*An earlier version of this article indicates Balete City as the first ever Pinoy-made RPG. It is not. Anito: Defend A Land Enraged is.
Niley Bacolcol was just a student trying to make it through undergraduate thesis and on the side, a budding writer deeply fascinated with the vast and wonderful world of “spirits and local gods.”
That passion for local mythology, however, has resulted into things he did not quite expect it would be: a read-only novel, a graphic novel, and soon, a third person adventure role playing game (RPG). Now with a full-time day job, Bacolcol and a development team are hard at work during the after-hours to bring the game to life.
“The ultimate goal is to reintroduce some of our almost forgotten roots to Pinoys here and abroad,” Bacolcol tells us in an online interview. “Our team view gaming as a platform of advocacy, immersion, and a way to preserve our knowledge of our unique culture.”
For those who are unfamiliar with video games, an RPG lets players assume the roles of characters in a fictional setting. They are responsible for acting out the roles in the game’s narrative. The goal in each RPG varies depending on the story.
The story of Balete City
Called Balete City set in present time Philippines, the 3D game revolves around a senior high school student, Aki, who has just lost his brother in an unknown accident inside Balete High School. With the help of his best buds Sam and Theo, “they will solve mysteries surrounding the enigmatic Balete High.”
Aki, however, is no ordinary student. He happens to be the Last Asog or Male Priest from the ancient, pre-Hispanic era who has the ability to talk to Gods and Goddesses of ancient yore.
To fully exercise his power, he must first surpass the challenges of “babaylanship,” which includes the following: being chosen by a spirit companion, learning the art of brewing potions from plants and rare essences/materials, learning how to draw and cast spells from sacred symbols, and be able to summon elementals from other realms.
The entire game, in all its intricate glory, is Pinoy-made. “The game world map is screaming Philippines all over it,” Bacolcol says.
True enough, Balete City feature rice fields, taho vendors shouting their wares in the background, jeepneys racing the street with tricycles, crowded slums, active basketball courts, sari-sari stores, and a dark, mysterious, and rural world of babaylans, engkantos, kapres, sigbins, and the list goes on.
“The story, gameplay, overall design and feel is solely based on our culture and mythology,” Bacolcol says. “[It] is made by an all-Filipino development team coming from diverse backgrounds.”
A call for support
To say that Balete City is groundbreaking is an understatement. It will be one of the few RPGs to put front and center local culture and mythology.
Fully developing a market-ready RPG is not a walk in the park, too. While Bacolcol and the rest of the development team are grateful for what they call an “overwhelming support” from the Filipino community, they say funding is an area that could still use some help.
“We need steady funding to create the infrastructure and a game development team solely dedicated to bring it into fruition,” he says. It goes straight to expenses on licensees, registration fees, outsourced talent fees, marketplace fees, original scoring, and “anything that can help me speed up the development of the game.”
As of writing, the team already has 29 backers in Patreon, a crowdfunding platform for artists and creators. There are numerous volunteer pledges, too.
“Apart from educating people about these wonderful being that were believed to have existed a long, long time ago, we also want to incite love for what is our own,” he says. “Balete City is a great way to connect to the younger generation the richness of our past, and its stories and folklore.”
- 5 amazing female role models everyone should admire
- LOOK: This grocery in Thailand uses banana leaf to package fresh produce
- Reese Lansangan gives advice to aspiring young artists
- Back to the future: cassettes tapes are launching a comeback tour
- Nadine Lustre, Pia Wurtzbach, Sam Concepcion to share the stage with Dua Lipa on Lazada’s “Super Party”