How it all started

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Joined: 07 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 29, 2008 11:11 pm    Post subject: How it all started Reply with quote
Okay, we all know that both of the TSE games are great, no question about that. The question, however, is what inspired Mark Pay to create such games in the first place, along with how he came up with the settings for both titles?
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Mark Pay
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Joined: 09 Aug 2006
Posts: 623
Location: Margate, UK

PostPosted: Fri Oct 31, 2008 5:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
The Spirit Engine 1 was inspired by Seiken Densetsu 3. At the time I was working on a platformer which failed for a reason I can't recall, and I was also playing SD3 on an emulator. I was disappointed that the real-time combat system in SD3 still had to be interrupted every half second to scroll through several menus and activate an item/spell.
I thought perhaps I could combine the two genres, and remove a lot of the pausing. TSE1 was made without any other plan and it shows. It's a mix of fun, random settings ( The Wild West, Transylvania, South America, The Middle East, a skyscraper ), a meaningless plot, a combat system that is a prototype at best and some awful coding.

The Spirit Engine 2 was an attempt to improve on TSE1, with some forward planning and the lessons learnt from the first game.
The setting is vaguely based on England and France in the English ( technically British ) Civil War and Napoleonic periods. They're fantastic sources of inspiration and I regret that I was not able to devote more time to research and world-building.

Geographically - Lereftain is equivalent to the United Kingdom/Great Britain in the 1700s/1800s, Amara is equivalent to Scotland/Ireland and Yaegara is France, though the same relationships exist in so many other parts of the world.

I like science fiction a lot, and not much fantasy, so the underlying foundation and destination of the story became a science fiction one. I think it's fun to form fantasy worlds out of unsual premises.

The major themes are, I suspect: history and memory, real or fictional, individual or cultural, and how our thoughts and futures are shaped by them. The conflict between unionism and separatism. Nationalism, propaganda, immigration, imperialism, colonisation.
As a young, white Englishman living in the 21st century these are issues of the past, present and future which seem both very relevent and yet easily ignored. The legacy of the British Empire is so enormous and means so many things to so many people, most of them negative and many of them still a current concern. It was especially interesting, several years after I wrote the script, to be living and working in Ireland, where I had a good time and was made welcome.

On a per-chapter basis:

Chapter 1 is derived visually from the purple forest in Seiken Densetsu 3.

Longreach in Chapter 2 is based on Napoleonic era fortifcations, but a lot taller ( and hence defeating much of the point of those earthworks Wink ). We have several good examples near where I live at Chatham and Dover that I visited when I was small.

Chapter 3 probably draws inspiration from my trips to Welsh slate mines and canals as a child, with some Hellboy ( and by extension Lovecraft and folklore ) thrown in.

Chapter 5 could be considered an uneasy mix of Hiroshima, Pearl Harbour, September 11th and War of the Worlds.

Chapter 6 is the second half of Chapter 1 of TSE1 redone, with added vampire. Count Cristoff was going to be an optional side-quest, but in the end I could not justify spending so much work on such a large diversion when the rest of the game is so linear.

Chapter 7 was originally going to be a far more traditional European/Japanese woodland, with lots of magic and mystical nonsense. I did a lot of backpedalling to normalise the setting and remove many of the magical elements, but I think that the narrative in this chapter suffered for the change in direction.

Chapter 8 came from a visit to the London Aquarium. Fish are great, and pretty much anything floating around in our seas is wierd and alien.

Per character:

Kaltos is a retired mobster. I really wanted to do more backstory for him, go more 'Road to Perdition' and 'Cowboy Bebop'. Alas, so little time. Sad

Ionae was partly intended to be a cheerful mockery of all those smouldering, goth, part-demon bad-asses that turn up so often in anime and bad sub-Tolkien fanfics. She is in contrast a physical coward and hypochondriac, and pities the fanboys who follow her around. In practise, I think it was impossible to entirely deflate the attraction of the original concept. I'd like to think she gets the best of both worlds.

Mericious is a more nuanced version of Clemetas from TSE1. I love righteous, ass-kicking clerics. Smile I also wanted to write a sincerely, positively religious character because religion is usually treated so badly by RPG writers. I'm not religious myself, but I admire many rational Christians and wonder how they reconcile their faith with reality.

Ferwin was an attempt at a traditional fantasy, perhaps almost Jane Austen-esque romantic lead. I'm terribly unromantic myself, so I found it difficult! I really enjoyed writing his Chapter 7 stuff though, and wish I'd been able to keep Marie around for longer.

Charlotte is a little like a failed Pop Idol contestant, who chased celebrity without talent instead of an education and has to live with the consequences. Current social commentry ahoy! Visually, she's a mix of Chun-Li and a Jim Lee Rogue.

PyanPau is clearly modelled on a Buddhist monk, the problem being that I still know almost nothing about Buddhism. Wink His side story comes from my frustrations trying to find an original project topic for the third year of my Computer Science degree.

Denever is modelled ( visually and in spirit ) on a fantastic WWII British commando veteran I saw on a documentry, who even in his old age was cheerfully re-enacting his raid on a town in Holland.

Grace is a little bit of a female Oliver Cromwell, without any political or religious motivations. Perhaps also some commentary on the push for equality in some unpleasant professions having a more positive effect on the institutions involved than the individuals who are supposed to benefit.

Enshadu is based on the main character from the episode of Babylon 5 - 'Passing Through Gethsemane', a murderer who is mindwiped and becomes a priest.

Jaques is a mix of James Bond and Kenji Murasame, the french agent from the Giant Robo series who cannot die.

Clay 13 is a lot of Lennie from 'Of Mice and Men' That was the only good book I read at school.

I hope this was of some interest. I enjoyed writing it, since I haven't done a proper post-mortem of the game yet.
If you have any specific questions, I would be happy to try and answer them.
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Joined: 18 Nov 2006
Posts: 103
Location: Black Forest, Germany

PostPosted: Sun Nov 02, 2008 8:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Thanks a lot! Itīs all very interesting indeed
Iīd like to learn more about your inspiration/concept /approach (whatever) on creating "your" flora (especially trees and forest)- is it an important issue to you?

My experience with computer games is that I hardly if ever take any pleasure in the design of trees or plants - itīs noteworthy that TSE 1+2 are big exceptions. I remember my very 1st TSE-playthrough: I got stuck badly in the Mango Republic Jungle but never got bored of the scenery. And TSE2 Chapter 1 Night Forest is breathtaking (I missed it in chapter 2 and was reminded of that in Chapter 8 - thatīs the biggest drawback in this great beautiful game for me)

So itīs funny that you name another computer game as source of inspiraion - Iīll try to find some...what was it?... Seiken Denetsu screenshot
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Mark Pay
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Joined: 09 Aug 2006
Posts: 623
Location: Margate, UK

PostPosted: Sun Nov 02, 2008 9:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
This is the best image I can find right now:

I love drawing rocks and moss and plants. There's something very pleasant about them and the strange, random, crazy movements you have to make with a mouse to try and simulate natural textures on a pixel level. I often wish that I was able to concentrate just on the art.
I didn't use any direct photo references because I find it boring, but the work usually suffers as a result. :/
I keep buying wonderful natural photography books in clearance sales at bookstores which I mean to use for reference. In the end I just enjoy looking at the pretty pictures! There's nothing more beautful than nature, you just can't beat it
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Location: Australia

PostPosted: Sun Dec 14, 2008 11:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
I do love all the artwork you've put into TSE & TSE 2 so breath taking. i always liked the jungle scenery always so lush green hehe. I like grass fields a lot just want to just lie down in one. Should go to England sometime for a holiday, just to lie down in the grass fields. Very Happy Very Happy i would like to ask what was your inspiration for the sky children, and the rakari ??? one more thing why didn't we get a chance to kill any keepers ??? , those guys would have been great to fight.
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