VN screencaps and another project

For those anxiously waiting to see what my game actually looks like so far, here it is! For promo purposes I blurred out names and faces from the stock photos in the screencaps here (despite them being free but they’re placeholder images either way, they will not be in the final version).

In classic visual novel fashion, inner dialogue with the main character is in italics.

Character names will be in different colors, and for the most part, will appear as their last names (except for an unknown person talking, which will be “Voice” in grey).

I’m still playing around with the text size, since this will also be going on mobile. On PC the size is perfect, but one of the characters, Isis, has a very sheepish voice so her dialogue will always be in a smaller font than the others. Obviously since this will also be a mobile release, that would be an issue and would have to be tested. If you’re curious though, the typeface I used is Euphorigenic by Ray Larabie, a free-to-use font (even for commercial releases; just don’t sell the font or any alterations of it). It’s very lovely and polished! I’m a big fan of it and it helps me not get sick of seeing my work for this game.

Aside from that, while I did promise new colorings and lineart of avatar art, I was given a proposal for a game idea by my brother Peter. As the founder and head of Alterna Comics, he was looking to have a small spin-off game made to help promote his graphic novel, The Chair, since it has been picked up by director Chad Ferrin (The Ghouls (2003), Someone’s Knocking at the Door (2009) to be slated for an independent movie production. As seen from last week’s post, that was the endless runner project I briefly mentioned (and why I also decided to resurrect my little tomato guy, since he’ll be testing out the game mechanics and so far it looks good).

So instead I have been busy starting up on that project, and once I’m given the go-ahead, I hope to show some UI and item designs I did so far. Depending on how my pixel art skills are, maybe even graphics of that, but I admit I do more vector and tablet art work than pixels. But I do look forward to actually doing more of that though. The extent of my pixel art is basically my Animal Crossing QR codes for outfits and decorum, so I guess that’s a good start.

The demo is now a beta!

I’ll try not to use the terms so interchangeably from here on out, although they are referring to the same thing anyway. After thinking over benchmarks for when my game would be crowd-funded, as well as what I can definitely be able to add into its current state after the coding and art are done, the more it sounded like it would be needed to be treated as a beta first. It will still include the prologue and chapter one, but it will not feature voicework (regular audio will still be included).

I am still looking for audio composers though (as well as any voice actors who want to be on board), so please feel free to contact me and we can arrange something. Since this will be a commercial release, this will not be unpaid. A lot of work goes into making a game, and I dislike the thought of having someone contribute hours of work into “portfolio work” or as an “internship” for “experience”. Unfortunately, I lack those funds currently, hence I moved that into a crowd-funding benchmark so that I make sure I can get those funds to cover for everyone’s hard work.

That aside, I’ve continued coding. I renamed some assets, mainly to reflect the use of last names of characters (unless they have a title or are minor characters). It felt too formal using first names for the setting of the story. Some characters will refer to others as first name in the dialogue though, but it depends on their personality type and how well they know the person.

Next week I hope to report some more progress, or if not that something else related to the agenda. Happy developing!

Game avatar progress (finally!)

As promised, I did the default avatar for one of my characters in my visual novel. It’ll come in handy for testing placements in the game as well, until more avatars get completed. Since a lot of my fellow artist friends have been doing gifs of artwork progress (start to finish), I decided it would be a good idea to show the avatar as that too.

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Catherine’s default avatar, from sketch to final transparency. (click to see gif at my dA)

I decided to go with an outfit I drew her in randomly the other day; it was a good amount of casual without being too masculine (even by her standards). I look forward to doing everyone else’s avatars though, as well as any other outfits they would be wearing depending on the scene.

That aside, I’ve started on chapter two’s script, and have continued art assets for one of my group’s projects. Next week I plan to get a friend on to co-write as a guest post, but you’ll see what I mean when that comes up. Until then, take care!

Developers Cagematch!: Construct 2 vs. Ren’py

These days there are many programs and SDK’s to choose from for creating your own game. Some have a steeper learning curve than others, and depending on what you’re making some are simply better tailored for the task at hand. For those looking to do a more narrative-driven game, such as a visual novel, this is no different. This week’s posting will focus on two programs I’ve tried out, and one ultimately came out as winner.

This doesn’t mean the “losing” program is a bad program. I mainly want to address their strengths and weaknesses for other devs out there, especially those starting out and grasping for feedback from other devs who have used them in the past. With that said, let’s get to the nitty gritty!

For my game, I wanted something that could publish onto both PC and mobile platforms. Because of that, I definitely wanted an SDK that would publish onto mobile as well as PC via web browser. Even before I entered my graduate program, I have been recommended Ren’py, but of course at that time the mobile space had just been picking up, and so when I did decide to buckle down to make this game, Ren’py had not yet released a way to publish onto mobile. After some digging, I leaned towards Construct 2 and tried that out for a few days.

(There also is a third program my fellow friend and collaborator Daggertail is using, which is Novelty. I will not be reviewing it though since I don’t use it, but it’s also highly recommended and very easy to learn. It does not export to mobile at this time though.)

CONSTRUCT 2 (https://www.scirra.com/construct2)

The awesome thing about Construct 2 is that its licensing fee is very easy to obtain and follow, depending on what you’re building your game for and where. PC is free to make since it exports with HTML5 and WebGL, however to make mobile games/apps you will need a Personal license (USD $119), and if it makes over USD$5000 in profit you will have to upgrade to the Business license (USD$399). By the way, unlike other services like Adobe Creative Cloud, these fees are one-time only!

The SDK’s site also offers great tutorials for all skill levels, although the ones built into the program itself are incredibly helpful and powerful. Virtually almost every game and app you can think of has its basics outlined in the tutorials; platformers, shooters, top-down dungeon crawlers, etc.

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Although an understanding of basic OOC (object-oriented code) is helpful, the interface of the program is very drag-and-drop and menu-based. Much of what you’ll be doing is maneuvering what variable does what and when, and selecting options. It’s very easy to follow and has a good learning curve for beginners to get into.

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Unfortunately, it doesn’t have the polish for a visual novel, unless you’re an expert with the program or want to sit down and figure out how to work it yourself. Regardless, it is a great way to make a quick prototype of any game. If you like your end product of your visual novel to have that nice polish and little details, but don’t like to program or dig through too much tutorials to find what you’re looking to do, you may wanna steer clear of Construct 2 until you feel more comfortable with the program.

Simply put, while it can make other games such as those I had listed, it needs more fine-tuning for it to be as efficient with visual novels. I quickly found myself struggling to do what I wanted it to do, and time was not on my side.

But then I found out Ren’py got a patch that could export to Android, and that’s where this next part comes in.

REN’PY (http://www.renpy.org)

Ah, good old Ren’py. Prior to June of this year, this program only published onto PC. Thanks to its new exporting feature, RAPT, it can now publish onto the Android market as well! Using and publishing games with Ren’py is free, however you’ll need to purchase the fee over at Android’s end for releasing it onto mobile (USD$25; it appears to be one-time as well but please correct me!). If you don’t mind not having a release on the App Store, you’ll be happy as a clam.

Like Construct 2, Ren’py’s documentation and built-in tutorials are incredibly powerful, despite the fact that it’s dedicated primarily on visual novels and other simulations. With more tailoring, you could turn it into other puzzle games as well. Whereas the other uses HTML5 and WebGL, Ren’py is run by Python, but has its own language that the developer can use to create their own games. While only changing interface skins are done with a simple menu, everything else is hard-coded.

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If you know basic OOC, you’ll have no problem diving into Ren’py, but if you don’t do much programming at all or are new to it, I would highly recommend tinkering with the tutorial files, and playing around with the variables as shown in their documentation first. Compared to most other OOC’s out there though, Ren’py’s is incredibly easy to grasp. It took me a whole semester or two to get into Lua when I was using CoronaSDK, and I still haven’t scratched its surface.

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After sitting down with Ren’py for a day, I was able to catch up with what I had built back with Construct 2 for my game and then some, and that’s including adding my typeface and adjusting the settings! It was such a breeze that I simply haven’t bothered to go anywhere else to make my game.

With that said, the verdict is in favor of Ren’py for this cagematch! Construct 2 is a fantastic program and I still highly recommend it, however if you’re looking to make a visual novel with no fuss to worry about, Ren’py is what you want. If coding really drives you bonkers though, Novelty is a bit of a marriage of the other two – its interface is more menu-driven like Construct 2, but it has powerful features like Ren’py does (it doesn’t publish onto mobile though).

I hope this post has helped your decision on your SDK of choice! Maybe in the future I will do more program/SDK comparisons, but we’ll see. As it is I realized the modern Windows Movie Maker for Windows 8 is horrible, and I had to reinstall a trial of Adobe After Effects in order to do some simple video compilations. That itself has its own learning curve, but I’ve used it several times in the past so it was cake for me.

With that said though, I am open to suggestions! Next week’s post will be something more design-related, so if you like that sort of thing I hope you dig it! Thanks for reading and take care!

So what have I been up to recently?

(I’ll do my best to update this blog weekly, although right now since early development is still going on with my game, I also have topics set aside that can be filed with the ones I have on my navigation, to give you an idea.)

I am now art lead for an action/RPG mobile game, as well as a one-shot visual novel, but I’m only a team member and collaborator in those so I will not be posting much things from them very often, unless given permission as a press release. As of my own project, I will be releasing more updates about that here though.

I currently am working on a visual novel based on a trilogy of books I wrote during college, the majority of which are up on my deviantArt, with the exception of the last of the trilogy (I’m trying to work out plot holes, which both the light novel I’m working on based on that, as well as this visual novel, are addressing). While I appreciate it if you took a look at them, my current style of writing is in the light novel, CPA: Chronicles, because that’s more recent work. While visual novels don’t read like traditional novels, a similar tone of voice will be used in the game though.

Even if you’re not familiar with the series at all though, the visual novel is fairly stand-alone since it’s a prequel to the books, so don’t worry. The setting will relatively be the same, and with the exception of a few characters and other references, everything else is new. Heck I’m still in the middle of renaming the entire series, and therefore I don’t have a proper title for this visual novel yet. My naming abilities has been terrible the past few years, so any suggestions or spurts of inspiration are greately appreciated!

That said, let’s get down to business!

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Final portrait sketch of Mimi, one of the main characters.

The story centers around a continent known as Gaea, which is located on a different world far from our own but similar in many aspects. Unfortunately, Gaea is in unrest due to a civil war caused by the collapse of its main country, Poronia, and rifts between the people and how the conflict should be addressed is commonplace. For those who are unable to fend for their own or simply want to live in a less stressful environment, settlements built around the old subway lines were established far underground from the surface. Over time these settlements became sustainable cities, and the sovereign housing them known simply as the Underground.

Of course, it was only a matter of time until people got upset about the Underground for various reasons, and a string of murders soon followed involving Underground workers and even government representatives secretly allied with them. Fearing that enemies would soon strike again and eventually destroy them, the Committee forms a group of eight ragtag investigators from around the area to hunt down the suspects and stop the killer before more lives are claimed.

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Sketches of some of the male characters for reference. From left to right, Adam, Harvey, and Charles.

As I continue to work on the project, I’m going to work on the main pitch/synopsis though, so it isn’t so dry (I’m just trying to avoid spoilers here). That will be tested later on when the working prototype is ready. But for those that enjoy visual novels, mystery/thrillers, or even a mix of both (most VN’s tend to be romance related, after all), I hope it will pique some interest!

I always had wanted to work on a game based around my series and characters for a long time, and since it’s only me (and hopefully an assisting artist who has voiced interest) working on it right now, I can’t do too much that would involve a heavy game engine. I am an artist and illustrator, so programming is not my strong point but I do know how to do it (mainly for web though). So naturally with what’s out there, a visual novel was the way to go here. I mainly wanted to convey a story to strengthen the IP I already have going on for years. While there are puzzle elements and choice options (like of Ace Attorney), the game is meant to segway into the books, and from there if it’s well-received, hopefully I can continue to do more based on those stories instead, with a proper development team.

Anyway, I will go more into game engines another day for this project though, because I just changed over from Construct 2 to Ren’py. Ironically the latter was my first choice, but I was unsure if it could port over to mobile. (I really wanted the game to available on Android, not just PC; there’s too many romance VN’s on Android! Some of them are very good though.) Of course, as of this year, Ren’py can now port over to Android, so now I switched and am much happier! I even got caught up with what I already had worked on in my other build, so progress is looking very good.

The next time I update about the project, aside from my more descriptive journey with working with both programs, I also intend to have a nice demo screenshot of the game. Can’t promise that the graphics will be finalized, but I’d like to have something else to show besides sketches and deviantArt links, you know what I mean? At any rate, take care and thanks for reading!