It’s been a little over three years since Hiveswap: Act 1 came out on 14/9/17, two years since the dating-esque spinoff Hiveswap Friendsim came out on 14/4/18, and it won’t be much longer now until the launch of the hotly anticipated Hiveswap: Act 2 this November! Can you believe it? I’m writing this on 10/25 and we just got the launch trailer today: it’s been eight hours, I’ve watched it ~30 times, and I’m still buzzing. With the new release finally cresting our horizons and my excitement reaching medically unsafe levels, I thought it would be a good time to recap the last three years of content and speculate on where — and when — Act 2 will soon be taking us!
If you’re confident you can remember all the important details from Act 1 and Friendsim, feel free to skip straight to the speculation part!
Obvious Spoiler Alert: I’m going to discuss the events and characters of Hiveswap: Act 1, Hiveswap Friendsim, and Homestuck. If you haven’t played/read them yet and are still reading this for some reason, then what are you even here for, go play/read them! Now! They’re awesome.
Not So Obvious Spoiler Alert: If you haven’t read Homestuck and you haven’t played the Friendsim (Vol. 18) Epilogue, then I’m going to be discussing one of Homestuck/Hiveswap’s major villains in detail once we get to the speculation part of this post. If you don’t know who he is or who he works for (and why), stop reading. I will also be discussing some Homestuck limeblood lore that potentially relates to some of Hiveswap’s old concept art and the mysterious Fiamet. You won’t want me to spoil this stuff for you either.
Hiveswap: Act 1 — Kansas City Shuffle
“1. An advanced form of confidence trick where the mark is aware of being involved in a swindle and believes that [they] can outsmart the swindler; however, this is all part of the trick, and by attempting to retaliate, the mark unwittingly assists the con artist.”
- Act 1 begins on Earth, 11/11/94, at Half-Harley Manor, a house on the outskirts of Hauntswitch — a town somewhere in the USA — owned by eclectic adventurer and billionaire entrepreneur Jake Harley.
- Jake’s children, Jude Harley and Joey Claire, live at Half-Harley Manor with their dog Tesseract. Because Jake spends most of his time gallivanting around the world, the closest thing these kids have to a guardian is their babysitter Roxy Lalonde; she’s in her late teens/early twenties, an alcoholic, and an employee of Skaianet Laboratory (Jake’s company).
- The siblings’ mother, famous ballerina A. Claire, died ~10 years prior when Joey was a toddler and Jude a baby. Joey — an aspiring professional dancer (and veterinarian) — adores her mother and hates her absentee father, taking the former’s surname.
- The siblings’ afternoon is interrupted by a strange centipede-like monster with humanoid limbs, pitch-black skin, and neon green innards. A series of similar chimeric monstrosities appear. Joey retreats to the house, while Jude hides in his treehouse; the two communicate via walkie talkie. From here, he spies on a series of strange hooded figures emerge from a nearby mansion which he suspects is the source of the monsters. He has been monitoring them and his other conspiracy theories for years. He advises Joey to hide in the attic.
- Joey is literally compelled to bring her ‘mother’s heirloom’ with her — a strange red-and-green serpentine key she took from her mother’s jewellery box after her death.
- The attic is locked, and the key hidden by a light-based puzzle that requires a red and green marble. Jude attempts to send these to Joey three times using his carrier pigeons, the Lone Gunbirds; Langley is eaten by a monster, Frohike flies away, and Byers succeeds.
- In the attic, Joey finds a portal. Jude — knowing about the portal with schematics in his treehouse — begs her to leave it alone, but the signal breaks up. Joey is literally compelled to unlock the portal with her key. As she approaches it, the key animates, pulling her into the portal. The portal is activated and the key disappears.
- Joey is sent across time and space via the portal’s green beam, while an alien boy (Dammek) travels in the opposite direction via the red beam.
- Joey arrives in Dammek’s house on Alternia, where an impenetrable forcefield has surrounded his more futuristic-looking portal, preventing her return. Using Dammek’s tablet, Joey meets the anxious Xefros Tritoh, an aspiring professional arena stickball player and Dammek’s moirail.
- Joey is scared into hiding by a strange deercat hybrid animal in Dammek’s house: this is his lusus, one of the albino bestial caretakers that adopt and raise wigglers (young trolls).
- While attempting to meet Joey at Dammek’s house, a mysterious box teleports to Xefros’ house, installing ‘Scratchware’ on his tablet, encoding his conversations ‘past and future.’ While he’s distracted by this, a dud missile hits Xefros’ balcony, burying him under rubble.
- We learn that Alternia is ruled by an off-world amphibious empress and her on-world heiress (Trizza Tethis), who enforce a rigid class system based on the hemospectrum — a blood colour index ranging from rust (lowbloods) to fuchsia (highbloods). A troll’s blood colour influences their other biological features and determines their socioeconomic status/role e.g. Xefros is a rustblood, giving him telekinetic powers but consigning him to a (usually short) life of poverty and a “future” as a butler (if he’s lucky). Highbloods are entitled to kill lowbloods for sport.
- Drones — strange biotech robots controlled by the empress — are attacking Xefros’ neighbourhood, Outglut, kidnapping or culling trolls and destroying their homes.
- There is a lowblood rebellion brewing on Alternia and Dammek is one of its four leaders. As part of his leaderly ‘duties,’ Dammek pressured Xefros into serving as the singer of the duo’s revolutionary band — the Grubbles/Grubbels — and ‘trained’ Xefros to survive in less-than-ideal situations. Dammek believed that the portal was a powerful weapon, and Xefros is desperate to see him return home safely — without Dammek to guide him, he feels incompetent and useless. He also has a crush on him, to Joey’s surprise — she clearly struggles with compulsory heterosexuality, evidenced by multiple interactions.
- Xefros says that the Grubble’s #1 fan would make a powerful ally, but she’s a long journey away from Outglut.
- Joey — riding atop Dammek’s deercat lusus, having tended to the splinter in his paw, realizing that he means her no harm — saves Xefros from the rubble. The three of them (with Xefros’ sloth lusus in tow) escape the neighbourhood just as Trizza’s flying warship appears. Like Xefros predicted, Trizza bombed Outglut to use its flaming wreckage as a selfie background and kidnapped the trolls to use their blood as nail polish.
In Hiveswap Friendsim you play as the (MSPA) Reader, a strange human-like entity who has ‘crash-landed’ their ‘spaceship’ on Alternia. Despite the seeming hostility of everything both living and dead, organic and mechanical on this alien planet, they are compelled to befriend a zany cast of 38 trolls.
Trolls Living in Outglut (or the Greater Urban Thrashthrust Area): Diemen, Ardata, Amisia, Cirava, Tagora, Vikare, Polypa, Zebruh, Elwurd, Kuprum, Folykl, Remele, Konyyl, Tyzias, Chixie, Azdaja, Chahut, Tegiri, Mallek, Galekh, Tirona, Boldir, Stelsa, Marsti, Fozzer, Marvus, & Nihkee.
Some important events happened in Friendsim, setting the stage for Act 2:
- Bronya is revealed to personally care for ‘cullbait’ wigglers in secret, one of these being Karako — this is itself a cullable offence.
- Tyzias reveals herself to the Reader as a dissident, having studied what few forbidden texts about historical revolutionaries she could find, including the Signless.
- Elwurd is not only Bronya’s ex-girlfriend but is still hung up over their relationship. Daraya has a crush on Elwurd and has no idea why she’d date someone as sensible as Bronya.
- Konyyl develops a crush on Skylla.
- The Reader attends clown church with Chahut, prompting the Grand Highblood to Skype them, giving his begrudging approval. Assuming this is Kurloz Makara, he is still alive from the time of the Signless’ rebellion, which is reasonable given the lifespan of highbloods.
- Galekh becomes acquainted with Mallek and — with his help — takes action on his pitch feelings for Tagora, learning to embrace a little spontaneity.
- In one of her route’s bad ends, Boldir (whose Troll Call card references a “deep-state lunacracy” and “celestial influences” — Doc Scratch) gets shot with a poison dart; as she dies in their arms, the Reader experiences a strange temporal distortion and an overwhelming flood of emotions but finds themselves unable to help her. After the end card, an unidentified speaker (Doc Scratch) says “again? Must I do everything myself?” More generally, Boldir is shown to have intimate knowledge of Paradox Space, fate, the goings-on of others, and Doc Scratch.
- Marsti gives Folykl advice for managing voidrot and the two become friendly.
- Fozzer — the proprietor of Happy Absence Pit Park, a graveyard on the outskirts of Outglut — unearths a fenestrated window through which Doc Scratch freely alters time and manipulates his personality, changing him from a communist revolutionary to an empire bootlicker; until the Reader successfully affirms Fozzer’s ‘newfound’ love of the empire, the pair will be stuck in a time loop.
- In one of his route’s bad ends, Marvus is shown to have intimate knowledge of Paradox Space, the ultimate self, and canonicity.
- Daraya and Tyzias become friends, bonding over their depression and dissidence, with Daraya offering Tyzias access to the jadeblood’s library. Together, they want to plan social reform.
- Barzum and Baizli were, before the Reader freed them, trapped in a strange house: before entering the house, the Reader was unable to walk away from it no matter where they tried to go. Once inside, the twins tell the Reader that, though their chucklevoodoos were responsible for the odd goings-on within the house, they were not sure whose house it was, nor how they were trapped inside it. Until the Reader and the Soleils agree to leave together, none of them can escape the house. These things are almost certainly the work of Doc Scratch.
- Skylla, Chahut, Mallek, and Lanque are the oldest members of the cast, each mentioning that exile is in their near futures.
- Doc Scratch invites the Reader into the Felt Mansion on Alternia’s green moon through the fenestrated wall in Absence Park. He reveals that he has been manipulating the Reader and orchestrating the events of the Friendsim to prepare each of the 38 trolls for Act 2. He also explicitly says that Boldir “cause[s] him trouble.”
Hiveswap: Act 2
Okay, here’s basically everything we know for sure about Act 2!
- James Roach says that Xefros “kind of rules and finds his spine in Act 2.”
- All of the Friendsim trolls will make an appearance in Act 2 as significant side characters.
- Almost all of the Friendsim trolls are on the train — presumably, all of the trolls who lived in Outglut and were in the subgrub during its destruction in Act 1 will be boarding. Given the sheer number of background characters we see in the crammed lowblood car, this train ride is a subgrub-wide evacuation.
- Fozzer is on the train, meaning we may not get to visit Absence Park during this Act, and if we do, it may be later on in the game. Pictured with him in the train station is the fantroll that got canonized as the grand prize of What Pumpkin’s ‘Hiveswap Comic Contest’ in 2018, Idarat Catlaz.
- In the same screenshot, the station monitors and a flyer on a noticeboard advertise ‘Jeevik Week,’ further confirming her presence in the game.*
- Xefros says that he and Joey need to hijack the train — whether this is serious or a joke is yet to be seen.
- At some point, somebody is going to kill the drone serving as the train’s conductor. Because pieces of carapace have come off cleanly (as seen on the floor by its hand) — i.e. the removed pieces weren’t totally incinerated — there are no scorch marks on the body, and nothing else in the cabin is damaged, physical strength was probably used instead of psionics to do the job. A similar effect could be achieved with telekinesis, but none of the Friendsim trolls have displayed sufficiently powerful telekinesis to dismantle a drone. This means the killer is Konyyl or one of the highbloods (or an unknown new character). The killer wouldn’t be able to fit through the small hole in the window, so they must use the vent in the floor. Glass on the vent means the killer must enter and exit the room before the window is broken, or the glass would be disturbed. Will the killing occur before or after Xefros tells Joey they need to hijack the train (if he’s not joking)? If so, have they enlisted a troll to kill the drone, or is the killer an independent third party? Does the murder occur before or after the train starts, and can the train be operated (stopped/started) while the drone is dead? If the killer was an independent third party, are they attempting to sabotage or take control of the train for themselves?
- There’ll be a Phoenix Wright-esque minigame where we accuse (presumably the five jadeblood) trolls of breaking into something. This is potentially related to the drone killing.
- There’s some weird clown shit and it’s Marvus’ fault.
- Something explodes and I don’t know what it is because the sign by the door is literally untranslatable.
- Fiamet exists.*
- At some point, Zebede and Charun’s hives can be visited. Considering they live outside of Outglut, it’s unlikely that either of them will be on the train before we meet them in their own areas. It’s possible that we learn of them via social media (Chittr), as we do Fiamet.
- A ticking clock is heard in the background.
*These things are notable because of their appearance in alpha footage that was released before Hiveswap became a 2D game series.
So let’s talk about some stuff!
Cridea Jeevik and Fiamet
We’ll start by discussing maybe the most interesting things, which many in the fandom — myself included — have been theorizing about for years: Cridea and Fiamet. During a since-deleted LudoNarraCon stream of Act 1, James Roach said that the colours of Joey’s Simon Says game correspond to the blood colours of the trolls we meet in Hiveswap: Xefros is red, Dammek is orange, leaving violet-purple and light green (the only unworking button of the four) as our two unmet trolls.
This video from 2015 details some of Hiveswap’s originally planned gameplay features. We’re shown an iteration of the social media feature called Prongle, which we now know as Chittr. Though we don’t know if the involved relationship and conversational/narrative choice elements remain, we do know that both Cridea and Fiamet have stuck around.
What little we know of Cridea is pretty simple stuff: she’s a violetblood (the purple in Simon Says), making her a seadweller and Alternian aristocracy. She’s one of the biggest celebrities on Alternia, so famous that she has her ‘own week,’ which we saw advertised on the bus stop shelter outside Xefros’ hive in Act 1. She hates Trizza for stealing her memes. She’s also a big fan of the Grubbles — we presume she’s the powerful potential ally Xefros mentions at the end of Act 1.
Fiamet is a little more complicated, corresponding to the Simon Says’ green button. Their blood colour in the Prongle screenshot is a light green, lighter than both the olive and jade we’ve seen in Hiveswap so far. Consequently, the fandom has theorized that they’re a limeblood (in that same LudoNarraCon stream, Aysha accidentally references meeting a limeblood in Act 2). Limebloods are one of the biggest Alternian mysteries leftover from Homestuck, making them perfect to explore in a spinoff series meant to develop Alternia’s lore: an entire caste between goldbloods and olivebloods — represented by Cancer — that were hunted to extinction for the “extremely powerfUl abilities they tended to have, and the threat to aUthority they represented. even more so than other powerfUl lowbloods.” We were never told what those powers were, but we did have a family of limebloods in Homestuck: the Vantases.
Karkat Vantas and his ancestor, the Signless (Kankri Vantas), were the greatest threats to authority the empire had ever seen. They shared a mutation that changed the colour of their blood from lime green to bright red. Funnily enough, there’s another alien race in Homestuck that has (exclusively) lime green and bright red blood: cherubs, the most powerful species in Paradox Space.
Cherubs are born aligned with creation (benevolence) or destruction (malevolence). They are decentralized and asocial, with no known homeland and a nebulous culture based on pastel technicolour, reality-warping artefacts (jujus), and candy. Adult cherubs will claim a galactic territory, serving as its protector or tyrant, depending on their alignment. They’re nigh-indestructible, they live in the vacuum of space, they eat stars, and they’re capable of unassisted interuniversal travel. Pretty serious stuff.
We meet two cherubs in Homestuck: the benevolent Calliope and the malevolent Caliborn (who becomes Lord English after predominating). Calliope —who has dysphoria and is obsessed with the long-dead Alternian civilization — spends most of her time roleplaying as her limeblood trollsona, Callie Ohpeee. Calliope is the first person in Homestuck to bring up limebloods and is the source of most information regarding them. The visual similarity between lime troll blood and lime cherub blood was obvious enough, but it wasn’t until we knew for sure that limebloods could mutate red blood — the same colour as red cherub blood — that the connection between limebloods and cherubs became definite. Unfortunately, we don’t actually know what that connection is.
But we do know some other things: Lord English (LE) controls Alternia through Doc Scratch, the nigh-omniscient and nigh-omnipotent puppet man on the moon who serves as Alternia’s first guardian, engineering troll culture from the species’ birth. Almost nothing goes on without his knowing about it, and everything that does go on is to the benefit of LE’s dominion; limeblood genocide only happened because they posed a threat to the fascist empire that LE/Doc Scratch had built. The interuniversal portal connecting Earth and Alternia is clearly cherub-related, functionally and aesthetically; with its mind-altering key and fundamental role in Hiveswap’s alpha timeline, it could even be — or contain — a juju. In 11 days, the portals are going to destroy both Earth and Alternia; 11/11 is the day that the cherubs were introduced in Homestuck. So, we’re absolutely mired in cherub stuff here, and limebloods are somehow connected to cherubs, and a cherub had all of the limebloods wiped out. This is where Fiamet comes in.
Fiamet being a limeblood contextualizes Simon Says’ green button being broken, which was an otherwise random detail: limebloods (depending on Hiveswap’s place in the timeline) aren’t meant to exist anymore. Judging by the hemoanonymous violet-pink Fiamet uses for their Chittr account in the new trailer, they’re in hiding, making Hiveswap post or mid-genocide. Mid is perhaps more likely, given the use of lime blood splatters in Friendsim (which happens anywhere from months to days before the events of Act 2). Why use this shade of violet-pink though? Well, if you invert it, it becomes almost exactly the same shade of green as Calliope’s blood, which is noteworthy because it’s much brighter than lime troll blood — lime troll blood is closer in hue to the inverted colour of the Chittr window itself. Calliope is also the only character in Homestuck to regularly use tildes as part of her typing quirk — this isn’t me implying that Fiamet is Calliope in some weird way, but the two have some obvious aesthetic connections beyond those generally shared by limebloods and cherubs.
Being a limeblood, what awesome powers could our mysterious new friend — potentially the last of their kind — have? The most common theory, and one that I’ve argued for in the past, is emotional control. This was possibly evidenced by Karkat when he totally pacified Gamzee in the middle of his murderous rampage using the lime green shoosh pap manoeuvre, pictured above. That would definitely pose a threat to Alternian authority: if highbloods can be psychically mollified by lowbloods, they lose their ‘right of physical might’ control over the much more numerous (and psionically mighty) lowblood population. The Extended Zodiac also describes limebloods as “bringing great emotion […] to their endeavours,” “[having] a tendency toward melodrama,” “[having] a large group of friends,” being “exceedingly kind and empathetic,” and apparently “romance is extremely important to [them].” Basically, a lot of emotional, charismatic predispositions that would pair well with emotional manipulation powers.
Kankri Vantas, better known as the Signless, the greatest revolutionary in Alternian history, might have shown us a different limeblood power. His journey as the Sufferer began when he saw visions of Beforus, an alternate universe Alternia where highbloods didn’t kill lowbloods for sport and the castes lived in relative harmony. He also saw Karkat, and the “glory beyond this realm” he and his friends would earn playing SGRUB. Believing that the Alternian people could be more, that they deserved better, Kankri became the prophetic figurehead of an intergalactic rebellion. Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before he was martyred by the empire for his heresy. The question is, how did he have the visions that started the whole thing?
Consensus has always been that these visions were a pre-ascension manifestation of Kankri’s god tier powers as a Seer of Blood because it makes total sense: he’s literally seeing the lives of his alternate self and his descendant (a blood relative). Other characters also seem to access their god tier powers despite never playing SBURB: the Condesce (Thief of Life) has the ability to increase people’s lifespans, though this does conflict with the mechanics of her class at first blush. E%ecutor Darkleer (Page of Void) is surrounded by an aura of nothingness that makes him effectively invisible to Doc Scratch’s nigh-omniscience. With all of these similar cases, ‘Seer of Blood powers’ is a fair conclusion. However, Doc Scratch suggests that Kankri’s mutation might be responsible for the visions.
Fiamet really reminds me of Act 1–3 Jade in this teased conversation: they have impossible-to-know, super plot-relevant information that’s hard for them to explain. That information could come from any number of esoteric sources. Jade got her visions from the clouds of Skaia, having woken up early as a Prospit-dreaming Space player — I doubt this will be Fiamet’s method because Hiveswap probably won’t drag SBURB into things. They could be one of Doc Scratch’s (unwitting) pawns. They could have some connection to the Horrorterrors in the Furthest Ring. It’s possible, though, that the limebloods have powers related to precognition: what’s more dangerous to a dictatorship built on secrets, conspiracies, and lies than someone with the ability to know the impossible? How could the highbloods kill an upstart lowblood if the lowblood can see their attacker’s every move before they even think to make it? This wouldn’t be too farfetched — at least the Captor’s (perhaps as a consequence of their classpects) can hear the voices of the soon-to-die, and rustblood’s mediumship is closely related to psychometry. There’s some vague precedent there. Fiamet also says it’s “great to finally talk to [Joey],” implying they’ve got the kind of prior knowledge about her that comes with foresight.
Oracular-type abilities would also lead back to Calliope! Because Calliope is a Prospit-dreaming Space player, she — like Jade — woke up early and saw visions in Skaia’s clouds. She also had the journal Rose wrote in the ~ATH book on the meteor, giving her information about people and sessions past. Obviously, these aren’t genetic abilities, but it would still be a major thematic connection between herself and limebloods.
So, maybe Fiamet can make you feel happy, or maybe they’re quasi-omniscient with a peephole into the future (or something else entirely!). Pretty cool either way! Besides all that, there is one other really interesting thing about them that we can see from the alpha footage: their profile picture is an axolotl.
The axolotl first guardian concept art was released as part of a pre-Act 1 Kickstarter backer update, and it’s no coincidence that Fiamet is associated with axolotls. Kankri didn’t have a lusus because he was a mutant. If Fiamet was a limeblood, an illegal caste, they wouldn’t have a normal lusus either; it’s a miracle they survived the brooding caverns at all. Joining the dots, the axolotl might be serving as Fiamet’s lusus. First guardians have an instinct for maintaining the alpha timeline, so the axolotl might have teleported baby Fiamet — one of the alpha’s key components — out of the caverns before they could be culled, raising them as their own child. Bec did the same thing with Jade, keeping her safe until she could fulfil her purpose.
Fiamet also has a connection to the axolotl in their name: Fiammetta (an Italian name meaning ‘little flame’) is the name of a ballet also called “The Flame of Love,” or “The Salamander” — Salamander being a Greek name meaning ‘fire lizard.’ This naming is no coincidence, as the other three main trolls have names that reference the classical elements too: Xefros comes from Zephyros, the Greek god of the gentle western wind; Jeevik comes from Jeevika, a Hindi name meaning ‘water;’ and Dammek comes from Damek, a Slavic name meaning ‘son of the red earth.’ Fiamet’s name coming from a ballet also connects them to Joey, so we’ll see whether that part is a coincidence or not soon enough.
So, the powerful, enigmatic troll has an even more powerful, enigmatic parent. Where did that parent come from? Isn’t Doc Scratch meant to be Alternia’s only first guardian? There’s an elegant answer to both questions: the beta troll’s SGRUB session produced two frog temples, meaning two first guardian ectobiology stations. Plausibly, a Dersite agent made the axolotl offscreen during the troll’s session in Homestuck.
But Fiamet doesn’t have a profile picture, axolotl or otherwise, in the new Chittr images — how do we know that the axolotl first guardian survived the cutting room floor? Well, (a) a surprise second first guardian is pretty major, that’s not the kind of plot point you plan for then throw away, (b) Fiamet survived and the two characters are highly related from the jump, and (c) the axolotl is foreshadowed multiple times in the Half-Harley Manor!
Most blatantly, there’s a big, white axolotl in this monster painting. The pink doesn’t match the first guardian aesthetic, but if you invert the colours it becomes lime green — this could be a nod to Fiamet’s bold choice of hemoanonymity. The feeling of being watched “but only sometimes” is an appropriate description: first guardians have a sense for the future, and one day the axolotl will get to look at Joey. For now, though, it’s the first guardian of another planet in another universe. Going back to the LudoNarraCon stream again, it was said that this painting represents the lusii that we’re going to meet on Alternia: the big one on the left is slothdad. The smaller one on the right is deercat. That just leaves the axolotl. The fact that they explicitly refer to the painting as representing lusii lends further credence to the theory that the axolotl serves as Fiamet’s lusus. The green cobra-like thing with the red cheek circle behind slothdad almost certainly represents Lord English, though why he’s included here is beyond me — has one of the main characters been ‘adopted’ by Doc Scratch, making LE their ‘surrogate father?’ Of our four main trolls, only Cridea is left, with no other animals in the painting to be her lusii. Scratch does prefer to manipulate young girls… it’s a possibility that one of our greatest allies might also be our enemy, intentionally or otherwise.
Then there’s a suit of knight’s armour in the basement, and using the tap shoes to interact with it gives the line “you guess you’re nothing compared to a fire-breathing lizard. Which is certainly not a thing that is real. Those are fake, for sure, forever, and also in the past.” Chronologically the Alternian universe precedes the creation of the Earthen universe, meaning the axolotl — a fire-breathing lizard — existed in the past from Joey’s perspective. Given what we saw in the concept art, this line is a real gimmie. It might even be a meta double entendre, referencing how long it’d been since that concept art came out.
There’s just one catch to the axolotl: they don’t exist by the time Hivebent rolls around. By the end of Hiveswap Act 4, they’re probably going to die.
This guy is the worst news, literally everything is his fault, and he’s been with us from the very start of our journey: we’d been told prior to Act 1’s release that the hint system was going to be its own character, but not who they were or why they were helping us. As soon as we clicked that question mark button and those smarmy text boxes popped up, it became obvious that that character was Doc Scratch.
While you’re on Earth, he says “your circumstances are known to me […] But you currently fall outside my sphere of influence. Be patient.” Once you reach Alternia, he says “it’s lovely to see you in my neighbourhood. But I believe you have other demands on your time at the moment, as I always have on mine.” Beyond the pompous assholery, it’s definitely him.
But that’s not the only way Scratch featured in Act 1! Joey has a reprint of Edgar Dega’s “The Star” on her wall. This is a fantastic analysis of the piece, but it basically boils down to a powerful man with bad intentions controlling the ballerina’s tragic life from behind the curtains. Unfortunately for Joey, this symbolism is 1:1. Doc Scratch and the man he works for have total control of the Alpha timeline, making them responsible for every bad thing that has and will happen to her. Whatever Scratch is planning, it probably won’t be good for her health. Or the health of anyone else we meet, for that matter.
What’s his fiendish scheme? How does Hiveswap serve the Alpha timeline? This game isn’t just a lighthearted spinoff — the cherub portal facilitating this story means it’s some serious business.
- Does he want Trizza dead (i.e. the rebellion to succeed, to some degree)? If so, it can only be a single piece of the puzzle: it’s definitely not his endgame. Even if she had some kind of secret weapon to kill the Condesce and assume the throne, there are way easier ways to get rid of her than a rebellion. Her death — like that of so many heiresses before and after her — should be pretty narratively inconsequential. Is there something special about Trizza herself? Or does he just need her to inspire the rebellion, bringing other people of interest together to do more important things on their way to dethrone her?
- The fact that he’s allowed the axolotl to stick around this long — presuming it dies by the end of Act 4 — means something happens in Hiveswap that requires two first guardians, which is a kind of crazy prospect. Does he want it dead, and if so, will this situation kill it? Maybe he just needed it to save and care for Fiamet, but I think there’s more to it than that.
- Why has he let Fiamet live after allowing their caste’s genocide? There has to be something so powerful and/or special about limebloods that one is necessary here. But if the unknown ability of a single limeblood is enough to do something crazy, then why weren’t their caste running the empire? Again, this ability might be a piece of the puzzle, but it can’t be everything.
- What is he going to do with Joey and Jude? If Joey safely returns to Earth and Jude survives the events of Hauntswitch — the planned Hiveswap mirror series, focusing on Jude and Dammek’s fight against the manor-invading monsters on Earth — they’ll just die in the 4/13/09 apocalypse. The title of Act 1 — Kansas City Shuffle — refers to Jude trying to outwit Doc Scratch (or the conspiratorial forces representing Scratch that Jude is aware of), sending Joey to the attic for her own protection but losing her to the portal anyway. Scratch has an awareness of Earth and the Condesce’s ectobiological experiments are probably responsible for the monsters, so Jude is in no way safe from his machinations. What does he plan to happen in Hauntswitch and how will his Earth-bound agents carry out that plan?
I don’t actually have any good answers for these questions. Just some things to keep in mind as we run for our lives from drones and murderous highbloods. Ultimately, between taking out select rogue agents and laying more groundwork for Hivebent, I think Scratch’s plans are going to produce some funky cherub lore for us.
While there’s not too much to say about them, there are three beta troll ancestors that we could meet in Hiveswap: the Handmaid (almost certainly), E%ecutor Darkleer (possibly), and the Grand Highblood (possibly).
The Handmaid is involved in anything temporally relevant, doing the dirty work for Scratch. It would be surprising if we didn’t see her at some point — I’m not sure if we’ll ever interact with her directly because Damara isn’t much for conversation, but I feel like she’ll at least be visible in flashes here and there, maybe as little easter eggs if you look in the right places at the right times.
During Chahut’s good ending Friendsim route, it was confirmed that the Grand Highblood (GHB) is still alive in the Hiveswap period, so we could potentially run into him if he remained on-world — it’s said that “the vast majority of adult trolls are off-planet,” meaning a handful stay behind to keep things in order (e.g. cloistered jadebloods). Maybe the GHB is one such adult, holed up in his blood-stained throne room, waiting for Joey to arrive on his doorstep.
Darkleer could be alive and he could be on-world, but we don’t have any evidence for either. That said, he was the last known person to have possession of Scratch’s cue ball before Vriska finds it pre-Hivebent. Somehow, the cue ball has to make its way from Darkleer’s care to Vriska’s millennia later; perhaps we involve ourselves in that chain of custody in Hiveswap. If limebloods do have oracular powers, Fiamet might even be able to use it should we find it — if they haven’t stumbled upon it already somehow. The thing is, Darkleer doesn’t need to be alive for this to happen, we could totally raid a dead guy’s house. If Darkleer is no longer providing the aura of void that keeps the cue ball hidden from Doc Scratch, then obtaining it will probably be on his agenda. Actually, maybe that makes it even more likely that the cue ball will feature. Either way, a few possibilities there. All I know is that some beautiful concept art showed us a location very reminiscent of Darkleer’s hive and I really, really want to go there.
The Condesce and the Helmsman are still alive during the events of Hiveswap, but I don’t think they’ll make an appearance — not that I’d be opposed to it, I’d love to see them both, I just imagine WP will save them for Hauntswitch.
His Honorable Tyranny, Drones, and Zombies?
His Honorable Tyranny (HHT) is a giant monster of unknown origin that serves as the ‘judge’ in Alternian court. His judicial duties include eating anybody he wants to and preventing the accused from escaping the courtroom. Mindfang kills the Honorable Tyranny overseeing her trial, but another has since taken that Tyranny’s place as confirmed by Tirona’s Friendsim. This isn’t surprising since another one lives in the Hivebent era, as referenced by Terezi.
We don’t know much about HHT, including what species he is, but his spiked carapace resembles that of the much smaller drones. Both have an elongated head with three rows of large horns. Also, HHT is always, as his title suggests, a male monster, much like drones — if they’re anything like their Earthen bee counterparts — are presumably all ‘male.’ It tracks that the two would be related, considering both comprise the bulk of Alternia’s law enforcement.
For now, we’ll assume that HHT is an overgrown drone and hope that we get some lore expanding on that— it’s totally possible we do, given the knowledge of drone biology the rebellion would need to combat them effectively. The really interesting thing about HHT’s biology that I want to learn about is his black blood. At the time, Hussie said this was a random decision. However, in Kanaya’s Pesterquest route, we find out that the blood of zombies — the “HEINOUS BROOD OF THE UNDEAD which crawl from the sand at sunrise to feast on the light and the living” — is also black. Does this new black blood connection mean anything, or is it a coincidence? Is HHT undead himself? We’ve known about the zombies since Kanaya’s introduction, but we have no idea how they happen or why. We also don’t know what can and can’t become a zombie. It’s unlikely that zombies are exclusively the same species as HHT, as their vague descriptions in Kanaya’s Pesterquest were varied and lusus-like.
As with Scratch’s machinations, I don’t have any answers to these questions. I just hope that we get a few tidbits about this stuff, obscure or potentially irrelevant as it all is.
What Things Should Happen?
So there’s a ton of stuff that could appear in Act 2 (and beyond), but what things should happen for the sake of the series’ pacing?
- We need proper introductions for Cridea and Fiamet. At the very least, we’ll talk to them both on Chitter. But, as main characters for the rest of the series, I think we should also a) meet them in-person, b) play from their perspectives, or c) both.
- We need to learn who the three remaining tetrarchs are. I think that there’ll be a tetrarch representing each lowblood caste, meaning a rustblood, a bronzeblood, a goldblood, and a limeblood. Dammek is the bronze, Fiamet would be the lime (assuming they’re one of, if not the last of their kind), leaving the rust and the gold.
- We need to learn more about Trizza so we can understand her motives and appreciate her as a villain. We also need to learn more about the extinction-level threat Gl’bgolyb poses should Trizza be killed while the Condesce is off-world, contextualizing the risks of the rebellion. While it’s possible we get to play from Trizza’s perspective at some point in the series, I doubt it will be in Act 2.
- We need to learn a little more about the cherub portal: where did it come from and why will it destroy the world in eleven days?
- We need to learn about Scratch’s existence through the hint system, Boldir, and potentially other sources. It’s possible that we see him, though if we do, I imagine it will be the cliffhanger for the ending cutscene.
And that’s every thought I’ve had about Hiveswap Act 2 since the launch trailer dropped! I cannot wait to finally get my hands on this game, just like I cannot wait to finally analyze its characters and plot once I do. See you back here soon!