Stardew Valley, Harvest Moon, Animal Crossing, and more are all games that fans of the genre adore and love. I loved my time with Animal Crossing and enjoyed each minute of my playthrough and the time spent on my island.
What makes these games so great is the overall aesthetic and unique style each one has, on top of managing to include significant, engaging gameplay that manages to balance relaxing and rewarding mechanics for the player.
Now I bring these games up because, whilst I’ve enjoyed my time with all of them, I’ve always wanted a game like Stardew Valley or Animal Crossing to take its setting or inspiration, at least in a south-east Asian setting, as I’ve always thought that would make a great place for a game of this nature.
I never really managed to find anything of the sort until I stumbled across the Steam Next Fest last year, which showcased a brilliant-looking game with a short trailer, and that game was known as SPIRTTEA. Many described the game as Studio Ghibli’s Spirited Away meets Stardew Valley.
To briefly explain what Spirittea is other than Spirited Away meets Stardew Valley, Spirittea is a life and management sim. Where the player goes about their day-to-day tasks, helping the charming and full-of-life NPCs around them.
The game is set in a lovely countryside setting, where the player has found themselves due to the main character wanting to find a place to finish their book, as the character you control is a writer. However, things quickly erupt as, upon drinking tea, the player can not only see but also interact with the spirits of the world.
The player then finds themselves having to manage day-to-day tasks on top of managing a bath house for the spirits of the land whilst also trying to finish their book. The game has a lot to offer and so much more to do, such as decorating, doing fun activities and events with the local NPCs, and solving the problems the spirits have.
Spirittea comes from developer Cheesemaster Games and is the developer’s second fully published game available on Steam. The first game from the developer was known as Fables of Talumos and was a very different type of game.
However, it was the developer’s first project, and after trying out many things with Fable of Talumos, they decided to take a crack at a game like Spirittea. While I have been saying “developers,” it’s actually very important to note that Spirittea is a one-man project in terms of development.
The game is being created solely by Dan Beckerton, which makes it more impressive. Spirittea has been on many people’s radars since its first reveal, and thanks to Dan, I had the pleasure of sitting down and interviewing him to talk about the upcoming game and ask what players can expect from Spirittea. Now that we have all of that covered, let’s dive into the Spirittea Interview!
A Cuppa, And A Chat
Question 1: How would you best describe what Spirittea is for people who don’t know the game?
Answer: It’s a life sim set in a fictional East Asian setting where you’re an author trying to finish your book in a small town. But you get mixed up with this kind of spiritual mishaps happening around the town, and you need to run a bathhouse for the spirits so that they stop causing trouble and can rest easy, sort of thing.
Question 2: I first saw Spirittea about a year ago during the Steam Next Fest Showcase and was impressed by the game. However, I was impressed by the fact that the game, from a development viewpoint, looked well put together. So really, I’m just curious how long have you been developing Spirittea?
Answer: I started in September 2019. Spirittea is the second game I’ve made, but it’s the first, honestly, real one. The previous game, Fables of Thalamus.
It was a top-down Zelda adventure-type game. The pixel art was pretty terrible. It’s a lot of design things, like the resolution being 220 by 130 or something like that. It was super zoomed in, but that was my tutorial. That was my first jump into game development and my learning process.
And so once I finished that, I thought, let’s try a different kind of game. And honestly, both of them are very different games, and they’ve helped me round out my knowledge of Gamemaker Studio, which I used to make the game. And it also helped improve my pixel art and stuff. So it’s my first real game.
Question 3: You started with the top-down game Fables of Thalamus. So how did you go from that to even getting the idea to make a game like Spirittea?
Answer: I was inspired by movies like Spirited Away, which is probably one of my favorite movies. And I also lived in Korea for four years, teaching English. So I got the idea while I was over there.
I like the setting, and I like East Asia. I visited Japan a couple of times, and I was making a game that I would like to play; I like Zelda, I like games like that, and I also like Stardew Valley a lot and stuff like that. So I thought, “It’d be sweet if there were a game set in East Asia, and yeah, the bathhouse side of it probably just came from spirited away.
But it was mostly meant to be a love letter to my time in Korea. The setting of Spirittea is this huge mixture of cultures. Some people are like, Oh, this place is set in Japan,” and I’m like, “Not really.”
So when I’m watching people play the demo and stuff, I won’t correct them on it. The game could be set in Japan, but there’s probably a bit more Korea there than Japan. But I love both countries. So it’s just a mixture of both.
Question 4: I noticed in the game that the community is quite a big part of Spirittea. However, would you say that the community is quite a big part of the game when strictly talking from a development side?
Answer: Not at this point. I know my publisher; they’re doing testing on it right now. They will do an open beta at some point, and I’m pretty sure anyone in the Discord can get a copy early if they want it.
Then at that point, we’ll be listening to a lot of community feedback and stuff like that. But up to now, it’s just me and the publisher rounding out the game and making it playable.
Question 5: You had a Kickstarter for the game, which reached its goal, and the overall feedback was great. From a game developer’s viewpoint, how does it feel to see the game getting all this great feedback and reception?
Answer: Yeah, from a game developer’s perspective, it’s funny because, at the start of this whole thing, I wasn’t even sure if I could even call myself that because my first game raised 1200 bucks on Kickstarter and a large portion of that was probably family. I think it had 55 backers in total.
Question 6: How important would publishers be for independent studios like yours? From an outsider’s perspective, you can’t gauge their importance.
Answer: If you need funding, that’s an insane amount of help because I would have started to have to apply for other regular jobs again when I was running low on money; it’s not like they’re paying me money to live a luxury lifestyle, you know when you approach a publisher, you come up with a plan, you show them your plan of how long I think it’s going to take me to work on the game and then you go from there.
However, it’s also just another pair of eyes on your project. I’d say that time management is one of the most significant benefits that they can provide. Overall They have been extremely helpful.
Question 7: The bathhouse aspect of the game is a huge part of Spirittea. Could you explain how it works for people as it is one of the most exciting aspects of Spirittea, and did you also have the bathhouse in mind from the very start of developing Spirittea?
Answer: I think it was always part of the plan to have a management side. I knew I didn’t want to make it a farming sim. Simply put, there are enough of them already. So, I thought, “Yeah, this would be a good spin to take with it.
There are so many types of spirits in the game, so you’ll have to figure out where you want to put them; kind of like spirited away, right? There are different spirits. In the movie, they had their little paths, and you had big, gross, musky spirits that you obviously wouldn’t want sitting with everyone else. So yeah, the spirits in Spirittea are the same.
The spirits belong to one of the four seasons, so the spirits all belong to one of them. Opposite seasons don’t like to sit beside each other.
So, there’s that aspect of it. But then there are, I think, five different abnormal spirits with unique bathing mechanics. Some swim and will swim to a new spot, so maybe you will have a spirit that doesn’t like to sit beside a fall spirit, but it swims around. And so maybe it’ll end up beside a fall spirit for a while. And so, they just ruin everyone’s time.
So, once you get familiar with the spirits, too, you’ll be like, All right, these are swimmers, so I’m not going to put them in. I will put them in a bath by themselves, so they don’t bother anyone else, you know?
Question 8: The overall art style for Spirittea is truly fantastic. However, one thing I loved about the game was the music. I thought the music matched the vibe of the game perfectly. Did you make the music, or was that someone else?
Answer: No, the composer David Linares made the music. He messaged me during the Kickstarter, saying he loved the game and wondered if I had a composer. And at that point, I was going to do it on my own because I did the first game’s music. But, just like in game development, I’m a novice music maker.
So I thought, Maybe I should get someone to help me with this. So I made the game’s Kickstarter music. However, David made the game’s actual music, and I think it’s a pretty clear difference when you listen to it.
Question 9: How long does it take to design and program one of the characters in the game?
Answer: Yeah, it takes a while, especially because I was overambitious and made their schedules way more complicated than needed. Eric, an NPC in the game, has a different daily schedule. For example, he goes to a convenience store for food every day. That’s when you can do hobbies with NPCs when they have free time.
But for Sunday alone, his schedule includes exercise in the park and gaming in the apartment. First, however, I must ask what he is doing at all these places. If he’s at the convenience store, he’s shopping; if he’s at his apartment, he’s to be playing games and exercising. And then you have him sleeping and other stuff going on, and that’s just five different sprites alone for that.
Question 10: How many NPCs will there roughly be in Spirittea, then?
Answer: I think it’s technically 27, but that includes three animals. Two dogs and Radish, the cat, but they’re a bit easier because they have them going to their destination just sitting there. So maybe I’ll do a couple of different sprites for them. However, I haven’t finished all the sprites yet.
Question 11: Aside from character programming and design, what are you most proud of from the development side of things for Spirittea?
Answer: Well, I think the quests and the different situations you encounter with the spirits. Each NPC has their own quest except for the three animals; the NPCS also have a quest related to a spirit bothering them.
So in total, that’s 24 quests right there. But I think I’m most proud that the requests are all very different for each character, and I tried to make them unique and not just fetch quests.
Question 12: This is my last question. Is there anything you want to say about the game?
Answer: I just want to apologize for the delays; it’s already supposed to have been out, but we are just trying to make it the best it possibly can be. We don’t want to release it in a bad state and fix it after it’s released. We just want to release it in a good state. So, yeah, please be patient.
Question: What platforms is Spirittea coming to?
Answer: Spirittea is going to be available on PC, PlayStation 4 and 5, Nintendo Switch, Xbox series S and X, and the Steam Deck.
Question: What is the Objective of Spirittea?
Answer: In Spirittea, the main objective for the player is to finish the chapters of their book, as the player is an author. Once the chapters have been finished, the player can leave the quiet village. However, that’s not the only thing that the player is going to be doing. The player will have to help not only the townsfolk but also the spirits that occupy the village.
Question: When is Spirittea Coming Out?
Answer: Spirittea has an estimated release date of 2023, but no date has been set yet. The game was supposed to be released early this year, but it has been delayed in order to ensure it ships in the best possible state.
However, when it is released this year, the game will also be available on Game Pass, so if you are hesitating about trying out the game, this will be a great way to try it.
Tea Finished, and the Interview was Over!
And that ends the great sit-down I had with Dan talking about Spirittea. The game has a demo available right now on Steam and is definitely worth playing. If the game looks like something you would enjoy, don’t forget to wishlist it on Steam, as that helps indie developers massively.
Honestly, after that chat with Dan, it’s clear Spirittea has so much passion and love put into it, and I can really see people who love this genre loving Spirittea as it really has something unique and great to offer for the genre. I wish Dan and all the people helping and backing the project nothing but the best. That wraps up this interview.
Thanks for reading Indie Game Culture. SPIRITTEA STEAM LINK HERE: https://store.steampowered.com/app/1931010/Spirittea/
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