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Reclaim your mother’s throne with the mighty power of the skies! Bring down lightning on your foes, climb an endless tower, and call the ghosts of ages past to your aid. But will your sorcery save the city, or tear it apart? Stars Arisen is a one-million-word interactive epic fantasy novel by Abigail C. Trevor, author of Heroes of Myth. I sat down with Abby to discuss her new game and her growth as Choice of Games author. Stars Arisen releases this Wednesday, March 15th. You can play the first few chapters today for free.
It’s been just under four years since your last game, Heroes of Myth, an epic in its own right. Now Stars Arisen is here and is an incredible 1 million words long. Tell me about the writing process this time.
It’s basically the same as the writing process for Heroes of Myth, except it kept going for longer.
That’s maybe a bit of an oversimplification, but my core process hasn’t changed: when I’m working on a project I write or do something related to writing every day. Some days that’s 4000 words, some days it’s 10, some days it’s making the characters in online dollmakers. And then I keep doing that until the project is done. The biggest disruption this time was that I used to almost always write in coffee shops, which stopped being an option a few months into the game for obvious global reasons. I have a hard time focusing on writing without a change to my environment. But now I spend a lot of time writing outside, weather permitting.
You obviously were interested in telling a much bigger story this time around. How did that translate to the scope of the game–I sense there are big branches to explore here and deep relationship building.
I’m not very good at estimating length in a tangible way. I knew when I was writing the initial outline that this would be a longer and more complex game than Heroes of Myth, but I had no idea what that would translate to in terms of word count. I wasn’t convinced the game would actually be over a million words until I was in the last couple of chapters.
I hope there’s deep relationship building, and not just with the love interests. (But also with the love interests.) There’s a lot of follow-through—people remember what you told them, or what you didn’t tell them. There aren’t many fixed points—you can change your mind about what you believe and what you want as you see the story develop, and characters will remember that you did that too. And in terms of branching, a lot of it is about fulfilling promises. I don’t want to imply possibilities in the beginning that you can’t really achieve by the end. That’s probably why there are seven different possible configurations for the government by the end. Maybe more than that, if you count some specifics I won’t go into just yet. And that’s before we get to the Stars.
What do you think will surprise players about this game?
In a lot of ways, this isn’t necessarily a game about being surprised. It’s more about giving you tools and seeing how you use them. There are reveals in the story that I don’t expect to be particularly surprising—to the characters, maybe, but I expect a lot of players can figure them out. That’s because I’m less interested in shocking you than in finding out what you do next.
That’s not to say there aren’t any moments I expect to be surprising. And I hope there are choices you’re surprised to end up making, ways you didn’t think your character would turn. But I hope you’re satisfied more than I hope you’re surprised.
Stars Arisen has a very specific fantasy world and magic system, both of which I think are very fun. Can you tell me a little about the powers the PC can wield?
The magic in this world comes from the Remnant Stars, five fallen stars with incredible powers. (There’s a sixth still waiting up above.) The characters believe the Remnant Stars are actual stars from specific constellations. Astute readers will note that this is not how meteorites work, but the thing about the Remnant Stars is that no one knows for certain how they actually work or what they truly are, so the characters could be wrong. Either that or it’s magic. I’d say the odds are about 50/50.
The Remnant Stars grant their wielders a variety of sorcerous abilities, from calling light and darkness, to controlling the weather, to healing wounds or even raising the dead. And they’re bound at their cores to the emotions and desires of the people who use them, more than some of those people ever realize. Some characters want them desperately. Others believe they’re too dangerous to exist. You’ll have to decide where you fall along that scale.
Also, there’s a magical city with a pulse that resounds in your bones. It’s probably fine.
How has your writing changed in the course of the last few years?
Well, more of it’s been done outside.
Trying to answer this question reminds me of one of those videos where a guy takes a picture of his face every day for ten years, and What Happens Will Shock You. But there’s no individual moment where the guy himself is shocked, he sees it all the time, it’s just his face. Writing the game was a standard part of my life every day for so long, and I was focused enough on moving forward that I haven’t spent a lot of time getting introspective about the writing itself. But I’d be interested to see how someone else would answer this question about my writing, because I think it would probably surprise me.
What are you working on next?
I took a break after finishing Stars Arisen, which I actually did a few months ago, and just started work on a new game idea very recently. It’s early enough that I don’t want to give too much of a preview because a lot could still change, so in the interest of that and of being infuriatingly vague, I will say that it currently involves some or all of the following:
- Ghost dragons
- The weight of history, again
- Meddling in forces beyond mortal comprehension
- Just a really big snake