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A richly illustrated Visual Novel set in a fantasy version of feudal Japan, full of romance, intrigue, and mysticism.
A richly illustrated Visual Novel set in a fantasy version of feudal Japan, full of romance, intrigue, and mysticism.
146 backers pledged $4,727 to help bring this project to life.

About this project

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$4,727

146

This Kickstarter campaign will fund the first chapter of an ongoing saga.  Download link for our demo is at the bottom.

What is a Visual Novel?

For those unfamiliar with the genre, Wikipedia describes a visual novel as "a form of interactive fiction that typically features static graphics, background music, sound effects and a story with multiple paths and numerous possible endings. Gameplay involves clicking to advance the dialogue and graphics with choices that cumulatively determine your path." It's kind of like a multimedia Choose-Your-Own Adventure book with more depth and characterization; from a gaming perspective, it plays like a dating sim, but with more focus on story. 

 Journey through a fantasy version of feudal Japan, a place of spirits and demons, as well as conspiracy and intrigue. Magic is a real and vibrant force in your world; priests and shrine maidens can call on the gods to banish evil influences, and some bloodlines are favored by the spirits of nature. It is a land where steel still rules and duels can decide the fate of a samurai, their clan, or the Empire itself. 

You play as Shouka, a sheltered young samurai from a wealthy noble family, on your first venture outside your family's lands.  You've been summoned to accompany two imperial officials and a group of seven other young samurai on a tour of the empire.  The rumor is that one of the officials will be promoted soon, and the journey is a trial to choose his replacement.  On this journey, you will be faced with conspiracy, deception, and dark magic, all of which could change the face of the empire forever.

The player will have the opportunity to forge lasting relationships with a planned selection of ten characters. These relationships can be romantic, platonic, or even political, depending on who you chose and the actions you take. But be careful, the life of a samurai is filled with risks, and every choice carries consequences. Not every ending is a happy one, and the honor guiding your actions can mean the difference between life and death!

The main cast is made up of ten characters of varied ages and backgrounds, each with their own personality and preferences.  We had five people involved in creating them, and this diversity is reflected in the characters themselves.  Each character has his or her own story, making interaction a rewarding experience.

We've spent a great deal of time and effort on character art.  Each of the ten main characters has 3 - 4 poses and 25 - 30 expressions, to allow them to emote as much as possible.  Even unnamed extras have portrait art with 2 - 5 expressions, depending on the extent of their dialogue.  

One of the biggest challenges in making this game has been that the story takes place not in a single location, like most Visual Novels, but across the the sprawling lands of an entire country.  This allows us to tell a story on a grand scale, but it also means that we have to dedicate a substantial amount of resources toward background art.  

We are incredibly fortunate to have secured the talents of Van Setia Putra, whose work you may know from the indie hit To the Moon.  His rich, colorful backgrounds really bring an extra layer of depth to the visuals of the game.

Here are some examples of the locations in the game:

Going into this game, the development team played a number of Visual Novels and Dating Sims to get a feel for the genre.  We quickly developed an idea of what we liked, and also compiled a list of things we wanted to do differently.  In too many of these games, we felt that you were forced into playing a specific type of character.  We really wanted to give the player more of a choice in shaping the type of character Shouka would end up being.  To quote one of the team, we want to "Bioware it up."  

The character is being written with extensive branching dialogue that will allow you to play him however you like.   You can be friendly, humble, rude, or arrogant, and your choices will affect the way others react to you.  Build up enough trust with a character and you can unlock exclusive scenes with them, but get on their bad side enough, and they might stop talking to you!  You will also unlock or lock out options based on how honorably you behave throughout the course of the game.

While there is a heavy emphasis on relationships, this isn't just a dating sim.  Relationships can be romantic, platonic, or political in nature, and earning a character's trust can mean more than just getting them into bed.

 The music for Hearts Under Blades was composed by Reckoning Storm Audioworks.  We went for a mix of fantasy and traditional Asian sound, providing game materials to the composer to ensure our soundtrack matched the feel of the game.  So far we have four tracks, but we'd like to add up to 12 more, to be sure we have music for every situation the script calls for. 

Here are some samples (pardon the watermarks):

Main Theme

Pensive

Action

The game is being made with Ren'Py, a free but powerful visual novel engine allowing for professional quality output.  Right now we are concentrating on a PC release, but we expect to release later ports for Mac, Linux, and possibly Android.  We are developing the game in HD (at 1080p), and the engine is capable of scaling the graphics down for lower resolutions.  Part of our funding will go toward putting the game in the Steam Greenlight program, which would allow us to sell the game on Steam if we get enough votes.

 Meet the developers!

Melissa Strickbine - That's me!  I'm the Project Lead and Creative Director for this game. I have a degree in Fine Arts and two years of study in Animation Art and Design. I've worked on video games for over six years now, starting with RPG-maker projects, then working in the Beats of Rage engine. I have a proven history of finishing my projects! (Feel free to contact me if you want to see them).  Along with all the artwork, I also help with character creation and programming graphics into the game.

Dustin Rice - Dustin is our Head Writer. He’s responsible for adapting the general story to the Visual Novel format. Dustin is responsible for the majority of the dialogue you’ll read in the game, and the myriad choices you get to pick from.  Dustin has a background in Archaeology and a degree in International Relations with a focus on East Asia. He also helps with character creation, and codes all the really difficult stuff.

Derek Meurer - Derek is our Assistant Writer, helping Dustin to complete all the branches in dialogue. He also developed the core concept for the story. Derek has a degree in Journalism with a minor in English, and has dabbled in storytelling through one medium or another for most of his life. Along with story, Derek also helps with character creation.

We've set our goal at the absolute minimum it will take to get Chapter 1 completed.  Here is what the money will cover:

  • Completing the soundtrack 
  • Additional character art
  • Additional Background art
  • Font Licensing
  • Website hosting
  • Steam Greenlight fees
  • Kickstarter, Amazon, PayPal, and Other taxes and fees (Up to 30%)

$5000

Ouya/Android Tablet Port - We will make a version of the game available on Android devices, optimized for tablets and TVs.

$6000

Point-and-Click Investigations - This would allow the player to investigate a scene by actually clicking around the screen and interacting with the scenery in different ways, much in the style of Phoenix Wright.

$8000

Female Main Character - this is something we desperately want to include in the game, and has already been designed, but will need some additional funding to balance out the extra workload.  The Female path would include different relationship options and dialogue, and would not just be a carbon copy of the Male path.  

$15,000

Fully Animated Opening Sequence - to be animated by Nas Pasha of Studio Crazy Horse, it would be a hand-drawn, 90 second anime-style opening theme song.  Here's an example of his animation work: Return of the Beggar King (Teaser)

As we hit our goals, we may add more options, such as Physical reward add-ons or ports to additional platforms.  If you have questions or suggestions, don't be afraid to contact us!

$1 -  Our thanks + your name in the credits:  It means a great deal to us that you've donated, even at the smallest amount.  You will be listed as a backer in the credits.  This applies to ALL REWARD TIERS.  

$5 - Exclusive Wallpaper Pack: Digital download of exclusive HD wallpaper pack, featuring characters and scenes from the game.

$10 - The Game: Digital download of Chapter 1 of the game, and download of exclusive HD wallpaper pack.

$15 - Character Files:  Digital download of mini-artbook featuring new art of the 10 main characters of the game, plus digital downloads of Chapter 1 and exclusive HD wallpaper pack.

$20 - Original Soundtrack:  Digital download of the Original Game Soundtrack, plus digital downloads of Chapter 1, mini-artbook, and exclusive HD wallpaper pack.

$30 - Artbook:  Digital download of full art book, featuring concept art, in-game art, and bonus images, plus digital downloads of Chapter 1, mini-artbook, game soundtrack, and exclusive HD wallpaper pack..

$40 - Your poem included in the game:  You get to write a haiku that will be said by one of the main characters during the game. You also get digital downloads of Chapter 1, game soundtrack, both artbooks, and exclusive wallpaper pack.

*Note - this game is PG-13, so no adult stuff... sorry!

$50 - Early access beta tester:  Gain early access to Chapter 1, and provide feedback to the team. You will be listed as a beta tester in the credits. You also get digital downloads of Chapter 1, game soundtrack, both artbooks, and exclusive wallpaper pack.

$60 - You or Your Character Included in the Artbook as an Extra: You or a character you design will be drawn in the style of the game and included in the artbook as a peasant, servant, guard, or evil minion. This character can be based on you, a loved one, or a character of your own - I will contact you about details regarding what you would like.  

If we are able to progress to Chapter 2, you will also be the first contacted to have these portraits included as extras. You also get digital downloads of Chapter 1, game soundtrack, both artbooks, and exclusive wallpaper pack.

**Please don't hesitate to message me before pledging if you have any questions about this reward**

*SOLD OUT*  $60 - Be an Extra in the Game:   You or a character you design will be included in the game as an unnamed character with minimal lines of dialogue. Examples include guards, servants, children, townspeople, evil minions, etc. This character can be based on you, a loved one, or a character of your own - I will contact you about details regarding what you would like and where I think your character would fit in. 

You also get digital downloads of Chapter 1, game soundtrack, both artbooks, and exclusive wallpaper pack, along with early access to beta versions of Chapter 1.

**Please don't hesitate to contact me before pledging if you have any questions about this reward**

$100 - You or Your Character Included in the Artbook as a Minor Character:  You or a character you design will be drawn in the style of the game and included in the artbook as a minor named character. Examples include castle lord/lady, geisha, armored samurai, famous duelist, etc. This character can be based on you, a loved one, or a character of your own - I will contact you about details regarding what you would like.  

*SOLD OUT*  $100 - Be a Minor Character in the Game:   You or a character you design will be included in the game as a minor named character. Examples include castle lord/lady, relative of one of the main characters, a famous duelist, etc. This character can be based on you, a loved one, or a character of your own - I will contact you about details regarding what you would like and where I think your character would fit in. 

You also get digital downloads of Chapter 1, game soundtrack, both artbooks, exclusive wallpaper pack, along with early access to beta versions of Chapter 1.

 **Please don't hesitate to contact me before pledging if you have any questions about this reward**

$250 - Be a Major Villain in the Game:   Pick from the list of villains and work with our artist to design their look in the game. This character can be based on you, a loved one, a character of your own design. 

You also get digital downloads of Chapter 1, game soundtrack, both artbooks, and exclusive wallpaper pack, along with early access to beta versions of Chapter 1.

**Please don't hesitate to contact me before pledging if you have any questions about this reward**

*SOLD OUT*  $500 - You are the Emperor/Empress!   You or a character you design will be a member of the Imperial Family, either the emperor/empress or one of their heirs. Everyone in the land will know your face, and statues of you will be found in background art throughout the game, and will appear on promotional art for the game. This character’s appearance can be based on you, a loved one, or a character of your own - I will contact you about details regarding the design. 

You also get digital downloads of Chapter 1, game soundtrack, both artbooks, and exclusive wallpaper pack, along with early access to beta versions of Chapter 1.

**Please don't hesitate to contact me before pledging if you have any questions about this reward**

$1000 - Be a Datable Character in the Game:  Choose from a list of potential candidates and work with the team to develop their appearance and personality. This character can be based on you, a loved one, or a character of your own design. 

You also get digital downloads of Chapter 1, game soundtrack, both artbooks, and exclusive wallpaper pack, along with early access to beta versions of Chapter 1.

**Please don't hesitate to contact me before pledging if you have any questions about this reward**

$5000 - Design a Skin for the Main Character:  Congratulations, you just funded our game! You will work with our artist to design a skin for Shouka, with custom name and appearance! Your character will be a select-able choice at the beginning of the game, and in their playthrough all images of Shouka will be replaced with your character’s appearance, including the full expression set and cutscene graphics. Gameplay and dialogue will remain the same, save for the character’s name and pronouns. 

You also get digital downloads of Chapter 1, game soundtrack, both artbooks, and exclusive wallpaper pack, along with early access to beta versions of Chapter 1. NOTE: due to the extensive amount of work this entails, your character skin MAY have to be released as an update later than the initial release of the game.

**Please don't hesitate to contact me before pledging if you have any questions about this reward**

Custom Digital Art 

Custom art can be almost anything you want, including fanart, original art, or even pictures of your friends, family, or pets. Just keep it PG-13, please. :) 

 $10 - Black and white sketch of a single character or creature done by the game artist. Examples: 

$25 - Color portrait or bust of a single character or creature done by the game artist. Great for avatars or profile pics! Transparent or single color background. Examples: 

$35 - color chibi art of a single character or creature done by the game artist. Transparent or single color background. Examples: 

$50 - color full-body art of a single character or creature done by the game artist. Color will be a simpler style than the game art, either cel shaded or painterly. Transparent or single color background. 

Please feel free to ask any questions you may have! Messages will be replied to directly and comments will be addressed in the FAQ. For examples of the artist's work outside of the game, please see ArtistMeli on DeviantArt. 

How pledge add-ons work: 

1) Choose the pledge level that fits you best. 

 2) Choose an add-on or add-ons that you're interested in and just add the cost of those to your existing pledge level. You don't need to physically choose your add-on yet. Just increase the amount of your pledge so that it will include the cost of any add-ons you want. (If you have previously chosen your tier, you can still add to it by going to Manage Your Pledge). 

3) EXAMPLE: You pledge at the $10 level (Digital Download of Chapter 1, Exclusive Wallpaper Pack, and name in the credits). Then you want to add a Digital Sketch ($10). You then alter your pledge amount to $20.00 to cover everything. 

 4) Sometime after the Kickstarter campaign has wrapped up, we'll be sending Kickstarter surveys out to each backer and in that survey you'll be asked if you purchased any add-ons, and if so, which add-ons they were. 

5) After responding to that survey, work will begin on production and you'll receive your reward on or before the delivery date of Chapter 1.

More rewards may be added as we meet our goals!

Download our Demo Here!!!

Risks and challenges

We made sure we had a large number of game assets already complete before even considering a Kickstarter campaign, to minimize the number of risks involved. We also decided to break the game into chapters, which will allow us release something playable sooner.

We have also accounted for the time it will take to develop all of the assets in the Stretch Goals in our Delivery Date, so we are less likely to run late.

Finally, we are only offering digital rewards to dramatically cut costs and keep our initial goal as low as possible. We may introduce physical reward add-ons as stretch goals if we go above and beyond our expectations.

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Questions about this project? Check out the FAQ

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    Pledge $1 or more About $1.00

    Our thanks! It means a great deal to us that you've donated, even at the smallest amount.

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    EXCLUSIVE WALLPAPERS - Backers Only HD wallpaper pack, featuring characters and scenes from the game.

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    GAME DOWNLOAD - Digital download of Chapter 1 of the game, and download of exclusive HD wallpaper pack.

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    CHARACTER FILES - Digital download of mini-artbook featuring the 10 main characters of the game, plus digital downloads of Chapter 1 and exclusive HD wallpaper pack.

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    ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK - Digital download of the Original Game Soundtrack, plus digital downloads of Chapter 1, mini-artbook, and exclusive HD wallpaper pack.

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    ARTBOOK - Digital download of full art book, featuring concept art, in-game art, and bonus images, plus digital downloads of Chapter 1, mini-artbook, game soundtrack, and exclusive HD wallpaper pack.

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    YOUR POEM IN THE GAME - You get to write a haiku that will be said by one of the main characters during the game. You also get digital downloads of Chapter 1, game soundtrack, both artbooks, and exclusive wallpaper pack.

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    EARLY ACCESS BETA TESTER -
    Gain early access to Chapter 1, and provide feedback to the team. You will be listed as a beta tester in the credits. You also get digital downloads of Chapter 1, game soundtrack, both artbooks, and exclusive wallpaper pack.

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    Pledge $60 or more About $60

    BE AN EXTRA IN THE GAME - You or a character you design will be included in the game as an unnamed character with minimal lines of dialogue. Examples include guards, servants, children, townspeople, evil minions, etc. This character can be based on you, a loved one, or a character of your own - I will contact you about details regarding what you would like and where I think your character would fit in. You also get digital downloads of Chapter 1, game soundtrack, both artbooks, and exclusive wallpaper pack.

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    Pledge $60 or more About $60

    YOU or YOUR CHARACTER INCLUDED IN THE ARTBOOK AS AN EXTRA - You or a character you design will be drawn in the style of the game and included in the artbook as a peasant, servant, guard, or evil minion. This character can be based on you, a loved one, or a character of your own - I will contact you about details regarding what you would like. IF we are able to progress to Chapter 2, you will also be the first contacted to have these portraits included as extras. You also get digital downloads of Chapter 1, game soundtrack, both artbooks, and exclusive wallpaper pack.

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    Pledge $100 or more About $100

    BE A MINOR CHARACTER IN THE GAME -
    You or a character you design will be included in the game as a minor named character. Examples include castle lord/lady, relative of one of the main characters, a famous duelist, etc. This character can be based on you, a loved one, or a character of your own - I will contact you about details regarding what you would like and where I think your character would fit in. You also get digital downloads of Chapter 1, game soundtrack, both artbooks, and exclusive wallpaper pack.

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    Pledge $100 or more About $100

    YOU or YOUR CHARACTER INCLUDED IN THE ARTBOOK AS A MINOR CHARACTER - You or a character you design will be drawn in the style of the game and included in the artbook as a minor named character. Examples include castle lord/lady, geisha, armored samurai, famous duelist, etc. This character can be based on you, a loved one, or a character of your own - I will contact you about details regarding what you would like. IF we are able to progress to Chapter 2, you will also be the first contacted to have these portraits included as minor characters. You also get digital downloads of Chapter 1, game soundtrack, both artbooks, and exclusive wallpaper pack.

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    Pledge $250 or more About $250

    BE A MAJOR VILLAIN IN THE GAME - Pick from the list of villains and work with our artist to design their look in the game. This character can be based on you, a loved one, a character of your own design. You also get digital downloads of Chapter 1, game soundtrack, both artbooks, and exclusive wallpaper pack, along with early access to beta versions of Chapter 1.

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    Pledge $500 or more About $500

    YOU ARE THE EMPEROR or EMPRESS - You or a character you design will be a member of the Imperial Family, either the emperor/empress or one of their heirs. Everyone in the land will know your face, and statues of you will be found in background art throughout the game, and will appear on promotional art for the game. This character’s appearance can be based on you, a loved one, or a character of your own - I will contact you about details regarding the design. You also get digital downloads of Chapter 1, game soundtrack, both artbooks, and exclusive wallpaper pack, along with early access to beta versions of Chapter 1.

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    Pledge $1,000 or more About $1,000

    BE A DATEABLE CHARACTER - Choose from a list of potential suitors and work with the team to develop their appearance and personality. This character can be based on you, a loved one, or a character of your own design. You also get digital downloads of Chapter 1, game soundtrack, both artbooks, and exclusive wallpaper pack, along with early access to beta versions of Chapter 1.

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    Pledge $5,000 or more About $5,000

    DESIGN A SKIN FOR THE MAIN CHARACTER - Congratulations, you just funded our game! You will work with our artist to design a skin for Shouka, with custom name and appearance! All images of Shouka will be replaced with your character’s appearance, including the full expression set and cutscene graphics. Gameplay and dialogue will remain the same, save for the character’s name and pronouns. You also get digital downloads of Chapter 1, game soundtrack, both artbooks, and exclusive wallpaper pack, along with early access to beta versions of Chapter 1. NOTE: due to the extensive amount of work this entails, your character skin MAY have to be released as an update later than the initial release of the game.

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Funding period

- (30 days)