Stum!

Akhaan soshor,  dear Althazeans!

This is were it all started! I care so much about Stum! because it gave “way” to all the rest of the book! It was the first thing I thought of when I decided to get behind the PC and start writing. But let’s take things slowly and go back a couple of years.

In the by now famous 2015, Andrea and I had the idea to make our first video-game. We had a lot of ideas, some more confused than others, but we knew we couldn’t develop them all.  We’d had some experience and quite a lot of experience in the gaming world that certainly couldn’t hurt. So we were perfectly aware that, in this field, you always start out with a huge project that has to be inevitably cut down. You make cuts here and there, ending up not recognizing it by the time you’ve finished since it’s changed so much. Ours, however, had only been “filed down” and the basic aspects had been left more or less untouched. Practically it seemed as if the game was “sustainable” and that its features were rather original. So why not give it a go? Why not follow our dreams?

We were already in the proverbial boat each with his own oar and we were rowing and rowing desperately trying to reach our goal as fast as possible. We really had to control our excitement. The boat was starting to fill with water and we didn’t have a solid means to carry us on our long journey. A story! That’s what we needed and I couldn’t wait to write it. But how? Where do you start? What ideas did I have? My anxieties were coming back like a great dark storm on the horizon.

After many days concentrating on the main subject of the whole story and without anything substantial to show, I thought to turn my mind elsewhere and move my attention elsewhere. Why not start with something secondary? Something that could lead the reader to know the characters and their issues from a different point of view than what we had first imagines, something less direct. That’s how Stum! was born, a strategy game that would remind you of chess but whose mechanisms would be entirely different. The X-Light book starts with a Stum! game, between Rise and Phall, his lifelong rival. A rematch to be exact, that the two had promised one another years before. Thanks to this premise the rest of the story naturally followed, without having to think too hard about it.

In Stum! you use holographic pawns and chessboards. I’ll admit I was really inspired by Star Wars’ famous Derjarik, the game with holographic pawns that Chewbacca and C-3PO play on the Millennium Falcon. I can assure you however that it’s not plagiarism 🙂 and that the rest of the game is completely different. First of all the board is really huge and Stum! can only be played in apposite spaces built for that purpose. Also the two players both have their own bases to defend and physical obstacles scattered among the battle field. But what makes Stum! a really unique game is the Stringram, i.e. the battle system of the pieces on the field. Further down you’ll find an excerpt of the first chapter of the book where we describe this system in detail, but I’ll let you in on a little secret: the whole video-game was built on Stringram! We’ll write another post where we’ll talk about the mechanism but I can’t help but express how important the synergy between the “story” and  the “video-game” was in creating one of the key aspects of the whole project!

Obviously it was a lot harder than how I may have told. The difficulties were many, and continue to grow but having solid foundations, with that solid means to travel on from the start that had finally built and could move forward with a bit more certainty. From that day on we developed Stum! more on the one side,  and Stringram on the other, until putting it all together and integrating it all into the story and development process of the game. They are both vital and described in the minutest detail, both from a technical and a narrative point of view. We even got so as thinking that it could transform into something autonomous, completely separated from the game. In fact it could even become a game on its own. Who knows, maybe one day…

I think I’ve written enough for today 🙂 Our aim is to always give you some detail on our work and the development status of the game and not bore you! I hope that’s the case 🙂

Chaaluca to you all!

In Rise’s days, Stum!’s battlefield consisted in a sort of chessboard of hexagons each about ten square gilar wide, where at each extremity the base for the two opponents was placed. The size of the board was such so as to allow enough room for the movement of each player’s units. The latter were animated holograms that represented animalistic figures, projected onto the playing field along with complex structures called Megal, also made of holograms. The amber coloured, translucent structures were miniature replicas of the primitive buildings of the first inhabitants of Fractal. At the start of the match each player, after having chosen their faction, had only a few instants to place their combat units before it all began. The aim of game was to annihilate the opposing army and conquer their base using the Stringram, an interactive battle system specifically created by the first Fractanoid engineers for the game’s first stages. Though seemingly easy to understand, Stringram was actually very hard to grasp and only those who started learning its secrets from an early age could hope to become a true master. Both players moved their holographic pawns from a distance using a manual control, which sent an impulse to the desired unit, and which was used both in attack and defence. They would advance in turn and, when the two enemy units would meet, the battle would commence. The advancing player would attack with their pawn by shooting different coloured projectiles, called shards, that would soar towards their opponent via four “strings” (a sort of conductor). Those attacked, on the other hand, had to activate their defence field – represented by two concentric circles surrounding their pawn – so as to counter the enemy offence. The coloured shards could only be deflected the precise moment they entered the two circles, but one had to be quick when pressing the control button with the corresponding colour otherwise it would be their own unit to lose a certain amount of energy. Each correctly countered shard, likewise, would subtract energy to the attacker’s pawn. The winning unit would thus win the other’s place and so on and so forth, all the way until they reached their opponent’s base. The name Stum! derives from the word the winner would cry upon the end of the game. It’s meaning was, in fact, quite simply “victory!”. A word Rise had shouted many times.

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