How To Make Industrial Steampunk And Zelda-Like Fantasy Get Along



Legacy of the Copper Skies is currently on the Square Enix Collective where its creators are hoping enough interest is garnered to get Square Enix’s backing when the game’s crowdfunding campaign is launched.


Being an action-adventure game in which you control two entirely different characters from opposing worlds, attempting to get them to co-operate, Siliconera deem it worth closer investigation. The man who would enable that is the game’s creative director, Eric Foster, who talked about the game at length.


Below, Foster explains how he’s mixing together industrial steampunk with a more natural-looking fantasy, and how they’ll blend together as the world goes about a huge and destructive change. He also details how the two characters work together under player control, using a range of different techniques to manage both bodies either at once or separately.


Lastly, he talks about the future of the project, specifically how he’s scaling it for the small team he has, what he’ll be using the crowdfunding for if successful, and what platforms he’d like to bring the game to.


First of all, could you explain who your two main characters are and what their backgrounds in your game’s fiction are?


Eric Foster, creative director: Sure. First there’s Isen, the sole sentient robot of Grimstad. Curiosity and logic are her virtues. She has a strong inner desire to create and tinker. To her, the world is a giant collection of spare parts, and it is her job to transform them and create order. Every inch of Grimstad and all its well-oiled robotic inhabitants were created by Isen from scratch. Sadly, that work is quickly coming to a close and she’s finding that there is less and less for her to do. She’s constantly searching for more… something new, something different, something that excites her again.


Then we have Tir, a hunter of great strength and primal instinct. Tir craves the peacefulness of solitude in his remote forest home, but does venture out from time to time. During these outings he spends his time defending his people from the shadows of the strange monsters that are often born into his chaotic world. He works tirelessly to ensure that his world maintains a balance between the natural areas and those that his people have claimed. Unfortunately for Tir, he is feared by his people. To them he is just another powerful beast no different than the other monsters. They’ve seen his temper and his power, and they fear it. Tir doesn’t mind so much, though, as this means that they’ll leave him alone.


In each case, they are the overseer of their world, the keystone that keeps everything running smoothly.


Could you give a brief overview of the plot that brings these two characters together?


Early on in our game there is an event we call the Cataclysm. It begins when the ground suddenly starts to shake and begins to crumble… when the dust clears, Grimstad and Ebura are merged. Iron buildings spawn where forests had been moments earlier; farms and crops now grow in the middle of factories. Neither Tir nor Isen had even known there were other realms out there, and now they find themselves inside the shattered remnants of their once separate worlds.


Tir’s senses tell him something is wrong. The destruction has stopped, but some things have not only changed, but seem to have been corrupted by a strange yellow ooze. Fearful for his people, Tir wants to try to figure out what is going on, and how to stop it. On the other hand, Isen is super freaking excited to have tons of new things to study and learn about, and new materials to build with. When they finally come face to face with each other, they each assume the other is the cause of this catastrophe, but very quickly learn that this is not the case. They have a much larger common enemy, so they join forces, and set off together in search of the source of the corruption.


When you say that Tir and Isen will “learn” to co-operate over time, what do you mean? Is this the characters learning to get on as well as combine their abilities?


The short answer to this is yes. Co-operation is a big theme in our game. It’s in our music (rock / chiptunes hybrid), our narrative, our art, and our gameplay.


In the beginning of the game these two characters are actually separate, in their own worlds, and may not even like each other all that much. When they do come together, they will eventually start to trust and become comfortable with each other as they get to know each other. The gameplay kind of mirrors this. In the beginning you’ll start out with few abilities and likely few combos. As you progress you’ll get new items and abilities which will allow more of these types of combo abilities.


As the player progresses through the game they’ll eventually unlock the ability to essentially rewind time. This will allow players to play both characters at once. They’ll setup actions with one character, rewind time, and then play as the second character to finish the series of actions. Kind of like one character calls out the plays, and then they both execute it.


Could you go into more detail as to how we’ll be able to control both characters effectively, as well as combine their abilities to solve puzzles and fight?


There are kind of two systems at play here. The first is the fusion system. When the characters originally meet they will actually fuse together into one, similar to what their worlds are actually doing as well. Whichever character is currently in control is the one that is seen on screen. There’s no weird Frankenstein type hybrid mix of the two. So you’ll mostly control one character at a time, but are able to freely swap between the two.


The other half of the fusion system is the ability to split the two characters. This portion plays a bit like The Lost Vikings. As an example, after defusing the player can leave one character behind and perform an action with the other. Say Isen using her portal to get to a location Tir can’t to hit a switch, then the player can swap back to Tir, who then hits a second switch that allows Isen to open a chest.


The second system is the rewind time / co-operation mechanic detailed in the previous question. Which, in a way, lets you literally play both at the same time.


It seems that you’re primarily working to make a single player game but is there any possibility of a multiplayer feature at all?


Legacy of the Copper Skies is definitely being designed as a single player game. We may explore the option of adding actual 2-player co-op at a later date, but for now we’re focusing on making sure we can deliver a solid single player game.


How are you scaling the game’s two types of fantasy worlds in order to make it manageable for a small team? Do you know roughly how big they’ll be and how much there will be to do inside them, for example?


Hmm, I don’t think there is an easy answer for this one. Every game I’ve worked on has had this issue. Quality, quantity, cost – pick two!

You always want more than your team can deliver. Stuff always gets cut, plans are always having to adapt, and sometimes you need to design something smaller than you’d have hoped for. This is as true for AAA games with $50 million budgets as it is for indies. Game developer eyes are always larger than their stomachs.


That said, as far as the scope of the game goes, we know roughly what we want, and how large it will be. Based on our experience we’ve constructed a reasonable enough plan that also allows for some unknowns, but we’ll definitely need to stay on our toes to make sure we keep our scope down and achievable.


As you’ve described Legacy of the Cooper Skies as “A Link to the Past if you played both Link and Zelda,” what did you make of the reveal of Tri-Force Heroes at E3? Are there any similarities between it and your own game?


I thought the game looked pretty cool. I’ll probably snag a copy of it when it’s out. Though I am kind of bummed that it appears as though you just play 3 different Link clones. Would have been nice to have the option to play as Link, Zelda, and a third character.


Also, I’m sure there are some similarities in gameplay between our two games too. We’re both multiple character action adventure games. That said, I think what we’re trying to build is fairly different. Gameplay differences aside, one of the big things we’re trying to improve is the narrative in these kinds of games. In Legacy of the Copper Skies we won’t have silent protagonists, and there are no princesses in need of rescue.


Do you know how much you’ll be looking for in crowdfunding for the game and what that money will go towards specifically?


This is super up in the air. It depends on a lot of different factors. Even what it will be used for is TBD. It all depends on what other funding and support we get. One thing is pretty certain though. We want to hire actors to do voice overs for all of our characters. Hearing a character makes them come alive. This is especially important when we want people to be emotionally invested in these characters. So the VO stuff will probably be dependent on our crowdsource campaign.


You’ve said that you’d be willing to explore bringing Legacy of the Copper Skies to other platforms than just PC. What might those platforms be – which do you think would be a good fit?


We’ll leave this up to the public a bit. We have a poll on our Square Enix Collective page to see what other platforms people would want to play Copper Skies on. As of writing this PS4 and Xbox One are the top choices (not surprising) with Wii U trailing close behind. So we’ll target the platforms that the most number of people would want it on. In an ideal world we’d put it on everything we could, but we’ll see what we can do.

Chris Priestman