Design

Gossip with Clara.

Clara 2

Rough sketches of Clara.

It’s been quite a long time since I made a post here, and what better way to get back into it than by introducing a new character that you can meet while playing Cedaria: Blackout? We’ve already introduced Josephine, Silas, Edwin and Quentin, and this time around I’ll be having a chat with Clara McRedmond, your go-to source for information in Castellum.

Clara did not want to be a bar maid; she had hopes of becoming a respectable lady of society, but things did not go as planned. However, as a love child her future was doomed from the start.  She was dumped at an orphanage without a backward glance, her background tarnished and her education lacking. No gentleman would even consider putting a ring around her finger despite her beauty, and no employer would hire her even as a scullery maid or a waitress, and… whoops, maybe I should let her take the floor, she’s looking rather cross.

Clara: About time you noticed.

Me: Clara, you are looking lovely today!

Clara: Fat load of good that has done me. You’d think beauty would be a decent currency around these parts, but nope. Nobody wants to be associated with the love child. Thank goodness I was able to find something useful to do with my life.

Me: Gossip.

Clara: I resent that word. It reminds me of fat old ladies chattering about who married or divorced who over tea and crumpets. Please call it confidential information.

Me: Got it. Where do you get your confidential information from then?

Clara: I have my sources. Don’t expect me to share them with you though, you could drive me out of business.

Me: Oh believe me, I have no interest in taking over your job.

A full body sketch of Clara.

A full body sketch of Clara.

Clara: That’s what they all say. Why wouldn’t you want my job? I earn a lot of money for every piece of information I give, people are careful never to annoy me so I wouldn’t start spreading rumours about them, the Delanty brothers love me…

Me: Those mafia dudes?

Clara: They are gentlemen with habits that do not fit the norms around here. But really, who are we to decide what’s normal? People like me should be normal, they shouldn’t be shunned and discarded like a piece of garbage. It’s not my fault that my parents were stupid and careless! Why should I be made out to be a villain just because they couldn’t own up to what they did?

Me: I am sensing that you feel strongly about this.

Clara: *rolls her eyes* How do you figure? I’m worn out now. Do you have my money?

Me: But you didn’t tell me anything!

Clara: You thought this interview was for free? That’s cute. Now pay up.

And that was Clara; she can fill you up – either with information or liquor – and run you dry at the same time. I’m sure if her circumstances had been different she would’ve turned out a completely different person… but that could probably apply to anyone. We are all products of our own environments.

Clara wasn’t inspired by anyone in particular. I just liked the idea of having a sassy bar maid with a dark background and a definite purpose, and thus Clara was born!

What do you think of this new character? =]

P.S. We have launched our new crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo! We are also having a giveaway, so do enter for a chance to win a copy of the game!

Tomorrow we will be having an AMA for the Reddit folk, so if you have any questions for us, start getting them ready now. 😉 We’ll be announcing the start of our AMA via our Twitter!

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The Others.

Have you watched that movie? Don’t you just love that incredible twist at the end? Yeah… no, we’re not going to talk about horror movies now; I have enough horror on my plate now that I’m reading Stephen King’s The Shining. But that’s an entirely different story and you probably have no interest in the nightmares this book has been giving me. No, you’re probably interested more in learning about the different clans we have in our game.

From left to right: two Thunes, two Ozars, two Kythiens and two Vaytori.

From left to right: two Thunes, two Ozars, two Kythiens and two Vaytori.

For Cedaria, we decided to step out of the box and create clans (or races) different from your typical fantasy races, and went with the Vaytori, Kythiens, Thunes and Ozars. We could’ve avoided the trouble and went with just humans or something, but having different groups allowed us to highlight more issues and present them more strongly than we would’ve been able to otherwise.  Plus, it enabled us to incorporate the concept of acceptance of the “others”. See what I did there? 😉

Uhm. Anyway. *clears throat*

You have your Vaytori, who came to the island first and thus believe they are more entitled to live on it than any of the other clans, and would’ve industrialized the entire island had it not been for the Kythiens, who care about the environment and prefer a more traditional way of living. Then you have the Thunes, who want to dominate the island’s resources, and the marginalized Ozar refugees who escaped their homeland hoping to find a better life, only to be met with rejection on the island. Continue reading

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A Whiff of Westlock.

I don’t know about you, but I have a tendency to like the antagonist/villain in the story more than the protagonist/hero. There’s always something that sets them apart and makes them more interesting, never mind they’re less than redeeming qualities. I am especially fond of the villains I write, to the point where I actually want them to win rather than the hero. Thankfully my voice of reason (almost) always stops me from letting the villain “win” in the story.

EdwinCedaria has its share of villains, and the first one to be created was Edwin Westlock III. He is an industrialist who got the short end of the stick when the Phoenix broke down, and that made him more bitter and immoral than he already was. I could tell you more about him, but I’d rather just show you… hello, Ed!

Edwin: Do not call me Ed. My name is Edwin. You had better have a good reason for calling me here and wasting my time.

Me: I just want to introduce you to the masses, you should lighten up a bit. What, had another argument with your wife?

Edwin: My personal life is none of your concern. It is true that Elizabeth is dim-witted and an eyesore, and her money is the only thing that  compels me to share a roof with her, but I still refuse to divulge any information regarding our comings and goings.

Me: You actually told me more than I need to know.

Edwin: Are we done then? I have other matters to attend to. People rely on me to get them to different places, whereas you… what is it you do?

Me: I created you, so you will sit here and give me a few minutes of your time.

Edwin: I do not appreciate your tone. You may want to think carefully about what you say to me. Many a person has wished they could take back their words after I dealt with them.

Me: You don’t scare me, Ed. You may talk big, but I know that right now you’re in a tight spot and in no position to make any threats. How’s your business coming along, by the way? I saw one of your ships in Angel Wharf this afternoon… looks like it’s starting to collect some dust. Won’t your father be proud when he sees it? Won’t he be proud when he knows what you’ve been doing in the shadows?

Edwin: Don’t bring my father into this, you insolent little girl.  Or talk about things you know nothing of, for that matter. That old man is dead and Westlock Industries is mine now, and I am free to run it the way I wish, and I will not have someone like you lecturing me about the error of my ways. If I wanted to thieve and kill my way to the top, then believe me I shall, and nothing anyone does can stop me. And since you refuse to remove yourself from my sight, I will now bid you farewell and good riddance.

A bundle of sunshine, isn’t he? He’s been more twitchy than usual, and stupid as she may be, I think Mrs. Westlock has slowly started to realise that her precious Edwin didn’t marry her for love and now he has been forced to pretend all over again. Plus, he gets absolutely furious when anybody talks about his father; he’s not fond of him you see, and – though he won’t admit it – feels inferior when compared with him. That said, Edwin is quite easily agitated, it’s just a matter of knowing which of his buttons you should press.

I didn’t draw inspiration from any specific source; Edwin is just the bad boy of corporations who will stop at nothing in order to maintain his financial security and social status, and these are of course abundant in our societies.

As with the previous three characters, I have here with me some of the earlier versions of Edwin Westlock. Sadly, we do not have any 3D art for him yet.

We were still deciding just how evil we want to make him appear.

We were still deciding just how evil we want to make him appear.

A sketch of Edwin and a final draft! We decided to make his leg piece - a result of a particularly violent brawl - a little more elegant. =D

A sketch of Edwin and a final draft! We decided to make his leg piece – a result of a particularly violent brawl – a little more elegant. =D

 

 

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Where is our Middle-Eastern Twist?

One of the selling points of Cedaria: Blackout is that we’ve blended together steampunk and Middle-Eastern elements of architecture and style. We thought it would add a unique flair to the genre, plus it would make our game look pretty! Levantine architecture is distinguished by its arches, big windows and tile roofs, and that worked pretty well in the game’s setting.

How did we go about it? Whenever we sat down to discuss a zone on the island and the possible buildings that would go in them, we’d try to find some references that would blend with the setting. There were times when we couldn’t find any Lebanese references and had to rely on other things, but often times we lucked out. It helped that our 3D artists are both Lebanese and well-acquainted with architecture styles here in the region.

So, to show off some of what we have, I stole these from the design station I blackmailed the artists to allow me to use them I nicely asked the artists if I could showcase some of their work on the blog. They wanted to let you know that the buildings aren’t entirely complete, however, as they still need to add steampunk elements to them. But for now… here we go!

First we have our city buildings, which were based on some office buildings you can find in downtown Beirut.

We have whole rows of them in this particular area. They're so pretty to look at.

We have whole rows of them in this particular area. They’re so pretty to look at.

The artists used the above image as a reference and managed to create this beauty below:

Notice the similarities between the two? :)

Notice the similarities between the two? =]

Continue reading

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Sneaking out with Quentin.

In most games, male characters tend to be depicted as strong and foolhardy and just overall cool… which is good and all; who doesn’t like a stoic hero? However – and maybe this is just me – I do like seeing a sort-of tortured/repressed personality when it comes to males, and feel it serves to humanize them a lot more and makes them relatable. For my third character, I thought I’d introduce Quentin Gordon. You’ll find that he’s a bit reserved compared with Josephine and Silas, but I still find him just as interesting.

Quentin portraitQuentin: That’s really kind of you to say.

Me: Ah, it’s nothing. I hope you won’t get in trouble with your father for sneaking out to meet me?

Quentin: My father believes I am studying in my room and would not disturb me. I think we have a few spare minutes before dinner.

Me: Great. I really think it’s ridiculous that he still tries to control you like this. You’re 20, for goodness sake. You’re allowed a few freedoms.

Quentin: Well, you know what he’s like. Not one funny bone in his entire body, if that’s not already evident enough by the fact that he’s forcing me to study law. It is the single most boring subject I can think of. But of course all he cares about is our social status.

Me: You could always say no.

Quentin: Ah, well… maybe, but I prefer to avoid that argument.

Me: And every other argument.

Quentin: -looks visibly embarrassed- It’s better this way. He gets what he wants and doesn’t get create trouble for me or mother. And I can still sneak out when he’s not looking. It must be nice, being able to go wherever you want, but… oh! The archaeologists are really making some headway in their discoveries, were you aware of that? I was able to help them yesterday. They discovered this slab with some weird writing, and it turns out I have a book on the subject!

Me: But do you really want to continue sneaking out like this? I thought you wanted to be an adventurer.

Quentin: Ah… well, there’s always time for that. I can do it later.

Me: Later as in when your father snuffs it?

Quentin: Don’t put it so bluntly! Besides, I… uhm, acquiescing to this willingly for the time being because of a… er, certain person.

Me: Quentin, are you blushing? Who is she?

Quentin: Well, she… oh, will you look at the time? My father will be checking on me soon. I must depart! Climbing up the wall to my room is not as easy as it sounds.

Me: You coward. 😛

So… Quentin. I feel sorry for him, but yet I sympathize with him completely. I speak from experience when I say that there are still many kids – girls and boys alike – whose parents try to map their lives out for them. Quentin has always wanted to be an adventurer, but his father had other plans, caring far more for status than his son’s happiness? You think Quentin’s “Nancy boy” appearance is a choice? Think again. Quentin needs to maintain a proper attire simply to buy his father’s approval.

That really was my inspiration for him. Since we are aiming to deal with all sorts of issues faced by people – whether young or old – in Cedaria, I thought it would be ideal to include a character who was under the control of their father, and to spice things a bit, I opted to make him a male.

Now, we haven’t gotten around to doing the 3D art for Quentin yet, but you still get to see some of the earlier versions of him.

We were still deciding on how his face and hair would look like.

We were still deciding on how his face and hair would look like.

Quentin would probably hate me for the next picture. We had him in… uh, tights initially and he was none too happy with it, so we made them a little looser, haha.

It's subtle, but the loose pants look soooo much better.

It’s subtle, but the loose pants look soooo much better.

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Don’t skimp on the dialogue.

There is nothing that can ruin a book, movie or game more than stiff dialogue. Well, okay, so that’s not entirely true; there are also Mary Sues, love triangles, cliches, gaping plot holes… well, uh, you get the point. But dialogue is still a major pet peeve for me, especially when it’s contrived, unrealistic and so unbelievably awkward to the point where you want to believe that the worst is over and it can only get better from there.

Unfortunately that is not always the case. And if you’re a completionist like me, this is especially torturous because you have to see it to the end no matter how much it irritates you. My biggest grip is when a movie/book/game looks awesome in terms of design and art and cinematography and whatnot, but then suffers in the dialogue department. That’s just sad.

As a writer of fiction, I try to keep in mind a certain checklist when I’m writing dialogue. It also applies to games, but with a few additions. Taking Silas Burcombe as a test subject, for example, I would measure his lines against the following:

  • Is this something he would actually say? (“Hey, this is the money I owe you. Do pardon me for being so late.” – there would be red ink all over this one.)
  • Would I be bored to death if he said this to me? (“So you see, in order to maintain the altitude of your ship, you would have to move the thingamajig over here and click the whatchamacallit over there…”)
  • Is this line necessary? (“So then I pushed the doors open and walked in. I asked for a drink, the bar tender regarding me silently with contempt in his eyes, before slowly and deliberately pulling out a glass and pouring me some ale.” as opposed to, “I went to the pub and got a drink.”)
  • Is it funny (optional; not applicable to all situations)? (“I merely think of it as borrowing. But we can agree to disagree. I’m not fussy.”)

The game writing tips I’ve picked up:

  • Is it clear and to the point? (“Can you buy me a drink?” as opposed to “Would you kindly quench my thirst with sweet nectar?”)
  • Does it make decisions for the player? (There should be none of “Want to fly with me? Yes? Awesome. Let’s go.” If the player does not want to fly with Silas – and with good reason – they should be able to avoid that.)
  • Does it impose feelings on the player? (We can’t have this either: “Oh, I can see the adoration in your eyes. It’s just beautiful.”)

In a way, I guess fiction writing is different from game writing because you do not really have control over what’s going to happen to all the key players. In games, you have to be aware of the fact that the player will not do things the way you want, and act accordingly. Regardless of that, however, dialogue should always be given the same degree of importance. I mean, why have dialogue that readers/players would want to skip, right? 😉

A sample of how the dialogue will look like in Cedaria.

A sample of how the dialogue will look like in Cedaria.

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A Drink with Silas.

Silas Burcombe was an accident. A delightful accident, but still very much an accident. When I started writing Captain Silas Burcombe, I had an image of a proper, law-abiding aeronaut with a handlebar mustache  and a pipe wedged tightly between two thin lips. The end result, as you will see from my chat with him, could not be any far off from that image.

Silas (1)Silas: And I’m sure everyone is very grateful for that. You were consciously attempting to withhold the magnificence that is Captain Silas Burcombe from the masses. What were you thinking?

Me: I was thinking I’d save myself the headache.

Silas: I know what can cure your headache. A nice, big tankard of…

Me: You’ll get your drink, Silas. I care too much for my sanity to subject myself to your constant nagging.

Silas: -grins- Now that’s a good lass. If only everyone in Wisteria Pier had your brains, they would’ve saved themselves much discomfort. How troublesome can it be to buy a drink for ol’ Silas?

Me: The last time somebody appeased you, you got extremely drunk, smashed ten glasses and two chairs, broke the front door and the pub owner’s nose,  and drove the bar maid to tears.

Silas: She only wept because she had sealed her future with that fool and lost her chance with me. Tales of unrequited love are so tragic.

Me: You are such a braggart.

Silas: Because I have every bragging right there is to have, my dear. I am exceedingly handsome, I am a famous sky pirate…

Me: Ex. Ex sky pirate.

Silas: Do not interrupt the Great Silas as he speaks, please, where are your manners? As I was saying, I was a famous sky pirate, I defeated two ships with one cannon ball once! I am a local legend, really. I have an airship that puts all other Cedarian airships to shame. I can hold my liquor. And I am the honorary member of the Aeronaut Alliance.

Me: No, you aren’t. Captain Winters has yet to approve your application on the grounds of a questionable past and indecent behaviour.

Silas: Maxwell is just being coy. You and I both know he’s stalling because he doesn’t wish to show favouritism. It’s just a matter of time before he begs me to join, and why wouldn’t he? I am the best aeronaut there ever was.  I can easily outfly any of those twits who always try to infuriate me with their membership status. It doesn’t take a genius to…

Me: Then how did you get caught?

Silas: I… well, they… I couldn’t… I was… can I have my drink now?

I will probably regret sending him off to the pub later on but it buys me a few minutes of silence. I love him to bits, but he can get pretty loud sometimes, and the bragging is sometimes just a little bit over the top. But he’s a good guy at heart despite what might be said about him. He could easily just skip town – well not now when there’s no fuel for his ship – but he promised the Cedarians to uphold the law in exchange for his freedom, and law breaker that he may be, he would never break a promise.

Like Josephine, I only realised that Silas reminds me of a certain pirate when I was done writing him. For a moment I was worried, but members of the team told me it was fine and that they all liked him, so we kept him as he is, our steampunkish version of Jack Sparrow. Can you spot the resemblance? In a way this is a bit of a homage, since Jack is one of my favourite fictional characters, and what I believe to be Johnny Depp’s finest role.

Below you can see some of the evolution of Silas during the art process. We wanted him to appear handsome but at the same time rather ruggish, and this is how we went about it.

Faces! We weren't sure if we wanted a young Silas or an older version at first.

Faces! We weren’t sure if we wanted a young Silas or an older version at first.

And here's Silas in his full body glory. Notice how details make all the difference!

And here’s Silas in his full body glory. Notice how details make all the difference!

And finally, the 3D versions! =D

And finally, the 3D versions! =D

 

 

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When the lights go out…

…. creatures come out to play.

A running theme in Cedaria is the blackout;  with the island’s main source of power – the Phoenix –  gone, the citizens are forced to stumble in the dark, relying on primitive means to light their path and trying to avoid getting attacked in the shadows. This was inspired by the power shortage issues faced by the country of Lebanon, on which the game is based.

“Kahraba walla ishtirak?” – is a common (Arabic) question in Lebanon, basically meaning, “Is it state electricity or generator electricity?” Power outages are so frequent that citizens need to rely on generators for power 12 hours every day. The main electricity company in Lebanon is always unable to supply all areas with electricity due to the fuel shortage and debts in the country, and as such distributes power to the different areas (often times unfairly) according to a strict time schedule. Be careful not to use the elevator at 10 a.m., 2 p.m., 6 p.m. or 12 a.m. or you might be stuck! Especially during summer when outages become more and more frequent.

"Ijit, ijit!" - an enthusiastic way of saying, "The electricity's back on!"

“Ijit, ijit!” – an enthusiastic way of saying, “The electricity’s back on!”

The Lebanese are fortunate enough to have generators; the subscriptions  are very costly, but it’s better than spending hours in the dark – or worse, sleeping without any fan or ACs during the hot summer nights!! – isn’t it? The citizens of Cedaria, however, do not have generators. Or rather, they have a very limited number of very primitive ones that can barely power anything. And since the island relies heavily on its industry, this only resulted in very dire consequences.

Why can’t they use other resources? That’s where politics come into play. The Thunes who live in the mountains have monopolized the island’s stores of coal, making the precious substance available only to the very rich. The very marginalized Ozar who have always been in charge of the timber industry took this as an opportunity to demand more rights. The Kythiens offered no help because the Phoenix bothered them  anyway. The Vaytori got the short end of the stick, trapped in the middle with no means of securing enough electricity to power up their cities. Thus, chaos ensues.

The Lebanese citizens are helpless in the face of the power outages in their country. However, in Cedaria: Blackout, we want to be able to give the player a chance to change things to the better. Of course, there are many issues in Lebanon that we’ve incorporated into the game, but the outages are considered quite a big deal.  It’s true that by fixing the power problem you aren’t going to automatically solve every problem there is, but… it gives a whole new meaning to the phrase, “There’s a light at the end of each tunnel”, doesn’t it?

 

Do you have many power outages where you live? If you were in Cedaria, what solutions would you come up with? What’s the one thing you would miss the most in case of a blackout? Personally, I’d miss my internet!

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A Date with Josephine.

Jo

Character creation is one of my absolute favourite things about game writing… writing up the background, coming up with goals, secrets and conflicts… and dressing them up, of course! So, today I thought I’d talk a little about what went into creating the first female character in Cedaria: Blackout. Actually, Josie happens to be here today, so I’m going to leave it to her to introduce herself!

Josie: For the record, it’s not a date.

Me: Affirmative. I’m engaged anyway.

Josie: Oh, congratulations! Don’t tell my mother, she wouldn’t let me hear the end of it with all her talk about grandchildren, but I do want to get married eventually. The shop comes first, though, as you well know. I’ve got a title to keep!

Me: Cedaria’s sole female mechanic, was it?

Josie: And the best, of course. -winks- I love what I do. I’ve always watched my father mess with all sorts of machines, and every time he brought one back to life I was filled with such delight. It’s like a puzzle. You get the broken machine, and the client is totally clueless about what happened to it. If you’re lucky, they won’t have hit it with a wrench in an attempt to make it work.

Me: But I thought that was a useful trick!

Josie: Contrary to popular belief, it isn’t. It only serves to make my job more difficult.

Me: Duly noted. Though I was curious, how does the general populace receive a female mechanic? I know that proper women are expected to be on their best behaviour and wear fancy dresses at all times.

Josie: I do get weird looks occasionally, but I’ve built a reputation for myself, and many, begrudgingly or not, attest to my skills. My femininity is not a flaw, and I’ll prove to everyone that I’m a damn good mechanic. I want to help fix the Phoenix, if that’s possible. That’ll shut them up.

Me: Pretty ambitious, aren’t you?

Josie: You have to be, especially in times like this. Oh, excuse me, a client just came in. I don’t get much of them these days.

And that was Josie. She’s one of my favourites, actually. I love her spunk, and the fact that she’s doing what she likes, regardless of what might be said about her. One of the things I took into consideration while writing her is the fact that there are many professions that are unfeminine by social norms. With all the talk of equality between men and women, there are still things that are off-limits to both genders, even now when we supposedly live in an advanced society.

At first I didn’t really know what inspired Josie, then when she was complete and I unconsciously started calling her “Jo”, I realised that she reminded me a bit of opinionated, stubborn Josephine March. Of course, Jo March wasn’t a mechanic, but she had the tomboyish steak that my Josie possesses, a trait I find quite endearing.

As a special treat, I’m going to share with you some early pictures of Josie. What happens in the concept art process is that I give Gwen, our artist, some reference images as to what I want the character looks like, and she whips up some sketches before finalizing the character.

First we get to decide what the face looks like!

First we get to decide what the face looks like!

And the full body sketches, both the first draft and the final version. Doesn't she look awesome?

And the full body sketches, both the first draft and the final version. Doesn’t she look awesome?

And here's the 3D model of Josephine. I think our artist did a fantastic job with her!

And here’s the 3D model of Josephine. I think our artist did a fantastic job with her!

 

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