Hey, hey people. CHARACTER CREATION. What does it mean to create a character!? To become a character! To lose yourself in a world unlike your own… That is the topic of todays log. So, shall we begin?
First and foremost, I’d like to thank everyone who has chosen to back Arkavite on SubscribeStar. Your contributions mean the world to me, and have brought us ever closer to securing the future of this project. I’d like to offer more if possible, so if there’s anything you want to be seeing from me on top of these dev logs, do let me know! The idea of streams has been thrown around, so I may start doing that once my office space is set up (I have just moved and things are still a little hectic).
The Character Creator
As I’m sure you all know, a Character Creator, lets you create your character. I have introduced a sort of “CYOA” aspect to creation. In other words, you may select negative traits which bring misfortune (banes), in exchange for gifts and talents (boons).
From the top, we get a preview of the character we are creating. This is the character sprite you will eventually see in-game. It spins around to let you view your character from all four cardinal directions, and has little buttons that let you stop and rotate it manually.
To the right of the preview window, we have the character name input. The game will allow for a forename, surname and nickname. The goal is to have some variance in the way people in the world address you, and give you some control over the level of closeness/formality you have with individual characters. Should you really be on a first-name basis with that weirdo stranger you just met in a dungeon, or play it safe and go by your surname?
Going down, we have a text description of your character. Given the limited level of detail you can glean from the character sprite, it was necessary to include an in-depth text description of the character appearance/body state. For the purposes of the character creator, this description can be kept fairly succinct; however, once you are in the world, the description may need to go into further detail, so you know just how many nipples you have left after downing that strange potion.
This method of dynamic character description generation was inspired by games like CoC and Dwarf Fortress. The system is general purpose like Dwarf Fortress, with respect to the fact it could be used to generate detailed text descriptions of the in-world NPCs you encounter. I will need to keep building on this system If I want it to support beasts and the like, but that is a topic for another time.
Left of the dialogue window are the appearance modifying options. Some of these will alter your character description, whereas others will modify your sprite appearance. And some will do both! Right now we have height, sex (male, female, futanari), hair type, hair col, starter outfit, eye col, skin col, booba size, and general body shape (feminity vs masculinity).
I am currently contemplating whether it should be possible to set face masculinity/femininity separate to body type at character creation, or whether it would be best to just keep things simple for now with the overall body shape option.
The game does have systems in place for recognizing if your character is a trap, reverse trap or anything in between, and will let you know via the description window how most will perceive you. This totally necessary feature should come in handy for future RPG developments.
The middle section of the screen is dedicated to choice selection. There are NEXT and PREV buttons which allow you to cycle through the pages of Race, Banes, and Boons. As you can see, the choice descriptions themselves slide out from the right of the screen when hovered over.
Finally, on the right, we have the list of selected choices. Some choices you take will influence things like starting stats. I am thinking of displaying those changes in this list as well. Selecting a choice here will bring you back to the choice in the middle window…
The VN Dialogue interface has seen a lot of upgrades. We can now actually display characters, and to test things out I developed SYSTEM-TAN. Working on this was a nice excuse to make a qt “system dialogue” character. She only has three poses so far and a couple faces. She will need at least a few more before she’s ready for prime time.
As for her wider purpose, on entering the Character Creator for the first time, I figured it would be good to have someone give the player a quick run-through of what is going on. When the story aspect of the game is eventually introduced, we will have a story VN sequence followed by character creation, before the player is dropped into the game itself. For now, it’s just a quick SYSTEM-TAN run-through, and the character creator to play around with.
The core “civil” races of the game’s main factions will be available at character creation. There are currently five in total. Magukiri Magus, Bunnjin, Ikaware, Kitsukana, and Nya-Nyaatsu. Goofy names, I know, but I wanted something more unique to the setting, and most of these races will probably have some quirks which make them differ from their counterparts in more typical media.
Taking a stroll through the races, the Magus are pointy eared adventurers who put a focus on exploration, industrialization and war. Nya-Nyaatsu are a race of mostly fun-loving, sometimes violent cat-like folk. They would be content with just getting by. The Bunnjin are a scattered race of intellectuals who have taken to commanding the economic and financial sectors of society. Kitsukana are artsy, magical fox-like frens. Ikaware are an unpredictably curious race of squid-headed things who are responsible for most trade and piracy throughout the world.
To answer a common question, not all races you saw in Harahel will be available at character creation. This is because:
- As this is an actual game, I need to program all the behaviours and manage animations for every race I add. This does add a lot of time and complexity, so for now I would like to just establish a basic set of races people can start as, so I’m not spending forever on the character creator and can move swiftly onto developing gameplay.
- Some races behave differently to Harahel, or simply would not make sense in the context of the canon start I have in mind. As for the world itself, with the exception of a few, most of the races you may have seen in Harahel CYOA exist in the Arkavite setting, plus many additional ones.
There will be a TF aspect in the game and over the course of development, I plan on adding transformation routes to becoming new races which weren’t initially available at character creation. Once enough playable “transformable into” races have been established, I would like to offer alternate starts, which allow you to start from the beginning as these non-core races.
A Little Refresher & Story Integration
A little refresher since it’s been a while. To reiterate what I said in my Project Arkavite – A New Beginning log, the Harahel CYOA was based on aspects of Arkavite’s world and lore. Many parallels can be drawn between the two, but they are not the same. Gods, Magic and some of the more unique races, all come from Arkavite, as do some of the key locations, boons and banes, depicted in the Harahel CYOA.
To be clear and hopefully avoid confusion, what I’m making isn’t really going to be “Harahel CYOA – The Game”. I also won’t be having all the choices you saw in Harahel CYOA, in Arkavite from the get go. Much like races, I need to program behaviours for anything I add, so I need to keep things managable and take it all one step at a time. A lot of Harahel’s choices may also be very difficult to implement from a gameplay/programmatic standpoint, as a lot were developed solely from a “pick choices and imagine CYOA” perspective. For instance, playable Titans would probably be impossible to work in to gameplay/narrative unless it was a one-off event.
Ideally, I would like that aspect of managing your build, acquiring boons & banes, to be drawn out past the initial character creation phase and into the world itself, so you can continue to adapt as time goes on and so you’re not spending 12 hours in character creation, picking from hundreds of different choices. That would also be a bit more ideal from a dev standpoint, as we wouldn’t have to stuff all these choices into the character creator and have them implemented day one, when they may not even have implications/use till later. There’s also potential to weave them into a narrative with you gaining things through events, potions and what have you.
But I digress. Getting back on track, the Arkavite game’s canon start will have you be a native of the world, as opposed to an Earthling who gets isekai’d because some God-like entity accidentally’d the Earth to smithereens. The boons and banes at character creation will be justified as:
- Boons – Inherent gifts or things you gained up until now
- Banes – Inherent flaws or curses you gained up until now
As well as serving as added flavour to your characters’ backstory, I can picture some choices influencing the discussion of past events and interactions between yourself and some other characters.
With Arkavite, I may have leaned a little too much into the dark backstory narrative. I’m not sure if it will be everyone’s cup of tea, but the backstory itself shouldn’t have too much control over the wider narrative post-prologue. I want to offer alternate starts in the long run which you can “role play” as. An isekai start reminiscent of what you may have seen in Harahel CYOA is at the top of the list. I also have ideas floating around for a Royalty start, Dungeon monster start, and a forest wizard apprentice start. Various aspirational things which will need foundations before pursuing. Doing alternate starts will require a significant portion of the world’s map to be ironed out beforehand, so I don’t expect we’ll be seeing them soon. Getting on top of gameplay comes first.
I have since consolidated the Arkavite and Harahel worlds in such a way which should become apparent as time goes on. I hesitate to say too much as I do not want to spoil potential narrative points I am weaving in. I’m sure the big brained will be able to figure things out pretty early on. After all, I may or may not have already snuck some things into Harahel which foreshadow its links to Arkavite.
Choice art. Not only does it make things look pretty – choice art makes it easier to identify an individual choice at a glance when sifting through a larger list of choices. My initial plans were to keep all the art in the game pixel perfect, and I’ve clearly broken that rule. Given the pixel scale I’m operating on, there simply aren’t enough pixels at hand to make choice art that looks good. So in this case, I broke the convention. But in a weird way, I think this works. As the saying goes, the rules of consistency can be broken so long as you’re consistent about how you break them.
So, you may be wondering, “where the hell did all this choice art come from?” Did I yoink it from a booru? Nah. I do draw myself and have for around a decade now. I would consider myself to be a fairly decent artist, but obviously making art for 100 choices to the degree of quality I want would typically take anyone close to a year – maybe more. I don’t really have the budget to hire a fleet of artists, or the time to wait, so I’ve resigned to doing things myself, and thanks to the glorious march of technology, I’ve been able to make use of tools which speed up my own workflow a lot. Essentially, sketching and drawing in Clip Studio, and using Stable Diffusion as a shortcut to handle most of the colouring. Then finalizing and handling the rest of colouring, adjustments, details etc back in clip studio. I’ve also found SD to be quite good as a reference generator. It is certainly a better reference finder than Google Images.
I think the results are quite promising. You tell me. On a more existential note, I do find myself worrying where all this AI technology will lead in the long run. We may soon be living in a post-furry commission economy. I feel for all the artists who will starve. Hell, going on a tangent, how long will it be until we’re generating entire movies and games without any human input? Really makes you think…
But enough doom and gloom! Let’s talk about choices!
I am aiming for a total of 100 choices by the time the prologue is released. About 71 of these choices have been written so far, and of those, I’ve completed art for 53. There have been some changes since I released that teaser choice list on the Discord. Some choices have been removed from the initial roster due to redundancy, swapped out, and combined. For instance, “Armless” and “Legless” (i.e. the two choices needed to nugget yourself), have since been combined into the choice “Limbless”. Basically Katawa.
Some choices you pick may influence your character appearance and description.
In the run-up to the Character Creator release, I’m going to focus on finishing the art and backend work for the existing choices. If I have time, I will write up the remaining ones. Any choices which don’t make the deadline can always be added in subsequent patches. The bug-testing campaign will begin at the end of the month. Hopefully I can catch most of the nasties before release of the first build.
The release date for the Alpha Character Creator is April 28th 2023. I’m actually giving myself more than enough time to avoid the potential for that date getting pushed back. If anything, I will release the character creator a week or so early if nothing crazy comes up in testing.
More To Come – The Sandbox
As the character creator is fast approaching, I decided to begin preparations for the next phase of development. The Sandbox. I’ve started collecting and tweaking royalty free tilesets, so I can rapid prototype and figure out the vibe I’m going for with respect to world design. Needless to say, I don’t want to rely entirely on royalty free stuff in the long run, as I’d like to avoid being just another generic pixel style game. Further stylization should come with time. For now, here’s a little mock up of what’s to come.
Thank you for joining me on this adventure. Be sure to let me know your thoughts, comments and questions down below. Till we meet again~