— Sukeban Games (@SukebanGames) July 25, 2017
Please note that this post assumes you’ve played through the game at least once. Potential spoilers will be left unmarked.
The reaction to Alma has been interesting. It doesn’t seem like people dislike her, but rather that they like everyone else more. As such, it sometimes feels like even Streaming-chan gets way more attention than her.
And so, the least we can do for her birthday is put her in the spotlight, right?
To understand how Alma came to be, we have to go all the way back to Cyberpunk Jam 2014 (man, I’m getting old). Right after Kiririn came with the idea of the cyberpunk bar but before the downtown bar was established, I was cooking in my mind a world where war was a business (not unlike MGS4’s world). In this world there would be “neutral zones” where people from any alignment would go to relax. Soldiers would be punch clock employees, stopping their carnage once their shifts were done, not unlike Ralph Wolf and Sam Sheepdog’s cartoons.
There would be a bar in one of these neutral zones. Here you’d serve: A cheerful soldier, a mercenary, and an accountant. The cheerful soldier was eventually repurposed for Sei, the mercenary saw little change and became Jamie, and the accountant eventually became Alma.
Why an accountant? She would ramble on about how much the warfare costs, the price of grenades, of body armor and whatnot. Due to this origin, Alma’s first ever sprite had a blazer… but then Kiririn added the ribbed sweater and the world found peace.
Later we established the downtown bar idea. We had a cheerful prostitute, a gentle mercenary and a hacker. How do we make the hacker interesting? Simple! Don’t make it a nerd, a geek, a dweeb. a hermit, a quirky mess or anything like that. And so, we settled for the idea of “Christmas Cake Hacker”.
For those unaware, “Christmas Cake” is (was?) a term used to refer to unmarried women past a certain age since “after 25 nobody wants them” (I still chuckle a bit when I remember this explanation). As an archetype, this usually involves women trying to act way younger than they’re supposed or able to. Not to mention a constant pressure to get married and settle down.
Alma in the prototype was, admittedly, the least developed of the bunch. Her section was written in the final stretch of the jam, and as such she felt more cobbled together than Dorothy or Jamie. However, the seeds for her full character were already there.
I had some attachment to Alma from the get-go, in part because she appealed to me. But mostly because it was my chance to put a Latina out there that wasn’t so in-your-face, and I wasn’t letting the chance go to waste.
— Koyorin🍎 (@koyoriin) July 25, 2017
Back to Alma, the core of her character was “pressure to settle down coming from her family”.
In the prototype, Alma already spoke a bit about them, but I wanted to develop it further since Latinos have a very family-centric way of life, at least in my personal experience as one.
You’d think it’s a stereotype, considering popular portrayals in american media like Gloria in Modern Family, but whatever works come out of central and south america also show this dynamic, so it’s more of a cultural thing. And it’s an ideal I can get behind to be honest.
The next part of her core was the pressure to get married, but I wanted to make it different. What if that pressure was actually self-imposed? maybe Alma is a romantic person and wants to settle down, but she keeps failing to do so, seeing every guy she has a relationship with as a strong potential husband without knowing much about them.
— ReddoGM (@Reddo_Demon) July 26, 2017
But what of other factors not helping this issue? Maybe Alma has seen firsthand some problems with marriage itself and that’s how the subplot with her older sisters came to be. It was also to balance out that part of her, like, yes, she loves her family to the point she’ll put them over any romantic partner she has at the time, but that doesn’t mean she gets along with everyone or that she doesn’t have strong opinions on what they do.
As a fun bit of trivia, some of that family subplot is loosely inspired by my real life family, with a few events being lifted straight out of it. Her whole dialog is also peppered with anecdotes and events I’ve lived through or heard my family go through.
Funnily enough, Alma helped me vent a lot of frustrations I had with some family members. It’s like Alma was my Jill, just like how Jill was Jill for Alma… that made sense, right?.
As Alma got more and more developed, she eventually became a nice foil for Jill. Alma was open about her life, Jill was more reserved. Alma was more openly caring, Jill had her crunchy snarky exterior. Alma had no issues with money, Jill tried hard to make ends meet. Alma was a family person, Jill was more of a loner. It was all too perfect to let it go to waste.
— Wlad (@BloodyWlady) July 25, 2017
And so, they were both being developed retroactively. When we established something about Jill, we adjusted Alma so she was the opposite in some manner. We wanted to make them as different as possible and yet similar enough to make them understand each other and see eye to eye. This development was also made using the scene where they trade places as point of reference, it all needed to add up for that particular moment.
It’s the one scene I’m the most proud of in the game to be honest… well, that and when Dana got stuck in the White Knight helmet.
Alma was also an interesting act to balance. She is beautiful but that doesn’t make her dumb or an airhead. She’s a hacker, but doesn’t look traditionally nerdy. She’s latina, but without the dumb stereotypes, and so on.
I’ll close this off on two personal notes about Alma.
The first is that I’ll admit Alma is the one character that, personal attachment aside, appeals the most to me, both in looks and personality. Of course I say this less like Motomu Toriyama talking about Lightning and more like Yoko Taro talking about 2B.
The second is that I tried to make Alma feel like a different kind of lonely from Jill, the kind of person that is always surrounded by people but they’re always family or romantic partners, not really having friends outside those circles. Which is why Alma grows attached to Jill so fast. This isn’t mentioned explicitly in the game, but I wonder how well I managed to get that through.