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Yi and the Thousand Moons – Developers Inside Look

This interview has been edited and condensed. 

David Su’s video game musical features a unique playthrough with an award-winning soundtrack. Although short, the game provides a very relaxing experience, embarking on the archer Yi’s journey to save the village. After several playthroughs, I was craving to play more story games with a focus on original music. However, the market for these games is limited, leading me to believe that this could be an excellent platform for more original composers to feature their music in a unique, visual way.

Yi and the Thousand Moons has already been featured IN: 

- 2017 TIGA Games Industry Awards

- 2107 Bit Awards

- 2018 Independent Games Festival

- MIT Hacking Arts 2017

I had the pleasure of catching up with the developer David Su and wanted to share some of our discussions.

What inspired you to make this game?

I was inspired by the Chinese myth of Hou Yi, an archer who shoots down all but one sun to prevent the world from overheating. I thought it would be interesting to flip the idea and have it so that the protagonist, instead of saving the world, actually makes things worse. Here, they're moons instead of suns, to sort of reinforce that mirroring. Conceptually, after I made Runaway Reverie, I had wanted to expand the idea of an interactive song to an entire musical, so this seemed like a good opportunity to try that out.

You are a musician, game developer, and researcher. How do you balance all these?

I think the key to balancing things is to just do them all - combine them and not think of them as separate things. It's difficult because it's natural to want to categorize parts of what you do, but often it's the space between them that's the most interesting.

Do you find yourself favoring one passion over the others?

I'd say everything I do comes back to music in one form or another. But again, I try not to draw too many barriers between the different avenues I'm passionate about.

Is there anything you would have done differently looking back at this game?

I would have probably tried to solidify the concept and spend more time planning things. I dove straight into development, both with the songs and the gameplay elements, which I think made it harder to get a sense of the bigger picture at times. I would also maybe give larger roles to some of the supporting characters, and really flesh everything out with more detail. I would start playtesting way earlier as well. [EN: Emphasis added]

Between the music and game development, how long did it take you to make this game?

All in all, I'd say it took about four months of full-time development.

Do you have plans to make an expansion or add DLC?

No plans at this point, but never say never!

If approached, would you allow this original sound track to be featured in other games?

That's an interesting idea. If the songs would fit the setting, then I'm all for it, although I don't know how well these songs would work in the context of a different story and world, given how closely tied they are to the narrative and to each other. I would be open to trying things out, though.

Did you find yourself base the game around the music, or the music around the game?

I'd say I based the game on the music. That's probably another thing I would do differently, or at least play with doing the other way around to see how it changes things. Although I will say that at a certain point the game and the music do develop side-by-side. For example, with "Orange Grey Skies" I had a pretty clear picture of how the interactions with the villagers were going to work even before getting all the specific lyrics down.

Did you run into any challenges when making the game?

I ran into a lot of challenges! Most of them involved putting different elements together or debugging things, but also general project management. I have a newfound respect for people who manage to wrangle projects that go on for years and not lose direction or get overwhelmed.

Do you plan on making more video game musicals?

I intend to make more video game musicals, especially ones that are a bit larger in narrative scope, with longer plotlines and deeper characters. I love the idea of interactive storytelling in a non-linear fashion, all done through song. I also want to experiment with more innovative and responsive means of interacting with the music, such that it's interesting from both a musical and gameplay perspective. I think there's a ton of exciting exploration to be done on that front.

Do you plan to work with the same musical cast again?

I hope so! They were amazing and a total joy to work with.

What did you enjoy the most when creating this game?

Honestly, the entire creative process was super fulfilling for me. Seeing everything come together piece by piece was a pretty fantastic experience, especially working with the singers and musicians and getting their final recorded parts. That was a real treat, to hear everything brought to life.

Thanks for your time! Are there any shout-outs that you would like to make?

Absolutely! For shout-outs... the incredible cast and band of course, for making all of this possible. The play-testers for helping me see things in a different light. The folks over at Jump for taking a chance with the game as part of their platform launch. My friends and family for their guidance and encouragement. Last but not least, my partner in crime, Dominique Star, for all her support and for doing everything from singing to mix engineering to art direction and more.
Be sure to check out Yi and the Thousand Moons, on Steam available Nov. 24th to experience the musical masterpiece for yourself, as well as support David Su as he continues to perk ears and continue his love for gaming, music, and research.

Serge Gaidamaka
Written by
November 28, 2017
Published in Editorial

Serge likes stealing jokes from Always Sunny and The Office to make himself seem funnier. He moonlights as an IT engineer during the day, but hunts for unknown Twitch streamers to support at night. He would like to thank his cat, Leepka, for her continued love and support.

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