Posts Tagged With: steampunk

The End of Kickstarter.

Our Kickstarter campaign was a smashing success! We got 332% funded and are now going to produce the best and most epic game in the history of video games! IT IS GOING TO BE AWESOME.

… is what I wish I could tell you. The sad truth is that the Cedaria Kickstarter failed horribly. We were so enthusiastic about it at the start, but as the days passed it became clear that we were not going to receive the money necessary to make the game the way we want it to be. It is rather disappointing, and many a days at the office were spent wallowing in ice cream and other chocolatey goodness to cheer ourselves up, or giving pep talks to remind each other that Cedaria will happen, with or without the funding.

The thing is, we do need the extra funding to include some necessary elements and help speed up the production process and avoid cutting back on some cool stuff we wish to include. So for that reason, we’re not really giving up just yet.

We made some mistakes along the way, we realise that now. There are a number of things that could’ve been done differently, but there’s no point in lamenting at the moment. In fact, that’s the last thing we’d think of doing now that we’re busy preparing for a second crowdfunding campaign! Yes, you heard that right, we’re coming back with a new and improved campaign within a month’s time, and we will be definitely more ready.

In the meantime, I am going to continue posting updates and information about the game, but at a slower pace given that I’m plenty busy creating NPCs and storylines at the moment! 😉

With that out of the way, all that is left to say is… thank you for your support! =D

 

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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.

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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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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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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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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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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

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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.

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