You may not have heard of Sword & Sworcery, but you will. Not only because I’m telling you about it right now, but because I think pixel artist Superbrothers (The Children of the Clone), musician Jim Guthrie (Now, More Than Ever), and Capybara (Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes) are really on to something. Together, the Toronto talents are trying to create a game that is truly a work of art as well as a game, and they’re approaching it in a way I haven’t heard of before: They’re starting from the music.
sword_and_sworcery_2At a Gamercamp demonstration, Craig Adams of Superbrothers explains that they wanted it to be sort of like “an album you can hang out in.” To illustrate the importance of music to the game and game development process, he demonstrated a tiny piece of the game where the protagonist had to attune one of the spirits. The sequence that unfolded – the atmosphere of the song combined with the pixel art – was actually quite touching, similar to the way I would imagine it in a film. Even though they jokingly referred to the score as “The Ballad of the Space Babies”, the song was beautiful and matched the sequence perfectly. And that is a feat not easily accomplished, as Mr. Guthrie tells us that the hardest part about scoring a game is that you don’t know what the player will do ahead of time, and yet the music has to match.
Aside from the great music and the carefully made pixel art, the game promises some combat in addition to old school gameplay. Mr. Adams tells a packed theatre that he wanted to bring back the days when there wasn’t a tutorial about every little thing that goes on. Sword and Sworcery gives the player a chance to feel the wonder of discovery by working out what the game is about. The whole thing reminds me of Prince of Persia mixed with Zelda, and I’m now lamenting the fact that I don’t have an iPhone or an iPad.
Why did they choose to produce for the small screens? It all comes down to money, of course! With a smaller screen there’s less art to produce, but the group did feel that the microscopic world worked well. Interestingly, Kris Piotrowski, Creative Director at Capybara, reveals that they are resisting getting external feedback about the game until very late in the development process. He explains that all creators have some gut instinct or intuition about where a project is heading, and it’s important to let the creators work on it within their vision as much as possible. And I’m glad they did let the team do their work, because it is the first iPhone game that I’ve seen that I would actually call evocative.
Sword & Sworcery EP is being released for the iPhone and iPad, and Craig Adams claims it’s about 96.7% done. [Update from the man himself!]