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Battle For the Barrens

Sovereignty​

In tracing the roots of my creative journey, I find myself transported back to the dial-up internet era of my youth, where hours spent on forum websites hosting role-playing games ignited the spark of my artistic passion. One such virtual realm, Byzinic, became my canvas for storytelling, albeit with characters and narratives in their nascent form. The shutdown of these sites marked the end of an era, but not before a friend, Stephanie, preserved the essence of those imaginative stories.

 

Reflecting on my early attempts at design and storytelling, I acknowledge the simplicity of characters within Byzinic. Yet, it was the richness of plotlines and events that lingered in my mind. When embarking on my own game development journey, I sought to capture the essence of those childhood narratives, leading to the birth of the Barrens—a renaissance of Byzinic, refined and evolved.

 

 

I embarked on a journey to reshape and expand the world enveloping my characters, refining storylines and personas. Amid this process, a particular character, Runohr (a god), emerged as a narrative focal point. Initially, my game was centered around his journey—a quest for redemption after slaying his mortal lover. The storyline was dark, mature, engaging, and compelling. However, when I shared this narrative with a friend, a critical flaw surfaced. Runohr's lover, a key figure in the story, lacked identity; she was formless, and devoid of substance. She did not even have a name.

 

This realization led me to confront a troubling literary trope known as "fridging," where female characters endure violence to propel a male character's narrative. Disappointed by unintentionally embodying this trope, the project took an unexpected turn as I set out to revamp the character, spending over a month imbuing her with purpose and identity.

 

The result was Sopatra—a character brimming with brilliance, family values, strengh, and stubbon resilience. She is a powerful individual with a distinct identity. In the process, I fell in love with her story, and knew it needed to be told first, prompting a shift in focus. Sopatra, alongside her father Driēs, leaders of the Sunlight's Caste, takes center stage in Sovereignty. Sopatra grapples with adversity as her father falls mysteriously ill, leaving their tribe vulnerable to external threats. In this desperate scenario, Sopatra becomes the driving force, striving to save her father and maintain prosperity for the Sunlight's Caste.

 

This project, born from the desire to revamp an old idea and create a game with compelling characters, has evolved into a profound exploration of identity, agency, and the consequences of narrative choices. Sopatra's journey represents a commitment to meaningful storytelling, where characters transcend tropes, and their stories resonate on a deeper level.

In the realm of online role-playing, I found a unique haven within forum-based games. These platforms served as virtual canvases, hosting intricate narratives in the form of collaborative storytelling. The lobbies, aptly named after various fantastical locations, became the stages where characters were brought to life through meticulously crafted posts.

Each participant contributed to the unfolding tale by detailing their character's appearance, actions, reactions, and innermost thoughts. It was a symphony of creativity, with members engaging in a dynamic exchange of words, giving birth to stories that transcended individual contributions.

However, the transient nature of online platforms led to the demise of many such creative sanctuaries. The virtual landscapes of Byzinic, where countless sagas once thrived, fell silent as the original website closed its doors. Yet, amidst this virtual oblivion, a beacon of preservation emerged.

A friend undertook the task of salvaging fragments from the fading echoes of Byzinic. As the original website shuttered, they meticulously collected and organized character dialogues and plot developments. In an act of digital archaeology, the essence of Byzinic found refuge on DeviantArt.

Through Deviant Art, Byzinic endured. A carefully curated chronicle, highlighted through screen captures, became a testament to the collective creativity and camaraderie that once flourished within the forum's hallowed halls. Today, stories from Byzinic remains immortalized on DeviantArt, a digital sanctuary preserving the legacy of a bygone era in online role-playing.

This screenshot serves as a snapshot, and a spark for what would become the Battle of the Barrens.  These stories arre not just the words on a screen, but the spirit of a community that defied the ephemeral nature of virtual worlds. In the age of fleeting digital landscapes, the story of Byzinic stands as a testament to the enduring power of creativity, collaboration, and the indomitable spirit of those who craft worlds with nothing but their words.

I aimed to leverage the childlike creations and wonders of Byzinic for Battle of the Barrens, transforming them into a rich, mature narrative set in a visually vibrant world.

These characters originated from the initial role-playing site, Byzinic. During Byzinic's inception, my drawing skills were limited.  I was only decent at drawing horses. Consequently, all the characters on Byzinic were equine in nature. Utilizing an application called Paint Shop Pro 7, I created all the characters for the website. However, lacking well-defined personalities, the characters had simplistic and flat designs that failed to convey much about them. As a designer, my vision was somewhat limited, often incorporating details simply because I found them aesthetically appealing, such as jewelry, spikes, smoke, and lightning. Despite their initially shallow designs, these characters gradually developed intriguing stories and hints of personalities. Over time, I was able to extract their essence and evolve them into vibrant, relatable, and compelling characters.

I employed the use of a website called World Anvil to aid in the development of my existing characters. World Anvil provided me with a platform to elaborate on character personalities, relationships, storylines, history, and overall helped me maintain organization for my diverse cast of characters and thoughts. Its functionality has proven invaluable in crafting a compelling cast and mythos for the world of the Barrens.

After rewriting and generating a multitude of characters, I began the process of visually evolving their identities. The objective was to metamorphose the horse characters into humanoid figures, aiming to enhance their visual appeal and establish a stronger connection with the audience. With improved drawing skills and the ability to articulate ideas more effectively, I no longer confined myself to drawing just horses. Each character is undergoing a meticulous design process to ensure their visual identity aligns seamlessly with their distinctive personality characteristics.

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