The game itself is both an original story-driven RPG as well as a tribute to classic JRPG cities such as Final Fantasy‘s Midgar and Lindblum, and Chrono Trigger‘s Zeal. You play as Claire Lockridge, the newly elected senator of the city Lorna, as she explores her city with a view to end the corruption and sadness that sweeps throughout.
The game’s creative director, Nicholas Spargo, recently spoke to Siliconera about Melancholy Republic’s influences and its current direction. He also explains the reasoning for launching a second Kickstarter campaign so quickly after failing the first, and speaks of his hope to be funded this time around.
Your first Kickstarter failed but do you have any idea as to why that was? What makes you think this second Kickstarter will fare any better – what have you learned and applied to this one?
Nicholas Spargo, creative director: As a new developer and without accomplished names in our development team I think we struggled by not having a following of supporters before our game went on Kickstarter. Without a strong initial hit of funding and interest we were never able to keep up momentum to reach our desired goal. We definitely learned the value of having a passionate group of followers before any funding requests go live. This time we have a much larger base of followers and fans for Melancholy Republic from the start so we hope our momentum will carry us through to funding this time. Thanks to the momentum behind the last Kickstarter we have been Greenlit on Steam and we hope this has also helped spread the word about our game.
We wanted to lower our goal to make funding more achievable, however, with a much lower target making Melancholy Republic what we had envisioned would have been impossible. Therefore I made the decision to invest half our required development goal personally so that we could lower our target and hopefully make funding more achievable. We have also made a new Kickstarter video to better expand on what Melancholy Republic is, and show people why our game is so unique as a story-based tragedy. We really want to make it clear this time what our vision is and why we think people should back us.
Let’s say this second Kickstarter succeeds. What will the money be put towards and what will people be getting in return for their funding?
Firstly, for backers we offer an array of rewards for supporting us, from digital copies of our game and soundtrack to a PlayStation One-inspired, limited physical edition with game, art book, and soundtrack. A portion of the funding is to be put aside to ensure that backers will get their rewards without issue. Rewarding our backers with exclusive loot for believing in our vision is very important to us.
The money from funding is mostly put toward sprites, art assets, level designers, and our artists working on the illustrated backgrounds. We are lucky to be working with our composers in collaboration, so most of our funds can be focused on building the beautiful city state and its inhabitants. The funding will ultimately mean we can give our backers the game we promised and envisioned – a large, unique, and beautiful city to explore with a heartbreaking, epic tale that will make you fall in love with video games again.
What happens if you don’t get the funding this time? Will you consider a third Kickstarter? Will you give up on crowdfunding? Will the game be developed at all?
It would be impossible to make Melancholy Republic a reality in its current vision without financial assistance. If we cannot secure funding I would focus on finding unpaid, hobbyist artists and level designers to complete the game, albeit in a reduced form. This is obviously not a desirable route as it would increase the development time considerably due to a reliance on finding the right people and not having a large enough core team. So whilst we would give up on crowdfunding, we would hope to develop the game and keep in contact with current backers and deliver a game as close as possible to the original vision.
We have had a tremendous start to our Kickstarter this time round so we hope it will be successful this time so we can focus on continuing our planned development.
Melancholy Republic is inspired by JRPGs, as with many other games, but your focus is on the exploration of cities and their populations. What about that in particular do you enjoy about JRPGs?
I always remember playing Final Fantasy VII and loving the story in Midgar, with Cloud and the rebel group fighting against the rich and corrupt corporation Shinra. I wandered what it would be like if Cloud never left Midgar and instead the game was set in that one massive city. It was this concept I found really interesting and it inspired the idea for Melancholy Republic‘s Claire Lockridge, the formidable politician and her fight against corruption within her city.
My favourite parts of JRPGs was always arriving at a new city, getting to explore, talking to NPCs, finding hidden stories before having new story events unfold. These are the core elements that make up Melancholy Republic. Making it a story-based game set within one city allows the player to explore the beautiful and detailed areas, finding loads of interesting people to talk to from all types of backgrounds. The heartbreaking and sad stories are inspired in part from Lost Odyssey which really moved me multiple times with the heartfelt mini stories throughout the game.
What’s unique about the city of Lorna? How much freedom is there to explore it and interact with it? And how would you compare it to other cities in JRPGs?
Unlike many other JRPG cities having our story set in one city means we can really bring the size and detail of Lorna to life. Lorna is a rich city state that has seen huge change in the last fifty years; a coup from the noble houses brought in a republic state benefiting those that created it. The scars from this time in history are still prevalent both from the city’s architecture and in the people who suffer still for previous allegiances. Our city is inspired from a mix of Final Fantasy‘s Lindblum/Midgar and Chrono Trigger‘s Zeal, and with the focus being just on Lorna it means that this city will be larger, have more stories, hidden corners, and complex characters to meet.
At its core it is a story-based game, with a strong central plot. however. exploration is a key mechanic of Melancholy Republic too. While not an open world game there are many opportunities for exploration throughout our story when the player can investigate the different parts of the city, this may lead to other smaller tales and characters the player may find and complete before continuing with the main story.
Melancholy Republic is described as being a tragedy with “heartbreaking” stories. In what different ways does this manifest in the game?
Melancholy Republic is told across several chapters that build an overarching story, each of these chapters has its own characters and their individual heartbreaking stories that Claire Lockridge becomes involved with. These chapters serve to tell heartfelt and fascinating smaller stories that help develop Claire’s own beliefs and views of her country. A few of these characters also feature in our trailer.
Without giving too many details away about our story, I can say that it is inspired by the ancient tragedies of heroes who must battle against great odds. Ours is most definitely a story without a simple ending, we want players to walk away both heartbroken and inspired, and I feel tragedy is the only genre that can really bring that to people.
How does the music reflect the game’s tragic themes? What kinds of instruments, techniques, and sounds were used to achieve this in the music?
I will hand this question over to our two composers at Metronomix studios, as they can answer this better than I can.
Max McGuire, composer: The music is made up of lots of orchestral arrangements. This meant we had a lot of scope for instrumentation between the string sections and woodwinds. We have lots of high end sample libraries that enabled us to create fairly realistic recordings and this helped us make a more genuine connection between the music and the feel of the game. We also recorded a violinist on some of the tracks which really gave an intimate performance and took the emotive content to the next level.
Alastair Adams, composer: Identifying the sound palette for the overall theme of the game was the most important element for us. We quickly realised that this wouldn’t be a game for high-tempo, action music – in contrast it uses mellower, more emotive instrumentation. The main character theme for instance was performed on a solo French horn, and other parts on a solo violin – both instruments capable of invoking profound emotion given the right combination of notes. It was also a conscious decision to limit almost all of the score to a minor key – making the moments of hope, where major chords are used much more effective and noticeable. Overall, we aimed for subtle, emotional orchestral arrangements that are more reflective and less in-your-face. I hope this approach goes down well in the final finished game!
You pointed out before that you have women as your lead characters. Was this something you wanted to ensure, and if so, why? Could you tell the same story if the leads were men?
Nicholas Spargo: Growing up, some of my most favourite stories had strong female leads, such as Ripley from the Alien films and Terra from FFVI. Claire Lockridge is a manifestation of the heroines that inspired me as a child. The city of Lorna has a history of powerful and ambitious queens that have ruled and following the recent coup, the political landscape has reflected this history with a strong female presence in the parliament. Whilst the essence of the story could be retold with male leads, for Cloud Runner Studios, Claire and Marianne are irreplaceable parts of both Lorna and the story that Melancholy Republic will tell.