Noblesse Oblige Developer Diary

Welcome to the Developer Diary thread for my CoG project, Noblesse Oblige! This is part of the Etiquette and Intrigue series, aka the collection of games including Crème de la Crème and Royal Affairs. This is a standalone game that takes place between the two, with a brand new player character.

Noblesse Oblige is an interactive romance novella of clandestine romance, crumbling majesty, and unfettered zeal. After you dropped out of university with neither a rich spouse nor rich family to support you, you’ve secured employment as a live-in conversation partner for a lonely Jezhani aristocrat, teaching them Westerlind. As it turns out, your new home is the desolate, isolated Isle of Teteriuk, on a near-derelict estate.

Life in this foreign mansion can be exciting - or claustrophobic. As relationships grow in strength and intensity, how will you handle the dangerous secrets you uncover? Who can you trust, and can you make a connection far from home?

Play the demo here!

Playable Genders and Orientations

You can play as male, female, or non-binary; gay, straight, bi, pan, asexual, and/or aromantic. You can input custom pronouns for your protagonist.

Setting

You are a university dropout from Westerlin, a country with a staid, formal culture especially in the upper echelons of society.

Jezhan is a country much larger than Westerlin, stretching from western lakes and warm tourist destinations in the south to the much colder north. The Isle of Teteriuk sits to the far north, where craggy mountains and moors look up to the Northern Lights.

Jezhani religion, the Church of Jezhan, is threaded through society at every level and there is little to no separation of church and state. It is a polytheistic religion in which gods are worshipped through formal ceremonies, communal celebrations, shrines at home, and sacrifice (plants, objects and symbols rather than animal).

The Jezhani royal family is structured with a High Queen, the High Consort whose children are heirs to the throne (Heir Darian can sometimes marry Heir Rosario after Crème de la Crème), other multiple Consorts and their children (known as Potentates), and the High Queen’s extended family. Potentates are almost entirely ceremonial figures, though they are capable of wielding political and influential power. The High Queen is also the head of the Church of Jezhan.

Jezhani culture has a strongly stratified class structure, but with major industrialisation the growth of the middle classes over the last few decades has put the aristocracy on the back foot. Many sprawling estates have been sold off piecemeal to up-and-coming tradespeople and factory owners. The aristocracy no longer hold all the power or the purse strings here; the merchant classes, new money, and the Church hold much more influence.

Befriendable and Romanceable Characters (Spoilers)

All major characters have selectable pronouns (he/him, she/her, they/them).

Polyamory note: although there is the opportunity to embark upon a polyamorous relationship, it isn’t a major part of the game. For reasons that will become clear, most of the major characters aren’t compatible in that way.


Pascha is a Jezhani aristocrat your age, and is excitable, intense, and intellectual. You’ll spend most of your time with Pascha, teaching accurate communication in Westerlind. Like almost all Jezhani citizens, Pascha follows the Church of Jezhan, but in this case with a little more… zeal.

Appearance: Brown skin and large, animated dark eyes. Short, with an angular frame, a sharp jawline, and thin mouth. Speaks very correctly in Jezhani, less so in Westerlind, but you’re here to teach, right?

Unknowns: Pascha moved here recently, and is now living with your boss, the elderly Countess Iravan. But no one seems to want to talk about why Pascha’s here or even when the move occurred, and Pascha doesn’t seem entirely content with the situation.

You might want to get close to Pascha because: Pascha’s alert and enthusiastic, and is always hungry to learn more about you! With a taste for adventure and the unknown, you’ll never have a dull moment.

Getting close to Pascha is a bad idea because: Pascha’s guardian will be displeased. If things get messy, it’ll mess with your job. There’s a frantic glint in Pascha’s gaze - not all the time - but often enough that - well - it sends a chill down the back of your neck. Maybe that’s unwelcome. Maybe it’s not?


Tomi Danelak is the housekeeper at Teteriuk Manor. In some places that would be a position of authority, but in practice Danelak keeps the household ticking along while being a general dogsbody for your elderly employer, Countess Iravan. Friendly and direct, Danelak is easygoing and a bit irreverent, and will eagerly take a break for a chat or a card game.

Appearance: Squarely-built, with wide shoulders; tallish, and walks with long, loose strides. Has brown skin, short dark hair, and green, deep-set eyes beneath heavy brows. Speaks Jezhani with a far-northern drawl; doesn’t speak much Westerlind.

Unknowns: Countess Iravan treats Danelak pretty rudely for someone who runs her household. Is that just her manner - she’s abrupt with you too - or is there some history you don’t know? And Danelak seems to know everything about the manor. That’s just familiarity, right?

You might want to get close to Danelak because: Danelak means what they say, and a compliment is always what it says on the tin. They’re always up for a good time. Also, they give incredible hugs.

Getting close to Danelak is a bad idea because: you’re working together, and everyone will be watching. You’re in each other’s pockets. And there’s a feeling - just a feeling - that Danelak’s laidback friendliness gives you. Could they be holding something back?


The Countess’s new secretary Rys isn’t at the manor when you arrive, and you don’t know them. Yet.

Rys will be arriving soon, surprising everyone - even the household staff, who usually know everything that’s going on. But the Countess needs help sorting out her study and paperwork, Rys is who she’s hired, and she’ll hear nothing against them.

Rys is eager to like everything they encounter and charm everyone they meet, from the servants to the Countess. You’re no exception.

Appearance: Tall, sturdily built, with dark skin, dark, wide-set eyes, and full lips. Has black, coiled hair worn in twists, falling past the shoulders. Often mirrors other people’s body language and way of speaking.

Unknowns: why would someone as flamboyant and well-travelled as Rys decide on Teteriuk as a destination? How exactly have they charmed the notoriously severe Countess?

You might want to get close to Rys because: they’re flirty, fashionable, and shower you with compliments. Rys really seems to like you and want to get to know you better. And who doesn’t want a bit of glamour in a very unglamorous situation?

Getting close to Rys is a bad idea because: beneath their surface charm, they’re careful to reveal only the tiniest sliver about themselves. Will it be a thrill to dig deeper… or dangerous?

The story so far: I started working on this game on 30th August 2021. Currently I’m writing Chapter 4, and the game is around 40K words. The demo showcases the first chapter, and is around 10K words total.

The plan: I hope to update the demo every other month (alternating monthly with Royal Affairs). My goal is to release in 2022, with the caveat that life is constantly throwing me curveballs that may delay things.

I would love to hear from you about:

  • What you think about atmosphere and pacing, especially if it feels like there should be more breathing room or lingering over a scene or moment

  • How you feel about the characters and how the MC relates to them

  • How the qualities and personality stats feel - do they make sense to you and do they work for the character you’re playing?

  • Points where none of the available choice options feel right for your character

  • Text that flows strangely, where it looks like something is missing, or anything else strange - it may be a bug or it may be unclearly written, but either way it’s very useful!

  • Continuity errors, where the game acts as if you’ve done something that you haven’t or vice versa

  • Any other thoughts you have about the game! Thank you for playing!

110 Likes

Hannah what will we do with you now :: Snickers :: sorry couldn’t resist I totally wasn’t expecting another game in the works from you and so early and far from the sounds of it :smiley:

Will be reading this one to when I get a moment keep it up.

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Wonderful!! Haha my goal is to get both out in 2022 - as we know, life is great at throwing curveballs, but right now I’m on track.

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God dammit but I think I escaped from drama I always come right back in I got to say you did a good job on this and I really want now the effects of this Stat system because I believe this is going to be very important

Oh, what a surprise! As a fan of CdlC and RA, I’ll have to check this one out! It seems to lean into a more somber, roguish direction than the other games, but the setting of a foreign mansion on an island definitely keeps into a romantic tradition. Very interesting outline so far!

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Read the demo instead of doing last-minute studying for my midterm, haha. Excited to see this go in a different direction than CdlC and RA, especially since the MC is not nobility. Jezhan is also quite a bit different from Westerlind, as well…

I’m getting strong Jane Eyre vibes + maybe a little bit of Wuthering Heights. Maybe a bit spoilers-y, but how supernatural do you plan on making this? Like maybe there’s a reason for the close ties between religion and people, because there’s been supernatural stuff documented?

Anyways, color me intrigued. No feelings on the characters in any direction so far, but it usually takes me a bit to warm up to strangers, and our character is surrounded by lots of new ones.

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I love this so much. It was such an interesting read and such a great way to start my morning :blush:.

I really love the atmosphere you have built up. It felt so somber and wrong…. But in like, the best way ever. Like it reminds me of autumn for some reason.

Oddly enough, this entire work especially the atmosphere felt eerily similar to the atmosphere here. With how the creepiness felt almost normal and even expected by the characters in-game.

Overall, I think I’m in love with Jezhan and I’m upset you haven’t introduced us here sooner.

The characters intrigue me. I’m currently playing a character who is half Jezhani and that’s such a great choice ! But I hope this isn’t a flavor text and would bring up a unique experience to MCs who chose this background. Like, personally a half Jezhani MC has tons of potential here. Especially when transformation is such an interesting and sometimes integral part of gothic fiction. And, the idea of re-learning your roots is already an amazing motivation for an MC to go to Jezhan.

Overall, it’s a great WIP and I hope to see more :blush:

3 Likes

I think the game is good enough. I love the colorful and vibrant text with unique landscapes and characters. The game is fun and good graphics.

@Takashi_Shin I hope you enjoy the drama as it unfolds!

@marcusessmith84 thank you so much! not so sure on the graphics, but I’ll take the rest :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:

@Vertigo thanks so much, I hope you enjoy! Yes, it’s a lot more moody than the others, which I’m enjoying writing a lot!

@42xyzzy So glad you’re getting Jane Eyre feelings from it - Jane Eyre and Rebecca are two of my key inspirations for this one and I immersed myself in both stories before I started writing. I’m not as familiar with Wuthering Heights - I read it a long time ago - but I should reread! There will be religious/supernatural overtones and themes but they’ll be pretty light - similar to Creme where the ghosts may or may not exist but some people believe in them strongly, and Royal Affairs where fortune-telling with cards may or may not show objective truth. The MC will be able to draw their own conclusions - my hope is to give believer MCs enough to work with that believing makes sense, while also giving sceptical MCs the ability to go “nah this is coincidence”. Thank you so much for playing and GOOD LUCK with your exams!

@Jess1973 I’m so glad, it’s lovely that you’re enjoying, and that you’re liking the new setting! I’ve got several references and character moments specific to the backgrounds (half Jezhani, learned at school, lived in a community with lots of Jezhani immigrants) but I’ll have a think about bringing them in more. I definitely want the MC to feel fleshed-out!

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Already shared my enthusiasm on Patreon, so I won’t repeat myself here :grin:

A question though: I usually prefer to name my MCs myself, and I probably gonna go with a part-Jezhani MC for my initial run, what kind of names would you recommend I look into to pick out for them? This is assuming Jezhan has a real-life counterpart, of course.

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I so appreciate your support!

Ooh, that’s a good point about names… I’m wondering whether to tweak how the name examples are done to allow for a Jezhani name, or maybe a middle name, as the ones on the list currently are all Westerlind. I’ll have a think!

It’s not a direct counterpart but I’ve taken general inspiration from Romanian, Russian, and eastern European names for Jezhani characters. Which is very broad I know! But hopefully it’ll provide some inspiration.

9 Likes

I really liked the Demo.

The pacing felt good, nothing rushed or longer than needed.
Definetely Jane Eyre vibes. :+1:
I liked the choices there was only one, where I kind of missed a fitting possibility. When you were asked if you want to Join the staff in the kitchen, I personally would have liked an answer in the way of: “I would like to, but I am not sure if the others would like me” for an open but very shy char. But of course this might be too nichy to add.

The story seems really interesting and I like to get to know the other characters more.

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Wow I absolutely love the setting! This Jezhani religion and society is fascinating. I can’t wait to read more!

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I’m very excited for this as I love your other works. Let me tell you, I almost squealed when I saw the options about what to do with your hair before bed. I loooved the options you provided and it was just a nice touch that allows for racial/ethnic inclusivity. The silk pillowcase option gets a chef’s kiss from me

So far I’m very interested in Danelak- he seems kind and I enjoyed that my MC was able to “ignore” his flirting. I feel like my MC will try to deny her feelings for him because she wants to be a proper employee but she will fall for him eventually.

One thing I found a little odd was the scene where you tag your strong and weak skills. I chose the theatre star option and I don’t really understand how charisma and physical strength both fall under vigor? I chose theatre star because I want my MC to be charismatic, not because I want her to be physically strong.

Anyway, I’m very excited to follow this project. Good luck!

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@Frieza thank you so much, I’m glad you’re liking the different setting!

@Kaelyn I will see about adding that - that makes a lot of sense to allow as an option. Really happy that you’re enjoying it!

@attolia ahh that’s delightful, I’m so pleased that you like it so far and that the hair options felt good. It’s not something I’ve been inclusive about before and I want to do so going onwards! And I’m excited that you like Danelak - the romance isn’t affected either way if you’re guarded in your response at that stage. It’ll be clear when you’re at a point where you’re on a romance-locked-in or rejected choice!

I see what you mean with Vigor… The goal is for it to cover force of personality and force of physicality in one stat (like how Finesse covers both balancing/dexterity and lying) but it may need some tweaking or more clarity. Thank you!

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Finesse sort of works for me like that as a combined stat, but Vigor does not.

I think this is because dexterity and deception are things that RPGs and media have taught me to associate with each other. Look at any roguish character in basically any media. Han Solo, Wesley from the Princess Bride, Catwoman, etc. Dex+Cha, the lot of them, so a combined dexterity+deception stat feels right. It’s my rogue level, basically.

Physical strength and force of personality don’t really have that shared association for me, though, and so Vigor as a stat just feels off. It feels like you combined Athletics and Theatre into one stat and those aren’t things I’d normally think to combine under one umbrella.

I think a rename might help with this? To me, the name Vigor mostly carries physical associations and so having it also measure strength of personality feels a bit off to me. Maybe something more akin to Forceful, which would carry implications of both a forceful personality and application of physical force.

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That makes a lot of sense, yeah! I did originally have it called Force or Forceful when I was first outlining (I can’t totally remember why I changed it - possibly something silly like avoiding alliteration with Finesse!). I will have a think about whether renaming or adding another stat would be best. Ideally I’d like to keep it as streamlined as I can but obviously don’t want that at the expense of being understandable and intuitive!

As someone who KNOWS what happened in those books …… should I be um, worried ? :eyes:

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Maybe you should, maybe you shouldn’t! :zipper_mouth_face:

I’d take that as a BIG YES. Also, I have a theory that Pascha is countess’ illegitimate child but to save face she just said they were her cousin ……

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