Not Really a progress update

So, I’ve been busy. I haven’t had time to make any progress on my VN/KN (whatever it ends up being in the end).

I’ve thought about it some, but free time has been hard to come by, and when I do have it I accidentally waste it looking at the internet or most recently playing The Witcher…the first one…

Yep that’s right, The Witcher 3 just came out and I just finished the 1st one, in all its clunky glory (I really loved it though). The saddest fact is that I’ve owned that game for 2.5 years. I was 30 hours in, and then I set it down for 1.5 years, with the last seven months or so consisting of me going “I really need to finish that…eh…later…”

But I preordered the collectors edition of 3 and got this cool thing!

IMG_0254
Actually that is statue #2, the first one was shorn in half but the game store found a replacement…also it looks kind of fun without his sword attached…like he’s going to punch it to death. 

I’ll be binging on The Witcher 2 in the next few weeks when my schedule opens up so I can move on to 3 as soon as possible.

But more importantly I’ll also be really trying to fit in some progress on this VN/KN! I’m still excited to make it.

I was walking to campus a few days ago and I was thinking about how I’d need to draw some treetops for this project. I reached the tree path and thought to myself “hey, these could make a good reference picture, I’ll come back later.”

Then it dawned on me…I had a phone with a camera on it in my pocket. So I snapped a quick picture before continuing on my way (though I’ll probably try again, or maybe try to find some evergreen trees).

IMG_0165
I actually kind of hate these trees, they are always dropping their limbs, particularly when it rains, and I’ve been around multiple times when a 10 foot branch drops nearby.

Also, here’s a headshot of a fellow that may make an appearance at the very last moment in the project. He’s a kind, older deamon who Zachariah accidentally summons. His name is Tug and he’s been stuck in the magical plane of existence for over 10,000 years. Lucky for him time moves a little differently in there.

tug

Later! (hopefully with a more substantial update)!

-L

Creatures Such as We

Recently I found out about an app publisher called Choice of Games. I found out about them based on a Steam Curator suggestion, but then I remembered that I had seen their work while browsing through the App Store on my iPhone.

They create text-based adventures, and so far I’ve played through two. Choice of Dragons, and Creatures Such as We. (Both free, because I’m cheap and haven’t felt like dropping money yet, but I probably will in the future).

Creatures Such as We was written by Lynnea Glasser, and I really enjoyed it. It tells the story of tour guide for a moon space station. This tour guide likes video games, but is very upset to find out that the game they’re currently playing has an unsatisfying ending.

With limited time to replay the game to look for a better ending, and a week before they have access to the internet to look it up, the protagonist gets a surprise. The latest tour group is the developers of the game itself! What will happen? (Spoilers: romance is one such thing).

IMG_0159

Though there’s no pictures, I didn’t really have much trouble visualizing what was happening, it was pretty much like reading a book.

Creatures Such as We is extremely philosophical, and the conversations your character can have with the game developers are really deep at times–like who owns art. I haven’t had the chance to play through all the routes or talk to all the characters, but it certainly made me think, which wasn’t really a bad thing. Though to be honest, some stuff was beginning to get over my head and the scope of my understanding.

IMG_0161Interestingly enough, Creatures lets you customize your protagonist, including their age, ethnicity, gender (more than just cis-male and cis-female)  though the impact is extremely minor. I think I only saw one pronoun used in reference to my character, and their age or ethnicity was never an issue, though I don’t think it ever needed to be. However the game does prod at the lack of diversity in big-budget games. Still I liked it, I’d love for more games to include more diversity without that diversity being an issue.

IMG_0160

The only real thing that bugged me was the lack of a save function or even a back button (at least in the iPhone app). There were a few times I accidentally clicked next without fully reading through everything, and would have loved the option to take a step back, even if I wasn’t allowed to take back my choice.

Overall it was a fun adventure that took me about 2 hours to complete one character path, and Creatures Such as We made  me think. In a good way.

Until next week!

-L

KN/VN Update

Hello! So I haven’t made as much progress as I would have liked on my KN, but I’ve doubled the script size and am pretty pleased with where it is going, as the writing portion is almost done! I hope to make even more progress here soon.

Still no backgrounds or anything, but I’m here to introduce a new character– Here’s a rough sketch.

urzaksketchUrzak, the elder god of death, who has a proposition for Zach.

screenshot0001

screenshot0002

To spice up the KN a little I figured I’d have the deity make an actual appearance, rather than just talking into Zach’s head. Because that would be super boring otherwise. That also means I need to finalize their design. I’ve been messing with a mask reminiscent of a skull, partly because why not, and partly because that means I don’t have to give Urzak expressions– saving time for me (I’m so lazy).

 Also, I left youtube auto-play on too long the other day and found myself watching a FNAF fan-animation, and I just love this expression on the ghost boy, though I’m thinking it might be silly to have a god look like they are crying.

fnafanimscreencap[Image from This Youtube Video]

Though it could also go the way of looking like there was blood dripping from the mask…(I’ve reread Oedipus recently as well, so that’s in my head…)

My next steps are moving from sketches on paper into my drawing program, and then start introducing sprites and backgrounds! Very slow progress indeed.

Until next week!

-L

My thoughts on Rei

High school, a ghost, and romance! Sounds fun right? Rei is a short little visual novel by sonnet009 that I thought was pretty adorable. Admittedly I’m not too picky with the games I play, but still.

(possibly mild spoilers ahead)

Rei starts off with 15 year of Aya, who’s just shown up for her first day of high school. Aya and her best friend Risa are a little weirded out by the teacher’s lectures on safety.

screenshot0001But the teachers have a good reason, because last year a student died.

screenshot0002Rumor has it the ghost of the student is hanging around the hallways, so like any good story with ghosts, Aya and Risa wander reluctantly into the school at night to try and find it. After Risa bails, Aya then finds herself alone, and meets….screenshot0003Rei the romancable ghost! (well sort of)…

I won’t spoil anything more but I will say that I thoroughly enjoyed this short visual novel. It has four endings, all relatively easy to find, and they are all unique enough and pretty awesome. Even the bad endings are cool. The visual novel is really quite short, only about 9000 words and has no CG’s , but it was apparently made in three days, so major kudos!

I decided to talk about Rei because it was a short visual novel that I really liked, with easy to grab screenshots, but I’ve also played through sonnet009’s other completed work, Aloners, which is considerably longer and really, really good. (Random side note: In Aloners you get to name the female protagonist and I named her Awk without really realizing how often her name would be used. Long story short it was quite grand and made a generally very serious story a little goofy every time a character ‘said’ her name).

What I like about sonnet009’s works is that they focus on very few characters. Aya and Rei are the stars of Rei, and there are only two major characters in Aloners. While I am a fan of works with many characters too, its a refreshing difference when you get to spend “more” time with fewer characters.

So go play these great visual novels!

Until next week! (Where I hope to have an update on my project)

-L

My first hour with Ren’Py

Okay, so it wasn’t really my first hour with Ren’Py. I’ve spent some time over the first week running through the basic tutorials than come packed with Ren’Py, and spent maybe an hour digging through someone else’s code looking at the structure.

But this was my first hour with a project all my own. Now I have grand plans for a disgustingly large project for a single human team (customizable protagonist, 4+ character routes, 20-ish endings) It would have been a tough first project for sure!

But since I promised I’d get something done by the end of the school year and I have just a few short weeks left, I knew I had to tone it done a lot!

So I settled on the idea of a short kinetic novel (no choices, one ending) featuring this mopey fellow. When I’m done I suspect it will take about 5 minutes to run through. (Though I might put in a choice or two to practice the code.)

ZachZachariah-my first OC. He used to be a super depressing punk with a mohawk eight years ago. Oh how he has changed! (This is from a few months ago, it has been so long since I’ve drawn him I’d forgotten what he looked like until I dug this up.)

So I created a new project, with its home directory on my desktop so I wouldn’t lose it. I picked a rough name for it (hopefully changeable) and picked a theme and color palate (thankfully changeable, I’ve figured that out already).start1I was happy it gave me a few lines to work with, as a reminder about what character definitions and text should look like.

start2(Nothing like a good old ellipses!)

So I started the script. Nothing crazy yet, I just wanted to code in some narration that I had roughly penned out last week. I don’t have any backgrounds, sprites, or CG’s to throw in yet.

The problem I see myself facing is…my character is all alone. He doesn’t really have anyone to talk to while he contemplates (what he perceives to be) his final moments. Sadly, that means there isn’t really a chance for a sprite to be up on the background. I could put his face on the side though, and have it change to reflect his injuries as he becomes aware of them. Or I could make a handful of extra CG’s in place of character sprites. I’ll find out when I actually start tackling art.

The extremely basic stuff was a breeze though. I am already quite fond of the color coding of the text. When my text in a line was turning orange when it should have been green, it caused me to pause, look for the issue, and then realize I hadn’t closed the quotation marks in the line above. Thank you Ren’Py.

start3(It wasn’t just the orange I was fighting, it was also a ton of typos…)

Ren’Py even allows you to test the project as you edit the script, which I love.

start5(Behold the beauty of checkered boxes!…and my inability to press the space key.)

By the end of the hour I was on my 62nd line of code and I was quite happy with what I had been able to do. I would have probably accomplished more if I hadn’t been busy jamming out to remixes of Studio Killer’s song Jenny on repeat…I have a problem, someone please stop me.

Until next week! -L

Why bother with scripted characters?

If you play video games (or even just read or watch a story), you can likely name at least one character you felt a connection to. Perhaps a character that you think you could really get along with, or one that is too precious to be stuck in the circumstances they have been dealt.

The circumstances that have been written for them.

I can name several characters that I wish I could just give a hug to, because I’m weird like that.

(Now this post can pertain to many games, not just indie games or visual novels, but a visual novel really brought this idea to light for me. I won’t call it an issue, because I don’t really think it is, but I want to muse about it.)

Many of these fictional characters are amazing. I wish that some of them were real (and adapted to living in the current age) so I could get to know them better. I know that’s not possible. I know that these characters only have so many lines. They have only so many interactions with the player. But yet, at times, when I’m particularly fed up with real humanity, I find that these characters are more refreshing, more genuine, and maybe even a little more human than what reality offers.

In the short visual novel deIz by Mike Inel, (which I’ve mentioned before) there is a fourth-wall breaking ending with a black haired girl simply known as “Her.” The poor girl isn’t even given an actual name.

Here’s a video of the full ending, filmed by BloodRedKittie

She tells the player not to get attached to characters like her.

screenshot0004screenshot0005

She knows that there’s someone on the opposite end of a computer screen, clicking through her dialogue. She laments her position as a clump of pixels with a script.

screenshot0006screenshot0008screenshot0009screenshot0010

She wants to be part of the real world. She wants to know what real love is like…

I think that sometimes I’m more drawn to these fictional characters because most (not all) are known quantities. It’s easy to determine their motives, their likes and dislikes. Most of the time, it isn’t that hard to figure out how to get on their good side. (It also helps that you’re given limited options instead of infinite sentences in real life.) “Socialization” is simple, stripped down and scripted. It makes more sense.

And that’s a real nice change of pace to the terrifying gauntlet of real life social interaction, where missteps can’t be retracted by reloading and where you’re never quite sure what might suddenly upset someone.

Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoy spending time with real people too. Just as I can get absorbed in a game for hours, I can sit and hang out with friends until my face aches from smiling and laughing (something games have a harder time doing to me). And before we know it we’re yawning and staring at the clock in disbelief. Did we really just talk for 4 hours? Indeed we did.

But I still like to hang out with fictional characters too. What Ceil (the protagonist and player character) says to “Her” after embracing the crying girl sums it up pretty darn well…

screenshot0011screenshot0012screenshot0013screenshot0014

Until next week. -L

My thoughts on The Moon Sliver

You are on a desolate island, with only your flashlight to guide you. You are alone. Your only job is to explore, and put together the story of how you ended up being the last one on the island. You must manage your flashlight battery, and when night falls, you must return to the mountain.

The Moon Sliver, a short indie title by David Szymanski, is a haunting experience. Made with the Unity Free engine, The Moon Sliver will at most take you an hour to an hour and a half to complete, but its time well spent putting the mystery of the island together. (And there is no save function, so you must complete it in one sitting).

There were once four people on the island—Isa, Ellie, Abel, and Daniel. And now only one remains. It is unclear which of the four you are playing as, but the others are missing. What happened to them?

Untitledgregfdf

The Moon Sliver tells the story to you as you closely investigate your surroundings. When something is of interest, a small question mark will replace your reticule, and when you click, part of the story will appear to you. Sometimes text shows up merely by walking over a certain area.

But there’s no set way to experience the story. It doesn’t tell you where to go once you step out of the building you start in. You’re free to go wherever you wish on the small island, though you cannot enter the mountain early, one building is locked, and a heavy hatch leading deep into the earth requires a pass code. You will get to these places eventually, and they hide the deepest secrets.

Untitledgregf

The Moon Sliver is supposed to have elements of horror, and while I choose to avoid horror titles when I can, I made sure there would be no jump scares before I committed to buying the game (for $3 dollars). Even still, when I was wandering the dark underground caverns (after finding the code to the hatch) I had to keep reminding myself that I was alone, at least for the moment. I would constantly turn my flashlight on and off, desperate to save power until I could find another outlet. I spent stretches of time walking in the dark and gauging when the next turn would be. All the while, this game filled me with a sense of loneliness and unease.

I should probably warn of spoilers ahead, though I won’t be spoiling the whole story. But before I do that, I’ll highly recommend this game. For less money than a fancy coffee, you can get an interesting tale, and though it’s hardly a pretty game, that hardly matters in an experience like this.

If you stop reading here, I’ll write it now–

Until next week. -L

Untitledgreg

In the caverns, I learned of the demise of two people. I Heard the growl of the creature that killed them, but it wasn’t really there.

Then I found a key to the locked building–to the chapel. I found that the holy relic was missing, and of the evil that would emerge if the relic, The Moon Sliver, was destroyed.

Untitledgregfd

When I left the chapel, with a name to put to this evil, the Woodland Teeth, it was dark. I had learned all I could, and I was finally allowed entry into the mountain.

There I learned of what happened to another of the previous inhabitants, and I finally knew which person I really was. I knew what they had done. I had uncovered the whole story, a tale of betrayal and hopelessness. I stared down at a single candle, and a book sitting on a chair. Would there be a proper ending screen?

I turned around, saw a shadow, The Woodland Teeth, here for the final survivor.

And then I was in a bright place, perhaps the clouds.