Friday, February 24, 2012

The light at the end of the tunnel


In the picture above, Othello looking at the new arrival, our dog Skipper.

I'm starting to see the light at the end of the Loren Amazon Princess tunnel :) If you follow me you know that last week I made public a sort of sneak peek, to see what people think. So far the response was very positive. People like the art, the story/writing, and beside a few bugs (all my fault though!) even the gameplay.

After the public preview, I made a big spreadsheet document with all the bugs and suggestions. I spent the following 2 days fixing them and evaluating the suggestions, and today finally I started to get back into the "content creation" phase.

Yes, because even if the plot is done until chapter4, as I play the game I'm adding the fights, creating new enemies, and also adding some extra movement steps on the map to make the game seem less linear (even if in reality it is, but nobody complained so far!).

The goal is to have the plot fully scripted by mid-March, and Aleema (my writer) said it would be possible, and I self-imposed myself the deadline of end of March for the almost-final release. It won't be easy, but I'll try to make it!

The next appointment with Loren is 1st March when I'll start pre-orders and release a new improved demo.

And the other games...?

I know that not everyone who follows me is a RPG fan, and they might be wondering what happened to the various games I have announced!

Well, to be honest I underestimated the amount of work that was needed to make a huge game like Loren. So while I am still waiting for the artwork and the writing for most other games, I was so busy that wasn't able to use my traditional "motivational techniques" to encourage my collaborators. In other words, the famous "spanking lazy collaborators"! :D

So the progress speed for my other games has been slower than usual, but until I finish Loren I don't think will have time to follow/encourage them.

Also, this week I decided to move the main Winterwolves site into a cloud server, so this added some extra delays (those kind of things are always problematic!). But better do that before Loren is released, just in case somehow it becomes a popular game!

Anyway, just to reassure that the other projects are still going forward, here's a sneak peek of Heileen 3 male romances:

From top-left to bottom-right: Heileen with Sebastian on the shore at night, Heileen with Jonathan in an artist atelier, Heileen with Morgan on the ship bridge, and Heileen and John... in bed! :)

Heileen 3 is still missing some art, and the whole Marie subplot, but I'd say that is 80% complete (of course, I still need to put everything together and test it).

And below is Jeff, one of the four pursuable characters of the mystery/otome game "Nicole":

I am at good point in this game too, story and art is about halfway finished, even if being a sort of mystery/detective game I'll have to review everything to make sure that there aren't spoilers early in the game or plot holes.

That's it for this week, see you next Friday!

Friday, February 17, 2012

The end is near!

No, I'm not talking about the Mayan prophecy :) Sadly, I'm not even talking about the Loren RPG, since I think will still take a few months before is finished.

I'm talking about two scary news I've read this week. They regard the upcoming MacOS Mountain Lion and Windows 8. As you might know, they both will come with a built-in appstore. But the scary news is that both will DISABLE BY DEFAULT "non signed" apps.

What does it means? It means that if you install the new MacOS and download one of my current games, you won't be able to play it. Of course, at least in those first new OS versions, there will be a work around. For Windows, you'll have to switch back to the "desktop mode", while for MacOS you'll have to enable the app by right clicking on it.

So, it's not as scary as it seems right? No, it is. First, because it's a first step towards a "walled garden", which will probably lead to the impossibility to run non-certified apps at all in future versions. Second, not all users are tech-savy, so for them running the app might become too much of a trouble, which means that my niche will become even smaller. Others might even not trust installing non-certified apps anymore, despite they are completely safe.

But it's not over yet, now comes the good part: from what I gathered reading those articles, even if I pay the annual fees to get my games certified (so they can run without any trick), Apple can still disable/ban any app remotely. Let's say I make another RPG game like Loren, which has some VERY HOT romance scenes at the end. Some users don't like that and complain. Apple might disable the game permanently! (not saying that they will for sure, but the possibility is there)

Of course, all of this is just a conjecture for now, and the danger is not imminent. I believe will take at least 4-5 more years before all of this will be very common. But still, the future is NOT promising at all.

Considering I sell mostly directly, I have really few options, and the most rational seems to abandon the downloads to move into webgames using HTML5 or Unity web plugin. I have to say that personally I DON'T like this, but is a kind of a forced choice. I don't want to make more games, knowing that in a not distant future they might become obsolete, forgotten. I'd like people to be able to play my games for years and years to come in an easy way, and right now using downloads it seems a very risky path.

Loren The Amazon Princess beta demo this weekend!

Anyway, for now I'll concentrate on finishing Loren RPG, since I definitely cannot port the game to another language now! Expect a demo tomorrow or Sunday. Will post the news on my twitter, on Facebook and will also send the newsletter.

How long will be the demo? Well, I am not sure if today will manage to finish chapter1 or not, but will try. In any case, considering you can take two paths early in the game (side with humans or elves) I believe that should be at least a few hours of entertainment.

As for the pre-orders I am not sure if I'll start them with the demo or wait a bit more. Is something that I will decide in the next days based on how much work I can put on the game before the demo is live.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Frozen development!

In the image above, the view from my office window!!!

The title is a joke but explains well my current situation. I'm working on several games, mainly Loren RPG, and every 2-3 hours I go outside with temperatures ranging from -4°C to 10°C (even during the day) to shovel an incredible amount of snow!

It has been snowing since the first days of February, and this situation HAS slowed down considerably my development, since beside the time spent shoveling, when I get back to work I'm exhausted :D

Anyway, I got almost all the items artwork for Loren, and hopefully by next weekend I'll have it all. Code-wise we added some more features, like the possibility to randomize a bit each vendor. So the items on sale will change through the course of the story, based on your progresses and the current equipment you have.

Also, each vendor has a specific "lore": the human town of Grimoire is specialized in heavy blade and armors, while in the capitol of the Elves, Grandtree, you can find many excellent bows and magic items.

Not only RPGs!

But progresses are being made also in other games, in particular Heileen 3 and Amber's Magic Shop. For Heileen 3, I got a bunch of sketches for all the ending images, and I can assure you that some are VERY interesting...! The writing is also at a good stage, the writer reached the 60th scene, so more than half is finished!

Now admire an image of Morgan in a more casual outfit. What do you think, girls? ;)


I must also say that even if the writer isn't a native English speaker (so had to ask a friend to proofread the script) her writing is really very funny, and perfect for Heileen 3 mood. I laughed lots of times reading some of the scenes she wrote, in particular those with Juliet and John :)

For Amber instead I got already the lineart of many of the characters. As I said, I was lucky to be able to hire Loren's artist again, and the results are great. They're still uncolored, so for now will just post an image of Vin, the witch and adoptive mother of Amber:

I really like her "floreal dress" :) but even the other characters are all quite cute. Once I have the finished colored images will post more previews!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Vendors, quests and random encounters

Even my cat Gilda is waiting impatiently Loren RPG release! ;)

It has been a long week. I spent it testing, adding lots of small details, and so on. This process is was is commonly known as "polishing". I am trying really to make the game the best I can, but of course I also want to release it soon!

As the post title says, the three main things missing were vendors, quests and random encounters. So far I have implemented only the quests (more below) but the vendor is at good point too, while for the random encounters very likely will need to implement the map first.

In the image above, I added a tooltip with a detailed explanation of all the 3 base attributes, to help the player decide better how to spend the attribute points. The basics are quite clear though: Warrior need Strength, Thieves need Skills and Mages need Will :)


Another thing I recently added are the quest. The code was already done, but I added a simple but efficient screen to inform the players when they got a new quest, like in the image above.

Quests are useful especially in the beginning to "boost" the experience of players, since the battles without many skills lose a lot of their charm. So I wanted the player to level up quickly at least in the beginning, so they can learn new skills. The level-up speed is something I need to tweak and will take some time as well.

I did also many minor changes to the party information screen. I enlarged the number of party portraits displayed at once, so you have to use less the up/down arrow to scroll between the various party members. I am also planning a short tutorial for each screen, including this one. The battle tutorial is already implemented instead, but will need some feedback (I think might be too long).

What about the other games?

Fear not! Heileen 3 is going forward very well, the total plot is already 81,000 words and there are still Marie and Lora's romance arc missing, so will definitely be a long game.

I also should get new art and texts for the various other projects (including some that I'm keeping secret), but as you know until Loren's Beta is finished, I'll be working almost exclusively on that!

One thing I can announce though, and is that I had the chance to hire again Loren's artist by pure luck for a limited amount of time, and I had him work on Amber's Magic Shop art. So finally I'll be able to get the art for that game! :)