Sure thing! What is stablehand? do you make it?
(I accidentally pushed the button too soon the first time romaji asked this, so they had to ask it again. :p)
I do make Stablehand, or, well, will would be a better word than do, because I haven’t strictly “made” any of the actual story yet. Though I do already have a whole bunch of things laid out basically in a rough outline of the final format in my mind, the project is still essentially in the planning phase; as it’s going to potentially be a ridiculously massive and complicated project, I feel like I need to get a bunch of stuff sorted out pretty well before I begin in order to not have the actual story completely fall apart and/or have to be reworked from the beginning. Both of those things could potentially be really disastrous, as I think will be pretty obvious to you when I explain what the project is.
Stablehand is going to be, as I said on the About page (I’d recommend looking at that page as it explains the influences/central themes for the project pretty well, though it may need a little more revising) kind of a combination gamebook/webcomic. I’ve also described it as a visual gamebook and a visual text adventure. It seems like people may be having a little difficulty grasping this concept, so I’ll stop and explain this a bit more.
Ok. You know Homestuck, right? Homestuck is a webcomic that emulates really old retro games kind of based on text adventures in style. It also has a teeny bit of a ‘gamebook tease’ element to it, as it gives you “commands”, but the story is actually just linear instead of being a branching narrative where you can have different endings. (This really confused me at first to be honest, because not knowing what Homestuck was I was like, are there supposed to be other options? Is this like the impossible quiz, where I’m missing some kind of trick? XD and it took me like forty pages to realise it was really just a plain old webcomic. I was mildly disappointed though the actual story fairly quickly made up for it.)
Anyway, Homestuck tells a story in which there are many characters, timelines, and even universes. Infinite possibilities, right? But, it only tells one of them. It spends a really, really, really long time talking about just one way the characters can interact, develop, and accomplish things.
Ok. That’s Homestuck. Now.
Imagine a story that’s visual, somewhat like Homestuck, but where instead of just looking at one timeline, you could actually change things. Character’s supposed to do X? How about he doesn’t do X, or does Y instead. What if instead of slaying the dragon, he befriends it. Or instead of befriending the dragon, he slays it. Maybe there’s no obvious route for the character. Maybe nobody including the character has any idea what to do and you just kind of have to pick something and hope it works.
This is Stablehand.
There are 12 characters, and each of them has a different personality, abilities, and background. Each of them might be able to become a whole mess of different things… or they might not, depending mostly on their attunements. They might be the kind of person who’s good at strategising and leading (Ariana, Nassak), the kind that just jumps into things (Hughes, Kris), the kind that prefers to solve problems on their own (Kate, Lance, Sleipnir), or the kind that’s… well, not a person at all (Yanha, Red, Shadow, Ssivyin/Ssiassi). But the thing is, their basic nature can also change to some extent. Not only can they have any balance of 16 defining attributes, but they can choose to switch to another attribute for every single situation if they want to (or not), which then will feed back into their attributes as statistics; their approach to one particular attribute, called an attitude, may or may not affect the results of this, depending. And attitudes, of course, can change too.
Ok, that was a bunch of terms. What was that all about?
Well, the real point of all that is when characters start archetyping, or developing ability sets and sometimes even new appearances based on their identities. Kris, for instance, is obsessed with the idea of “The Superpower” (an in-universe superhero) and has the ability to take on several different superhero personas based on each attribute. She’s a little bit special though, since she has a “Versitotal” attunement. Other characters, like Lance, may have archetypes that are based on multiple attributes, or more on a specific theme not quite related to attributes. And yet other characters with a “Freestyle” attunement may explore a whole lot of different facets of just one attribute with their abilities, or not so much work within the attribute framework at all.
So, unlike Homestuck, you’ll get to see, well, if not all of the possibilities, a whole bunch of the possibilities. And they’ll probably vary pretty widely from character to character, too—sometimes it may be that most choices, no matter how strange or illogical, will result in a good ending for the character; sometimes (as with poor, poor Nassak), it may be that almost nothing can result in a good ending. This is really exciting for me because unlike with other story formats, I’ll get to explore a lot more different facets of each character, as well as play with the idea of what it means to be “in character”. When the characters can change their personalities kinda the way people do in real life if a little more quickly and dramatically, suddenly this idea of being “in character” changes a lot. It’s no longer this restrictive thing where you can only do certain things with the story because the character description said so, but instead you start to realise that a whole bunch of different things could be “in character” for a given character at a given moment.
(I think it will actually be easier for me to write a story this way than the traditional way, to be honest, because when I wrote stories that way it was often hard for me to look at two or three different actions and ask myself which one fit the character better (but… but… the character could do any of those things and they’d all be in character! and they’re equally awesome too! what do I do???). Now, I can finally eat my cake and have it too. And throw it out the window and stomp on it. And offer it to some friends. And make it into cake pudding. And so on…)
To make things even more concrete, here is a very rough cartoon of what the story format is going to be like (the character shown is Ssivyin/Ssiassi, but I just made up the scenario on the spot rather than this being anything I had planned for the story):
Like I said: you pick various attributes, it affects the characters and story. Right now I’m thinking I’ll also sometimes present other choices that aren’t as attribute-related, like which direction to go or something, in the same format but not using the attribute icons of course (:p). I’ll probably make other stock icons for those.
Having said all that, now I hope you can see why I said “you’ll have to be careful and try to see the big picture in order to get a good ending”. I can already tell this is going to be a really complicated thing for me to create, let alone for my poor audience to figure out. XD
(I’d like to add though that while I’m making the story sound like it’s really unintuitive, it’s not really supposed to be unintuitive per se. I’d say that it’s already more intuitive than Homestuck in some ways, particularly the attunement/attribute system. In my eyes the Homestuck Classpect system is a nightmare, and part of the reason I made the attribute system—though it was kind of a subconscious reason more than something I did deliberately—was actually to make something that was actually understandable and usable and wasn’t a goddamn slurry of mixed-up tea leaves where you have to go off fan interpretations, who knows what kind of weird pocket of extradimensional space they were pulled out of ‘cause I sure don’t, to have any hope of understanding it. Whenever my friends talk about Classpects and try to fit themselves to them I actually get slightly angry just because in my mind I’m like, oh my god guys that system is too vague and badly-designed it’s useless to even try to understand it much less fit into it why are you even trying! Urrgh. And the funniest thing is, it’s not even like I’m jealous of the thing I “copied” being better or I wish they’d use attributes instead. Systems I can’t work with just frustrate me. :p
…Sorry for the rather spontaneous rant about Classpects. XD)
Along with the main (gamebook) story and this idea of the characters and who they are and what they can do and become that will be explored in it, I’m also just generally goofing around and building a bunch of other random stuff around the idea/universe too.
One is this kind of… “
anime retrolark musical/opera” thing, where I’m just writing a bunch of songs for each character and a number of other things in-universe. The songs are one good example of how I’m kind of just… creating whatever comes to mind, not really aiming for any consistent style. I want to write a silly narrative country folk song? Great, write it. I want to write something that’s in Japanese and sounds like an anime opening theme? Great, write it. I want to write a heavy metal song? Great, write it. I want to write songs that sound a bit like the kind of thing you’d find in Disney movies? Great, write them. In a way I think it’s accurate to call Stablehand kind of a collage of different genres and artistic media because while I do have an overarching “style genre” for it I call retrolark (in brief, basically take “fantasy steampunk”, swap “1800s” for “1980s”, and throw in some genuine surrealism), I’m kind of going crazy with the rather large diversity of the things I’m actually making for it.
Another thing I’m doing is modelling some of the various beasts in 3D, ostensibly for making animations for the songs or some kind of cutscenes or something, but in practice mostly just for the hell of it. And I’m also programming cool… erm, “side attractions”, for my website like a random OC generator and a “life compendium” that will be… vaguely like a Stablehand Pokédex I guess (:p). I’m kind of aiming for this to be made for people to fanwork, to some extent.
Oh, and on that topic, as you probably already know, I’ve made both the main story and all the side stuff “libre”, meaning that unlike most animation, games, books, etc. out there, you’re actually explicitly allowed to make fanworks of them and even outright “steal” stuff from them, in the case of my licence as long as you attribute me and allow everybody else to do the same to what you made. I’m a huge fan of open source software, and I’ve always wished we could do the same thing with general culture more instead of getting caught up in petty arguments about whose whatsit is whose and what’s “stealing”. I’ve already made some fairly intelligible ramblings about copyright and libre stuff elsewhere, so I think that’s all I’ll say about that right now.
So. Basically, Stablehand is a gamebook, an open universe, and a bunch of random randomness based on the other two things. I’d called it a “comic” in the tag mainly because that’s a word I felt like a lot of people would look at and immediately understand, even though it doesn’t perfectly describe what Stablehand actually is. Awesomely enough I just found a tag replacer though, so from now on the tag will be “retrolark fantasy stablehand”, which is the full title.