I’m happy to say that the Avarthrel game projects are actually proceeding somewhat. Not very amazingly, I admit, and I think this is just an advanced prototype. But at least I’m producing something that is, for certain definitions of the word, quite playable. …or maybe I shouldn’t be too happy of that, and should be more happy about the fact that it’s actually progressing.

The current game project has the working title The Blood of the Bartender. It’s done in RPG Maker VX Ace.

I’ve made a video that demonstrates the extent of the project so far. Apologies for the moderately terrible writing in this video.

A pretty important note

This project is currently pretty firmly in the “goofing off” territory. I tried to write some kind of a design document, but I’ve not gotten off the ground that well.

Most notably, I’m also not so sure whether or not the game will use RPG Maker engine. I’m a pretty big proponent of open source code and open source assets, and having a proprietary engine is kind of problematic in this regard. Also, there’s the fact that the engine only runs in Windows. Also, the RPG Maker assets are kind of generic, and it would be fantastic if the stuff was specially tailored to Avarthrel.

The initial spark of a story

So what the hell kind of a story title is “The Blood of the Bartender” anyway, you may ask? Of course, I wouldn’t pick up a title like this unless there was some kind of a particular significance behind that.

The development started a while ago:

commit c50e7320dcf6db4661bac34ac357f19a66356946
Author: Urpo Lankinen <wwwwolf@iki.fi>
Date:   Tue Apr 14 02:24:28 2009 +0300

    New story: Something about a bartender.

The next day I wrote the opening page of the story. Here goes!

A tragical story of the

Blood of a Bartender,

in which

a Lass of Shadow taketh the life of a liked Wine-pourer, Host of a Drinking House and a Publician,

for the glory of the [[awiki:Carriglena Witherlady]] and for the greater confusion and calamity among the wicked.

A mysterious unsolved crime finally revealed through the late criminal’s personal writings.

Excerpted from the uncensored, accurate and well compiled memoirs of [[awiki:Karaydhjenna Bourejenn Karaydhjenna Bourejenn]], an Assassin from the [[awiki:Order of Dried Petals Petals]] (never caught in her life by the long reach of the Law, finally died of diseases of old age in 4.IX.672 AR). Compiled by her granddaughter, Monica Appelford.
This is the *first real snippet of fiction dealing with [[awiki:Order of Dried Petals the Order of Dried Petals]]*. That’s probably the second or third time ever I wrote Kara’s name. This is the first bit of unfinished fiction where Kara appeared, or where the Order of Dried Petals were supposed to appear. The first actual story that marginally dealt with the Petals (“[[node:5 The Sweet Side of Death]]”) was out by that time, but this story was begun way before I actually started the [[node:32 Kara the Assassin comic]].
On a related note, a few years back, I rambled more about [[node:129 Kara’s design and how it changed]] over the KtA comic and the works that preceded it.

Funny thing is, even if this is an unpublished and unfinished story, the above stuff is technically canon. It was one of the things I thought was worth saving when I started writing the Kara the Assassin comic scripts. Kara was never actually caught. Fine, we can work around that. Yes, she has been caught, prosecuted and convicted, but somehow she got away with all of that. It all makes sense. =)

It’s kind of funny to read the scraps of the story that I had in hand. Bear in mind that Kara’s personality and demeanour was not really decided until she got developed over the Kara the Assassin comic. And even her appearance was kind of a mystery until she stared back at me from the first panel I drew. It’s actually kind of funny how in the scraps of story Kara and Boris feel completely out of character. Probably understandable.

So now I’m going to recycle this story.

This is how the story goes…

The basic premise of the story is that Kara is on a task to kill a bartender.

The story apparently branched out a little bit and refers to other crazy murders Kara had to commit before this one, including a hideously badly added references to the one particular day when she had to kill a clown who was about to blow up a fully packed up circus tent. I thought that particular storyline was too epic to be added to the comic, unfortunately, because that would have required a lot of detailed art.

References to that story did emerge a little bit in a much later piece of character description. Kara was talking with [[awiki:Kaciathenna Oryenn Kacia]], the undead necromancer who is introduced in an unfinished story and shown around in the latest NaNoWriMo novel, “[[node:105 Staring in the Void of Patience]]” - I can’t remember if I actually put this piece of dialogue in the novel, but I probably should:

“You really killed a clown?”

“Yes. He snapped. Clowns sometimes do that. Killing him was the right thing to do.”

“And when was this, again?”

“Uh, sometime early last winter, I guess. Why?”

“Aww, too bad. I was going to eat him. But after so many months, I think he’d taste funny.”

So after a bit of clown-murdering and doing some other heinous deeds of covert stabbery, Kara’s task is to kill a bartender. Why? The bar was a hideout of the Syndicate - again, the bumbling [[awiki:Syndicate of Hired Blades|Syndicate of Hired Blades]] was detailed further in the comics and I was really happy to flesh out some of that stuff in the latest NaNoWriMo novel. Kill a bartender, and suddenly there’s a lot of guards. Which makes several crimes mysteriously fail. Which leads to a little bit of a pandemic of confusion.

Of course, here’s the problem: It’s not exactly good grade material for a story, is it?

So I think I’ll need to turn this into a multifaceted damage control exercise for the Petals. Maybe the assassination works fine, but the Syndicate manages to screw things up a little bit worse than usual?

And of course, this time, the story isn’t set in the original time period. [[awiki:Auria Gustawynde Auria Gustawynde]] is there with Kara. Auria got introduced - or rather, will be introduced - as the protagonist of my upcoming novella “[[node:6 Death Whispers in the Wind]]”.
The story is actually set during Staring in the Void of Patience, since it covers over a year of stuff and not all of the events during that period of time were covered in the NaNo. So even in this short video we have Auria having met up with [[awiki:Jactyr Artgann Jactyr Artgann]] (or Jake as he’s usually known) and I’m seriously considering putting in Otto Lowstream (Auria’s close friend and research partner in “Death Whispers in the Wind”) and a sadly underused character, [[awiki:Quirierle Foggymorn Quirierle Foggymorn]], in the story as well.

Engine trouble

Now, the small limitation with this project at the moment is the RPG Maker software itself. The characters in the video were created with the character creator. (They can be replaced with custom art pretty easily - they’re just PNG files.) The rest of the stuff is built-in tilesets.

The only huge problem was that the program is “easy to use” and I spent like 10-15 hours making this bloody thing you can see in the video. Yes, I’m a programmer. Yes, I’ve programmed since I was a kid. Over 20 years now. A development tool cannot be properly considered “easy to use” unless it constantly slows down a seasoned developer.

Another problem is that the RPG Maker isn’t exactly a literary development tool. I’ve previously tried to make games on Inform 7, which lets you write interactive fiction. It is a different kind of medium - you can actually write dialogue and stuff that people read. The above video shows how I had to make everything to the point and punctual. There’s a certain level of economy of expression that has to be utilised. However, I’m not saying this style couldn’t be used to create compelling dialogue - the Ultima game series did the exact same thing, and the games had absolutely glorious and reasonably verbose dialogue.

Still, the economy of expression is probably why the game just feels so different from other projects of mine, and I had to step more firmly to the territory of comedy. Oh well, at least I managed to slip in one reference to the number 69105. All is not lost!

I’ve not really designed the game or the plot that far, but I think this could be the much-needed comedy opportunity. Most of the short stories I’ve written are mostly exercises in more serious fiction, but the comics were where Kara got loose and got crazy. The comics were where the true craziness of some of the shit here gets to its full rights. So I assume a cutesy JRPG will make the comedy even more pronounced, I hope.