A Journey Doesn’t Start With a Single Step

A journey does not start with a single step. All journeys flow into each other. And so, as we “launch” Yosano Studios, we know that this is not really the beginning. Yosano, like all journeys, is the continuation of many steps on many journeys by many people before us.

When could we really say that Yosano started?

During the Covid lockdowns, a few of us started kicking ideas around for a bunch of games. The first real “game development asset” that we created was, probably, the draft screens that Diana designed for Queen’s Rule. The game has changed a lot since then, but it is a concrete thing. It is the beginning, the first step, perhaps?

The first rough screen designs for Queen’s Rule. Winter 2021/22.

But before that, there had to be an idea, an impulse. And this was probably Kevin musing along the lines of “all of the game mechanics and dynamics of the board games and video games that we enjoy, they are just assumptions. Unless the game is completely abstract, we are presenting worlds, and assuming that worlds work in particular ways. We make assumptions about history, about commerce, about human nature, usually just based on the society that we see around us or on what we were taught as kids…. But what if we look at different societies? What if we look at people who, historically, had different assumptions? And what if we build a game mechanic based on how their societies worked, not just on how we assume that societies work?” This was the germ of the idea for Queen’s Rule, perhaps?

But that is too vague and theoretical. That musing means nothing unless it is applied to something real. And so the starting point, perhaps, came half a decade ago in a bookshop in Luang Prabang, where among the battered second-hand backpackers’ paperbacks, was an English-language book on the history of Laos, with a chapter on the early Indianic societies and a discussion of matrilineal inheritance….

But an idea and some reference material still isn’t enough, without the intellectual tools to process those. So perhaps Yosano studios started in University lecture halls and tutor groups, studying history and anthropology. Without these that dusty book in Luang Prabang would have had little impact.

But of course, the egotism of this is pretty grotesque. Diana working in Figma, Kevin musing about game design – this is all about us… and it shouldn’t be. Because if we want to create games which are fresh, which are surprising, then we can’t be bounded by our own little lives, our technical abilities or our academic backgrounds. We have to draw (respectfully and insightfully, we hope) on the lives of others, on the histories and societies which have thrived on our little world, and the potentials which might populate humanity’s future. Queen’s Rule, in this sense, started 1500 years ago. Only if it were an indulgent modern fantasy could we say that “we” began it. But if we are serious about drawing on the experiences of past peoples, then that game’s journey, and so Yosano’s, began with their steps, in their shoes.

Yet our species loves its anniversaries, its milestones and its symbols. And so, here we are. March 2022. Diana’s UI design has been hugely revised, illustrators are hard at work, the coding is under way, and we have a second game that we are already musing over the artwork for. And so we commemorate the first little steps that we will call “Yosano’s”, following on from the many which have gone before.

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