Posts Tagged With: Middle East

Why Steampunk?

I think the term “Steampunk” still raises some question marks when brought up before people. What is it? Is it a band? Is it some kind of music? My, it sounds rather rough, hide your wife and kids! But poor innocent Steampunk is merely a sub-genre of science fiction where steam-powered machinery is usually in abundance.

The nifty thing about Steampunk, I think, is the fact that it provides a perfect balance between the modern day and the fantasy world. This is actually the reason why we went for the Steampunk genre; it allowed us to portray some real life elements quite realistically while at the same time allowing us to have a little fun and fantasize things a little. After all, our first and foremost goal was to indirectly teach the player some skills they can use in the real world, and it seemed improbable that they might ever come into a situation where they might have to decide how to best kill a ravaging sea goblin, with a sword or with a blaster ray gun.

But why on Earth did we choose to combine Steampunk with the Middle East? Well… why not? I think it’s a pretty cool combination, and no, I’m not biased at all. Victorian meets oriental, industry meets tradition… Middle Punk. No? Middle Steam? Oh, I know, East Punk! Okay, no, I don’t know what I’m saying and I feel like I’m rambling, but you all get the picture, don’t you?

The next question would be, why didn’t we go all the way and use Middle-Eastern names for our NPCs? After all, we did adopt Middle-Eastern architectural models. This was indeed a topic of discussion for a while, and at one point we did have Arabic names, but ultimately we decided against it due to the sensitive nature of the games and some connotations that might be associated with some of the names that we might pick. We didn’t want to offend anyone, especially since this is ultimately a peace-building game, and decided that our safest bet would be to stick to typical Victorian names that would be common to any form of steampunkish media. Plus, we were hoping to reach more than the Middle East with our game, and figured that Arabic names might sound odd to a foreign gamer.

With all that’s said and done, it’s really exciting to know that we’re attempting something that has never been done before!

Are you a fan of Steampunk? Maybe you like cosplay too? You should head over to our Facebook page or check out this link! We are having a Steampunk cosplay competition with a really cool prize. =D /shameless plug.

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

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… 😉

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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

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

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

On Designing Cedaria: Blackout.

So today I poked Robert, our game designer, into talking a little about what goes into the process of designing Cedaria: Blackout. He and I have been working together on the many zones of the island and the missions involved in the game. However, he’s more established in the gaming industry and can provide a more apt explanation on the topic!

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Today, we thought we would talk a bit about the story and how it intertwines with the locations, clans and characters.

Crafting the Story

When we set out to create Cedaria: Blackout, we wanted the players to be able to control as much of their story as possible, while at the same time keeping a red thread throughout the game.

In essence, we wanted to present the player with meaningful goals, not a checklist of tasks they had to go through mechanically. We wanted them to think about how they could solve these problems rather than just ticking off yet another Wolf Claw to collect. For that reason, we decided that the story needed to be both flexible and dynamic in order to handle the many ways a player could complete a single objective.

Thus – the story will wrap itself around what you accomplish in the game as well as how you go about it. Solving a particular problem in a peaceful way will affect the story in a completely different way than solving it by applying force upon others. And the outcome of the solution might have deep consequences for the rest of the game. When the game ends, you will find out just how deeply rooted some of your choices have been.

Non-Player Characters (NPCs)

An important aspect to weaving the story around the character are the NPCs that you meet through your adventure. Depending on your actions both to them and their kin and clan, some might take a shine to you while others treat you with disdain.

Our dialogue system allows for unlocking dialogues that depend on your previous actions, profession and even gender should it be appropriate. Having a conversation with Silas Burcombe as a female avatar rather than a male avatar will result in a different experience. If you are an explorer, having a talk with the distinguished Professor Abigail Gregan may open up further dialogue choices that might give you an unexpected advantage or extra information.

Will the next person you meet be an ally? Or your nemesis?

Our resident sky pirate shows off to the island's sole female mechanic, while she silently judges him.

Our resident sky pirate shows off to the island’s sole female mechanic, while she silently judges him.

Zone Design for Story

We didn’t start designing the zones until we had a good idea of what the main background story of the game would be. As with NPCs, our zones have the story of the game ingrained in them at conception. When designing our zones, we took care to think not just about what points of interests there should be, but also about how the energy crisis has affected the area and how we can incorporate the zone into the story.

In addition to the energy crisis, zones have characteristics and themes unique to themselves. A thriving trade port will react to the crisis in a different way than a rural countryside or a mining colony and as a result provide a rich variety of problems to solve when visiting them.

Snapshot of Lacunda. I daresay this is Robert's favourite of all zones!

Snapshot of Lacunda. I daresay this is Robert’s favourite of all zones!

Also – please remember to come up with names for our office kitty! He really wants one!

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

Kicking off with a… kitten?

Today I’m excited to announce that we have finally launched the Kickstarter for Cedaria: Blackout! We were so nervous about clicking the “Launch” button that we had a kitten do it for us. Yes, you heard me – a kitten. We currently have an office kitten right now, and while I love kittens to death I’m starting to think his presence will be an extremely huge distraction, but then I look at how extremely darn cute he is and all is right with the world again.

But I digress.

Our Kickstarter is finally up, and it should give you a look about the game and what it’s all about. But while we’re at it, I’ll give a brief introduction.

Cedaria: Blackout is a cooperative adventure RPG set on the island of Cedaria, where chaos has been unleashed as  a result of the breakdown of a machine that held it at its seams and drove forward its industrial movement, a machine known as the Phoenix. Ten of its essential parts disappeared under mysterious circumstances, and the machine could not be put together again (for more on the story, click here).

As a wayfarer returning home to reunite with your family after a long period of absence, you will soon find yourself stuck on the island, and will be given the choice between doing what’s best for you, or what’s best for the island.

The game has been designed under the banner of “gaming for peace”. It is somewhat based on the country of Lebanon, but discusses issues present in every other country in the world. Rather than simply killing monsters and rescuing people just because the game tells you to, we want the player to be aware of the choices they’re making and the effect they have on the island; so it’s not just an adventure through a universe influenced by steampunk and Middle-Eastern elements, but very much a choice and consequence kind of game.

To make this happen, we need your help! We have such awesome plans for the game but unfortunately lack a sufficient budget, and it would absolutely kill me if we didn’t get to execute them all. You wouldn’t want me dead, would you?

Wait, don’t answer that.

It would make our kitten sad, though. =[ And speaking of our kitten, how would you like to help us name it? We’re all still pretty much undecided, and I do believe that continuing to call a male cat “Kitty” will make it rather confused later on.

Our kitten! Isn't he just adorable?

Our kitten! Isn’t he just adorable?

And what's a kitten without its castle?

And what’s a kitten without its castle?

Categories: General | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

The Perks of Being a Game Writer.

One of the first things I’ve realised after starting out as a writer for Cedaria: Blackout is that work can actually be fun. Sure, I still have to wake up early (sometimes after few hours of sleep), sure I have a bit of a long commute, sure it’s sometimes a bit hectic, but it’s fun with a capital F, to the extent that it sometimes does not feel like work at all.

Working on Cedaria has been special in the sense that it’s a team effort. Even though I’m the writer, almost everyone can contribute to the way the storyline is going, whether it’s a line of dialogue thrown in by our designer, or a special contraption included by the 2D artist in one of the various concept arts, or a simple suggestion by one of our 3D artists that spawned off an entire town. When you’re working on a book, it’s more or less a solo effort, but when you have everyone brainstorming together and tossing all these wonderful and crazy ideas out, you feel secure in the knowledge that you’re going to end up with a very cool game. It also helps vanquish Writer’s Block quite effectively!

One of the best things that come along with the territory is that you get the benefit of seeing your characters come to life. The first time I saw my characters as ink on paper (or pixels on my computer screen) I practically squealed in delight. You can already see a couple of them – my favourites, actually – in the background of this blog. Eventually I’ll introduce them to you; one of them is practically dying to talk about himself. Honestly, we’ve had to keep him on a leash because he was causing so much havoc.

The world of Cedaria is slowly taking shape now, and it is absolutely exciting to watch it unfurl before my eyes. The various zones are slowly getting populated with various NPCs and points of interest, and of course that means writing a whole bunch of back stories and quests and researching various professions and Victorian and steampunk elements (mighty generators and airships, monocles and goggles, thingamajigs and whatchamacallits!) … and that’s without mentioning everything going into planning the game’s reveal next week!

Things are getting incredibly busy, but that’s okay. As I said, it’s just incredible fun. =D

Categories: General | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Introductions are really not my thing.

I am usually terrible when it comes to introducing myself or any subject I intend to talk about. In most cases I’m all too happy to let someone take the load off my shoulders and just take the stage, to the extent that I almost would not care if they introduced me as a chainsaw-wielding, home-wrecking sociopath, as long as they said something. Anything.

It’s even worse when I want to introduce a project I’m working on. As a writer, people ask me, “Hey, Zen, what’s your book about?” and I just freeze. Yes, it’s my book; yes, of course I’m the one who wrote it, but please do not ask me about it. For your sake and mine, I think we’d both be better off if you just read the synopsis inscribed on the back of the book.

Unfortunately, however, I cannot do that with Cedaria. It’s not a tangible thing, there is no back cover! The first time I had to introduce the game to a large crowd of gamers*, I panicked. I was shaking, shredding a tissue paper between my fingers, my coworker had to practically take my hand and lead me to the stage. For a moment my mind was completely blank and I forgot what I was there to talk about; I was mostly thinking, “Oh my god they are going to abhor me.  They probably think I have no idea what I’m doing. Need to get out. Would they laugh if I bolted to the nearest exit?”

Fortunately, things went pretty smoothly after I managed to form the first few coherent sentences, and hopefully they will go just as smoothly here in the days to come as I introduce you to the video game I have started working on recently. A video game by the name of Cedaria: Blackout, the first ever to combine both Middle Eastern and steampunk elements.

What is it about? Well, for now you will have to settle for the little sneak peak here! 😉

* This is entirely relative. To me, a large crowd comprises 20 people.

Categories: General | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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