I was pleasantly surprised when I read through Taylor Bair’s reply after having previously reached out to him for a few comments on the upcoming SRPG Arcadian Atlas. He explained to me in very blunt terms that he was sick of spitting out the same monotonous answers for interviews over and over again, and being a writer himself, he had opted instead to send me a heartfelt piece that he described as “rather unorthodox”.
What followed was a closer look at the significance of Arcadian Atlas and his bond with his partner-in-crime at Twin Otter Studios, Becca Bair—all of which I found to be refreshingly genuine and also quite touching.
Taylor and his best friend, Becca Bair, grew up far from the American urban sprawl, out in rural Texas. With the nearest city being an hour and a half away, they bonded over makeshift games, “grabbing magic markers to change our LEGO characters into Cloud Strife and Tifa, and whittling boats from knives that we’d man with river rocks we’d drawn Ramza Beoulve and Delita Heiral on.” Not only are the two of them best friends, they also happen to be siblings who share an unadulterated passion for video games.
Since their formative years, both have moved away from home and have had experiences that they “wouldn’t trade for all the world.” They went on to find work in the industry they were immersed in as children—Taylor as a writer and Becca as a freelance artist. After spending several years plying their craft in the game biz, they decided to consolidate their talents and try their hand at making games together.
The two of them performed well at various game jams and, over the years, developed a five hour indie RPG, Genesis. After their marked success working together, they made things official with a logo and a company name, branding themselves Twin Otter Studios. With more than a few projects already under their belt, they started working furiously on Arcadian Atlas, and launched its Kickstarter campaign on April 5th, 2016.
For Taylor, it’s incredibly difficult to “quantify” the significance of Arcadian Atlas, because it means so much more to him than just some tactical RPG. Arcadian Atlas is a game Becca and Taylor would have played together as kids, paired with the wisdom of their experiences as adults. “It’s a microcosm for family” and about “reclaiming a tiny fraction of what it means to be a kid again.” In the story of Arcadian Atlas, the main characters wrestle with the dichotomy of unconditional love and hatred, and struggle to hold onto relationships when violence and bloodshed threatens to rip the world apart.
Taylor adds that it “isn’t easy holding onto relationships, especially those that are so close.” Often times, “we take them for granted, and we forget what we first valued—exchanging tradition and security for fresh and exciting things though we lose something in that exchange.”
In making Arcadian Atlas, the two developers draw upon of games of old—Taylor cites a heavy influence from tactical RPGs like Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy Tactics, and Suikoden—while also injecting bits and pieces of their own lives into the game. “It’s the old meeting the new, experiencing both as for the first time and loving them anew for what they are.”
The game is undoubtedly Taylor and Becca’s “dream project”, but it would be wrong to assume that their dream and their Kickstarter funding go hand-in-hand. Taylor assures me that he’s incredibly grateful for the opportunity to interact with those who have so “faithfully followed [their] project”, but Kickstarter isn’t the be all and end all of their lofty ambitions. It’s certainly one of many springboards to success, but not what defines the game, and definitely not what defines them as developers.
Both Taylor and Becca are working full-time, without a ton of savings to draw upon, but “that’s not unusual—that’s life.” Even though money is “incredibly tight”, they have no qualms about making ends meet. But this Kickstarter campaign, if successful, would give them some much appreciated “breathing room” and allow them to make Arcadian Atlas “larger in scope than it could be otherwise.”
Even as they hone in on their $90,000 goal, they harbor no ridiculous fantasies about what’s at stake. Grounded in reality, Taylor relishes the fact that Kickstarter isn’t a guarantee, “it’s all or nothing—a sort of battleground where you say, ‘This is what we’re asking [for], and if you want to see this particular battle won, join with us. If you don’t, we understand, but we’ll keep fighting.’”
It’s all or nothing—a sort of battleground…
And so they power on unperturbed, with just over a week until the campaign is done and dusted. But regardless of the outcome, they’ll always be family and will continue to “express that bond through [the] game”, doing everything they can to bring Arcadian Atlas to life. The bond between Taylor and Becca is unbreakable, “Just like when we were kids, it didn’t much matter what we did – so long as we did it together, it was going to be amazing.”
For the passionate and chummy siblings, this is a chance for them to fuse everything they’ve regrettably neglected over the years with something fresh and original. It’s a chance, regardless of whether or not they fulfill their Kickstarter goal, “To say to the past, ‘you are gone, but we don’t regret you’; to the future, ‘we don’t know where you lead, but we’ll brave the storm’; and to the present, ‘let’s make a damn good video game like we used to: together.’”
Arcadian Atlas’ Kickstarter campaign ends on May 9th; you can track its progress on our Campaign Calendar.