Friday, August 26, 2011

Sometimes Life Gets the Best of You


In the photo above, my dog Nick who passed to better life last sunday.

As the title says, sometimes real life gets in the way of indies. I won't be lying, this month has been the worst of my life so far. Earlier I lost my uncle Don Giulio, a catholic priest (but religion doesn't matter, he was a good person and helped a lot of people during his life). It has been a very important figure in my life, and in some way also helped me to become an indie.

As if losing people and pets I loved wasn't enough, the heat here (but also in US from what I've heard) has been insane since about two weeks. I bought an A/C, but even if I turn it on, the noise is too much to concentrate (I am not the kind of person who listen to music/radio while working, I need complete silence)!

Luckily, nowadays I use a lots of external people to work on my games. So even if this month I was mostly unproductive, I was still able to communicate with the writers, coders, artists and keep my active projects moving. But is scary to think how the life (and career) of a lone indie can be at risk when "the life gets the best of you".

This friday I wanted to have the pre-oders of Spirited Heart Girl's Love ready, for example. Everything is done: the art is ready, the story has been finished since July, the ending voiceovers redone. There are only a few sprites left to put in the game, test it a bit and do the various installers and upload them. Probably a day of work, but in the last 3 days was able to work on average 2h a day (and also had other projects to keep going that required my attention).

I think if today I worked at maximum speed I could have made it - but I don't like to realease things in a rush. I like to polish my games, adding small details and making sure everything works. But all those little things take time! I'm sure many of you that follow me are wondering what happened to the other game Flower Shop: Winter In Fairbrook. That is another example of what happens when the life gets the best of us, in this case of my friend and partner in this game, Ayu of Sakevisual. She had many problems too recently, and even if a "pre-order" version was ready at beginning of this month, there were still several smaller things out of place, so we decided was better to wait until everything was perfect.


However, talking about Spirited Heart Girl's Love, I can definitely promise it will be out this weekend - even if I can work only during the morning, in two days of work the game should be 100% finished and ready for pre-orders. So stay tuned and follow me on twitter for the announcement! :)

Friday, August 19, 2011

there WILL be a Heileen 3


In the picture above, my black cat. It was the first one of my pets to be included in a game of mine. He is "Black" the cat in Heileen 1-2. We call him Batman, but for obvious copyright reasons I couldn't use that name in Heileen games! :D

Incredible how time flies. It was October 2010 when I made a blog post where I was thinking about doing a third (and very likely last) episode of my Heileen series. And now, almost one year later, I've decided to make it for real. Last year I was dubious because the main artist of the game (and of all my early visual novels / dating sims) Rebecca Gunter, is now working fulltime as webcomic author (it has always been her dream) and last time we spoke she said that unfortunately she doesn't have a minute of free time, since she is busy working on THREE webcomics at once (she reminds me of a certain indie author who has several running

So I started asking around, since in theory I have all the sprites needed to make the story, what I'm missing are the ending scenes. However, talking with other indies and customers, everyone agreed that is enough that the style is similar and the CG scenes should be fine. CG scenes are the one displayed as the end, as "prize". It occurs to me that none of the Heileen games had ending scenes with custom art, because at those times was just starting and had a much limited budget for each game... but Heileen 3 will have them for sure, since is the last chapter I want to make something very good.

As replacement for the CG scenes I'm going to use Loren RPG artist (who is working right now on the last scenes for that game). As you can see from the image below, the style is very similar and should be fine :)

Reading again the old post, I had lots of ideas. Obviously I'm not going to do them all, but all I can say is that Heileen 3 won't be a normal visual novel, like the previous ones. I want to add at least a simulation gameplay element, after all at the start of the story we are in a pirate ship, so... plenty of interesting options for Heileen, don't you agree? :)

I would also like to keep the idea of the Good and Evil choices that was present in the second episode, so that you get different endings based on what you do, on how you behave towards other people and which moral/ethical decisions you'll take.

Similarly to my most recent games, I plan to have both straight and homosexual relationships. In previous episodes of Heileen, you couldn't pursue many love interests, but this time I'll try to expand the number. For the straight GxB endings, Marcus and John are the ideal candidates, and for the homo GxG obviously Marie and... surprise :)

Beside improving romance, I want also to do a management section with all the characters present in the story. Each character would have a role on the ship and give you a bonus. The main idea is this: you start your search to find the other missing people, and as you get them, they join you aboard and give you gameplay bonuses. For example "recruiting" Marco will give a bonus to cooking, Jack will increase woodcutting and maybe also will give a hand during struggles... and so on. I want to keep also the quest system present in the first two games and have more variety of quests. It looks almost like a RPG, but in reality I think is more accurate to say it will be a dating sim with island exploration/colonization. Something like that, I have yet to define the details!

For the Visual Novels "purists" don't worry, I will include also a "super mega easy" playing mode, so that basically you'll be able to play it almost as if it was a standard plain visual novel!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Loren Amazon Princess new skilltrees and battle system

As you can see from the photo above, I hired a very skilled coder to help me working on the future RPGs ;)

Jokes apart, I really hired a coder, but for Loren Amazon Princess (since Planet Stronghold Warzone will re-use the same battle system with some interesting new features like area of effect psionics).

I know I already published some skilltrees, but when the new coder arrived we decided to revamp the plannet battle system with a new, greatly improved one. Check the WORK IN PROGRESS image below:

The main "battle flow" will work in a similar way as Final Fantasy X battles, where each action adds to "wait time". So no more Action Points, though the basics are the same. On the right of the screen there's a list with the moving order, and when is your turn, you'll decide what action to do. Clicking on your currently active character, or an ally, will open a menu with the "friendly actions" that you can do (like Heal another party member, or use a potion, and so on). On the other hand, clicking on an enemy will open the menu with "hostile actions", like attack the enemy or use one of the various special skills / spells that you have at your disposal to crush your opponents!

Each action will add a wait time. So for example drinking a potion will be such a quick action, that you will be able to move again the same character immediately, though "behind the scenes" some "seconds" of battle passed. If you perform a more complex action, for example use the "Pinning Shot" skill of the "Hunter" subclass, your character will need much more time before he/she can act again. The list on the right will update in real-time when you hover the mouse on the skill, so you'll have lot of time to plan your strategy. It's already working quite well, in the test battles I often paused wondering if was better to use a quick, but less powerful move to finish one enemy, or instead choose a more slow move but that would hit all the enemies in front row.

Yes, because differently from Planet Stronghold, there's also tactical disposition on the battlefield! There's a front-row, and a back row. If a character is using ranged weapons, can hit anyone in front/back row. But if the character is using melee weapon, he can hit only enemies in the front row. Also obviously Warriors will have more HP, while Thief and especially Mages much less, so putting them in the front row won't be a great idea! This means that you'll have to choose your party formation, and right now we're thinking to have glorious 8 vs 8 battles that will offer a great fun, and will let you use most of your party members (there are 12 in total that you can recruit).

skilltree.pdf Download this file

I'm also particularly happy about the various skills and how the interaction between the 3 main classes (Warrior, Thief and Mage) will work. But this is a complex topic and will require a completely new blog post (and new flowchart to explain it), so for now I'm going to stop here. The skilltrees are basically 99% definitive this time, there might be some that will change slightly during testing to balance better the gameplay, but in general what you see in the PDF is going to be the final version of all the skilltrees.