Step right up to Circus Electrique, Zen Studios’ steampunk-circus RPG coming September 6

Zen Studios’ lead writer explains what makes it different and how it all came to be


Sometime in late 2019, a small team of creative minds within Zen Studios pitched an idea to the rest of us: “Let’s make an RPG set in a steampunk version of London where all your playable heroes are circus performers.” Pretty much everyone who read the pitch—myself included—reacted in a manner that I hope you share upon hearing such a premise: “What a crazy idea… I love it!” Just a few weeks away from the September 6 release of  Circus Electrique, allow me to reflect on how it all came to be—and other ways the game differentiates itself from other RPGs, as well…

Making a game we ourselves want to play

The idea for a project first referred to as “Circus Scandal” came about when team members fresh off other Zen Studios RPGs like the first-person dungeon-crawler Operencia: The Stolen Sun, tactical roguelite Dread Nautical, and 4X genre mishmash CastleStorm II all expressed our desire to bring another RPG to life. At Zen, it’s important that we make the kinds of games we ourselves want to play…and it just so happened that in recent years, a certain relatively new subgenre of RPGs had particularly enthralled many of us, best exemplified by Darkest Dungeon. And amidst that darkness, a lightbulb went off: “We enjoy this kind of a game. Let’s make our own.”

Steampunk offers a unique aesthetic

But what exactly was the best way to make a game like Darkest Dungeon “our own”? We realized early on, the first step was to present a unique aesthetic. High fantasy is cool and all, but what if we took things someplace else? What if we didn’t even have any knights or mages or orcs or elves or dragons? (Not even a single dungeon, poorly lit or otherwise!) What if we…went steampunk? 

That was designer Andras “Babar” Klujber’s idea, to which pretty much all of us said, “Steampunk is great! We love steampunk! Why aren’t there more steampunk games? Let’s change that.” Before we knew it, we found ourselves researching the era…which led to finding awesome circus posters like these…

So that got us thinking…circus performers have their own unique special abilities, don’t they? What if they used them to fight? What if it were up to these circus folk to save a late-Victorian steampunk London from common citizens gone mad? What if the electrical innovations of the day from the likes of Tesla, Edison and Westinghouse were really amped up (pun absolutely intended)? Not a whole lot of games with a premise like that out there.

Driven by story

Now we had our basic idea—a steampunk RPG where you fight as circus performers against everyday people gone “barmy.” But how do we make that make sense? That’s where another one of our key differentiators came in: a greater emphasis on story. Something more narrative driven—maybe even more influenced by JRPGs.

To summarize things simply, the world of Circus Electrique was identical to our own until 1873, when a great innovation revolutionized electricity, sending the timeline in a more steampunk direction. Our story takes place 26 years later, after a terrible event known as the Maddening has caused everyday people to attack innocents, seemingly beyond their own will. Mysteriously immune to the Maddening, performers in the Circus Electrique join our protagonist Amelia on a quest to find out how this all happened, and how to stop it.

Accessible difficulty and atypical RPG heroes

Circus Electrique’s uniqueness doesn’t stop at aesthetics and story. For one thing, we know that a lot of players find this particular RPG subgenre to be overly punishing. Though not without challenge, Circus Electrique aims to be a game you’ll not only want to complete…but actually will! We’re easier…but not too easy.

It’s also worth another mention that these aren’t your typical RPG heroes. Character classes like Strongmen, Knife Throwers, Human Cannonballs and even Robot Bears—15 all together—are a welcome change of pace from more fantasy-focused archetypes.

Circus planning

And finally, because everyone knows the show must go on, there comes Circus Electrique’s “tycoon-like” aspect—planning a circus. This takes the form of an intricate, almost-puzzle-gaming experience where placing the best roster of characters based on their likes and dislikes directly relates to the show’s success. It’s the kind of thing that can take you a minute or an hour, depending on how much you want to think about it.

On behalf of the team, we couldn’t be more excited to present our unique vision to you very soon. Please let us know what you think once Circus Electrique hits your PlayStation of choice on September 6.

CEFC Financial was Granted the Exclusive Right of Use of the Intellectual Property Right of Animated Characters by Chengdu Dreamtoys

CEFC Hong Kong Financial Investment Company Limited (“CEFC Financial”, together with its subsidiaries, “the Group”; stock code: 1520.HK) is pleased to announce that the Group has entered into a licensing agreement (the “Licensing Agreement”) with Chengdu Dreamtoys Cultural Creativity Company Limited (“Chengdu Dreamtoys”) pursuant to which Chengdu Dreamtoys grants the exclusive right of use of the intellectual property right of four animated characters (the “IP Characters”) worldwide to a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Group for the development, production and sales of apparel of the IP Characters for the period from 19 January 2022 to 18 January 2023. Furthermore, the Group has the right to sublicense the IP Characters to third parties upon obtaining consent from Chengdu Dreamtoys.

Chengdu Dreamtoys is principally engaged in the research and development, operation and promotion of trendy cultural products. It has combined blockchain technology, near-field sensing technology, digital interaction and other new digital modules to create a meta-universe IP ecosystem that communicates with digital content. The IP Characters developed by Chengdu Dreamtoys could be used in the production of toys and figures, apparels and virtual images in games. The use of IP Characters in the development of apparel not only increases the variety of the Group’s products, but also helps create apparel products that appeal to the younger generation, enabling the Group to explore the younger generation’s market and accelerate the expansion in the design, manufacturing and trading of its apparel business. At the same time, the Group is proactively seeking more potential intellectual property rights for the production of apparel with the aim to develop new products, and to achieve the purpose of optimising its product portfolio, thereby laying a solid foundation and enhancing growth momentum for the Group.

The Group is committed to diversifying from its current focus of manufacturing private label women apparels and tap into the men and young adults’ markets, with a view to strategically transform itself from women’s apparel manufacturer to an all-rounded trendy apparel product manufacturer. The Group has previously announced its proposed change of company name to “Virtual Mind Holding Company Limited” to better align with the Group’s business development strategies. Meanwhile, the Group has entered into a strategic cooperation agreement with Qingdao Weiding Sports Supplies Company Limited (“Qingdao Weiding”) in trendy apparel markets earlier on and appointed Dr. Zhou Yibing, senior designer of global luxury goods company LVMH Group, as Chief Creativity Officer, to create unique fashion apparel products and accelerate trendy apparels business of the Group through multiple channels.

The management of the Group believes that the grant of exclusive right to use the intellectual property rights of animated characters is in line with the Group’s overall strategic development blueprint, enabling it to expand its business in the trendy apparel market and enhance its core competitiveness. Looking ahead, the Group is poised to seize the huge opportunities in the global trendy apparel market as it further diversifies its product portfolio in trendy apparel and related products, and bring better investment returns to its shareholders.

About CEFC Hong Kong Financial Investment Company Limited
CEFC Hong Kong Financial Investment Company Limited (1520.HK) is principally engaged in (i) design, manufacturing and trading of apparel; and (ii) provision of money-lending business. The Group’s apparel operation is classified into two categories, namely, private label products and own brand products. Private label products are those designed and manufactured under the private labels owned or specified by the Group’s customers, while own brand products are those designed and manufactured under the Group’s proprietary labels. The Group’s production plant is located in Jiaxing in the PRC with most apparel products exported to the U.S. The U.S. market is the principal market for Group’s apparel operation.

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Topic: Press release summary