A couple of days ago I spoke with Dan Pearce and Jack de Quidt, the creative minds behind Castles in the Sky. An interactive storybook experience developed by indie game company The Tall Trees. Not only where they nice enough to share their vision with me, but they also provided me with some copies of the game, for me to share with you, our readers.
What made you guys decide start a game company and why did you chose Castles in the Sky as your debut title?
Dan: Jack emailed me over a year ago, asking for some advice on setting up a development team for a project. We started talking more and more about our own design philosophies and inspirations, and eventually The Tall Trees just, sorta, grew from that (pardon the pun).
We started a few projects before Castles in the Sky. One before we really knew what we wanted The Tall Trees to be, which sadly fell through, and a couple others that are still being developed. Castles came to be one night when I was bored and wanted to play something that made me feel the way that Castles in the Sky hopefully makes people feel
I ended up staying up until 6AM working on it, and the next day I pitched it as a good debut game for The Tall Trees. Jack loved the idea and we started developing what we have now.
The game certainly has a sad tone, what is the story about?
Dan: It’s funny you should say that, as it didn’t occur to us until people started playing it that it would be perceived as sad. The game is kind of a videogame storybook. It puts you in the shoes of a kid, and gives you the sensation of that boundless energy and awe that you had growing up, then the game reads this bedtime story to you.
So I guess that’s where any sadness comes from, though it wasn’t intentional. We designed the game with the intention of giving players some of that childhood wonder back, so I guess that can be sad pretty easily, depending on how much you feel you’ve lost that to begin with.
What can you tell us about the soundtrack?
Dan: That it makes me so happy that I get to work with Jack de Quidt! It was a good few months into The Tall Trees before I even knew he could play instruments, but he plays all sorts, mainly piano and guitar (and these little bells he always seems to have to hand).
The soundtrack is a combination of stuff recorded in Jack’s house, and some digitally created stuff. It also comes packaged with the game, and I genuinely think it’s worth the asking price for that alone.
Jack: Dan’s too kind. In terms of stylistic inspiration for the soundtrack, I looked to lullabies, American Sacred Heart music, and classical English pastoral tunes. I’ve always found how simplistic they are harmonically to be remarkably comforting, and I tried to carry that across. Lots of open chords and natural resolutions give it a very childlike feel.
In my review, “an issue” I found myself having with the game is that collecting the “music orbs” feels out of place. It seems this gameplay mechanic doesn’t tie in with the story. Can you tell me something about the reasons for incorporating this into the game?
Dan: The orbs were an interesting one, and on a few occasions we came close to removing them. At one point I think we were even going to make a small options menu so the player could turn them off if they wanted.
The reason we kept them in was that we thought they were kind of playful and sweet. Collecting stuff is a very fun thing. Even in something like Zelda, I always end up cutting down all the grass to keep everything consistent and clean. I lot of players do this, so having the orbs in the game keeps the player moving around the environment in interesting ways, and allows us to break up the text a bit with something a bit more immediately satisfying and interactive.
Jack: From a musical perspective, I love the idea of the player having a role to play in the game’s soundtrack. In addition to what Dan said, the fact the orbs are randomly assigned to notes from the same scale as the main soundtrack means that often they’ll chime harmonically with the background music. This gives, I hope, the player a sense that they’re a part of the score as well. I’m sorry to hear that they sometimes felt out of place.
Who is your target audience, and is this specific to this game or will all your future games aimed at this group?
Dan: I’m not sure we have a target audience in the traditional sense, we certainly didn’t design it with demographic [x] in mind. We made it because we wanted a game like this to exist, or at least more games like this to exist. Videogames, particularly ones featuring children, tend to use their presence to contrast darker elements in the game. We loved being kids, and we’d love to get a little bit of that experience back with our games.
Are you guys already working on a new game experience? And what kind of game will that be?
Dan: We do have some stuff in production that we’re not talking about too openly yet. If people like Castles in the Sky, there’ll definitely be stuff that they’ll like about these projects, though. Those are the projects we’re focusing on for the foreseeable future.
I know Jack’s mentioned concerns about us getting typecast a few times as “those guys who make arty games about childhood”, so I don’t know where our focus will go down the line. We do have an obsession with the serene and the beautiful, so, whatever happens, there’ll probably be a lot of that.
For which platforms will the game be available? Have thought about realising this for smartphone and tablet devices?
Dan: The game is currently available for PC and Mac(starting October 18th) In terms of releasing on other platforms, it’s certainly something we’ve thought about and discussed. Right now we’re just focusing on desktop versions, but iOS, Android, and maybe others aren’t out of the question.
Those who my read the short review about the game already know I am going to give away some digital copies of the game. I have devised an rather unconventional method (because I am an unconventional fellow) , to become eligible for winning one of eight digital copies of Castles in the Sky -I will be giving away one free game on a daily basis up until the game launch on October 18th-
So how can you win? I will be switching up the rules daily but you can be assured that it involves
kissing my ass. If you keep an eye on this wololo.net, my twitter @italkgame, Google hangouts, and other social media you will probably get a head start.
The first devious method to get a free copy of the game Castles in the Sky is a bit of a puzzle, here goes:
The first devious method to apply for a free copy of the game Castles in the Sky is a bit of a puzzle, here goes:
On this page you can see some pictures, clicking on these pictures will reveal a hidden text, which when put together combine into a sentence (make sure you don’t miss any words )
And tweet me the hidden sentence