What can be done in 24 hours, or less?

Where else would you find a junior in college during the Fall Back dates than in her room, wrapping up a solo game project after fourteen hours straight of looking at a computer screen? It was sometime after 2AM when I called it good so I could rest, but would I do it again? Absolutely. This was my first Hackathon experience, and although I opted to do it remotely, it was still incredible. I thank my friends for helping in that and keeping me sane—I likely would’ve been worse if it had just been me left to my own thoughts for fourteen hours. And what was it that had me practically glued in place, my mother had asked. Here I am to provide a more in-depth answer of the posted Off-Aura project. For this Hackathon, we were allowed to have an idea to go into it, so long as we didn’t start the actual hacking before noon on Saturday. I knew I wanted to make a game, and I wanted it to be an original idea specifically for this experience. The first thing that crossed my mind and stuck was what I would end up sticking with—the player is a character who could see everyone else’s auras. These auras are similar to fingerprints in that there has never been two of the same shade. Certainly, there are many oranges, greens, blues, purples, reds, yellows, and so on. But they have never been exactly the same, so the character claims at the beginning. There isn’t any patterns to be seen by the colors correlating to their individual, except one of potential interest. At the start, the character identifies the more translucent auras tend to indicate more “dangerous” individuals. Now, if you haven’t played through it yet and would like to without spoilers, I advise doing so now. The rest of this blog dives into more of my world-building that happened into the later hours of the night, and I wouldn’t want to ruin anything. You’re able to go to it here.

What the player may come to realize after their first, second, third, whatever playthrough of this game, is that even the identified pattern may be off. It is true that in past experiences, our character has witnessed dangerous events around translucent auras (accidents, fights, etc.), but that isn’t to say that those people are inherently dangerous. It is no clearer than us trying to find patterns within dangerous people in our world, or trying to come to quick conclusions without diving deeper into a given situation. Those with translucent auras are much like our character—they’re the ones with other magical abilities. Throughout the adventure, in different sequences, we meet a pyromancer, necromancer, hydromancer, phonomancer, biomancer, and astromancer. They know each other, had a falling out, and were split in groups of three. The former are the genuine “good,” trying to fix the problems caused by the latter. However, based on formal prejudice alone, there is a chance that the character (wrongfully) determines the pyromancer to be malicious and the biomancer to be not. And why?

The biomancer was able to absorb life essence, souls, to increase his power, and as a byproduct, make his aura opaquer. The pyromancer’s raw and translucent aura can put the player off if they listen to all that they know from the beginning, despite the signs that they may actually be benevolent through their actions and acceptance of their mistakes. I want to make it clear, this decision wasn’t meant to be easily determined right or wrong. There are a lot of arguments to be made that neither are “trustworthy” and I agree—it can be difficult to put trust into anyone in such a chaotic time. Either side could’ve been the manipulating one. Both of them could’ve been. But the overarching focus of this stems from what you decide is the most likely to help. So, do you choose the translucent aura because the person actually seems like they’re willing to own up to what they did and have shown they want to help, or do you choose the opaque aura because you’ve never met one that’s been dangerous before?

Breaking out of habit, challenging what we know, it can all be a near-impossible process. We may not want to do it at all. But our choice matters. Just as it does in this game.

You are led to believe that the pyromancer causes all this strife. Burning down houses and turning people into statues. Why would the writer include that if they weren’t bad? They’re certainly shaping up to be that way. Not without bringing up the question…how would pyromancers go about “graying out” someone’s auras and turning them into cold statues? But they also have the aura thing! And so there must be something there. …Except, if there’s actually not. In some of the branches, it’s discovered that our character is actually what I determined as a “psychemancer.” It has to do with the soul and with auras. Their aura is opaquer throughout the story, and I would like to think that is because they didn’t know exactly the extent of their abilities. They were more confined, more closed in than the raging, chaotic auras of the other usual -mancers. For they have found a particular freedom the player did not yet. The only way they unlock this freedom is in the good ending.

Because in the bad ending the character survives in, they still don’t know. The biomancer certainly isn’t going to say anything—and is content with keeping you in that cage. You serve your purpose in identifying the other translucent auras, the others that could pose a direct threat, and that is how far it goes. Although I didn’t get to hit on too much of the different -mancers’ capabilities, I felt it was important to divulge the ones I sort of…made my own. It wasn’t until someone else said something to me that I acknowledged it, but the concept of phonomancers is legitimately terrifying. Someone who could mimic sounds, control what’s heard, what’s not…no thanks! I’m good. Our astromancer’s main showcase was manipulating gravitational fields, but I would also like to point out there is definitely at least one star correlated thing they’d be able to do. Even if I didn’t show it—I think pulling abilities from constellations would be an interesting concept to dive into. Maybe in a future adaptation or another project. The more I wrote about this one, the more ideas that I could play into. Remember that not everything is as it seems, and sometimes making the difficult decision of which stranger to trust more is necessary.