I would love to hear more about how dark this could've gotten! I havent seen/read the titles you put up but now I'm interested!
Behing the Scenes Blog: Abandoned "Boss Battle Music" Notes
Hey there itch! It's been a little while! I am here to post some "behind the scenes" about an idea I abandoned early on in development, even before even the Kickstarter went live. Speaking of which...
In case you've missed me and wanna know how the game is going, you can check out the Kickstarter page for all the latest notes and details! Including some brand new character designs + sprites you may not have seen! Check it out!
Now, how did this all start? Well, one day I was looking through some old LoveSick Darlings notes to specifically find a point I wanted to write into the game's ending - but I ended up coming across an ancient planning document where I outlined some broad ideas! I was amazed with how much of it was still relevant and going into the final product - and also how many ideas I had moved on from initially.
You guys seriously have no idea how dark this game was originally going to be! My main inspirations at the time were stories like Scum's Wish and the Flowers of Evil - two examples I love, and still have elements of, but have pretty much moved entirely away from. I think I ended up liking my cast too much to make them suffer like the characters in those dark romance manga/anime did (if you've seen/read either series, you know what I'm talking about!)
But one idea in the document that I had abandoned stuck out to me was: "boss battle themes."
I made a lot of music notes and references, but I dedicated a whole section of this document to "boss battles." An Idea from early on in development that I wanted to be a key part of the game - but as development went on, it felt like a less natural part of it that ruined the "grounded" nature of this story. But for each boss battle, I had written up a lot about how I wanted players to feel while listening to the music in-game!
So, on a whim, I posted these notes on the LoveSick Darlings discord!
With some editing, I found I still had a lot to say when I expanded on my old notes and it was a fun experience to explore the hypothetical implementation of "boss music" in LoveSick Darlings! The posts on Discord ended up being so long and detailed, I figured I may as well share what I wrote here! Let's start with the overview...
So the original plan for the ending(s) of LoveSick Darlings was for each major "branch" of the story to end with a "boss battle" or "clash." Someone would confront Syd about his choices, and a dialogue/argument focused "battle" where you respond to everything they say - as both Syd and the person's emotions rise and rise - and reach some kind of conclusion (positive, negative, or neutral). Depending on your choices and what you experienced (or didn't experience) with this character, different choices would appear that could help of aid you in talking them down - or criticizing their behaviour till they realize what they're doing is wrong (if it even is wrong, that is).
Some of you might remember the argument one can have with Nacho at the art exhibition? Think that but... with much higher stakes and it being with someone you (probably) care about. That was like a "test run" of what an argument with a character in LoveSick Darlings could be like. While I won't say the idea is completely abandoned... it's just no longer a guaranteed part of the game.
However, as I said before, having "boss battle" arguments felt a bit too melodramatic and took away from the largely grounded nature of LoveSick Darlings. But in my planning documents, I had ideas for brand new "themes" for each of the characters you (potentially) argue with. I wanted each "boss battle"/major argument to induce a different kind of dread, like they're different kind of horrible arguments to have with someone you care about. And I wanted music to suit these feelings, so I made extensive notes and put together many examples/references!
So, why not start with everyone's favourite argumentative bestie?
Maisy's Proposed Boss Theme Reference + Explanation:
So... the first "boss theme inspiration" is honestly a pretty famous one, but it's one I still think about when writing some scenes.
Undyne's "alternate" theme from Undertale!
What I love about this theme is the overwhelming sense of "I am right, and nothing can stand in my way. Not even death." Of course, Maisy hasn't got her life on the line... but her determination (no pun intended) is unbeatable and nwavering. When she wants something - she will get it. This theme makes you feel like you're fighting an impossible opponent - and if Maisy truly stands against you? I think she is a near-unstoppable opponent. She'll fight tooth and nail to make sure she doesn't "lose." It's her worst fear, so she'll do anything to win - and I think this theme showcases the terror that is unleashed when dealing with someone who has "nothing left to lose."
Minor spoilers for Undertale, and light thematic ideas about specifically Maisy follow:
This theme embodies Undyne sacrificing everything for what she believes in - protecting those she loves, even if it kills her. Maisy may not be quite so heroic, but I wanted players to feel a certain sense of fear over what they have unleashed - as Maisy holds a lot of power. Even if it isn't magic glowing spears like Undyne, she can be just as terrifying. I wanted the proposed music to make players really feel Maisy's power, and what happens when it's turned against Syd. "Power" is a really important concept in Maisy's storyline - even dictated in these old notes of mine.
I think about this theme a lot when writing Maisy! It's the ultimate belief in self - even if it means denying reality.
Steph's Proposed Boss Theme Reference + Explanation:
Truthfully? Steph's "boss battle" was always the hardest to find references for. In my notes I have a bunch of examples I like elements of, but none of it ever felt "complete." I think Tim is probably grateful he never had to write a song for it, because I didn't really understand what I was looking for. Even the "boss battle" scene itself was quite half-formed compared to either Maisy or Jayda. Both of whom I had perfect ideas of what they would be about.
But just recently, I heard a brand new boss theme in Fire Emblem Heroes (my personal gacha hell) and my immediate thought was how perfect it would be as a reference for Steph! (finding the old notes and recently hearing this is kind of what kick-started this little "series" of notes!)
I love how the song feels like a clash between something greater and more powerful than you. A core idea of Syd and Steph's journey is Syd needing to learn to not put Steph on a pedestal and to instead treat her like a human. She isn't some goddess looking down from above, judging him all the time. She's just another teenager navigating the world with her own insecurities, flaws, and trauma just like Syd is. He needs to treat her like a normal person if he ever wants to actually connect to Steph the person - rather then "Steph" the object of affection who is perfect and faultless and will love Syd unconditionally if he's nice to her.
Vague minor spoilers for a potential Steph "route":
It's only when Syd fails to overcome the psychological hurdle of objectifying her and treating her like she's better than him, that leads to him clashing with Steph. And a theme like this would play - something emotional, intense, as you fight with someone you perceive as more powerful than you - and yet you're frustrated that they dare to not reward your effort and affection. Yeah, a "Steph Boss Battle" only really happens if you make some poor choices as Syd...
And admittedly this track just recently showing up when fighting against the "Ice Goddess" Nifl in Fire Emblem Heroes just felt like it suited Steph well. Must be that light-blue motif!
Jayda's Proposed Boss Theme Reference + Explanation:
#JaydaArmy rise up for the last theme + explanation!
I wonder if people will find this theme surprising or not? I feel like it'll probably just be a pleasant surprise! Jayda's main inspiration is... Marie's boss theme from Persona 4 Golden! Check it out!
Apart from being a simply fantastic track, I LOVE that this theme is both climactic and deeply sad. It reflects Jayda's heart perfectly. It's so indulgent on self-misery and throwing it at the world in frustration. I think it's a feeling everyone on some level can relate to, especially when looking at their teenage years. You hate yourself so much that you project your hatred onto those you love and convince yourself that they must hate you to. Even if that couldn't be further from the truth. This theme feels like the embodiment of that struggle as an outsider - trying to convince a deeply unhappy person that they are worthy of love.
Minor spoilers for Jayda:
And ultimately, that's what Jayda's arc is about. She is someone so starved for love and affection, that when she receives it she can't help but sabotage herself. She believes that she's tricked people into caring about her, or she's done something wrong by relying on others - but really she's inherently worthy of love. Like everyone in the world is by default.
Persona 4 Golden Spoilers:
Frankly, anyone who knows Marie's story in Persona 4 Golden may see the parallels between her and Jayda. Creative expression + self-hatred is a tried and true combination.
Basically, I would have wanted her theme to induce mixed feelings. I want it to be full of will and desire for change and a better outcome - while also reflecting how sad and unhappy Jayda is. Marie's theme was always the perfect fit for that balance.
BONUS ROUND! EXTRA MUSICAL REFERENCE FOR JAYDA!!!
That's right, Jayda fans are eating good today! (As usual!)
There was another track I found with Jayda's notes, alongside the note: "I want people to feel like shit for hurting her."
It was this track from Fire Emblem Awakening that takes me back to 2013 in a flash! I just had to include it as an accompanyng alternate reference (especially as Jayda is the most popular character!)
Setting aside the fact Marie's theme fits the idea of a "boss theme" much better, I have a huuuuge soft spot when games make players do things they otherwise wouldn't do. Which is exactly what my above note wanted to invoke, and this song goes well with that idea of making players "feel like shit." Emotionally manipulating players sound wrong but... I love when games do it to me! This track plays in my favourite part of Fire Emblem Awakening too.
An alternative take, or aspect I want to mix in, for the potential boss theme was that I want players to feel shitty for what they're "doing" to Jayda in this "boss fight."
Moderate spoilers about Jayda follow:
Even if her expectations of Syd aren't fair, and can be ultimately one-sided, Syd is human enough to feel bad for Jayda. Even though he never asks to be so loved by her, I wanted him (and the player) to feel bad for hurting this person they (most likely) care about. I think this theme captures another emotion I wanted from this "boss battle" specifically quite well, and I thought I may as well throw it on here because I had some fun little notes and ideas attached to it!
But that about wraps it up! It was fun to write all of this up a few days ago and share here now! I'm sure you'll see echoes of my sentiments here in the full game too. I hope you found this sneak peek into what I had once planned for LoveSick Darlings interesting!
Speaking of behind-the-scenes details, if you would like to hear more about some of my abandoned ideas/themes I wanted to explore, namely my "darker" storyline inspired by Scum's Wish/Flowers of Evil - let me know. I may make a post about it in the future! If there's any demand, of course!
I hope you all have lovely rest of your weeks. Stay safe!
- Kickstarter: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/lovesickdarlings/lovesick-darlings-a-visual-novel-with-consequences
- LoveSick Darlings Twitter: https://twitter.com/LoveSickDarling
- LoveSick Darlings Discord: https://discordapp.com/invite/4YAgnvd
- Steam store page: https://store.steampowered.com/app/1151410/LoveSick_Darlings/
- Official website: https://lovesickdarlings.com/
- Twitch: https://www.twitch.tv/lovesickdarlingsofficial
- Dimitri's Twitter: https://twitter.com/DAdoniou
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