Bringing Strong Female Characters to Life: Interview with ChronoBlade Developers Joya and Jordan Patz
The ChronoBlade crew – image courtesy of nWay Games
Quick, think of your favorite female video game character!
Now, ponder these questions about said character: Does she wear a bow? Is she dressed in pink? Would her figure be proportionally impossible for an actual human?
If you answer yes to any of the above, it doesn’t necessarily guarantee that the character was borne of sexist ideology. But unfortunately, that’s usually the case. Bows, pink clothing, voluptuous figures — all are great in real life, but the systematic usage of these tropes in the media is insidious, and can be damaging to how women are viewed.
With that in mind, it’s always extra awesome to come across a dynamic fictional female — one whom you’d respect and definitely want on your side. Imagine my excitement, then, when I discovered that in ChronoBlade — an online, free-to-play action role playing game developed by nWay Games — there are actually two strong female characters!
In the Multiverse of ChronoBlade, the evil Chronarch Imperium is set on the annihilation of all other worlds and their citizens. In the face of this threat, a band of four heroes from different dimensions forms to fight against the Chronarchs’ rampage. These four are the playable characters in the game, and include heroines Lophi and Thera. Developing their unique skills and learning their personalities, players can explore the Multiverse and learn how to battle and best the Chronarchs.
Far from fitting into stereotypes, Lophi and Thera are characters with distinct personalities, a variety of skills, and non-exploited figures.
Lophi – image courtesy of nWay Games
GeekGirlCon had the honor of interviewing two of ChronoBlade’s developers about the process of creating Lophi and Thera, and how they hope these two heroines will impact fans of this rad role-playing game.
Artist Joya Patz, armed with a BAS in Visual Effects and a passion for art, has battled her way through the fantastical lands of film and next-gen gesture technology, to finally find a home in games. Using her past knowledge of the strange and arcane, she creates astonishing combat and environmental visual effects. She currently works at nWay as their Senior VFX Artist.
A veteran designer of hybrid games, artist Jordan Patz has created several projects based on new game models or involving experimental hardware as well as the usual faire of FPS games, RPGs, and arcade style games. When he is not rebuilding vintage arcade cabinets he writes story, designs systems and builds content for ChronoBlade.
GeekGirlCon: What do you believe makes a strong female character? How about a strong male character? In what ways are they similar, and are there ways in which they differ?
Jordan: “For both male and female characters, strong internal motivations and a cohesive personality is what gives them the strength we look for in our heroes. Although recognizable hero stereotypes inevitably come with assumptions concerning their characteristics, often the “strongest” characters are the ones that defy their archetype. In building our characters we always attempt to create dynamic but cohesive characters with internal struggle.
For example, Thera is the group’s tactician and leader on the ground. She’s merciless, totally bent on destroying the Chronarchs no matter the cost. But in her time with the Pact she starts to feel connected to them. She sees there’s something worth protecting there beyond their value as fighters against the Chronarchs. Now she’ll have to chose when to risk their lives for the end goal.
Lophi, for all her childishness, is no less a strong character. Her laughter hides the shame of knowing that some of what’s wrong in the multiverse is her fault. She let loose a destructive force that is ravaging the multiverse. She will have to hide that fact from her Pact allies or risk being turned away.”
Lophi in her armor – image courtesy of nWay Games
GeekGirlCon: What led to the decision to feature two playable female characters and two playable male characters in Chronoblade?
Jordan: “ChronoBlade is a game about wildly different realities fighting together, so naturally we wanted to give players the most diverse options as characters. We built our four initial characters to be the types of characters we wanted to play, not just in terms of combat but also for an interesting character makeup within a team. Aurok is our gruff stoic hero, Lophi is our energetic, enthusiastic and enigmatic hero, Lucas our playboy-rogue, and Thera our tough, military-trained tactician. Together they form a family that will never be boring, especially considering what the multiverse has to throw at them.”
GeekGirlCon: What challenges did you face in creating the female characters’ battle strengths and weaknesses? Did the challenges differ in degree at all from constructing the males?
Joya: “For all of our characters, we strove to define their battle mechanics more on their origin stories and weapons than on their genders. Lophi, being a portal-jumping, shadow summoner, has high speed and more AOEs than her teammates, but also less power. Thera, being a high-ranking Minoan military general, is one of the most powerful characters on her team, but lacks the speed that Lophi and Lucas possess. The male champions were constructed in the same fashion, their Power to Speed ratio matching what you would expect from their back stories and weaponry.”
Thera – image courtesy of nWay Games
GeekGirlCon: What challenges were faced in creating the female characters’ physical traits? Was the process significantly different from those for the males?
Joya: “ChronoBlade is a Multiplayer, Side-Scrolling ARPG with many enemies and VFXs constantly appearing on screen, so it was critical to gameplay to give our characters strong silhouettes that vastly differ from each other. We wanted each character’s physical traits, at least in part, to emphasize some of their personality and fighting styles. Thera is the tall, muscular, and proud Amazonian spear-wielder, while Aurok is the battle-hardened, ultra-calloused, Viking pugilist.”
GeekGirlCon: How did you avoid over-sexualizing or pigeon-holing the female characters?
Joya: “With ChronoBlade, we set out to make a fun and unique experience for players, from combat to narrative. We put a lot of time and effort into developing each character and how they would fit into the larger picture as the story progresses. None of us likes one dimensional characters, male or female. Lophi and Thera were not created to fill a required character trope, but are integral to the evolving story line. These are not princesses that need rescuing, but two champions on the path to save the multiverse.”
Thera in her armor – image courtesy of nWay Games
GeekGirlCon: Are there any video game characters from your childhood that you feel have influenced your adulthood? How do you hope the characters you have created in ChronoBlade will influence players of the game?
Jordan: “Samus from Metroid was always a favorite of mine, especially early in her saga. There was something eye opening when I found out the silent, blaster wielding, power-armored hero, scorching their way through the darkest, least hospitable alien world imaginable, wasn’t a boy.
The characters in ChronoBlade are more than just archetypes; their backgrounds and personal perspectives are reflected in their attacks, the equipment they wear, as well as the choices they’ll make through the story. We hope Thera and Lophi will be remembered by our players as the nuanced personalities they are rather than as often happens: the tall one and the short one.
I often hear kids talking about their favorite characters on buses. Someday I hope to hear: ‘Lophi is my favorite, she’s such a kid under all her crazy powers. She’s always laughing while she beats up monsters. A little creepy too, I can’t wait to see her world!’ That’s the ultimate win.”
Lophi dominating! – Image courtesy of nWay Games
GeekGirlCon: What do you hope that players will get out of having not only a wide variety of characters and traits to play, but out of these specific characters?
Jordan: We hope that all our characters include something unique, endearing and memorable. Although they have huge hands, cast spells, and punch the faces off horrific beasties, they have human motivations. They’ll all change over the course of ChronoBlade’s narrative, not all for the better, but always for plausible reasons. We hope our players can connect with them on some level even as they slash their way through the multiverse, one step at a time, on a gore-paved road of their own construction.”
Thanks so much, Joya and Jordan, for sharing your insight and talents with us, and cheers to everyone at nWay Games for these fantastic female characters! It’s truly encouraging to see ladies like these kicking butt and setting higher standards for video games across the board.
Now that you know how quality Lophi and Thera are, go have a blast playing the game!
Interested in scoring some Chronoblade swag? Stay tuned for details of a merch giveaway at an upcoming GeekGirlCon event! In the meantime, get ready to learn about and spend time with more admirable women by picking up your passes to GeekGirlCon ‘14!