I couldn't stand it any longer! This wasn't what I wanted to do. I'd grown so irritated with my self-imposed limitations that something had to change.
After working for so long, I'd hit a point where the whole scenario seemed ridiculous to me. My artwork progress slowed, then ground to a halt. I tried yet again to revise the dialogue, emphasizing humor above all. However, the foundation of the whole mess remained rooted in the too-serious nonsense I'd concocted ages ago.
We had all this artwork produced, but what were we going to do with it? That could hardly be disposed of, but the framing scenario for the story needed to be altered for me to tolerate it any longer. If my work wasn't even entertaining me as its writer, what was the point?
For one thing, the focus had to shift entirely away from Aizu as any sort of “main character”. This idea had been crawling towards the surface for some time but I finally forced myself to commit completely to it.
With Aizu becoming effectively an NPC, the focus of the game had to be on the three characters I'd taken the greatest interest in: Ivan, Tevoran, and Ysabel. But who were they, really, and how would they fit into the broader story?
I considered a handful of new plot frameworks to throw these guys into. One involved the group meeting in prison; another had Ysabel and Tevoran working in a drug rehab center to which Ivan would be admitted.
The most basic idea proved to be the one that stuck: the party's simply a group of mercenaries. Fine, but that's boring on its own, right? Well, what if they're just a bunch of self-interested criminals on top of that?
What about any of these characters was really heroic anyway? Wouldn't it be more interesting if their motives were grounded in their selfishness? Yet certain alterations were needed.
As party leader, Tevoran was foremost in my mind. Since his spawning, he'd been a Gandalf-like character with intimate knowledge of everything transpiring in the world. This element particularly needed to be purged!
No longer could he be an exiled minister wise to Duriken's machinations, knowing far too much about Aizu's nature. He'd evolved in various directions, at one time being a religious fanatic, at another a paranoid foe of Vorona, but always increasingly long-winded in his speech. Why shouldn't I exaggerate the parts I liked best to an extreme?
Same for the others, though they needed fewer changes. I brought Ysabel's violent aggressiveness and foul temper to the forefront (while never forgetting her protective nature she tries to hide). Her mode of speech was cemented at this point: though not utterly inarticulate, still quite rough, and modeled after the way working-class people talked in the plebeian town where I grew up.
Ivan's personality didn't change much, though his background became entirely divorced from a Valelands upbringing, Voronese army employment and all the rest. He was born in Phoria, and had a proper reason for leaving, though his laziness and other vices would continue to distract him from his goal.
With the characters' identities finally settled, the framing story had then to be embellished. Detachment from Vorona meant the party would no longer have to dive immediately into the deeper plot. Their mercenary status meant they'd be free to wander along certain avenues of the world that might otherwise go unexplored.
Delving deeper into the increasingly strange characters and the world they inhabited would, I thought, spice up what might otherwise remain a rather conventional RPG plot.
Fired up by the new freedoms I'd granted myself, I sort of went nuts with it. While the characters would still be plunged eventually into the existing story, I designed some self-contained episodes for them to establish their personalities and shed light, however slowly, on the greater world around them.
So we see the birth of Tevoran's bizarre plots and drug-fueled scheming, his Company's abject poverty, Tiervan gangs, the Church of Ecthain, Milan as a paranoid shut-in, ingesting strange hallucinogens as a rite of passage, and so on. In a creative frenzy, I basically laid out most every element of Chapters 1 and 2, as they now exist, in one fell swoop.
Part of what fueled me here was wanting to incorporate elements of outside media that I enjoyed into this game. Thus we get the thugs speaking Clockwork Orange-influenced slang, Naked Lunch inspiring the rampant drug use in the world (along with the initially Dr. Benway-esque Boris), and various references to 1984, Brave New World, and other such works. There's more than a few references to industrial music in general in there, too.
My motivation in doing all this was never rooted in any kind of literary snobbishness or hipsterism, but rather a simple feeling that these sort of things were somewhat underrepresented in games, RPGs in particular (at least from what I had seen at the time). I thought it would cast a nice shadow of flavor onto everything, that's all! Call it shout-outs to my esthetic preferences if you like.
This has been a most long-winded entry (look, Tevoran didn't emerge out of a vacuum), but I wanted to get detailing the final paradigm shift of the game's production out of the way. We were well on the way to a release by this point!
Or wait, that's not remotely true, is it? Weren't there some game components missing (namely everything that involves actual gameplay)? Looks like my next post will have to shed some light on that....
P.S. Thank you all for reading thus far. That map up there is something I put together in Civilization IV (of all things!) showing how I envisioned Tierva. Don't mind those ruins upon that nearby hill over there.