NIRAVASI Devlog (09/03/2022): Rumination


“The Throne of Humanity awaits you.”
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Hey everyone,

It’s me again, back with another NIRAVASI Devlog that you all enjoy so much. Last time, I spoke about the Palace of Nira Ishan and what you’ll find wandering its halls. To that end, I’m happy to report that a majority of the outdoor sections of that level are finally complete (with additional tweaking to be followed should the need arise). With that said, I wanted to bring things back a little bit for this week and instead talk about the concepts behind NIRAVASI and how they evolved into what they are today. With that said, let’s get straight into it.

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The Lost City

At the end of 2017, I was preoccupied with working on The Spirits Within Expansion for my first RPG Maker Game, BLANK (which I ended up cancelling later on for personal reasons). But during my time on its development, I was batting around ideas for another video game project that I held interest on creating. One of them was a reimaging of a much older project I was worked on called “OSIRIS”, a story about a crew of survivors discovering an ancient human civilisation deep within the deserts of a distant planet. While there, they would be hunted one-by-one by nightmarish creatures living within the ruins. While I ended up scrapping the project early on due to a lack of experience in my part as a content creator, the idea of a lost city buried beneath the sands was something I still really wanted to create.

But the Lost City I had initially envisioned back then is a far cry from the city of Niravasi today. In fact, I seem to recall that the style of the city of old featured a much heavier influence Egyptian/Mesoamerican architecture, with the story behind it being a place created by an alien race that worshipped a dark god that later ended up wiping them all out, leaving only a legion monstrous husks that would continually hunt the player down. Fun fact: A large part of the assets I made for this early prototype would end up being used for the Temples within Old Hanirr. But as I worked on this idea more and more, I felt that this idea had lost a lot of the impact I had initially envisioned for the project. I wanted the city of Niravasi to be a character of its own, and not just some ancient ruin created by a nameless alien race. To this end, I looked towards the ancient histories of both the country of India and the religions of both Hinduism and Buddhism.

Almost two years later since that decision, the setting of the game has definitely taken a dramatic turn (one I believe resulted in a more impactful environment for the player to interact with). Also, speaking of maladaptive machines, let’s talk a little about the concept behind A.E.O.N. and his blood-thirsty robots.

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The Overseer

Unlike the city of Niravasi itself, the conception stage behind A.E.O.N. is a bit of a mixed bag. I don’t want to spoil anything too much, but the primary idea behind this character was a result of a conversation I had with my brother in regards to something called “Instrumental Convergence”. For those of you that don’t know, Instrumental Convergence posits that an intelligent agent with unbounded but apparently harmless goals can act in surprisingly harmful ways. Or in layman’s terms, a machine or artificial intelligence can potentially endanger human lives as a consequence of being given simple tasks. To give you an example, let’s say that you create a machine that’s only purpose is to create paperclips. Sounds good, right? Well, let’s say that the AI runs out of metal to use. It still wants to make paperclips, so it looks for other materials to use instead. And as this cycle continues, you eventually figure out that the AI may in fact look towards biomatter like skin and bones to use in the future. That would obviously be very bad for humanity as a whole, so it’s time to shut this machine down. Well, the AI figures out that if it’s shut off prematurely, it can’t make paperclips, which would be in violation of the directive it was given. Therefore, the AI has no choice, but to eradicate all human life on the planet to keep making more paperclips.

Using this idea as a basis and reading up on the story of Frictional Games’ SOMA and its approach to artificial intelligence, I wanted to create a machine that was built for one purpose; protecting and perfecting humanity. How would the machine interpret this directive? How does this machine know what it means to perfect people? How does something that was created by imperfect beings know what it means to be perfect? From this concept, A.E.O.N. was born; the Artificial Ecological Overseer Network of the city of Niravasi.

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The Survivor

Now we get to our adorable little protagonist, Mura. Antherian Archaeologist and Explorer Extraordinaire. So what was the founding basis behind this little guy? Well, that’s a little harder to explain clearly, so I’ll try my best to summarise it up as best as I can.

So before Mura was, well, Mura, I wanted to create a character that was significantly out of place within the Lost City, but still intelligent enough to rationally get himself out of some nasty situations. While working on BLANK, my intention was to create a young girl that was largely naïve and eager to protect her hometown of Finima, but still strong enough to face some of Transech’s more horrific opponents. But when BLANK was released to the general public, one of the biggest points people made was that Veta as a character was surprisingly short-sighted and dim-witted at times (with Let’s Players often calling her “not very smart” or “very, very dumb”). While this did initially end up working well with the setting of the game, I really wanted to avoid making another character like this, so I got to work on drafting up a character design that would fit better with the new narrative I wanted to create.

I knew I wanted the character to be skilled enough in their craft that they could still get around, despite being put in such a horrible situation. I also wanted them not to be human to better reinforce the concept behind wanting to explore an ancient city in the first place. If you were an explorer and discovered some alien ruins, wouldn’t you want to explore them to your heart’s content? Also, they needed to have both a recognisable and charming design that would contrast against the darker environments that the game would explore. One of my earliest concepts was a Jackal-like human that could run long distances. I ended up scrapping this design as it looked too goofy compared to the rest of the game’s setting. Unfortunately, my solution behind Mura’s design would come from the tragic passing of a Cat I absolutely adored; an adorable ball of fluff called Pooka. Thinking back on it, a cat was the perfect candidate to use as a basis for Mura’s character. cats are naturally agile and perceptive creatures and hold the ability to walk across large stretches of land, all of which I wanted my game’s protagonist to have. Plus they’re a cat, and most people love cats.

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That’s about it for this Devlog for NIRAVASI. It was a lot of fun writing this one and I’ll definitely be talking a bit more about some other concepts/designs I had for the project in the next Devlog. But with that said, thank you all so very much for reading and I hope you all have a pleasant day.

Kind regards,
Angus (Sangos)


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