Moirai hit Steam a little over a week ago. This quick ten minute game has made a huge impact with its unassuming visuals, eerie atmosphere, and surprising finale. I had a brief chat with one of the creators, Chris Johnson, about Moirai.
ML: Where did the inspiration for Moirai come from?
CJ: The inspiration for Moirai came from an interactive theatre piece called Game of You by a Belgian group called Ontroerend Goed. The play shares a similar mechanical structure to Moirai, however it’s less focused on morality and more focused on body language and interpretations of strangers.
ML: Did you set out to make an atmospheric game with a “twist,” or did this develop naturally as you worked on it?
CJ: We knew what we wanted the game to be when we started development on it. The initial vision was rather clear and concrete.
ML: Is there an actual story behind the events in Moirai, or is it intended to be ambiguous and left up to the player to construct their own story?
CJ: There’s a story about Julia and why she is in the cave, but nothing exists to explain the twist. I don’t think it needs to be. We’re not really trying to be ambiguous. I think a lot of the game is pretty clear.
ML: Was the bitmap-based pixel artwork a conscious choice? What do you think about the visuals, and how does it add to or detract from the game as a whole?
CJ: Yes it was. I had really enjoyed a game called Judith by Terry Cavanagh and Stephen Lavelle, and wanted to try making a game using the same ray casting techniques used in Wolfenstein 3D. We also wanted to make the game look unassuming so that the twist would be much more of a surprise. For me at least the visual style adds to the game.
ML: Moirai only just came out on Steam, but it has existed for quite a while now. Where and why was the game originally developed?
CJ: The game started as an entry into the 2013 7DFPS Game Jam. We loved the direction the game was heading and so spent a while after the jam polishing it up before a proper release. Before the jam, I had been interested in making a game that took the concept of Game of You and put it into a video game.
ML: Why has it only just appeared on Steam now? Where or how was it available previously?
CJ: We first released Moirai on GameJolt, IndieDB and later itch.io. The GameJolt community really loved the game and provided us with a lot of feedback which we’re super appreciative for.
I thought I’d submit Moirai to Greenlight late last year just to see if it would get through. Only about a month ago was the game approved for Steam. That was kind of expected because storefronts like Steam encourage people to be interested in games that have a cool trailer or screenshot. Moirai doesn’t have either of those so it was always going to take a while.
ML: What has the engagement of your audience been like since Moirai came out on Steam compared against how it was previously available? Have you seen a drastic increase or decrease in visibility of the game on services like Twitter or YouTube?
CJ: Before releasing on Steam, roughly 40,000 people played through Moirai. In the first week of Steam, Moirai had over 150,000 playthroughs. Despite the increase in playthroughs, I don’t really think our Twitter or YouTube traffic has really been much different from the initial release. It seems as though most of the traffic Steam games get is from Steam itself. I suspect we’ll get some more YouTube coverage over the next week or so.
ML: What has this meant to you? Have you learnt anything that has surprised you?
CJ: It’s meant that the last week has been hellishly stressful for me since I’m managing the technical side of the game. The scale of traffic caused our back-end system to fail in pretty much every way possible. Luckily, we’ve managed to keep the game pretty stable all things considered. So I learnt a lot there. That’s pretty much it, really. The initial release in 2013 gave us a pretty good idea of what to expect in terms of press, player response, etc.
ML: Moirai is free to download. What was the thought process behind making it free?
CJ: Initially we wanted to get a lot of people to play the game to see what kind response we’d get. Making the game free helps with that. Plus, it’s very short and didn’t require a great deal of time or financial investment for us. Since we initially released the game for free it would be unreasonable to then start charging for it as soon as it’s on Steam.
ML: Is this it for Moirai?
CJ: Most likely. We don’t have any plans to develop the game further but who knows what the future holds.
You can read more about Moirai in this Pixel Pop Network article, as well as find the game free on Steam.