The Plushening

When I initially started the design of Hypnagonia I don’t hide that I copied liberally from the design of Slay the Spire. However as is obvious, I did apply the theme of Surrealist Dreams instead of the Dark Fantasy. But one of the things that kinda stayed the same was concept of “Artifacts”, as in things you find during a run which slightly change the rules of the game in your favour (called “Relics” in StS).

I couldn’t figure out a more fitting thematic concept for Hypnagonia, so I settled initially on the name “Curios” which fits the theme a bit better. Ultimately though, it was identical in concept: Random knick-knacks you pick up.

Of course I tried to make curios fit more into my theme, with you being able to find not just weird items like mustaches and espresso shots, pets like an koala or an eel, but even abstract concepts, such as “repressed frustration” or “cool vibes”.

Unfortunately not only was coming up with concepts that thematically fit the mechanics of the curio increasingly difficult to figure out, I was also not particularly happy how much the idea of curious you carry around don’t work particularly well in the concept of dreaming, rather than questing.

Nevertheless, having no particularly better idea, I left it at that until now. During my vacation I sat down to finally create original art for the existing curios using midjourney (and KoboldAI to figure out missing thematic names). And as I was going through them, inspiration struck as I was making the art for the curio called “Squishy Brain Toy”.

You see the art I generated for it, was extraordinarily cute! And when I generated the art for “supportive plushie” it also occurred to me that plushies fit very well into the surrealistic dreams theme I am taking. They’re soft and cuddly which make sense as they would comfort someone dreaming and therefore one could argue would make them more powerful as they’re facing their nightmares. They are also quite a strange thing to find consistently while dreaming, and one does not have to imagine they carry them around, like in a backpack, but rather that they’re just there, in your dreaming storyline, and in the subconscious. Finally they are inherently abstract in the sense that anything can be a plushie, not just animals!

So I scrapped 3 days of image generation and once again set to work using midjourney. First thing I had to do is figure out the best way to make the cuddliest images possible. I eventually settled to the “fluffy plushie icons” prompt part, which will turn anything you put in front of it into the kind of plushie art I’m going for, without always making it happy. Then I begun the convertion, using existing curio names as baseline, regardless of how weird they sounded.

Couple days later, and I had almost all completely done. The next thing I had to handle was naming them. The previous naming convention for curios didn’t satisfy me, so I decided to find actual names for each. Now as anyone knows, coming up with names is hard. Coming up with fitting names for a concept is an order of magnitude harder. So once again I turned to KoboldAI for help. I loaded a small model that would fit in my VRAM and created a sample list of names, using what I had already come up with.

Next, I also needed to make them look like icons in the game because MJ creates inconsistent backgrounds. If I just pasted the whole image in the game, it would be too ill-fitting. No, I had to give them a transparent background. But if you’ve ever had to do this in Photoshop/GIMP, you know how work-intensive it is. So once again I turned to NN tools to help me. This time I discovered the wonderful rembg tool which is surprisingly good out of the box. It worked on 95% of my generations, and where it failed to correctly parse what the plushie foreground is supposed to be, I could simply regenarate a similar plushie in a form it would parse correctly.

The final step in this process was removing the excess transparency whitespace that rembg left from what it removed. Otherwise some of my icons would look bigger than the others. For this I discovered chaiNNer which is an amazing upscaling tool, with enough functionality to also handle the automatic cropping and also resizing and saving into the right location.

Then I simply converted the terminology in the game from “curios” to “plushies” and added all the names and icons in my definitions and we’re good to go!

Here’s some of my favourite plushies

Brains Nereas Somnus Romeo Ju-On

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