Spirittea immediately caught our eye when it was announced earlier this week, so we reached out to developer Cheesemaster Games for more info on the beautiful rural-life RPG.
Spirittea has just recently been announced as a rural-life RPG with life sim and management elements, where you help the denizens of the spirit world and befriend the inhabitants of a small town. It looks absolutely gorgeous, so we reached out to developer Cheesemaster Games to find out more, with sole developer Dan Beckerton having been kind enough to answer all our questions.
What is Spirittea?
Spirittea is a gorgeous “rural-life RPG” which combines life sim and management elements. It’s in development from Cheesemaster Games and published by No More Robots.
When does Spirittea launch?
We don’t have an exact release date for Spirittea yet, but we do know it’s coming to Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One later this year.
The potential scope and scale of Spirittea is especially impressive when you remember that Beckerton is the sole developer. “Working on Spirittea has been pretty special. I’ve never worked on any one project for so long in my life, and it’s continued to be an enjoyable process,” Beckerton says. “Prior to teaming up with No More Robots, however, I was always ‘on the clock.’ My wife and I were living off of savings in the very expensive city of Vancouver. Things were getting pretty dire there for a moment, but once funding was no longer a concern anymore, I could finally relax and properly infuse my creativity into the game. Having the flexibility to see a random idea through to fruition and include it in the game is so rewarding. That said, it’s been incredibly helpful having No More Robots there to help me realise just how long some ideas will take when it comes to one person working full-time. It’s the best of both worlds really.”
What’s it about?
In Spirittea, we play as a writer who travels to the countryside looking for inspiration for their next novel. Somehow, we accidentally end up drinking a tea that lets us see into the spirit world, meaning we can now also see the troublesome spirits causing mischief around the town. The town’s inhabitants have started to forget these spirits, and we need to step in before they’re completely lost. We’re given the key to a bathhouse by a cat spirit named Wonyan, and, from there, we’ll be looking to help the spirits, maintain the bathhouse for them, and to befriend the town’s locals.
“My goal with the game is to make the world of Spirittea somewhere the player can escape to for a break, or maybe just a change of scenery,” Beckerton begins. “I tried to make the town and townsfolk believable and I hope that every player can find at least one NPC that they can relate to and enjoy spending time with. It’s a game that provides the player with a load of freedom. You could, theoretically, finish the game very quickly if you simply focused on the task the protagonist is visiting the town to do; finish writing their book. That is, technically, the way you ‘finish’ the game,” he continues. “However, the goal of the game is for the player to explore the world, meet new characters, and enjoy their time with it. There’s a lot of stuff crammed into that little town. It’s just a matter of players stumbling upon it.”
Spirittea counts the likes of Stardew Valley and Animal Crossing amongst its inspirations, but it’s a unique twist to focus the game on the spirit world and the bathhouse in particular. “The core concept definitely came from thinking ‘What if there was a game kind of like Spirited Away where YOU were the one running the bathhouse?’ With that core idea, spirits and bathhouses were always going to be a part of the equation,” Beckerton says. “As someone who loves to take a hot bath myself it’s a very relatable concept.”
Beckerton is the sole developer behind Spirittea, and has been working on it for years. “I think more than the game Stardew Valley itself, I was inspired by the sort of underdog story of a solo developer starting as a novice but ending up creating a genre-defining game,” he explains. “I used to (and honestly still do) watch interviews and YouTube videos about lone/small development teams working on passion projects and somehow succeeding where so many others fail. Those sorts of stories always inspire me to do my best and hopefully, when it’s all done, there will be people who will love what I’ve created.” Beckerton also adds that time spent living in South Korea, as well as visiting Japan, Taiwan, and Vietnam, was another huge part of the inspiration behind Spirittea. “I hope I can capture even just a little of the feeling of being somewhere that’s extremely different from your home and share that with the player. Of course, when it comes to media/games my biggest inspirations would have to be Stardew Valley, Animal Crossing, Studio Ghibli films like Spirited Away and My Neighbor Totoro, and anime series like Natsume’s Book of Friends and Barakamon.”
What’s the gameplay like?
To start with: you can customise your character! And, from the sound of things, we’ll be kept busy in Spirittea. Along with helping spirits, we need to keep the bathhouse running too: keeping the towels clean, chopping wood, seating the spirits next to their friends, upgrading the bathhouse, keeping food coming from the kitchen, and more. This is in addition to befriending the locals: “The townsfolk in Spirittea each have two different hobbies (out of seven possible ones),” Beckerton begins. “Potential hobbies include: eating BBQ, fishing, bug catching, soaking in the hot springs, and more! When NPCs are not busy working, they will sometimes have ‘free time’ where the player can ask them to do one of their hobbies together. Some items or scenarios will only happen when doing an activity with a friend, so it’s worth hanging out with some of the locals from time to time. Of course, you can always do those hobbies on your own as well.”
If you decide you’re not in the mood for any of those activities, there’s still more to do. “You could always visit the shrines around town and see if you have any of the key items the spirits of that shrine have requested,” Beckerton explains. “You could do some shopping and customise the layout of your home. You could scavenge for ingredients you might need for making different dishes or bath elixirs. Or, you could simply enjoy people watching, or the beautiful view at the top of the hiking trail. Honestly, I’m putting a lot of effort into the sound design of the game in the hopes that it will help the player feel that much more immersed in the environment.”
Upgrading the bathhouse seems like it’ll be an important feature — interestingly, upgrading it could attract the intriguingly-named Lord Spirits. “Working at the bathhouse and catering to the spirits is the only way to earn money in Spirittea. Players keen on earning as much as they can quickly will likely realise that the more baths you’ve repaired, the more spirits you can seat at any given time, meaning more dollars (or “Moolags” in this world),” Beckerton says. “Once you’ve saved up enough, you’ll need to visit Fae, the local carpenter. She’s got an upgrade catalogue which lets you choose which bath you’d like to upgrade (or which wing of the bathhouse you’d like to clear) and how many days that will take to do. You won’t be able to run the bathhouse while Fae is upgrading (come on, don’t give the girl a heart attack with all of those spirits around), so the player will have to keep busy doing other things during those construction days.”
What’s the world like?
So, we know Spirittea is set in a rural town in East Asia. “The world of Spirittea has a bit of history, but it’s not really something that’s crammed down your throat. I’d like for the town to feel like it could actually exist somewhere in reality. As such, it doesn’t really refer much to fictional countries, celebrities or things like that,” Beckerton begins. “The particular area the player has decided to move to, however, hints at some of the history. Long ago the area had many more shrines and temples, and the people used to practice leaving offerings to spirits much more. In return, the spirits would sometimes offer boons, blessings, or nothing at all. Over time, and as technology advanced, people slowly started visiting shrines less often, and eventually the spirits had all but become forgotten.” This is dangerous for the spirits — “forgotten spirits lose their identities, and become ‘lost’. If a spirit is ‘lost’ for long enough, it will disappear entirely. Many of the ‘lost’ spirits in the area have begun lashing out at the townsfolk for having forgotten about them.” Luckily, there’s a remedy for this trouble: “this is where you, as the new bathhouse keeper, must help them remember who they are and quell their anger with a good soak!”
Any news on the Spirittea achievements?
“I haven’t even sat down and planned out any achievements for the game yet,” Beckerton admits — however, he does have some hints for us. “They will be linked to things the average player could achieve if they gave the game a good go. Things like ‘finishing your book’ and ‘helping all of the spirits’ would probably be examples of the hardest ones to get. That’s my thought process at this time anyway. I like the feeling of fully completing a game without having to feel like I’m wasting time just for a simple trophy.”
Spirittea promises to be packed full of life and charm. With all that on offer, what is Beckerton most excited for players to experience? “This could be because I just spent the last four months working on them, but the spirit quests,” Beckerton says. “There are 28 quests in the game that eventually amount to you ‘unlocking’ a new spirit for the bathhouse. I’ve had so much fun creating these quests and I’m genuinely proud of each of them. I made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t simply create any fetch quests like: ‘Go fetch object A and give it to person B. Good job, quest done.’ I made all sorts of weird and wacky scenarios in these spirit quests, and seeing players’ reactions to them is genuinely so exciting for me.” Beckerton also has a tip for us: “I would just like to encourage players to try to help all of the spirits. I feel like if you do so, you’ll have a much more cathartic feeling when you finally decide to hop on that bus and leave your little town in the countryside.”
So, what do you think? Will you be rolling up your sleeves ready to help out the spirit world in Spirittea? Let us know in the comments!