Toawea io numoa na latu wata tu poka Huna Hotuteku pule li Hokuna. Did I just have a mini stroke? No of course not I was writing in Makoa couldn’t you tell. What I said was “Today I want to speak with you about A Rite from the Stars.” Taking place on the mystical Island of Kaikala, A Rite from the Stars is a truly unique game following the ritual passage into adulthood of the Makoa, an indigenous tribe on the island. The Makoa people seek guidance from the heavens to turn their children into adults. All must pass a heavenly rite, however every generation one child in particular is chosen by the stars to become a legend.
In this point and click 3D game players control a mute boy named Kirm. Unlike the other children traveling through the Rite, Kirm is chosen by the stars to become the next leader of his people. Therefore He must master the paths of Wisdom, Courage, and Spirit as well as vanquish a final trial. Not all of those chosen by the stars survive so Kirm’s journey into adulthood may also be a journey to his death.
With such dangerous odd against him Kirm does receive some help. To complete the paths of Wisdom, Courage, and Spirit Kirm will receive the guidance of previous star children. The previous star children are adorned with distinct leaf masks and hold respected positions in the tribe. The Cheif guides Kirm through wisdom, The First Hunter guides courage, and the Shaman guides spirit.
Outside of his tribe Kirm also receives the assistance of his spirit animal, a meerkat named Mirk. This means players get to engage the game with two different characters. However, keep in mind the two are spiritually bound so if one dies the other goes with it.
[Hope you don’t have commitment issues]
The people behind this game call themselves The Risin’ Goat, a small indie dev team based out of Madrid, Spain. This is the first game being developed by Risin’ Goat, and they hope to stand out with the games tribal theme. It seems to be working, as they have already been Greenlighted by the Steam community. Despite being open about their plans of world domination the team was very friendly and eager for an interview.
[Possibly because they want to indoctrinate the minds of our readers…did I think this through?]
Unfortunately, I was unable to get a direct interview with their leader, The Goat. However, I was allowed to speak with one of The Goat’s hostages and game designers Carlos L. Hernando.
I read on your website that your dev team calls themselves the Risin’ Goat in honor of “The Goat.” Can you tell me a little about how you first came to know of The Goat and how The Goat inspired (or kidnapped and forced) you to make an indie game team?
Well, I have to say that The Goat had just resurrected when I met It. From what I know, The Goat’s plan to take over the world includes making a videogame.
[Well at least Its creative]
Maybe It is planning to get famous? I don’t know, but as I had just finished my game design studies I was a perfect candidate for the team. ‘Fresh meat’ was Its own words. Although, I was not the first who was in Its presence after this last resurrection. I met The Goat through David, our Project Manager.
A Rite from the Stars is the first game being produced under Risin’ Goat. While it is a first for the team what level of experience does everyone bring to the table?
None of us have worked in a professional/traditional videogame company before. However, each member of the team has taken part in related projects like software apps, videogames for museums or 3D modeling for advertising. Fabián, one of our programmers has over twenty years of coding experience!
Your game takes place on the Island of Kaikala, and follows the tribe of Makoa. This tribal theme is not as common as say military or fantasy quest games. What drew you to create an indigenous world?
I have always found rites of passages to be fascinating. Especially those involving a child becoming an adult. Every culture performs these kinds of rites, including ours, but indigenous tribes have a very strict set of rules and stages for them. Just like a videogame! After studying many cultures, the team chose Hawaii and Polynesia as main references. In fact, Makoa means “brave” in Hawaiian.
“Perfect Segway I was about to ask you about that…” – Emily
The architecture of buildings in the game seem Mayan /Aztec influenced, and the characters share traits of the indigenous Polynesian cultures. What groups most influenced the creation of the Makoa tribe and is there any relation to the Makoa tribe of Madagascar?
“Segway is always good!” – Carlos
We wanted a big temple as one of the major locations in A Rite from the Stars. However, the Makoa didn’t build it. There are a lot of ruins shattered across the face of the Island of Kaikala, being this temple the bigger one. They belong to an ancient and more advanced civilization that disappeared a thousand years ago from the island. The Makoa just uses their remains in their rites.
As you said, we took Aztec and Mayan influences to create this ancient culture. We also received the counsel of an archeologist in order to create it.
To be honest, I didn’t know there was a Makoa tribe in Madagascar! Such a coincidence. Maybe if we had known them, we could have used them as an inspiration too. However, our Makoa are based on Hawaiian and Polynesian cultures.
Although Kirm [the main character] is mute, his leaders and other characters do speak. I saw the voice actors video and came across your Makoa translator, how did you “hokoda” this language?
It’s so great reading something in Makoa that I haven’t written!
All started as we looked for a way to make voice acting cheaper. Recording the voices, for one, instead of doing it for several languages was a good approach. So we thought that it was a good idea to create our own language.
The first thing we did was taking Hawaiian sounds to “hokoda” it. This included every vowel and these consonants: H, K, M, N, L, P, H y W, being K, H y W the most common ones. We also added the R because Kirm existed before the language. With this, we started creating words with these rules.
Then we took the English grammar and Spanish pronunciation to give shape to the language and expanded the language beyond a thousand words.
The problem was that voice acting became a nightmare for our actors and actresses because they didn’t know what the hell they were saying. It was my work to be translating every single take of the script to them and correcting their pronunciation to make a coherent work. It was really hard.
Also, translating all the script to Makoa was a nightmare for me too due to tight deadlines. However, it improves the game and it’s OST, which is sung in Makoa too.
In one of Risin Goat’s blog posts, it talked about the spiritual link of the Makoa people to the forest “This link represents that every Makoa has an incomplete soul, being his or her other half in the jungle, in a Meerkat’s body” First off the incomplete soul idea really caught my attention. But I have to ask why a meerkat, and what role will it play?
“I’m surprised The Goat allowed another animal” – Emily
“Hahaha, I think The Goat prefers to stay in the shadows for now.” – Carlos
Anyway, the idea comes from a real belief of some animistic tribes from South America. They believed that every human has a link with a jungle animal. So if anything happens to one of them, the other will suffer the consequences too. They used this belief to explain strange diseases or sudden deaths.
What we did here was taking this belief and turning into a mechanic. During the Path of Courage you will control Kirm and Mirk, his Power Meerkat. Cooperation will be the key to solve this path’s challenges. And of course, if one of them dies, the other will follow.
When I started to develop this mechanic, I thought including a bird as Power Animal. It would work as a wrapping hook to interact with far away objects, but that was too close to a classic point&click adventure approach and we also had that in the Path of Wisdom. So when I decided to switch to an autonomous animal, we voted species and … Well, it seems my team’s second favorite animal is the meerkat. It was really a good choice, not only because its cuteness, but because it can stand so it can perform some human actions.
What is the significance of a star chosen child? Are Kirm’s three mentor also star chosen? How is his rite different?
Every few years, it’s not a set period of time, a great number of shooting stars appear upon the Island of Kaikala. The Makoa Shaman can predict which night it will happen, so children between 7 and 12 years go deep into Kaikala’s wilderness to receive a vision from the stars. Once they get the vision, they return to the village. This is the common rite.
However, one of them, only one per generation, will meet a star face to face. These stars are known as guiding stars and are sent to Kaikala to guide the chosen ones in their rite of passage. This rite is much tougher than the common one. Before returning to the village a chosen one must overcome three paths: Wisdom, Courage and Spirit. Once completed, a Final Rite awaits. If a child abandons the rite of passage, he won’t be considered a Makoa anymore. Also, many chosen ones die trying to overcome the rite. That’s why the children who succeed become legends and hold a position of honor within the tribe.
Kirm is this generation’s chosen one and his masters were chosen ones too in past generations.
Attracting an audience who enjoys the classic feel of point and click games seems to be a very important aspect of the game development. How exactly do you hope to draw both new and seasoned gamers to A Rite from the Stars? And where do you think players will experience that classic feel in the game?
I think we have inherited the classic spirit of point and click adventures. However, by implementing new mechanics and reducing some of their core elements, like inventories or long conversation trees, we expect to appeal to other kind of players too. Moreover, I think A Rite from the Stars would be a good starting point for people who have never played a graphic adventure, because it is a more dynamic game than the average often seen in this genre.
However, as I said, the classic spirit remains. We have taken care of the story, the characters and the puzzles to keep the genre alive within our pixels while we offer something new.
More and more indie dev teams are moving away from simple pixel games and as you said “inventories and long conversation trees”. Often times I come across games such as yours that would surprise many people to find out it’s an indie game. Do you see the stereotypes that people have of indie games changing? And what other goals do you see Rising Goat pursuing in the future?
I see that the indie game movement, if you want to call it that, is filling the gaps that bigger studios can’t or don’t want to fill. Some of those gaps are classic genres that had almost disappeared. Pixel art games, platformers and, of course graphic adventures, in fact, there are a huge rebirth here in Spain.
However, other gaps include innovation, experimentation or even artistic sensibility. Games like The Beginner’s Guide, The Witness or SUPERHOT are demonstrating that the games can move towards new and exciting directions.
So I think stereotypes are falling and for good reason. The next years are going to be amazing for players that want to live experiences beyond blockbuster titles. And, although the term “indie” will remain, its true meaning will become incredibly diverse. I’m excited for that.
So our goals are clear: finish A Rite from the Stars, survive and make another game. Probably something different and totally unrelated.
The Risin’ Goat team can be found on KickStarter, Steam, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Soundcloud, maybe even the Bible? I’m not sure but they have a lot of links so if won’t be difficult to keep up with their progress. Personally, I am enthralled by those Leaf Masks! And the story also peaks my interest, but for now all we can do is just sit and wait to see what updates will be released next.
Oh and If you are still unsure about what “hokoda” means try using Risin’ Goat translator.