Interview with Mark Laprairie – the man turning “the floor is lava” into a videogame

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If you didn’t play “the floor is lava” as a kid, you only had half a childhood.

Now, thanks to the arrival of Hot Lava, a videogame based on that childhood fantasy, you’ll either be able to relive it, or retroactively have a full childhood.

We wrote about Hot Lava a short while ago when it was doing the rounds on Reddit and Imgur. Not only is this game special for being an adaptation of the childhood game most likely to break living room furniture, but it also started out as a passion project from developer Mark Laprairie before being adopted by Klei Entertainment.

If you recognise the name Klei, it’s probably from the Don’t Starve series of game.

Laprairie is a Canadian who has worked on Dead Rising 2 and 3 before helping to create Don’t Starve Together. We reached out to him to find out how his new game came to be. How did this project start? What convinced you want to make a videogame based on a childhood game most kids play in their living rooms? 
Mark Laprairie: Almost everyone remembers playing “the floor is lava” as a kid.  Jumping from couch to couch desperately avoiding the floor. Although silly, the game was a way for you to learn how to move your body. One day, while I was playing an online first person shooter, I realised we were having more fun trying to jump on top of a dumpster than trying to shoot the other team. The two ideas just clicked together; we could create a game around learning to move our virtual bodies that would let us relive that moment in our childhood.


At what point in the game’s development did you decide to put it on Greenlight?
I was working on the project by myself and I had this panicked moment where I started to wonder if anyone even cared about what I was making. I pushed the game out onto Steam Greenlight so I could find out if what I was making was crazy or not.


What were your expectations with Greenlight? Did you expect Hot Lava to get greenlit?
Hot Lava passed Greenlight in under 40 hours, the response was overwhelming. I could have never expected the outpouring of support from the online community. It didn’t matter what part of the world you were from or what language you spoke, it seemed like this concept was universal.

How did Klei Entertainment come into the picture and what does their involvement mean for the game overall?
I was working full time at Klei Entertainment on Don’t Starve Together while working on Hot Lava at home. After I released the first screenshots of Hot Lava I received such an overwhelming response that it was clear I needed help to make a game that lived up to the potential of the idea. Klei stepped in and acquired the rights, allowing the game to ramp up and get the the professional treatment it deserved.


Many people have been suggesting that this game would work extremely well in virtual reality. Have you at all considered VR for Hot Lava and how would you implement it?
The game we are making fundamentally doesn’t work for VR, but the “don’t touch the floor” concept does.  So all that being said… I’m looking into it.


Some people are going to make the comparison between Hot Lava and Double Fine’s Happy Action Theater. What makes Hot Lava different?
Hot Lava is a game about movement.  It tries to capture that feeling you had as a kid when you were learning to move with your own body. I want people to walk away from Hot Lava to have relived that experience.


When can we expect a playable version of the game to be available? 
I want to make sure when Hot Lava releases people walk away having had a great experience.  The second the game can consistently deliver on that, it will be available.


Was your favourite part of Star Wars the fight between Anakin and Obi-Wan on the lava planet of Mustafar?
“It’s over Anakin! I have the high ground!”


Clinton Matos

Clinton Matos

Clinton has been a programmer, engineering student, project manager, asset controller and even a farrier. Now he handles the maker side of