Steel Hearts Proof-of-Concept Demo Update


A new update for the Steel Hearts Proof-of-Concept demo has been released.
All content is placeholder, and all writing is subject to change.

This update is primarily typo fixes, but there are also two new songs.

Replaced the placeholder “melancholic scene” song with a new one by Alwin.
Added a new Waltz song by Alwin for the ball scene.
Fixed an anachronistic phrase in “Act 1 Day 1: Impact”
Fixed a German grammar issue in “Act 2J Day 6: Breathing Room”
Removed an extraneous word in Bryn’s conversation in “Act 1 Day 13H: Heavy Metal”
Fixed an absolute disgrace of a sentence in Bryn’s conversation with Beatrice in “Act 1 Day 10: Transfer Student”
Fixed a word choice issue in Caleb and Juliet’s drill instructor conversation in “Act 1 Day 2: The Knight, the Bishop, and the Queen”
Fixed an issue where Caleb thought the festival was closer than it was in “Act 1 Day 10: First Contact”
Fixed a typo about Panzers in “Act 1 Day 10: First Contact”
Fixed Caleb not being able to count in “Act 2H Day 9: Closer”
Fixed Caleb using an old name for Nora Franz in her scene.

The link can be found on our discord server:

We would appreciate any feedback!

Steel Hearts Proof-of-Concept Demo

Happy New Year from the Steel Hearts team!

As this year comes to a close, I want to thank you all for your support.
Earlier this year, I renovated my work ethic, and thanks to that, a large portion of Steel Hearts has been completed. A demo of the common route of Steel Hearts (act 1), plus the first half of each heroines’ routes (act 2). There is one exception–because of the animation required, the “duel” on Act 1 Day 13 is not yet implemented. The demo is still fully-playable and enjoyable after that scene, so I hope you all can forgive me for falling slightly short of my prior goal (which I may have been a bit eager in setting). The demo is also packed with new (albeit still placeholder) sprites that move their mouths and blink [with the exception of Sebastian, Mr. Solberg, and Mr. Fassbender), new sounds, some new effects, and a plethora of new camera effects.

In the coming new year, I hope to complete the writing for Act 3, the latter halves of each heroines’ routes, and perhaps beyond. After that, I believe we will have enough content set in stone to begin looking for artists.
Thank you once again for your support and patience!

Keep in mind that this is a “Proof-of-Concept” demo and not representative of the final product–all assets are placeholder, and all writing is subject to change.
If you wish to try the demo, it can be found in the releases channel at our Discord server: https://discord(DOT)gg/QCRxwpd

Thanks for reading! If you have any feedback, questions, or comments, I can be reached at @PalladionHearts on Twitter or Palladion#5914 on Discord.

Steel Hearts Progress Report – December 2, 2021

Welcome to The Combat Report, the development blog for Steel Hearts, an alternate history about love, war, and mechs. This is another progress report. With the newest demo nearing completion, we thought we’d check in one more time.

To recap, the demo will cover the whole common route, plus the first half of each heroine’s route. All of the writing has been completed aside from one action sequence, and all of the sprites are prepared except for two side characters and some tertiary characters. Presently, my focus is on coding the scenes into the game, while my director is finishing up editing and writing the aforementioned action scene. So far, about half of the common route has been coded in.

Compared to the last, private demos, this one is fully-featured with sound effects, camera movement, and sprites that blink and move their mouths. Here is a snippet of some of that in action. Do note that, of course, these graphics are PLACEHOLDER and do not represent the final product.

Although there are a number of scenes left to code, I have been keeping good pace, so I expect to be finished by the ‘end of December’ deadline. Although I cannot promise it, I would like to include a Tsujidou-style ‘tutorial’ and a Steins;Gate-style ‘encyclopedia’ as well if I have time.

That’s it for now. Please look forward to Steel Hearts! If you’d like to follow development closer or access the demo when it comes out, please visit us at our Discord: https://discord(DOT)gg/CnqqZd2s

You can contact me at Twitter ( or on Discord (Palladion#5914). Thanks for checking in!

Steel Hearts Progress Report – November 2, 2021

Welcome to the Steel Hearts development blog, the blog for the alternate-history love and war mecha VN, Steel Hearts.

To be frank, work on Steel Hearts had been quite slow, and I apologize for the lack of updates. However, within the past month or two, I had completely revamped my process of working, and I have gotten a ‘project manager’ of sorts that has kept me on track. Thus, I have completed a sizeable chunk of the VN within these two months, and at a greater pace.

To start off, I have completely revamped the dialogue of the protagonist, Caleb Hartmann. In an earlier article, I had him penned as a ‘soft rebel’ of sorts–a bit of a rascal, but mostly pacified by his comfortable life and strict military school. However, after some review, I did not feel that his dialogue and outlook properly reflected that fact–he was bland, a yes-man, emotionally flat and without a notable way of speaking.

I felt that this was inadequate, so I turned his personality around. Instead of a milquetoast everyman, Caleb is now more of a… proto-Fonz, if you will, albeit more as an act rather than a genuine coolness. Caleb is disrespectful (though not maliciously so), concerned with looking ‘cool’ despite being a nerd that likes sci-fi magazines, and has a nickname for just about everyone he meets. Instead of being prone to being banterous with only his closer friends Juliet and Anna, he’s now liable to banter with most everyone. I’d say he’s a bit more proactive and introspective as well. All in all, I think these changes make him much more fun of a protagonist.

Next, I have made substantial progress in the route writing, as well. Earlier in the year, I had finished act one of Juliet’s route (each heroine’s route has two acts). I had slacked off a bit afterward, but with these recent developments, I have completed the first act of each of the four heroines, leaving their routes halfway done.

So, in short, one-half of each of the heroines’ routes are finished, plus the common route. The only present exceptions are a certain action scene (due to a question of assets) and two H-scenes (those are rather tricky).

What’s next? I plan to create and release a brand-new demo for Steel Hearts before the end of the year. The demo will feature writing from the common route and the first act of each route–I expect this to run about 15 hours or so. Sadly, due to our lack of artist, all of the assets will be placeholders, but nonetheless the sprites will be fully-featured despite being made from placeholder models, and will include multiple expressions, outfits, and perhaps blinking. Our music guy has been working on some new tracks, so the demo will feature some new music as well, although some tracks will be placeholder.

This demo will be shared on our discord (found at https://discord(DOT)gg/QCRxwpd), but if I feel the demo is presentable enough despite the placeholder assets, I may share it more publicly.

After this year, I plan to finally play Metroid Dread and Shin Megami Tensei V! More seriously, in regards to Steel Hearts, I plan to have the full ‘Part One’ of the game completed by the end of the next year. That is, each heroine’s route will be completed, concluding the romance-focused half of Steel Hearts. After that, I am unsure if I will fund some art for a proper demo and try a Kickstarter, or if I will write the latter half first. That will be decided in time. Until then, please look forward to the new demo!

Also, here’s bonus art I commissioned. It’s not for the game, but I think it’s cute. It’s Beatrice and Marie, the French–er, I mean Gaullen fencing rivals of Brynhilde!

Art by @ayanobro on Twitter.

Thank you for reading the Steel Hearts development blog!

If you’re interested in Steel Hearts, feel free to follow the blog, or follow us on twitter at
Contact me at:
Twitter –
Discord – Palladion#5914

Steel Hearts Progress Report – May 23, 2021

Welcome again to the Steel Hearts development blog. It’s been a long time since my last post–partially because I haven’t had too much to post about (at least not until we get more art) and partially because I’ve been kept busy with work.

Nevertheless, I have been hard at work continuing writing Steel Hearts. Recently, I finished up the first act (of two) of Juliet’s route, and my director will be editing it shortly. Working on the latter act of her route has been going well, and ideally it will be finished in the coming months.

Likewise, the other girls’ routes are coming along, as well. The first act of Hannah’s route is nearing completion, as is Brynhilde’s first act.

We are still artist-less, so if you are interested in contributing to our project or know someone who might be, feel free to contact us!
Discord: Palladion#5914

On Making a Protagonist – Caleb Hartmann

Hi, and welcome to The Combat Report, the development blog for the alternate-history love-and-war mecha VN, Steel Hearts. This is the 7th article–can you believe it? I sure can’t. Anyhow, this week’s article focuses on our protagonist, the one and only Caleb Hartmann.

What Makes a “Pro” Protag?

On VN protagonists in general, I think a lot of writers feel that the protagonist of a non-kinetic VN (that is, a non-kinetic VN being one with branching paths) must be generic or bland in order for 1. the character to make sense narratively and to the player (because there are multiple “variations” of the character depending on what route the player took, and because some choices could make characters act in ways contrary to how the player thinks) and 2. in order for the player to successfully “project” onto the character. Hence, I’m sure you’ve seen plenty of VNs where the protagonist is there as a formality, perhaps a vehicle to get to the H or whatever. Cpl_Crud of Katawa Shoujo fame postulated as much in a recent article, and says that a protagonist in a linear VN avoids these problems, which is true.

Hisao, the protagonist of Katawa Shoujo, does succumb to those pitfalls as expressed by Cpl_Crud. Was it difficult to avoid those? Probably so. However, I believe these pitfalls can be avoided. In a post-Katawa Shoujo world, this is easy to claim, but regardless…

Bland protagonists in branching VNs–they do exist, and it is easy to fall down that hole and write one. However, I don’t think it’s necessary to do so, neither for the audience or the narrative. Two well-received examples stick out to me, Steins;Gate and Grisaia. In both of these, the protagonists are… well, exciting and off the wall. Enough character to fill the room, and then some. Okabe of Steins;Gate is a chuunibyou, over-the-top otaku who likens himself to a mad scientist, caught in a worldwide conspiracy. Yuuji of Grisaia is a womanizing jackass with a heart of gold, and his tragic, difficult past as a soldier/assassin factors into his mannerisms, thoughts, and actions. In addition to having their own quirks and mannerisms, they are also go-getters. Good protagonists, in my opinion, are not just piles of traits, but they also make things happen–the story reacts to them (not to say that the protagonist shouldn’t react to external events, but the reverse is important).

Remember the scene at the end of Lilly’s route in Katawa Shoujo where Hisao makes a fervent, life-risking race to catch Lilly at the airport before she leaves? It’s powerful seeing protagonists get off their feet and do difficult things–even if he was, admittedly, bereft of personality, I think proactive scenes like that would make him more memorable.

Moving on, many protagonists (VN or otherwise) are boring and blank-slate for the sake of relatability. That is to say, protagonists are blank-slates to more easily relate to the reader, thus immersing them more in the story. I reject this–for how many people do you know which are boring blank slates? Is it not easier to relate to someone with experiences, with defined thoughts and feelings? Surely, I would think people would relate more to the likes of the hopes and fears of Frodo, the anger and forgiveness of Luke Skywalker, or the idealism and determination of Emiya Shirou, rather than the blank slates of the protagonists of Fallout 3, Persona 5, Doki-Doki Literature Club, and so on. Even in romantically-inclined stories, defined protagonists like Okabe as mentioned, or Takeru from Muv-Luv seem to strike a chord more with people than the more “generic” protagonists of, say, Hisao from Katawa Shoujo or Semyon from Everlasting Summer.

Forging the Steel Heart

So, with all that said, where does that leave our protagonist, Caleb Hartmann? What sets him apart from the rest of the crowd? One defining aspect is his past–in the VN itself, Caleb attends the military academy of Streiterheim Academy as a decent, good-natured student. Before that, though, Caleb was an unruly, wild child, a delinquent, a bully. His parents enrolled him into the academy to straighten him up–and it succeeded. A combination of the rigid academy, the distractions of modern entertainment like pulp mags and radio shows, and a peaceful life free of war and strife (unlike his parents’) all pacified him to quite an extent, leaving him soft, lazy, passive.

But–the wolf inside him still exists. Within Caleb lies a burning heart, stoked by the flames of his childhood fury and the strength he idealized in his childhood heroes like Conan Nacon the Barbarian. In another time, Caleb may have been a great knight or warlord, but the comfort and peace of modern life has mollified his dreams and passion.

Caleb accepts his lot in peaceful Volksland as an aspiring student. In the routes, when things get in Caleb’s way, when things are taken away from him, I want to show that other side of Caleb–he breaks the rules, he defies the authority of parents and nobles, he gets into fights, he struggles against the weight of the world.

In turn, Caleb’s nature also precludes him toward any of the four heroines. Juliet is self-explanatory: she’s his childhood friend, after all. With Lisabet, Caleb could be swayed by her romantic nature, influenced by tales of romance that he’s read. Between Hannah and Brynhilde, Hannah’s delinquent, rough nature could remind him of his younger self, whereas Caleb’s present pacified nature might make Brynhilde’s authority appealing. Above all, I don’t believe having a defined character means restricting romantic options. How many of your peers did you envision as romantic partners when you were in high school? Although I’m sure they held commonalities, but it’s probably a diverse group, no?

Returning back to Caleb’s personality: If he holds a heart of a warrior, what happens in part 2, when he actually does go to war? Does Caleb follow orders or rebel? Does he embrace his nature as a warrior, a “wolf”, or does he keep hold of his tender side? I’m afraid I can’t answer those questions. Read the VN.


And yes, “Hartmann” was wholly intentional. It originated as a “placeholder” name, but… it stuck.

Thanks for reading! If you’re interested in Steel Hearts, feel free to follow this blog, or follow us on twitter at
Contact me at:
Twitter –
Discord – Palladion#5914

Writing Style and Design

Welcome to article #6 of The Combat Report, the development blog for the alternate-history love and war VN, Steel Hearts.

Continuing the break from character-themed blog posts, this one takes a look at the “writing style” of the VN as a whole, plus a quick dive into some of the UI design.

Steel Hearts Has No Prose (and That’s a Good Thing)

A clickbaity heading, but I couldn’t resist.

An interesting aspect about the visual novel medium is that it’s very unstandardized–there is no solid guide on how a visual novel should be created. Some have branching paths and routes, others don’t. The ones that lean more toward the dating sim genre have schedule systems and maps. Some are in NVL style where text fills the screen, while some are ADV style, where text is displayed, usually in a box, along the bottom. Some VNs are wholly textual, while some have minigames. Some create whole new mechanics to fit the narrative, like the cell phone in Steins;Gate. You get the idea.

The variety and nonstandardization is what I believe sets apart VNs as a medium. With a novel, plot aside, you know what to expect. A series of linear chapters to the end, with most of the mechanical variance being the tense and point of view. Compare the VN, which has much more flexibility in terms of style or mechanics.

You can’t do this in a book.

One such stylistic choice Steel Hearts uses is this: There is no prose. No “I open the door to the classroom, ready to face my demon of a history teacher,” none of “Lisabet continues her heartfelt, ceaseless ramble on the history of Hellenian mythology, blissfully unaware that we’re almost late for class,” no such except like “In a calculated motion, Hannah swings her Fenris’s arm towards the Noskovan walker, before laying into the colossus with a hail of autocannon fire”… you get the picture.

Instead of using paragraphs of descriptive text, everything in Steel Hearts will be conveyed through dialogue (plus inner monologue), images, animation, and sound. In our eyes, prose draws the reader away from the “visual” aspect of the visual novel, de-immersing them. With images, sound, and an emphasis on dialogue, the player is placed into the scene, moreso than if they were reading a description of what’s happening.

I don’t see many VNs opt for this sort of style, to the point where I don’t believe there’s a VNDB tag for it. The chief example of it is the Muv-Luv trilogy. Characters are not described to thwack their childhood friend on the head, or described to toss the lacrosse ball with a swing of their stick, or described to bob and weave in-between hordes of teeming aliens–they do those things, and the reader gets to see it.

Zoom. Whoosh. Thwack. “Aitaaaaa!” A fluidity not seen in paragraph form.

In this style, the visual novel treads a bit farther from the “novel” part, and leans closer to something akin to an animated stageplay (as weird as it sounds).

I’m not saying other styles are bad or wrong, but I believe this style is rather effective at gripping the reader. Is it ambitious? Asset-intensive? Yeah, probably. But, we at Heartscorps are prepared to do what it takes.

And a Bit on UI

Beyond, of course, good plot and characters, I believe immersion is what makes a visual novel successful–a successful VN draws the player into the story, captivating them, leaving them free from distractions that take away attention from the game. This went into the stylistic choice detailed above, but I want it to factor into UI, as well.

Simply put, text boxes and UI are necessary, but they do get in the way of the sprites, backgrounds, and CGs. I have my gripes with NVL-style VNs for this very reason–I’d much rather the text not obscure the images of the game. That isn’t to say NVL doesn’t have its uses–I like how Grisaia used it for lengthy flashbacks where we got to see the inner thoughts of the characters in-detail. Of course, the NVL style isn’t really feasible for a VN like Steel Hearts where the text is dialogue-only.

This textbox is an eyesore. This textbox. This textbox. This textbox. Wait, wrong VN.

So, as it stands, Steel Hearts is ADV-style, with a textbox at the bottom. Textboxes get in the way of the images a bit, too, but it’s a necessary evil. In VNs with no box, where text is laid out by itself like a subtitle, the text is occasionally indistinct from the background when it comes to certain color combinations.

Another thing I see are textboxes accompanied by many “shortcut” buttons–buttons for skip, save, load, hide image, and more. In particular, many Ren’Py VNs keep these around, as they’re part of the default UI. It’s a minor thing, but I think they clutter up the screen a bit, so we are leaving those functions for menus and shortcuts. It’s no trouble, really (do you really need to save an extra click or keystroke when saving the game?), and it vastly declutters the screen, leaving as much real estate to the images of the VN proper.

Look at all those buttons! It’s a bit distracting, don’t you think? Buttons should be saved for walker cockpits!

Not all of our UI is even close to finalized, but I’m mostly certain one thing is clear: The main game UI of Steel Hearts will be limited to the text box, the nametag, and the text itself (and choice boxes when applicable). The rest of the screen is to be reserved for the images of the game itself. Buttons and UI are visual clutter–it might not be bad in normal scenes, but in scenes where our protagonist is, say, in the cramped interior of a walker, complete with dials, knobs, optics, and a limited viewport, using a limited screen space effectively is paramount.

Wait, is that… we wouldn’t *really* reference Shrodinger’s cat in our VN, would we?

Above is a mockup I made of a possible textbox (non-UI elements are just placeholders). Simple, concise, and distinct is the aim.

Next time you play a VN, notice how they use (or don’t use) stylistic, textual, or visual elements. What do you find effective or non-effective uses of the medium? I’d love to hear some comments.

A Note from the Director

Hello folks, it’s me, Havock, the Directorman ™.

A large part of our choosing to keep prose out of Steel Hearts is the fact that it actively takes the reader out of the action. By including expositional prose describing actions, events, motivations, etcetera, it constantly reminds the reader that they are not the protagonist. In my experience, this hampers emotional engagement.

It’s my personal opinion that one of the most important factors of emotional engagement in a story comes from having a protagonist that the reader can see a little bit of themselves in. People need something they can connect with in a story, something they can insert themselves into to really feel it.

By having no prose, something interesting begins to happen. The reader begins to be tricked into believing that they see themselves in the protagonist, because the protagonist’s actions are being attributed to them. Be they abusive, boneheaded, or oblivious, the reader puts themselves into the pilot’s seat. “This is me now,” the reader says to themselves, “This is how I am.”

It might be manipulative, but it does work. You see it in Muv-Luv and Steins;Gate (both huge inspirations for our project). You also see it to an extent in media such as Welcome to the NHK.

What, you thought being the protagonist would be all positive?

Make no mistake, Steel Hearts is intended to be an emotional experience. This is not just something to watch Caleb experience at arm’s length–it’s something that we want you to be right there in the thick of it with him. We want you to be him. We want you to shoulder every one of his hardships, and to celebrate every one of his victories as your own.


Thanks for reading! If you’re interested in Steel Hearts, feel free to follow this blog, or follow us on twitter at
Contact me at:
Twitter –
Discord – Palladion#5914

Steel Hearts Progress Report – February 2, 2021

Welcome once again to the Steel Hearts development blog, The Combat Report. Instead of focusing on a particular character or aspect of the visual novel, I’d like to instead discuss the overall progress of the visual novel. Ideally, I will be posting these progress dates every so often (interval to be decided).

The Writing

The writing is currently our present focus at the time. This is mostly done by myself, although our director, Havock, will write scenes on occasion (mostly Hannah scenes).

Common Route

As it stands, the writing of the common route is 99% complete, including branches. The final 1% comes from the scene of the “walker fencing” duel at the festival. Due to the unique nature of this scene and the amount of art assets/animation required, this scene is on the backburner until we storyboard it out, so to speak.

The common route as it stands runs for about 75k words, and has an estimated runtime of 7 hours.

Scenes completed: Approx. 122/127

After the common route, naturally, the game splits off into four unique routes, one for each heroine.

Juliet’s Route

Juliet’s the one I have the most work in (Brynhilde has more scenes completed, but I believe Juliet’s scenes are usually a bit longer). I spoke a bit about Juliet’s route here–it’s a deeply personal, heartfelt route, full of emotional ups and downs. In some ways, it comes easy to write (but there are some subtleties which are hard to get a grip on myself). It’s coming along well, I believe.

Scenes completed: Approx. 33/86

Lisabet’s Route

Lisabet’s route is, as I said before, is definitely the most traditionally romantic story. Thus… it’s hard to write(!) especially when you take into consideration Lisabet’s eccentric nature–it’s a challenge to write her as she is and not pigeonhole her too much into an archetype. It’s the route I’ve worked on the least so far, but then again, so too does it have the potential to grow more.

Scenes completed: Approx. 27/85

Hannah’s Route

Hannah’s route is a real monster to get a handle of. We’ve revised the structure multiple times, but I think we’re working on its final draft. Due to the route’s focus on internal conflicts, we’re making sure to make it right. Many a time, I see similarly-themed routes blasted as “pretentious” or hard to understand. I want to be sure the route is not hard to grasp or self-indulgent, while still being gripping.

Scenes completed: Approx. 30/85

Brynhilde’s Route

Brynhilde’s route is coming along well. As I wrote in her article, her story is action-packed, making it fun to write. I especially enjoy writing Beatrice and Marie, her foreign rivals (who later might end up helping you out…?). If I keep at it, I think this route will turn out great–maybe one of my favorites.

Scenes completed: Approx. 34/84

All in all, if you add up the scenes completed, about one route and then some has been written–not bad! I aim to amp-up my writing schedule into full gear to complete some routes (or maybe all?) this year.

…And Beyond

After the conclusion of each route, they then branch together for part 2–the half of the story set during a terrible war, one that even surpasses The Great War. Depending on what route you took, some scenes and endings will have variations.

Some of the more significant scenes have been penned out, and the general outline of the story is complete, but I plan on writing part 2 in full once the prior half is finished. Will part 1 and 2 of Steel Hearts release separately? It’s possible, though I wouldn’t put your money on it (put your money on Dogecoin instead (this is not financial advice)).

The Music

We’ve received a few preliminary tracks from our artist, a good friend of ours. I can’t give you an estimate on how many tracks we’ll need, but I’d like to have a fair amount (I’d also like a synthwave alternate soundtrack, though that’s just my personal pipe dream).

Here’s a favorite of mine, a nice waltzy piece. I think it’ll fit for peaceful outings in the city, or perhaps for some Brynhilde scenes.

The Art

Although I have commissioned pieces from a few artists to see how our characters look drawn (previously I had drafted them with Custom Maid 3D 2’s character creator), we have not yet decided on an artist. Our director, Havock, believes it’s a good idea to wait until our writing is more complete before finding an artist. After all, we wouldn’t want to commission some BGs, character sprites, or CGs but then realize we don’t need them after we change something.

Nevertheless, if you’re interested or know someone who might be interested in providing art for our project, give us a shout!

The Yadda Yadda

Thank you for reading this far! And if you’ve been reading all our articles, thank you once again! If you have any comments, concerns, suggestions, praise, scathing criticism, death threats, or anything else, feel free to comment below or contact us.

Our discord can be found at:
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To contact me personally, message me at —

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Discord – Palladion#5914

Ambition and Tone – on Brynhilde von Solberg

Hello, and welcome to the fourth article of The Combat Report, the development blog for the alternate-history love and war visual novel, Steel Hearts. Following in the pattern of the previous posts, this article focuses on the fourth and final heroine, Brynhilde von Solberg.

Minor character details may be “spoiled” ahead, but there are no major spoilers or other plot details that would ruin a first-time read of the VN.

Ride of the Valkyrie

“That’s one way to put it. Some may call it narcissism. I call it ambition.”

Brynhilde von Solberg

Along with Lisabet and Hannah, Brynhilde was conceived pretty early, largely to exist as a foil to Hannah (or the other way around). We had envisioned her as a transfer student, the rich sort that was a fencer, a veritable… sword enthusiast (for lack of a more polite word), as you might see in some VNs and anime. Princessly, noble, the works.

We soon scrapped this idea (transfer student is a bit played out, we felt, even among other archetypes, and we didn’t really want to riff Muv-Luv any more than we already were). Instead, Brynhilde joined the ranks of the Student Council and was aged up slightly to become a twelfth-year student (whereas Lisabet, Hannah, and Caleb are eleventh-years and Juliet is a tenth-year). Now, she was in a position of power, establishing a new dynamic with the others (mostly Hannah) and hinting at things to come in the latter war-themed half of the VN.

She could take you on! Art by Gar32.

Brynhilde originally looked quite princess-like, with drills in the front and a ponytail in the back, along with a ribbon. After quite some time, however, we overhauled her design, giving her bangs that slightly exposed the forehead and a braid that drapes over her shoulder. I was quite fond of the drills, but Brynhilde is not a mere princess–I prefer to refer to her as a “warrior princess”. She is still noble and refined (mostly), but she is ambitious, powerful, and ardent. The braid being the focal point of her design, instead of drills, helped drive home this idea–the braid is befitting of a viking or valkyrie, no?

Likewise, her name was chosen to further emphasize her identity–Brynhilde Frieda Brigitte Burgstaller zu der Fluß Komteß von Solberg.

That’s a mouthful. It was customary for nobles at the time to have many middle names. I’ll break it down.

  • Brynhilde – A valkyrie. The name itself was derived from the old German words for “armor” and “battle”.
  • Frieda – Shortened and female version of “Friedrich”, which means “peaceful ruler”.
  • Brigitte – From the Irish smithing goddess, Brigid. The name means “exalted one”.
  • Burgstaller zu der Fluß – Means “one who lives at the castle on the river”.
  • Komteß – Title given to the unmarried daughter of a Graf (count). After the nobility was abolished following World War I, former nobles would integrate their old titles as names.
  • von Solberg – Norwegian for “sun mountain”.

A powerful name in many respects, if a bit over-the-top. But, that’s who Brynhilde is, and those qualities are what make her butt heads with the world.

Clashing Souls

“I wanted to win. Isn’t that reason enough?”

Brynhilde von Solberg

Brynhilde is not one who cares so much about “things”. After all, she’s got anything she wants already. She’s got chefs, a chauffeur, a wondrous manor, and even a television.

Instead, Brynhilde wants something a bit more ephemeral–she wants to win. Partly due to her upbringing–she is a noble after all, and those hold or at least perceived to hold certain expectations. Brynhilde feels especially beholden to her father, a renowned walker commander and war hero in the Great War. However, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that Brynhilde is also just naturally inclined to be competitive. She wants to win the Student Council elections, she wants to win the best grades in her class, she wants to win her fencing competitions, and she wants to win the hearts and minds of her fellow students.

Winged Victory of Samothrace. She seems to have lost her head?

And, as I mentioned in her article, that’s where Hannah comes in. Someone who Brynhilde can’t win with, as things stand. Brynhilde doesn’t care that Hannah breaks the rules (she doesn’t care when Caleb does!), Brynhilde cares that she can’t earn that respect of her. As mentioned before, a conflict in the common route arises when Brynhilde and Hannah are forced to work on a school project together.

That therein lies the overall conflicts that surround Brynhilde’s character in the VN–situations where Brynhilde fails to or cannot win with the help of her skill, talent, or position of power. Situations where Brynhilde must–gasp–ask for help. When you’re so used to winning, it’s a difficult thing to do, especially when she’d be reluctant to do so to save face. And that’s what happens in her route–Caleb steps in and takes action when Brynhilde cannot.

Ballroom Blitzkrieg

“We are going to make you into a man that will be so noble he transcends the boundaries of blood and title. Someone who must be able to take any challenge life throws at him, from rivals to lovers alike.”

Beatrice d’Aubernac

The next thing I want to talk about is the tone of Brynhilde’s route (and to some extents the game overall). I spoke about it a little bit in Juliet and Hannah’s articles before. There is an intentional dissonance between the tones of the romance-focused first half and war-focused second half. The common route concludes in a walker-fencing duel, where Brynhilde and Hannah face off against Brynhilde’s French Gaullen fencing rivals. Yes, it’s as absurd as it sounds. And, aside from the more sorrowful bits of the route, the first half of the game is rather upbeat, even despite the climate of the times, whereas the latter half of the game is dreary and serious, as expected of the war genre.

Well, why? It’s about contrast once again–we see the characters grow up in a peaceful world, and get to see them develop as they face the horrors of war. I’m not sure if any well-known VN does this (Muv-Luv does this with the protagonist, but the other characters have lived in such a world their whole lives). It’s a concept I’d like to explore. Additionally, it gives the player more of a reason to read on–maybe someday, the characters will be able to return to a peaceful life, so perhaps readers are encouraged to read further to see if that happens.

Valkyrie and a Dying Hero – Hans Makart. In mythology, the Valkyries were said to bring fallen heroes to the afterlife of Valhalla.

Brynhilde’s route in particular is the most over-the-top, befitting of her bombastic character. Our protagonist Caleb gets wrapped up in noble dances and banquets. He meets some grandiose characters, like Brynhilde’s theatrical and romantic Gaullen rival Beatrice, her foul-mouthed bratty underling Marie, the pompous and arrogant Sebastian, and the war hero himself Mr. Albrecht “The Anvil” Solberg. It’s a route packed with drama and action, and the only route where Caleb faces the threat of death.

This is because we aim for each route to offer a different experience–more of a reason to go back and play the routes you missed after playing through the rest of the game. If each route was a samey romantic route, there’s not much point, no? With Juliet’s route, I aim to make it sorrowful and the most heartfelt and personal to Caleb (she is his childhood friend, after all). Lisabet’s route is primed to be the the most traditionally romantic of them all (Star-crossed lovers? Maybe!). Hannah’s is the one with the most inward-facing, introspective conflict, and as stated, Brynhilde’s is the most high-flying and dramatic. Hopefully, between the heroines and their routes, there’ll be something for everyone!


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Function and Emotion – On Hannah Ritter

Welcome to article #3 of The Combat Report, the developer blog for the alternate-history love and war VN, Steel Hearts. Following the last two articles, this one focuses on Hannah, another heroine.

Minor character details may be “spoiled” ahead, but there are no major spoilers or other plot details that would ruin a first-time read of the VN.

Tomboy Meets World

“Scary people don’t have perpetual bedhead.”

Caleb Hartmann

There’s a lot to say on Hannah. She was initially made to fill the role of a delinquent-ish tomboy, one who was a foil to the more straight-laced Brynhilde and a companion to the misfit Lisabet, who she initially “wingmans” for. “Ritter” means “knight” in German, so it’s fitting that she comes into conflict with Brynhilde, who holds another warrior-like name.

[Touch Fluffy Hair]… Art by Gar32.

Tomboy in what way? For one, she looks the part. She has short hair, wears boyish clothing, has a boyish figure. What else? Many tomboys are peppy and energetic, but Hannah, not so much. I pen Hannah as more of a stoic (in the modern sense of the world, not the philosophy). In her “default” state, Hannah is detached and unemotional. Hannah is implicitly concerned with function, utility, and “making things work”. Are these boyish/tomboyish traits? Well, they certainly aren’t girlish, especially since Hannah’s stoicism is often supplanted with a veneer of smugness, sarcasm, or occasional vulgarity. Her true feelings, however, are hard to find (definitely a boyish trait, I think). More on that.

Hannah is utility–making things work, making things easier. Take her design–short hair is easy to maintain (and considering her messy hair, she might not even make more than a cursory attempt). Her boyish clothing (especially so for the time period), jeans and a thick jacket, make sense for what she does. Hannah rides a motorcycle, and works on automotive projects in the school’s motor club. You can’t really ride a bike in a skirt, after all, so jeans make sense, and the jacket protects a bit from dirt or the occasional spill-out. Likewise, the clothing lends itself for her kind of mechanic work–her getup isn’t really something she minds getting dirty and grimy.

But enough about design (or I could give you an essay about her ahoge)… What about her conflicts?

Rough and Grumble

“I’d say something like ‘just don’t ask me for anything ever again’, but we both know that’s not a realistic demand.”

Hannah Ritter

In being utility-focused, that also means Hannah is stubborn. It’s her way, or… hell, it’s her way. Consider her conflict with Brynhilde–Hannah ends up butting heads with her over (relatively minor) rule offenses. Does Hannah fancy herself a rebel, punk, whatever? No, it’s just that following (in her eyes, meaningless) rules is inconvenient. Why can’t she park her motorcycle on school grounds? Brynhilde, on the other hand, isn’t so concerned with the rules either, despite being the Student Council President. Instead, she views Hannah’s actions as a directed sort of disrespect towards her. And Hannah is not one for respect–except toward her friend Lisabet, with which she shares that sort of camaraderie that misfits have toward each other.

Is Hannah a greaser? Not quite, the fashion wasn’t even invented yet. She’s functional, not fashionable! I think if people started dressing like Hannah, she’d dress some other way.

Therein lies the secondary conflict of the common route. Instead of two somewhat passive characters involving the protagonist Caleb directly in a love triangle, two very headstrong characters clash in a quite in-your-face way, and Caleb has to mediate them. Why does he have to do that?

As Caleb gets roped into doing Student Council work due to the continued absence of his class rep, so too does he get involved coming between Hannah and Brynhilde. This comes to a head when it is discovered that the Student Council and Motor Club have been randomly selected to develop an event together for the Spring Festival. And so, the unstoppable force meets with the immovable object as Caleb tries to divine a solution they can both agree to.

The Check Engine Light Is On But I Still Work

“The only thing worse than nightmares are dreams.”

Hannah Ritter

But what of Hannah’s route? After the festival is all said and done, and Caleb begins to pursue Hannah, what then? As a utility-minded person, Hannah tends to avoid confronting her feelings and emotions. Why? Well, emotions are inconsistent, not useful, and, well, scary. And as a stubborn person, Hannah’s not the type to own up to any of that. Related to an anecdote I’ve seen myself, Lisabet once told Hannah the story of Gnosticism and the Demiurge (in short, an evil or foolish god that created the material world), and Hannah ran with it, blaming the mythical Demiurge for her problems. She doesn’t really believe it, but it’s an easy cope for when things get hard.

As Caleb pursues Hannah, she pushes him away in-turn so she doesn’t have to confront his (or her) feelings. However, this plan fails when Caleb gets a job to pay for the repairs of his family’s antique clock that he broke–by divine coincidence (thanks Demiurge), Caleb starts working at the same establishment Hannah does (What sort of place? Read the VN! It’s not anything you’d expect!). So, avoiding Caleb quickly becomes next-to-impossible.

The Ancient of Days, by William Blake. Reply to this post with “Thank you, Demiurge!” or face his wrath.

As a whole, Hannah’s route is intended to be more “cerebral” than the others. What I mean by that is, instead of some external force driving a wedge between Caleb and his heroine, the conflict lies within Hannah. Her guilt for betraying Lisabet, her fear of her feelings, her disgust of her lust, her love, her hate… All these come into play. It’s an introspective tale on love. Contrast with Brynhilde’s route, a bombastic tale filled with dramatic, exaggerated characters and lots of pomp and action. Hannah’s route instead is more concerned with what’s deep inside, emotion and feeling directed inward instead of outward.

But hey, don’t think that Hannah’s route is all gloom. There’s a lot of fun to be had, too–I’m a writer, not a sadist. I promise you can look forward to work shenanigans, some truly heartfelt romantic moments, and even some real delinquency–the kind that gets you thrown in jail, not just detention.

Hannah is someone who sees the world differently, and who is quite different herself. When you’re used to being so alone, someone reaching out to you is scary. It’s uncharted territory. This wasn’t in the manual. Accepting someone else is one thing–but accepting someone who has accepted you–that’s difficult, isn’t it?


Thanks for reading! If you’re interested in Steel Hearts, feel free to follow this blog, or follow us on twitter at
Contact me at:
Twitter –
Discord – Palladion#5914