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?
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.
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!