Interview with DAWNFALL creator RoAnna Sylver
Once again, it’s been a while! I actually had had aspirations of something other than A Touch of Magic releasing this year, but, predictably, my health had other ideas. But there are definitely things in the works for 2020. In the meantime, one of my friends has a new thing out now that I think you’ll all enjoy very much! One week ago today, fellow Kraken Collective author RoAnna Sylver celebrated the release of their brand new game/interactive novel, Dawnfall, through Heart’s Choice, the brand new imprint from Choice of Games!
Dawnfall is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. I’ve played “visual novel” type games such as the myriad otome games available from Voltage, so I guess that was what I was expecting. But Dawnfall is much, much more immersive, and that’s because of its unique setup as a genuine interactive novel, rather than a bunch of pictures with some dialogue and light narration. It has no graphics, but that’s not a detriment at all. It’s like the old Choose Your Own Adventure books of yore, only since it’s essentially an ebook, it does all the thinking for you—none of that “turn to page 75 for choice B” nonsense! Just make your choice and the book adapts around it. The story is deep, and there is a TON of plot going on here, much more than you can get from a visual novel with graphics, which makes it more like a true novel. There are also so, so many options for you to choose from, beginning with your very own character: you can choose your name, your species, your gender and pronouns, and your orientation, both romantic and sexual (including aspec, meaning you can play as an aro-ace, or an alloromantic ace, or an allosexual aro, just to name a few). You can also be polyamorous, and have romantic or QP relationships with multiple characters at once. There’s so much choice here, and the story adapts to your choices!
I’ve been really enjoying playing through the game (/reading the book?) at a leisurely pace over the last week, and what I’ve experienced so far left me with some questions for the author! So, without further ado, check out this interview with RoAnna Sylver!
Lyssa: In Dawnfall you created a massive new universe for players to explore. What did the process of inventing these worlds look like for you? Did you build it in layers, or dream them up all at once? (This is…a thing I tend to do. Like, suddenly everything is in my head fully formed and I don’t know where it came from. Not sure if this is a thing other people do, haha.)
RoAnna: I kind of did the opposite really! The characters were first, and they pretty much came into my head fully formed, at least in terms of what they’re like/their voices/how they interact. That’s usually the way it goes for me; the people in the story are real almost immediately and then it’s a question of shaping the world around them. Which I suppose is the difference between plot-driven and character-driven stories, and I’d say Dawnfall is extremely character-driven—but their setting still needs to ring true.
The different worlds of Zephyria and Eclipse, and the Harpiyae/Nephil species relations and individual cultures took much longer—I was adding things up until the copyediting stage! The stuff about Branches and exactly what Vyranix’s entire deal (and effect on the plot) was came last, I think. Really specific realizations like “oh, the ship helps Oz compensate for his disability by projecting colors for him” and “Rune is the artist who leaves art all over the ship!” were late additions too.
I’m actually still figuring things out about everything… and hoping there’ll be a way I can make some tie-in books or DLC or something, because that’d be amazing.
Was your universe influenced by anything in particular? I thought I may have caught a hint of Treasure Planet in the Ghost Queen’s cyborg parts. 😉 Any other inspiration from other fandoms? We know that I am one for being influenced by underappreciated early 2000s Disney sci-fi movies.
Oh this is absolutely Treasure Planet-inspired. So, so much. (Which I figured you’d get because Fourth World is so TP-ish too!) The other big one is Mass Effect (I KNEW IT.) Dawnfall is really what I always wished ME was. Same level of character depth and development, but so much more queerness, and the ability to date more than one person/be aspec/trans. Also something where the other characters interacted independently of the PC, like taking the Party Banter up to eleven. I love it when characters have their own lives and desires and relationships besides the player. Not everyone agrees, but I feel like that makes them feel so much more real.
Anyway back on the subject of inspirations… the sheer level of character connection and backstory is actually inspired by a Nintendo DS game of all things, Hotel Dusk: Room 215. That game (a visual novel actually) taught me so much about character intersection and history and parallelism; it really truly changed the way I write. So this is kind of a stealth love letter to Hotel Dusk. I doubt anyone will notice it, the genres are so different, but if you’ve played it I’m sure you’ll catch some subtle-ash things.
Dawnfall seems to be a fun mix of both sci-fi and fantasy. Would you say it’s more strongly influenced by sci-fi or fantasy? Anything else to add about genre things?
I actually did not set up Dawnfall as having a specific genre… and literally just threw in everything I found cool or fun. It ending up as Fantasy/Scifi/Pirates really just comes from me going “is it fun? that’s going in!” So yeah the challenge was to keep everything balanced and believable while still following the Rule of Cool/Fun. It still needs to make sense to other people, not just me, and it hopefully does that! I’m really glad “portal fantasy” is a known genre/term because it covers so much without being limiting.
I remember reading something about Treasure Planet that they used a 70-30% rule in designing the world, that it was 70% pirate aesthetic and 30% sci-fi. I think Dawnfall is more 50-50, but I did try to keep that in mind as well.
I’ve noticed a lot of times you make gorgeous aesthetics when you’re working on a project. Do you have any for Dawnfall? Characters, environments, etc? Or maybe a Pinterest board of just General Things That Share the Aesthetic of This Game?
You know, I did actually do several aesthetics for the characters… but that was before I knew that using most images found on Pinterest/elsewhere on the internet even for aesthetics was mostly illegal! I use Pexels and Unsplash now, but the old aesthetics were definitely not copyright-free, so they are now gone lol.
That said, I do actually still have the Pinterest board I used to make those aesthetics, and that’s over here!
I may want to redo aesthetics with actual legal images at some point too. I love doing those and they’re a lot easier than drawing when I’m low-spoons!
Thanks so much for sharing more info about Dawnfall with everyone!
THANK YOU so much! This was really fun!
Dawnfall is available now from Heart’s Choice, which has an app for iOS, Android, and Kindle. The game is also available on Steam, and you can also buy it from the Choice of Games website and play/read it in your browser.