Superbrothers on deteriorating health in Sword & Sworcery

| brandon

Sword and Sworcery, if you don’t know, is a mostly-lovely game by Capy and Superbrothers, and features a mechanic wherein your hero slowly loses one unit of health per scenario, as the game wears on.

Several days ago, Jeffrey Matulef discussed this mechanic on Gamasutra, to decent effect (mild spoiler alert in there, by the way).

More interesting than the article itself perhaps, is a reply by Craig Adams, aka Superbrothers, which I reprint below. Do be aware that there are absolutely some spoilers in here, so if you’ve not finished the game, you may not want to read through to the full page. Otherwise, look on:

“Super glad you dug our decisions re: The Scythian’s deteriorating condition in Sword & Sworcery.

S:S&S EP isn’t a mechanics-focused videogame, it’s closer to an audiovisual storybook… and as you point out in your article (with the Indiana Jones reference), dramatic stories in film or in books often end up with a broken & battered protagonist limping to the finish line… I would say this is a normal flow of an adventure story, and it’s only videogame stories that choose to do the inverse.

As you discussed, our implementation of this idea was dead simple: the player character loses one max health (starting with five) after each climactic boss fight, and then we added a few idle behaviours (coughing, vomiting) plus a flickering/darkening effect on the sprite, very basic, but it was super interesting playing it through once we got it all working: it really seemed to deepen the sense of a narrative progression; it suggested a tragic outcome and even kinda tugged on the ol’ heartstrings; Jim Guthrie’s music became even more evocative & heartbreaking.

On the mechanics side, the player had to pay more attention to survive, so the challenge in combat encounters naturally intensified & the dramatic tension ratcheted up a few notches without the need for all-new enemies or new enemy behaviors (which might’ve been nice but actually wouldn’t have added much to the story concept).

Of course this ‘weakening heroes’ thing isn’t a new concept in videogames by any stretch, I can think of a few survival horror experiences, notably Eternal Darkness, that explored some of this stuff… but I think there’s a whole lot of other, deeper ideas in this general direction… I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for other instances.

On a sort of personal tip:

So we were putting these degrading health features in last fall, at a time when the project itself was in a challenging state from my perspective. We had been slogging through months of hard work, and at least in my case (separately from Capy & Jim Guthrie), my mental & physical condition had been deteriorating for some time… there were financial pressures on my side, budget & schedule pressures more generally, profound uncertainty about the outcome, exhaustion, sleeplessness… this was my very first time as a videogame project co-lead (and sole artist, amateur sound designer, writer… etc) and I had gone ‘all in’… so while I was surrounded by amazing & supportive people on all sides, it was an occasionally spooky ordeal for me personally.

Myself & Kris Piotrowski, Capy’s creative director and a co-creator on Sword & Sworcery, went out for some beers around this time. Among other things, we were talking about these health ideas and we were joking around about how the mental & physical effort of making this project (or, well, any project) matched The Scythian’s troubled trajectory. We had set out to climb a mountain & slay a beast (finish a videogame project that, while small, was experimental and ambitious for a tiny team) and while we were making good progress towards the finish line, in my case the effort was grinding me down into something less than healthy.

With this in mind, you can imagine how strange it might’ve felt to paint The Scythian’s funeral pyre… getting the ending of the story in place was a significant milestone on the creative side so it felt really good to be finally getting it done, but it was also weirdly kind of heartbreaking and meta.

I’ve no doubt everyone has stories about the blood, sweat & tears that go into a project you care about, and I’ve not doubt other folks have had it much much harder than we ever did. I guess the only thing that’s unusual about Sword & Sworcery is that our ordeal is metaphorically echoed in the storyline in a pretty intentional way, and maybe there’s some aspect of this that comes across somehow.

So yeah, we set out on this adventure to make something kinda worthwhile with a bit of soul, and as Kris often says, making something worthwhile is almost always super tough, and if you want to make something with soul… well… that soul has to come from somewhere… sometimes it has to be semi-painfully extracted from the creators.

All’s well that ends well, more or less. The project eventually got done & it found an appreciative audience, plus everyone involved is feeling positive about the experience of making it… so in retrospect it was worthwhile.

ok & kindest wishes”



42 Responses to Superbrothers on deteriorating health in Sword & Sworcery

  1. They did a great job with the tragic nature of the quest. Its interesting hearing about the process. I wish it was more enjoyable for them but the game was worth it.

    The last bit towards the end was pretty amazing.

  2. I’ve recently started a website, the info you provide on this website has helped me tremendously. Thank you for all of your time & work. “Americans detest all lies except lies spoken in public or printed lies.” by Edgar Watson Howe.

  3. Let me start by saying nice post. Im not sure if it has been talked about, but when using Chrome I can never get the entire site to load without refreshing many times. Could just be my computer. Thanks.

  4. Great to become visiting your weblog once more, it has been months for me. Nicely this post that i’ve been waited for so lengthy. I will need this write-up to total my assignment within the university, and it has exact same subject together with your write-up. Thanks, excellent share.

  5. Thanks for sharing excellent information. Your web site is so cool. I am impressed by the details that you have on this blog. It reveals how nicely you understand this subject. Bookmarked this web page, will come back for extra articles.

  6. I thought it was heading to be some dull aged post, however it actually compensated for my time. I will publish a hyperlink to this web page on my blog. I’m certain my visitors will discover that quite helpful.

  7. Hello, I think your blog might be having browser compatibility issues. When I look at your blog in Ie, it looks fine but when opening in Internet Explorer, it has some overlapping. I just wanted to give you a quick heads up! Other then that, fantastic blog!

  8. I haven’t checked in here for some time since I thought it was getting boring, but the last few posts are great quality so I guess I will add you back to my everyday bloglist. You deserve it friend 🙂

  9. Many thanks for posting this, It?s just what I used to be researching for on bing. I?d loads comparatively hear opinions from a person, slightly than an organization internet web page, that?s why I like blogs so significantly. Many thanks!

  10. What you said made a lot of sense. But, think about this, what if you added a little content? I mean, I dont want to tell you how to run your blog, but what if you added something to maybe get peoples attention? Just like a video or a picture or two to get people excited about what youve got to say. In my opinion, it would make your blog come to life a little bit.

  11. I¡¯m delighted that I have noticed this weblog. Lastly anything not a junk, which we go through extremely frequently. The web site is lovingly serviced and stored as much as date. So it should be, thanks for sharing this with us.

  12. I’m no professional, yet I really feel you merely crafted the best point. You naturally know very well what youre referring to, and I can actually get behind that. Thank you for remaining so in advance and so sincere.

  13. hey there and thank you for your information – I have certainly picked up something new from right here. I did however expertise a few technical issues using this website, as I experienced to reload the website lots of times previous to I could get it to load properly. I had been wondering if your hosting is OK? Not that I’m complaining, but sluggish loading instances times will very frequently affect your placement in google and can damage your high quality score if ads and marketing with Adwords. Well I’m adding this RSS to my email and can look out for a lot more of your respective interesting content. Make sure you update this again soon..

  14. The new Zune browser is surprisingly good, but not as good as the iPod’s. It works well, but isn’t as fast as Safari, and has a clunkier interface. If you occasionally plan on using the web browser that’s not an issue, but if you’re planning to browse the web alot from your PMP then the iPod’s larger screen and better browser may be important.

  15. Simply want to say your article is astonishing. The clearness in your post is simply spectacular and i can assume you are an expert on this subject. Well with your permission allow me to grab your rss feed to keep up to date with forthcoming post. Thanks a million and please keep up the gratifying work

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

six − three =