A Close Brush With Death
The initial concept of Spirit Cutter was a game that would encourage the player to take up a very aggressive playstyle. To push this concept to its limit, I came up with the idea of health depleting as time passes. You have to kill enemies to restore your health.
However, to push the risk-and-reward aspect of the game, one additional aspect was introduced: "Precise Attacks". These attacks could only be done with your character close to the enemy. They deal more damage and also earned you more health back if you defeated the enemy with them.
In later iterations, the first playable character (Mali) would gain the ability to perform "Soul Banishments". This is triggered by hitting an enemy with a vertical precise slash, which was harder to do. If they're defeated, the enemy's soul will appear. If stricken again, Mali will gain an additional benefit depending on the type of enemy slain. For example:
Getting additional health and time back.
Creating a burst of spirit energy that instantly destroys other enemies in the area.
Giving Mali a barrier that allows her to temporarily ram through enemies and instantly destroy them.
In addition to this, Mali also has access to many movement options that allow her to maneuver around the enemy, such as:
An invincible dash
Adjusting her falling speed via fast/slow falling
A more powerful jump (Super-jumping)
This was done to give players more freedom in approaching encounters.
The second character (Hyacinth) has a lot of freedom in movement: She can fly!
Revenge, Regrets and Lunch
When conceptualizing the story aspect of the game, I decided that I wanted two things:
1) A protagonist with a vengeance
2) A game that takes place in a fictional country based on Thailand, my home country.
With this, Mali was created. I decided that her enemies would be ghosts and spirits. There was a growing problem in my home country where superstitions were being used to manipulate people or made people run away from their problems. I wanted a young protagonist who rebelled against that.
When I decided to implement the second character (Hyacinth) to add variety to the gameplay, I considered many ways to write a narrative around these two characters.
With a lot of cutting (ahem) and some revision, I settled on a story about Mali abandoning thoughts on revenge so she could instead focus on saving Hyacinth when Hyancith's life was in danger. It was a kind of story that was close to home to me.
Reusing some code from an old visual novel project I had, I used that to create VN-styled dialogue scenes for the game.
One of Mali's character traits was that she was hungry a lot of the time. It may have been me subconsciously missing food back at home, now that I think about it?
After a semester that bummed me out, I decided that I needed to take action to make sure the next one didn't end up the same way. After some brainstorming, the idea of a 2D action platformer was born. I was playing Katana Zero at the time and heard of this crazy-sounding game called "Ultrakill" where the player could absorb the blood of enemies to get their health back. A combination of those two games just seemed right to me.
I was also into Melty Blood: Type Lumina BIG time. That was what inspired the aspect of having a large variety of aerial movement options. One alternative of the ideas considered for the narrative was to make the main character a vampire, but ultimately the concept I had for Mali felt more appealing to me.