Dejobaan Games is a studio who doesn’t appear to shy away from the unique game concept. With titles like Drunken Robot Pornography, which is completely work safe, and Monster Loves You, a game about growing an adventuring monster on his quest to eat human babies, it becomes apparent that quirky and odd is this companies specialty. Dejobaan Games continues this trend with their most recent title still in development, Elegy for a Dead World, by creating a game where players write out their own story while exploring dead alien worlds inspired by some of the key Romanticism era poets.
While the Romantic era did inspire the visual aesthetic of the game, the purpose of Elegy for a Dead World is not to educate players on historical facts about the artistic movement. Nor was it conceptualized for those who are already practiced or avid writers. Rather, Dejobaan Games makes it clear on their successfully funded Kickstarter page that, “We created Elegy so that everyone can write.”
Despite the game being designed for the masses, part of their projects stretch goals included the promise of providing 1000 copies of the game to educators. Teachers can fill out a form on their website to apply for one of these copies and email the developer to learn more about classroom integration.
Studio Lead Ichiro Lambe sat down with us so we could learn how this concept was developed and about the unique challenges involved with a game based on creative writing.
Jesse Tannous: You don’t see many games based around the concept of writing and Elegy doesn’t seem to rely on any technological developments, why do you think today is the right climate to make a game like this?
Ichiro Lambe: Having played games in tried-and-true genres (action, adventure, puzzle, etc.) for decades now, I think people are hungry for something different. At their best, video games are about placing you in interesting and unusual experiences; and titles like Papers, Please, where you play an immigration officer, and Proteus, where you simply explore an island, are different from the myriad first-person shooters out there. (Mind you, I do love first-person shooters.)
JT: Why was it decided to base the aesthetics of each alien world off of the Romanticism works of Keats, Shelley, and Byron as opposed to any other inspirational material?
IL: The original concept for the game was that we’d take players through worlds where civilization had, for one reason or another, ended. Ziba Scott, Elegy‘s co-designer, suggested we look at Romantic era poetry as the themes lined up — Keats, Shelley, and Byron all wrote about end times. Luigi Guatieri, Elegy‘s lead artist, ran with that, noting that Romantic era painters portrayed humans as insignificant parts of the environment. The way Elegy‘s player on-screen character is tiny mirrors the works of (say) J.M.W. Turner, where the landscapes are huge and intimidating, overwhelming the people.
JT: What can players expect to encounter on a second or third play-through of Elegy? Will they always encounter the same imagery and writing prompts in the same places?
IL: Each time you visit a world, you have the option of writing in a different voice. The game includes three worlds with multiple sets of prompts to keep things fresh and, ideally, make each play-through more challenging. In one sitting, you might select Keats’ World with prompts where you’re writing in the voice of a politician trying to calm the world’s population as end-times disasters occur. In a more difficult challenge, you might be walking through Shelley’s World when we (the game designers) suddenly throw you a curveball — halfway through your story, you learn that it’s you who caused the world’s end. What do you do next?
JT: What other ideas were explored to base a game around writing before you arrived at the concept that sparked Elegy?
IL: Elegy originally started off as a “walking simulator,” where you landed on a planet and pretty much walked to the right. You’d explore, reading about how each world ended. But we pretty quickly decided that we wanted to make things meatier.
JT: Since everyone will be playing the same game with the same writing prompts and visual cues, is there concern that people will write the same stories?
IL: That’s the surprising thing! When we first sat down a fellow game developer Erik Asmussen of 82 Apps to play our game’s mockup, we had our own story in mind about what each piece of the world meant and what happened in each scene. But when he took in the environment, his interpretation was completely different from ours. That was powerful and exciting to us.
Dejobaan Games has made a career of pursuing the unique and if the response to their Kickstarter is any indication, it looks like players may indeed be hungry for something different.