Eventually - THEME
I was always fascinated by the fantastic worlds in roleplaying games such as Baldur's Gate, Icewind Dale, Planescape: Torment and A Dance With Rogues (NWN Module), and I've longed to express my own concepts of similar kind. I initially conceived Bloodbrand in early 2009, and proceeded to create a demo version with my then rather juvenile ideas. After years of procrastination, I want to create Bloodbrand from the scratch, with only some vagues ideas and the base concept from the 2009 demo.
In this game you're anything but all-powerful. You are a newlyborn vampire, lost, dependent and frightened. You are afflicted with a curse that's both terrible and daunting, making your very survival in a hostile world a tough challenge. Just about any encounter can be lethal, as you have a dark secret, to which most folks will react with utter disgust and violence. You must use your wits, persuasion, bluff, charms, whatever tools you have at your disposal to make it through the merciless eternal night.
In 2009 I used RPG Maker XP to create a demo with my initial ideas, and although it's definitely not as bad as it could have been, the whole demo is still an unsalvageable mess. It was a very simple little game, where you control a young girl, who has just recently been made into a vampire by her companion, Viscante. You two arrive at an inn packed with people, and reserve a room for yourselves. Viscante explains your predicament: you must feed upon one or two of the folks at the tavern, and this gruesome task constitutes most of the demo. There are six possible victims you may murder during the cause of the evening, though you may converse with most of the 20 or so people in the tavern. It even features a cool fight scene (it's pretty terrible actually).
Some screenshots: 1 2 3 4 5
Now that I replayed it, the whole demo is humiliatingly cheesy even to the very grammar the characters use. But it was a start, and I was young and inexperienced when I made this, so please don't judge me too harshly. One has to start somewhere, and this was it for me. I remember feeling very proud that I made this whole demo in only two weeks, even to all of the hand-drawn portraits and animations, as crude as they seem now. However, my vision was scathed by the limitations of the RPGMaker engine, as for example you cannot have longer than a few words of text in a dialogue choice, so I had to improvise.
The RPGMaker community I was part of at that time was plagued by hundreds of projects that would never even reach releasable demo phase, so I decided to really make something and unlike most, actually got out a remotely playable piece of garbage. I remember getting a lot of praise for Bloodbrand since it had something unseen before in RPGMaker games - actual roleplaying content.
You can download the demo here.
There is a readme file detailing installation and controls in the .rar. The game uses 'sydnie' font, which is included in the package, but you must install it manually, or you will not see any letters. Email me at email@example.com if you have problems.
WARNING Bloodbrand is very violent and has some adult content so if you're put off by such things, I suggest you do not try this game. This game is not for children either.
Return to the Fray
Some years later I returned to the project and tried out some composite image mapping: 1 2 3 4 5
These were done in Rhinoceros 3D and Photoshop. Ultimately, I decided not to pursue this path, but the images are an interesting phase of the project nevertheless. This was back when I had no design document to speak of, just a clutter of random ideas and concepts I wanted to implement. Later on I realized that nothing ever gets done without solid documentation to cite and follow.
Fun fact: I did end up using some of these images in a VASSAL RPG campaign I hosted for my friends!
I want to steer away from the ancient demo and create a roleplaying game which will be touching, awe-inspiring and atmospheric. The main theme in Bloodbrand is weakness. I want to portray a forlorn medieval styled village in the coast of some unknown northern sea, with a lot of flawed people making it their home. In the cold of the winter solstice, upon this snowed-in village comes a shady pair of weary travelers, and on their arrival, nothing will ever be the same again.
Plenty of roleplaying games are about feeling empowered with godly abilities and unlimited potency for influence and violence. Contrary to this, I want to explore the possibility of a meek protagonist, who sometimes has in her hands the fate of the lives of individual people; but more often than not you are faced with impossible odds and summary murder simply isn't an option to consider. Rather, you have to employ your cunning and come up with some manner of escape or attempt to sway your way out of trouble in dialogue.
I want to depict well the complex relationships that different kinds of people can have with eachother, with a touch of realism mixed with dark low fantasy. You, the protagonist are the ward of an ancient, disfigured vampire, Viscante, who has high expectations of you. Though Viscante cares for you and acts as your main mentor in Bloodbrand, I'd like to make this relationship even a bit abusive and more like a 'sympathy for kidnapper' kind of affair, though ultimately it is up for the player how the situation is handled. The bottom line is, that both of you are in dire straits and must rely on eachother, at least in the beginning.
- There is no daytime in Bloodbrand. The mood is dismal, stygian, with only a glimmer of hope.
- All NPCs in this game have a name and a personality, their lives matter to them (NPC lives matter :)
- I want to explore the theme of unconditional love. Does such a thing exist?- What is the cost of life and who has the right to dictate it?
- I want to encourage pragmatism - whatever could work should also be a possibility to attempt.
- Immersion: Building the right atmosphere, be it at times creepy, at times cozy, and anything in between, will be of paramount interest.
- Instead of a grand, world-shattering plot, the story depicts your personal struggle to survive a turbulent time.
I have the whole game with its plot, characters and mechanics detailed out in my design documents, though I might still revise a few details - all that needs to happen now is to get my lazy butt working on it. This is always the hardest part in making just about anything: the actual backbreaking toil.
I awake in the dark. I feel cold. Where am I?
Hush, child. You are safe. I have you.
I... I cannot see you. Please step into the light.
You would not like what you'd see.
The Nornian Peninsula is a remote region in the northern part of the continent of Chuun, and under the nominal authority of Emperor Turm of Pyria - Pyria being the largest isle of the three Chuunian islands. The region is ruled by a local autocrat, Lord Cade, who represents the civilized peoples of Pyria. It is a sparsely populated realm with few grand cities. Most of the landscape is pine forest or mountaineous ranges, with only a few larger roads for commerce. Despite the cold weather and perilous wilds, the mines of Pyria are prosperous, and so settlements have reached even the frosty northern shores of the continent after the annexation by the late conqueror king Tuurog.
Word of the riches found in deep in the bowels of the land has reached the peoples of Sumat, a savage breed of warrior tribes who are believed to worship an ancient sleeping wyrm. They have dispatched a fleet of raiding troops across the Sable Sea that is said to already wreak havoc in the northern fisher villages of Pyria. A mysterious man calling himself the Black Dragon leads these elite warriors in their pillaging and reaping through the undefended coast.
Meanwhile Lord Cade is in personal agony. He has long been a widow, the Lady Almatella having died years ago, and some say he never seized his mourning; but now he has a grave reason for his torment, as his beloved daughter has passed away, taken most foully by a terrible disease. Hope is fading fast in Nornhold, the castle of Lord Cade, and in his sorrow he is ill-equipped to deal with the menacing Sumatan raiders. An agent of the Emperor himself, a man named Alton has been sent to investigate on Cade and this alleged threat from Sumat.
These events and the apparent indifference of their Lord have struck terror into the hearts of Nornians, who have fled in flocks from the advancing berserkers. Many have been enslaved, many more slain; villages turned into ghost towns and homesteads razed to the ground. As if the matters were not worse enough, a cold winter has descended upon the land, and a terrible famine is nigh.
This is the background of our story as two ragged travellers reach the small coastal village of Gont, where festivities of the end of the world are held, and only madmen and those with little choice have remained.
The world will be reasonably limited, as it comprises mostly the village of Gont, which is walled in by heavy snowfall, and its outskirts. However, I prefer to have a freeroamable game world, so every location except Nornhold and the forest path there is available right from the start. The player controls the protagonist with arrow keys and some interaction keys. You can interact with several objects in the world, but mainly with the non-player characters through dialogue, so conversations will play a major role as the main gameplay element aside from exploration of the maps and secret locations.
Instead of composites / photobashes, I want to have hand-drawn maps for environments. The player character should be centered on the screen at all times. I might consider outsourcing the character animations, as they consume much time that I do not have. It all depends if I can find a person to hire to make the animations so they blend into the hand-drawn environments sufficiently well. Lowpoly, pre-rendered spritesheets (bitmaps) of 3D-characters come in mind. If all fails, I can draw the animations by hand.
Amidst the mountains of snow, illuminated only by the shine of stars and the lonely moon.
I compiled a list of character models I will need:
As dialogue will play a large role in Bloodbrand, the system must be inventive and interesting. I've drawn a portrait for each of the non-player characters (NPC) in Bloodbrand, so they will be easily distinguished and more memorable. I have detailed 61 characters in my design documents, so this will be quite a feat. Be aware, content cuts may occur! I want to implement some sort of emotion / bodylanguage minigame, which will spice up the dialogues.
For roleplaying elements, the player will have to choose how to develop his/her character; what sort of attributes to train. I doubt I will implement an experience-system, but instead go the Elder Scrolls -route and have the player develop those talents which he/she most employs during gameplay.
Finesse Ease of movement, agility and sleight of hand.
Grace The excellency of your conduct; classical femininity, proper etiquette
Terror Awe, fright; the ability to cause an unnerving feeling in others
Sultry Bodily and verbal ability to entice others
Wisdom Memory, inventiveness, knowledge
There are also 'hidden' power meters that are not visible anywhere:
Innocence You start off rather high, but lose points if you do evil acts or witness them
Power Consuming the blood of humans will increase your power
Sexual Engaging in acts of sexual congress will increase this
Faith Doing pious/sacrilegious things will affect this
One thing that always bothered me in roleplaying games - they are too generalized. If you make a character that's immensely attractive, well, hardly no one notices, much less worships you for your exterior (like in real life... I DO know, as I'm tremendously beautiful ;) I understand the reasoning for this, as a game that takes appearance into account is that much complex to make.
To explore interesting power dynamics, misogyny and the concept of entitlement, the protagonist in Bloodbrand will be a young female. Your looks will be in many cases your only source of influence against some NPCs, and even the usage of it requires care not to give too much.
I don't want Bloodbrand to have a combat system, as I feel it is a very overused trope in roleplaying games and often intrudes upon everything else - there are games out there claiming to be RPGs with only combat in them, aside from a shallow and meaningless plot. The principle here is, if you get in a fight, you lose. You are a frail young woman, and the world is a harsh place. Stabbing someone in the back, poisoning their tea or shoving them off a cliff I do not count as combat.
Your very existence as a vampire is reliant on the murder of others for their lifeblood. There is a heavy price to pay for each life taken - during the days, when you are comatose, awaiting the night, those who you've deprived of their life will come to haunt you in your dreams, a process called 'branding'. You may converse with them, attempt to alleviate their pain or taunt them of their failings to have fallen for your wiles, but as their souls have now become part of you, you yourself are transformed in good and bad by those you chose to consume.
The GirlLike in many roleplaying games, the protagonist is how you want her to be. There are three involuntary attributes for plot purposes:
- You are young (in your twenties or so)
- You are female
- You are beautiful
You may choose a portrait from several premade portraits in character creation to represent the character how you prefer.
I am also thinking about whether to include a body type choice, where you'd choose either lithe, normal or curvy, and this would affect mostly dialogue choices, although I imagine a lithe person could fit from smaller spaces (crawlspaces, holes, etc...) so it might affect the roleplaying options to a small degree. A curvy protagonist would seem that much more 'feminine' to some, and attract attention in a wider scope. The way I see it, the more I am able to implement optional RPG content like this, the more enjoyable the roleplaying experience becomes.
As to what her personality is like, that's up to you, but as a guideline, I've made myself a list of personality types to assist in writing dialogue choices:
Arya reckless, brave, brattish
Eli lonesome, chameleon, machiavellian
Madouc stubborn, inventive, cunning
Mina naive, curious, innocent
- "Am I virtuous or evil? I know only this: I prefer my life to oblivion."
- "The world is far away. By moonlight it must be sad, and so beautiful as to break one's heart. I want never to come here again."
- "The last person I want to lie to is myself."
Viscante De La More
Viscante is an ancient vampire who has a mangled abomination of a visage, which will never heal. This horrible state he has been put by a Dark Order knight Alton, whom he loathes with all of his will. He may look withered and waned, but he retains his bright and twisted narcissist mind, and uses the Girl, his protegee as the tool to get fed and survive his nightly life, but also teaches her in his ruthless, sociopathic ways.
Viscante is unburdened by empathy and kindness, as he is made cynical by the harsh life he's led as a cursed vampire, but for some odd reason he cares for the Girl more than he would like to admit. He serves as the secondary antagonist in Bloodbrand.
- "I believe the common denominator of the universe is not harmony, but chaos, hostility, and murder."
- "I have not only allowed you to escape death; I have given you a life eternal. In stead of questioning my motives, you ought to kiss the ground beneath my feet."
- "Every living being in this world does whatever it can to avoid extermination."
An agent of the Dark Order, a secret cabal in direct service to the Emperor, of which only a handful exist. They are exceptionally talented and ablebodied operatives, who are tasked to investigate and infiltrate upon matters of the crown. Spies, rabblerousers and gifted diplomats, with their cunning and patience, Dark Order agents are known to have suppressed many revolts and uprisings.
Alton himself is a vigilant, prideful person on the exterior, but very adaptable, and impossible to deceive in his very essence, due to his harrowing training as a young man in the ranks of the Imperial Army. In the end, he will accept only absolute sincerity, discarding all but the truth.
"Each of us have our place in the grand scheme of things."
Cade is the troubled leader of the region. He is an older man with somewhat handsome features. He rules his lands without mercy, and is an unrelenting man - one in whose presence you always seem to feel safe, so long as you are on his side. Haunted by his recent losses, he has shut himself in his tower study and will not come out.
“My dear fellow, you are a positive monomaniac! Can you not leave off a subject when clearly all are bored with it?"
Here are a few of examples of the rest of the NPCs:
An enigmatic young man from the eastern islands stargazing on the harbor railing beside the sea. He knows a little of the lost art of magic, and is searching for a woman with wings.
Night-shift guard to the gates of Gont. He has a boiled squash for a head, and flaunts a mindless grin. In every way he is odious, and displays the spite of a scalded eunuch.
"I know all there is to be known of clever young ladies who say "yes" when they mean "no" and "no" when they mean 'Traiken, please and by all means!'"
Albion the Sane
"It is hard to keep on going after seeing the things I have I seen... We move from time to time, whirled around by this mad jester... He seems to think there is something important happening in this time... Parca can stomach it, for he has lost his mind long ago, but I have not."
Parca the Fatalist
"Yes, I do have a quest for you. You must find Lord Liris and tell him that he must always wear a belt, lest his pants fall off."
"... This pile was indeed the essence of a daydream: perfectly soft but firm, complimented by a splendid, ochre texture... And the scent of it: I fear the emotion evoked by such heavenly aroma can not be conveyed without the inevitable loss of something substantial."
I will update this page as I remember. Last update 4.1.2017
(c) Heikki Kuusipalo 2017 - return to skyesken.org