Archive for May, 2013

Unrest: Kickstarter is Now Live

23 May

Remember how I told you guys I was drafted to be the writer of a computer role-playing game? Well, that’s gone from the “nebulous PR” stage to the “working build of the game and also live on Kickstarter” stage. So this seems like a good time to start talking about it, and how excited I am about it, and how much this game needs to exist–and it’s cool that I get to do this, because even if I weren’t writing the damn thing, I’d probably at least link it somewhere. I’ve played too many fantasy CRPGs not to love what this game represents, and if you read on, I think you’ll see what I mean.

 

Three Cool Things About This Game:

1.) It’s an RPG that’s not set in Dragonland or the post-apocalypse, and it lets the fact that it’s set in Ancient India actually mean something. Elements of India’s history and myth influence the story from the ground up.

2.) It focuses on dialog and choices more than grindy combat. In fact, combat is frequently inadvisable, because character failure and character death aren’t so much load-and-retry fail states as they are valid alternate endings for each chapter.

3.) The spells, swords, and prophecy elements of fantasy are downplayed in exchange for more focus on politics, religion, and society. I mean, there’s some of that other stuff too, but it’s mostly the politics thing.

Again, I could go into more detail–and I may do so, eventually. And I’m going to keep posting the weekly/bi-weekly story updates, because those have original fiction pieces which very much fall within the purview of this website. But for now, I think I’ll leave the interested parties to follow the link and the curious to ask questions in the comments below. Although, seriously, if any of this sounds cool to you, I encourage you to put in a pre-order. It’ll get released no matter what, but we only need 3,000 dollars to seriously expand the scope of what we can do with this project.

Now, since this is launched and my thesis is turned in, maybe I can get some more Gal Civ underway…

 

 
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Unrest Update

20 May

Since the Kickstarter should be launched this week, the plot/spy journal update will be deferred until a little later.

By tomorrow, expect a new Galactic Civ or Vatsy and Bruno post.

 

Vatsy and Bruno in: The Great Freak Detective (Part 3)

14 May

The Great Freak detective’s office was like the trophy room of a garbage collector. The absolute best of the stuff, like the broken pocketwatch nailed to the wall or the plaster bust with the number 8 on it, hinted at mysteries solved, dangers conquered, nemeses bested. Stuff like the bin bag full of dead ants and the glass bottles of urine hinted that the case of “where have this guy’s marbles gone” was one that remained perpetually unsolved.

The detective himself was usually the biggest mystery in the room. Whatever lay under that wide-brimmed hat, inside that tattered overcoat, was between him and whatever god or man had created him; the only available data was the smell of rotten apples and the suspicion, shared privately by those that dealt with him, that the two foxgloved hands that sometimes snaked out of the sleeves were not his only pair. I could add from my own private notes that whatever he was, he was not entirely vulnerable to battle-axes.

He leaned back to the chair’s outer limits. “May I deduce, in addition, that you were fighting gangsters?”

“No,” I said, “it was a pack of pastry chefs, actually. They held me at pipette-point and I guess I kind of panicked.”

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Tales of Unrest, Part 3

13 May

Come back tomorrow for a different post.

Bhimra’s poor were vast and insatiable. The slums teemed with farmers whose lands had turned to dust, tradesmen whose work was no longer enough to feed their families, and the veterans of a trade conflict that lasted far beyond anyone’s expectations. Once Bhimra had been a citadel of affluent merchant and nobles castes, and the honest workers that supported them; now the slums swallowed half the city.

It was Ranveer, as he set firm hand on the first rungs of the temple hierarchy, who ventured out into the mazes of human misery bearing bread and medicine. It was he who walked among the lower castes as an equal, unafraid and unaloof. Bali has not forsaken you, he said; I will not either.

Even weeks after it became clear that the newly-appointed priest Ranveer was venturing into the slums to speak, none of the priests or rulers of Bhimra gave the matter much thought. What happened in the slums wasn’t important. Beyond the line of shacks and rotten markets was another city altogether.

Perhaps, if they could have seen the streets, packed from end to end, standing in wonder and admiration as Ranveer unfolded his Vision, they would have understood. The slums weren’t another city; by now, they were the city.

Ranveer taught them to hate the Naga as demons, adversaries of Bali, invaders at the heart of Bhimra’s misfortunes. As for the King and Queen who allowed their immigration, Ranveer said nothing. He didn’t need to.

Continued, and progress report, next week.

Bhimra's countryside as it will appear in the upcoming demo. Bhimra’s countryside as it will appear in the upcoming demo.

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Tales of Unrest, Part 2

06 May

Before Ranveer, the Temple of Bali was just one of thirty other places of worship lining the ancient byways of the Street of Faith. The last things it would have been associated with would be dynamism and political interest. Its hierarchy was known to be insular, even petrified, and the trickle of novices entering the order had little aspiration of climbing the ranks or even making much of a difference in the world. The temple’s needs, goals, and aims were all perfectly simple.

The order’s ledgers record that Ranveer was initiated as a novice just before his fifteenth birthday. For the next two years there exist no more mentions of him apart from his monthly affirmations, his chore postings, and a one-sentence evaluation written when he became a candidate for ascension: “Ranveer is a thoughtful boy, diligent but without motivation.”

The first mention of his Vision was a non-committal note in the novice master’s diaries. “One of the novices claims to have spoken Bali,” it reads. “The young man is to speak with the chairpriests after his week’s duties are concluded.” One week after that, a request with Ranveer to be allowed to teach the ways of Bali to the common people was lodged and approved.

Three years later, Ranveer was High Priest. The entire upper hierarchy had been stripped away, man by man, and replaced with priests, novices, and even uninitiated of his own choosing. Whatever his Vision demanded, things were made just so.

The words Ranveer carried from his conversations with Bali were exactly what people had been waiting to hear. Thousands gathered to listen whenever he spoke. A new courtyard had to be built; a straightforward task, as much of the neighboring temples stood empty and had already been razed to the ground.

In Ranveer’s new courtyard was built a statue of a a priest, dressed in the robes of the order, treading on a snake.

Continued next week.

A set of work-in-progress sprites from the game. Ranveer stands fifth from the right.

Diary of a Bhimra Spy, Part 2

update2

Below is a text version of the second spy diary entry. To view the journal page as an image, as it will appear in the final novella, click the thumbnail above.

Paranoia is the first friend you make in this business. It doesn’t really matter what you were before; there is virtually no job, no area, no circumstance that warrants the kind of constant fear that is a spy’s stock and trade. Every spy I know (and I know more spies than most ever will) has confirmed this for me, and all of us share one rule:

When in doubt, get out.

I don’t know how many times this policy has cost me perfectly good business. It may have even offended some people, once or twice, in an affable non-vendetta sort of way. But the very first time it saved my life paid for all of that in full.

Some of my playmates in the bazaar gang let me know that an up-and-comer by the name of Sumeet was looking for someone in my line of work. Now, I have had many a pleasant, safe, and productive working relationship with market thugs, and I had no reason whatsoever to assume this would be different. He arranged for us to meet in the morning, at a foodseller by the Bull Gate.

He was waiting, alone, when I arrived. He didn’t have any food in front of him, and when he sat down, he didn’t call for any. He started asking questions about who I was, how long I’d been working in the area for, and who I’d worked with. These are generally not questions you want to ask a spy if you want him to keep his peace of mind, but I obliged him insofar as my wholly fictional answers were very polite.

And this is where paranoia makes for an interesting study. Believe it or not, at this point in the negotiations, I am not paranoid. Now, you might argue that I have every reason to be—this guy’s asking questions no-one should ask someone in my position, and this meeting place, especially with him alone, speaks to hidden men with knives. I am aware that there is danger, certainly, but there’s no shaking in my fingers, no roiling in my stomach. That’s because I haven’t seen the one thing that makes a spy nervous: conflict of interest.

Sumeet started talking about what he wanted me to do. He wanted me to follow a man– middle-aged, thick eyebrows, graying temples, dark spots on his face and hands—across town to see where he went. The man would be meeting some armed friends at the statue of Bali by the temple streets and proceeding to some locale in the slums. I was to make a very specific note of the location and its defenses, then report back immediately to the foodseller to give Sumeet his debriefing.

I told Sumeet that I’d meet him in my more typical location, in the central market outside the guardhouse. Sumeet said no, to come back to the foodseller. I agreed and left. Then I went straight home, because at this point my danger sense was sounding off like my beard was on fire. I’d spotted the conflict of interest between Sumeet and myself, and now I knew to be scared.

I kept an eye on street news to confirm or deny my suspicions. Two days later, I heard that one of the big market bosses, a man with dark spots and graying temples, transferred an underling named Sumeet to a less vital position in his organization. Also made less vital were all of Sumeet’s cronies, who had made the unfortunate position of backing him in a coup that was one well-placed ambush away from success. If I’d backed Sumeet’s little power play, he’d still be alive…but I’d bet anything, absolutely anything, that I wouldn’t be.

There is one thing a spy can’t ever become, and that’s a loose end.

 
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