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Archive for July 2017

A quick update to sum progresses up this week as well.
This was the "polishing week" for what concerns half of the short demo. Obviously there's still a lot to "build" before even thinking of polishing, but I wanted to have a preview of the "definitive Serenade" nevertheless. I guess I'll be changing and changing things until its release, but, to be honest, I kind of like its current status, therefore those things I may want to change could be quite few : >.

This past week I took care of the OST as well. Serenade has not a musician yet, therefore I looked for some free BGM tracks and found this website that I'm currently using: http://dova-s.jp/ I guess that at the moment the tracks for Serenade sort into the "calm", "energy" and "mystery" categories. I'm going to complete the track list since tomorrow.

During the current week I'll also take care of the second half of the short demo. To recap things about the short demo, here's how it works:

  • First part is prologue and it's set in 2009.
  • Second part is set in 2012.
So, since tomorrow I'll be working on the script for the events occurred after a three-year time skip, and you can imagine I'm quite excited about it. :D Characters and circumstances are going to change a lot between these two dates, also in surprising ways. As always, can't wait to show you.

For the past week I've also worked on two side characters of the Tokyo arc, quite interesting from my point of view. They will provide tons of comedy : DD. It's too early to reveal them, but maybe during the next weeks I can show something.

Lastly, it's sketch time : > This time, it's Kairi and Shin. Shin is a character from the Tokyo arc, but it's also the second main character of the story. Hope you enjoy~
And since tomorrow it's a new dev camp, the second for Serenade : D See you next week!

Music added

A fancy title this time. It was the weekly inspirational quote on my schedule and I thought to copy it here as well. : >

This week was script writing as well. I think that this phase will last until the end of August, more or less, and I'll go through all the scenes until I reach the end of the short demo. As a brief update on the status of how things are going, I can tell you that the word count is going out of control... only half of the short demo is over 20k words right now. @_@ I need to have it tested by my partner in a couple of weeks before deciding whether it is okay or too slow for the pace of the game. Personally, I don't see anything bad in it, but I better check before I make whatever official announcement.

So why is the telling getting this long? Apparently, characters are chatting a lot : D Anyway, their chatting is only event-related at the moment. Now, let me briefly summarize the achievements I made this past week.

  • Coding has almost reached the end of half the demo.
    I plan to finish it tomorrow. Sounds, transitions, choice menus and maps has been coded as well, only BGM missing.
  • Fully defined a character from the Tokyo arc (starting from the second half of the demo).
    It's still too early to talk about the Tokyo arc, I will probably get to work on that next winter, nonetheless it's inevitable for me to think about it from time to time. It will feature the new location, Tokyo obviously, and a bunch of new characters. Among those there will be Kairi's high school friends, 4 guys in total. So far I had the definitive outline of two of them, comprehensive of interactions, main scenes and such, while the other two were missing.
    The target here is to make characters memorable to the player and it's not something you can force. Since there is still time until the Tokyo arc, I've been checking the various thoughts and ideas about it from time to time, while mainly focusing on my current work on the prologue. And finally this week I got inspired to write one of them. Now three people from the "crew of Kairi" are defined! Only one left. It's really liberating eheh.
    I kind of realized that characters and stories we create are the mixture of our unique point of view about what we saw and experienced in our life, being it real life or movies and other medias. I may have stated something obvious, but this new character I defined is probably the one that best represent it. I can't wait to publish the Tokyo arc character page and show you, but as I said, it's very early for that, unfortunately...
  • Sketched some illustrations (but I'm not sure when I'll be able to finish them).
    One is at the bottom of this post. It's the graduation day from high school for Kairi, Fujisa and Teru. In the game there won't be space to show it, so I felt the urge to sketch it eheh. I want to make more of these, and lately I'm thinking about recruiting a coloring artist. We'll see : D. However, since I'll be working on the script for several weeks from now, it's unlikely I'll be able to post art for quite a long time. I already miss drawing and painting, I wish I could find a balance between that and writing ^ ^".
    (In the sketch, there's also my first attempt for a Japanese logo of Serenade).
I haven't taken notes about what to write here this time, so it feels like I'm forgetting something... Anyway, the three points pretty much summarize last week. During the next one (24-31) I'm going to finishing half the demo and maybe find some royalty free tracks for the OST. See ya and be careful when it's too hot! : >

Wake up and be awesome.

Another week of writing and editing passed, this time it revolved around writing choice menus. I wanted to implement a good amount of choices for the player to make since the beginning, because Serenade is about unfolding a mystery and I thought that such storytelling would work better if the player take action directly towards this goal. And action in this case means "choices".

As I wrote in my previous post, lately I've been working on dialogue choices, trying to find a convenient way to make them occur and let the player being part of the chatting among characters. There's a reason for it, among dialogues choices, there are going to be also a different kind of speech line that the main character can use to affect a "specific stat" of almost every NPC. I'll talk about this in details another time, I just mentioned it to explain better how dialogue choices are very important to the game. 

That being said, during the past week I worked on Teru's "specific stat" alteration, and it went quite fine : D It's the only character that the player can affect during the prologue, so I need to wait a bit before being able to test more of this feature.

So, Serenade will focus on dialogues for the most part and the way these affect characters around Kairi. I aim to make them funny for the player as much as possible, trying to include awkward lines and such. Beside those, there will also be the classical route branching structure that will divide the story into three main branches. It's too early to talk about this and even to work on this in the code, but I'd like to write some preview from my planning, to give an overall perception of the game flow.

One of my first posts on this blog introduced the three romanceable girls of the game, that are Fujisa, Minami and Suzume. The romance feature is just a feature, meaning the primary purpose of the three of them is not dating Kairi, but providing him three different ways to approach the mystery he needs to solve. In other words, they are just a metaphor for the actions Kairi aka the player is going to take. At this point, choosing a route won't be very difficult, as it would only take to chase after the girl matching our desired approach the most. And this means that choices will be openly presented as transparent choices between one or the other. Full control of the story, haha : D

Here's a small glimpse of the tree branches from dialogues of scene 4 (can't zoom in, sorry; software used: Blumind). They rarely branch one into another, and when they do it often produces an extra line or two only.

I'd really want to talk deeply about choices and branches but it's a bit too early T_T)
Next week (17-23) I'll finish writing the current script and try to arrange the sound effects and some ost for a first prototype which will be tested by my partner. See ya : D

A week of writing choices.

This past week we, "97 circle", held the first "dev camp" for Serenade. It's nothing fancy, really XD, we just closed up ourselves in a house for three days, slept on the floor, and worked on the game all the time. Location was partner's (=my sister) house in Parma, and we got also some time to tourist around a bit which was refreshing.

We focused on the programming. Neither of us is a programmer, so we kind of improvise for some parts, but beside being utterly funny I also learned a lot. We went quite far with the coding as well, even if the script has yet to be corrected by an English native speaker (that's why, from now on we will refrain from coding more). However, we got to test how the game felt like. We're planning another dev camp for August.

Since a while now, I've being busy writing the script for the remaining scenes. It feels like an even longer task than painting huge CG or sprites, so I only have a rough schedule for it. 

Recently, one thing I'm being particularly careful of is the choice menu part. To be honest, I only have a vague idea in mind and some halfway attempts in practice, and I'm still trying to figure out which method will work best in a game like Serenade. Therefore, this past week I also spent some hours studying how other games work with choices, picking titles from my library. The choices I still have to define are the "normal dialogue ones", which are replies or comments to the NPC's dialogues. Since the main character Kairi has a personality of his own, I don't want to mix that with the player's freedom too much. At the same time, though, I'd like to time the game up with choices here and there. Here I'd like to make a short resume of my "Choice Menu study" experience. : D

The games I used for it are "The Walking Dead", "Life is Strange" and "Persona 5". Among them the one I liked the choice options best is "Persona 5". It usually gives three options: a positive one ("I'm okay doing this!"), a negative one ("It'd be too much of a burden.") and a neutral one ("Maybe, some other time..."). When it's not a matter of complying or declining, it often offers three choices that express the same feeling but ask three different things. I liked this scheme better because of obvious reasons XD, it gives you the real impression you're choosing between a "yes" and a "no". And well, it's what it effectively does too. But it's an RPG/Adventure game so it's natural it does, and it's not similarly obvious that such system would work in a visual novel as well, as for every branch you make there's a whole script that needs to be written.

"The Walking Dead" and "Life is Strange", are maybe closer to the "dialogue feeling" I'd like to create. Often they give the player the feeling of having a bunch of options to choose from, and even more often, different choices lead to the same answer from the NPC :D. That's clever, because I'd never think of load back the game and check other answers, neither I'd care much since while playing I've the impression I'm actually choosing my lines cleverly. Besides, both games have a complicated branching for major choices in the story, so having also the chance to dialogue with NPC is a nice and enjoyable extra.

After trying all the branches for initial short dialogues, and learning from them, I guess it's not a bad idea to go for a similar system in Serenade too. Scene 2 which I finished a while ago had a similar structure and apparently it worked quite fine. Therefore, the focus here is not on the branching, but whether the game has a branching feeling. Naturally, there will be a different series of choices (not dialogues one) that will shape the story.

So, at this point, one thing that still bothers me is: how many choices in a scene? How to pace up well? I had to think back of an otome game for this, which is Uta no Prince Sama. Every month in the story is divided in two or more scenes and each scene has three choices to make, each of them timed after a similar amount of dialogue. That was fun to play! As a player I had a good map in mind of how long the scene was going to be, and I learnt there was going to be a choice menu every now and then. I'd like to reach a similar balance even if with different timing. 

At the moment I find it useful to write down every choice menu idea that comes up to my mind as I'm writing the script, and maybe cut some of them down later whether they ruin the rhythm. I'll see how it goes. : D 

Next week (10-16) will be about game script as well. I'll try to finish "half of the half demo" and moving on : D. See ya.

Back from "Dev Camp", A Choice Menu study

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