By Erika Szabo
A few years back, rumors emerged about a new installment in the coveted Mother series. Whether or not Shigesato Itoi was helming the project was up for debate, it wasn’t until later did we finally hear from the developers themselves, a small group of devoted fans set on giving other Mother fans more of what they always wanted.
While this is an unofficial installment in the series, Mother 4 is brimming with life and truly harkens back to a time long past.
I had a chance to speak with Community Manager Zane Riley about the game’s development, influences and challenges throughout the years.
Mother 4 is, without a doubt, a labor of love we should all be keeping our eyes on. Here’s to an amazing team willing to make even the wildest of dreams come true.
The standalone game will be released for Windows, OS X and Linux in Winter 2014, which may seem long, but it’s nice to have something tangible for once. The team also released a trailer in late August which you should definitely check out!
What inspired the creation of Mother 4 and how has that initial vision evolved over the years?
Mother 4 began because we love the series. We grew up with it, and we want to continue it in an effort to bring it to new and old Mother fans alike. It’s a way to give back to the community and to the creators of the series. We want to explore the universe Itoi made and invite others to do the same.
Just looking at your website, there are several people collaborating on this project. How did you go about meeting one another and how has the experience been telecommuting?
A lot of us started out on Starmen.net, the largest Earthbound community on the web, back around the time Mother 3 was coming out. What began with high school kids making a game for fun has grown into a full-fledged title with a custom engine, artwork, soundtrack and story, made out of love completely in our spare time to be released for free.
As for telecommuting, its been easy for us as millennials. Nearly everything is in the cloud so we’re all updated instantly when changes occur. We’re almost too connected to one another, considering how many Snapchats Shane sends me.
While I know you can’t divulge too much about the game, can you give us an idea of the setting, characters or plot?
It takes place in a contemporary setting much like the first two games in the series. In an idealized, vintage America, you play as a young boy, Travis, as he sets out on the path to save the world from a group called the Modern Men after Meryl, a brilliant girl you meet along the way, predicts them ending it. However, that’s all Meryl and Travis know and soon the story unfolds mystery on top of mystery.
Does the team draw on personal experiences when creating settings and characters?
While I believe everyone draws from personal experience to an extent, the team is incredibly self-critical when writing. I’m proud to see there’s been such an eclectic mix of influences whether from pop culture, fables or some very esoteric sources of inspiration.
While the Mother series has always offered that sense of realism and humanity, each game also maintains that fun quirkiness. What are some of the quirkiest ideas implemented into Mother 4?
It wouldn’t be Mother if it wasn’t adventuring into every part of life. There are times when we sit and think, “Okay, I’m 13 years old again… What’s the last thing I want to be doing today? How can I make that fun, too?”. That thinking has done a lot, and has resulted in some really special moments. I don’t want to spoil those. Though one of my personal favorite “quirkiest moments” is if you sleep at a bad hotel a mosquito may bite you in the middle of the night.
Each game in the Mother series also has had its own distinct set of themes. What themes will Mother 4 be focusing on and how will it compare to the others?
The Mother games were about the whole world, and I think in that sense maybe we shouldn’t say, “What is the message the game’s trying to convey?” and instead ask ourselves, “What can I take away from this?”.
What have been some of your biggest challenges or setbacks during the production of this game and what have you learned through the experience?
Doing this for free has been a challenge, but we would do it the same way no matter the circumstances. We’ve taken off work, skipped class and missed social outings all in an effort to build an addition to the Mother series that feels true to canon. Thus, keeping morale up and retaining our all-volunteer staff has been rough at times, but out of it the team has become quite close to both one another and the game itself.
By now, I’m sure Mother 4 has garnered the attention of Shigesato Itoi. Has he ever contacted you about the release of the game?
We haven’t heard anything actually, but once Mother 4 is released perhaps Itoi would give it a try. For us, being a part of the Mother “playground,” as he referred to it, has influenced who we are. It only makes sense for us to try to do the same for the community and maybe, hopefully, Itoi himself.