OPUS: Rocket Of Whispers is an emotionally driven adventure and the second 'OPUS' title from Taiwanese developer SIGONO. Combining a rich narrative, immersive atmosphere and deep lore to unravel and dissect, you play as two survivors of an apocalyptic plague. The pair will set out on a perilous and heartfelt journey to return to the spirits of the dead to the afterlife. To coincide with the launch of OPUS: Rocket Of Whispers on Nintendo Switch, producer Brian Lee talked to us about creating a share universe of stories, experimentation and the future of the series.
Nintendo Life: What is the connection between Rocket Of Whispers and the first game, The Day We Found Earth?
Brian Lee: Both OPUS: The Day We Found Earth and OPUS: Rocket of Whispers share the word 'OPUS' in their titles. This word is used in a variety of ways, but in the context of alchemy, 'magnum opus' can refer to the process of creating the philosopher’s stone, which is connected to mortality, transcendence – and the belief that they are all one and the same. To achieve or create the philosopher’s stone or achieve spiritual transcendence, one must ascend the Kabbalah, which consists of trials that test your spirit, mind, and body. So if you look at it from that angle, and for any player who’s interested in getting more out of the series, you’ll find some interesting references in there.
Were there any elements that didn't end up in The Day We Found Earth that instead appeared in Rocket Of Whispers?
We introduced the idea of Earthologists in The Day We Found Earth, but didn’t elaborate on it as much, so we fleshed out the background and history of this religion in Rocket Of Whispers. Aside from that, the two titles share the same calendar system - Galactic Calendar, which may give players an idea of the relationship between the two stories.
Anything that you experimented with for RoW that didn't make it in?
We had an earlier version of the story which also took place in a post-apocalyptic world, but involved three characters. One of them died before the game starts, and the two survivors were left to mourn. The story was more about the way these two people coped with the decease of a mutual loved one, but we scrapped it because it became too much about their relationships, and took focus away from the larger setting.
Do the two games share themes or any technical elements?
We consider Rocket of Whispers a spiritual successor to The Day We Found Earth, both because they’re set within the same universe, and are about exploration and emotional narratives.
Could you tell us a little more about the plot of the game?
Rocket Of Whispers takes place in a distant world that was brought to its knees by an apocalyptic plague. Earthbound spirits now wander the ruins of their homeland, unable to move on to the afterlife. The story centers around Fei Lin, the witch, and John, the rocket engineer. Together, the two have set out to build a rocket that can launch a space burial for the wandering spirits of their desolate world.
What influenced the setting for Rocket Of Whispers?
We actually started with a simple 'feel'. We wanted players to feel 'the transition from loneliness to enrichment through exploration of the vast', which is the core emotion that we wanted to achieve. Then, as with space for The Day We Found Earth, we thought that a wintry wasteland would be the perfect environment. From there the gameplay (scavenge for materials, exploring ruins and abandoned sites) and the world settings (a witch and a rocket engineer surviving at the end of the world) just came together naturally.
Were there any personal experiences that influenced the characters / narrative?
I first came across animation director Makoto Shinkai’s work in highschool, and was drawn to the way he depicted relationships. He’s very skilled at using 'distance' - like the distance of time, or the distance of space - to depict the connections people have. When faced with elements beyond our control (such as time and space), any connections we make become precious in light of our insignificance, whether it marks the beginning or end of a relationship.
Despite our powerlessness in the face of these moments, Shinkai recognizes, and celebrates them through his work. I myself can be pretty emotional when relationships come to an end, and that kind of spirit and warmth inspires me. I hope my work can give others the same feeling.
Is there a 'shared universe' you'd like to explore/develop or would they be separate but thematically/narratively linked?
If you look more closely at the world of OPUS you may find many references to alchemy throughout the story and setting. To us, the ultimate goal of alchemy is to transcend beyond one’s being and become something better. In The Day We Found Earth, we named the spaceship OPUS because the great work, the opus magnum, was being carried out inside it, and through the search for Earth (the philosopher’s stone), our main character transcends from an 'emeth', to something more.
Similarly, in Rocket Of Whispers, the opus magnum is carried out inside a rocket factory, and instead of gold, they’re creating a rocket. And through the countless trials of creating the rocket, our main characters realize their goal was never the rocket itself, but rather to find peace within them.
Could you explain what new players to the 'OPUS' games can expect from Rocket Of Whispers?
The series is designed for those who haven’t enjoyed a good story on a quiet night in a long time. Players can expect an adventure that tugs on the heartstrings, dealing with themes of purpose and loss, and telling a story that's as intriguing as it is engaging.
How was the balance between gameplay and narrative handled?
Like the first OPUS, we start with the core emotion mentioned above. This helps us focus on how and what we want players to feel at any given stage throughout the game, which is instrumental in designing and handling the balance between the two. From there, the rest comes naturally.
Rocket Of Whispers (and The Day We Found Earth) have really striking art styles. Is there any physical media (a collection, art book, etc) in the works?
Thanks! This is actually something we’ve been considering recently. Nothing solid yet, but we’ll definitely keep you updated. Thank you for your interest!
What's next for the team? Are there plans to expand on the OPUS series?
We always feel there are more stories to tell in OPUS, so expanding the world is definitely something we plan to do, and we try to keep our followers informed about where we’re heading on social media. Additionally, we also hope for OPUS to become a series that’s recognized for its exploration and storytelling.
We would like to thank Brian for his time. OPUS: Rocket Of Whispers is out on the Nintendo Switch eShop now.