Going in dry

Lord Arioch, creator of Seeds of Chaos, steps in to talk with us about corruption, empowerment, the dark fantasy genre, and his creative process.

If you’ve played his game before, the way Lord Arioch speaks won’t come as any surprise to you. He loves to analyze his own games and others, and is always quick to throw out references to the likes of Kant and Baudelaire. The reason this shouldn’t be surprising is that Seeds of Chaos wears its broad suite of references and inspirations proudly on its sleeves. We got a chance to sit down with Lord Arioch and talk to him about the game firsthand.

LewdGamer: Hello, today we’re here with Lord Arioch, the lead developer of Seeds of Chaos. How are you doing today, Lord Arioch?

Lord Arioch: I’m good, thanks.

LewdGamer: Let’s get started, shall we? What did you do before you decided to enter the field of H-games?

Lord Arioch: Grad school for a number of years working on a PhD in Ethics, then I went out and got a boring office job in the export sector, which I am still unfortunately burdened with.

LewdGamer: Would you say that boredom from said job is a part of what made you decide to make H-games?

Lord Arioch: I suppose to a certain extent. I’ve always wrote and worked on bits of things since I was a child, even during the PhD, and I’ve always loved games since I first played Zelda at four or five years old, so it wasn’t the impetus. But there’s a lot of downtime when things are quiet, which gave me a lot of time to think about it. I did a lot of the blocking for the introduction and some of the earliest code work at my desk when I had nothing else to do.

LewdGamer: Why pick erotic games as opposed to a different genre?

Lord Arioch: Other than the fact that I’m a pervert? I think the Western adult game industry is coming along well, and before starting my own game, I’d played a lot of games that I enjoyed, for example CoC, Princess Maker, The Last Sovereign, etc. I hadn’t played the sort of game that I wanted to play though, so I thought I’d have to make it myself. And from my own point of view, I don’t see it so much as working in a different genre, my aim with the game is to make a good game with adult content, not just a good adult game.

LewdGamer: What sort of game is it that you “wanted to play” in this context?

Lord Arrioch: Well, I’ll use Corruption of Champions as an example, since it was an influence on Seeds of Chaos, even if I’m not particularly interested in the transformation side. In CoC, for those who aren’t familiar, you find yourself transported to a fantasy world, and have to explore, usually leading to a lot of semi-interactive sex with the creatures who inhabit it. I always enjoyed playing it, but I wanted there to be more of the fantasy stuff, more of a coherent story outside of the dungeons, and less sex, which sounds silly for an adult game I know. I think of my game, or I am aiming at really, sort of halfway between a typical H-game and DnD. I suppose I’m looking for the golden mean somewhere between adventuring and boning.

LewdGamer: Since we’re already talking about it, let’s shift the topic to Seeds of Chaos. For readers who might not have played the game, what is Seeds of Chaos about?

Lord Arioch: Seeds of Chaos is a dark fantasy eroge about a hero who is forced to work for the demonic twin children of the demon lord that he and his fellow heroes defeated. It combines a number of elements from visual novels, role playing, and light management sim games.

LewdGamer: Can you describe the gameplay for  us in bit more detail?

Lord Arioch: Sure, the game really consists of three different central parts; modular events in which the player has to make decisions, an exploration phase in which the player has to traverse a hex map, and a castle management sim in which the player has to manage things like the treasury, troop morale, etc. In order to progress, the player has to navigate all three to please his demon masters, and avoid other misfortunes.

LewdGamer: How much of the gameplay has been developed at present? What elements are in the works?

Lord Arioch: There’s a solid core in place now, and we are in the process of building on top of it. The game runs about two to three hours now, in a vertical fashion so to speak, so we have a little space to work on things like adding more events, and introducing non-gameplay features like an log for events and an in game codex.

We are currently working on a number of other gameplay elements we will be adding in the near future though. The next one is spying, which offers an alternative way to capture resources (as opposed to military force), and that’ll be followed by monster breeding. Further on the horizon, we have plans to add the ability to assign NPCs jobs within the castle, as well as raidable monster lairs, and fearsome nemesis’ that target the player. So, a lot of stuff planned!

LewdGamer: What does the development team structure for Seeds of Chaos look like?

Lord Arioch: Essentially it is just me and a group of subcontractors. I oversee everything, while Dark Master does a lot of the writing, and helps out on game design. On the art front, I commission sprites, backgrounds, map tiles, and CGs from a group of four different artists. There’s also a programmer who helps out on the stuff in python that is beyond me.

LewdGamer: The lead artist is Hikari Yumiya, correct?

Lord Arioch: He did a lot of the early design work, and the non-H CGs that you see in game. Since I’ve had to focus on assets and H-CGs, I haven’t been able to get a lot from him lately though, unfortunately. I’ve said, jokingly, I’m probably the only one who cares about those CGs, but I think they really add to the atmosphere of the game.

LewdGamer: Seeds of Chaos has a reputation as having high-tier artwork. How much of your focus, at least in the early days, was on your aesthetic?

Lord Arioch: I definitely wanted it to look good. The general level has gotten better in the two years since I originally started making the game, but back then the standard of art in Western games wasn’t great. I thought if I could make something that looked better than most other games, it’d help it stand out.

LewdGamer: Have you had any difficulties paying for work of such quality?

Lord Arioch: I subsidized it mostly with my wages, but at the moment the company is running with a five figure debt. It has now reached the level where it is sustainable, and hopefully the game will eventually take off and I’ll be able to claw that money back.

LewdGamer: Do you wish you’d made economic decisions different in those early days?

Lord Arioch: I expected it, probably not to the level it reached, but there’s risk in any enterprise. Given the choice, I don’t think I’d do it again.

LewdGamer: Do you have a favorite art piece that you commissioned for the game? If so, what’s your favorite piece in the game at present? And why is it your favorite?

Lord Arioch: There’s a CG that appears quite early in the game, when Rowan arrives at the gates of the demons’ castle, and it rises above him. Probably, that one, because it perfectly captures the atmosphere I wanted.

LewdGamer: What atmosphere is that?

Lord Arioch: Foreboding, but more the inevitability of a return. A sort of nostalgia, in the sense of the Homeric Greek words used to form the compound (the nostos of home, and the algos of grief/sorrow).

LewdGamer: The game’s narrative is pretty dark and foreboding as well. What are some of the influences you’ve drawn from for the game’s story?

Lord Arioch: In terms of fantasy literature, a mix of epic, heroic, pulp, and low, and dark strands of the genre. Moorcock, obviously hence the name, but also Leiber, Howard, Erikson, and Cook to name a few. Also, Miura’s Berserk is a big influence, as is The Witcher series, and Dark Souls as players will see later.

LewdGamer: How much detail did you put into setting development?

Lord Arioch: Quite a bit. M. John Harrison, who wrote Viriconium, once referred to worldbuilding as “the great clomping foot of nerdism,” and he wasn’t really wrong, you can go too far I think, but you need enough to go on. You should probably have some idea of how a kingdom’s economy might work in theory, for example, but if you start working it out in detail you are probably way down the rabbit hole.

LewdGamer: The rabbit hole, eh? It’s surprising Carol isn’t one of your influences, considering its size.

Lord Arioch: We’re all mad here, I suppose. You never know, you might see a vorpal sword or two.

LewdGamer: Anyway, we’ve discussed the setting, and the art, but we are talking right now on LewdGamer. That begs the question, how important would you say that the eroticism is to the story?

Lord Arioch: I certainly think it is very important. Two of the game’s central themes are corruption, and mastery (over others), both in which sex plays a rather large point.

LewdGamer: What types sexual content can players of you game expect from the current build? What types do you plan to include more in the future?

Lord Arioch: At the moment there’s vanilla, gay, maledom, femdom, futa, and NTR content. In future we’ll be adding quite a bit of monster sex, and as the corruption options ramp up, stuff like prostitution, humiliation, public use, etc. I should also add all content is currently optional, and that’ll continue to be the case throughout development. It’ll be entirely possible to reach the end of the game without seeing any, should a person choose.

LewdGamer: Corruption is one of the major erotic themes of your game. What makes corruption erotic for you?

Lord Arioch: A Catholic upbringing? Jokes aside, I suppose it is the thought of seeing something pure and beautiful become ruined. Baudelaire has a poem about a carcass on a similar theme.

LewdGamer: Your game has gotten flack from some corners for prominently featuring NTR of the Male protagonist and Male on Male with the protagonist in the submissive role. How do you feel about that reaction from parts of the player base? Do you have anything to say to people who consider Seeds of Chaos a “cuck” game?

Lord Arioch: It is a bit hard to take that stuff seriously when it is optional. I mean, to see the NTR content, you have to turn off the filter I added to stop people being triggered, and make very obvious choices that lead to the events. Essentially they are cucking themselves and yelling “cuck” at me because of it. As for the gay content, people are very cynical when you try to avoid a wide range of stuff as if it were a money grab, but if that were the case, I’d be making a 3DCG incest game and not one that costs a fortune in art. I just want different people to enjoy playing the game, and sexuality is a spectrum anyway.

LewdGamer: A more charitable reading of the complaints is that some players feel disempowered by the game, because of elements such as your lover being taken from you and being forced to work for demons. Do you see the sexual fantasy of your game as empowering or disempowering?

If it’s the latter, what do you see as the role of disempowerment in erotica? If it’s the former, why do you feel it’s empowering fundamentally?

Lord Arioch: That’s a very interesting question. I’m not convinced it is an either/or situation myself. Take the rapiest of fantasy protagonists for example, Rance. While he might go around having his way with all the women in the world, most of the time I can’t help but feel the games are poking fun at him. I don’t know if my game is disempowering, but it does start with you at the bottom, and there’s a point to this — to interrogate the price of gaining power. I know there’s a group of people who just want to fuck everything and that is fine, but the people I’m making the game for will probably spend some time seriously pondering when power is offered whether it is worth the cost.

LewdGamer: So then, would you say your game is empowering, but it asks for a level of work and investment that is higher than some of its contemporaries to reach that point?

Lord Arioch: Yeah, I’m not saying they are never going to be able to kill Andras for example, but they aren’t going to be able to do it after a few months at level three.

LewdGamer: Moving on, your game seemingly has been influential to some other creators of dark fantasy literary H-games such as Claire’s Quest and the in-progress Eternal Feast. Defining factors include higher quality art and similar themes. Do you see your work reflected in their output?

Lord Arioch: I don’t know if I’ve influenced anyone so much as it is a setting that lends itself well to this sort of thing, there’s quite a lot of fantasy based hentai after all. If my work is convincing others to have higher quality art though, I think that is a good thing,

LewdGamer: Where do you feel the Western H-game genre is moving? What are the big trends you see?

Lord Arioch: Well, with all the money Nutaku is investing, I think we’ll probably starting seeing a lot more shorter completed games and free games with a pay for extras element. In terms of trends, the big one at the moment seems to be incest.

LewdGamer: Why do you say incest is the current trend?

Lord Arioch: The impression I get from the community is those are the things that are making a lot of money in a short amount of time over on Patreon; Dating My Daughter, Big Brother, etc.

LewdGamer: To you, what’s the most exciting part of working in the medium? What is it you love most about H-games?

Lord Arioch: It sounds cheesy I know, but it is probably when people tell me how much they enjoyed the game. It’d be great if the actual process of making games was more exciting, but it is mostly sitting in a room alone typing, and when the game is ready to release, you can’t really play it yourself, so the only real sense of achievement you can feel is from other people liking it.

As for what I love, can I say boobs? No, but in all seriousness it is probably that we are all a group of very different people doing this because we want to. Sure, there’s a handful of people making a boatload of money, but there’s also a lot of passionate people trying to make good stuff for others to fap to.

LewdGamer: You’ve been clear that one you finish making this version of the game you want to make other versions, correct?

Lord Arioch: I’d like to make a dungeon crawler with a female main character, Helayna, who is already in the game, as well as a stat heavy slave trainer more in the vein of Princess Maker than Princess Trainer.

LewdGamer: Do you have any idea what you want to do after the well of Seeds of Chaos based content runs dry?

Lord Arioch: I’m a great admirer of Yasumi Matsuno, so maybe a (non-H) strategy RPG, but at this rate that is probably at least a decade off.

LewdGamer: To conclude, do you have any advice or lessons from your own development process that you’d like to share?

Lord Arioch: The best thing, really, I’ve found, is to treat it like a real job. Set deadlines and meet them, even if you don’t feel like working, do the work. Realize from the start there’ll be times when it isn’t going to be fun, or things aren’t going as well as you hoped, but you just have to push through. Also make a budget and stick to it (unless you want a lot of debt), and learn to sort useful criticism from the more useless kind. Try and find other people who will keep you motivated, and lastly, take some time for yourself if you need it. You get breaks in real jobs, this should be no different.

LewdGamer: Thanks for speaking with us today, Lord Arioch.

Lord Arioch: Thanks for having me.

Lord Arioch is the leader of Venus Noire. The team maintains a website that houses updates to the game, which can be found here . Latest versions of the game, as well as backer rewards and newer builds can all be found over at the team’s Patreon.

Remember to follow LewdGamer on our official Twitter  and Tumblr accounts for more interviews with fascinating people from both the Western and Eastern sphere of the adult industry.

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