GraveKeeper's Academy [Dark Fantasy][Paranormal][School]

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Firgof
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GraveKeeper's Academy [Dark Fantasy][Paranormal][School]

#1 Post by Firgof » Sun Oct 27, 2019 3:04 pm

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The Hook
The Goddess of Natural Death sits uneasy on her throne of bone: her powers have begun to rebel against her! If they continue to assert their independence, the very concept of Death in this world might cease to exist, leading to untold suffering. The solution? Go back to school!

As a disguised student in your own Academies seek out the source of the troubles within your Church and Divine Soul to root out what ails them and rescue the world from the eldritch nightmare that is rushing into the fold!

Screenshots

Author's Note: Some of these screenshots depict placeholder content, such as the non-final art for Akoda (Voshim's disguised self), Emilia, Gizi, and Axos. These assets will be replaced as the project continues to be developed and are to help the author develop stage movement, timing, and to fine-tune the performances of each character.

Screenshots from the Demo
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Potential Roguelike Element Prototype's Screenshots and Media:
Screenshot 1
Screenshot 2
Screenshot 3
Short Video Footage

Links
Demo up to SubChapter "Mother" in Chapter 2 (WIP) :: [Click Here]
My Twitter :: [Click Here]
My Patreon :: [Click Here]
Public Discord :: [Click Here]

Game Info.
Content Warnings: Depictions of Death, Descriptions of Corpse Decay, Realistic Bloodshed, Fantasy Violence, Mild Swearing, Alcohol Consumption, Brief/Artistic Nudity, References to Racism and Sexual Violence, and Scenes which highlight, contemplate, or directly reference Suicide.

Estimated Game Length: First Route (12~ Hours), Second Route (10~ Hours), Third Route (11~ Hours). Total Estimated Time (34 Hours, incl. Bad Ends, not incl. potential Puzzle/RPG/Roguelike Gameplay Elements).

Commercial/Free: This is a Commercial project that will be sold at a reasonable price (TBD).

Estimated Release Date: Late 2020/Mid-2022, depending on whether game elements are included and the type of release scheduling for Series 1 vs. Series 2/3 and whether or not my team size grows beyond just me.

Character Profiles
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World Setting
GraveKeeper's Academy is part of the Untamed World universe, a setting that's been born through a number of pen and paper adventures and years of iteration on the concept. It is a multi-layered post-apocalyptic fantasy world where Gods walk the same soil as Men and Fantastic Technological Wonders gather rust and mud amidst Renaissance-era Technology. A world of science, horror, piety, magic, and politics.

Of particular relevance to this game is how Souls and Spirits work, especially as it relates to Voshim the Goddess of Natural Death, Decay, and Luck. In this world, a 'Soul' has gravity and weight to it. Without a body to keep Souls separate they become un-anchored and can be easily pried out by Necromancers, congeal into horrifying abominations, or even re-materialize physically into Banshee and the like.

Worse, the Body acts as a critical means of maintenance to a Soul's "Living Memory". Without constant maintenance a Soul's memories and actions degrade and they will both metaphorically and literally start to 'lose themselves'. A Soul that decays to nothing becomes an empty will devoid of purpose; a true prize for a Necromancer due to it being an effortless thing to manipulate or contain.

As a result of all that the societies of the world have enlisted the divine aid of the Gods as well as the mettle of mortals to ensure that the dead are tended to and quickly. Large scale conflicts cause terror in the hearts of all and there is immense social stratification between those who merely tend graves and those who employ real Divine Power to caretake and wrangle the Dead - to the point that particularly prestigious lines of GraveKeepers are Nobles in their own right. Additionally mortals have convinced Lady Death to, on occasion, permit them to travel with Nosferatu; the souls of those Departed called back to the world by the Gravemother.

Thus GraveKeepers have formed a Society of both Mortals and the Dead all their own and, within that Society, Academies to foster new generations of GraveKeepers to beat back the terrors that lie beyond the grave. A necessary invention: Spirits are difficult even for the trained to handle and can not be beaten by simply throwing bodies and spears at them, and so it is an extremely dangerous line of work that often results in casualties.

In modern times, the privileged dead are buried in Grand Tombs; large, pyramid-like, structures surrounded by a fog that devours those who bear ill intents towards the interred. Within these labyrinthine structures built in part through the divine favor of the Gods are found the GraveKeepers' Academies; academic institutions run wholly by the GraveKeepers outside the authority and command of all but Kings and their Courts. At such an Institution, but a prestigious one even among the Academies, this story unfolds.

Questions from the Author!
I have a number of questions I'd love answered by those who have the time and interest. All of these questions help me to better understand how people feel about this story and where I should best focus my efforts for making it even better. Please feel free to answer as many of them as you like and in whatever order you prefer.
  1. Did you enjoy what was in the demo?
  2. Was there something in the demo that you didn't enjoy? Could it be improved?
  3. Are some scenes 'too long' and others 'too short'? If so which scenes would you point out and what did you feel was done too quick or dragged?
  4. Do you think this Visual Novel feels more like other Visual Novels you've played or does it feel different? What stands out to you most in either regard?
  5. Who's your favorite character?
  6. Who's your least favorite character? (And/or which character 'would you like to know more about but which you feel isn't getting enough screen time')
  7. How do you think this story will end from what you've read so far?
  8. If you could change one thing about the story or the game, what would it be?
  9. If you could get any two characters together to have an intimate and romantic dinner (even if it would require rope to do so), which would you choose?
  10. I am considering adding in Adventure Game and Roguelike RPG sections/elements to the game. Do you think you would be interested in these elements if they were included as a means to allow you to explore the world and interact with characters more freely outside of the game's major plot points?
  11. Follow-up question on the last question: Do you have particular feelings on how frequent or how long such segments should be after having played the demo? (e.g. being given control to explore the Academy with Gizi after Adversity assigns the Blowing out the Candle test, going down into a Dungeon after that first test to practice your control and raise your character's level as a prerequisite to access the next major plot point of the story, being able to explore and examine the things in Emilia's Apartment when she's not there and Gizi has gone to bed, having to find your own way to class on the second day, having to investigate areas to find spirits/ghosts/undead using Voshim's and Akoda's talents, etc.)
Progress
Next to each Chapter Heading will be a (%). That represents an estimate of how much of that chapter has been completed when this post was last updated.

[Series One :: Fire in the Sky (Semi-kinetic Route)]
  • Prologue (85%)
  • 1: So You Have Mortality (50%)
  1. SC: Fallen Goddess
  2. SC: Voshim Goes to Aeston
  3. SC: That One with the Bxxxx
  4. SC: Be Careful What You Wish For
  • 2: The Fear of God(dess) In Them (35%)
  1. SC: Ordered Apologies
  2. SC: Broken Talent
  3. SC: Mother
  4. SC: The Sword of Damacles
  • 3: How to Train your Goddess (20%)
  1. SC: Calming the Storm
  2. SC: Meeting of the Mines
  3. SC: Critical Role
  4. SC: Melee!
  • 4: A Darker Night for Souls (20%)
  1. SC: Mi-stake and Grave-y
  2. SC: You Saw Nothing!
  3. SC: See no Evil, Speak no Evil
  • 5: Hail, Triumphant (Anti)Hero (20%)
  1. SC: Heel-turn Villain
  2. SC: Quest for the Holy Gale
  3. SC: Lost in Time and Lace
  4. SC: Lost in Time and Lace (Pt. 2: Electric Boo)
  5. SC: Sharper
  • 6: 10 Pound Solution, 1 Pound Bag (20%)
  1. SC: (Prayers) Down
  2. SC: (Final) Stand
  3. SC: Sign (Your Name)
  4. SC: (Do Not) Bow
  5. ???
Series Two :: Prayer Answered (xxxxx Route) (15%)
{NG+ from Series 1}

Series Three :: The Last Cry (xxxxx Route) (10%)
{NG+ from Series 2}

Staff
Just me at the moment!
Wanted: Beta Readers, Editor
Last edited by Firgof on Tue Nov 05, 2019 11:07 am, edited 1 time in total.

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papillon
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Re: GraveKeeper's Academy [Dark Fantasy][Paranormal][School]

#2 Post by papillon » Tue Oct 29, 2019 6:33 am

Curious about this one, but I don't really have the time to dig into a demo right now. Can you tell us a little more about the story? The protagonist is a student, right? Are they one of the listed characters, or a separate player-created one?

I'm not totally clear if we are playing the goddess of death in disguise or if that's just part of the story around us. I think that's probably the protagonist, but I had to read the post up top a few times to be sure about it. If she is the central point, there's not much said about her yet IMO. I know for me personally a better understanding of the protagonist and their immediate emotional motivations helps get me more interested in stepping into the story.

(Listing 'cautious' and 'reckless' at the same time, which seem like complete opposites, is a little confusing?)

Without having played it, though, I'm generally in favor of adding some little gameplay elements to what would otherwise be a choiceless story. Having no interactivity makes VN-style presentation really drag, IMO.

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Firgof
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Re: GraveKeeper's Academy [Dark Fantasy][Paranormal][School]

#3 Post by Firgof » Tue Oct 29, 2019 10:57 pm

A little more about the story
Sure! The plot starts (after a brief introduction where an ambiguous, amnesiac, force gets invested in figuring out why a Goddess became mortal and died) with the Goddess discovering her control over three aspects of reality (Natural Death, Decay, Luck) is weakening. As she loses control those same aspects are threatening to become 'independent'; they might become 'unfixed' and twist the world into a strange, eldritch, and horrifying place. To ensure this does not happen (and because there's no such thing as 'a tutor for the Divine') Voshim steals away to the mortal world and makes/possesses a mortal body to set out to one of her more prestigious Academies which she hopes to use to help her regain control and learn why it was rebelling.

Then, light early-game spoilers:
Once there, it revolves around Adversity - the one teaching your 'Cohort' (classmates) - and his various plots and schemes and motivations to force your class to fail out of an Academy that's struggling to justify its necessity. Meanwhile, Voshim attempts to maintain her disguise while learning both how to control her powers and her 'mortal' powers and you learn more about the other students' struggles and reasons for getting into a deadly line of work, and catch on to a dark plan that shadows the whole Academy. While all that's going on there's also some light romance and comedy, some peer-to-peer conflict, tests to prepare for, field trips to go on, and background conflicts between characters to learn about and (possibly) sort out.
If the gameplay elements are in then you'll use your 'free time' to hang out with characters, improve yourself, learn more about the world, and investigate more into the origins of the body you're in. To paint a very broad anime-brush over it, the best I can describe it is 'part Fantasy-My-Hero-Academia and part Inverted-Overlord with hints of Mushi-Shi and From The New World'.
Not totally clear if we're playing the Goddess of Death in disguise
You've got it right. It is indeed Voshim, in disguise, you'll be playing as, though in a fairly 'complicated' fashion that's difficult to really get into without later-game/newgame+ spoilers beyond 'the player is possessing her and becomes one with her to an extent'.
(Listing 'cautious' and 'reckless' at the same time, which seem like complete opposites, is a little confusing?)
Good point. 'Reckless' would probably be more usefully descriptive as something more like 'quixotic'. She's 'romantic' in terms of how she views the world and her place in it to the point she has 'Superhero Syndrome' on an almost philosophical level, which is a little reinforced by the facts of her existence, powers, and history.
I know for me personally a better understanding of the protagonist and their immediate emotional motivations helps get me more interested in stepping into the story.
Does the clarifications in the non-spoilers I posted help that along or is it still a bit too vague? I'm having a hard time thinking of a better way to frame it other than the cheese of 'a quixotic sheltered shut-in spirit-girl who plays desperately at being 'the adult goddess' is about to be rudely awakened to a brighter (and at the same time more terrifying) mortal life, where her very nature is challenged as she tries to wrestle with the imperfect girl she's becoming versus the flawless Goddess she has always been'.
Having no interactivity makes VN-style presentation really drag, IMO.
That's really relieving to hear. I know game elements aren't 'typical' in VNs more broadly outside the very simple stuff like branching paths and the like and I'm always worried that I'm barking up the wrong tree here by including some game stuffs in a visual novel. I know there are folks who enjoy Phoenix Wright and Long Gone Days out there -- I'm just unsure whether those folks are the ones who'd like this sort of theme in their novel. I'm still relatively 'new' to Visual Novels, having only some 10 or so such games under my belt, but I was turned on to them by a link through Adventure Games which I've played lots of.

How much interactivity would you say is 'too much'? I know taste varies but I'd love an impromptu census of the folks who read on LemmaSoft about that in particular to put my mind at ease and also give me at least a fuzzy target to shoot at.


Also, happy to disclose that I'm finally starting to get together sprites for the game. Akoda's (Voshim's Mortalbody) 'fresh from the grave' sprite got finished yesterday and, though I'm not the best artist, I'm sure folks will appreciate seeing it rather than permanent marker'd popsicle sticks. (Maybe I'll be able to later afford getting a better artist to do the sprites?)

e: Also, just wanted to say I really enjoyed Long Live the Queen; it's actually a game that set me on the path to try and make this one! Give Hanako Games my love!

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Re: GraveKeeper's Academy [Dark Fantasy][Paranormal][School]

#4 Post by Firgof » Tue Nov 05, 2019 11:14 am

Whoops. Looks like the Public Discord link was set to expire the day after I put it up; I've replaced that link with one that will work permanently.

I've also made some more progress on Akoda's and Gizi's sprites (they're the ones who'll be showing up most often throughout the story). Akoda's is more or less finished at this point and I'm now on to getting Gizi's into the thing.

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