I can finally show a short teaser trailer for Hovel ! This project has been in the works for a very long time — like I said in the presentation, I began working on it in 2017.
The reason it's taken a very long time to reveal is not just because I have a policy about trying not to show anything too early (due to some issues with that in the past... ahahaha...) There was actually a Games Update a long time ago — back in 2017 or 2018 — where I was going to reveal Hovel because I thought I'd cracked the story. But, I didn't. That's the main issue — story trouble.
Hovel has taken a very, very long time to "feel right". I think I'm on the right track now.
Obviously, the synopsis in the presentation was extremely vague. That's because I don't know how many details will change from now to when I begin writing what I've outlined.
Up until recently, I was planning on making Hovel an animation. It's what I previously was referring to as the "Secret Animation Project" or "Original Animated Project". But working on Catalyst Wake has not just shown me a more efficient way to bring stories to life in a cinematic way... it's also shown me how hard it would actually be to make a fully animated episode.
Though I really love animation, and I'd like to make an animated short some time in the future, Hovel was not conceived as a short story. It doesn't work as a short story. For a very long time I was trying to condense it into one so that I'd actually be able to animate it.
But now I think the best way to tell this story is as a fully illustrated visual novel.
There are a lot of advantages to this, which I've already outlined in several Catalyst Wake posts — but there are even more advantages to making Hovel this way, from a world-building point of view.
I've come up with a glyph-based language that the characters use, much like hieroglyphs. The visual novel format will let me bring elements like that to life in some interesting ways. Imagine a feature that, for example, helps you actually learn how to read these glyphs if you want to, turning the story into an opportunity to learn this alien language and figure out text in the backgrounds — and of course, there could be a version of the game that's entirely translated into the alien language, for total immersion.
I want Hovel to feel like you're really stepping into an entirely different fantasy culture, just like the characters do in the story.
Hovel is really all about culture. What is culture anyway? What happens when cultures collide? What happens when taboos in one culture are encouraged in others? Are you really "part of" a culture and what does that mean? Can culture really be destroyed, or stolen, and how does that happen? How is it created? Who defines it?
The fantasy setting, with these made-up creatures, allows me to take these real world concepts to their extremes to explore these questions. I decided not to include magic, though it was in earlier story drafts, because I felt it helped ground the world and characters, and set it further apart from other fantasy stories.
I would say the main inspiration for Hovel is The Dark Crystal. I think the overall similarities are slim, but the general aesthetic and attitude is very much what I'm going for.
Anyway, this project is probably going to be in pre-production for a few more years, given everything else I'm doing. But it's often on my mind and I'm looking forward to making it!