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And welcome to the last post of 2016! Actually I started to update this blog on a regular basis only two months ago, so I'm not here to hold any ceremony at all lol. However, steady, focused work on Pitch Black Serenade begun this year in early February, until recently when I established a real working routine and attitude, so it's been a whole year full of gamedev! That's why I'd like to make a short summary of what happened.

Let's start from the most important thing I realized through this past year. Which is, it's not a great idea to plan the release of a demo when you're still so far away from completing it D :
This past year, I firmly believed that I would release Serenade demo in July first, and then now in December. Now that that December is almost over I'm starting to understand what went so wrong with this vague planning. 

First off, when I was planning to release a demo back in July I was thinking about publishing a prototype with unfinished parts, like black and white background and sprite art, no bgm (?), not proofread English, etc. In short, something annoying to play : D. I was decided to do such a thing to defeat my perfectionist ego, but in the end I understood that, even if I must domesticate my perfectionism, this doesn't mean I have to fall down to the exact opposite either! Anyway the first working prototype of Serenade (with all of the ugly features I mentioned before :D), was ready in late August, so, one whole month later. This prototype covered four whole scenes of the game but it was only half of the first demo I planned to release. So I decided to work full throttle to make a decent demo to release in December, or at least in Q1 of 2017.

Let's be frank. It's a game we're talking about here. A game with bgm, sounds, decisions to take about direction, full colored art with variations everywhere. Every piece must fit all the other pieces in a credible way, in every single scene (even if you don't draw everything now, you still have to plan carefully!). Plus I have a job I need to take care of, to pay rent and bills. At first, I didn't realize how putting together all these would suck up my time so badly. Now I know and I made up a new work schedule to coordinate my efforts more efficiently. Don't misunderstand this, please, I do think feedback is important and release something as soon as you can to get it, is even more important. But, at the same time, rushing things out of pressure didn't get me the prototype I could provide for a useful feedback.
At the moment I don't feel like writing any new release date. I have a calendar for deadlines but I'd like to talk about it next year, maybe around April or May (yes, according to the new work schedule and estimated deadlines, the demo won't be released before).

Anyway, in the end, it's been a whole year of game deving, prototyping and such, that I'm carrying away with me. A whole year of Serenade lol. To sum it up, I made a small collage, you can enlarge by clicking on it : D  ==>


And last but not least, I want to write how much grateful I am for the people who took interest in Serenade even if it's still at its beginning :,D Who helped, who's offering a helping hand, who supports it. My heart is full of sincere gratitude! It's part of the motivation that makes me going every day!💛

In next week update I'll publish some game art I made through December.
Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
( ーoー)o━━☆


Onward and upward to 2017!

After the tough week of the previous post, this time I can say we had a really nice and productive one : - D
Ok, when you decide to dive into this kind of project I think it's obvious to have dark periods and good ones and it makes no sense to point them out from time to time. Still, a good week which produced tangible outcomes means maximum motivation for future steps! Mood is still one of the most important parts of the process even when your "creed" is to keep on going whatever happens. I'm not obsessed with results or else, I will definitely change project, still, after almost a year of prototypes and attempts we finally built a screen composition and decided a way of telling that will keep us company until the demo and beyond. Trying to make things perfect and perfect, over and over is the most annoying trap, so I'm glad we overcame that part.

I'm using a "we" because for this month I can finally work with friends who have Christmas break from job or school (I'm the only one working part time at Serenade at the moment). So keep in mind I will use "we" for decisions I made with "partners" and "I" for my thoughts : )

So, what we have accomplished this past week is:

  • General appearance of the screen composition. Which means textbox, fonts, direction guidelines
  • I finally decided to write in correct Japanese : D. Serenade is set in Japan, with Japanese characters which obviously have Japanese names. I have postponed this process till now but it makes no sense to keep going this way. So I had to decide a way to write Japanese words among the official international methods (till now I was just using a mix of them). I decided to use vowels with long accents to show long vowels: i.e. ou will be shown as Å. It looks like a small detail I didn't even need to mention here but... this process burned me more time than ever because after you decide to use "special letters" you also have to find a font which is suitable for the game and that include them. It also have to be a true type font since some aesthetic functions of Ren'Py only work with them. In the end it took me two days. I looked for free commercial fonts with these features. Now the game have two main fonts, one for the text in the textbox and one for the menus.
  • Direction guidelines. We decided how to show the show. Visual novel's basics are pretty linear at times: you have a background, some characters showing up, some text appearing in the textbox, music, maybe voices, sounds. Then you can add effects to show up more. Actually I have nothing fancy up in my sleeves, not at all. I just thought of some background art zooming in and there or sliding from a side to the other when it's needed. We tested it and we decided it will be the way Serenade will stage.
  • Scene 0 is fully coded and working. We used Scene 0, the very prologue of the game (a one-two minutes scene), to test our direction guidelines, since this scene largely uses them. So while testing direction, we had the scene fully coded. After months of prototypes this is for us a big accomplishments!
  • Main character Kairi's sprite set is completed for one outfit.
As you can see we accomplished a lot of small steps, but together we have some basic functions for the game.

Lastly I'd like to talk about another decision I made, about showing characters' names.
In visual novels you can have different solutions. One of them is, for example, to have the player exploring a world and its characters, and have the same knowledge as the main character. I.e. theoretically, you already know your best friend, so when you first meet them in the game, their name is written on their textbox. Similarly, when you meet a new character for the first time in MC's life, you will see something like "???" until they speak their name. 
In Serenade there is a "Narrator". Not meaning that you will have a 3rd person narration, but something more like the player exploring a story and not the world or the characters. So, specifically, even when Kairi doesn't know the person he has in front of him, the player will still be able to read that character's name. Player can always read the names of the characters even if they haven't met them before (with exceptions*).
Why is that? It's not new to vns at all, but when you have a first person P.O.V. it may look a bit odd, maybe. But as I said just before, it's because the player must explore the story and the story only. I'd like them to observe the events, more than identify themselves with Kairi. I took this decision for two reasons: 
  • Kairi has a strong personality. The player has to share its position with him, more than impersonate him. I think at some point it won't be difficult to understand Kairi's personality and figuratively team up with him, but at the same time, before anything, Kairi is part of the story and cannot be separated from it. 
  • You won't see the game through Kairi's eyes only. You will "impersonate" two more characters to go through some parts of the game.
This week post was a bit more technical than the previous one, hope not to have bored you : D I actually like making decisions about the game I'm carrying on, and before that, thinking logically why one road or the other. So I thought about sharing my thoughts with you.
For the rest, during these days I'm working on background art for Scene 1. I think I'll show something in next post.

Take care! : D
Next week (15-24) I'll be working on Scene I writing and sprite art.


Note:
*There is only a character at the moment whose name isn't shown because of plot reasons. You can see her in the Character page for Kujikawa Arc. Anyway in the game she won't be shown as "???" but with a phrase like "Girl 1" or such.

Direction guidelines, a technical post

One hell of a tough week has finally passed orz.
Right now I'm trying on composing the "screen" of Serenade. Placing sprites and things like this, to get a general mood of the game. And as you may know things that are still in the process, and are not clearly defined yet, produce a bit of uneasiness. Working with that makes a whole week kind of tough lol.

By the way, this past week I managed to complete two sprites. One is Kairi. Now he has all his twenty and over emotions and two outfits done. Since he's the MC, the fact that he's ready to be displayed on screen is a huge step ahead. The other sprite is for a secondary character, Cry. I just added his profile card in the Characters page (for Kujikawa Arc), so you can get a glimpse of him. 




What to say about Cry... Maybe this is not his definitive design as I may keep modifying it a bit more. More than a perfectionist attitude, I think this is just an attempt to make his weird design fit at his best into the graphic lol. I'd like his sprite to look different from the others. I plan it to appear only in one place (remember the night alley background from last month?), only at night and only alone, so I'm thinking about zooming in on him a bit more than other characters. Also he has a bluish contour to make him part of the night sight.

Again, he only has five emotions at the moment. I don't plan to have much more in the end, to keep him more mysterious.



Next week, (7-14) I'll start coding and thinking seriously about screen composition. I think this may take the whole week, but if I happen to have some time left (which I hope!) I'll begin working on some indoor backgrounds.

Cry's sprite and profile

Another dev week is over. Work slowed down a bit because of irl issues, but I managed to accomplish something anyway.

Initially, I wanted to code the first scene of the game, but then I remembered about the gui update of Ren'py so... Instead of coding I spent a whole day studying the new features. This helped me organizing my work better though, and the file for Serenade now is tidier than ever lol.

Lastly, I worked on my painting skills. Last summer I planned to work on a new illustration once a week, but since I started painting sprites and backgrounds for the game it felt useless to waste up to 8 hours every week in side illustrations that will stop the game development progress. So I thought that during months already filled with graphic works I could used them for practice, and maybe paint only one illustration of my choice.
Since I'm not into any series at the moment I didn't feel like painting fanarts and ended up painting one of my oc once again. I'd like CG art in the game to have this feeling~

So, I hope you enjoy it, it's Shin again!


Next week (26-5) I plan to paint the sprite for Cry and then work on an indoor background.
Take care!

November original art

I'm glad I got to work on characters' graphic again because, in my opinion, it probably speaks louder about the project's contents... doesn't it?

This past week I defined the MC Kairi's sprite set. (He will only appear on the screen on the left side of his textbox in the form of a tiny sprite.) I outlined 27 emotions in total for him, and divided them into three poses. 





Kairi is basically a fake character (meaning he pretends to be nice and all). I have no intention of doing any spoiler, but I think it's alright to talk more specifically about "Serenade" contents from time to time. So, I show you the sketch for his emotions chart:


As you can see, the "fake Kairi" emotions lie on the left side and the more we move towards the right side, the realer his emotions become. I plan to use left and central emotions for most part of the game, and leave the "real Kairi" for the last part of the story. I think this could represent the main character growth.

I plan to have some clothes options for characters as well. It can become a lot of extra work so I'll first try with a few basic outfits and see how it goes. For MC it's easier since he only shows a bit portion of his body, eheh.

Basic outfits for Kairi will be: 

I plan to have two more for him.


Lastly, this last week I redesigned the textbox. I used to have a big one covering the screen from side to side, but I grow tired of that design and I made a smaller one.
Each textbox will have the nametag with the color of the character speaking, except for sub characters that will be displayed in light gray. (I was inspired by Yumecast for the shape, but old textbox had different colored nametags so I just mixed the two things)



Next week (16-25) I'll work on the very first scene of the game ("scene 0"), including the coding.
Thank you for reading!









MC sprite outline - New textbox

And so, it's already November! (・з・)ノ゛
I plan to work on the art for "Serenade" throughout the month, so expect posts with lots of pictures!

This past week I worked on the very first scene of the game and its related background art. The game is set in 2012 Japan, half in Tokyo, half in a fictional city called Kujikawa. First part of the game (and the demo I plan to release as soon as I can) is set in Kujikawa, which is an average and tranquil city. Still, it has some peculiar locations directly linked to the very story of "Serenade".

You begin the game in front of a big pink lit street sign stating "Choumugai" in kanji -meaning something like "the city of butterfly dreams" (still struggling to find a way to put romaji as well in the background art... I think I'm going to do it for sure in the final version)- which basically is a red light district properly hidden... or maybe just ignored/forgotten, since all facilities and shops in the vicinity closed through the years. Here's the preview:




As I always complain on my twitter, background art is a thing I'm weak at. I'd need a big amount of time to produce something decent, and since at the moment I'm the only artist of "Serenade" and I also have a full time job, I'm very short in time. So I've found some methods to overcome this problem. The first one works for indoor backgrounds only and I'll probably cover it up in another post (it involves 3D by the way), the second one is the method I came up with to paint outdoor backgrounds, which I think I'm not able to do otherwise.

What I mostly needed in my outdoors were streets from Japan urban scenery so I looked around a bit and ran into this book:

 
It contains photographs and relative linearts, that are free for use even for commercial works. It comes with a cd-rom with high res photoshop files as well, so it's really easy to use the linearts to make your own pictures.
(I only know this 3 books series having cd-roms, but I'm craving for more if someone knows about other similar books ^ ^) 

So, for this time I used half of a lineart provided from the cd-rom and for the rest of my canvas I traced a photo of an alley I took previously (I traced it with Sai tool for technical lines). Then I added some original items to customize it.
(Signs are made with free fonts I downloaded from here http://coliss.com/articles/freebies/best-of-free-japanese-fonts-for-2016.html)




The result looks like manga art, which is nice. And this also saved a lot of time!


Lastly, I've been working as well on the host of Choumugai, a character called Cry, always wearing a crow mask.
I think I'll write more about him when his sprite is completed.





Next week (7-15) I'll be working on a new textbox (not fully satisfied with the one I'm using now) and I'll outline MC sprite. 




Choumugai background art process - Cry sprite concept

It's almost Halloween, uh? (˼●̙̂ ̟ ̟̎ ̟ ̘●̂˻)

Lately I've been studying digital illustration technique a bit more and ended up painting two seasonal pictures featuring two of the girls from "Serenade". You can check them in the Gallery page from the menu above or at the bottom of this post! 
So, I was thinking about using those pictures to introduce the main female characters, aka the three romanceable girls in the game.

In the System page you can read that "Serenade" is a female audience oriented game. Despite this the main character is a boy and romanceable characters are girls. Why is that?
Actually it's just kind of an experiment. Even if the main character is a boy, he will spend most of the playing time with fellow guy friends, in order to make the story more enjoyable for a female audience. So I'll try to mock otome game atmosphere but there won't be any date with male characters.
About the date part, I'm still not sure about the result, but I aim to make it enjoyable for girls to play. So, from now on, I'd like to introduce the female main characters that MC will be able to date.



Fujisa Komine, 21 y.o.
A young girl born and raised in Kujikawa (one of the two cities where the game is set). She's the only daughter of a prestigious attorney and her refined manners and good character end up charming everyone. She wants to get out from her small town since ever, so maybe this is the reason why she got fascinated by MC (who's from Tokyo) since they met. She's forced to follow her father's steps but she secretly dreams something else for her future. If MC gets interested in her, he could get the chance to know more about her dreams and maybe help her pursuing them.


Minami, 15 y.o.
Minami is a lot younger than MC but for some mysterious reasons she's able to catch up with adults and stick with them. Her personality is a bit twisted, most of the time she says and does whatever comes up to her mind, often leading to some disaster...! So at first MC can get quite scared about spending time with her. Anyway there could come a time in which MC and her ambitions collide so it's possible to team up with her to solve the game.


Suzume Aihara, 18 y.o.
Suzume belongs to MC's past so he won't get to know her directly in the game, instead he will remember details over details about her to the point she will take shape in his mind. Suzume had talent for singing and music and she loved to dress gothic lolita style. Despite her dark look she was a really cheerful student, taking the lead of his class back in high school as student representative. 

These three girls are actually not only three romance choices, but the three keys to solve the game. When the main conflict will be presented, MC will be tempted to one of these three approaches.

And that's all for girls presentations. Next week (31-6) I'll be working on outside background art again (still trying to come up with a working method to paint outdoor sceneries...), and I'll outline MC sprite for all face expressions throughout the game.
Have a happy Halloween, I hope you enjoy the art I made for this occasion! (▼ω▼)

 

Hello everyone! So this is the dev journal for the visual novel I'm working on, called "Pitch Black Serenade".

I'm not that good at sharing thoughts through a blog but I'll try to tell how the "production" is going from week to week. Recently I've been thinking a lot about what to write here and what not. 
"Serenade" is still at its very early stage so there's nothing I can let you play or see apart from some mock screenshots and characters' profiles. Whenever I explain through words what the game will be about or what the gameplay will be like, I kind of feel presumptuous... 
Since I can't show it to you yet, but only tell. If you think about it, you can tell whatever you want through words, the hard it's to demonstrate. I definitely work better through showing things!

So, after thinking for a while I came up with the "genre" of things I want to write in this journal. I won't be talking about game mechanism or game idea until I'll be able to insert them physically in the game. Instead, I will post actual progresses of the work I'm carrying on. Since the beginning I wanted to start a blog in order upload work in progress pictures of the art anyway, so I think I'll stick to the original program for the most part.

I'm not English native speaker and neither my English is good. So I hope this blog won't be so terrible to read...
As for the rest of the website, a big thank you goes to Gospel who kindly helped me proofreading my pages! (Please check it out GosatsuVN's amazing mystery visual novel, Shinrai!).

See ya next time!

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