A small, start-up game development company based in Stockholm, Sweden is looking to bring a Studio Ghibli style twist to a classic among the steampunk genre; 1870’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. French novelist, Jules Gabriel Verne gained notoriety through the veritable bounty of time-honored literature that he produced, and his profound influence on the genre of science fiction. Verne penned such staples as A Journey to the Center of the Earth, The Mysterious Island, Around the World in Eighty Days and From the Earth to the Moon; but its his classic Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea that has seen more adaptations, parodies and nods than any other. The newest of which is an indie game by That Brain called Twenty Thousand Leagues Above the Clouds.
The steampunk aesthetic has taken the internet by storm in the last several years. Cosplayers are eagerly adapting their favorite game, anime, or television character into a steampunk version at seemingly every opportunity; complete with all of the gears, brass, and earthy brown trappings. The idea behind steampunk is that the Industrial Revolution as it is generally thought of today, never happened. Instead, steam power was popularized during the Victorian era and utilized has the primary energy source and the prolific chrome details of this modern world were replaced with their shiny antithesis, brass. Most steampunk fictions take place during an alternatively set Victorian era or Wild West setting.
Stockholm based That Brain is a small studio, consisting of three enthusiastic developers who whimsically refer to themselves as the “neurons” of That Brain. For a brain with only three neurons, That Brain has proven that small numbers can function on a mighty level. The talented trio of Jonatan Crafoord, Björn Albihn and Ville Ericsson has built the game from the ground up, primarily focusing on the graphics and sound effects as they continue the search for their plot writer.
Jonatan Crafoord of That Brain told Guardian Liberty Voice that the company has, “intentionally put the lion’s share of the work into the setting, scenery and technology instead. We are in fact looking for a writer to join the team, and want to provide as much of a blank page as we can within the framework of the game world.” The game world itself is a beautifully rendered steampunk twist on the idea of floating landmasses that has been seen in Hayao Miyazaki’s Laputa: Castle in the Sky and The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword.
Steampunk-stylized games appear to be gaining popularity with titles like WindForge by Snowed In Studios and Vertiginous Golf by Kinelco Limited; and while Twenty Thousand Leagues Above the Clouds may bear some similarities to WindForge, the games are already far too different to mistake. Twenty Thousand Leagues Above the Clouds draws inspiration from Bioware’s Baldur’s Gate, Joss Whedon’s Firefly, and the Studio Ghibli films of Hayao Miyazaki to create an intricately designed, immersive world. Gamers will have the option of playing side quests, or following along on the main story, which will follow a semi-linear plot that is likely to have a few twists.
The existing neurons of That Brain are funding the project out of their own pockets, and working for shares in the company. That Brain has explicitly said that they are looking to keep their team small; the company is currently looking for multi-talented people who can apply their skills to more than one area of the development process to contribute to the production of this Studio Ghibli, Whedon-esque twist on a steampunk classic.
By Faye Barton