Once Upon the Once

Spellirium is a post-apocalyptic game. That was a strange decision to arrive at, but here’s how it went down:

I originally wanted the game set in a stock-standard quasi-medieval land filled with magical creatures and tunics and all that nonsense, because i wanted to send it up. During the cut-scenes, Spellirium breaks the fourth wall now and then, and lampoons video game and storytelling conventions.

Concept art for the Runekeeper cottages.

But how could we create a word puzzle game, where you’re spelling things like TRUCK and RADAR, in a fantasy setting? Doesn’t really make sense. And i like it when things make a reasonable amount of sense.

So much like in LOOM, an wonderful old LucasArts adventure game that serves as an inspiration for Spellirium, the game looks medieval, but actually takes place at some point in the future. The game is set post-apocalypse. The apocalypse itself was a mysterious event where the known world was completely buried under an enormous layer of earth, a la Pompei and its volcanic ash. The surviving generations are descendants of the few people who were able to dig themselves out.

The Reset

The game characters call this cataclysmic event “the Reset”, because it basically busted civilization back to 5th century living standards. The time periods on either side of the Reset are called “the Once” and “the Now”. Once they had running water and electricity, Once they had knowledge and technology, Once they were mighty and powerful. And in fact, there’s no actual name for the land like you’ll find in most fantasy epics. This place is not Shannarah or Middle Earth or Narnia … it’s the Now, because the people are far more concerned with when they are than where they are.

A roadside salesman plies his wares.

The city states in the Now cluster around mines, where the people dig up artifacts from the Once. These artifacts are called “findage”. Everyone lives in a technologically impoverished state, and they’re unable to actually manufacture anything advanced … but they can have things from the Once. They can dig up, say, a motorbike, but they may not be able to find any gas. They can dig up a gun, but they may not find bullets. As a result, the people’s clothes, houses, and modes of transportation are all cobbled together from found objects. Call it “trashpunk.”

Concept art for the Mystic’s house.

So there it is: a cake-and-eat-it-too setup, where we can spell words like TRUCK and RADAR without breaking the fiction. Think less “Mad Max”, and more “Lord of the Rings with junked cars.” It makes for a very visusally interesting world, one that i hope will capture your imagination as it has mine.


Sign up for the Spellirium Newsletter to go even deeper into the creative process behind the game. The newsletter contains a first look at exclusive artwork and juicy details about Spellirium that you won’t find anywhere else!

8 thoughts on “Once Upon the Once

  1. Mary GIbson

    I just called Kevin, cause he doesn’t check his facebook that often. I like the way you write how you arrived at what you are doing with the game now. It will be good for Kevin to read your thoughts too. He showed me his coarse outline for university. I really need to get him to TOto see your company. LOL

  2. Bane

    What can I not say about Spellirium other than the fact that I hope you send me a review copy when you’re done :D I love the ever present amount of ‘spins’ to keep things absolutely fresh – Fantasy setting? Meh, Trashpunk? Alright!!!!!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.