You are struggling to survive with your brother; every day you’re getting weaker. Desperation settles in and you decide to venture into the woods for food in order to save him.
The deeper you journey into the forest, the more you lose yourself in the mighty trees, thick undergrowth, and the seemingly tranquil settings. You start to lose yourself in the forest; becoming less human as you venture into it. What you must struggle to remember is that everything you are doing is not just for you, it’s also for your brother.
A New Game with Classic Elements
For My Brother is a 2d puzzle platformer that takes elements from classics such as Megaman and more modern offerings like Shadow Of the Colossus, which makes for a fascinating game. Made by Crooked Tree Studios, the studio that brought us Throw Trucks With Your Mind, with the popular group Machinae Supremacy crafting the soundtrack of this unique-looking title.
The game is motivated by the relationship the sister has with her brother and how it develops as she becomes less human the deeper she goes into the forest. Everything she does is for him, and the idea of their relationship crumbling because of her inevitable transformation is heartbreaking to say the very least. The game promises to be an interesting trip into what it means to be truly human. Or to question what ‘human’ actually is.
I had a chance to ask Crooked Tree Studios a few questions, this is who they are and their roles in the company as a whole.
Crooked Tree Studios staff:
Lat Ware – “I’m the programmer, CEO, and resident mad scientist.”
Katy Levinson – “I do whatever needs to be done: buisness development, programming, marketing, whatever.”
Caspian Priebe – “My official title is concept artist but we’re a small studio so I pretty much art whatever needs to be arted. I do 2D/3D work, illustration, graphic design, level design, etc etc etc.”
Kiyome Provost – “I am our technical artist. My main roles are rigging and fx. I also do a variety of other tasks between art and programming.”
Matt Olch – “I’m the team’s animator. I’m also responsible for some visual and game design.”
How did Crooked Tree Studios come into being?
Lat: “I had been working on Throw Trucks With Your Mind for two years, testing the game design in a friendly, local coffee shop until I hit the point where I was unable to continue further without an art team. So, I interviewed fellow graduates of DigiPen until I had the team picked out that could handle the completion of Throw Trucks With Your Mind. But, I didn’t have the budget to pay the team, so I created the Kickstarter. That succeeded and, one year later, Throw Trucks With Your Mind came out. Now, we’re working on the next project: For My Brother. “
How did you go from a game like Throw Trucks With Your Mind to For My Brother?
Katy: “It turns out there’s a lot more to being a video game company than just making amazing games. Some of that stuff is logistics and that’s hard. Throw Trucks With Your Mind is a lot of fun to play, but mailing those headsets around and keeping inventory is a pain.
“Tougher still, medical testing is a very slow process, and so while we’re excited to see Throw Trucks With Your Mind getting tested to see how well it treats ADD and behavioral symptoms related to Autistic Spectrum Disorders, we understand the scientific process takes time and just can’t be rushed.
“We’re really excited to make games which are really groundbreaking in gameplay or might have medical applications, but we can probably only make one at a time. For For My Brother we had to think of new ways to be innovative, so we focused on the art style and story.”
Lat: “We have more ideas for games than we can possibly make of all sorts of genres. The whole team is made up of people with tremendous skill sets, so we’re not limited to any one genre. The consistent theme is that we like to make games that challenge the player in interesting ways and For My Brother will be no exception.”
Caspian: “You know, it doesn’t feel like that big of a difference for me, at least artistically. Both games are fairly heavily stylized and make use of bright exaggerated colors and hand-painted textures. I really want to do a gory horror game or gritty dystopian scifi one day, THAT will be a leap.”
What inspired you to make a game like this?
we didn’t try to shoehorn anything else in once we had the core experience of the game hammered out
Lat: “In short, we love Megaman, Shadow Of The Colossus, and The Secret Of The Kells. There are other things that we love, but they didn’t fit in For My Brother. We’re big on the idea that features should be awesome or absent. So, we didn’t try to shoehorn anything else in once we had the core experience of the game hammered out. We wanted to tell a story about what you are willing to do to protect someone you love, and how that affects your relationship with them.”
What is the storyline of For My Brother?
Lat: “You and your brother are starving. You adventure into the woods to find food and every success for your brother’s survival takes you further away from your humanity.”
The artwork of the game looks unique but visually stunning what drove you to use this particular style of artistry?
we were really inspired by games like Okami and A Wolf Among Us, as well as the movie The Secret of Kells
Caspian: “Thank you! Illuminated manuscripts are one of my favorite things and it was an obvious choice when the idea of a celtic mythology-inspired story popped up. I really love seeing video games try out new things artistically (check out Cuphead if you haven’t seen it already!), so we definitely wanted to do something fitting of the “mood” and story instead of just falling back on standard realism. We were really inspired by games like Okami and A Wolf Among Us, as well as the movie The Secret of Kells. We’ve had a really great response to the art so far and I hope we can maintain the feel once we’ve moved from 2D concept art into final 3D game assets.”
On the Kickstarter page you mention that For My Brother resembles Shadow Of the Colossus, Megaman and Super Metriod, what elements did you draw from each of these games?
Lat: “From Shadow Of The Colossus, we pulled moral questions about what you’re willing to do for someone you love. From Megaman, we pulled the gameplay element of getting more powerful when you defeat powerful foes. From Super Metroid, we pulled the gameplay element of exploration and unlocking new areas with new powers, along with non-verbal storytelling. All of that comes together to make a powerful, emotional experience that can only really be conveyed in the medium of video games.”
What sort of Trials and Tribulations will The Sister have to face at the hands of The Cat?
Katy: “It’s a big part of this is that Cat isn’t particularly hunting her, in a lot of ways, she’s going out and hunting Cat in her quest to get something which will save her little brother from starving.”
Lat: “The sister keeps sacrificing elements of her humanity as the story goes on. This comes both as emotional and physical changes and in the updates, we posted concept art of what she’ll look like towards the end of the game.”
Machinae Supremacy is joining your team for the soundtrack, how was it working with them and what sort of music do they have planned for For My Brother?
Katy: “The 9-hour time difference sucks for planning and communication, but they really are amazing lighthearted people who know how to just roll with things.”
Lat: “They’re awesome! Aside from the massive time zone difference, they are a joy to work with. The music is going to sound a bit more Celtic than Machinae Supremacy’s normal work, but will firmly be grounded in their style.”
Caspian: “It’s a real thrill working with such awesome musicians! Between their music and the work from our awesome sound designer Stephanie, I think our trailer came together really well and I’m excited to see what they’ll be able to pull off in a full game.”
Out of the power-ups that have been shown for the game which would you like to have in your day to day life?
“I’ll gladly give up my shirt-wearing ability for wings.”
Lat: “I guess the feet, as I could hide that most easily. Part of the story is that the sister can’t fit in with normal human society.”
Kiyome: “Actually, due to the powers changing the form of her body, they’d probably all be relatively annoying while working at the computer.”
Caspian: “Wings obviously.”
Katy: “I’d agree with the wings, though they’d probably make putting shirts on hard.”
Caspian: “I’ll gladly give up my shirt-wearing ability for wings.”
Katy: “Maybe the dash feet? I never wear shoes anyway, and I am a determined but terrible runner. All of these powers come at a great personal cost to Sister though. I’m not sure I’d be as eager to trade in my humanity without needing to save somebody I love.”
What sort of feeling do you want people to have when they are finished playing your game?
If people are doing fan art I’ll know I’ve done something right.
Katy: “I’ll accept any form of “happiness” but ideally I’d like to communicate the idea of making decisions that were probably right but emotionally distanced you from somebody you love.”
Lat: “When people finish For My Brother, I want them to lean back from the computer and say, “oh, wow,” and have a think about everything that happened.”
Caspian: “Catharsis is nice, but I’d also love people to be kind of blown away and immediately want to rush back and play it over again now that they know the ending. If people are doing fan art I’ll know I’ve done something right.”
Thanks to Crooked Tree Studios for taking the time to answer these questions and for more information about For My Brother, check out the Kickstarter. This is a visually stunning and emotionally enveloping looking game that deserves to be looked at by the gaming comunity.