I tweeted with @the1console recently and got some answers about #Sworcery and the cool stuff going on at that studio. We talked about origins, influences, the design process, development advice, future projects, so read more to find out what Craig Adams had to say!

I fired off a bunch of questions via Twitter and Craig got back to me insanely fast. I gave him an email to reach me at and he both emailed me some responses and linked me to a presentation he did at Fantastic Arcade in October 2010. Between his email and his presentation, here’s what I synthesized for the interview.


@jakeninja: @the1console How did you guys become an indie game studio? What were you doing before you were making #sworcery?


Craig Adams went to art school, where he ended up getting into pixel art in 2003 alongside some early game design stuff. Eventually, he was like, “Alright, I need a brand. I’m gonna call it Superbrothers…because, I don’t know know, it seemed like a cool name. In my mind, it’s like ‘Super Mario Brothers.’ I was thinking, ‘Okay, I’ve gotta create a style that’s gonna be distinct and people are gonna recognize it, but it’s also gonna let me develop a language.'”

He called that style “Rustic 21st Century Minimalism,” giving a complicated, Victorian sounding description because that sort of thing is cool like that.

In his early days, Craig used Game Maker and made a game involving samurai businessmen, but he realized that he was not a programmer and not suited to do that sort of thing solo. Also, he said, “It turns out you can’t actually make a ton of money when you’re doing a bunch of pixels back in 03-04, so I decided that I was gonna join the industry and make games with the people who look somber and have guns. And so I went to school and worked real hard.”

After he worked big industry for a few years, Craig met Capybara guys hammered at GDC at 1UP. “Within five minutes they were like, ‘We will make a game!'” When they decided, sober, that they were still up for it, they got to work. Craig actually wanted to call it, “Poopsock,” but that didn’t work out, so they called it “Sword & Sorcery,” then added an extra W, because that sort of thing is also cool.

Of note about the name “Sword and Sorcery,” Craig says that, “It was coined in the 50s to describe specifically what Robert E. Howard was doing,” so it’s actually homage to Conan the Barbarian.

 

@jakeninja: @the1console Who/What are some of your biggest influences? What do you like to play/read/listen to/watch?


Craig listed tons of different influences for #Sworcery. as far as games, it’s a long list and includes Castlevania 2: Simon’s Quest, where, “You wander around [and] people lie to you,” his early years with Commodore 64, World of Warcraft, Legend of Zelda, and Dungeons and Dragons. Conan the Barbarian also plays a major role, influencing not only the style of the game but some of the mythological flavor, such as Scythia, Mingi Taw, and the lead female warrior, The Scythian.

He also cited Carl Jung and his work, the Red Book, on the basic psychology of the adventure fantasy. Craig said, “We’re all infatuated with this. This is all low culture stuff, but like, we just want to get a magic sword and go down to like, a dark cave, and we just want to fight a snake. We’ve been wanting to do this for years and years.

An illustration from Carl Jung's "The Red Book"

“So I thought hey, that would be a cool mix. Let’s get Conan the Barbarian type stuff and a little bit of kinda meta Carl Jung and maybe make a game with that.”

Jonathan Blow’s “Design Reboot” lecture also played a major role in shaping what kind of game Craig wanted, focusing on the experience and not just the time commitment of sitting down with a game.

 

@jakeninja: @the1console What advice do you have for aspiring indie developers/studios? Any obscure pitfalls they should look out for?


Craig didn’t have anything specific to say on this one, but from what he sent me, it seems like the best advice is to be involved as much as humanly possible. Craig made a name for himself with his unique artistic personality, then he kept involved with the various groups and events in the field such as the Independent Games Festival, the Game Developers Conference, and Toronto’s Hand Eye Society. The rest is history.

 

@jakeninja: @the1console What’s next for Capybara Games? Anything lined up on the horizon? A #sworcery LP, perhaps?


“Jim Guthrie’s Sword & Sworcery LP: The Ballad of the Space Babies will be released next week on iTunes, Bandcamp & vinyl. Once the iPhone edition’s out we’ll be scheming on strengthening & growing the existing project according to various cosmological alignments. This might go on for a while if we can afford it & if there’s an audience… we’ll see. Jim, Capy & Superbrothers will probably make something new one day, if all goes well, but right now there’s no rush. This has been a long-ish project & once it finally wraps up we’ll probably scatter for a while.”

In his presentation at Fantastic Arcade in Austin, TX, October 2010, Craig talks about wanting to make a Cult of Pythagoras intrigue thriller or a Garden of Eden game at some point, so maybe we’ll see those in the future?

 

@jakeninja: @the1console Where did the idea for #sworcery come from?


Growing up, Craig had what he calls a “Geek family.” He said that the Commodore 64 was very influential for him with its exploratory conversation with games.  “I don’t necessarily need to know the rules and then master them so much as jump in, poke around, and see if I can figure out what the creators are trying to do.” He also said that he liked that games then had no established genres and that they were really designed to be played by anyone, of any age.

With that background and the influences listed above, #Sworcery was born.

 

I really recommend watching the presentation if you’ve got an hour to spend doing so, but here are some of the other standout quotes and bullets I liked.

  • Before GDC in regards to showing off a combat system, “We need, like, a naked dancing bear to just really spike this whole composition. So that guy showed up for work.”
  • Mingi Taw means”Eternal Mountain” in Turkish. It’s a real mountain.
  • Scythia really was host to female warriors akin to the Amazon.
  • The original title for “Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP” was “Poopsock.”

Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP is out now for the iPad and the iPhone version is coming soon. The soundtrack LP by Jim Guthrie is also on its way.

If you want to see more by Capybara Games, check out Critter Crunch and Critter Crunch Lite for the iPhone as well as Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes for the Nintendo DS.

Thanks to Craig Adams for doing the interview!

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