Friday, August 31, 2012

Heileen 3 will be coming this Autumn

Or at least that's the plan! :)

I was undecided until the last time if to use the new Monkeycoder engine, or stick with the good old Ren'Py. In the end, I realized that even using the Monkeycoder engine would still require me to learn a new language and right now I really don't have time to do it.

Don't get me wrong, I'd like to get my games on iOS too someday, but it has been a very tiring year so far, and I want to relax. I find Ren'Py much more powerful than Monkeycoder to prototype anyway, so I can always port the game later once is done.

So I started working on Heileen 3 a few days ago. As you know, the plot is all finished (at least the otome part) but it still needs all the scripting (placing sprites) and also is missing a good amount of backgrounds, which will commission soon.

So depending how faster the background artist will work, and how faster I'll script the scenes, the game might be out around this Autumn. It's not an official date, more what I hope to achieve! It would be great because the first Heileen game was out in October 4 years ago and releasing the third chapter would be a good way to celebrate the anniversary!

Meanwhile, if you are curious about Loren's expansion official release date, you'll be pleased to hear that The Castle Of N'Mar (that's the name of the expansion) will be very likely ready very soon (probably mid-September). The testing so far is doing well and there are only some minor bugs left.

To know more, check this thread in my forums:

A final note, Steam Greenlight has opened and if you're one of those people who emailed me asking why my games aren't on Steam, now you can vote for them to appear. I submitted some games and will try to submit all the one I have made during next week:

Friday, August 24, 2012

A tough week

Zeal, one of the many new characters you'll encounter in the expansion

This week was really a tough week!

First of all because I was literally burning in my office. 29°C for most of the day, even turning the A/C on the whole afternoon. Of course, it happened right when I decided to announce on Twitter/Facebook that the beta testing stage of Loren's expansion, The Castle Of N'Mar, was starting!

A tough week for those who played the beta and had to fight against lots of bugs. It was entirely my fault, since I decided to use the latest Ren'Py version to do the expansion beta, while I should have waited a bit more.

Now anyone familiar with coding knows well that using the latest version of any development tool is NOT a good idea, since it might still contain bugs... but I ignored that simple rule and the result was people having all sort of weird stuff happening (random crashes, variables not stored, load/save problems, etc).

So today in the latest beta version (1.1k) I decided to revert back to the previous Ren'Py version which hopefully should solve some of the bugs left. You can get the download links and latest info in my forums:

Again this has nothing to do with Ren'Py which is still an awesome tool (my favorite) but to my silly idea of trying it so early.

My goal is to try finishing the beta testing by the end of the month. If you preordered the expansion but were waiting to see until was more stable, I think now should be a good moment to play since the amount of bugs left is really not big... you know every time I write such sentences  I'm a bit scared, but oh well :D

Other short news: Spirited Heart 2 writing is going at very good pace, I got a new writer that's going to review/fix/edit Nicole's script, Roommates is going to be the biggest game I've ever made (80k words and it's not even at 1/3 of the plot), Heileen 3 will be done first in Ren'Py and maybe later in Monkeycoder (this will require a new blog post to explain, maybe next week) so it should be out this October.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Soon the gates of N'Mar Castle will open to the public

Today's blog post will be shorter, since as you might know I'm busy doing the final touches to Loren's expansion "The Castle Of N'Mar". I hoped to have it ready for the 15th August, but I didn't make in time. In reality it's not missing much, but we want to polish it and test well to make sure that there aren't stopping bugs early in the expansion.

I believe it's the last time will do such a non-linear RPG. For visual novels is much easier, but for a RPG is really a painful experience! Or do like Walking Dead game from Telltale (my favorite game this year) that is achieve non linearity through linearity. How is that possible?

Make a linear game that looks non-linear

In practice, doing a true non-linear plot in a RPG, with multiple solution quests is insane. The best example of this is Fallout. Typical scenario is: character A gives quest to kill character B. You stumble intoto character C and he says that he wants B dead too. Then (and here comes the fun) when you meet characte B, he makes a counter-offer: kill characters A,B and he'll give you a <insert precious rewards here>.

And the example above is just one of the simplest scenarios possible, when you don't have quests with multiple steps! Now, Fallout is one of the best RPGs series ever made, but honestly I don't think will do such a thing again in future.

For two simple reasons:

  1. I'm not a multi-millionaire company with a team of 50 people :D and only testing all those multiple solution quests takes LOOOOOONG time!
  2. I am not sure, in my specific case, that it can be better for players, since if I have the mutliple solution quests, the plot length will be necessarily shorter. And I think there's a solution to make a linear plot look less linear.

Point 1 is obvious, but what about point 2? I want to reconnect to Walking Dead game mechanics: you can have a story that while in practice in its structure IS linear, it appears not (or at least, appears that player's choices have a big impact on the game world).

For example in Walking Dead, during several key points you have to take "tough decisions". In one you have to decide if to attempt to save a person attacked by a zombie, or a kid nearby. No matter what you choose, the person dies - so you might think "bah not only the plot is linear, but the choice is even pointless". I know it might seem so, but in reality not! Because even if the outcome is the same, the characters related to that person and the kid will remember who you tried to save, and all the future dialogues will change to reflect that, resulting in a more immersive experience, so that the story won't feel linear at all.

I think that's the road I'll try to follow to make longer RPGs but still with several possible outcomes. And now, I'm going back working on Loren :)

Friday, August 10, 2012

Doing a sequel is not easy as it seems least for indies who doesn't make games with the only goal of money! ;)

It's quite common in the mainstream gaming to see titles like Quake 4, Might & Magic 8, and so on. But in most cases  (not the one I mentioned though) the software house make sequels just to capitalize on the game name, maybe releasing a product that is even worse than the original.

Now, so far I only made one sequel which is Heileen 2. Guess what? sold worse than Heileen 1, even if in this specific case I know why (the story was too serious for the target market, indeed with Heileen 3 it will be much more light comedy).

With a visual novel or dating sim though is easier to make sequels, with a RPG like Loren or Planet Stronghold is much harder. I am making Spirited Heart sequel right now, and it's relatively "easy" - I'm going to keep all the old dateable boys and add more (maybe as expansion, not sure yet).

But what I mean is - adding extra characters in such games is just a matter of adding some dialogues, because there wasn't a "main plot". Each characters was a separate story, and since you can replay it several times to get all the endings, it was something very different from Planet Stronghold or Loren, where the characters were inserted in a main plot with an ending.

So I'm pretty sure that no matter what I'll do, some people will complain because character XYZ who they loved in the first game, isn't present in the second. Others will complain and demand that the sequel's story starts where the first game ended, remembering all the big choices they made and the characters they romanced. And so on. As you can see, making a sequel for a RPG is definitely not an easy task, unless you set it several years away in future (so you assume all the original characters are dead!).

I believed that yesterday I finally found the right romance setup for Loren sequel, which will happily feature almost all the romances of the first game, excluding only Karen. It was harder than it sounds, really!

As you can see in the image above, Mother Morte has a nice sense of humour

Regarding the expansion, just today I finished testing the Dwarven Mines, one of the new locations, and it seems well balanced. There is still some stuff to write and script (adding images to the story) but it seems that the expansion MIGHT be really out the 15th of August! I hope to talk about it in next Friday blog post :)

Friday, August 3, 2012

Castle Of N'Mar expansion is available on preorder!

The expansion

In case you missed the announcement in my newsletter last week, the Castle Of N'Mar, the expansion to my RPG Loren The Amazon Princess, is available to preorder here. For a limited time, until the expansion is officially released, the price will be of only $7.99.

I know what the next question is: when it will get released? Well, at the time I sent out the newsletter last weekend, I didn't really know so I said sometimes in August. Now, I got the last missing art piece and the texts/scripting is at a very good point, so I could even dare to say that an indicative date might be mid-August (for the beta version of course).

The expansion turned out to be much longer than expected, with 60,000 words of story and several new zones, enemies, quests, and so on. However we tried to experiment with some non-linear gameplay: some of the quests can be solved in several different ways, so you might not see all the possible outcomes on the first attempt (unless you save before each choice, of course!). So the game length might appear shorter than what I said, but is because there are multiple choices!

The sequel sneak peek

I know sounds odd to be talking about the sequel which will be out next year, but I just got some images of the characters that will be present and I absolutely wanted to show them:

One is Rei in a more sexy pose, the other is Breza who was a secondary character in the first game, but will have a much bigger role in the sequel ;) For those interested, Rei is GxB only while Breza is GxG only (being a true Amazon...). There are of course more characters for all possible love combos.

I won't talk more about the sequel since there will be time for that! I just wanted to show you the new coloring style that will be used in the sequel, comparing the "old image" with the new one.

Codesign crazyness

As of July 25, the new Mac OS "Mountain Lion" is out. If you have installed it, none of my mac games will run by default (and I suspect those of thousands other indies).

While I believe I found a solution to codesign the apps, for now know that you can just turn off the infamous "Gatekeeper" in the System Preferences and play my games just fine, knowing you're safe like you were before, since my games are indeed clean of trojans/virus/spywares :)

To turn it off, open System Preferences, then click on Security & Privacy, and in General tab click Allow applications downloaded from: Anywhere.

I'm honestly not sure how many people have upgraded to the new MacOS yet, but in the next months I'm going to reupload all my games signed and updated with the new Ren'Py version that will include a much practical autoupdater!

Meanwhile if you also want to test if my codesigning works, I uploaded a signed app here: