By Joel Couture . October 24, 2016 . 4:00pm
Miyamori, according to its developer, was born from his time spent in the Japanese countryside, as well as poems and children’s stories written by Japanese authors. The action adventure game is meant to preserve the sense of wonder, mystery, and the appreciation for folklore he noticed during his life there.
Siliconera spoke with Joshua Hurd, creator of Miyamori, to learn about the stories and folklore that inspired him to create the game, as well as how he intended to create two different gameplay experiences, one supernatural and the other normal, to tell the game’s tale.
What prompted Miyamori‘s creation? What was it about your experiences that compelled you to make this game?
Joshua Hurd, Developer of Miyamori: About three years ago I was living in Akita Prefecture, northern Japan, for a university exchange. During my time there, I studied a small fox festival organized by one of Akita city’s shopping districts. Before that, I had assumed most festivals in Japan were at least a couple hundred years old, but here was this festival that was barely more than ten years old – even some of my Japanese friends laughed when they heard it was that recent. Still, it felt very fresh and lighthearted, and it opened my eyes to the ways in which folk culture is reinvented to meet the needs of society in a modern context.
That experience was the foundation for Miyamori, but the idea of making a game only came a couple of years later. I wanted a way to share some of what that experience was like, and I also really wanted to play a game that was based around things like yokai, Shinto, and Japanese folktales.
How do you capture that sense of wonder you felt while exploring Japan?
I think that attention to detail, an element of mystery, and allowing for different possible outcomes all help to create a sense of wonder, or in other words, the thrill of discovering something new. In Miyamori, you won’t be able to see all the content in a single playthrough, and it might take some experimentation to find all of its secrets. Of course, the artwork and music also play key roles in creating an enchanting experience.
We know a little about Izuna’s gameplay, but what will players be doing when they play as Suzume? How do those two gameplay styles gel together into a single experience?
While playing as Suzume, you’ll be looking for answers to the bizarre series of events that have taken hold of your hometown. People start behaving strangely or disappearing, things go missing… so Suzume starts to investigate. You’ll keep track of people’s stories and troubles in your journal, then help solve their problems through conversation, mini-games, and of course Izuna’s action segments are tied in as well. If I had to make a comparison, it would be like handing Phoenix Wright the Bomber’s Notebook from Majora’s Mask.
So where does that fit in with Izuna’s gameplay? What fascinates me about folktales is the social aspect to them; the way people create stories to explain things that are otherwise hard to comprehend. Playing with that idea, Suzume’s conversations act as a sort of bridge between the human world and the spirit world; at intervals, control switches between the two main characters and your discoveries in one world influence events in the other.
As an example, maybe you say something that makes someone happy, or scared, or triggers some memory – that’s going to spill over into spirit world and change the layout or challenges that you’ll have to face along the way.
Why have the two playable characters with different play styles? What are you trying to communicate with them?
Izuna’s gameplay will be mostly action-based, while Suzume’s sections exist to create a more relaxed ebb and flow to the game’s pacing. The game starts from a place of complete separation between the human and spirit worlds, and as things progress, that line becomes more and more blurred. This goes back to that idea of society reinventing folk culture for a modern context, and in turn, folk beliefs shaping a modern society.
Their play styles are also a reflection of the worlds they each represent; a more grounded, human aspect for Suzume, and a more magical, otherworldly setting for Izuna. Suzume won’t be leaping six feet into the air and stomping on enemies like in a typical platformer; after all, she’s only human. Similarly, Izuna would have trouble investigating on her own without arousing suspicion, but she does have fox magic. The two will have to rely on each other’s strengths to save the day.
What will happen with the day and night cycles? How will they alter the game’s world?
Having a night and day cycle adds more depth to the characters and in turn enhances the game’s atmosphere. With the extra layer of time, I can introduce more variation to the characters’ daily lives, and make the game more immersive. People will move through the world, and different events will be possible depending on the time of day. Hopefully it allows me to create the illusion of “chance encounters”, the kind you might have if you went out for a walk in real life.
I want to keep some mystery around the possible events so that people are surprised when they come across some easter egg or secret. I guess this feeling is inspired in part by Yume Nikki, which left discovery entirely up to you, with very little in the way of hand-holding or explanation (well, assuming you’re not using a wiki.).
If the player can create new gameplay opportunities with their actions, will the story feature branching paths? Secrets?
Yes, as I’ve touched on, different opportunities will open up to you depending on your choices. Izuna’s platforming sections are built to be somewhat modular, so there really is no one “right” way to play through the game. In a second play-through, you might take Suzume’s responses in the complete opposite direction, which would alter the world Izuna explores. Still, it’s a small team, so the scope will be considerably less grand than an open-world game like The Witcher (understatement of the year, haha).
Can you tell us some of the more specific folklore and poems that inspired Miyamori‘s story and gameplay? What was it about those stories/poems that captured your imagination?
Miyazawa Kenji has been a major source of inspiration for Miyamori; he was born in Hanamaki, Iwate, so his poetry really captures the essence of that area. He wrote lots of short poems, so it’s hard to pick just one, but the collection of poems, Spring and Ashura, is a good starting point. His poem “Tabihito” is referenced in the opening of the Kickstarter trailer.
I also was inspired in different ways by his children’s stories like Night on the Galactic Railroad, The Night of Taneyamagahara, and The Restaurant of Many Orders. His writing captures the earthy, natural feeling of Japan’s northern countryside, but it also has something of a spiritual element to it.
In terms of folktales, I’ve drawn inspiration from countless short tales here and there. The Legends of Tono, for example, is a collection of stories gathered from the village of Tono, also in Iwate. What I like about these stories is that they walk the line between ordinary anecdote and mysterious folktale; they’re a good example of the interplay between society and folk beliefs.