//////////////////////////////// HELLO, WORLD:
Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP (2011) is an elegant music-inspired adventure videogame created for a broad, literate audience. It tells a short, dreamy story about a lone woman warrior on a tragic quest in a lush, haunted mountain wilderness. It was originally designed for iPhone and iPad (recommended) but it is now available on computer (PC, Mac) and on Android machines.
- iPhone or iPad (5$ App Store)
- Mac (8$ Steam, 8$ Mac App Store)
- PC (Direct, 8$ Steam)
- Android (5$ Google Play Store)
The companion soundtrack record Jim Guthrie's Sword & Sworcery LP: The Ballad of the Space Babies can be enjoyed with or without the videogame - it's a classic! Jim Guthrie is a legendary Canadian composer, singer/songwriter & rockstar and his Sword & Sworcery LP is a minor milestone in videogame music.
If you have not already done so it is essential that you undergo the AUDIENCE CALIBRATION PROCEDURE (included at top of this page), a brief but essential audiovisual introduction to Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP.
The project was created from 2009 to 2012 in Toronto by three creative entities: Superbrothers, Capy and Jim Guthrie. The core team size was around five people. For a more thorough list of credits tap the 'info' button at the title screen inside the App. Time has passed and the three Sword & Sworcery co-creators are busy with new efforts, you can catch up with them at their websites and Twitter feeds.
Superbrothers is at SuperbrothersHQ.com and @superbrothersHQ as well as @the1console. Superbrothers is a tiny videogame art and design organizaiton founded in 2003 and until recently located in Toronto, now located in the woods of Quebec. Sword & Sworcery was their first videogame. They are quietly at work on an as-yet-uannounced new Superbrothers videogame project.
Capy aka Capybara Games is at capybaragames.com and @CAPYGAMES. Capy is a +20 staff videogame studio founded in 2003 and located in Toronto, they're known for videogames like Critter Crunch and Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes. Capy is hard at work on upcoming videogames like Super TIME Force and the recently-announced Below.
Jim Guthrie is at jimguthrie.org and @jampants. Jim is a composer, performer, singer and songwriter located in Toronto. Jim is known for his solo records including the recent Takes Time, and 2003's Now More Than Ever. Jim is also known for his film scores and, more recently his contribution to videogames. Jim was involved as a composer and co-creator on Sword & Sworcery, his first videogame proejct, contributed to Sound Shapes by Queasy Games and he is contributing music to Capy's Below. Jim also scored the film Indie Game: The Movie.
Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP is an exploratory action adventure videogame with an emphasis on audiovisual style. Traverse a mythic little realm, use a sword to do battle & evoke sworcery to solve mystical musical mysteries. Co-operate with friends via Twitter, experience a videogame world that is affected by moon phases & help a wandering warrior monk complete her woeful errand.
The project launched in spring 2011 for iPhone, iPod Touch & iPad on the App Store, with Jim Guthrie's companion album available on vinyl & audiocassette. The project has since been warmly received by audiences & critics, reaching more than a million people worldwide and earning rave reviews.
A year post launch in the spring of 2012, a new edition of S:S&S EP for the electric computer was made available for PC & Mac via Steam. Shortly afterwards in the summer of 2012, S:S&S EP launched in Japan alongside an all-star remix album known as The Scythian Steppes (details are here) created in partnership with 8-4 Ltd (details) . Also in the summer of 2012, the limited edition record Scntfc's Moon Grotto 7" was released in partnership with the videogame culture website Venus Patrol (details).
In the fall of 2012, another new edition of S:S&S EP was made available for Android machines (details).
////////////////////// MECHANICS & NARRATIVE [ SPOILER ALERT ]
S:S&S EP can be interpreted as a streamlined 21st century re-imagining of the point & click adventure videogames of yesteryear. Alternately, because of the primacy of Jim Guthrie's musical score, S:S&S EP can be understood as a prog rock concept album you can hang out in.
The player is free to discover the narrative & the play mechanics of S:S&S EP in their own time. The project was built with the goal of subverting expectations & positively surprising audiences with new, interesting ideas... so the less said about the nuts & bolts of the experience, the better!
With that in mind, we urge you to play S:S&S EP before reading the following story synopsis.
As an un-named god in a bronze age mountain wilderness, the player is tasked with guiding a female warrior monk referred to as 'The Scythian' on a woeful errand, mostly accomplished by tapping on paths, people & objects. Occasionally it will be necessary for the player to unsheathe The Scythian's sword to solve a simple puzzle or engage an adversary in a rudimentary Mike Tyson's Punch-Out inspired combat encounter. As the adventure unfolds, the player will be able to cause The Scythian to tune into the now & 'sing a song of sworcery'. A new set of inputs will be made available, effectively transforming particular woodland locations into mysterious musical toys. Later on the player will learn to guide The Scythian into a dreamworld - a forest & lake environment affected by real-world moon phases referred to as Side B. The attentive player may be presented with opportunities to kill or not to kill, to cheat or not to cheat, in order to complete The Scythian's woeful errand & eventually condemn the ailing monk to death at the summit of the eternal mountain knows as Mingi Taw.
More footage of S:S&S EP can be found in this preview at Touch Arcade.
We've been pretty fortunate so far, here's a partial list of some positive things.
- "...a digital act of bravery" according to Rob Dubbin at Kill Screen Magazine (link).
- One of the Top Ten Videogames of 2011 according to the staff at Time Magazine (link).
- Best Videogame Music of 2011 according to Kirk Hamilton at Kotaku (link).
- Game of the Year 2011 from Touch Arcade (link).
- Winner of the Game Developer's Choice Award for Best Handheld/Mobile Videogame of 2011 (link).
- Over two thousand five-star reviews on iTunes.
- iPad Game of the Year 2011, Most Innovative Game of the Year 2011 from Pocket Gamer.
- Most Innovative Game 2011 from IMGA.
- ***** from The Times of London.
- Favorable reviews from The Wall Street Journal, MSN & ABC.
- 10/10 says Victor Lucas, host of Electric Playground & Revies on the Run.
- 10/10 says Destructoid.
- 9.5/10 says IGN.
- "It's just walking!?" observed Baiyon.
- "Achievement in Art" awarded by IGF Mobile 2010.
The project has found a fairly broad audience - at the time of this writing (spring 2012) more than 350 000 people have taken S:S&S EP for a spin, which is pretty crazy when you think about it. Many of these people are probably videogame enthusiasts like ourselves but we're happy to say that we've received positive reports from plenty of kids, parents, grand parents, music-lovers, lapsed videogame players and even people who have never played much of anything before.
//////////////////////////////////// COMPATIBLE PLATFORMS:
S:S&S EP was originally conceived for iPhone & iPod Touch in 2009 and then diligently adapted to support iPad once that touchtronic platform was announced in 2010. S:S&S EP now supports iOS 5. An update to S:S&S EP for the enhanced resolution of the new iPad is in the works.
In spring 2012, a year following the launch of the original touchtronic edition, a new edition of S:S&S EP for electric computers was announced & released. Get it or gift for PC on Steam: http://store.steampowered.com/app/204060/
Note: This new edition includes Jim Guthrie's legendarily epic S&S LP companion album.
//////////////////////////////////// MUSIC RELEASES RELATED TO S&S:
- Jim Guthrie's Sword & Sworcery LP: The Ballad of the Space Babies (2011) with album artwork from Superbrothers Inc.
- The Scythian Steppes: Seven Songs of Sworcery Localized for Japan (2012) with album artwork from Superbrothers Inc.
- Jim Guthrie's Children of the Clone (2011) with album artwork from Superbrothers Inc.
- Scntfc's Moon Grotto 7" (2012) with album artwork from Superbrothers Inc. from Venus Patrol.
/////////////////////////// THEMES & CONCEPTS IN S:S&S EP
In the making of S:S&S EP we attempted to grapple with a few psychological, historical and cultural concepts that we found interesting or significant. A decent chunk of research happened specifically for S:S&S EP, and many of the core concepts go back years. If you'd like to go down the high concept rabbit-hole, read on!
The archetypical fantasy aesthetics, self aware tone and the focus on meaningful mechanics in S:S&S EP are related to a previously existing Superbrothers clip 'design reboot hd', featuring an excerpt from a lecture from noted videogame designer Jonathan Blow.
The deliberately mispelled title 'sword & sworcery' is intended to evoke a genre of horror-infused low fantasy as defined by Texan author Robert E. Howard, creator of Conan The Barbarian, whose mythopoetic psychocosmology mingled with Lovecraft's Cthulu mythos in the pages of Weird Tales and other 1930s pulp serials. What is it about legendary swords, shadowy tombs and enchanted forests that resonate with so many people? Why do millions of people, across the world, spend countless hours imagining these mythic scenarios? What was it about Howard's stories in particular, in combination with iconic 'sword and sorcery' illustrator Frank Frazetta's paintings, that was so damned powerful? S:S&S EP began with an exploration of these questions. (link)
Howard's Conan stories and particularly Conan's point of origin, Cimmeria, directly influenced the location of S:S&S EP. It is likely that Conan's world, Howard's 'Hyborian Age', is a deliberate distortion of the geographical concept of 'Hyperboria', a name given to the Scythian steppes wilderness that existed 'beyond the north wind' relative to the ancient Greek writer Herodotus who coined the term. Conan's place of birth, the rugged mountain wilderness of Cimmeria, is a region that exists today in the Caucasus mountains in southern Russia & Georgia. Thus, the location of the events of S:S&S EP is the mountain wilderness of the Caucasus, specifically in the foothills of "Mingi Taw", a turkish name for the 'eternal mountain. a peak known today as Mt. Elbrus in modern-day Russia. In the year 1000 BC, when Scythia was an active steppes civilization, it is likey that this mountain had a mythic significance.
Carl Gustav Jung's "Red Book" is evoked by The Megatome, a burdensome book in S:S&S EP (link), and Jung's psychological concepts permeate S:S&S EP. The Archetype, the name of the 'lead researcher' who greets & guides players, was intended to evoke Carl Jung, The Twilight Zones Rod Serling, and 60s psychonauts Terrence McKenna & Timothy Leary.
The character concept of The Scythian can be traced back to a project from the early days of Superbrothers (established in 2003) with a project set in the Aegean in the bronze age, around 1000 BC. The Scythian's gender may have something to do with Leonard Schlain's The Goddess & The Alphabet: The Conflict Between Text & Image, a book that offers an alternate perspective on the received wisdom of thousands of years of male-dominated written literature & history. Tombs dating back to 1000 BC found in Turkey, the Ukraine, Iran & Georgia offer evidence of respected warrior women, recorded in ancient literature as the amazons of Homer's Illiad.
The character concept of The Gogolithic Mass, a deathless spectre from outer space who lurks in the darkness beneath Mingi Taw, is related to The Annunaki, the name given to the first pantheon of gods recognized by civilized human beings. Noted crackpot and former BBC sports broadcaster David Icke claims that The Annunaki were a race of spacefaring creatures whose bloodline has persisted since the dawn of civilization. Icke claims that today Earth has been enslaved by a race of twelve foot tall reptilian shapeshifters who are able to manifest themselves as the Queen of England, for example. The name Gogolithic Mass is a deliberate mispelling of The Glagolithic Mass by the czech composer Janacek (link).
The concept of 'singing a song of sworcery' has a fair bit to do with the teachings of Eckhart Tolle, in that the point of this mechanic is to kind of offer an opportunity for players to stop and kindof tune in to the present moment.
Aspects of David Lynch & Mark Frost's series Twin Peaks are referenced occasionally in S:S&S EP with mentions of logs & owls. Most obviously, the lighting and narrative concept of S:S&S EP's Dark Moon Rock Show, a scene at the end of session III, is directly inspired by 'The Pink Room' from the film "Fire Walk With Me", and Jim Guthrie's song "Ode to a Room" is intended as a respectful homage to Angelo Bandalamente's original composition.
S:S&S EP was an unusually collaborative project from three distinct creative entities. The project was the first videogame/record project from the staff at Superbrothers Inc. & composer Jim Guthrie, it was crafted & engineered in collaboration with the videogame wizards at Capy at their offices in downtown Toronto, Canada.
S:S&S EP was made with a lot of gut feeling, a lot of instinct, a lot of exploratory painting, a lot of music-making & music-listening, a fair bit of experimentation, a ton of hard work & a ton of faith. As creators we've talked an awful lot about the creation of the project - we felt it was a gamedev story worth articulating - but we're pretty much ready to move on now... so if you'd like to know more about the making of S:S&S EP, read on & click them links.
The project began due to a random encounter at GDC 2009 when two of Capy's co-founders met a representative from Superbrothers. In the spring of 2009 the project name, general concept & logo were decided upon and noted composer Jim Guthrie, who had previously collaborated with Superbrothers (link), was looped in. A grant application was submitted to the Ontario Media Development Corporation, a government institution tasked with seeding local industry.
In late 2009, once the grant was approved, the project began in earnest at the Capy offices with a sprint to hastily assemble a build on iPhone to be submitted to the IGF Mobile competion. The project was announced on December 1st 2009 with a 'first look' clip, only thirty days after the first pixel had appeared on iPhone.
A new publicly playable build was prepared in early 2010 and presented at GDC's IGF Expo. This build was created with the goal of evoking the mood of Jim Guthrie's pre-existing musical composition 'Under a Tree', it featured a nearly-wordless 'walk in the woods' as well as an encounter with a nude bear-like creature known as The Grizzled Boor. These environments, ideas & situations formed the core of Side B in the finished project. This GDC showing attracted a significant amount of positive attention. Also at GDC 2010, a Superbrothers representative delivered a five minute talk about the native language of videogames, this talk was later reformatted as a kind of essay and published on Boing Boing with the title 'less talk more rock'.
The project went dark for a time while the team figured out how to finish it.
In the fall of 2010 a Superbrothers representative delivered a talk about the in-progress project's influences at Fantastic Fest in Austin. Also in the fall of 2010, the three co-creatives of S:S&S EP, including Jim Guthrie, spoke about their goals at Gamercamp in Toronto.
The project re-surfaced immediately before GDC 2011 with the 'Audience Calibtration Procedure' clip. S:S&S EP launched for iPhone, iPod Touch & iPad 'around the vernal equinox' in spring 2011. Jim Guthrie's companion record Sword & Sworcery LP: The Ballad of the Space Babies launched alongside, it was made available on iTunes & Bandcamp as well as on audiocassette & vinyl (link).
In June of 2011, representatives from the project were invited to speak at WWDC 2011. Also in June 2011, an event took place in Toronto in a theatre at the TIFF Lightbox called a 'Midsummer Rockshowcase' - it was a theatrical showcase of Toronto's DIY videogame community as well as a live rock show of material from the S&S project played by maestro Jim Guthrie and his seven piece band, with visuals co-ordinated by Superbrothers Inc.
The project's challenging and unusual production has since been documented in various post mortems including a feature article in the September 2011 issue of Game Developer Magazine (link), as well as in a presentation at IndieCade in October 2011 (link), and at a coupla talks at GDC 2012.
In some instances, the experience of development affected the creative concept of the project. As an example, The Scythian's efforts to understand and complete her woeful errand, and particularly her deteriorating mental & physical health in the later stages of the adventure, are intended to reflect the struggles & hardships of actually creating S:S&S EP.
The core S:S&S EP team consisted of about five people including:
- one artist/animator/writer/designer/director/pr/project co-lead from Superbrothers Inc.
- one composer, Jim Guthrie, who created many of the sounds & was involved throughout as a co-creator.
- one project co-lead & co-creator/designer, co-founder at Capy, who was involved throughout.
- two programmers, staff at Capy, were assigned to the project.
This core team was assisted in very significant ways by other folks at Capy & Superbrothers for admin, communications, audio, qa & project leadership. Additionally, S:S&S EP includes v/o, ideas & music from a variety of third party contributors. Full project credits are included in S:S&S EP and at the bottom of this page.
///////////////////////////////////// IN THE LOOP?
To stay connected to any future manifestations of the S:S&S EP psychocosmlogy feel free to bookmark this here internet web site - specifically the news page - or else submit to THE TELETEX BULLETIN, an erratic email broadcast from the staff at Superbrothers Inc.
////////////////////////////////// CREDITS: THE S:S&S EP TEAM
Hear from some of the alleged creators of S:S&S EP via these excellent clips from AREA 5 & ATOMIX.
- Superbrothers Inc. aka @the1console. Original concept, art, writing, co-lead design & direction.
- Mr. Jim Guthrie aka @jampants. Composer. Songs, sounds & co-creator.
- Mr. Kris Piotrowski aka @krispiotrowski. Capy founder & creative director. Co-lead design & guru.
- Mr. Jon Maur aka @buckets187. Capy staff. Lead technical programmer.
- Mr. Frankie Leung aka @mpftempvar. Capy staff. Lead gameplay programmer.
- Mr. Sean "Uber" Lohrisch. Capy co-founder & sound engineer.
- Mr. Christian "Sea Dawg" Meyer aka @fiddler6. Capy QA & playtesting hero.
- Mr. Matt "Juggalor" Repetski. Capy co-founder & administration.
- Mr. Robert Ashley aka @robertashley. Voice of Logfella.
- Ms. Robyn Cumming at robyncumming.com. Voice of The Scythian.
- Mr. Clive Holden aka @cliveholden. Voice of The Archetype.
- Scientific American aka @scntfc. The strange sounds of The Moon Grotto.
- Mr. Brandon Boyer aka @brandonnn. Other mysterious goings-on.