IMAGINE an world where, rather than delving into his imagination to create the kingdom of Hyrule, Nintendo’s Shigeru Miyamato had decided to locate Link in Scotland, where the elfin protagonist’s name usually refers to the filling of a morning roll.
It may seem like an incongruous concept, but such an idea has captured the imagination of gamers the world over.
A Kickstarter project by a lauded independent developer aiming to create a 16-bit style RPG in rural Scotland has exceeded its funding goal with time to spare after attracting hundreds of backers. Beeswing, a game by Jack King-Spooner, takes as its inspiration iconic series such as Zelda and Secret of Mana.
Its story revolves around the Dumfriesshire village of Beeswing, where King-Spooner grew up. Until now, the small community seven miles north-east of Dalbeattie has been best known as the setting for the Arthurian legend of the Lady of the Lake. Thanks to the game, it is set to become famous for a new, modern myth.
King-Spooner has enjoyed critical success for titles such as Will You Ever Return? and Sluggish Morss: A Delicate Time in History. His new title is no exception, with significant interest on social media and independent games media. He launched the fundraising campaign for Beeswing on 18 October. With five days to go before it draws to an end, he has raised nearly £3,800 beating his initial goal of £2,250.
An imaginative, semi-autobiographical vision, he describes Beeswing as a “handcrafted game” about the past, community and childhood, fusing Scottish folk tales, parables and anecdotes with a “world of intertwining stories.”
‘Pay homage to childhood’
In an interview, King-Spooner told Scotsman Games how his upbringing influenced the creative process.
“I wanted to pay homage to the area and in particular to the time I spent there, sort of paying homage to my childhood and the idea of childhood,” he said. “I feel there is something profound about the Dumfriesshire countryside, something bleak but rich and representational of the real value of nature. Not some soft, romantic nature as is often depicted and not the morally stark Scotland of Irvine Welsh but something in between.”
King-Spooner acknowledges the concept of autobiography has been broached in “fantastic” games such as Dys4ia and the Twine series, but believes they are prone to “dwell on a side of catharsis that I’m not too fond of.” Asked if there was a reticence in the industry to emulate such creations, he said : “I think there is an obvious shift in current media - be it film, music, games - to keep vulnerability at arms length, probably because it is more open to lasting criticism.
‘Tired of ‘cool’ irony’
“I’m a bit tired of the endless amount of ‘cool’ ironic and/or self-aware, post-modern media being made and see both irony and certain aspects of post-modernism as a shield against criticism. I think that is partly why developers focus on fictional situations more. Also, there is probably a greater marketability to fictitious scenarios too, particularly zombie-space-shooty ones.”
The narrative idea of Beeswing, according to its developer, is influenced by certain writers he admires, including Ted Hughes, Muriel Spark, Lewis Grassic Gibbon, Laurie Lee and David Foster Wallace. It is a group he suggests may seem “rather unconnected,” but which nonetheless share a “kind of hard morality.”
The compelling concept will be realised with hand-made graphics that have been either crafted or painted, along with original acoustic music. Once completed, the two-dimensional RPG will be released on Windows, with other platforms to hopefully follow. With the Kickstarter project still open, the money and enthusiasm continues to pour in, a response that greatly cheers its originator. “I’m just truly overwhelmed and really grateful,” reflected King-Spooner.