History Of Rose Of Eternity
Since the beginning of time, the Rose Of Eternity has been in the mystical Garden Of Roses, tended to by the Keeper Of The Rose. It is said that the Keeper Of The Rose has the most beautiful singing voice, rivaled by none. However, she does not sing for joy, but rather out of pain, for she is a prisoner in these gardens, forbidden to ever leave. Humanity is to blame for her misfortune, for as long as there is war and strife, she will be doomed to stay in the Garden Of Roses, and sing…
As she grows older, as petals fall off of the Rose Of Eternity, she continues to sing, in the hopes that mankind will change, but they do not. As she begins to become an old woman, people pure of heart are born into the world. These people have the opportunity to change things, but alas, they make the wrong decisions, and the Keeper Of The Rose is left to her prison.And her singing…
As the age ends, she is born anew into the world again, hoping that mankind will change their ways. She has been going through this cycle for 4000 years. Will she ever be freed from her prison? In this life cycle, 6 unknowing people will have the opportunity to make her wish come true…
I’ve told this story so many times, it’s almost starting to feel like a legend, like something that may or may not be true. These things seem to happen as you get older.
The Beginning (1999)
The date was April 20th, 1999. The infamous Columbine shooting in the US state of Colorado had just occurred. I was in my freshmen year of community college, studying computer science, though I didn’t really know what I was going to do with it. It just seemed like the degree I needed to get. It would turn out to be one hell of a decision by a still indecisive 18-year-old.
Around that time, friends and I used to hang out on cliff, named Khal Rock, which overlooked the Hudson River, in the city of Poughkeepsie, NY where I was from. Many nights, as people left, one of my best friends, Brian Rhodes, and I would stay up there, just staring across to the west side of the river.
It should be noted that were huge fans of video games. Especially of the, as we would later call them, the “Golden Age” of RPG’s. This included:
- Final Fantasy Adventure
- Final Fantasy IV
- Final Fantasy Mystic Quest
- Secret of Mana
- Final Fantasy VI
- Chrono Trigger
That was one hell of a run from 1991-1995. And we were deeply entrenched in it.
So back to Khal Rock… There was a bridge, at the time called the Mid-Hudson Bridge, that connected our county of Dutchess to Ulster county on the other side. One night, we mused about how cool it would be in an RPG where if at the beginning of the game, you saw a bridge being built, and as you progressed through said game, more and more work would be completed. Finally, towards the end of the game, when you needed it most, the bridge would be finished, and you would be able to cross it.
It was a pretty innocuous thought to have, but is started this brainstorming chain reaction. By the end of the night, we had already named the country on the other side of the bridge, Lesaria. We had come up with the name of the group of people who ran things in Lesaria: The Defenders of Legacy. A few days later, on April 20th, 1999, I had all sorts of thoughts and ideas jotted down on painstakingly numbered loose leaf paper. I was pretty anal about things like that, and damn near 20 years later, I’m glad I was.
Of course, everything was at a super high level. Stuff like:
- “Hooded figure…”
- “Challseus was a wizard that…”
- “Main hero…”
Not a lot of stuff was interconnected yet. It was just a bunch of ideas for interesting situations/people, ideas I knew we could stitch together later. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this was the beginning of the Rose of Eternity Bible, something that would mean more to me than I would ever understand.
The Long Storm (1999-2001)
In late 1999, I had my first panic attack. As many people who get them will tell you, I thought I was going to die. No one knew what was going on with me, and I never went to a doctor. I remember I had watched this one particular gruesome scene in this war movie, The Thin Red Line, where a soldier was dying, crying out for his Mom, guts hanging out of him, and his squad was telling him to keep quiet so he wouldn’t give away their position.
This started this little obsession I had where I thought about death all the time. I was all of a sudden scared to shit of it. Was that lump on my neck cancer. Was that feeling I had on the right side of my head after my panic attack a tumor? My life pretty much flipped upside down. The person I was on April 20th, 1999 was gone, replaced with this now 19-year-old who didn’t know his place in the world, who was coming to grips with the harsh realities of life.
The only thing that saved me was Rose of Eternity. I stayed with paper and a pen at all times. Wherever I was, be it school, or work, I was constantly brainstorming. Any little thing would give me an idea, and I would jot it down in the ever growing bible. When I worked at CVS in the photo section, I would be developing pictures for customers who had just got back from Italy, and get inspired by them. Hell, I even printed duplicates for myself so I could later stare at them and do more brainstorming. I’m sure I looked like that biggest weirdo in the world, but I didn’t care. Whenever I was brainstorming, I wasn’t letting that bad thoughts get into my head.
The climax of the long storm came in late 2001. I had been living with Brian Rhodes and 2 others at his old house, as his Mom had moved out, but kept the house available for us to rent. As you can expect with a bunch of early 20’s guys, things didn’t work out, and she decided to sell the house, which meant I had to move back to my Dad’s house.
One night I was downstairs in the basement (where I was sleeping until a room was ready for me upstairs), and I was, for whatever reason, listening to Mariah Carey’s song, “Looking In”, off her Daydream album. I’m not the biggest fan of hers, but this song always stuck out to me. All the lyrics seemed as if she was singing about my life. At that moment, I had a panic attack. And in that moment of panic, the titular character of Rose of Eternity was born: The Keeper of the Rose.
Throughout all the pain I was going through, something just clicked in me, and her entire story arc was born. She would be born into this world, live until an old woman, die, and be reborn again, over thousands of years. It was like the pain of what I was going through, plus the lyrics Mariah Carey were singing, created this character, this idea, in an instant. Oh, and the panic attack was over pretty quickly, as I had learned how to deal with them at that point.
The Coming (2004-2005)
After the revelation that is The Keeper of the Rose, things slowed down a bit. I was putting my all into actually finishing college to get my degree in Computer Science, I was working 3 jobs, and I had my confidence back, so I didn’t need to use brainstorming as a crutch to deal with life. Because, life was pretty good.
However, in 2004, I started thinking about taking all of my ideas, and trying to make a game out of it. Of course, I had no idea on how to start it. I just knew that I was about to receive a degree in something that would point me in the right direction.
But before I received my degree, I came across this modding tool, this Aurora Engine, used by Bioware to make Neverwinter Nights. I had previously purchased it in 2002, off the strength of Baldur’s Gate 1 & 2. This literally might be the only game I ever bought without reading any reviews. Ah, youth. Anyway, I was going in expecting a 3d Baldur’s Gate, and when I found out that “party members” were replaced with “henchmen”, and that you could only have one at a time, and that you couldn’t directly control them, I immediately returned it. Because, apparently, you could return PC games back in 2002.
Fast forward 2 years later, and I’m at my internship reading all the docs about the toolset online. It was so amazing that this thing existed, this thing that would allow me bring ideas to life. Hell, even looking at the scripting language, NWScript, I felt at home, as I had been doing Java, C++, and Visual Basic up to that point.
I pretty much jumped right in, and started building the first town, Aribine. The first custom script I wrote was a way-pointing system for the guards in the town, so they would patrol, talk to townsfolk when they stepped on some custom speak triggers, and even equip torches at night time. I mean, for me, this was it. I was hooked.
Development started in earnest in April 2004, and despite a minor hiccup where I almost said “screw it!” and stopped working on the game (shout out to my wife, then girlfriend, who encouraged me to keep going with it) in late December, I would end up releasing The Coming on July 6th, 2005.
I was riding pretty high after the release. This was the first game I had ever attempted to create, and I finished it, and it was doing well on the NWVault top rated module lists. Download count was very, very good as well. I knew I had to capitalize, and capitalize I did!
Cry The Beloved (2005-2006)
I’ll often refer to this game as my magnum opus. Everything about this game just came together in a perfect storm.
It all started when I started collaborating with others. People who played The Coming all of a sudden wanted to help me on this next project. They (rightfully so) pointed out some of the deficiencies I had when it came to game development, mostly having to do with writing/editing. Long time collaborator, Jason Melancon, initially came to the download page to point out some grammar mistakes I had on that page (this was before even playing the game!). We exchanged a bunch of emails, and all of a sudden, I had a lead editor.
As time went on, multiple people joined the team to help out with the writing, such as Phil Carter, who would go on to become the lead writer.
Another long time friend, Oli Ferrando, came on to help out with concept art. I’d say 90% of the art you’ll see on this site is because of her.
And of course, I could never forget about my legion of alpha/beta testers. Hell, I had versions of the game for people to test as early as 3 months in. Getting feedback early on was very integral to the success of Cry The Beloved.
With my team assembled, I pretty much blacked out, and pushed the Aurora Toolset to its breaking point. I just went nuts, adding as much depth to the game as I possibly could. Game length was more than double that of the last game. There were twice as many party members. Multitudes of new special abilities, items, weapons, etc.
Look, I was 25-26 during this time period, and in my prime. I never needed sleep. I worked day and night. I was so focused on this one singular thing, it was unbelievable. The only time I took a break was when I was honored to win the Independent Games Festival best NWN mod of 2006.
After winning that award, I was motivated even more, and pushed myself even harder. 15 months after I had started development, I finally released Cry The Beloved on October 10th, 2006. As with my last game, it was well received, and would end up being ranked #2 overall on the all time list.
Family & Country (2009-2014)
After the release of Cry The Beloved, I was in need of a break. I had been developing games for 30 months straight, and in my entire professional career as a software engineer in New York City (did I miss that part, yeah, I had been working full time since 2004), I had never not been working on a game.
This didn’t last too long, because I was contracted by Ossian Studios to do work on the infamous Mysteries of Westgate. I could write a book about that, but then I’d really be getting off topic. So here’s a decent interview with the CEO of the company, Alan Miranda.
Oh, and then there was the cancelled The Witcher expansion, Scars of Betrayal, that I worked on… Again, won’t spend too much time on it, but here is a thread about that.
Oh hell, let’s just finish off the trifecta with The Shadow Sun. That took a year of my time, if not more.
Anyway… After much time away from Rose of Etrernity, it was time to come back, this time, with the Dragon Age engine. I really, really had high hopes for this toolset. I sort of figured it would pick up where NWN/NWN2 left off. Not as big, but still big enough to make a splash. As time went on, it was pretty clear that things were different. There was much less focus on the toolset, and what was there was difficult to use for most people. It took significantly more time to do damn near everything. Gone were the days of NWN where anyone could just hop in and whip up a level in a few hours. NWN was tiled based, this was terrain based, so you really needed some skill to make good looking areas. You had to worry about lighting. Rendering lights. Baking lights. God, it was just… it was a lot, especially coming from NWN.
But, my pride wouldn’t let me quit. I was proud that I had no abandoned projects to my name (I don’t count The Witcher expansion as that was out of my control).
Other factors contributed to a long and arduous development cycle. I was 29-34 during this time, married, and hell, I just wanted to experience life outside of game development. So there would be long stretches where I didn’t do anything. I wouldn’t give up, but it became more and more “okay” to take days/weeks off at a time.
The biggest gift and curse of this game was, by far, the voice acting. On the one hand, it was nice to be in the 21st century, and have VO. On the other hand, man, it takes a long time to find talent, keep their attention long enough to actually record all the lines, and then hope they’re around if you decided to change some of the dialog in the game. Yep, no more changing dialog willy nilly anymore. All of those decisions now came with the questions of “Well shit, is person X still around?” or “Will I be able to find someone for this role?”. It was just damned hard, overall.
And still, some of the people who ended up voicing the main people in the game really amazed me. Shout out to John Erath, Alexander Baxter, Elise Harris, Marissa Lenti, and everyone else for all the hard work they did on the project, and for their professionalism. It made all the hard work so worth it in the end. And I learned a lot about the process as a whole.
Rounding out this experience was the return of some key members of the Cry The Beloved team, like Oli, Jason, & Kelvin Lu (who had previously written a lot of the lore for the Keeper of the Rose).
In the end, I sucked it up, and eventually pushed out Family & Country... 5 years later… All of the negative stuff aside, I’m still damned proud of this game, and the people that worked on it with me. Especially the advances we made with regards to marketing.
That above video was the culmination of work between myself, Oli Ferrando (lead artist), and Marissa Lenti (voice actor). Man, that thing was like 2-3 years in the making, but when I got the final cut, I damn near cried.
I would go on to produce many other trailers for the game, such as this one, that featured many different scenes and characters talking:
So how did the game do? Well, seeing as the community was mostly dead by the time I released it, it did pretty decent. No where near the numbers of The Coming or Cry The Beloved, but I had resigned myself to that fate like damn near a year into development.
But as I always say, every game I work on just makes me a better game developer, and that will one day pay off soon.
A New Beginning (2016-????)
After the development hell of Family & Country, I needed yet another break. This time, I took 2 years. It actually came at the perfect time, as my daughter was born a few months after the release and we bought a house a year after that. But, if you’ve been paying attention, you’ll know that even if I’m not actively developing, my mind is always going… You know where I’m going with this…
So, here we are, 17 years after Rose of Eternity was born. It’s been one hell of a ride, and it seems like it’s only getting started now. I’ve spent enough of my time bringing this world to life through various Bioware engines, as well as working on other games for other studios. It’s time for me to finally strike out on my own. How will it end up? Who knows. What I do know is that I will live in regret for the rest of my life if I don’t try to do as much as I can. If I fail, so be it. I can at least say that I tried.
Hopefully, I’ll be able to add another chapter to this story in the next few years.