Steam and Shadow [WIP] [24k Words] [2023-06-04 Dev diary added!]

Welcome to Steam and Shadow, a new WIP set in a steampunk Europe, where you play as the newest member of Royal Intelligence, the spies and investigators for the Kingdom of Albion.

World Summary

Set in an alternative Europe following a terrible Cataclysm that brought humanity to the brink, and left behind a world wracked by storms and littered with strange new material. Nations (such as they were in the 1500s) fell, and were reborn from the ashes over the course of centuries.

Some, such as the Kingdom of Albion, or the French Empire, regaining much of their former strength. Others, like the Republic of the Low Countries or the Germanic States became something very different.

But long gone are the days of struggle, replaced by the age of progress. Technology and industry are the new driving forces, with steam powered airships plying the trade lanes in the sky and new terrifying weapons beginning to dominate on the ground. Proxy wars and border conflicts are slowly shaping Europe into something new.

This story picks up with a main character returning home to Albion following a particularly disastrous military expedition, wherein the French Empire drove Albion out of an allied German city state, tightening the French grip on Germany and causing notable embarrassment to the political establishment.

Given their association with the war, the main character is unceremoniously driven from the ranks of the army along with most of their compatriots, instead finding themself contacted by Royal Intelligence and informed that their nation still requires their services.

Features
  • Play as an ex-soldier suddenly dropped into the murky world of intelligence work. Will you struggle with this new grey morality or finally feel at home?
  • Choose your place in society - were your family minor aristocrats or did they work for their money? Why did you join the army?
  • Build relationships with your new team, and learn to work together as you take on important missions for the good of the Kingdom.
  • Find out what happened to your family while you were at war, or forge a new path without them.
  • Romance one of 6 gender-selectable ROs, from the tired veteran to the fiery young socialite.
  • Failure doesn’t always mean the end - Remember you’re part of a team, one failed skill check doesn’t spell disaster. Maybe one of the team can pick up the slack?
Romance Options
  • Lord/Lady Wayland Croft
    • A perceptive aristocrat, and presently the last of their family line.
    • Professional to the end and highly devoted to their job, Croft knows what they want and won’t tolerate nonsense or time-wasting.
  • Archibald/Archie Cantrell
    • An army veteran like you, albeit one with vastly more experience. Cantrell has served Albion nearly as long as you’ve been alive.
    • Fiercely protective of their team, but utterly exhausted. They’ve seen too much, though they won’t admit that to just anyone.
  • Meredith Simms
    • A bookish young aristocrat, intelligent but definitely not cut out for field work.
    • Quiet, but passionate about the plight of the ‘lower classes’. A pure soul, but will the real world prove too harsh?
  • Isambard/Isadora Watkins
    • A fiery socialite and part of the Kingdom’s growing middle class. Watkins is jealous of the aristocracy’s privilege.
    • A social chameleon, capable of blending in with almost any situation. How much of them is real, and how much is an act?
  • Hiram/Hortense Beck
    • A bitter member of the lower classes, Beck has felt the aristocrat’s oppression personally.
    • Averse to human contact and incredibly suspicious. Might there still be a connection to be made?
  • Secret sixth RO - Yet to be fully developed
Current Content

Currently the demo holds only a single chapter. This is approximately 24.5k words, of which you might experience up to 9k in a single playthrough.

You’ll establish your character’s skills and be introduced to your new boss in a rather messy job interview, and hopefully gain a brief overview of the world as it stands currently. You’ll meet two members of the team (Croft and Cantrell), and make either a good or bad impression.

Future Plans

My future plans include:

  • Edit chapter 1 in accordance with feedback - fix bugs, reword descriptions, improve dialogue.
  • Write chapter 2
    • This next chapter will have the MC meet two more members of the team (Beck and Watkins)
    • The MC will be given a chance to prove their skills by leading a small investigation, working with the two new team members to hunt down a thief.
  • Expand world notes, and open up the in-development World Anvil pages to provide a better grasp of the setting.
Demo Link

Click here to access the current demo

Changelog
  • 2023-05-14: Initial publication of Chapter 1, creation of the WIP thread.
  • 2023-05-14: Patch 1 released.
    • Skill icons removed and replaced with the skill name in brackets. This will be more relevant in future when skill checks come into play, letting the player see exactly which skill (or skills) will be tested.
    • Gender selection for Cantrell implemented.
  • 2023-05-15: Patch 2 released.
    • Fixes a variable that was missing a {
    • Fix some further points where Cantrell’s gender was still hardcoded to male.
  • 2023-05-16: Patch 3 released.
    • Fix yet more points where gender variables aren’t being properly used.
    • Fixed selecting Ranged Combat as your poor skill accidentally setting to a string instead of a number
  • 2023-05-17: Patch 4 released.
    • Improved some dialogue formatting (English grammar rules are nonsense.)
    • Added some line breaks into chunkier blocks of text.
Dev Diaries

Dev Diary 1 - 2023/05/21
Dev Diary 2 - 2023/05/28
Dev Diary 3 - 2023/06/04

At this point in the story, I’m asking for feedback on everything. The WIP thread has been published this early on in the process as I’m a new(ish) writer, and I’d much rather get early feedback than late.

If you spot a typo, a bug, or feel that the dialogue doesn’t flow properly - let me know.
I’d also like to know if my descriptions don’t work. Do you know what characters and places look like or are they just featureless blobs talking in an empty void?
Even if you don’t like the title, I’d like to hear it!

Please do keep it constructive though, and I’ll do my absolute best to respond to you. Questions about future plans are welcomed, though I won’t always have an answer for them.

136 Likes

I’m excited to try this, once I meet my May goals. :revolving_hearts:

4 Likes

Oh, I remember ya! It’s good you’ve uploaded this stuff, I’ll try it out ASAP.

2 Likes

Okay, first impressions leave me in a fairly amicable mood! The setting looks interesting enough, I wonder how playing as a woman will come to light, our companions look interesting enough and descriptions that set up our best, second best and worst skills were a very nice touch, especially given the fact they’re affected by our past. Having a military character that isn’t prone to angst is another good thing I can praise this for.

There are a few nags, though.

  1. Icons for skills bug me and look a wee bit distracting to the eye. I’d either use non-emoji symbols or formatted text to specify the skills we’re choosing.

  2. Speech formatting feels weird to me. I have no clue how this stuff works in English, I’m no native, but usually they separate the sentence after the speech with a “,”, don’t they? And write it in lower case from what I’ve seen. Such speech formatting is all over the demo.

  1. Some sentences feel clunky with only “,” separating them - I feel in some cases large dash would serve better in order to make the text feel less clumped. I’ve found one example of that as of now.

First sentence, after “while you can”.

3 Likes
  • The skill check icons were experimental, I’ll most likely change those to text as suggested. Finding clear icons is quite the challenge.
  • Speech formatting and the clunky sentences are definitely something I need to work on. I’ll probably run through a few different versions while I try to get this right :slight_smile:

Thank you for reading, and for the useful feedback!

6 Likes

This is good, I like this. Anyway I think Cantrell introduced the superior as a she, then you have the option to pick their gender when you meet them, making it incosistent.

Overall I am engaged, prose is not too flowery and boring. It kept my attention and the pacing didnt drag on. I’m excited to see what’s next.

Curious though, are you aiming for set gender ROs or not? If its the former, maybe the superior is the female RO and the bodyguard is the male RO?

2 Likes

Thanks for reading, and for the feedback!

Originally genders were fixed, but I made the decision to move over to gender selectable ROs. I’ll do another pass through to try and catch any points I’ve missed.

Cantrell should also be gender selectable, but it looks like I forgot to actually add in the choice. I’ll add that to my to do list and make it clear in the original post that it’s future work :slight_smile:

Thanks again for the feedback!

8 Likes

Lovely concept, can’t wait to see more of the world. Really only some minor grammar/coding things so far, like pronoun consistency and punctuation but overall well written and intriguing.

2 Likes

I like it so far, steampunk stuff is always pretty entertaining to read. Will you be describing more of the steampunk version of the city as it goes?

My other thoughts on it are:
There are a lot of big paragraphs early on. This isn’t a bad thing (I love the descriptions) but breaking it up might make it easier to read.

After I chose to let the newcomer have a fight and just watch, a variable is missing the {.

2 Likes

Thanks for reading, and your feedback.

We’ll be seeing a lot of the city going forward, my current plans have most of the game set there. It’ll be better described when the MC is actually moving around on their own two feet rather than travelling on the train.

I’m starting on a formatting pass now, hoping to make the big chunks of text flow a little better.

Thanks for spotting the missing {, I’ll pick that up and include a fix in the next patch soon.

Thanks again for reading :slight_smile:

5 Likes

Can you add an option where players can also choose their set genders?

1 Like

Cantrell gender seems to be all over the place. I selected female Cantrell but the next sentence referred to him as a man and used he pronouns. Then it switched back to woman.

2 Likes

Hi! Thanks for the suggestion.
Do you mean a single option at the start to set everyone’s gender at once?
Something like this?

Would you like to choose the gender of all the ROs?
    #Set all ROs to male
    #Set all ROs to female
    #Choose as I meet them

If so, that’s definitely something I can add (though it probably won’t be today or tomorrow).

@jhin Thanks for pointing this out. I’ve released another patch to update a few more points where Cantrell was still using fixed male pronouns.

Thank you both for the feedback so far :slight_smile:

3 Likes

I mean like, the option to set your ROs or gender-selectable characters to what you had originally planned from them. Like the superior being canon female and the bodyguard being canon male

1 Like

She waves you silently into the seat across the table from him, and you slide yourself into place, settling in the comfortable seat as they return to their book, skimming a few more lines before closing the book and setting it aside so they can get a better look at you.

You’re saved from the potential awkwardness of introducing yourself when the compartment door slides open again, and Cantrell clatters her way into the room with the unconscious thug slung over her shoulder. She drops him into an available seat and then looks between you and his superior before coughing politely to break an atmosphere that was growing increasingly tense.

Pronoun mismatches, in this playthrough both characters are female.

1 Like

@AlexHaydenX That sounds doable. I’ll have a choice at the start to set all characters, choose as you meet them, or take the “canon” options.

@stsword Thanks for spotting these, it’s a slow process of tracking them all down. Hopefully future chapters I’ll have gotten into the habit of typing the variables rather than actual pronouns and there won’t be nearly as many mistakes :slight_smile:

Thank you both for taking the time to provide feedback, it’s very much appreciated.

2 Likes

Great writing! It was a fun intro and the setting seems interesting.

However while playing, when you get to the interview and select the stats. For the third one, where you choose which stat you are poor in, I picked ranged combat but then when it confirms my choice it says Charisma instead. Also when I went ahead by saying yes it instead sets my ranged combat to unparalleled? Is that just a typo and you forget to change the label for “poor” or the equivalent?

1 Like

Sounds like there’s a bug there. I’ll take a look and hopefully get a fix out soon.
Thanks for reading, and for taking the time to give feedback! :slight_smile:

1 Like

Thank you for the demo. Very interesting. I will wait for more.

1 Like

Hello, I’m having problems with saving slots. Besides that I haven’t progressed that far to write
a proper feedback. I like the idea of being able to play as an ex-soldier. Good luck with your story!