The Falconeer came to PS5 and PS4 on August 5, 2021 after being released last year alongside the Xbox Series X/S. Now, almost a year out from release, The Falconeer has found a community of players that deeply enjoy Tomas Sala’s work, and we got the chance to speak to the creator himself about The Falconner, its development, his career, working with the PS5, and his process, how he works.
Interview With Tomas Sala, Creator Of The Falconeer
The Falconeer as a game has come a long way since its beginnings as just an idea in Sala’s mind. Since its launch alone it has been nominated for a BAFTA , an incredible achievement for any game or developer, let alone one man and a passion for his work.
“I’ve been in the games industry since 2001, I started a studio with three other guys straight out of art school, and I wanted to make games in the Netherlands,” says Sala as he begins to recount his career.
“We ended up doing lots of work for hire, but around 2013 I started experimenting with doing stuff myself, made some mods for Skyrim.”
Believe it or not, Sala’s mod’s in Skyrim are the stuff of legends, and a large part in what helped him build up his name and reputation. It was at this point when he realized that people actually do enjoy his work that he thought maybe to keep going.
But Sala didn’t move on directly to The Falconeer from there. His first indie game was, in fact, a mess, and afterwards Sala was burnt out from the experience. It wasn’t until a PSVR title, TrackLab, where he and his studio again found some success. “It was a beast to create,” said Sala, though more important than the games sales was the experience Sala got out of it.
“It got out there and sort of rolled a lot of experience into talking to console parties, and just getting a game born – not just from the development aspects, but bringing it to market, finding funding, and I used that for The Falconeer.”
Sala quit the studio he co-founded to work on The Falconeer on his own, a decision he of course doesn’t regret, particularly because he’s aware that he just works best on his own, and with his own method. “I always enjoyed working by myself, even within a team. I am not a super team player…I always enjoyed working with people but I’m not excellent at it.”
He also notes that being able to work on the project alone allowed him to be home when he and his wife had their first child. “Those are moments where you sort of realize ‘how do I want to raise my kid?’ and I really wanted to be there, I didn’t want to be at the office from eight till eight you know?”
It all came together almost serendipitously, as working on The Falconeer by himself was the path to take, and it’s certainly paid off. “I jumped in, and here we are.”
As much as Sala developed the game on his own, he is very quick to mention that there are things he just could not have done without the help of others, people like Benedict Nichols who composed the game’s score, all the support staff from Wired Productions to help with things like QA testing, marketing, porting the game to other platforms, like PS5 and PS4.
“I haven’t got a musical bone in my body,” Sala admits, though he knows what he likes, and what sounds good to him. The sound of The Falconeer is arguably one of the best elements of the game, because it contributes beautifully to what I find to be a well-paced flow and rhythm within the gameplay.
“The beats are very mesmerizing in a nearly meditative way. You start flying around and it becomes sort of..trance-y. Sometimes you just get sucked in and that is a discovery he made. So we’d just find these things and run with it. So there’s these bits where you’re sort of flying around and everything is smooth, nighttime comes, and it is sort of intended to be meditative, and then the combat is just to tear you away from this emotionally…I think that’s very interesting.”
In my review I spoke about the ebb and flow of the gameplay, highlighting it as one of the game’s biggest strengths. Sala is right in that it is very interesting as the player to have that experience of always needing to be on your toes, but still compelled enough by the world to lose yourself within it.
What truly grabbed me about The Falconeer was its story, and the different characters you’d meet along the way while learning more about the game’s lore and history of the world. So it was quite shocking to hear that this was Sala’s first time writing a story like it, dialogue and all.
“The thing I do, it’s kind of strange because I am not a writer,” he said. “When I set out to do The Falconeer, I knew I’m not experienced enough to do a close story about a person. So a personal narrative or a hero narrative or anything a classic game would have. That requires a level of writing I didn’t find myself competent enough at, perhaps I’ll try it next. Who knows?”
Sala’s own reflection and perception of himself and his talents paid off well, as the game’s story benefits from a strong focus on its themes and meaning more than an individual. “I wanted to take something which was about politics, about conflict and landscape. Mostly I love landscapes.”
If you’ve yet to play The Falconeer, then I won’t spoil much for you, only to say that the main theme is the idea of wanting to escape but being constrained, either by history, your society, or by yourself. Sala lets his intentions and meanings be his jumping off point and just allows his ideas to come through unfiltered, and unjudged. “Something weird will come out.”
It’s a artistic and creative zone Sala is able to find himself in during these states, and its where his themes will also leak out even without him intending to, like a mission where you destroy the pirates home base by freeing the turtle carrying their base against its will on its back. It’s only after that Sala sees it sometimes, but it’s still there.
The story telling process of course doesn’t start and stop just with the plot, but continues throughout every aspect of the world, details in which Sala loves to get lost in, and as with everything else, he does off feeling. “For The Maw, there was a need for something in the world to break the water, otherwise it’s just really boring if its a flat ocean, and you can also orient that way properly.”
“Then I have to think, how does that fit together? I had the most fun figuring that out – I made it, now how does it fit together? And from that, the lore just flows. So it’s basically I’ll just free form a lot of stuff and then I’ll have really long sessions where I’ll just sit there and think, you know, what does it mean? And how does it fit?”
As Sala tells me his process, it all makes complete sense, though it may seem inefficient to some. Sala is an artist in every sense of the word, with his own process and his own way of doing things, which is why solo development works so well for him.
Beyond praise from fans who’ve played the game, The Falconeer has been recognized as one of the best indie games to release in the past year, even going so far as to be nominated for a BAFTA.
“I didn’t expect it. There had been lots of ups and downs for three or four months after launch, and the nomination came at the right time. It was very uplifting, and a huge validation.”
It’s not always easy to know how people really feel about something you’ve made, which is why the nomination meant so much to Sala. People do genuinely love the game he’s made and would like to see more of it. Regarding a sequel, Sala’s not entirely ready to reveal everything, though he does have some ideas as to where he could go with one, and what he would do with it.
Suffice to say that were Sala to do a sequel, it would be bigger, and more epic. Hopefully he’ll have the opportunity to do so, because after playing The Falconeer twice within the past year along with getting the chance to speak to Sala, I absolutely cannot wait to see where he goes next.
The Falconeer is currently available on PS5 and PS4, and you can check out our review here.