Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons creator talks inspiration and a grander world
As a growing number of gaming websites continue to unveil their top games of 2013 (Shacknews' top games list coming soon!), a dark horse suddenly emerged from the indie sector. A Swedish film director named Josef Fares collaborated with Starbreeze Studios and 505 Games to help tell the story of a pair of siblings venturing across a fantasy world to help save their ailing father.
Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons excellently combined a powerful narrative with an innovative "single-player co-op" control scheme to create one of the most memorable gaming experiences of 2013. With Brothers firmly embroiled in many people's Game of the Year conversations, the time seemed right to talk to Mr. Fares about his game. On top of answering our questions, he was also more than happy to answer some questions from the Chatty community.
Shacknews: Now that Brothers is finished, how do you feel? Are you satisfied with the tale you've told and did it come out exactly as you first envisioned?
Josef Fares: I am very proud and very happy, especially that so many people have been moved by the game.
You are never really finished when you make a game so, of course, there were a lot of ideas I wanted to implement, however, there was no time. Just know that most of the vision is in there!
You and I first spoke back when you were first previewing Brothers to the press and you told me that the background scenes, like the trolls working the mines, were stories that could be left to the player's imagination. Have you heard any creative interpretations of the Brothers world from anyone that's played this game?
Yes, I have heard many interpretations. People truly have their own story in their mind and that is one reason I still don’t talk about the inspiration behind those features, instead I want players to interpret their own versions.
What were some of the trickier sequences to bring to the game, from a technical standpoint? Was there anything you wanted to include in the game that you weren't able to, because of technical restrictions?
The trickiest thing to implement was definitely the camera. We had a coder working only on that throughout the entire development period.
There was an idea I would have loved to implement but was not able to. After the brothers meet the girl I wanted to create a scene with they start to fight each other because of the girl. I realized that in order to implement it we would have to separate them from fighting each other and that would call for a second control stick.
How did you decide on the fantasy elements used in this game? What made you decide on trolls, giants, and other elements of myth that Brothers used?
I have always loved the world of fantasy. Brothers was inspired a lot from Swedish myth and fairy tale.
Brothers was a wonderful experience, but it was also a short one. There have been several notable games like Brothers, Gone Home, and The Stanley Parable that are memorable, yet shorter than the average game. How do you feel these shorter experiences resonate with fans and is this a trend you expect to see continue?
I hope that more people focus on the experience rather than the amount of time it takes. In Brothers, we could have easily made it into a seven hour game, but that would mean re-using the game mechanics, over and over. I felt it was more important to keep the game fresh and unique all of the time. My personal opinion is that many of today’s games are way too long and keep repeating the same thing. I don´t have anything against longer games as long as they keep the experience fresh. I know that people keep saying they want value (as in longer games) for their money but I personally value my experience on a game rather than time.
Did you ever expect to see Brothers thrown into so many Game of the Year conversations? And does this acclamation encourage you to stay in the world of video games or do you see yourself returning to film in the future?
I knew we had a very special game, but had no clue that it would be received like this. I will definitely make more games in the future, especially as a lot of doors and possibilities have opened up, and I will still keep making movies, too.
What's next for you?
Many things that I can´t talk about yet but you will for sure see more games from me in the future.
Lionel2b asks: Where did the idea for Brothers stem from? Did it draw inspiration from other games?
The idea came from the urge to make something new and to tell an emotional story. Games that have inspired me are Journey and Ico, as well as top down games from the Super Nintendo era such as The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy, and Secret of Mana.
kikilupo asks: How did you ultimately decide on the control scheme? Did you try out different controls before deciding on the current layout?
The control scheme was a day one decision, as it was the entire idea behind the game. So there was never any question about changing it.
TheIneffableBob asks: What were some of the development issues that arose over the course of making Brothers? And how did you go about resolving them?
I have to say the camera. It was way more difficult than I thought it would have been. We really struggled a lot with it, because we have so many different systems for pretty much every situation you encounter in the game.
BlackCat9 asks: What was behind the decision to tell so much of the backstory of the world through the bespoke interactive set pieces (like the villagers that each boy can talk to in the first level or the plight of the ogre that you need to help) rather than traditional narration or dialog? Did you find that it was harder or easier to tell the story that way than through other techniques?
I love the idea that it is up to the player to interpret the characters and their personalities. The reason I choose a made-up language is that it forces the player to interact by focusing on interpreting the story in their own way. Since I have only worked on Brothers, I don’t know if this way of telling the story was harder or easier that the traditional way.
ahlee asks: Was there a particular set piece that, when fully implemented, far exceeded your expectations?
Yes, the climbing with the troll in Chapter 1. We worked so hard on that, I almost thought it wasn’t going to be possible, yet it turned out to be great.
ahlee asks: What was your average work day like? How did the working hours for directing a game compare to the hours required to direct a film?
Talking, implementing, playing and talking, implementing and playing again. For me, this game was much more work than working on a film however that could be because it’s my first game.
ahlee asks: Was the linear direction of Brothers out of a desire to tell your story or was it a byproduct of limited production time? Was there ever a desire to tell a more choice-oriented story?
The linearity is there because of how the story is told but also to create the right pace for the player. There were some discussions about choices that the player should have in the game, but there was no time in the production for that.
SirX asks: Brothers isn't what some would classify as a 'happy' game. Was there concern that the game's tone would hurt interest in the game?
To be honest, that never crossed my mind. My only concern and focus was to deliver a great game.
GodZilly asks: What's been your favorite game of 2013?
The Last Of Us, Super Mario 3D World, and The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Two Worlds.
Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is available now on Xbox 360, PS3, and PC.
Brothers' world hides a much grander mythology