Dressing an Empress
Before we begin, please make sure you load images for this update or the text will be rather meaningless...
Today we have a couple of things we wanted to cover. First of all we reached 1600 shares on our Kickstarter page which means we hit another social stretch goal. The mp3 for The Mandate thriller theme has been uploaded and we decided to throw in a second wallpaper pack to celebrate almost 5500 backers. Both 1920x1200 and 1920x1080 versions are available and you can download from the link above. Keep sharing our Kickstarter page on Facebook by clicking the share button right below our Kickstarter video to unlock new free stuff! The "retro version" of the music from our text adventure Scourge of The Mandate is also available from the same page in case you cannot get enough of it!
Secondly, several of our backers have asked us to do an AMA (ask me anything). We are planning an AMA for next week and will get back to you with more details soon. Garret (art director), Ole (exec producer & lead designer) and Michael (community manager) will be on hand to answer questions.
In response to backer feedback, today we are doing a special “behind the scenes” update called “Dressing an Empress”. We understand that some backers may find this update a bit on the “soft” side and would rather know more about gameplay mechanics and features, but rest assured we have plenty of these lined up for the next few weeks as well.
Today our focus will be on Empress Anastasia Romanova, by the Grace of God holder of the Mandate, Empress of the United Colonies, Captain-Queen of the Romanov etc: When work on Anastasia's character design began, we did not have her biography written. However, we did have some clear goals in mind for her personality and we discussed five guiding principles that helped shape her visuals and dress:
- regal presence with clear authority but also young and inexperienced
- dress should be practical: utilitarian, efficient, robust
- dress must represent The Mandate more than House of Romanov
- grace and intelligence over sex appeal
- tech elements should hint at sci-fi setting while dress still has traditional cut
Initially we had this bit of text to guide us for Anastasia (Her bio has since been heavily modified to make her more sympathetic): “She`d have to be pretty ruthless - she runs a galactic empire and everyone`s out to get her - with a hint of a child who had to grow up very, very fast and who responds well to straight talk. Going with the storyline (that the player is released from prison to captain a ship loyal to her) she`d be very much `You and I are in the same position, if I die you die`along with `Everything is for duty and the Mandate.' She's underestimated by her enemies (and allies) within the Mandate, but she's not an ice-cool superwoman or sassier-than-life Joss Whedon character. And you're never going to know her name or see her crack a smile.”
First we started by doing research into 18th century court dress for Imperial Russia (Empress Catherine the Great comes to mind) as well as looking into modern day galla, court and coronation dresses for Queens and Princesses. Just around this time there was a royal coronation in the Netherlands and we really liked the blue dress that Queen Maxima wore for the coronation ceremony. So with these references and especially this last one in mind, the first concept for Anastasia was born:
Immediately we saw that she felt a bit too old and haunted for her age. The shoes added to the age factor and the dress felt too short. We were not too happy with this first attempt and began to investigate additional references and also took a closer look at old photos of the last Grand Duchesses of Imperial Russia. We decided to switch from blue to another colour, partially because the Order of St Andrew has a blue ribbon and blue on blue was a bit… well blue. Another reason was simply that we had come across a really cool red empress dress.This resulted in three new dresses where the first red one is most closely related to the first blue dress.
These three dresses go in different directions and one is borderline fairy tale or space princess territory. So we returned to our five guiding principles mention earlier and started to mix and match details from the three dresses as well as adding sci-fi tech to Anastasia’s arms. Some backers have speculated that these are cybernetic implants but they are in fact jewelry. This jewelry also serves to augment Anastasia’s natural abilities and also allows her to project holo images. Finally, they provide her with a means to access and “push the red button” similar to the briefcase that supposedly accompanies the US president when out travelling. In The Mandate pushing the red button would not initiate a nuclear attack but something very different…
We decided to continue with the first two dresses and mix elements from all three together into these as well as do a few colour tests. Also, we toned down how much skin is shown and played around with the tiaras as well. This lead to the final dress:
After we were happy with the dress, we shifted our attention to hairstyle and facial features. Anastasia’s facial features felt a bit generic caucasian rather than somebody of Russian ancestry. So we started to look at various pictures of both Russian and Ukranian models and came across a few celebrities as well. The final version includes various tweaks to Anastasia's facial features. This was an interesting process with everybody having strong opinions. We got input from several native Russians about which facial shape and hairstyle they identified the most with.The final face structure for Anastasia is a mix of several currently living celebrities. Can you guess who?
For our backstory trailer we also wanted Anastasia’s coronation picture to be more extravagant than her "day to day" court dress. As such we went for a very opulent dress and also a more traditional braided Russian hair style. We had numerous movie and picture references for the coronation gown Anastasia would be wearing. You may also make out the details on the top of her scepter, which is the 8-pointed Star of St Andrew.
After we landed the final version Garret did a promotional poster for Anastasia. One of the visitors commented that the poster gave off a vibe of “heavy is the head that wears the crown” which is exactly the message we wanted to convey.
This concludes our segment “Dressing an Empress”. We hope you found it interesting and promise to return soon with “proper” design updates.
Finally, cross promotion is important, and so far merely mentioning other games has earned us several hundred new backers. We understand that not everyone will enjoy the games that we note, but it really is necessary to boost the amount of pledges. We have some guys who are talking to these developers, ensuring their design philosophies and community spirit matches our own. We have gotten a lot of suggestions from you guys, and today we are noting an anime style RPG called You Are Not The Hero.
You Are Not The Hero is a 2D Action Platform RPG that ditches the battle system to focus on richer RPG gameplay elements. Instead of playing a traditional hero that saves the world, you're playing a bystander swept into the affairs of heroes and villains alike. Those heroes have broken into houses and been a nuisance for far too long, it's time to get some payback!
Next week will feature multiple design updates, new dev log(s), the AMA, interviews with major press sites and other cool stuff!
Your friends at Perihelion Interactive