Qora, video game, box art, title, pixels, mountains, clouds, sky

Preview: Spirit

Update at 05:54 on 04 June 2014:

We’ve received a press release from Curve Digital announcing that Spirit has been renamed to ‘Qora‘ – and a new demo is available!

Original story at 06:00 on 20 May 2014:

The Kickstarter campaign for pixelated adventure game Spirit may have passed, but developer Holden Boyles kindly agreed to answer our questions. Kim takes a look at this intriguing title.

Title overview

Name: Spirit
Developer: Holden Boyles and Ciprian Stanciu
Publisher: Curve Digital
Release date: October 2014
PEGI rating: Not listed
Platforms: PC
More information: Official website

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Kim says…

Back in April we came across a Kickstarter project by Holden Boyles for Spirit, a beautiful exploration game, and were pretty upset when we realised we’d missed the deadline were unable to become backers. Fortunately however, we’ve managed to secure an interview with the developer to find out a little more about this intriguing title.

The game takes place in a remote mountain village, where you have retired and built your dream home in order to live out your golden years in peace. Rumours of a mysterious temple beyond the valley have inspired you to set out and explore its ancient halls and crumbling ruins. Once you arrive, it becomes clear that deep within the temple walls, there is something magical that awaits you beyond this world…

The team behind Spirit consists of only two men so, as they put it, they have all the weight on their shoulders! Boyles is taking care of the story, artwork and music while Ciprian Stanciu is a cross-platform programmer. Thank you to Boyles for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions.

Would you be able to tell us a little about your background, and what made you decide to start making Spirit?

Holden: “I’ve been making art and playing games my whole life, focusing primarily on film-making as a career for the past seven years or so. However, I’ve always wanted to make games but just never knew it was possible until I started playing indie games. Realizing that some really beautiful games out there were made by just one or two people, I figured I should give it a try myself, so I hooked up with my programmer, Cip, and just took a swing at creating something simple and pleasant that would be the perfect starter project for me.”

Are you a gamer yourself? If so, what’s your preferred genre and do you have any favourite titles?

Holden: “I really became a gamer when I played The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time as a kid, though my tastes have gradually been refined to no particular genre, but simply any game that is created with the mindset that games are an art form. Any work that plays solely as entertainment and has nothing to offer my life or my own art, usually doesn’t make my list. My favorite games include anything that really affected me in some way, from Fez and Proteus to Red Dead Redemption and Kingdom Hearts.

When our team first saw Spirit, we made comparisons to Proteus in terms of its visual style and sense of exploration. Have you been influenced by any titles in particular?

Holden: “I’m inspired by a lot of games that I’ve played throughout my life, and I try to pay homage to them through my own creations. Proteus was hugely influential in its command of style and simplicity and its concept of ‘purposeless’ exploration.

Spirit is really a mash-up of tons of games though. My deep connection with Zelda runs through it, Sword and Sworcery had an impact on my visual approach, and I’ve probably subconsciously stolen tons of things from my favorite games that are scattered throughout Spirit.”

The game takes place in a remote mountain village, where the protagonist has retired to live out their golden years in peace; but a mysterious temple beckons! Can you tell us more about the storyline?

Holden: “Honestly, there’s not much of a storyline beyond that! The game focuses mostly on just the exploration of the temple and other more whimsical landscapes without any story to propel it. However, we have added the new ‘Telepathy’ ability into the mix which provides for a more enriched means of discovery as you experience these new and exotic places.”

There aren’t many titles that feature a retired man as the main character. How did this come about, and did the idea to the idea for the character or the storyline come first?

Holden: “The concept for the game came first, and then I just filled in this gap with a character that I figured would most likely be a part of this whole situation. It’s funny though, because never in the game does it actually say that the protagonist is an old man, and you certainly can’t tell if that’s the case visually, since the human characters are so small. I don’t really want to clarify that within the game either, because I don’t think it’s actually relevant, but if anyone does ask, I just like the idea of going on an adventure as an old guy.”

The idea behind Spirit is original and really inspires a players’ sense of curiosity. What kind of experience are you hoping to provide us with?

Holden: “Obviously every player will walk away from the game feeling a little different, as the game doesn’t really say much other than ‘take a look at these pretty places’. What I hope people can connect with or even be inspired to think about, is something that has enchanted me for my whole life, which is the concept of having a magical escape from reality being right in your backyard; the idea of finding the entrance to your dream world deep in the woods, or inside an old building. The films of Hayao Miyazaki explore this idea a lot, especially in My Neighbor Totoro and Spirited Away. I used to wander the woods at the end of my street as a kid, hoping to stumble upon the door to some whimsical dimension that no one knew about.”

What challenges did you face going down the Kickstarter route? Were you prepared for these when starting out?

Holden: “The challenge of being your own marketing department is always a very exhausting one. I have no real desire to spread the word about my work, or constantly be updating people about the progress of my projects, but I know it’s necessary to do in order to gain a network of people who are interested in your work or who even know about it. I’ve had successes in two prior Kickstarters for film projects though, so I was at least a little prepared for this one.”

Can you tell us which component of Spirit you’re currently working on?

Holden: “At the moment we are wrapping up the new demo. I wanted to work on getting every aspect of the game up to a perfect polished point before actually working on the new content and levels. Therefore once this nearly finished framework is set in place, we can just plug in all the new content as I create it and just move at that pace. With a new demo out, players can also get a much truer look at what the full game will be like when it comes out later in the year.”

Is there any advice you’d give to someone who’s thinking of making an indie game?

Holden: “I’m probably not one to give advice on making indie games, as this is my very first, and I’m learning a lot myself. But if there’s anything I’ve taken away from this experience so far, it’s that it’s not as hard as I thought it would be. I had no idea what I was going to be getting into if this project took off, but I feel like I’ve been able to handle it all pretty well.”

What does the future hold after Spirit?

Holden: “I have no idea what’s going to happen after Spirit at this point, other than eventually we’ll be fulfilling our goal of making a follow-up, but for now Cip and I are both deep into this project and can’t see too far past it. My focus right now is making this game as awesome as possible and just seeing what happens upon its release! I’m hoping to be pleasantly surprised.”

Thank to once again to Holden (and also to Rob from Curve Digital) for answering our questions. We’ll bring you further updates on Spirit as we receive them but in the meantime, make sure you check out the current demo so you can start getting excited about the game!

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