This past night, I had a nightmare. As the title of this posting states, it's something of a creator's nightmare. But let's start at the beginning.
Long, long ago - well, about four years ago in 2016, I had started trying to make a game on RPG Maker. Though I wouldn't really call it a game as much as a mock-up. I had a character, the beginnings of a world map, and over world music, as well as a character status screen. But that was pretty much it. Well, I did have a basic story for the main character, who I would simply call Ioh (as in 'yo!'). His full name is Iohannes Paulus Crispianus II. He began as a RP character I created, and was active in a particular urban post-apocalyptic RP sim in Second Life between 2007 - 2010. The game I was developing six years later was exploring his origins story.
To make a long story short, Ioh was part of a long lost tribe of cat people who had come to earth after their planet no longer could sustain life. Their first colony was established in Asia Minor near where the ancient human city of Miletus would be founded some time later. According to Ioh's extended RP profile, the ancient feles had grown in the Milesian area, creating a vast empire in this early time. At the peak of this civilization there was a total population of 82,944 feles in all the land. In contrast, there were a total of 6,912 humans inhabiting this same region at that time.As the dominant humanoid species at the time, the feles ruled the Milesian Empire for many generations, living alongside the humans in relative peace. However nearing the end of the Golden era, the feles found something problematic in the growth and population of the humans. The population of the humans was increasing and surpassing the population of the feles. The ruling class of the feles, known as the Domae, were disturbed by the growth of the humans and believed the only way to prevent the eventual domination of the human population was to take drastic measures in population control. This led to the horrific laws mandating that half the human population be castrated, or otherwise made infertile, and to enslave humans in the belief that if they are overworked, they would be too tired to procreate, and thus lead an infertile life in constant solitary work. Civil war erupted at this time, as the humans, who took pride in their freedoms within the empire were not going to give them up without a fight. The humans had allies among sympathetic feles who disagreed with the new mandate as unjust law and a violation of the rights both humans and feles alike had shared for generations. The result of this civil war was the end of the Golden Age and led to the first dark ages known as the Feles Feudales. Part of what began this dark era was the treachery of the humans, who turned on their feles allies. By the end of the civil war, the feles population was reduced to the point that the humans were now the dominant humanoid species of the region. More so, the humans feared that if the feles retained power, they would try to suppress humans again. Thus the humans took to enslaving the feles, and driving those that escaped captivity into other regions of the world.
Ioh was born into one of the scattered tribes of feles that found refuge from humanity within Africa. By the time of his father and mother’s rule as Patronis and Matronis respectively over the tribe, the humans in the area had all but forgotten the feles, but instead feared and revered these cat people in their midst as leopard men. After the murder of his parents and destruction of the village that was maintained by his family for many generations, Ioh was taken into exile and to live hidden in the ancient city of Milan, which had become known as the village of Balat in the Aydın Province of Turkey in the modern human era. During this time, he was taught in the ways of a warrior, which were similar to a combination of ninja martial arts and stealthy espionage skills, as well as the refinement of the sword art similar to that of a samurai. While he was content to continue his second lifespan remaining in Milan to continue his martial arts training and study of feles history, the maxim of his father began to haunt his conscience:
“For the common feles, it is natural and good to be feral, but for you my son, you are expected to be the light of your clan, your family, the chosen one to guide. You must not release your feral instincts, but show yourself in noble maturity at all times.”
The call to his nobility had always been at the back of his mind since the desolation of his father’s clan literally right in front of his face. In bitter resentment at the destruction, he had long spurned these duties, muttering to himself in an enraged lament, “To what shall I be a light to, my Father, ashes? What am I chosen to guide now that there is nothing? Was my guidance to be in this last generation of the feles to the flames?”
Eventually he would hear rumors of one of few cities in the post cataclysmic era that remained free from the rule of the globalist tyranny that came to pass. One of them, it was rumored, had a misfit clan of cats that were ruled by matrons. While most of these cats were of what were called the new breed - the hybrids of human science that spliced human DNA with that of the ancient feles, of which governments and their scientists held in secret classified files and experiments over the centuries - could it be possible that there were remnants of the pure bred ancient feles hidden among their ranks?
That was the background story behind Ioh's RP in Second Life, which had a few updates and revisions depending on what RP sim Ioh was in. One of them I remember, and might still have the basic story on file somewhere, had it that Ioh was carried away into his exile by a female feles that was some sort of guardian to him and part of the security that protected his parents, the matronis and patronis of the tribe. And still another adapted the story to the mythology of the feline deities of Egypt. Of course, to Ioh, these would have been the ancient rulers of the desert, which might of been at the time a tropical region, in the province of the ancient feles empire that has become known in the modern human era as Egypt. But, in this nightmare I had, I was working on the RPG Maker game based on the story of Ioh vowing to avenge his parents' deaths.
In the nightmare, I was working on the development of the early part of the story in the game. This would be in Ioh's youth, where he was still in training. His guardian would probably play an important role in this stage of the game. She might of been who had put him on his first task of hunting down the 'king of the rats' - basically a pest management sort of thing. Ioh was still a relatively young cub in this part of the game, so putting him on menial tasks made sense. However the game developer company that decided to take this game under their management felt that development was taking too long. Demoing this stage of the game mentioned, they weren't impressed and said it was too much like other games they knew, and they were hoping for something more unique than what I had to offer. But that was the start of the nightmare, the worst part of it was they effectively took me off my own project and basically said, "Thank you for the concept, but we'll let the professionals take it from here."
Granted, I'd probably still get royalties from the concept, and my name might still be on the finished project as founding developer, but... my baby was taken away from me! It would be effectively my game in name only. The rest of it would be whatever the game experts come up with to make it marketable. Which is essentially saying my initial vision for the game was not only not marketable, but worthless. Sure, I might of been able to oversee the development, but when I'd try to offer suggestions about my vision or direction on where I was thinking of going with the game, the experts would smile, pat me on the head, and otherwise treat me as a child, saying, "That's nice! We'll think about it." Maybe they thought about it, but none of my suggestions would ever get incorporated into the final product.
Sure, this isn't the worst nightmare in the world, but it's a fear that a lot of writers and creators share, is that loss of control of their baby, their creation, and having the industry marketing and executive experts of a company or publisher take your pet project over. Famous pop and rock bands have split over such 'creative differences'. As in say, Ghostbusters, it would seem that the original cast was held hostage to the powers that be that thought the all-female Ghostbusters 2016 would be a great success. Maybe it could have under better direction and working with the original Ghostbusters cast, rather than, at best, giving them a cameo appearance as completely different characters than the ones they made famous back in the original movie that started it all. The biggest slap in the face was in outright killing Bill Murray's character, who could have made for an interesting antagonist similar to William Atherton's role as Walter Peck in the original movie. But that's just one example of many ways they could have possibly salvaged 2016 Ghostbusters, if they had better direction, like say, from the director of the original movie, Ivan Reitman. But, anyways, I digress. The point being that, once you give control over to the 'experts' in marketing, or the publisher or development corporation decides to take command, you have no idea what the end result will be, for better or for worse. Losing that control of your own creation and fearing the potential disaster the end product might be, and one with your name attached to it, with your initial characters and concepts being trashed and tarnished, well, that's quite a nightmare, to say the least!