Nov 06


Author Interview: Dorothea Sparrow, Atlantis Academy

Posted by: K L | Comments (4)

You have spent your life on the border between land and sea, with a water dragon as your closest companion. Your sea nymph mother died, leaving you with a mysterious legacy; your human father disappeared before you were born. Now you are finally eligible to learn magic at the Academy of Atlantis, alongside sea nymphs, selkies, sirens, and other denizens of the deep. Can you and your friends master the ocean’s magic and save your school?

Atlantis Academy is a 250,000-word interactive underwater fantasy novel by Dorothea Sparrow. We sat down with Dorothea to talk about her work. Atlantis Academy releases this Thursday, November 9th. You can play the first three chapters for free today. 

This game combines two very distinctive genres: undersea mythology and magical school. How did you approach blending them together?  Which elements of each genre enhanced the other, and where did you find the intersection challenging?

You know, when I started writing, I didn’t realize how complementary the two would be. But the deeper I got into the story, the more I realized how well they were fitting together. There’s already magic inherent in sea creatures like selkies, sirens, and mermaids; there’s much less world-building you need to do to explain them. Instead, you can play with the mythology and the tropes, and find where the delight emerges from between them.

There is a strong theme of environmentalism running through the story. Can you talk some more about how you incorporated this real-world issue into the game?

If you take Proteus as a metaphor for the climate catastrophe—an implacable destruction of our own making—the whole thing is about climate change. And while there are ways to violently defeat Proteus, the two ways that don’t involve trying to kill him are definitely my favorite. Violence isn’t going to solve our current predicament.

Which character was your favorite to write, and why?

I have to say Mehrab. The idea of “die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain” is a powerful trope, and one that Mehrab epitomizes. He wants so much to protect his people, but every step forward is another step on the way to hell.

I don’t even know if he really believes that he’s doing the right thing anymore, or if he’s just following his own story through to the end—as though a catastrophic failure will retrospectively justify everything that he did to get there.

Without giving away too many spoilers, what Easter egg do you most hope the readers will find?

There’s a moment that’s inspired by Don’t Look Up. I think almost every playthrough hits that particular moment, but I don’t know if many people would make the connection. 

I admit, I had to resist the urge to include the line “We’re for the jobs that Proteus’s rampage will provide,” but I’d like to think the sentiment is there.

Can you tell me something about these illustrations? They’re weird and spooky.

You know, deep underwater is a little weird and spooky. As I was writing the game, I kept thinking about some mermaid art that an old friend of mine was posting to her Instagram. It had the right kind of surreal, carnivalesque, almost Giger-esque quality that I was trying to evoke in my writing. Eventually, I asked Choice of Games about having her do some internal art, and they said yes. 

Unfortunately, the artist got sick midway through the project, so the pieces are coming in late. Some will be in the initial release, but the rest will be patched in over the next few weeks.

Notable Replies

  1. I really enjoyed playing the first chapter, it looks like it’ll be a lot of fun! I love watery magical creatures and it feels very evocative and atmospheric. Congratulations to the author for launch week!

  2. I had a lot of fun testing this one. It is indeed very atmospheric, and I love the characters, especially Mehrab with his strident righteousness failing to conceal the turmoil of his inner conflict. I hope everyone else will enjoy the setting and characters as much as I have.

  3. Avatar for Eiwynn Eiwynn says:

    There is a lot of great potential in this game; the storyverse created here is unique and wonderful!

  4. Following on from the nautical theme in IFComp 2023, this one already is off to a solid start. The exotic setting. The quaint illustrations. The whale, er I mean the pet sea dragon that we have. The intriguing characters. The varied magical domains. The whole environmentalist message that clearly is very Sonic the Hedgehog-esque. And where’s my hydra armor? Looking forward to the release! Time for you to dive deep!

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