This week's development diary is focused on the writing goals of Ethereal Metropolis! We lay out the principles of our writing and how we approached creating the world of Cervinae. Let’s hop right in!
Goal One: Go Absolutely Crazy
We went crazy when we created Ethereal Metropolis. I mean, Cervinae is populated with unicorn deers who turn into shadowy eldritch abominations. I think that's on the more crazy end, and we love it! We keep this craziness in mind and are not afraid to keep it that way.
Our foundation was kind of crazy in the first place. Ethereal Metropolis started as a fan project for a particular show featuring magical horses that somehow managed to culturally imperialize the notion of friendship. As for how that evolved into eldritch unicorn deer abominations? I can give you a vague answer, but it pretty much boiled down to “How f***ing cool would it be to fight against them?” And that was how our game was born.
But throughout our development, we have not been afraid to experiment and toy around with new ideas and designs. Ones that break the mold because, ultimately, they’re more fun to create the writing and designs. They give us a good challenge of trying to ground this fever-like dream idea, and it has been enjoyable.
Which brings us to our next goal of grounding our fantasy of these unicorn deer creatures.
Goal Two: A Fantasy that is Real
Ethereal Metropolis is-- ethereal, yet grounded in its own reality. We can have all of these whimsical and high ideas of religious unicorn deer creatures, but they live in their world as much as we do. With specific rules bent in some ways, things need to have their explanations for why they are in the world of Cervinae. This was one of the many things we had to consider when creating the world.
We have to go further beyond the usual explanations that are given through stories that are akin to ours. We also had to explain the properties, the principles, and the applications of said principles and have those manifest in the game itself through the mechanics and the non-gameplay storytelling.
We can have all of these crazy characters, but we still need that “human aspect” or personalization. We needed these different creatures to be “human” in their unique way, which can give the player a good story and character. We intentionally made the characters non-humans so that we are more obliged to humanize and personify these characters in a way that reaches deep into that “human aspect” if we wanted our story to be any good.
Goal Three: Experience the Themes through Mechanics Also
One specific theme of Ethereal Metropolis is the will and the strength of it. We had to figure out how to make the established themes of the game appear in the storytelling and the mechanics of the game itself. We had to make the non-physical and metaphysical all come together in some way physical which is represented through the mechanics of psionics. Where the characters use their abilities formed by their thoughts and emotions which are the non-physical born from metaphysical notions and turned into a VERY physical weapon.
But we aren’t going to be spoiling so much more since the mechancis and the story itself are so well interconnected and you will have to play the game and feel it out yourself.
Goal Four: Ethereal Metropolis is the Tip of the Iceberg
MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD
Think of Ethereal Metropolis and the story you will experience as only the very top of it, supported by everything else. It's only a small portion of the much larger story experience that is all visible in some way during playthroughs. But don’t worry, the story itself we have planned is very substantial and dense to say the least. Each beat is planned to be quite dense and very carefully written to fit the past, present, and future.
All of the character stories, environmental storytelling, epics in the lore, and more lead up to the climax, Ethereal Metropolis. But don’t worry, you will still be launched right into the action. I don’t like exposition dumps as much as the next guy. We want you to learn about each character, the world of Cervinae, and the events leading up to it through organic exploration and step into the shoes of the outsiders that you will be playing as.
You can learn as much as you want, or as little as you want. The story itself is made to be followable and enjoyable, but we will be leaving “launching points” for you to explore the world we have crafted for you.
Or not. After all, your will, your way in Ethereal Metropolis. We will leave it at that.
Regardless, I’m sure you’ll like next weeks diary! It is focused on the Art Direction of the game, you surely have seen much of art-- but how did we arrive to it? Where do you think we got out ideas for the designs you see in Ethereal Memtropolis? Find out in our next installment!
In the meantime, check out the rest of our dev diaries!
Kailoulou, Lead Creative Director