Posts Tagged With: Lebanon

The best characters…

… are the flawed ones. It’s kinda ironic, though, isn’t it? In real life, people strive to be perfect, and yet they hate seeing perfect characters in books, movies and games. They flag them as Mary Sues or Gary Stus, they wrinkle their noses at the sight of them, they wonder what the writers were thinking, they give the book/movie/game bad ratings… of course I may be just generalizing here; some people happen to like these characters and to those I say… well, you like what you like.

When I set about designing the characters for Cedaria: Blackout, I wanted to make them as realistic as possible, characters that the player can easily identify with. I didn’t want them to be cardboard cutouts or have cookie cutter personalities. And since the game is supposed to be inspired by the world we live in, I just took a look around me.

People watching is interesting; it’s amazing how much you can tell about a person just from observing them for a few minutes, and before you say anything; no, I am not a stalker!

Let’s take Quentin, for example. I cannot tell you how many Quentins I have met in my life; those who want to go down a certain route but are too intimidated by their parents to actually try to chase after their dreams, those who live to please their parents at the expense of their own happiness.

Or let’s look at Josephine. While I’ve never met an actual female mechanic, I don’t see why it should only be a masculine job. Being female doesn’t make one any less of an expert when it comes to machines or cars. One thing I’ve noted in Lebanon is that men tend to automatically assume that the “bad” driver ahead of them is a woman, and okay, okay, they’re mostly right, but that doesn’t mean you get to lump all women in the category of bad drivers. That just plain irritates me. And god forbid a man ever use public transportation conducted by a female.

And there are several others… the corrupt politician, the tomboy, the pompous git, the sneaky merchant… these are all examples you can find in your everyday life. Any given person might know a Quentin or a Josie, maybe even a Silas… though I do feel sorry for those people especially if they’ve been robbed by him. The best kinds of books, movies or games are those that have characters that can make you feel something, and it’s something I hope to achieve with this game.

How do you like your characters? Flawed, or perfect? How do you make sure that you’re not creating a Mary Sue?

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Categories: Characters | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Cedariaception

So I realise I’ve been going on and on about the game and never actually talked about how it was conceived. It started out on a bright, sunny day with politicians screaming at each other in the background and explosions going off and scuffles breaking out on streets and… well, not exactly. Cedaria: Blackout was born out of the need for a fun tool promoting the acceptance of the other and proper conflict resolution skills without boring people to tears. I’m pretty sure you all picked up an educational game at one point and thought, “oh my god this is so boring please make it stop”, and I agree wholeheartedly with you. You couldn’t get me to play an educational/serious game unless you paid me.

Search for Common Ground Lebanon (an NGO – SFCGL for short) came to the conclusion that a video game was a very good way of getting messages across without coming off as preachy, and nobody likes a preacher. Even if you don’t know much about Lebanon, you’re at least probably aware that it is not a stable country, and a large portion of its instability stems from the many different religions/sects living within its small confines. Young generations are all pretty much caught up in all the hoopla, and even the smallest of children might show signs of stigma or intolerance when prompted; SFCG wanted to relay peaceful messages to them through a medium they’re generally accepting of. They’re less likely to clamp their hands over their ears if you’ve got them playing a game!

You’d really be surprised at the amount of research that went into this field and proved the significant psychological impact games – especially the violent ones – have on the mindsets of kids and adults alike. One second you’re bludgeoning a monster to death and seeing red when a particularly difficult boss does not die, the next you’re taking out your frustration at a friend or family member, and if you’re playing games for 3 to 4 hours a day – a survey we conducted revealed that to be the average gaming time for a typical teen in Lebanon – then you’ve got a lot of unnecessary exposure to violence. So if violence can have such an effect, why not peace and logic?

Of course, SFCG is no gamer, and they knew that if they were to go about it themselves they’d end up with a boring, educational game anyway, so they discussed their idea with Matsuko, home to a number of veteran developers who’ve worked on projects like Assassin’s Creed, Age of Conan and Far Cry, and they were all game. Pun intended. The games Matsuko worked on were mostly violent, so Cedaria was a nice change of pace for them.

To make this game as authentic as possible, SFCG needed a Lebanese element on board the project to help give it that Middle Eastern flavour that they wanted. No, I’m not talking about tabbouleh and stuffed grape leaves and baba ganoush – even though they are yummy –  but rather about the Lebanese team comprising a composer, 3D artists and a writer – yours truly! The idea was that only the Lebanese can truly know what their country is like and portray it accordingly.

So right now we’re in the production stages. Sometimes we need to build bridges between the peacebuilding team of SFCG and the gaming team of Matsuko, and sometimes we end up using conflict resolution skills ourselves. It’s an interesting experience for all of us, but we’re trying hard to come up with a common ground for everything. Now, if only we can get that funding necessary to make the game as awesome as it can be… 😉

Categories: General | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Peek at Cedarian Factions.

On the island of Cedaria, we have four clans and a number of factions, each with their own interests and goals. When I set about to create these factions, I reflected on some of the groups and communities found here in Lebanon and other countries as well. There were some factions that I wanted to have but wouldn’t have fit outside a fantasy setting, but others were definitely inspired by my surroundings. So let’s play a game – two truths and a lie. One of the following three factions is fictional, but the other two are realistic to a certain extent. Try to figure out which is which!

The logo for the Alliance (also the only one we have at the moment, I'm afraid!)

The logo for the Alliance (also the only one we have at the moment, I’m afraid!)

The first of these factions would be the Aeronaut Alliance, which was established by Cedaria’s first aeronaut, Captain Maxwell Winters in an attempt to protect all aeronauts from any backlash they might receive from unhappy passengers. The Alliance only accepts aeronauts who have shown skills and possess sufficient experience; however, they have continued to decline Captain Burcombe’s application on the grounds of his indecent past, much to his chagrin. It is also in charge of training any individuals who wish to join the fleet. Its membership remains small, however, due to the limited number of aeronauts on the island.

The second faction for today is the Delanty Brotherhood, a criminal syndicate established by Levi, Fulke and Owen Delanty, three brothers known for the illegal ways they adopted since a very young age. The brothers recruited many followers, and liked to have spies within other clans. They are responsible for the majority of the crimes occurring on the island, be it smuggling, theft, forgery, blackmail, kidnappings or even murder. They have been apprehended by the police several times before; however, every time the citizens thought they were rid of them for good, the Brothers would be released under mysterious circumstances with no more than a slap on the wrist. Collectively, the three brothers hope to maintain a strong grip on Cedaria, but individually their goals could not be any more different.

Finally, we have the Society of Female Artisans, established by a certain Bridget Cuthberstone, an entrepreneur fed up with the harassment and grief she received from other men in the working field. Bridget hoped to be able provide females with a sort of “haven” where they could discuss their problems and figure out solutions – however devious they may be – and share the occasional piece of gossip. Bridget also wished to be able to, with the help of the other members, to petition for the creation of a law that would protect the best interests of all females, regardless of clan, in the work place; however, her efforts were often rebuked by those who did not want to see women rise to power. Still, she often tended be a little devious with her solutions, not caring if they were ethical or not as long as she got her revenge – such as using her connections to publish scandalous pieces in the newspaper.

What do you think then? Which was the lie? Can you see any of those factions existing in the real world? =]

Categories: Characters, Factions | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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!

Categories: Design, General | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Of Kickstarter and Internet Woes.

According to Murphy’s Laws, when you really need something, its either not available, or can’t be found, and when you don’t need it, its either available, or lays around in plain sight. Here’s one thing I should mention about Lebanon before anything else: we have (probably) the world’s slowest and most unreliable internet. And terrible customer service; to get your connection fixed, you would have to wait many hours or days at a time. I’m not even exaggerating. The one good thing about the internet here is that it allows you to go with the excuse of, “Hey, sorry I couldn’t meet my deadline. My internet was dead last night.” 

Yesterday was a pretty hectic day for the entire team because we wanted to submit a Kickstarter campaign for Cedaria. There were reward tiers to be filled, descriptions to be written, proofreading to be done… and that’s without mentioning all the other things we’re preparing for the official announcement of the game. Then, suddenly, right in the middle of proofreading the campaign details and double-checking the reward tiers, my computer tells me I don’t have internet access. Just when I really, REALLY need it.

I was quite ready to flip my laptop. Hey I'm getting a new one in a couple of day; I'm not fussed about what could happen to it.

I was quite ready to throw my laptop. Hey I’m getting a new one in a couple of days; I’m not fussed about what could happen to it.

I restarted my router, my laptop, tried just about everything I could think of, but no dice. And it was a bit late, so of course I wouldn’t have been able to grab hold of anyone who could get the dratted connection to work. Thankfully, our producer lives abroad and I was able to contact him and let him know what happened. He was able to salvage the situation; he proofread the entire thing and submitted it before the night was over, earning 200 nerd points and winning the internet (not mine) in the process. Meanwhile, I had fallen asleep over my laptop after staring far too long at the little computer in the corner of my taskbar. I woke up much later to find an email from said producer letting me know that the application has been submitted. phew. Hopefully it should go live within a few days, and then we can get around to discussing all the game elements I’ve been so tight-lipped about!

Things are relatively calmer today – if you ignore the underlying tension that accompanies the wait for the campaign to be approved – and the internet is working! Today we all get to resume our regular tasks after all the work that went to preparing our KS campaign. There are some back stories to be written, gang names to be decided on, and other cool stuff. Personally I’m looking forward to more concept art for my characters! It’s going to be interesting to see what our artist comes up with for the different clans inhabiting the island. 😉

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