All Posts By Jennifer Allen
Out October 2 is Spirits of Spring, an adventure game that features an anti-bullying, pro-friendship message, and there’s a very important reason why you should be excited. It’s from Minority Media, the makers of Papo & Yo, a great game that focused on the tale of a young Brazilian boy and his abusive, alcoholic father. It’s touching and powerfully done, demonstrating how games can tackle some very serious issues. Spirits of Spring looks set to offer a similar experience, this time focusing on Chiwatin, a Native American hero from northern Canada. The boy is tormented by evil giant crows, until he decides to face them in order to restore the balance of nature.
With Spirits of Spring set to be released on the App Store very soon, we took the time to talk to creative director Ruben Farrus to learn more.
148Apps: What was the inspiration behind making Spirits of Spring?
Ruben Farrus (RF): I see video games as a great way to express ourselves and to maturely explore complex human situations within a safe environment. Having experienced bullying as a teenager, and having discussed it with my colleagues at Minority, I realized that many of them went through it as well. And like me, many of them had to deal with dismissal when they first tried to discuss it as teenagers.
So, I started imagining an engaging story based on our experiences with bullying. While I was looking for the right setting for this new game, Ernest Webb, a co-founder at Minority, told me some tales from his hometown, located in the Canadian North. Ernest is a Native Cree, and the legends he shared with me involve these profound characters that live in a snowy world. Soon, I realized that these characters and the challenging environment they survive in would make great metaphors for this story.
So, it’s these elements – interesting characters, a fascinating wintery landscape, and bullying – that became the core of Spirits of Spring.
148Apps: The game is said to not be too preachy or overt about its message. How hard was it to maintain that subtlety?
RF: From the beginning, I wanted to create a world and characters that players care about and empathize with. From my experience with our previous empathy game, Papo & Yo, I knew that if we can make players feel emotionally invested in the story and its characters, they can find meaning and value in it for themselves.
Bullying is a complex phenomenon – it’s not black and white – and we are not experts in the subject. So, what matters to us is to offer an experience that can help players of all ages explore bullying from several perspectives – the bully’s, the bullied’s, and the bystander’s – so that they can come out of it feeling more capable of discussing it openly.
148Apps: Do you think indie studios are best equipped for dealing with empathetic games and subjects, or do you think such themes could spread to AAA games?
RF: In my experience, it is easier to discuss and explore difficult subjects in a small and open-minded team than it is in a large one. As a result, it is also easier to organize a small group around a common vision, because there are less competing interests.
So, when we come up with a story, we are in a good position to design mechanics that help players empathize with the characters in our games. Many larger developers still work the other way around: creating the mechanics first, then dressing them up in a story, making those games mostly about skill and technical difficulty, with characters that are often disposable.
148Apps: Having looked at addiction with Papo & Yo, and now bullying with Spirits of Spring, what difficult subject do you hope to tackle next?
RF: We are currently experimenting with ways to apply our empathy game design model to virtual reality experiences. We will have more news on that down the line.
Thanks to Ruben for taking the time to answer our questions. Spirits of Spring is set for release October 2 and will be priced at $4.99. We’ll be sure to have more on it when it’s out.
Interested in knowing our thoughts on all this plundering and pirating? Check out our Plunder Pirates Review!
Have you just downloaded the rather enjoyable pirate-em-up Plunder Pirates and are in need of some assistance? Never fear, for we’re here with a few tips and tricks to make your early days as a bloodthirsty pirate a bit easier!
- When you first start, you get the aid of a protective shield for the early moments of your pirating career. Take advantage of it! It won’t be there forever and it’ll cost precious gems to erect a new one. Don’t attack others during this time as your shield will drop.
- Use that safe time to build up your resources. Grog and gold are everything in this game when it comes to getting anywhere.
- The game is pretty generous at dishing out gems early on. Use that plentiful supply to hire a second builder to help you build more things at once.
- Use the remaining gems to start saving towards a third builder. Don’t bother rushing production; it’s just not worth it. Be patient.
So, the new iPhones have been announced and we’re all excited, right? Well, maybe not entirely. It’s a funny thing being a self-confessed fan of a company and its products. While I don’t see myself as a blind fan to Apple, over the years I’ve happily owned 2 iPads, 1 MacBook Pro, and 3 iPhones. I’ll no doubt end up with another iPhone at some point soon too, but that hasn’t stopped me from feeling a little disappointed by the news of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.
Much of it, I suspect, is down to wanting something life-changing again. The original iPhone, for me at least, was life-changing. Besides eventually leading me to a position where I’m writing this very article, it felt amazing to own one. The sheer potential of what I could do with it was amazing. I think every new iteration, I want that feeling again. Maybe I just expect too much.
As someone who prefers their phones smaller, I’m at a tricky crossroads. The iPhone 5 is big enough that it’s caused a permanent dent in my jeans’ pocket. Its camera is good enough that I’ve taken photos just as the sun is setting and it’s still somehow made it look like much earlier in the day. I do want the speed boost, though. I’m impatient. I like things to react as quickly as possible.
The other features? Not so much.
The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus are set to be thinner and offer a better HD display, which is great. It’s not a deal-breaker, though. I’ve got an iPad Mini Retina which covers that, if not quite as well.
Camera wise, things are looking better. At least when it comes to the iPhone 6 Plus’ optical image stabilization, which looks fantastic. The iPhone 6’s improvements, however, are good but not awe inspiring. I want something I can show off to others and they can immediately see the difference and think ‘wow, I want one of those’. It looks like I’ll have to go for a bigger phone in the form of the 6 Plus if I want that.
Touch ID and fingerprint technology is great, but much like the contactless payments via Apple Pay, it’s not something I can see myself using every day. It’s just a nice quirk. A little bit like Passbook.
The biggest delight to come from this for me is the battery life. My iPhone 5 needs charging every night now and was never great two years ago. It’ll be good to not be so reliant upon my charger again. Still though, where’s the wireless charging? Now that’d feel futuristic and it’d be so practical, too.
It’s a tough one to call. Besides better battery life and multi-user support (seriously, where is that? I want to be able to switch to a guest account, hand my phone to my young cousin, and not be worried that they’ll dig around in the wrong places), I’ll admit I can’t list a plethora of things I want to see in my phone – but then I never can. That’s why I don’t work in research and development. Those exciting changes are what I’ve enjoyed about new iPhones. Being told a new idea that’s made me think “I never thought of that. Awesome, I can’t wait.”
I’ll eagerly buy an iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus at some point in the future because I want the speed boost, but I’ll be honest: what I really want is something that I can point out to folks and yell “See? See how awesome that is!” and I don’t feel like I’ve got that this time around. Instead, I’ve got steady but a little bit safe. Is it a matter of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?” Maybe, but I’ve still got that itch for revolution rather than evolution.