So as anyone who has ever seen my backpack will attest, I am a fan of badges (or buttons, depending on where you live). Now, thanks to the tireless work of the other half of the Tyandae development team and the people at Pure Buttons, we have Death of Magic buttons to show off at GX4.
Magic affects everyone differently. When magic is weak people get sick, pixies go feral, and minotaurs forget. During the drought of 451, when heatwaves swept the city and there were riots in the outer districts, a young minotaur boy was found lost and alone. When asked his name, he said “I don’t remember.”
Lorel, a centaur matriarch, took the boy into her herd and named him Kyros. He grew up alongside a number of other foundlings from the outer city, learning to reach out and help others regardless of their race. When he started his own business and opened a public eating house in the outer city, he called it the Bar None in Lorel’s honour, making a place where all would be welcome. When a tired dwarf carrying a sick child on kaj’r back knocked on the door, Kyros was able to offer work and a place to stay.
It’s been a long time since Saral first moved in to the Bar None. Since then magic has grown thinner, prices higher, and Kyros’ mood crystal is less and less effective. When Jackin first came to live with them he’d recite poetry to send her to sleep – now he can barely read.
Orcs are almost invariably born as twins. The bond between twins is integral and lifelong, with orcs living either together or as close neighbours even into adulthood. For an orc, aunts or uncles are as important as parents, cousins as close as siblings.
For an orc to be born alone, then, is not only unusual but profoundly lonely. While loved by his family, Thuost always felt his difference keenly, and headed for a life at sea as soon as he was old enough to sign on to a ship. There, working alongside carefree elf men and homeless dwarves, he found a new family of his own, and soon grew successful enough to captain his own ship. Until one day, and much to his welcome surprise, his merchant trading partner Lilia proposed to him.
Between Thuost’s ship, Lilia’s trade connections, and her sister Khadren’s cooking for the Bar None, the trio were doing quite well for themselves. The blockade changed everything. Echalian ships now block passage through the Orothan sea, preventing trade between Alsvoran merchant vessels and the Ichikan Isles, Alsvor’s primary provider of quartz. Desperate to find an alternate source for magical crystal storage, Thuost now sails increasingly dangerous and clandestine routes to try and meet demand. The only help from Alsvoran authorities has been to quarantine Thuost’s ship and crew – twice – allegedly to avoid the spread of foreign disease.
Today Thuost’s ship arrived back in port, its legitimate cargo of Ralerin grain concealing a load of Echalian made mechanical prosthetics, the black market sale of which would finally get their family out of debt.
Until Protectors stopped the ship in the harbour, claiming that they’d been sighted on the north side of the blockade. Echalia was known to be in the midst of a plague, they said. There could be no risk to Alsvor: the ship, and all its cargo, must be burned.
While there are many mammalian races in Alsvor, tengu are the sole avian representatives in the city. Unable to articulate the same range of sounds as mammals, tengu speak their own language among themselves and communicate with other races through signing. While signing is fairly common in areas of the city with a high tengu population, it’s by no means ubiquitous.
Ulwrick is a professional thief and information broker, putting her skills to work for the dissident movement. Any suggestions that tengu make good thieves because birds like shiny things will be met with extreme displeasure.
As a concept, Death of Magic has been evolving since 2014. There have been shifts in focus over that time, but some of the most obvious changes have been in character design. Characters have changed race, age, and gender as various story elements have been updated and rearranged. One of the most obvious shifts has been Jackin.
In her initial, elementary incarnation, Jackin was far more of a blank slate. We knew she was an elf, was young, and we knew she had a prosthetic arm (even if we weren’t sure why). On the cusp of adulthood, she was fresh faced and impressionable, responding to events in the story impulsively, very much at the mercy of forces around her.
After several iterations of the script, it was clear that this innocent Jackin no longer made sense. Her environment is harsh, and although she is young she’s been through significant trauma (finally, her prosthetic arm got a backstory). Gradually she grew older, more cynical, more wary. She’s a young woman who’s known hunger, who’s lost family and friends, and who knows that if something seems too good to be true than it probably is.
These changes in her character are reflected in her appearance. Her face is lined, her hair tangled, her shoulders broad from hard work. There are aesthetic changes too – her nose is broader and more feline, her skin darker, and there’s (although you can’t see it in these pictures) a tail. As the appearance of other races such as dwarves became more animalistic, elves had to as well.
As the player character, Jackin will go on changing and evolving according to decisions made throughout the story. She may grow more hopeful, more trusting of new opportunities. Or she may grow more cynical, placing faith only in herself and her allies. It’s up to you.
Creating a character who can believably develop in multiple directions has been a challenge, but a fascinating one.
In 2015 MCV Pacific held the inaugural Women in Games Awards, an event that recognises the contributions of women in the Australian and New Zealand Games industry. For women who have paved the way for others, who have helped to promote the industry, who have worked to support the development of local games and who have been inspirations to the industry as a whole, this is a chance to have their work applauded.
This year, thanks to a sponsored ticket from Prescription Pixel, I was lucky enough to attend. The experience was nothing short of awesome.
It’s extremely common in gaming environments, from colleges to workplaces, that women will find themselves outnumbered. That was not the case at this event. The room of over a hundred attendees was full of women catching up, talking, sharing news and ideas. Some were local, many were from interstate or overseas, some flying in just for the day. But even for those of us who’d never met there was a strong sense of community, of immediate commonality and support, of being in this together and being there for each other.
I’m extremely grateful that I was able to be there, to meet so many new women and to connect with others that I’d only met online. It’s extremely exciting to be a part of an industry that is growing and changing so quickly. It’s even more reassuring to know that there is this community of women ready to help and support each other, to encourage each other. In her acceptance speech for the Creative Inspiration award, Kamina Vincent said “I only hope that I can do for others what they have done for me.”
It’s a good sentiment to live by.
Safelor is a centaur matriarch, acting as leader and guide to her herd. While centaur herds are traditionally made up of a few extended family groups, Safelor has a history of adopting people who she feels needs her protection, regardless of blood relation – or race.
Unlike Garros, Safelor’s appearance has been fairly consistent since her initial conception – a chestnut mare dressed in green. The dark pattern across her face and back is a burn scar from when the Baker’s Lane community home burned down. The bandage and sling on her arm are from injuries sustained in the opening scenes of the game.
Another character design progression, from a first draft in 2014 to the current version.
Garros is a close friend and ex-lover of Jackin. Like other merfolk, he gets around the city via the canal system, with occasional use of crutches in walking areas. Some merfolk can afford wheelchairs, but they’re a rarity in the outer city.
Designs for Garros have changed a lot since his initial conception, particularly his clothing. His original outfit was purely practical, but it was quickly obvious that it didn’t match his personality. His final design of short sleeves with a tailored waistcoat is casual yet classy, reflecting his level of education and charismatic nature. The kilt is a logistical choice more than a stylistic one – merfolk obviously don’t wear pants, but as most other races do it’s considered more genteel to wear something below the waist.
Swimming around the city via canals while fully dressed causes less problems than you’d think. Merfolk have long since perfected the art of waterproofing fabric. They refuse to explain how.
Six month’s progress – pictured above are two animated gifs of Jackin, the first from September last year and the second from last week.
There have been some minor changes to the design of her face and pants, but mostly the quality difference is from a change in lineart and much better animation. Figuring out a character’s ‘idle’ animation, the one that plays all the time, is a real challenge. They need to look alive, but they can’t make any large or sudden movements or the animation becomes distracting. For example, the Jackin on the left is flexing her hand and flicking her tail very obviously, while the Jackin on the right looks far more natural and relaxed.
GX Australia was awesome fun – thank you to everyone that came!
It’s such a different experience to go to an event where everyone is on the same page, where being open minded about each other’s differences is just what people do.
We got to meet a huge spectrum of people, and it was wonderful to see people’s faces light up when they heard about the story we’re making – I am so much more stoked about working on this project. I think we’re making something special, and I can’t wait to see it done.