In the Beginning…

Posted February 1st, 2011 in Featured, Worldbuilding by Darren

Hey folks,

Darren here again to talk about world building and story type things. As Seth mentioned earlier, we’ve been using small flash fictions as a tool to explore and more fully develop the history of the underworld. Seth’s first fiction explored the notion that hell is not necessarily a static environment, even after the Fall, that just as on earth, perhaps in hell there are some people that can rally hope in even the blackest of hearts and darkest of hours. Nor is the idea of a rebellion in hell completely without precedent – for any fans of Yeats, the Wanderings of Oisin contains a fantastic conversation between St. Patrick and Oisin, in which (as in much of latter Celtic epic) Oisin bemoans the weakness of his people in the modern day, and waxes nostalgic for the heroes of his youth.

i{Oisin.} Put the staff in my hands; for I go to the Fenians,
O cleric, to chaunt
The war-songs that roused them of old; they will rise,
making clouds with their Breath,
Innumerable, singing, exultant; the clay underneath
them shall pant,
And demons be broken in pieces, and trampled
beneath them in death.
And demons afraid in their darkness; deep horror of
eyes and of wings,
Afraid, their ears on the earth laid, shall listen and
rise up and weep;
Hearing the shaking of shields and the quiver of
stretched bowstrings,
Hearing Hell loud with a murmur, as shouting and
mocking we sweep.
We will tear out the flaming stones, and batter the
gateway of brass…
Then feast, making converse of wars, and of old
wounds, and turn to our rest.

<http://www.csun.edu/~hceng029/yeats/yeatspoems/WanderingsOfOi>

While Oisin’s rebellion may be, as Patrick points out, as doomed as our own Richard’s, the sentiment is as worth highlighting as anything else. Perhaps there are some men, some spirits that even Hell itself cannot break, that stand unbowed still amidst the inferno. I suppose you’ll have to play the game to find out.
My own first piece of exploratory writing for the project, presented here, is an attempt to shoehorn classical mythology into our own creation myth – to give you, the reader, a look at the very roots of our world.
Without further ado, I give you the beginning of all things.
—————————–
In the beginning, there was only darkness. Not the kind of darkness that you’re picturing right now – the darkness of a starlit void absent only the stars, still somehow filled with the soft and distant glow of ambient light – but true, consuming, total darkness.
The terrifying fact of utter nothing.
And yet at some point, that empty void began to seethe with pure potentiality. It churned itself, roiling into chaos.
It was from this chaos that the Titans swirled into being, if it could be so called. They were chaos gained sentience; or perhaps it is better to say chaos gained impulse.
The titans were best understood as the first natural laws, the underlying principles of how matter and energy behave. They are realities.

The gods were the first of these to gain true sentience, the first to realize the power of choice and their own wills. They were the first to soar above the level of impulse alone .
And like all sentient beings, particularly children, their first act was rebellion. Like most children, they quickly learned how to manipulate their parents, how to direct
the primal impulses of the universe, to bend the laws of reality as we know it. Thus they are gods.
Lead by the first among them, they stepped forever beyond the veil of time.

For that eternal moment, the sea of chaos was their sandbox. They shaped it, as children will. They gave form to nothing, directing the tireless attention of their parents first one way, then another. Eventually, they began to collaborate.
They realized they could achieve more together than alone. But for one to change what another had so carefully shaped? Order and rules were called for, among the gods.
Their first collaborative work was the Earth. For millenia they gleefully molded the landscape, raising mountains like sandcastles, there only to be washed away, eroded by the steady motions of wind and wave. Finally, they tired of filling their playground with sand alone. Something more was needed to be entertaining. Thus were created the myriad forms of life, man first among them.
And with life, came the terrible inevitability of death – and something else as well, something the gods did not expect: souls. There was a spark in humanity that transcended the death of its physical container, that lingered pale and discarnate in a world of which it was no longer part.
In time, their number grew, spreading across the surface of the earth like spectral mold, an ethereal blanket of death draped across the world of the living.
Somewhere new was needed for this self perpetuating tide of the dead – and so the gods created a world within the world to house them for all of eternity, a land of death,  loosely tied yet forever bound to the world of the living.  The underworld had been created, to separate the living from the dead, and one of the gods appointed to serve as warden of passage betwixt the two.
————————————

We’ll keep turning these out as we further develop our world. We hope you’ll keep reading.

–Darren

A Slice of Hell

Posted January 9th, 2011 in Worldbuilding by Seth

AHG’s artists have been working to create a deep and compelling visual style for Perdition, and meanwhile Darren and I are trying to render an equally rich literary foundation for the game. As Darren mentioned, we are drawing on the epic tradition surrounding Hell and Hades, consulting a smorgasbord of Classical and Medieval sources. And we are also writing some history of our own, giving Hell our own spin. As promised, today we have a snapshot from our “new history.” It explores a notion we’ve been kicking around—what if Hell is, unlike many portrayals, a very dynamic and embattled place? What if the people who arrive there have the power to change it? What happens when a person of great power and charisma finds himself in Hell? This small slice of fiction gives you a peek at the answers we’ve come up with. Enjoy!

* * *

Up above the bright world turned, but the deep stood still while Victor burned.

Nothing about him could be considered human anymore. A mortal onlooker would see nothing but a charred, twisted form; gnarled, claw-like hands stretching up from the liquid fires of the Phlegethon; and a hideous, contorted face wracked with one all-consuming scream of torment, anguish, damnation. He no longer remembered his name, or the surface, or the gentle caress of daylight. All he knew was fire, and the one scream that flowed into the past, into the future, coming full circle to meet itself and encompass all of time.

Dimly, at the very edge of his awareness, he felt something—something that was not the agony of fire. It was a tiny island of a moment marring the uniform surface of a horizon-spanning sea of torment.

And then the sulphurous waters of that sea receded, boiled away, vanished in an instant, and where before their roiling turbulence had overwhelmed his every perception and thought, he now lay gasping on the silent, cracked ocean floor. As he became aware of himself again, he could feel the gritty dirt digging into his forearms and shins. He was kneeling, back bowed and head lolling, arms flung out in front of him. He returned to himself after an eternity of oblivion, tentatively taking stock of his thoughts, his senses, his limbs. It was not like waking up after a long and deep slumber, because Victor could remember nothing of sleep after his eternity of waking damnation.

Victor. His name was Victor. For the first time in his memory, he lifted his head and held it up, unbuoyed by the searing river. He glanced to the left. To the right. Behind him he could see the blistering banks of the river Phlegethon, and in front of him stretched a grey forest of mangled trees. And towering above him stood his rescuer.

Clad in warped, soot-stained mail and ragged patches of tunic stood a… being. Not a man anymore, but nevertheless someone who pulled at Victor’s derelict mortal memories. The sagging spires of a crown adorned his stormy brow, the circlet of gold melted onto his forehead. Rivulets of molten gold ran continually down his face, leaving metallic trails on his soot-blackened skin. His eyes glowed like torches set at the bottoms of deep wells. What might have been a kingly mien lay twisted by deep-running currents of rage. Behind him stood a silent host of gaunt souls, some still dripping the boiling blood and fire that flowed in the Phlegethon.

Through a gap in the ring mail on the man‘s chest, another light peered out. It smoldered a cold and unforgiving blue, and in its feline shape Victor recognized another eye. Victor squinted through the dim light of Hell and saw, on the dark and begrimed tunic that might have once been red, the emblem of a lion.

Victor opened his mouth to speak, but only a dry rattle escaped his throat. A cough wracked his body and he wet his cracked lips. “My liege,” he croaked, and bowing his head returned to his sprawl of obeisance.

“Rise, sir knight.” The words rumbled above Victor like thunder. Victor gathered his wasted legs under him and tottered to his feet. His savior’s left gauntlet still dripped liquid flames from where it had reached into the Phlegethon, and his right hand held a sword stained with cloudy ichor. Looking more closely at the shapes around him, Victor could discern the hewn remnants of fiends, no doubt his former captors.

“Follow.” Victor’s lord turned and walked along the fiery banks of the river, scanning its seething surface. Victor obediently pursued, his legs steadier with every step.

“My lord,” Victor said after several paces, “do we seek escape from this place?”

His king plunged a hand into the river and hauled up a writhing form. He flung it to the ground and waited like a brooding thunderstorm while the damned soul collected itself. “To what end?” the monarch rumbled, almost to himself. “To live as wraiths in a world that has forgotten us? Or perhaps to find final oblivion at the surface?” The soul before him had its pale, watery eyes open now, and they moved like frantic caged birds, seeing for the first time in centuries. Victor’s lord stood immovable as a ravaged mountain. The blue feline eye under the chainmail narrowed, and flames danced in the king’s distant gaze. He studied something beyond the banks of the Phlegethon, musing on some dark vision.

“No,” he finally said. “We move against the Betrayer. This dark place will be ours. We will be free, one way or another.” And without another word he strode once more along the infernal river, the dark host shambling silently after him.

Victor stood and considered. In life he had said he would follow his lord to the gates of Hell. Now he knew his loyalty ran even deeper. Hope rose like a furious sun inside him, and he knew he would fight until he was no more. He set off, for the second time rallying to the banner of the Lionheart.

* * *

Darren and I will keep writing and refining, so stay tuned! Thanks for reading!

Stay classy,

Seth

Worldbuilding Update

Posted December 15th, 2010 in Worldbuilding by Darren
Hey folks, with the technical stuff out of the way  it’s time to talk about the world of Perdition. For those of you that followed us during our kickstarter campaign, much of this post will seem very familiar to you, mostly because I’ve taken the liberty of moving it over here to the actual site in the body of this post.
As we’ve mentioned previously, Perdition is heavily inspired by the works of Dante Alighieri, particularly “The Inferno”. What we’re really trying to do with Perdition is to stay true to the world that Dante created rather than attempt to tread in his exact footsteps through hell, to play out our own drama on the stage that he built so long ago.
Dante’s Hell is one of the most vivid and enduring visions in history, itself combining classical and medieval influences into an absolutely unforgettable landscape of demons, tortured souls, and classical figures that range from the Medusa to the Minotaur. As with all epic, “The Inferno” locates itself within the grand continuum of the epic tradition; it treats all of the epic poetry that came before it (particularly classical epic) as being part of its own history. Within the text, the reader can find references to all of the various pilgrims and heroes that have entered the underworld before Dante’s famous pilgrimage – Theseus, Orpheus, Hercules – and more importantly, we see the impact of those journeys upon the landscape itself. Dante’s Hell is one and the same with the classical Hades, one and the same with the underworld braved by Virgil’s Aeneas – the same place at a very different time, for in Dante’s hell, fallen angels and the blackest of demons stand shoulder to shoulder with the creatures of classical myth and legend. In the space between Virgil and Dante, Christianity has turned Hades into Hell – and yet the place remains the same, the universal underworld, the site of the eternal city of the dead and the damned: Dis.
Nor are we strictly limiting ourselves to the vision of Dante and Virgil – Milton’s Paradise Lost, with its’ powerful accounts of the fall of man and angel remains a tremendous source of inspiration and a wonderful resource. The blind poet was the first to envision the fall, a topic previously “…unattempted yet in prose or rhyme”, and his work truly brings the denizens of hell to life as characters rather than the single shaded,  nearly allegorical figures of evil they exist as in so many other accounts,  a trait we hope to be able to emulate in the development of our own characters – even an enemy in game should not be treated simply as a fleshy speed bump in the path of the oncoming freight train that is the player in most brawlers. A boss fight is not a mandatory capstone to a level if it would serve no purpose other than to provide a few more moments of meaningless combat. This is a game as much about exploring a world that has been imagined for literally hundreds of years as it is about combat – though there will be plenty of that as well.
What we seek to do in Perdition is to travel the third step on the path of Virgil and Dante, to imagine what has changed in this world seven hundred years after Dante’s account,four hundred after Milton’s,  what this eternal underworld has become and why.

We, as the dev team, have an entire timeline of hell to explore ourselves, from its’ classical origins to the stunning impact of the Fall,  and we’ll be sharing slices of that with you here in the coming weeks in the form of short pieces of fiction from a variety of perspectives. Most of this content won’t even come close to being included in the game – but it will form a solid bedrock on which to build the foundations of our game world, and like any foundation it will be always be there even if it isn’t immediately visible.

If you’re interested, check back in a few weeks for the first installment.

- Darren