The Kai Project: Oh lordy, where’s it going now?

So, the other day, I got an interesting new idea for Tenkai, or what I’m now tentatively calling The Kai Project. With as many times as I’ve re-imagined this thing, though, I feel like I’d better stop and recap all the previous things it’s been, for the sake of everyone’s sanity including mine.

  1. The whole thing started out as a bunch of “fakémon” when I was about 11 or 12. Soon enough, through their sheer style- and canon-bending nature, they organised themselves into an independent RPG-like game idea called Aeromon.
  2. Aeromon slid from a game idea into a conventional story, then called Adventures of Kurei, because I didn’t have resources of any kind.
  3. I ended up fiddling with a monster notebook based on the story anyway as well as game mechanics, taking it into a new phase. Monsters at first had evolutions based on their concept Pokémon-style, and then evolutions in each of a set of elements (plus sometimes one or two not associated with any elements), each often themed after animal species I thought were interesting (I remember a Chinese dragon thing having a humpback whale-like form and one called Lagarto having a “bearded dragon fire cross” form, both much less interesting than they sound).
  4. When I actually learned a little bit about programming, I tried to actually make some kind of game, albeit a browser game made in PHP with very ad hoc coding. At this time I reworked the project with more of a Monster Farm-like idea and renamed it Tenkai basically for weeaboo reasons. Monsters had different breeds from each region, and also sometimes life-stage-evolutions they could become if they met the right conditions (old enough, in good enough condition, and sometimes some stat requirements).
  5. Later I revisited the whole idea and redid some of the creatures from both the AoK stage and the weeaboo Tenkai stage more realistically. The project’s basic blueprint was fairly similar to that at the weeaboo stage including the breeds idea, but also brought back the “element evolutions” idea from AoK to create them (creatures also had juvenile forms). There were a number of habitat biome types or “attributes”, and monsters had variants each tagged with a different attribute or attributes. Each attribute would have certain types of abilities it would tend to have, and there was some idea though I never figured it out concretely of having each attribute be good in a certain range of other biomes and against monsters from those biomes like how real life species can often be all right in more than one biome if the biomes are similar enough.

(All the previous bullets are in more context here.)

  1. Semi-recently, I came back to the idea of a Takumi monstergame again, deciding the project would become libre and realising that honestly the whole idea of a monstergame could go very interesting places gameplay-wise if I just exercised a little imagination; in imitation of “Retrolark Fantasy Stablehand” I expanded the title out to “Heavenscratch Beastquest Tenkai”. One idea I came up with was to give each creature a different control scheme. Monsters also had Stablehand attribute-based variants they could switch between at will to make strategy more interesting.
  2. The monsterverse idea happened. That didn’t really change anything about the project except possibly make it part of something of a much bigger scope.

    (Note: the monsterverse idea has a fairly good chance of staying into the final project as long as I don’t abandon the idea of a Takumi monstergame entirely, given I’ve found somebody who independently had basically the exact same idea to talk to about it with.)

  3. For maybe two weeks I went into this weird completely different segue of trying to imagine “Heavenscratch Beastquest Tenkai” as a tablet puzzle game. 95% of that didn’t stick.
  4. Weeks later I randomly got this idea of ‘what if there was this monstergame/RPG entirely centred around MBs’, which… I’m not sure if any of it stuck as ideas for the Takumi monstergame or not, but it actually caused me to rethink MBs.
  5. I realised that the name Tenkai really didn’t so much fit the project any more, mainly the “ten” (heaven/sky) part of it. However, I liked the Kai part, so I started tentatively calling it “The Kai Project” instead. Then because of that name, the idea that caused me to write this post happened.

Step 8 takes a little explaining as I never posted anything about it. Here’s the explanation I posted on Skype.

[I] came up with an interesting idea that maybe it could be like a nonlinear environment puzzle game where you start out from a central nexus and there are eight or so locales and you can go to any of them

And when you “beat” the environment puzzle with the help of your monsterthing the locale “levels up” and turns into a different locale like if it was a forest it could turn into a marshy forest on the next level and a treeless bog on the next

Somehow you get new monsters in the locales as you beat them (idk how because I don’t see the locales as being very inhabited at all right now) and somehow I want a small element of strategy and weighing alternatives where you can go to X or Y or Z other locale to find things you can more effectively beat the current locale with

For the monsters themselves I had this idea that there are a number of basic shapes, which each have a mannequin-like “form” associated with them and when you give the form an attribute (idk where those come from) it turns into a monster of that shape and attribute; the attributes I’m thinking about basing on Stablehand ones but giving different names and slightly different aesthetics, the first one I have right now is Bolt, which is basically Synthesis but its focus is a frenetic and vaguely electric/mechanical theme (it’s a pun on metal bolts and electricity bolts)

You can take away the attribute from a creature to leave a lifeless form again which you can give a different attribute to, reviving the creature as its variant in the other attribute but with the same… idk whatever the creatures gain as you use them; somehow I kinda like the idea of that, disconcerting the player because ‘whoa what’s up with the creature when it’s a form, can it experience things but just not move that’s freaking creepy’ :p

(Especially if the things actually talk and say a few lines and never really notice/acknowledge that you can just fucking take life away from them, maybe even outright destroy their forms)

And as before the nominal goal would be to get Heavenscratch, supposedly the ultimate creature in some way (I would like Heavenscratch to be usable in-game just like the others though, just like if the others have a few places you can use them effectively each Heavenscratch can be used effectively everywhere and the thing is none of the creatures make anything super duper easy so neither does Heavenscratch, it just about has the “ideal” effectiveness of anything else everywhere)

The twist is as before that the protagonist has to transform into Heavenscratch and for some reason can’t use other creatures alongside them after that, they just /are/ the creature

idk what the story of this would be, but I think one possibility for story is like there are these constant implications sort of OFF-style that something about this world is screwed up and it’s really weird and not normal that the creatures are forms by default and you have to transform into Heavenscratch and you’re somehow causing ecological succession, and maaaaybe you should be asking questions about this

I don’t want any super obvious indication like [insert things that happen at the end of OFF here] at the end where it’s like ‘well damn, I’m 100% sure this is one screwed-up dude’, I kind of want to leave it more of an open question than that what the hell is going on and who or what’s responsible, but at the same time I kind of want a conclusive story ending after you transform too because it kind of sucks to take away the main interesting thing irreversibly without having a proper ending.

So, yeah. That sure was a thing that happened. While the notion of reimagined Stablehand attributes is probably staying and Heavenscratch is not something I’m going to throw away, I pretty much discarded the rest of it.

Step 9 requires a bit of Stablehand worldspoilers to explain, so if you don’t want any Stablehand spoilers, you should probably skip past it.

Alternatively, you might review the Stablehand worldspoiler primer for context.

Step 9

As I say, I randomly started to imagine this monstergame based around mystery beings, aka aethereals. At first I was imagining there being some kind of protagonist who for some reason was the only human around, recruiting aethereals in a slightly different version of the Aether called Thematica. Thematica notably had no bosses in it the way Stablehand did, it was all just aethereals and this dude who was kind of… trying to make a name for himself? Trying to figure out what was up with the world of Thematica? Something like that. He was a little bit like Lance from Stablehand physically, but an adult.

The Thematica segue didn’t take the Kai Project much of anywhere, as I say, but it did make me realise that when aethereals are supposed to be living concepts, if they were in some kind of monstergame- or RPG-type environment individuals would probably be very different from each other and vibrantly reflective of their basic concept in the elements they appeared to be made of and their appearance otherwise. They would probably also have some ability to change form or theme while keeping their same basic concept, and generally a wide diversity of forms and abilities.

I decided to reconcile all this in Stablehand, the place I would be using aethereals, by reclassifying the aethereals I’d already created into “Theme”, “Agent”, and “Archetype” tiers, with the Theme species providing the elements/”themes” (:p), the Agents having a little of that but also commonly having a typical purpose and being able to be different elements while having the same purpose, and the Archetypes being all about purpose and body shape while being able to have wildly different appearances as they could be made from any Themes or Agent which they’d keep the visual styling of. For example (to use a really silly example), a cragwing (Theme) could become an Insulator (Archetype) which then would be a rocky and cloudy creature with an Insulator shape.

Step 10 (-ten? :p), and the new stuff

The other day I was thinking about the name “Tenkai” and how it didn’t really fit any more, mainly because the central idea from the weeaboo Tenkai phase that tied into the name—that the creatures were vaguely divine and sort of the goal of the game was to try to figure out how to ascend them into their kami forms—was not really there any more. There wasn’t really anything “celestial” or “sky” about them at all now, and the name-sounding-like-heaven pun wasn’t really relevant either. So the name Tenkai pretty much just didn’t make any sense any more. I liked the “kai” part of it, but I tried to think of something else I could put in place of “ten” and simply couldn’t think of anything. So, for lack of a better name, I tentatively started calling it “The Kai Project”.

About a day later suddenly it hit me that if “The Kai Project” was literally just taking the “ten” out of “Tenkai”, and when Tenkai had been a pun on a word for heaven written “sky” + “world”… Did that mean that each of the monsters was also a world?

I laughed at first, but then it made me think. Having each monster be a world would make for a really amazing setting: instead of being finite, the overall world would effectively be like the internet. Each monster when born would add a new linked world that wasn’t there before. “Inside” there could be entire other civilisations. And indeed, more link creatures with new places “inside” too.

I had this image of the link creatures’ places, which I quickly started calling locales, being based on their appearance, personality, and abilities. The colour of the creature would set some of the main colours of the world, its basic… identity would set what the environments were like, other things about it would set other things about the world. The monstergame element of it could come into play and actually be explained rather neatly in that depending how you raised the creature its world would be affected, and you’d be trying to create one that would produce a world that had what you were looking for in it.

All the main storyline places would probably require you to go through creatures to get to them, each with a very strong, distinct style to it to mirror the distinct style of the place, a lot like the creatures I called mascots in Stablehand. (The main place/”mascot” themes would probably based on a modified Stablehand attribute like “Bolt” a la Step 8, considering the whole point of the modified Stablehand attributes was so I could create a place called “Boltland” based on a place name from a dream I had once. Finding each one would be like wow there’s this whole new attribute type and aesthetic and community and I never knew about and it was here all along???)

So I had the link-creature idea. Then, since my brain was just in the mood for wordplay that day I guess, I started noting that I was using the word locale for the creature-places partly because the word had been in my mind since I’d named a world in another story thing of mine “Locale”.

With the Locale!Sonic story I noticed all the creatures were developing a distinct style, ostensibly because Locale was “realistic” but really just because the world of Locale was extraneous to Sonic and forcing its own style on things. I was also using a similar style when kicking around design ideas in my head for “Fuchsia White”, a sort of animated rock opera thing also inspired by Sonic but not really related to it beyond having anthropomorphic animals.

Anyway, when I started using locale for that potential Kai Project idea my mind instantly wanted to call the overall world of The Kai Project Locale too, and/or to somehow merge Fuchsia White (my original outlet of “Locale style” after the fanfic) with the idea. I don’t think that will really work, given that a monstergame world with normal people and link-creatures and an anthro world are two very different dynamics that can’t really merge all that well, but it definitely made me appreciate the idea of fleshing out “Locale style” more and making more of a point of using it in Fuchsia White.