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One lesser-known fact about me, is that I am a worldbuilder.... of sorts. I am also a man with many plans, and sadly without the time - or willpower - to execute said plans, so those plans typically remain fantasies within my head, until I eventually forget about them.
Most worldbuilders typically craft multiple worlds. I may have crafted several, but I forgot about all of them, except one. That one, is my passion-project, and it's 12 years old, as of 2021. I have never profited in any way, shape or form from its existence, and I would have to re-shape a lot of things if I were to do that.
However, if a miracle happens - if I cease being a wageslave - then there is a chance that my passion project might actually net me some profits in the future (in the form of a novel or a video game). But how did it even begin?
Join me, as I explore the origins and history of my passion projecet, and lay some aspects of it to rest.
I have had an interest in both (medieval) fantasy and sci-fi for a very long time. Probably since I was a little child. I loved movies like Braveheart, Lord of the Rings and Star Wars. I also liked anime, such as Slayers, Inuyasha and Yu Yu Hakusho. Additionally, I played video games, like Doom, Quake, Wolfenstein 3D, Duke Nukem 3D, Heretic, Might and Magic, Heroes of Might and Magic, Stronghold, Stronghold Crusader, etc.
Roughly the same time my family got an Internet connection for the first time, I also palyed The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion.
Roughly, around the same time, I discovered a website named G-Portal. It allowed - and still allows - people to create their own.... ahem.... portal of sorts, for a small price. Most such portals featured a guestbook, a gallery, a forum, and some static HTML pages. Most G-Portal sites were fansites, revolving around bands, movie series or video games. Some were personal blogs of sorts. Some of them - including several of my poor attempts at a website - were basically glorified virtual pet simulators attempting to - and miserably failing at - competing with more sophisticated equivalents, such as TeveClub (Camel Club). I could write a whole article and rise and fall of the text-based virtual pet simulators of the Hungarian Internet, and trust me, one day, I will (and I did). But long story short, many people with no programming knowledge - including me at the time - used G-Portal as a platform for creating yet another poor man's version of a turn-based RPG.
Eventually, I switched from these G-Portal based virtual pet simulators, to forum-based roleplaying games. I joined several, and created several - all of which failed to attract even a single player. I no longer even remember what where they about. All I remember is that one was a loose adaptation of Doom, and another one revolved around some circus and Alice Cooper.
However, two of which I joined - Alternate World and the Age of Boulderons - had a profound influence on me and my later works, while at the same time, I was experiment with different kinds of settings.
The two FRPGs I mentioned are also important, because that was the place where I would meet several people who would aid me in my initial efforts of building up Ways of Darkness.
It all started with me and Kriszta(Christina) getting bored of our Doom FRPG - which was dying to begin with - and deciding to return to our roots and create a Medieval Fantasy FRPG. I got to know Kriszta on the Age of Boulderons, along with Yasami, who joined us from the start - he was mostly responsible for creating the locations.
Admittedly, we were off to a less than stellar start: after writing down all the necessary rules on how to RP, I started by plagiarizing the descriptions of the races (Humans, High Elves, Wood Elves, Dark Elves, Orcs, Goblins, Ogres, Dwarves, Gnomes, Halflings), classes (Warrior, Thief, Cleric, Druid, Ranger, Knight/Paladin, Inquisitor) and the 9 alignments (Lawful / Neutral / Chaotic + Good / Neutral / Evil) from random wikis and Hungarian RPG sites. The description of the Goblins was basically copied from Alternate World, originally written by László Dornfeld, "augmented" by some parts copied from Warhammer Fantasy. This was followed by me and Kriszta coming up with the names of the states for each race: Etrand for the Humans (as well as Dwarven, Gnomish and Halfling minorities), Froturn for the High Elves, Dragoc for the Wood Elves, Brutang for the Orcs, etc. Kriszta also came up with Neressa, a racially heterogenous, cosmopolitan "pocket-empire" (city-state ruled by an "Emperor"). Then came the cities. Then we filled out the creatures, with me taking heavy inspiration from the (Heroes of) Might and Magic series for the Demons, making them have a caste system that goes from Imps to Devils, with Horned Demons, Incubi, Succubi and Ifrits in between.
It wasn't truly unique, but rather a mish-mash of different Medieval Fantasy, High Fantasy and Dark Fantasy influences. I also drew a horrible world map, that is now, for better or worse, lost to history. It was terrible to begin with, so Kriszta drew something better to replace it.
During late February, 2010, I began writing the history of the world, establishing a calendar, and establishing that the canonical date at the FRPG was set was 831 years after the foundation of the Kingdom of Etrand, using that kingdom's creation as the world's equivalent of Jesus Christ's birth, the epoch to which every date was compared.
Arguably, the very first thing that made Ways of Darkness slightly unique was the fact, that Humans are Elves. That's right, in Ways of Darkness, the Proto-Elves split into the High Elves, Wood Elves and Humans - the Orcs and Dark Elves came into existence later.
In late February, 2010, terrible news reached my ears: ProBoards was removing non-English message boards! I originally wanted to prefix the verb "removing" with "allegedly", but then I remembered that some French-language message boards were in fact removed. So, we began packing our bags and moving to another place - Forumotion, a phpBB2-based platform. The original ProBoards forum was actually never removed (until I deleted it in the October of 2020).
We completed the migration by the April of 2010. However, this was more than just a migration.
We rewrote the descriptions of the races and classes to make them more detailed and less blatantly plagiarized. Kawazoe - the administrator of Alternate World - came to my help to make the descriptions of the religions. With the help of Roland Heim, the descriptions of weapons were added.
The lore was expanded - new races (e.g. the Nereids) were added, the Kingdom of Etrand received a list of kings, the history was slightly revamped with a chronology added, a few new classes were added, several locations were expanded or completely revamped, etc. Basically, it was a leap comparable to the leap from The Elder Scrolls I-II: Arena and Daggerfall to The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, with the lore really taking shape.
Out of the 28 legacy stories, 26 - which is to say, all of them except the First Play and Stranglehold - took part on this new phpBB2 forum. The bulk of these - almost half of them - took place in 2010. In the same year, I also created an English version of the FRPG, but it didn't attract any players at all.
In the Spring of 2013, Mónika Sebestyén joined the team, contributing a bit to the lore, contributing a new skill, and bringing with her a few players. Her presence brought a brief revival to the forum that was effectively dead in 2012.
Eventually, in 2014, activity dropped again, and the last true legacy roleplaying sessions were in 2014 and 2015. After that, the forum simply died. In the Spring of 2020, Kriszta and I decided to have one more roleplaying session, but that did not end well...
In the end, in the October of 2020, I decided to lay the forum to a rest. I deleted the message board. Of course, before doing that, I archived everything, and put all the archives up to my Wiki, with the roleplaying ones being here, the non-roleplaying ones here and here.
However, the death of the forum was not the death of the franchise, not by a long shot.
I have had ambitions to expand the Ways of Darkness franchise from its FRPG roots into something bigger from the very start. However, I did not know any programming yet, and did not bother to learn it yet.
It wasn't exactly my first attempt at putting Ways of Darkness into a video game - my only finished game to date, Alternate World - a loose adaptation of the forum - had a good deal of the endgame set in Artograch, the world of Ways of Darkness.
Sadly, Emergence of Darkness was never finished. The story got nowhere, I had no idea how to continue, and simply lost interest in it.
In the exact same year - 2012 - I tried once again, this time naming the game just Ways of Darkness. All the videos can be seen on this playlist.
Once again, it fell flat. I had everything handed to me. I had voice actors working for free. I had a composer working for me. And yet, I failed. Why? Because I was the one writing the story, and this is the department I wasn't receiving much aid in. And alas, I simply lost my ability to continue the story, lost my interest in continuing, and it flopped. If only I was in contact with Roland - he and his friends could have came up with something.
This project had an even better start than the previous: this time, I was wise enough not to go onto the voice acting forums and open my project for auditions, knowing that voice acting will have to be the very least thing the game will have. Instead, I focused on features. For aid with the story, I gathered a large group of weeaboos, and also the aforementioned Mónika Sebestyén. Just about every character from the original FRPG would have made an appearence as a playable companion / party member.
I basically had a whole crew: I had Zsolt Ábrahám composing music. I had my trusty team of weebs - and Mónika - giving me ideas for the story. Yet, despite all our ambitious plans.... nothing happened. All that I produced were basically tech demos, if you can even call them that.
This is the part where I make a confession: I'm not just a worldbuilder, but also a roleplayer. Okay, that part doesn't need much confessing, as I just showed you plenty of roleplaying logs. But what I neglected to mention, that I didn't keep Stephanus Tavilrond confined to the FRPG and its attempted adaptations. Oh no. I took him outside too, erotic roleplaying sites like F-List, to various Facebook, Google+ and MeWe roleplaying groups, etc.
Aside from distorting and contorting poor Stephanus's characteristics and personality to roleplay on those platforms, there was another problem: where to store all the information? Where would I point people to, when they wanted to learn more about Stephanus and the world he inhabited?
At first, I simply linked to the English translation of the FRPG. Eventually, however, at some roleplaying website, someone recommended that I create a Wiki. In hindsight, World Anvil would have sufficed for my originally intended purposes, but that didn't even exist back in 2015. Thus, the Ways of Darkness Wiki went live, originally on Wikia (later renamed Fandom), but then moved to a site hosted by a friend of mine in early 2016.
The period between the July of 2015 and November of 2015 saw a great expansion of the lore, mostly thanks to László Dornfeld, who breathed new life into the history of the world and the characterization of several historical figures, such as King Bryant I of Etrand - before Dornfeld's intervention, all we knew about said king was that he was the husband of the previous king's only daughter, but Dornfeld gave it a whole new spin, by creating an exciting story about an impoverished nobleman climbing up the ladder in the royal court and winning a civil war on queen's behalf. Even though Dornfeld left the team acrimoniously in November - due to the way I mistreated him, much to my regret - his presence was a huge inspiration for both me and Kriszta to expand upon the lore. And that we did.
The leap forward may have been more gradual than sudden (taking place in 5 real-life years instead of just three months), but it was nevertheless a great leap comparable to the one we took during the transition from Proboards to phpBB2. Languages were given phonologies. Religions were given even more detail, e.g. their attitudes towards sexuality. Non-playable historical characters were fleshed out. The histories of kingdoms were fleshed out. Individual battles were given attention. The world had come alive.
For one.... the world itself got expanded heavily in all its dimensions.
At first, this expansion was adding just one new continent: the eastern one, with Dornfeld planning to fill it with the "Ling Empire" (inspired by China), the Argyrian Empire and some kind of Greco-Persian Empire. Because he left, I took up the mantle, replacing the Lings with the Shár, but also adding the Týrýng Empire, Pepetoka city-states, etc..
Ever since 2016ish, I have been the de facto sole creator of the world. Kriszta is now semi-retired and only occasionally gives me advice, Roland Heim and Zsolt Ábrahám still occasionally give me advice, Mónika Sebestyén is long gone, Richárd Képes de facto quit due to my feud with him, etc. It would be great to have Kriszta and László Dornfeld back, but the earlier is sadly struggling with work just as much as I am, while the latter is probably still unwilling to forgive me for mistreating him, and even if he did, the best I can hope for is the burial of the hatchet, not getting back a contributor.
Still, ever since that, Ways of Darkness has went through a transformation. It got further and further away from its roots as a generic Medieval Fantasy world, and got more and more unique quirks and little touches that made it feel like a crafted world, it also got Steampunk elements, elements of speculative fiction, etc. Ways of Darkness was no longer a generic fantasy world - it was a worldbuilding project that merely had that appearance on the surface, but underneath, more and more things were changing.
Some time around 2017, I established the Ways of Darkness Discord group. I don't remember much activity that went on it, but I do remember, that in late 2020, I merged it with two of my other Discord groups, to create a new group that combines them all: Dēmiourgoí Kósmōn.
Out of these, Snapjelly even reviewed the swords I modelled for Ways of Darkness!
Due to their influence, focus shifted towards realism, but this came with problems: I had to tip-toe and make sure that in my quest for realism and believability, I didn't complete trip over and uproot the pre-existing lore - after all, by that time, Ways of Darkness was a 7-10 years old franchise, and lore is like a house of cards - you can't just take out something and replace it, it will simply collapse.
So ever since that time, I have been trying to delicately balance realism and compatibility with the pre-existing lore, carefully and conservatively modifying the latter.
My Demiourgoi Kósmón is a semi-active Discord server. I have at least one friend who is giving me ideas for the setting. I have another who encouraged me to adapt the Jorge-Kshabdalim Saga to a novel.
While sadly, I still lack the time it takes to truly dedicate myself to my passion-project, this Discord group has given me a new hope, and I occasionally edit the lore here and there, gradually shaping it. Perhaps on this Discord, I shall find the replacement for the contributors I lost. Perhaps Ways of Darkness will rise again.
A lot of people - usually childless women - call their pets their "children". Daenerys Targaryen from Game of Thrones called her dragons her children. As cliché'd as it sounds, Ways of Darkness is my child. It never earned me a single penny, but I have nurtured it since 2009, and I simply cannot let go of it - it is my child, and I will continue to cherish it until the day I die, swearing to one day establish it as a franchise.
Currently, due to being a full-time worker working 40-hour workweeks, I have no ambitions to revive the forum, no time to write a novel or work on any video game, and only limited time to truly work my setting. I even retired from roleplaying, more or less, and will likely remain retired until the nightmare ends (which is to say: until I win the lottery, make it big with crypto, make it big with read.cash, the Hungarian government decides to implement Universal Basic Income for some reason, or something else that frees me from the chains of wageslavery).
Not sure if I truly have what it takes to lay Stephanus Tavilrond to rest, but I'll try to lay a tribute to all the fond memories I had, both on the forum and outside of it.