.
What would you like to see Green Lava Studios create in the future? Would you pick up Volume 2 from Limited Run Games?
Let us know in the comments below!
BirdcakesCosta RicaEduardo RamírezGreen Lava StudiosLimited Run GamesmayonnaiseMr. MassagyMy Name is MayoMy Name is Mayo 2Playstation