My Next Game: Echoes of the Fey

Last week, I finally released 26 Gy, a project that has been weirdly hanging over my head for way too long. So, what’s next? Something big, that a few of you might already know about. For my next project, I’m fully teaming up with Woodsy Studio for a multi-project visual novel series called Echoes of the Fey. This isn’t a new partnership by any means–I did court/debate dialog on Serafina’s Crown and she did music/art on The Closer: Game of the Year Edition–but this is the first time we’re going to fully invest on the same project.

Echoes of the Fey takes place in the realm of Oraz, a land split between Humans in the east and Leshin (the politically correct term for Elves in Oraz) in the west, with a great forest separating them. Leshin do not age and can use powerful sorcery called Fey Magic. Humans aren’t so lucky, though they eventually learned to build large machines—Fey Reactors—to harvest the magical energy used by the Leshin.

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Leshin – Art by Jenny Gibbons

The activation of the Fey Reactors sparked a Leshin invasion of the East. Stronger, faster, and capable of magic, the Leshin thought the war would be over quickly. It wasn’t. Humans fought them tooth-and-nail with superior numbers and dragged the conflict out over thirty years. Eventually, Leshin sentiment turned against the war. The people overthrew their religious government and came to terms with the Humans. They restored the original borders and began a new, unstable era of peace. That’s where our story begins.

I know this sounds like a typical Lord of the Rings derivative, something I’ve been hesitant to write for long time. But it’s not. Echoes of the Fey is high fantasy with a twist: it’s not really high fantasy. It is a detective series, inspired as much by Raymond Chandler as J.R.R. Tolkien. The main character is not a king or a prince, and her goal is not a throne or the salvation of her people. She is a private investigator, and all she wants is enough gold to pay her rent and keep her in whiskey for the foreseeable future.

Sofya Rykov- Concept Art by Wendy Gram, Coloring by Jenny Gibbons

Sofya Rykov

Sofya Rykov is a veteran of the Great War and a victim of its final weeks. The daughter of a wealthy noblewoman, she had secured a cushy position guarding a Fey Reactor deep in Human territory. In the last days of the war, the Leshin launched a desperate attack on the reactor and detonated it, killing thousands. Well within the blast radius, Sofya should have died that day. But she barely survived, and in the wake of the disaster found herself with unstable magic powers that no Human before her has ever possessed.

Frightened of what Humans or Leshin might do to her if they discovered her powers, Sofya withdrew from society and now ekes out a living as a mercenary, investigator, and (occasionally) con-woman. She is assisted by her friend and doctor, a Leshin by the name of Heremon ir-Caldy.

Overworld Character Sprites

Character sprites by Jenny Gibbons

Each chapter of Echoes of the Fey will start with a client, a mystery, and an angle that will force Sofya to explore her own magical abilities as well as the evolving relationship between humans and Leshin.

While the realm is nominally at peace, the truth is that new wars are brewing. During the conflict, Humans united under the banner of the powerful House Lapidus, which now asserts a claim to an empire that spans from the Leshin border to the eastern coasts of Oraz. Imperial troops spread across the land attempt to maintain Lapidus rule against other ambitious families and county governments.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the border, the new Leshin leaders—The Alliance of Free Cities—struggle to unite a people previously only united by their religion. New extremist factions have emerged in the wake of the old clerics disbanding.

Echoes of the Fey is centered on the Human border city of Vodotsk, a scarred city that had been occupied by Leshin forces for decades prior to the peace accord. Humans and Leshin, just months separated from a brutal war, struggle to co-exist peacefully. The ruling houses of the region are defunct and control of the city shifts between an interim county government and newly-arrived Imperial officers and sympathizers who seek to add the lands to the Lapidus tracts.

The Fox’s Trail

The first full episode, The Fox’s Trail, involves a missing Leshin veteran and the youngest son of a wealthy Human house, Eduard Galkin. The Fox’s Trail will be a choice-driven visual novel with multiple endings and character side quests scattered throughout Vodotsk. In preparation, I (hopefully) will be releasing a free short story/novella The Prophet’s Arm, detailing an early case involving a key side character in The Fox’s Trail.

Hopefully all of this is coming in May 2016, but we know how things get delayed so I’m not ready to put a full release date out there for either the VN or the novella. We work fast and a good amount of the game is already finished but, you know, shit happens.

26 Gy is Now Released! And on Steam Greenlight!

January 26th is here, which means 26 Gy is finally ready for release!

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26 Gy is a classic RPG about dying of radiation poisoning. Rather than gain levels like in a typical RPG, you will spend the game losing levels. That’s right–as every minute passes, your character will lose a level and their stats will decrease at a corresponding rate. There’s only one way to mitigate this loss–find weapons, armor, and stat boosts in a procedurally-generated labyrinth.

Of course, this takes time and time is the one thing you don’t have. You have only seventy-two minutes (each minute representing an in-game hour) so you’ll have to choose whether to rush to the exit of each level or search for important stat-restoring items.

The game is purchasable now on itch.io HERE.

Vote on Steam Greenlight HERE.

MathenyQuest, a Playable Teaser

MathenyQuest

If there is any creed that I strive to live by, it is this: do as Hideo Kojima would do.

So when I was presented with the question of how to continue to promote my upcoming game, The Closer: Game of the Year Edition, there was only one thing to do. I needed to make a playable teaser.

Last year, Hideo Kojima rocked the world of video games with P.T., a brief and mysterious free game released on PS4 with little-to-no explanation.

Despite the fact it was only a promotional tool, P.T. was so effective and weird that numerous reviewers ended up naming it one of the best games of the year. It’s a great idea for promotion: a short game that is entirely divorced from the story of the main title, but can express the themes and ideas in an easily accessible (and free) manner.

To follow in Kojima’s footsteps, I had to distill the humor and existential weirdness of The Closer into something that could be played and understood by anyone. A text adventure, maybe. Or just a Twine game.

I made a Twine game. Go check it out.

MathenyQuest

 

Announcing The Closer: Game of the Year Edition

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If you’ve been following my World War K series, I should probably start with an apology. Ever since the Kansas City Royals made it to the World Series, it’s been hard to stay motivated. But that’s not the only reason I haven’t made a post every week, or why the posts have been shorter.  The truth is, I’ve been working on something else.

That something else is The Closer: Game of the Year Edition

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What The Fuck Is This?

The Closer: Game of the Year Edition is a computer game, made (almost) exclusively by me. Because I like to do dumb things with my free time. Because I spend most of my not-free time doing boring, not-dumb things like being a lawyer.

This Looks Like It Is Made In RPG Maker!

That is because it is.

But RPG Maker Games Are Terrible!

To The Moon is pretty great, right?  Well, this isn’t To The Moon. To The Moon is touching story about death and regret. This is the tale of a young relief pitcher who gives up the winning run in game 6 of the World Series and goes on an epic quest to regain his confidence before a decisive game 7.  Along the way, he encounters bar trivia contests, Japanese PC games, pop-Marxist philosophy, and existential terror. In no particular order.

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Is This A Joke?

No, this is not a joke. Well, yes, it is a joke. But I am making this game. So it’s not a joke.

Seriously?

Listen, I know that Barkley: Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden worked through a lot of the same ground I’m traversing here.  Barkley is fantastic and I won’t pretend I wasn’t inspired by it. But I’m a baseball fan, and I wanted to make a game about baseball. And when it’s done I will be giving this away for free, so stop complaining.

This Will Be Free?

There are a good number of likenesses and trademarks and art assets from MLB used in this game that, heh, I haven’t exactly negotiated.  While I am fairly comfortable in asserting that this is all parody, within the fair use exemptions that can go along with that, I’m not dumb enough to try and profit off of this. When this is done, it will be released for free with permission to upload it or whatever else you might want to do with it elsewhere.

How Can I Play It?

Unfortunately, as of now, the most updated version of RPG Maker only lets you play games on Windows PCs.  Supposedly Android middleware is coming, but I will believe it (and do a port) when I see it.

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So What Kind Of Game Is This?

While I’m using RPG Maker–mostly because I’m far more interested in writing than programming–The Closer: Game of the Year Edition is more of an adventure game. Or maybe you’d call it a visual novel.  There are battles, there are Game Overs, but for the most part it’s not about those things. It’s about the story. And the choices you make. And jokes.  Featuring:

  • Multiple party members, almost all of which have their own unique “fighting” style, including pitching, debate, and Sabermagics
  • Something resembling branching story lines
  • Music by Jenny Gibbons (Check out The Closer’s Entrance – as well as her other work – on Bandcamp)
  • Lots and lots of words, so if you’ve enjoyed World War K or any of my other writing, you should check this out.

But It’s Hard To Make A Funny Video Game!

Oh god, I know. It’s almost impossible to control precise timing in video games, which strips out a ton of the nuance in comedy.  Truly funny video games are few and far between, but that’s not going to stop me from trying because this is more for my own amusement than anything else.

These Screenshots Look Rough!

Yeah, a good amount of the pixel art is stuff is modified from the RPG Maker package or hastily made myself.  The battle screens are pasted together by, again, me.  The maps could clearly I am not particularly skilled at art. It could get better before release.  Honestly, it might not get better before release.  I am aware that I am not the best artist.

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So What Is The Story?

Game Six of the World Series.  Ninth inning.  St. Louis at New York, with New York up 3-2. One strike away from winning the World Series, the closer for New York gives up a monstrous home run (and the lead) to reigning NL MVP Carlos Rodriguez.  After the game, he realizes that his dominating slider has turned into an easily-hittable meatball.  With less than 24 hours until Game 7, he needs to learn a new pitch before the next inevitable Game 7 showdown against Rodriguez.

But How Does He Know He Will Have To Face Rodriguez In Game 7?

Buddy, it’s call dramatic license.

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So, When Is This Releasing?

I’m glad you’re asking this question because it means that you’re interested. The Closer: Game of the Year Edition will be released in 2015. Yeah, that’s not a well-defined time. That’s because I don’t know how long this is going to take.  A good portion of it is already done, and (mostly) bug-free.  Halfway?  Probably a bit more than that. Depends on how deep this rabbit hole is going to go.

You Don’t Know When It Will Be Done? Why Are You Announcing This?

Hey, watch it with the hostility.

Basically, I want to talk about this game. I want another thing to post about, and a reason to post more about video games in general. The Closer isn’t a very traditional video game, unless you consider  jokes-instead-of-gore Corpse Party a traditional video game. Developing something myself, as unconventional as it might be, gives me an excuse to make posts about video games.

You’re Not Doing A Very Good Job Of Selling This Game.

Oh, I know.  This is an RPG Maker game made by someone who is a writer, not a game designer or an artist. I’m well aware of all the caveats that have to go with a project like this.

But this is a game where Slovenian philosopher Slajov Zizek can get into a debate about feminism with an elevator operator to infiltrate Twitter headquarters.

So, c’mon, you’re curious.