Friday, January 13, 2012

Who We Are

I call myself Aura. But that's not who I am.

Aura is nothing but a name for me compartmentalizing myself. There's nothing special about that, of course. Everyone does that every day, in many different situations. An internet persona is just a very concrete example, one that I like. Most people who know me as Aura don't know much about my "real life", and most people I deal with in real life don't know who Aura is. Look at my twitter account. It's not mine, it's Aura's. People who follow it are people who know me as Aura, and I follow only people I know as Aura with it. Look at the illustration above. Aura even has a face of its own, a cute anime girl, the result of our capricious artists thinking that I definitely should be moe.

Identity and the separation of "personality" from "person" are some interesting things to think about. This project brought together a lot of different people from different walks of life, all around the world. We've had to get accustomed to each other, to cooperate, to meld ourselves into a team instead of a collection of random people on the internet. Along the way, a whole lot of things have happened.

We've graduated from schools, enrolled in new ones, found new jobs and gotten promoted in old ones. The youngest of us have grown up, the oldest have become even older. We've fallen in love and had our hearts broken. We've made new friends, we've gotten married and had children. We've seen seasons change and celebrated birthdays, Christmases and New Years.

We've also written scenes, drawn CGs, composed music, coded functions. We've debated, argued, discussed, theorized. We've fought with each other and we've made up. We've seen people depart and we've seen new people come aboard. We've celebrated milestones and releases, worried about setbacks, tracked progress and pushed ourselves forward endlessly.

For five years we've lived parallel lives. We've shared some bits of these things with each other, and shared some bits of our experiences with KS with real life friends. But our two lives are still parallel. Being in 4LS has been a part of my life, yet somehow apart from it. Maybe it's been a similar experience to the rest of us, maybe not.

So, who are the Four Leaf Studios? These people I've been with for five years and done all these things with? We've traditionally been quite private about ourselves and stayed out of the spotlight. So it might be that maybe even I don't really know, but I can share some of my impressions.

Hivemind is an interesting mix of intellectual and everyman. He has constantly this relaxed air around him, but every now and then he'd bust out his scholarly side and engage us in most interesting discussions. His writing style is the most unique of the 4LS writers, something that we feared would cause trouble, but eventually just rolled with. Hivemind was the writer our head editor Silentcook got along the best with, probably because he was the only one who didn't constantly troll SC with ineptitude.

Every now and then Suriko carried the entire project on his shoulders. He always placed the success of the project above everything else, and when nobody else could, it would ultimately be down to Suriko to keep our shit together. He is a shy romantic (ladies!) who tended to get teased about everything we could use against him, but also a honest, stand up person who could hold his own against anyone and never give up.

A22 is really, really smart. He's also immensely combative and prone to obsessions, and simply talking with him could often be a struggle. As a writer he's something like a word sculptor, carefully shaping sentences until they are perfect to his liking. This could sometimes take quite a while to happen. He and moekki had a stormy writer-artist relationship that went to absolutely ridiculous extents at times, including art sometimes dictating the writing, instead of vice versa (as was the case with the other writer-artist pairs). I don't even try to understand their friendship anymore.

Cpl_crud is of very opposite nature to writers like me and A22. He is extremely intuitive and easily gets into the "flow", but sometimes frustratingly indiscreet and careless. Nevertheless, working with him is an absolute blast. Crud's vocabulary is hilariously wide and he's not afraid to use it, to the point that we had to use the standard 4LS mass mocking tactics to get him to write in 2000's American English instead of 1800's Victorian English, like he occasionally tried to (Suriko is also guilty of this, there's something wrong with our Australian writers).

Silentcook was the voice of common sense in the writing team. Or that's what he'd like to think at least. It's true that when people started getting too ambitious ideas, or too unfeasible plans, he'd be the one to throttle us down. Sometimes with threats of brutal violence. Aside from that, he worked like a machine. Nobody ever had to worry about SC's throughput or quality of work, and that is quite something in a project like this.

Delta demanded a lot from everyone, but the most from himself. The problem was, while he frequently could do the seemingly impossible, the rest of us couldn't always follow suit. Delta is a man of principle and incredibly headstrong, so getting into arguments with him could be exhausting, and nobody wanted to make him truly angry. Delta is also a visionary, the true force behind many of the things that make KS as great as it is, and likely one of the most capable VN directors in the world. He and I always got along really well, and many of my favourite memories of the past years are of things we did together.

Moekki worries a lot about everything and everyone. When things were not going well, she was the first one to get stressed over it, and when things were going well she'd invent something to worry about anyway. Moekki has a huge heart and she put all of it into the project. Like Suriko, she always would hold the project first and everything else second. Moekki was the unofficial art supervisor (easily the most ungrateful job in 4LS), probably the most productive artist, and a sort of a counterbalance to delta. Of all the people in 4LS, she's easily my closest friend.

Due to her busy real life, kamifish stayed aside from most of the development, really only participating in the production side and keeping contact down to minimum. This spawned a running joke about her actually not existing at all. As my partner in crime in creating the Rin path, we did spend time together visioning the imagery of the CGs, Rin's looks and so forth. These sessions were remarkably one-sided. I would spout ideas, references and concepts in a full on torrent of my stream of consciousness, and kamifish patiently listened, asked for clarifications, and finished with something curt like "I can do that". That meant that a decision was made and she'd go on to draw it, sometimes in insane 12+ hours art marathons.

Raide is infinitely curious and industrious. He wants to learn everything about everything and  is never too lazy or careless to not search for sources, confirmation or further information. He keeps track of a huge amount of stuff, and has his fingers mixed in quite a few things outside of 4LS. I have no idea how he has the time and focus for all the stuff he does. While the entirety of 4LS likes being self-deprecating, Raide is sometimes too serious about it (like he is about many things).

Pimmy is the conscience of 4LS. She had zero tolerance for what kinds of assholes we could be to each other at times, and really dislikes fighting. She really just wants everyone to be friends with each other, and could get somewhat upset at times by the rest of us. Prone to anxiety and fretting, with tastes that got her A LOT of flak from the elitists, Pimmy is the most in touch with her inner child out of us. When she grows up, Pimmy will be the princess of a magical kingdom.

Weee has grown a lot. It's odd that it's the first thing that comes to my mind, but she really has grown remarkably both in character and in talent from when she joined the joined 4LS, at the young age of 14. The other remarkable thing about weee is her incredible passion for art. Do you want to get good at drawing? Do what weee did, spend a couple of hours drawing every single day for 5 years.

Climatic is the official 4LS curmudgeon. He played the devil's advocate in pretty much every discussion, or if not, ruthlessly mocked anyone who was even cautiously optimistic and/or enthusiastic about anything at all. Of course, he's also a true artist in a team of artists, in both good and bad.

Mike Inel is a professional. He has absolutely insane work ethic and endless enthusiasm and ambition. There was simply no way to suggest something that was too difficult to him, he'd not only happily do it, but always would try to one-up the suggestion by making it just a little bit fancier. Mike is way too humble for his own good, and he calls everyone else in 4LS "sir" or "ma'am".

Kagami is Silentcook's underling, probably the only direct hierarchy in all of 4LS. He's unassuming and quiet, but attentive (as a good editor should be), and has a habit of coming up with really sharp-eyed commentary out of nowhere, because he speaks up so rarely.

You know those people who are called "gifted" because they seem to excel in what they do completely effortlessly? That's Nicol. Give him a few words of description, a couple of hours and he'll compose something really nice for you. He was so productive that for several years, he went from project to project in the OELVN scene, leaving behind vast amounts of compositions and soundtracks (he was mockingly called "bike" for this). Nicol likes being abrasive, but is actually a nice and smart guy.

Yujovi is the mercenary of 4LS. Somewhat akin to kamifish, he appears in time of need, does the job he's required of, and disappears. Forever remembered for his (mis)adventures with women and uncanny ability to find pretty much any location we needed for the backgrounds.

And then there's me.

- Aura

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