Monday, May 30, 2011

Summer Sneak Peek

Recently my blog posts were all focused on my upcoming otome game Flower Shop: Winter In Fairbrook. However, people that follows me knows I'm working also on several other projects (I'd dare to say "too many" lol). Most of them are new RPGs, though there are also more dating sim and otome games in the works, but they might be done after the summer.

Loren Amazon Princess

After a moment of hiatus, because had to decide what kind of art style to use, I finally found a new artist and I'm going to use manga art for it too. Though will be more "adult" manga art as you can see from the images below:

This is Loren, the main character of the game (which won't be directly controllable by the player though)

Next two ones are Saren and Elenor, the two playable characters that you can pick at the beginning of the game. Like I already did with Planet Stronghold, the gender you pick at the start of the game will influence which romance options will be available to you during the game.

lastly, this is Dora, a female dwarf scout that will be one of the various characters that will join you during the game story. In total there are 12 playable characters.

There is also a male dwarf in the game though is really not cute as her :D He's the classical muscular, axe wielding angry warrior with long beard.

As I posted before, for indies is really hard to find reliable artists, so you cannot really know when the art for your next game will all be finished. Though I must say that if things keep going at this pace, I could have all art needed for Loren finished before end of June, which means I can start working on it at full pace. No estimate release yet, since also depends which system I'll use for the battles, and the story is only 30% or so done , so there's still much left to do.

Spirited Heart "yuri" expansion

This is one of the other projects I'm working on, with the help of Aleema from Lemmasoft who is writing the yuri scenes. For those unfamiliar with the japanese term, "yuri" means girl love. I'm going to add 6 new dateable female characters to the base game, each one with her own romance subplot and personality/secrets to discover, and is going to cost $9.99. I believe is a small price to pay for the upgrade since there are lots of new characters and some are *really* interesting.

This expansion is very likely to be out in July/August since things are going well with it.

Planet Stronghold "Warzone" expansion

This mainly depends on the artist speed. So far only a few new characters from the original game have been "redrawn" to reflect the fact that in the story the time has advanced of some years. This will be an add-on, featuring new monsters, items, weapons, but also I hope to introduce a few minor gameplay enhancement, like the possibility to have a strategic map and control resources, so that you can build new stuff with it. Adding some strategy element should make the game even more replayable than the original was. Also, there will be two extra romance option, Prince Cliff - Lisa (got sooo many requests for this!) and Shiler - Joshua (this is interesting).

I really cannot know about this, however I believe in June artist should be free of conventions and in theory, I could finish this one by September or so (I hope!).

Undead Lily and The Elemental Avengers

This is also going well - though is a very ambitious game and has lots of animations/character poses (there are already 12 basic character pose with eye/mouth animations and 10 battle poses done). So while I cannot complain about artist speed, it is still going to take a while because is a big game. I really hope to have this done by next Christmas, though I'm not sure, really!

I have a few more games I'm working on in parallel, but I want to keep those "secret" for now ;)

Friday, May 27, 2011

Winter In Fairbrook - Meet Trent

Trent is Susana's "big brother" (in all senses!) and when Natalie first meet him we discover that now he works at the library, helping Marian (one of the dateable characters of the first game) in her duties. Though as Natalie immediately notices, he seems a bit too happy for someone that's working! Right, usually people who work are not in a such good mood... there must be something else! But what? ;) Sorry I think you'll have to play the game to discover it...!

With this video we have almost discovered all of the characters of Winter In Fairbrook. The only one left is the "new entry" (not seen before in the first game) Ryan. Watch this blog next Friday to see who we're talking about. I don't want to reveal too much but his ending scene (maybe because of the setting, or the situation itself) is one of my favourite of the game :)

Friday, May 20, 2011

Winter In Fairbrook - Meet Jacob

After Steve now it's the turn of Jacob! This very nice, polite, shy guy was present in the first episode as well, and he had a crush for another member of the cast... (won't say which one just in case someone still haven't played it. By the way, what are you waiting for?).

In this scene, you can already feel how innocent and good he is. Natalie seems not to understand his reasons, why he always must help everyone, why he is doing it for free... and it's just my impression, or Natalie is a bit jealous of Susana? ;)

I also wanted to answer some questions that users made in previous blog posts or on Youtube. Even if Steve scene has mouth animation, the game won't be voiced. The lip animation was added at last minute as test, so we're not even sure it will be present in the final game! Indeed today's video with Jacob doesn't have it. About the length, it's slightly longer than the first game, so if you played it you have a good idea of what to expect. The farming / flower raising sim will be easier and differently from the first title won't have an impact on the endings.

About the release date, we're trying hard to release the game for the end of this month, or at least the pre-order version, since indeed there isn't much time left...! :)

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Winter In Fairbrook - Meet Steve

Here it is! The first video I want to show you of Flower Shop: Winter In Fairbrook is about Steve, the character who was the protagonist of the first game:

When I first wrote the main plot draft of the first Flower Shop (Summer In Fairbrook) game, Steve was the typical lazy, playboy, irresponsible boy who every girl is mad for, but very few girlfriend would want :) And it's fun to see how it has changed in the sequel. This second game is completely written by Ayu, even the plot, and when she told me how Steve would be different, I thought "that's a nice idea". Natalie (the main character of Winter In Fairbrook) meets him in a funny way, as you can see. From the first dialogues you immediately understand he is another person now: not only he tries to come to Fairbrook as often as he can, but now he really cares about his uncle Sam! Those who played the first game know how much conflictual was their relationship, especially in the beginning.

And while he still has unsolved issues with his father, he is much more responsible and helpful to the others than what it was before. I'm really curious to see how the Steve-Natalie relationship will blossom... ;)

p.s. as you might notice this time I made the usual "Friday post" one day late. I had some serious problems with PC and the only solution was to reinstall Vista. I used to brag that I never had to reinstall Windows in the last 4 years, but seems like yesterday my system had enough and wanted a "clean install". Was a good test for my backup/restore system though, since I didn't lose a single email/file :)

Friday, May 6, 2011

Visual Novels vs Life Simulation vs Roleplay Games

In the picture above, my cat Othello who found a bizarre spot to relax in my home. He seems caged but in reality he is relaxing in that pose!

As the title says, since I have no relevant news of my various games work-in-progress, today want to make some ramblings about those three game categories: visual novels, life / dating sim and roleplay games, since are the genre of games I made the most in the last 3-4 years (since I discovered Ren'Py in practice). In the end I will assign a percentage to each skill required to make them (is just for fun, remember!).

  • Visual Novels are rather easy, coding-wise. The main focus is the story, without any doubt. By story I mean: the basic setting/idea (which personally I believe is the most important thing), the characters and the style of writing. I put the style of writing as last thing, because even if I think a good writing is important, I think it's not as important as the game idea and characters. You can have a good writing, but if your visual novel uses a very common setting (high-school...) won't be as much interesting as a more uncommon/original setting. An aspect most VN developers ignore though is the visuals/soundtrack. I believe nice visuals will make the gaming experience much more interesting, even if is true that the main focus should be the story. A nice soundtrack, or even better, atmospheric sound effects would help even more to get into the story.
    So in summary: visual novel = 60% story/writing, 25% art, 10% sound/music and 5% coding
  • Life or Dating Simulation are already much more complex. No matter how much branching your visual novel can have, a dating sim will be more painful to code. Take my latest game Always Remember Me: there are lots of gameplay factors to consider. Difficulty balancing can be solved by adding a difficulty setting at start of the game, but making sure that each scene plays in the right order it's not easy as it seems, and making sure there are no easy cheat/way to win by raising a statistic requires lot of time and testing. I grouped life with dating sims because usually are very similar. Almost all dating sim I've seen have much in common with life sim: a calendar, several statistics, several action/location to visit to improve them, character relationships and more. While not as complex as RPG, life sim can still be quite hard to develop, even with a powerful tool like Ren'Py. Writing is important, but in general life sim have much less texts (in some cases even A LOT less) than visual novels. Art and music are always important, but since there is also the gameplay element, they are LESS important than in a visual novel where the user will be staring at the screen reading for most of the time. In life sim the UI/interface is much more important than beautiful animated backgrounds.
    My conclusion is: dating / life sim = 20% story/writing, 20% art, 10% sound/music, 50% coding
  • Roleplaying games are probably one of the most difficult kind of games to code! they have everything life/dating sim have (statistics, relationship, skills, location to visit, actions to perform) but in addition they also have a complex inventory (life sim can have inventory, but easier stuff) and obviously, the combat! I remember when I was younger, I almost ignored the story in RPGs and played them only if they had a well developed combat system. Now I pay more attention to the story but still I believe that MOST of the players care only about combat and exploration, and skip most of the writing. Art is important, but probably is the kind of games where it matters less. If you look at the various RPGmaker games or Spiderweb ones, you can clearly see that having a top quality art is NOT needed to be successful in this field. Is more about the ruleset, the battle/level up system, the skills, the quests, maps and so on. Clearly having ALSO a better art, will help, but is not an essential requirement. Same for story/writing, is enough to see how many successful action RPGs are there!
    I'd say that a good RPG = 5% story/writing, 15% art, 10% sound/music, 70% coding.

Please note that I am talking only about 2d games, so 2d RPG too, since 3d RPG are of a completely different league!

This justifies in part why took me so long to make a RPG game like Planet Stronghold vs the other kind of games. And also why I'm probably going to focus on life/dating sims in future, with some RPG hybrids from time to time. Ideally I'd like to make a life/dating sim every 2-3 months and a good RPG every 6 months (or perhaps more). That's why I put the Loren princess game on hiatus for now, since I wouldn't have been able to do a decent job while doing so many other projects at same time (lazy artists aside! lol).

Cinders visual novel


The picture you see is from a upcoming visual novel game from MoaCube, the debut title of a new development team friend of mine. They're new in the visual novel world but they're well known in the casual market, and the art style is quite unique. I've seen it in action and the attention to details is amazing, lots of particle effects going in the background. I cannot comment much on the story because the version I tried was early alpha but as the title says, is going to be based on the Cinders fairy tale.

For more information, check the game official site: