Interview with Brandon Goins of Windy Hill Studios on Kickstarter for His 2D Sidescroller "Orphan"
If you happen to be on Kickstarter checking out the next potential game, you're likely to happen upon Kickstarter's staff pick, the 2D sidescroller, Orphan. The first big project for Windy Hill Studio, Orphan has rich photographic backgrounds, a silhouette style reminiscent of Limbo, and a goosebump-inspiring story. I recently interviewed Orphan creator and Windy Hill Studio head Brandon Goins on his Kickstarter project, which is currently in progress.
Jessa Rittenhouse: You say in your Kickstarter video that you were inspired by the 2D sidescrolling platforms you used to play. Was there a particular influence for the story told in Orphan? Why a young protagonist, rather than an adult?
Brandon Goins: I think games generally speaking are for kids. Sure, adults like to play them too, but by and large - and I don't care that the statistics say the average gamer is 29 or whatever - gamers are kids and so games for the most part should appeal to kids. When I was younger it seems that a lot more game heroes were young, but there is less of that today. Main characters are more often some kind of dark antihero that kids can't relate to. Orphan is somewhat of a fantasy game for kids in that it lets a child be the hero, get to play with weapons and go an adventure by himself. That's what young boys especially want to do in real life.
JR: Do you think Orphan will appeal as much to young girls as it will to boys?
BG: That is an excellent question and one I've thought hard about. It would be simple to allow the player to choose between a boy and girl character. It probably wouldn't change anything else in the game aside from getting a second voice actor.
If it were requested I certainly would consider it, but my own thought on it now is that it by doing that it makes the character interchangeable, and I want the character to have substance.
JR: You've said you've spent many years as a photographer. What made you decide to transition to making games?
BG: Well, when I was young I liked to draw, and then when I got a computer I liked to play with graphics. When I got a camera I enjoyed editing photos as much as I enjoyed taking them, sometimes more. But I think all this obsession with visual arts came from watching graphics evolve on the game systems I was playing. It just took me a long time to come full circle, but eventually I figured out that everything that I was good at doing were the ingredients to game design.
Orphan's visual style blends rich, real world images with detailed raster graphics.
JR: What made you decide to make the game design document open?
BG: Orphan is in a very early state which means the video trailer I was able to produce has very limited gameplay. I hoped sharing my ideas more in-depth would give people a better understanding of the type of game I am making.
JR: You've undertaken this project on your own. If Orphan is successful, do you think you think you'll make other games? If so, will you expand your studio? Do you have ideas for future games already?
BG: I'll certainly make other games, but I don't see ever expanding. I'd like to make my own little games in my own little way. I would have a hard time letting someone else work on something I was making. It may be a fault, but this is something I want to do in my own backwards ways.
JR: The video opens with a clip from a sermon - “Blow the Trumpet, Sound the Alarm” courtesy of Bruce Ray of Juanita Baptist Church. What is the significance of this sermon in Orphan? Will it appear in the finished game?
BR: Well, growing up in the Bible belt, you end up thinking about things like the "End Times" which describe a lot of very strange things [...] when you have scripture talking about an army of the likes that have not been seen before leaping over mountains and leaving fire and destruction in their wake, it's very easy to imagine that as a Steven Spielberg movie starring giant alien machines.
The finished game will certainly feature more preaching. Orphan is set in Appalachia and if you've ever driven through any small Appalachian town at night and flipped through the radio channels there is always going to be a preacher talking fire and brimstone.
There will be radios in Orphan and so there will be some opportunities to hear more apocalyptic and strangely-fitting sermons.
Orphan is a young boy fighting his way through Appalachia following a massive alien invasion of Earth.
JR: You've chosen to make Orphan for PC, Linux, Mac, and Steam, with a stretch goal of bringing the game to PS4. If you were to raise enough funds to exceed this stretch goal, would there be plans to bring Orphan to other platforms?
BG: Probably not. I get asked about the WiiU more than any other platform but currently Nintendo is not supporting GM:Studio, which rules that out. XBox is supported but it will not be feasible to launch on Xbox as a first-time indie developer. Orphan will not be very mobile friendly either.
JR: What made you think that photography would translate well into gaming? Was there a specific moment or experience that made you decide that gamers would appreciate this visual experience in a 2D sidescroller?
BG: Well, photography and videography have been my number one hobby for a long time and so I just like to see things that look that certain way. I've always been a sucker for games with realistic graphics and so when I started to work on Orphan, it just seemed like the natural thing to do to dig into my own archive of photos and see what I could turn into graphics.
Orphan's Kickstarter ends Tuesday, March 3, so check it out soon!