As we develop the first iteration of the Of Sense and Soul demo and keep the future of our project in mind, it's impossible to not think about the rest of the future along with it.
This may not be what you came here to see, but it would be amiss to start this devlog off without addressing, yet again, the world we're in.
The Way Things Are Now
Not just recently, but for a long time now, civil rights have been continually infringed—the Black Lives Matter protests following the murder of George Floyd are only the latest in a long history of battling against systemic racism in the United States. Outside of the US, similar fights for freedom are taking place in many other countries—in Hong Kong and the Philippines, to name two.
This, during a pandemic that continues to ravage families in first and third world countries alike.
Then, after the dust settles from this year's struggles, there will still be thousands of other interconnected issues fundamental to the systems that structure our society that need just as much attention and support to change for the better.
Perhaps the above doesn't seem very relevant (this is a devlog for a gay Victorian romance game, isn't it?) but here's what we think:
What We Can Do
Of Sense and Soul is one small way we're attempting to put a little good into the world. Fiction is a refuge to many and it presents an opportunity to depict marginalised people in a positive light. Telling LGBTQIA+ narratives that end happily and having characters of colour prosper is the least we can do in fiction to support people whose stories are so often misrepresented and ill-fated.
On social media, we've begun doing what we can to bolster the voices of queer game devs and game devs of colour—on the newly inaugurated Forsythia Productions Twitter page, which is for sharing from fellow devs and game communities, we've been retweeting posts from Black content creators in particular in light of recent events. Our following there is small, but as it grows over time we hope this platform will become a better place to uplift creators and initiatives in the indie visual novel scene.
As for real world change, there isn't a ton we can do as a new indie studio to support causes we believe in… at least, not right now.
Though a majority of funds we raise will go towards production of the game and any fees required by future platforms such as Patreon or Kickstarter, we hope to donate any potential excess to charities that are doing good in their communities.
More details on this will come as we prepare to launch our Patreon in the coming months, but for now, we leave this thought with the following quote:
"Let the world we dream about be the one we live in now."
—Livin' it Up on Top, Hadestown
So! The world is on fire. I truly hope that all of you have been doing well, lovely readers — or as best you can, anyway. Life at USA HQ has been a little tough these past few weeks, I won’t lie. Without going into too much detail, I’ve had some family woes. But it’s been good to have something to focus on outside of that!
Also, I, uh. I got really into Dragon Ball. As an adult who had no previous exposure to the series (so, no childhood nostalgia). So that’s… been a bit weird. But hey! What better to clear your mind when everything around you is stressful and terrifying than some good old-fashioned men yelling and punching each other through rocks, right?
It's been a struggle to work efficiently in recent weeks, but as we get closer to the demo’s release I’ve been really trying to kick myself into gear. My drive for drawing tends to ebb and flow and when current events and other administrative work for this project have me occupied it is hard to force art productivity. I’m trying to combat that by streaming more frequently in the OSAS server—there is still much to do, but I have confidence it will all get done by the end of the month!
Other than that, I’ve been really getting back into playing the Sims (I'm loving the new Eco Living expansion and making my sims dumpster dive) and listening to Gethsemane from the musical Jesus Christ Superstar on loop. I tend to sing while I’m working so I’m practicing that lower vocal register with this song! (Here's my opinion on Gethsemane you didn't ask for: John Legend didn’t have to hit that high “WHYYYYY” to sing a killer version for the 2017 in-concert production. I really like his interpretation! But Ted Neely’s is, of course, irreplaceable.)
It seems I'm on a bit of an Andrew Lloyd Webber kick at the moment—I also finally watched Cats (2019) in May. That's all I have to say about that experience.
Puppy pictures, because both I and this devlog needed a visual break. I made those bowties on impulse and they remain three of the best things I've made in 2020.
Though normally this segment would be about what research we have done, continuing with the train of thought from earlier in this devlog here's the research we intend to do.
Of Sense and Soul will not use "'period-typical" racism, homophobia, or prejudice in general as a driving force for its plot, but it is important that we keep in mind the social problems of the era.
The Victorians were, of course, not the most tolerant or accepting of societies—in hand with its industrial successes and social advancements came xenophobia against people of religious and ethnic minorities who immigrated to England as well as those already in England.
Here's a brief overview of the presence of minorities in England up to the 19th century:
Black people have been on the British isles since Roman Britain in antiquity but most records until the 1600s and 1700s lack much description. In the 1750s, one to three percent of London's population was made up by Black people. Activists demanding freedom from slavery led to abolition of slavery in the British empire in 1833, and with it the end of growth in the Black British population—though the uprooting of people from Africa, the Caribbean, and America had ceased, there was still a small influx of Black seamen to dockside communities due to abandonment by their employers.
Indian immigrants largely settled in Great Britain through employment by the East India Company or wealthy British families. As the 19th century progressed, over 40,000 Indians were in Britain, consisting of mostly seamen but including diplomats, scholars, soldiers, officials, tourists, businessmen, and students. Many only stayed temporarily, but others settled.
Catholic Irish arrived in droves due to the Great Famine of the 1840s, and religious persecution caused the immigration of many Jewish Russians in the 1880s. Anti-Catholic and anti-semitic sentiments were They weren't welcomed as warmly as other European immigrants from Germany, France, Italy, and Switzerland, who were met with a generally positive response.
In their quest to convert indigenous people to Christianity, Victorian missionaries promoted imperial expansion and the mindset that doing so was for the "protection of natives and advancement of civilisation." This was a common ideology—the assumption of superiority manifested as an almost parental responsibility over people of colour. "Social Darwinism" (or the "survival of the fittest" as associated with Charles Darwin's The Origin of the Species) became a justification for imperialism, racism, eugenics, and social inequality at the expense of people of colour and people of religious minorities in the predominantly Anglican, Anglo-Saxon country. Scientific racism through the practice of physiognomy and study of phrenology also fuelled racial discrimination.
The Victorians clearly weren't saints. Our characters, by extension, aren't saints—but as this is fiction, we have the power to unpack some of the above for them and present a historical fiction that doesn't completely romanticise the past.
(This topic may be covered again in a future research log, as there is much more to say!)
Though we have much more reading to do, here are a few of the sources we consulted for these takeaways above:
The History of Black People in Britain by Paul Edwards for History Today
History of African Presence in London on Wikipedia
British Indians on Wikipedia
Pride and prejudice: The Victorian roots of a very British ambivalence to immigration by Panikos Panayi for the Independent
Post Darwin: social Darwinism, degeneration, eugenics by Carolyn Burdett on the British Library
Phrenology and Race in Nineteenth-Century Britain by Anthony S. Wohl on The Victorian Web
The demo script is fully drafted and going through final edits now! The demo only contains Hugo’s route, but that doesn’t mean that’s all we’re working on for the time being—the next step will be to write the first chunk of Seamus’ route, as well. The overall plan is to keep script production for both routes more or less aligned, rather than completing all or most of one route and then the other.
You may notice on our main page and on our social media that our promotional art has gotten a makeover! The art style shown here is more true to the appearance of the rest of the game overall: our previous art was drawn a full year ago, in June 2019, and the differences are stark!
The banner for our upcoming Itch.io page
A comparison between last year's and this year's key art.
Seeing the leap in art development in just a year is very exciting! With the colouring process and drawing process overall now more refined, it feels like the puzzle pieces are really coming together.
As for the rest of the art:
The CG for the demo is in progress, and is awaiting a background and final touches.
One background is finished and two more are on the way! The drawing room and restaurant backgrounds are lined and ready for colouring.
There is one sprite left to line and colour.
A majority of the demo script has been programmed along with a functioning GUI and a few assets!
Soundtrack 1 is still in progress.
That's it for this month's devlog! Next time you see us, we'll have a playable demo for you!
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