Where did the name Ira come from?
The name ira came about for a couple different reasons. We were trying to come up with a name for our main character. We were looking through lists of hundreds of names from the time period and then we came across Ira. It really stood out to us because of its bold simplicity. When you select a name for a character (especially a main character) we found it’s important to have a name with the least amount of modern cultural association. It’s a name without unwanted contextual baggage. When we looked up its meaning, we learned that it’s a Sanskrit name for their wind-god, we saw that connections to the theme of wind was a perfect fit, as we often draw metaphors to being “swept up” and carried by a flow. Making Ira the title for the entire game felt like the natural choice after that.
The first time you tried to get funding for Ira you canceled the project; what is different this time around and why have you split the game into multiple parts?
There are many differences between the current Ira and the original iterations; I’m not even sure where to start. We’ve taken the time to build a universe for Ira to take place in. I think people will find a type of sincerity within the world we’ve created that was never there before. The graphic style has been greatly improved. Developing more of a sensitivity and understanding of how a conceptualized art style is turned into a fully realized scene. Through a lot of experimentation and iteration the visual presence really came into its own. We split Ira into 3 acts for a few different reasons. One reason is that it’s a lot more cost effect to create each act one at a time and by cost effect I don’t just mean monetarily. We can see what effect our vision is having after each act and then make adjustments as we grow. We see game design as an iterative process and getting feedback is always important in our work. We want to see how people are being affected by what we create.
How long do you think it will be before all three parts have been finished and will you use Kickstarter for all of them?
It depends. If we are successful with our current Kickstarter we hope to get Act 1 released this spring, and if we got funding for all three acts then we would love to see the entire game released around the end of the year. There are a lot of variables though. If we get funding for only Act 1 then future funding may depend on sales, and there is always the possibility of another Kickstarter for subsequent acts. We’ve learned to be adaptable, so only time will tell.
Does the main character actually travel through time or does the game just use time skips?
Or is there a difference? Playing with the timelines and time jumps is a big part of the way our narrative unfolds, and we want the player to question the linearity of time. Ultimately, this is a question we want the player to ask while they’re playing and use it as a tool for unraveling Ira’s journey. It’s not quite as simple as being one or the other. I will say though, there are no time machines in Ira, and in the traditional H.G. Wells sense, Ira is not a time traveler.
You name a number of inspirations for this game but what would you say had the most influence? Did any games influence the creation of Ira?
Our influences come from so many places it’s impossible for us to point to any one thing. All we can really say is that our influences are team dependant. Each person brings a unique set of tastes and influences to the table. Ira in its essence is a cumulative expression of our life experiences combined together and displayed through games as an artistic medium. If we were forced to pick 1 area of inspiration I think we would have to say games as a cumulative medium, because it allows us combine all of our talents and desires for creative expression under one roof.
I like to think that stories are better the more accurate the science behind them is; how accurate would you say the science behind your story is?
We completely agree with that, and we do pull from established scientific theory as much as possible, but what we really want to explore is what isn’t known. Our understanding of science is so small in the grand scheme of things and Ira is about discovering the unknown through the lens of a human being. It’s less about using elements of hard science to drive the story and more about finding that place where the truth becomes more abstract and we use elements of fantasy and surrealism to answer more human questions.
There are many different places to visit in Ira, from rural farm land to deep space; how and why did you choose the settings in Ira and what motivated those choices?
We’ve always loved the endless possibilities for new discoveries that outer space offers. Having the ability to create our own worlds from scratch, limited by only our imaginations was a big motivation for setting the game in an alien solar system, but we also wanted to ground the story within something much more familiar. We’ve always loved the imagery and themes of the Great Depression, and pairing the two was just a natural progression of our influences melding together to create our own unique world. Using farm scenes and slum like conditions allows us to contrast and draw parallels between the alien and the familiar, and that was a huge part in our creation of an alternate history.
The locations in Ira are directly connected with the narrative and some bigger challenges facing humankind. The backwater rural areas of Ira represent a long history of the poor and the downtrodden, while the off-world and deep space landscapes represent an inevitable future ruled by greed. There are both literal and metaphorical gaps between the two. The settings people find themselves in are not just locations from the story, but are part of a larger metaphor that’s facing the human race today.
The game design and use of light and dark effects is great but it all seems so empty. You talk about using a minimal design, what motivated that choice?
I would argue that the graphics style is not what makes Ira feel empty and personally I think a better word for what I believe you’re feeling would be alone. There are a lot of choices made in order to create a lingering feeling of being alone. Maybe emptiness and loneliness are not all that different? In the Prologue we purposefully obscure any human interaction that Ira has. Not once will you will see a person’s full body or face (besides Ira’s). The drifters on the train are hidden by darkness. Ira’s father is obscured by the car he’s toiling away on. Ira’s mother is nothing more than an entity in a dark bedroom.
Much of the media viewed today is all about sensory overload. How many explosions can I fit on screen. How many bodies can we stack up in this game. It’s the equivalent of WRITING IN ALL CAPS ALL OF THE TIME. You lose the sensitivity for things when you are constantly being over stimulated. Imagine someone is standing in the middle of a lecture hall and its dead silent (people are taking a test). This person breaks the silence by boldly saying hello. All the attention in the room will be immediately drawn to that one individual. It would be instantaneous. So maybe minimalism in the context of Ira is just understanding that people don’t need a constant stream of heavy stimulation for something to be meaningful and entertaining. I would argue that it’s a great way to capture people’s imagination and attention. I would also argue that it’s not as easy to achieve. Chaos is simple but it takes a different kind of sensitivity to be both subtle and impactful at the same time and we are always working to improve that balance.
You have described the in game music as being primarily blues and soul music; will you be making your own music or will it require outside help?
Our music is all made in house, with the exception of actual period songs that you may have heard on the radio or television in game. We use those kind of old public domain samples for world building, but we feel that the music that drives the story forward is just as important as any other element, and want to make sure it’s exactly suited for our vision. We have the ability and experience to do it, so we are writing and recording Ira’s actual soundtrack, and that’s what’s heard in the demo.
The story in the demo seemed very serious but will the entire game be that way?
There will definitely be lighter hearted moments of happiness and joy as well as humorous characters and moments, but we feel that the demo demonstrates the overarching tone of the game very well. At its core, Ira is a serious game that we hope to use to convey something meaningful about the human experience.
The demo seems very solid so far but how much of development is already done?
All of our main bases are covered. We’ve taken the time to develop our story, graphic style, and mechanics to a comfortable level. The game scenes themselves for acts 1-3 are not complete and that’s why we are looking for funding. We have a long way to go and without the support of the adventure game community on Kickstarter Ira won’t be coming out in the near future.
You talk about multiple timelines and characters to meet during gameplay but this didn’t really come up much in the demo (not even any other faces); how much content are we really talking about here?
Our demo is a prologue to Act 1, and its main objective was to introduce the player to Ira and the world he lives in (that was our priority). You can expect to see at least a dozen named characters and many more in the background, and actually play as several of them. We do realize that was a limitation of the demo, so we tried to give players a feel for what that will be like with the train intro, though in Act 1 these interactions are much more consequential and integral to the progression of the story.
You say that all choices have far reaching consequences which we do see one example of in the demo but that doesn’t seem like a lot in forty minutes and what kind of consequences are we looking for?
Meaningful choices are part of the fun and we have a whole framework built for them in Act 1. However, the demo is more about conveying the narrative than it is about unique decisions. We consider the demo to be a prologue to the actual story. We can’t allow people to change the the basis of that narrative. It’s a limitation given the nature of the demo.
Within the main story you can choose avenues in which to follow, which do yield different outcomes, some more serious than others. For instance, choices you make can determine your relationship with other characters, who will be present for certain events in the story, and can even determine the fate of certain individuals. Combining our choice system with our multiple timelines will also yield interesting outcomes, as making choices in retrospect can change what Ira will find in the Lithic System. This retrospective change is what really makes Ira different than other games that allow for player choice. It’s less about cursing yourself for a choice that was made and more about looking for avenues in which to influence the future (it won’t be easy though).
Your design team has a solid base with free-lance experience but is there any other projects you can name as an example?
Yes but none that are commercial successes. They weren’t intended to be either. We could rattle off different Half LIfe mods and interactive media adventures we’ve created but it wouldn’t mean anything to the people reading this. We can say that those experiences have given the experience necessary to create Ira.
Are there any stretch goals on this project?
Absolutely, as we get closer to the end of the campaign we will release a specific list. Right now people know that Acts 2 and 3 will be main stretch goals, but we also have things like voice acting in mind.
What do you hope to accomplish or get out of this project?
We’re expanding our own personal skills of storytelling, creating visuals, and the nuts and bolts of game development, but what we really want is to be able to release a complete experience that represents our vision as closely as possible, and connect with like minded gamers. That’s what we think the indie community is all about, and we are starting to surround ourselves with people who feel the same way.
Any plans for the future after Ira is completed?
We would love to continue developing games, and we really hope that Ira will be the first of many titles. In the truest sense we hope that Kickstarter will be our launching point for careers as indie developers and we already have a whole host of other projects in the pipeline after Ira is completed. As a tiny indie studio we’d love to grow with Ira. We’ll see what the future holds.