Bliss Stage: Love Is Our Weapon [Sci-Fi, BxG, BxB]

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Bliss Stage: Love Is Our Weapon [Sci-Fi, BxG, BxB]

#1 Post by Tsundere Lightning » Fri Jan 28, 2011 6:38 pm

This is an open discussion thread of a work-in-progress.
There will be spoilers here.
Read at your own risk.


UPDATE: Merry Christmas! Alpha release date is December 25th.
Image

Right now, right this moment, the moment you begin reading this -
Humanity is devastated by an alien attack from the edges of our understanding.
Seven years later, armed with a device that you cannot comprehend,
that you can barely operate,
you will strike back.

This is how.


Bliss Stage: Love Is Our Weapon

Image
Concept art of the entire main cast, save Archer Lin and Colonel Preston.
Bliss Stage: Love Is Our Weapon is a science fiction VN with horror and romantic elements about a young man, Joshua Preston, and the war he fights after the end of the world. Alien beings have incapacitated the adult population of the world with a sinister affliction, the Bliss; anyone that is at least eighteen years old will not awaken the next time they sleep, rendered comatose with a smile on their face. Humanity's only weapon is the ANIMa, a device that allows humans to fight the aliens in dreams by translating the emotions and relationships of it's Pilot into arms and armor.

Love is literally your weapon, but who will you wield, and why?
Innocent Sara Smith, a rookie pilot desperate to prove her courage?
Comforting Meredith Baker, a kind and mature young girl that serves as your Anchor to the waking world?
Eager young Gabriel Invierno, your only friend from Before to survive, now dedicated to fighting the aliens tooth and claw?
Experienced Derek Smith, Sara's brother and Anchor, who has seen too well the costs of the war?
Or Veteran Anna Lin - the cool and collected wing commander, mother, and the last of the first pilots?

Love Is Our Weapon is a licensed adaptation of the tabletop game Bliss Stage, by Ben Lehman of These Are Our Games, also the author of Polaris, the award winning RPG of 'Chivalric tragedy at the utmost North'; The Drifters Escape, an RPG about rootless wanderers trying to get by in America, and the world's first yaoi-themed tabletop game, Hot Guys Making Out.

...No, really. Ben is awesome and if you're a fan of ren'ai Visual Novels, you should definitely check out tabletop Bliss Stage.

The game alternates between visual novel Interludes between Joshua and the other members of his Resistance and turn-based missions fighting the war machines of the alien Nightmares. The better your relationships are to your friends and allies, the more powerful your weaponry gets: indeed, the most powerful weaponry in the game comes from committed sexual relationships. But weapons are only reliable as the trust they draw on, and dream combat erodes that trust with every battle. Betray your friends, or your lovers, and the spectacular misfires of your weaponry will seal your fate.

After bouncing between roughly 108 artists, out of sheer frustration with retaining them, I developed my own drawing skills so that I could illustrate this damn game myself. This thread will mainly be to discuss the game, post the demo (when it's complete), and post art for critique.

This game has been a long time coming, and we've experienced several setbacks. Ironically, we might get this post-apoc tale of growing up, young love and giant robots out in... 2012. :lol: The first of several rolling alpha releases is this Christmas, with a public demo this January.

Ask me your questions, rip apart my art, and tell me what you think! I'll be updating this as often as I can with new in-game art by yours truly.
Last edited by Tsundere Lightning on Fri Dec 23, 2011 11:36 pm, edited 6 times in total.
She's sun and rain: She's fire and ice. A little crazy, but it's nice.
Bliss Stage: Love is your weapon! A sci-fi visual novel about child soldiers coming of age. Kickstarter prerelease here. WIP thread here. Original tabletop game by Ben Lehman here. Tumblr here.

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Re: Bliss Stage: Love Is Our Weapon [Sci-Fi, BxG, BxB]

#2 Post by Tsundere Lightning » Fri Jan 28, 2011 6:48 pm

Sorry to doublepost so soon, but here's a preliminary illustration of Meredith. It took me forever to get the hair right.

Image

Some notes:
  • Her sweater is based on the outfit of Chie Sakonata from Persona 4, but with horizontal stripes to emphasize her...torso. It'll be in green and yellow when it's done.
  • Short version of her character, and this doesn't really do her enough justice, is Yamato Nadeshiko. Yes, I'm aware that she isn't a traditional Japanese woman by a long shot, but she's so sweet, patient and Comforting that she has a special ability named Comforting.
  • Meredith is your (Read: Joshua's) default Anchor; her duty is roughly equivalent to that of an Architect from the movie Inception. Remember that combat takes place in dreams; Meredith guides your imagery to assist you in combat and wakes you up, with electrical shocks as a last resort if she has to.
She's sun and rain: She's fire and ice. A little crazy, but it's nice.
Bliss Stage: Love is your weapon! A sci-fi visual novel about child soldiers coming of age. Kickstarter prerelease here. WIP thread here. Original tabletop game by Ben Lehman here. Tumblr here.

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Re: Bliss Stage: Love Is Our Weapon [Sci-Fi, BxG, BxB]

#3 Post by Machus » Fri Jan 28, 2011 7:17 pm

This sounds like a great idea!
Using love as a weapon sounds like a really different idea. Well, literally at least. The gameplay sounds really good as well, effectively connecting to the story.
The art is somewhat different, but in a good way. I like how the characters look.

Good luck on this project!~
I'm available as a proofreader, just PM me. Thanks!

~Mau

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Re: Bliss Stage: Love Is Our Weapon [Sci-Fi, BxG, BxB]

#4 Post by gekiganwing » Fri Jan 28, 2011 8:51 pm

Since I browse TVTropes far more than I should, I've read about Bliss Stage and your fangame. It's good to hear that you're making progress. Thank you, Tsundere Lightning, for all your work and patience with this project.
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Re: Bliss Stage: Love Is Our Weapon [Sci-Fi, BxG, BxB]

#5 Post by sake-bento » Fri Jan 28, 2011 11:49 pm

Good to see you back on the boards. I'm looking forward to what's to come.

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Re: Bliss Stage: Love Is Our Weapon [Sci-Fi, BxG, BxB]

#6 Post by Tsundere Lightning » Sat Jan 29, 2011 1:40 am

sake-bento wrote:Good to see you back on the boards.
To be honest, most of what I was doing on these boards came from time I'd be working on the project, otherwise. I'm back because I can do something useful (post production art and ask for critique, answer tabletop/fan questions) and because the one thing holding back production - the lack of artist - has been fixed.

May as well post this happy camper, and I honestly should have posted him first, but I hadn't scanned him.

The main character, Joshua Castellano Preston.

Image

...In his boxer shorts. I'll layer his clothing onto him once I ink him and shoop him into a sprite. Redline this son of a bitch if you wanna.

He was just "Josh Preston" in the rulebook; the 'Castellano' was because if a game is set in the San Francisco Bay Area you'd better goddamn make sure some of your characters are Hispanic if you want to be honest. That, and I wanted to name his (absent, Blissed Out) mother Maria Esperanza Castellano, because I like blatant symbolism. :roll:

In the game, most of the dialog decisions you'll have to make in his shoes boil down to tone and additude. This is not a game with a simple Karma Meter, but rather something more like the virtues of Ultima - actually, the more I think about it the more the three stances Josh can take line up well to Compassion, Honesty and Valor, and from those the other virtues of Ultima spring anyway - the official names for them are the Sensitive, Pragmatic and Idealistic stances.

For another lens on it, Sensitive makes you Shinji, Pragmatic makes you Setsuna, and Idealistic makes you Shimon. :lol:
She's sun and rain: She's fire and ice. A little crazy, but it's nice.
Bliss Stage: Love is your weapon! A sci-fi visual novel about child soldiers coming of age. Kickstarter prerelease here. WIP thread here. Original tabletop game by Ben Lehman here. Tumblr here.

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Re: Bliss Stage: Love Is Our Weapon [Sci-Fi, BxG, BxB]

#7 Post by Tsundere Lightning » Sun Jan 30, 2011 7:58 pm

Bumping with the artwork that just came in yesterday.

This is Joshua's mecha, the ANIMa unit Gawain, a manifestation of his relationship to his mentor (and on some paths, lover) Meredith Baker.

Each of those weapons are also relationships, transmuted into psionic weapons through the power of the Alien Numina Inversion Machine. Which weapon is each person I leave as an exercise for the reader.

Do any of you have comments or suggestions?
Attachments
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The Gawain Mark 3, Mark 4, and Mark 5
She's sun and rain: She's fire and ice. A little crazy, but it's nice.
Bliss Stage: Love is your weapon! A sci-fi visual novel about child soldiers coming of age. Kickstarter prerelease here. WIP thread here. Original tabletop game by Ben Lehman here. Tumblr here.

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Re: Bliss Stage: Love Is Our Weapon [Sci-Fi, BxG, BxB]

#8 Post by Kael » Sun Jan 30, 2011 9:27 pm

The Mecha is pretty kewl. I like it.

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Re: Bliss Stage: Love Is Our Weapon [Sci-Fi, BxG, BxB]

#9 Post by Tsundere Lightning » Mon Jan 31, 2011 5:28 pm

Updating with more preliminary pencils of the cast in skivvies.

This is a slightly more final Meredith Baker:

Image

And here is Sara Smith. Her design is basically "Asuka Noodles a la CLAMP" because of the proportions. 1 head tall head/ 2h torso / 4h legs is pretty much the only physical proportions in CLAMP - it's especially noticeable in Code Geass - but it is accurate. For a 14-year old girl. Sara is pretty much the only one young enough to get this treatment - most of the others are 1h / 3h / 3h, except for Meredith who's a squat 1h / 2h / 3h.

Image

Sara is the youngest Pilot in the Resistance, and absolutely determined to be the best one in the Resistance, as well. Not out of any ideas of personal glory (although she wants to rub it in her brothers face as proof of her maturity,) but because she is bound and determined to win the war and save the world. She's seen what the nightmares and the Bliss have done to Derek, and she doesn't like it, not one bit.

I hesitate to call her the tsundere because, my username to the contrary, I've gotten more and more suspicious about that title. It's the same problem I have with the word 'moe' - it's useful shorthand for something I find attractive in heroines, but when it becomes the end-all and the be-all of a character evil things happen. I like stories about shy girls coming out of their shells, but too often 'moe' is about the pitiability and not the journey to overcome it. Likewise with tsundere; seeing the softer side of an intense and prickly girl is adorable, but too often the 'tsun' moments ends up as active abuse.

I hope that Sara is both tsundere and moe in all the right ways. She's cranky about how much she's been sheltered, determined to become an exceptional pilot, desperately worried about her brother and the scars of the rest of the Resistance, and... well, innocent. The answer to being attacked is to fight back. If she becomes a mighty warrior they have to accept her as an adult. One day it might even attract the interest of some kind, affectionate, Anchorly boy - and don't you dare suggest that means someone like Derek!

Hopefully, she'll even be able to stay innocent when the war is over, with Joshua's help...
She's sun and rain: She's fire and ice. A little crazy, but it's nice.
Bliss Stage: Love is your weapon! A sci-fi visual novel about child soldiers coming of age. Kickstarter prerelease here. WIP thread here. Original tabletop game by Ben Lehman here. Tumblr here.

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Re: Bliss Stage: Love Is Our Weapon [Sci-Fi, BxG, BxB]

#10 Post by Tsundere Lightning » Tue Feb 01, 2011 9:01 pm

Another day, another bump, another piece of character art.

Say hello to your new commanding officer, Nugget!

Image

This is Anna Lin. I know she looks to be in her late twenties, but I assure you she's just a fairly exhausted 17-year old girl - and any advice on how to make that more apparent is very welcome; my attempts at drawing Chinese-looking eyes and cheekbones always age my characters at least 5 years...

She is the veteran of a thousand psychic wars, the last of the first Pilots still vertical and ventilating. Once the leader of a powerful street gang a few years after the Bliss, she is now trying to direct her energies to more constructive efforts - the Resistance and the total destruction of the aliens will to fight. It's about revenge for her, plain and simple. They destroyed her life. She's returning the favor.

Earlier on, I imagined her as harsh, cold, and tsundere, but over the course of one hundred and eight rewrites she's mellowed out into a cool, cordial, and above all, distant wing commander. She will dissect your fuckups and your successes in great detail in the hopes that the mistakes can be avoided and the successes replicated. The fact that she's a mother, too (from a previous and mostly happy relationship) also mellowed her out - her child Archer Lin is the only person she allows herself to be openly affectionate to, and has been keeping her much saner and centered and motivated than she'd otherwise be.

She's still pretty broken, though. And she knows it. But she'd rather break herself to fuck over the aliens than allow them to break anyone else.
She's sun and rain: She's fire and ice. A little crazy, but it's nice.
Bliss Stage: Love is your weapon! A sci-fi visual novel about child soldiers coming of age. Kickstarter prerelease here. WIP thread here. Original tabletop game by Ben Lehman here. Tumblr here.

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Re: Bliss Stage: Love Is Our Weapon [Sci-Fi, BxG, BxB]

#11 Post by Tsundere Lightning » Thu Feb 03, 2011 3:04 am

Another art bump.

I say that this isn't going to be an H game. It is going to deal implicitly with the budding sexuality of our protagonists, and it is going to be a fairly sexy piece, but there is never going to be official art for this game of the teenage members of the Resistance getting it on.

There are no other kinds of Resistance members, by the by.

So what are we going to show?

Well...

Image

This is a preliminary pencil of the last thing you'll see before fading to black on certain parts of the Sara Smith romantic thread.

Comments and questions, anyone?
She's sun and rain: She's fire and ice. A little crazy, but it's nice.
Bliss Stage: Love is your weapon! A sci-fi visual novel about child soldiers coming of age. Kickstarter prerelease here. WIP thread here. Original tabletop game by Ben Lehman here. Tumblr here.

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Re: Bliss Stage: Love Is Our Weapon [Sci-Fi, BxG, BxB]

#12 Post by Tsundere Lightning » Sat Feb 12, 2011 6:41 am

Discussing the morality/affection point system here, and doing another art dump and character design, but first -

I'm holding a contest related to this game on my deviantART: the winners will receive one free piece of inked and (to get me off my butt and start practicing with my markers,) colored artwork. Basically, you have to guess what relationships to Joshua form what weapons on his ANIMa, and why. If your guess as to who is Joshua's weapon is correct, and your musing on the symbolism is entertaining, you win a free commission. Enterprising souls will find a way to finish a VN this way, I'm sure. :lol:

The morality system of this game is a three-point system, and all three points are valid moral decisions. Visually, if you've played Mass Effect at all, this will be familiar: a trihex, with color-coded answers arrayed around them, like so (and this is an actual choice from an early branch in the game):

How could you? How dare you!
Image
Never again, or I walk out.

Going clockwise from top left:

Red choices are Sensitive, choices that are in touch with Joshua's emotions and id, and probably to those of his allies as well. Sensitive choices range from rage to geekery to awkward confessions. Meredith, Keenan and Gabriel are Sensitive. If you've played Exalted, this is like Compassion.

Gold choices are Idealistic, what Joshua considers a righteous and just choice, in touch with his superego. At it's worst, it's petty, smug self-righteousness; at it's best, it's hotblooded action and vows. Gabriel, Derek and Sara are Idealistic. In Exalted terms, this is similar to Conviction.

Blue choices are Practical, what Joshua considers to be short-term working solutions, in touch with his ego. At it's worst, it's callous and petty; at it's best, it cuts through bullshit and Nightmares with equal aplomb. Sara, Anna and Meredith are Practical. In Exalted terms, it's a lot like Temperance.

You'll notice that I didn't mention the equivalent of Exalted Valor. That's pretty much because it's a function of how well you're doing in fights and general troop morale more than any moral decision on Joshua's part. He's already got Valor in spades; it's where he's directing it that will be important.

Like attracts like in this game. In general, to woo an Idealistic man or woman, you'll need to demonstrate your Idealism. I say "in general" because combat will always, always damage relationships and create Trauma, which you will NEED to deal with properly if you don't want to crash and burn; and in general, the ways you do that are... not congruent with the values of who you're speaking to.

To not beat about the bush: Trauma Relief usually requires you to be a child, if not a total dick. Bawling your eyes out or screaming about how unfair it is will not usually win you points with anyone, with very few exceptions, but you might need to do it in order to heal up properly. Stress Relief also requires you to confront, or at least address, problems in the relationship - usually by looking at it from an angle different to your usual approach.

And now for actual character art!

Image

Ah, Gabriel Invierno. The only pilot not actually mentioned by the book - she was Li-Chi's character in the first Bliss Stage game I ever ran - I included her because there was an important dramatic role in this kind of story that was missing. What that is I leave as an exercise for the reader.

Gabriel is a childhood friend of Joshua's in this VN (no, the dramatic role is not Victorious Childhood Friend, although on her path she is one), who has always been a little weird and cloudcoocoolandish. Not actually incoherent, but she always had a little trouble with facial expressions and social skills, and she has to visibly consult her "personal wiki" (her words) for information on social situations.

This wasn't helped much when she created an ANIMa cradle independently of the Resistance and tried to use it - a profoundly stupid act, in retrospect, as she almost gets killed because she didn't and couldn't know that she needed to be properly Anchored. Still, the fact that she survived the experience is proof enough that she has the instincts to pilot, and Joshua was very happy to see that she survived the first seven years of the Bliss - not as happy as her glompy self, but still pretty stoked.

Her romantic path mostly consists of getting it through her skull that Joshua is interested, for a nice change.

Comments and thoughts?
She's sun and rain: She's fire and ice. A little crazy, but it's nice.
Bliss Stage: Love is your weapon! A sci-fi visual novel about child soldiers coming of age. Kickstarter prerelease here. WIP thread here. Original tabletop game by Ben Lehman here. Tumblr here.

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Re: Bliss Stage: Love Is Our Weapon [Sci-Fi, BxG, BxB]

#13 Post by BCS » Mon May 09, 2011 10:47 am

I've been giving some thought to the battle system—I know we mostly discussed animations, but I haven't dived into it with any real depth. Are we looking at active mouse-based input like The World Ends With You (which was amazing) or the typical >Fight >Magic >Item >Run kind of menu?

After playing turn-based RPGs, I feel like they're a little limited... on the other hand, I hate AP and time meters where you have to wait in order to input your spreadsheet command...

[/edit] In light of recent events, I just realized how appropriate my sig ended up being.

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Re: Bliss Stage: Love Is Our Weapon [Sci-Fi, BxG, BxB]

#14 Post by lemuel » Mon May 09, 2011 5:49 pm

Ten thousand blessings from the eightmillion, esteemed.

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Re: Bliss Stage: Love Is Our Weapon [Sci-Fi, BxG, BxB]

#15 Post by lemuel » Mon May 09, 2011 5:55 pm

I would gladly proofread the game's text.

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