Announcing a new project

If you look through this blog’s archives, you may notice that although Free and Open Source Software is what I write most about, it is not the exclusive topic. I’ve written on science (my day job) as well as other interests. And today I’d like to lift the wraps on another project which I take part on, unrelated to the above.

Notice for those who read my blog coming from FOSS aggregators like Planet KDE: this is fairly different than most recent topics from me, so be warned before you continue reading.

It all began on a calm summer night 20 years ago

Sounds trite, isn’t it? Except it’s actually how it happened. I and my brother were having a walk one night and he mentioned having an idea about a story that he’d like written. So far I had a (limited) success in getting something decent on paper (or on stuff that never left my HDD), but I was steadily improving, therefore I was genuinely interested.

Inspired by some of the things we had read in those years (in particular the entire cycle of Conan by Robert E. Howard and horror stories by H.P. Lovecraft), he was thinking about a short story involving a werewolf, but was missing some key element. I commented, half-jokingly, that perhaps he should have added zombies to it (we had recently played a few titles in the arcades which involved said undead, like Data East’s Night Slashers, and a few years later SEGA’s Zombie Revenge).

Know what? That was the missing piece he needed to get the story. As we walked back home, he was able to get all the plot out in some form. The following morning, he wrote it down not to forget anything. And that was the start of everything.

Funnily enough, the project I’m talking about here has only little relation with zombies and nothing with werewolves.

Early history

From that night, it took quite a while to get something done. And by quite a while I mean 10 years. As it was a fairly “spare time” idea, it would often be put in the back burner, or get ignored for months. After a few years, we also decided to move from our native language to English, which complicates matters (hint: a proper story is much more difficult to do than a blog post). And of course you have to consider “feature creep” (yes, that can happen with stories, too) and subsequent setbacks or cuts to make things more manageable.

In addition to all of this, during these developments we grew interested in what we called “illustrated novels”, but better known as light novels in more recent years. In this context it means that narration is accompanied by a few artworks depicting key scenes. After some early attempts, a certain artist was contacted, and a number of artworks commissioned. The work was good, but delivery was incredibly slow and there were certain liberties taken in the design, liberties that were not fixed to prevent additional slowdowns. In the end, the artwork was massively beneficial for my motivation as I was finally able to finish the first part of the story. The whole thing was self-published for a while and put around freely (on a dedicated web page) under a very restrictive Creative Commons license as well.

The story had a mixture of elements taken from Japanese pop culture, like manga and anime, but also influences from other books we had written, including the aforementioned R.E. Howard and HP Lovecraft, all mixed with a personal touch. At the time, it looked reasonably done to us (and we had favorable comments from the few people who read it).

Over the course of the following years, two more parts were made leveraging the same artist. Output didn’t improve and the quality decreased, but in the end I was able to finish the rest, although with a great deal of difficulties. Thus the whole matter was done, finished.

Or was it?

Back to the present: much-needed changes

You may have experenced those feelings related to regret, like “What could have happpened if I did things in a different way?”. With regards to the story, this is what happened here. As time passed and we looked back (and read more stuff), there were many things that could have used serious improvement. In addition, I and my brother took up studying Japanese after our first trip to Japan in 2008, and I developed a serious knack for Japanese history. This meant that some of the things written in the past were overly naive or even incorrect. After several years of pondering, we took a decision: restart from scratch, keep the good, and fix whatever needed fixing.

At the same time, we wanted to overhaul the art as welll, but this time getting on someone more experienced and that cared for the end result (something that the original artist and a few followers did not). After a bit of scouting, we settled on Collateral Damage Studios, and we couldn’t be happier as we finally saw the characters taking life as we had originally envisioned, rather than compromises.

And lastly, we went back to the license. While the one we chose back in the days gave us most control, it was also incredibly rigid with no clear advantage. For this reason, we decided to move to a Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike license for the new work. At least this allows freedom of share and build upon the work, as long as the authors are attributed properly and that modifications are shared in the same manner as the original work.

So, what’s this project all about?

Having finally finished the first chapter of this new endeavor, I’d like to lift the wraps over The Guardians of the Dawn, and on the first part of the whole story, Lost Innocence. It is going to be published online on the go, as soon as each chapter is finished. At the moment this means prologue and first chapter, including artwork: work on the second chapter is under way. Also, the web page does not only host the project itself. We’ve just started, but we plan to expand it with posts covering the characters, the genesis of the story and other similar bits, along with artwork in the gallery as it becomes available.

More technical details on how the whole thing is made will be made on this blog, instead (and I’m sure this will interest the technical-oriented readership).

Like before, this is a story that borrows heavily from a combination of horror, fantasy and Japanese culture, mixed with our personal ideas. Of course we cannot claim originality: the Internet (and dead tree publishing) is full of Japanese-like works, with varying degrees of length and quality. That said, we wanted to move in a different direction, mainly because our tastes did not fully overlap with the stereotypes that come out from these works.

Whether this is good enough or not, this is left as an exercise to you, dear readers. ;) But we’d love comments and feedback, either here or on the actual web page. So, let us know!

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