Friday, December 30, 2011

2011 The Year Of Farewells

This year was... weird. It was bittersweet, crazy, successful, painful, happy, sad and... the year of farewells.

This year indeed I've said farewell to my beloved uncle, the person who helped me to become a game developer more than anyone else since I was a kid.

I've said farewell to several pets: the last one, my dog Artù, just a week ago. In the picture above I'm with him during a trip to Germany.

But it was also the year I said farewell to my old car. I know it might seem stupid: but I was somehow attached to it. It was the car I had on my first date. The car I used to go at the office for my first job. Was the car I used when I gave the first passage to my girlfriend, and when I went on my first holiday trip. So many memories, mostly good ones!

I've also said farewell to portals: or at least, to submitting to them. I've come to the conclusion that they get so many submissions that unless you make a perfectly "targeted" game, you won't have any chances. Or you need to be featured on the most popular websites, which is something that seems forbidden to me for reason behind my control. So, from now on, I'll just save my time and take care only of my followers!

How was business in the 2011

On the "business" side, this has been my most successful year ever since I was indie. This month was the best one, despite the various indie bundles, sales, and the crisis. I really hope business will continue like this month, would help me to relax a bit!

Of course, I'm not getting too much excited. Since I know that in a fast paced technology-related business things might change completely in just a few years (or even months). Still it feels good for once not being worried to pay the bills!! :)

It's interesting, if I think back about 2010 which was a rather disappointing year (mainly because of the two Vera Blanc games and Card Sweethearts, the worst-selling games I've ever made!). I was sad and angry because of the various failures, but I still had all my pets and my family members alive. I think this year taught me what really matters in life, not money or success - but love and being loved.

Next Year Goals

I really have big hopes for next year, since I'll release many interesting new games of all kinds (RPGs, dating sim, otome, etc). The only thing I fear honestly, is that I might have to slow down a bit. I am not a machine, and this year for various reasons I was forced to be at home, and since at home I have my computer and internet connection... I worked! I didn't have a SINGLE DAY of holidays. Of course I didn't code or write all the year, but even managing people/sending emails takes lot of time.

And as a consequence I released 5 games in a year, which is something never happened before. I'll try my best, but don't expect 5 games next year! Even if who knows, maybe will still happen.

Happy New Year to everyone!!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas and Best of 2011

In the photo above, my cat Othello sleeping peacefully in a basket with a cushion :)

Merry Christmas to everyone! To celebrate, from today until the 25th December EST timezone, you can get a single game from the whole Winter Wolves catalog for 50% off, using the coupon "XMAS".

And what about the title "Best of 2011"? Well in the last week I've seen around internet lots of "Best of..." by almost all sites. The fun thing, is that they talk always about the same games! I don't want to argue about Minecraft or Skyrim being the best games. However, I want to remind that there are small niches, who don't care at all about those two games, and there's nothing wrong with it!

Personally I TRIED playing Minecraft but I quit after 5 minutes. I know many other people who did the same. Does it means that it sucks? Of course not, but while that game entertained lots of people, there is a minority (a niche) that maybe preferred to play other kind of games, maybe one of my games.

So of the games I have released this year, I want to make three "Best Of". I talk about my games because sadly this year I was so busy with work and real-life stuff that I really didn't had time to play accurately ANY other game (including AAA titles) so I cannot judge anything.

Best Art

1. Planet Stronghold
2. Winter In Fairbrook
3. Always Remember Me
4. Love & Order
5. Spirited Heart Girl's Love

The first two places are very close. However, while in Winter In Fairbrook the character art by Deji is lovely as always, the backgrounds are definitely worse than Planet Stronghold ones (they also had a different budget, so it's normal!). Always Remember Me has slightly better backgrounds than Love & Order (and same character artist) while Spirited Heart Girl's Love had the beautiful characters drawn by Meago, but it was an add-on, so it mostly reused the old game art.

Best Writing

1. Spirited Heart Girl's Love
2. Winter In Fairbrook
3. Always Remember Me
4. Love & Order
5. Planet Stronghold

Ok I know that everyone loves Ayu's writing. I do too :D But I think that Aleema writing on SHGL was a bit overlooked because of the game theme (yuri) which is much less popular than WiF one (otome). I might be also biased because obviously I like more yuri than otome :D Anyway, was a close call and depends on tastes. Always Remember Me writing was nice I think, while Love & Order was good but definitely short and not well developed in the romance scenes. Planet Stronghold...<coughs> I know, that's the weakest point of the game, but the sequel won't be written by me, I swear! :)

Best Gameplay

1. Always Remember Me
2. Planet Stronghold
3. Love & Order
4. Spirited Heart Girl's Love
5. Winter In Fairbrook

Well, there are no doubts that Planet Stronghold has the most complex gameplay, however I think that even Always Remember Me life simulation system, with the map and time of the day was not bad. A close call really, but Planet Stonghold probably was too much niche for most people. But again depends on tastes!
Love & Order wasn't bad even if maybe a bit too much repetitive. The last two places could be considered a tie, since they were using the gameplay of the original title without much innovation.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Loren Amazon Princess release plan

In the photo above, my cat Gilda sleeping in a plastic bowl :)

In the image below instead you see the almost final main menu of my upcoming fantasy roleplay game "Loren The Amazon Princess". Please note how I wisely placed the Buy Now text :D


Current Game Status

Jokes apart, the game story is nearing completion, even if there are still many things left to do, mainly finding typos and checking the flow. It's going to be a very LOONG and detailed game. Without doubts, my biggest game under every aspect: story, characters, art, sound effects/music, gameplay, longevity (you can play as male and female, and there's a big variety of party members to select).

For the first time I also used an artist to do the GUI (windows,buttons, icons), and I must admit that it was worth it. Special thanks also to Aleema who helped with tweaking the GUI as well!

The Game (Many) Features!

Every character has a main skilltree (the Class, which can be Warrior, Thief or Mage) and a specialization skiltree which is unique to each character. In the image below you see the Berserk Skill description of Ramas, the dwarf berserker warrior that you'll recruit early in the game.


The quest system is also more complex than Planet Stronghold, since you can have quest and sub-quests (or steps). In the image below you see the main game quest "Find Queen Karen" (Loren's mother) and also the first step, that is going to the town of Grimoire to gather more informations.

The game will have a map system and also lots of items, divided into weapons, armors, potions/scrolls/useable items. Each item will be divided into sub-categories like happens in most RPGs, for example you have cloth armors (usable by Mages only), light/medium (usable by Thieves) and heavy armors (usable only by Warriors). Same thing for weapons. You can also have items that can be used only by a specific character.

I have added already over 200 items in the game database, and will add more in the final version!

Of course, there's no need to say that the game has a lot of romance options, including all the possible combinations (straight and homosexual of all genders)! You can advance the romance talking to characters while in the camp, and also during the main plot. The writer Aleema did an awesome job in the character interactions/romance paths!


The Battle System

So I'd say the only thing that still needs lots of tweaking is the battle system. Not the rules or the skills implementation which is at good stage, but the layout. Right now there are 8 vs 8 battles, but as the coder remarked, they could be too long. My idea was to have the player fight epic battles against "hordes of undead", so having 8 enemies would be cool. In particular for the mages and their Area Of Effect spells! However, perhaps I should limit the number of party members, since controlling 8 members every battle could be too much: I am thinking to limit it to 6 or perhaps even 5, and keep the 8 enemies instead.

Also, I won't be able to use the same display view of Planet Stronghold, because of the bigger scope of the battles, so the battle might use the view of a sort of card rpg game. Getting feedback on the battle is one of the main reason why I've decided to release the game as beta pre-order (see below).

The Soundtrack

The game will feature another custom song by Cristina Vee & Matt Myers. I have it already but for marketing reasons (we'll launch the song also on youtube and itunes) I will add it to the game only on the official release day (so pre-orders won't have it). Trust me when I say that is one of the best pop-rock song I've heard this year!

The Release Plan

Those of you that follows me on twitter already know that I've decided to release this game in beta pre-order like I did for Planet Stronghold last year. However, differently from Planet Stronghold, I won't be able to sell it initially at a cheap price, because I put too many hours and invested too much money on this, sorry :(

So the game when will enter the pre-orders beta will be regularly priced at $24.99, while the expansion will be likely priced at $9.99.If things go as planned I'll start the pre-orders stage in January - however is more likely the END of January.

The expansion instead will be released about 1-2 months after the main game. All the people that buy the game during the preorder phase though will be able to play it in exclusive before the others, and will also receive some extra items inside the game as reward, and possibly other "goodies" (suggestions are welcome!)

Friday, December 9, 2011

Winter In Fairbrook is finally released! And fan art contest!

In the picture above,my cat Gilda in the snow. It's a picture of last year, since there's still no snow here!

As you probably know if you follow me on Twitter / Facebook, or are subscribed to my newsletter, the final version of Winter In Fairbrook is out, just in time for Christmas!

If you haven't played the first title yet, you can now get both for 15% off. For more info check the Flower Shop series page.

I also need to update the first title to online activation and new Ren'Py, and probably make it easier too since is much harder compared to Winter In Fairbrook.

Meanwhile, the other games in production are making good progress:

Loren Amazon Princess RPG

The plot is still being written, but I'm happy to say that counting the expansion, it will be the longest game I've ever made, even longer than Planet Stronghold. Also there are a lot of romance options, for all tastes. The only thing that concerns me right now is the battle system. I have asked the coder to make a 8 vs 8 battle. However, I'm thinking that might be too hard/confusing or simply the battles could last too long, so following the coder's suggestion I might drop the number to 6 vs 6 maximum, which should already offer a good variety in the battles.

In practice I'm wondering if the battle isn't too much "for the hardcore RPG fans" than the occasional RPG players. I have to say though that even Planet Stronghold was supposed to be a light-RPG, a visual novel with RPG elements but then quickly evolved into a full JRPG and people seemed to like it.

I guess the moment of truth will be when I'll publicly release the Alpha Version, with some battle examples, so I'll be able to get feedback on it and see people's reactions.

The Queen Of Thieves

I got more art finished, below you see Arianna, also know as The Queen Of Thieves! Yes she is the mother of the three sisters Joanne, Kira and Thalia, the main characters of the game.


Artist is working on the various kiss scenes for the romance subplots, and then will do the introduction which will be in the form of short comic. I have yet to code all the gameplay but I think I have some good ideas for it, and I'm eager to start prototyping something to see if they're good or not! :)

Draw fan art and win a free game! Facebook contest

I've setup a new contest in my Facebook page. I'm giving away three coupons to get a free game to the top 3 entries. What you need to do? Draw fan art of any characters from my games (including Winter Wolves and Tycoon Games) and submit it to the contest application on Facebook.

There's a voting system, so the three most popular fan art images will win a free game coupon! The contest will end the 25th December 2011, unless the amount of entries is too low (for example below 10) in that case I'll extend the deadline by some more weeks.

Friday, December 2, 2011

2012 will be the year of Fantasy

In the photo above, a portrait of my cat Batman.

While the beta testing of Winter In Fairbrook continues (we're only missing some typos to correct and then everything will be ready for the official release), I am now working mostly on Loren RPG and Queen Of Thieves.

Why 2012 is the year of Fantasy?

It will be because very likely I'll release Loren RPG, Queen Of Thieves, and hopefully also Amber's Magic Shop, though this is the less advanced game for now. Let's see the progress status of each game.

Loren The Amazon Princess

Loren RPG is starting to get into the final stage. Which means at least 2-3 more months, depending how long takes to finish the texts and images. It's definitely going to be my biggest game ever, on every aspect: amount of writing and plot complexity, amount of art (both on interface, character and backgrounds) and amonut of gameplay/rules/game system.

I really hope will be worth it! But anyway, this is a game I always wanted to make, and I'm very pleased by how is coming out, so I think in the end it will be worth it in any case.

Below you see some screenshots of the current GUI design. The equipment screen, where you can equip your character, and the "post battle" screen mockup, which will show some statistics about the battle and how many experience points each character made.

My current goal is to have a playable Alpha out before the end of the month, and it's not going to be easy, even if the battle engine is completely coded, still need testing/tweaking. In particular, so far I didn't test with much equipment at all, and I didn't define any enemy. Enemies can have skillsets like the playable characters, but aren't restricted by the class, so there can be lots of interesting combinations to make, but also to test, to make sure there aren't invincible enemies!

Another big part of the game that is still missing is the map system, which I wanted to make slightly different from Planet Stronghold one. You can travel from place to place, but I want to make random encounters. However, in the easy/normal mode, you'll be able to skip/run from the random encounters. I don't want to force the player to fight the random battles at easy levels, but on the other hand they might be useful to raise your characters power in case you're stuck with some main plot related battle.

The Queen Of Thieves

I really can't believe that I started this game in December 2010 and still haven't all the art finished, though is really not missing much to be art-complete. Below you see two tests I made for the game interface.

I thought it would be interesting to display the speaking characters on the side of the dialog, and alternate them on the left/right side. I am also thinking to add basic eye blink and mouth animation.

Gameplay wise I'm still thinking about how to make it, but I think will have some sort of 2d map, so will be a sort of mix between a strategy and a RPG game. About the story, each one of the girls can have a romance relationship with 2 of the 3 boys. Which means there are 6 romance subplots in total. So far, two have been finished, so we're at about 1/3 of the writing.

Amber's Magic Shop

As I said this is the less advanced game, also because the artist I had picked for it quit without saying a word. Luckily, there are many other more reliable artists around that are eager to work for me :)

The writing is still at the beginning, but I had time to think / plan the gameplay and story better, and I really like how is coming out. The game will feature two ages: teenager and adult age. In the teenager stage, your decision will change not only the starting relationship at the adult age, but also some important gameplay elements. I haven't implemented anything yet so that's just an idea for now, but I really like it and I think will work well, adding much more replayability to the game.