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Archive for December 2016

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!
( マoマ)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.

*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

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