Random thoughts and bits of life of a coffee loving artist

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Art of Gaming: Spirits

Due to my work schedule, I had realized that I hadn't given myself a chance to wander the world of indie games as much as I would like. So in the wee hours of the morning, I made sure that I took the time to see what was out there and if I could find anything that would catch my attention. Luckily there was a few who did, one going by the name of Spirits.

Spirits, created by indie developer Spaces to Play and released in February 2012, is a type of puzzle platformer which asks the player to assist little spirits of leaves to make it across the environment and guide them home. The story line that is provided is "Autumn is quickly approaching, and the spirits of fallen leaves are setting out on their journey home. Guide them by changing how the wind blows or by rebuilding the ground”. While I was looking at the trailer, I was struck by how much the little spirits reminded me of Princess Mononoke (1997) and Spirited Away (2001) along with some old European descriptions of tiny forest spirits. It also brings back memories of fables about mandrakes walking about, something that is visited in modern story telling such as the Harry Potter series and Pan's Labyrinth (2006). The whimsical and adorable design of the tiny spirits with a rich earth toned environment is certainly attention grabbing but it did made me wonder where the creators got their inspiration from. After emailing the folks over at Spaces to play, I happily received a response from Game Design and Art Director Marek Pilichta:

Dear Dawn,

The art direction had many different influences like swedish illustrator John Bauer, polish master painter Jacek Malczewski and also japanese legend Hayao Miyazaki. We wrote a detailed post on how we came up with the art style on our blog 

If you have further question please let us know!

All the best,
Marek Plichta

I was so glad to see that I was at least right (slightly anyways) about the European influence but it was wonderful to see some names to put with it. Illustrator John Bauer (1882-1918) studied art in Stockholm before entering the Royal Swedish Academy of Arts. He's known for his illustrations for fairy tales between 1912-1915 with such pieces as Tyr & Fenrir, and Trolls & Princess Tuvstarr. Jacek Malczewski (1854-1929), normally associated with the patriotic Young Poland movement and considered as the father of Polish Symbolism, studied under Leon Piccard and attended classes in Władysław Łuszczkiewicz at the School of Fine Arts. Many of his works blended patriotic themes and neo-romantic metaphors, especially after being a bit influenced by the early works of Polish Romantic painter Artur Grottger (1837-1867). The last name on the list that Marek had provided, Hayao Miyazaki (1941- ), absolutely delighted me since he is the driving artistic force and creator of the films Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, Howl's Moving Castle and several others. Taking a look at the link that Marek provided in the email was also fascinating since it shows the process and evolution of the little spirits within the game and an idea of how they were planning on having the tiny beings move within the game itself. 

If you're interested in  checking out the game, you can find it here:
store.steampowered.com - Spirits $9.99

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