Building Culture and Lore
As an action graphic novel, the depth of the story plays a major role in "Shuyan," and so we've been putting a lot of work into building the game's world and lore. I wanted to share some of the basic background for the story and the lore that we've created.
The story focuses on five kingdoms. They all have different values and cultures, and they're all built on the foundations of Kung Fu. Each kingdoms also has a sacred Kung Fu temple, and the ideas of each Kung Fu system makes the fabric of each society. Pulling from the Chinese traditions of Kung Fu, each system of Kung Fu in "Shuyan" is also a path of self-cultivation in the world's lore. At the lower levels of Kung Fu practice, a student may obtain the skills to defend themselves; but at deeper levels they realize the higher moral values of the practice, and this helps them transcend the levels or ordinary society. A master of Kung Fu in "Shuyan" can become a guardian of the people and of the cultural values that are at the heart of each kingdom; and may themselves obtain the protection of a guardian or deity. As an example, Shuyan's kingdom is based on the principle of propriety, and so its corresponding Kung Fu system values discipline, ritual, and formality as its forms that help a student realize the deeper value of its system. This again pulls from ancient Chinese culture, where (for example) propriety can help normalize a person's behavior, and through this bring a sense of peace and harmony—and (in the context of Kung Fu) from the standpoint of inner peace, a student may be able to understand the more profound philosophies of the Kung Fu system.
The world overall has many elements from Chinese history and traditional culture woven into it, but "Shuyan" isn't based on any specific dynasty or time period. Instead, we've pulled inspiration from the 5,000 years of Chinese culture, and this includes the cultural values, mythical elements, the different characteristics of each dynasty, and the deeper philosophies of its ancient societies. This has not only given the world of "Shuyan" a greater sense of depth and history, but it also gives the five kingdoms themselves a greater sense of diversity. Each kingdom has its own unique forms of architecture, clothing, and moral traits. And each also has its own unique guardian animal/mythical creature, and has an additional foundation in one of the five elements in Chinese alchemy (metal, wood, water, fire, and earth). The five elements in Chinese alchemy brings a whole other sense of depth to each kingdom. This not only affects the culture of each kingdom, each of which pulls from a specific element, but also goes a bit deeper. The elements aren't just surface concepts. They also tie into the Daoist theory of Yin and Yang, where all things have a positive and a negative. So while each of the elements bring values and qualities to each kingdom, each also has a unique negative quality.
In the era where "Shuyan" is set, the kingdoms are in a state of decline where these negative sides have become more prominent. A lot of time has passed since the founding days and a lot of the old culture has been lost. The ideas the cities were based on have just become legends. They have statues and relics all over, and people are kind of like "whatever." Meanwhile, these five kingdoms aren't the whole world in "Shuyan." There are places outside their reach, and there are barbarian hordes to the West under the Guer horde. This horde raided the Western-most kingdom of Jing-Wu, and went about relentlessly killing and pillaging. People who could escape fled into the mountains, and those who couldn't were forced to assimilate to the new leadership or be executed.
In context of the overall world, and its cultural foundations, think of the Guer army as more of a corrupting element, which conquers by preying on the weaknesses that have emerged in each kingdom's decline. When the story takes place, this barbarian kingdom has already taken Jing-Wu and the horde is now heading for Shuyan's kingdom. They know about the conflict, and have accepted refugees, but they don't get involved in conflicts and now it's about to land on their doorstep. Shuyan has no idea in the early story, but she'll need to rise above this conflict and master the ancient Kung Fu teachings in order to have hope to save her kingdom.