The Square Enix Collective program offers marketing support to indie games, allowing Square Enix to help spread the word (the publisher doesn’t fund development) and gain public support ahead of a crowdfunding campaign. Not only do many SEC games star diverse leads, but it helps to promote games that otherwise would not get made too.
The program also deserves a shoutout for putting the spotlight on Legacy of the Copper Skies, the new game from developer Horrible Unicorn Game Studios (HUGS), that just happens to be one of the most delightfully intriguing games in development right now.
Legacy of the Copper Skies is an action/adventure RPG that stars two playable leads; an incredibly talented, robotic inventor named Ilsen and Tir, a beastly hunter who keeps his lush, green homeland safe. Ilsen built the mechanical world of Grimstad from scratch but having solved all of its problems, she’s bored and wants to “find something to keep her circuits stimulated”.
Meanwhile, Tir is faced with a conundrum as the inhabitants of his land, Ebura, are terrified of him, despite the protection he offers. So when Grimstad and Ebura begin to merge, threatening to destroy them altogether, Tir and Ilsen must go on an adventure together, facing a common foe and using their individual skills and know how to save their worlds before it’s too late.
As we mentioned, it’s an intriguing premise and this world-switching style of gameplay isn’t one we see too often. So, to find out more about the game, we spoke to Legacy of the Copper Skies‘ Creative Director Eric Foster to find out more.
Interview: Legacy of the Copper Skies’ Creative Director Eric Foster
J Station X: First thing’s first, can you tell us the story behind the ‘Horrible Unicorn Game Studios’ name?
Originally it actually started as a threat. We had some difficulties picking a name as a lot of companies do. We brainstormed a lot of ideas and even had a few top five lists, but then every time we did searches on our favourite names we found out they existed already, or they meant something funny or bad in a different language, or were just too boring or generic. After a while I started to get a little frustrated and played around with acronyms.
HUGS was something that came up fast due to the Game Studios ending working perfectly. Horrible Unicorn came from me wanting to make it a bit “edgier” or “punk rock” than just HUGS. I kind of liked it and thought it was cute, but didn’t plan to use it at the time. After a while I just said to everyone, “If you don’t come up with something cooler than H.U.G.S., we’re gonna use it!” Nothing else even came close to being a second choice for us.
We’re Horrible Unicorn Game Studios now and proud of it.
JSX: What inspired you to have two playable leads?
This was actually part of the original design that was done way back when I was in university. It started with the idea that creation and destruction were these forces that needed each other. Neither is good or evil, but both required the other to do their thing. The idea of two forces so different, needing each other and co-operating with each other, is what inspired this. That idea eventually became two playable characters. The rest of the game is built around using those two characters and their mechanics.
JSX: In some other games with character swapping – particularly where you can play as a woman – we’ve seen the female character playing second fiddle to the male character. How are you avoiding that with Legacy of the Copper Skies and will the playing time between the two will be fairly equal?
This was something Holly [McCullough, the game’s writer] and I wanted to get right from the beginning. We don’t want either character to become a second fiddle to the other.
The game concept itself, due the dual character mechanics and themes, really lends itself this idea. The entire game is centred on this co-operation theme. It’s in our music (chiptunes + metal) [Jules Conroy aka FamilyJules7x is the game’s composer], it’s in our art, it’s in our narrative, and it’s in our gameplay. Around 90% of the time in the game you’ll have access to both characters, and can swap freely between them at will. We have a few sections of the game where you play a single character so you can kind of get to know them as individuals, but there are solo sections for both.
JSX: How tough will the game’s puzzles be and what are you doing to make sure that they’re still accessible?
This is something I personally want to get right for a variety of reasons. I love puzzles, I’ve worked on them before, and it’s something that’s fun to do. First off, I think people who love puzzles don’t want them all to be easy and obvious. There’s no challenge there, no adversity to feel good about overcoming. Real puzzle solutions shouldn’t be obvious after two seconds. The ingredients in the puzzle should be clear though.
We will definitely have some difficult puzzles in our game. That said, the difficult puzzles will likely be side content, quests, and not on the critical path. The main path will have puzzles as well since this is an action adventure game, of course – but difficulty-wise they will be more in line with the traditional puzzles in a Zelda game.
JSX: Legacy of the Copper Skies will feature multiple worlds with unique features and hidden secrets – what’s the biggest challenge you’ve found when creating the game’s universe?
One of the challenges will be blending these two worlds together. They originally start separate, but they merge and eventually inhabit the same physical space. We’ve planned for this since the beginning, but it’ll be something we’ll need to keep an eye on.
That said, the biggest challenge for us, as it is with nearly every game, will likely just be time and money. We want to build a lot of stuff. So we just need to make sure we stay lean and efficient, and not waste time on anything that won’t affect the player’s enjoyment of the game.
JSX: Can you explain how the character progression system works? Will players be forced to ‘grind’ for XP and loot
Our progression system will be similar to Zelda‘s in that it’s loot based. As you play you will find new items, schematics, weapons, and probably a bunch of other things. These will unlock new abilities, and increase your stats. There aren’t any current plans to include XP or levels. Though we are early so if we feel it will benefit the game we’ll add it.
JSX: Why did you choose to put the game on the Square Enix Collective?
We chose the Square Enix Collective for a variety of reasons. A few friends of ours have gone through it and had some nice things to say about it. The big reason though, is that it’s a great marketing platform for indie games. Not only do you get exposure, but in a way it validates your game concept or not. Plus public feedback is always great. It helps you make a better product. This all has many other positive knock on effects.
JSX: Legacy of the Copper Skies could come to other platforms other than PC and Mac, what are your plans for a console release?
The current plan is ship it on PC/Mac and on a console or two at the same time. No one likes to wait, and we don’t want people to have to wait. The poll on our Square Enix Collective page is to gauge interest in which consoles our fans want LotCS on [ed note – PS4 and Wii U are currently leading the poll]. Ideally we could be on everything, but I’m pretty sure we won’t be able to do that for a variety of reasons, but we’ll definitely be on as much as we can. That said, we’re still working out the details on this so things could change.
Thank you to Eric Foster for the interview!
Legacy of the Copper Skies is now on the Square Enix Collective. If you like the look of the game, click here to give it a ‘Yes’ vote.