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Archive for December 2017

Last year as well I made a "celebrative" post about the progresses made through 2016 for Serenade. Back then I mostly worked on a prototype and started the actual product only in November. Therefore, the work for the actual demo mostly happened in 2017. It was a long year in a sense but at the same time I can remember every detail of it. I guess that's because it was the first year ever I kept a schedule for my commitment and firmly worked to my best towards a goal. Almost like it was my job.

And I enjoyed the experience. I wanted to train my discipline and test my limits in order to get prepared and one day turn my "hobby" into a real job. The way ahead is still long but I planned to do the first step right during 2018 and leave my job to commit full time to the development of Serenade. This is going to happen in March and it's a decision I took exactly one year ago. I've been preparing for this moment but, you know, right? No one knows what life reserves, so for the moment I'll just dive into this adventure and let you know if it works! One thing sure, I'll be able to update Serenade way faster and finally complete the demo which is my priority right now. 

Similarly to last year, I planned to show a small collage about the work accomplished through the year. (The empty template
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One month that I remember as the dearest was July. Indeed I used a photo of our "dev camp" with Livestraes who's currently testing my ideas and prototypes. That's probably when I truly fell in love with the idea of working all day on games. For the rest, it was a productive year but also a rushed one. Now I approached another way of working and I alternate tasks in my schedule. So, I don't draw or write all day or for a week straight anymore. I try to have a different task every five hours and, generally, every day. For me it works better. I have to thank gamedev friends who made me open my eyes about this possibility! ; ) I'll do my best to deliver quality contents in 2018 as well.

After a year I feel like Serenade community grew up. Now I can recognize the nicknames of you who regular supports this project through likes or retweets, both on Twitter and Instagram. I can't be more grateful for this! So, thank you so much for this 2017! I hope we happily stick together for 2018 as well!

A wild Christmas Kairi appears!
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Honestly, I can't wait to introduce Tokyo characters! Especially Shin. He's like another main character, so it feels more natural to me to draw him next to Kairi. This moment could happen soon in 2018, who knows! I'll finish the New "doggy" Year illustration soon, for the moment I hope you enjoy the lineart.

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Thank you for the support. Let's meet again in 2018! Cheers!

Off to 2018!

Yesterday night I posted the first Gameplay trailer for Serenade on Youtube. First of all, I must thank the guys who made this possible and provided their quality check and work: NovelistEzhno for the proofreading and Livestraes for the testing. They literally saved the English of the dialogues, the expressiveness of the characters, and logical flow of the scene : D When you develop a game and a story on your own, you kind of need people outside of the process to help you open your eyes over everything you believe it's "definitive". Things can be changed and must be changed in order to evolve. ; ) I love when I have these prolific brainstorming and I appreciate when people get interested in Serenade to this point.

Now I'm going to introduce the trailer through a short commentary, focusing on the setting of the story and giving some insights about the choice menus you see in the video. The video is from an advanced part of the demo, very far in time from the beginning of the story because... it's set three years later! I wasn't very sure about publishing such a fragmented part, but in the end I liked how the scene look "complete" somehow, even without many explanations. Let's check its major points then!

Accident and Memory Loss

As just stated, Serenade has a three-year-time skip. Right after briefly introducing Kairi's history and amnesia, the player jumps far into the future. This happens for two reasons: first, Kairi has a personality switch. He sort of "grew up". The Kairi you see in the trailer is indeed this Kairi. The second reason is that the story begins now! Kairi don't want to run after his lost memories anymore and tries to make some changes in his life. From the trailer you can learn that he kept on visiting the clinic regularly and his medical situation has remained unchanged. He feels frustrated about it and just want to bury everything to build his life anew.

The player learns about the accident at the beginning of the game. Nothing special, just a car accident how you hear many. However, Isahai here is supposing that Kairi was not just a victim but took part in it by doing something "reckless" (he talks about him crossing the street while typing on his phone), and that Kairi's been feeling uncomfortable with it to the point of hindering his brain from recovering that memory together with the rest. The player can let themselves influenced by Isahai's theory or discard it.

Social situation

Da-da-dan! Kairi is officially engaged with Fujisa and hired by her father! This is a news the player learns after the three-year-time skip rather out of the blue. (I'm kind of spoilering...?) However, social position is what definitely pushes Kairi to abandon his therapy. He's been keeping his "mental disorder" secret and he now fears that it could hinder his career if found out. Fujisa's family is the most influential one in Kujikawa and Kairi is entering such family. It's not so strange that he's nervous about it.

Pollution in Tokyo?

Another hint for the setting of Serenade. Tokyo is not a safe place! D : So, yeah, I took part too in the destruction of some big world capital, I mean, why not! Lol. However, that's the situation. Sky on Tokyo is no longer visible due to pollution and various countermeasures are been taken for its inhabitants. But Kairi won't really know much as long as he won't make up his mind and go back there.

Green choices

Visual novel players usually identify a differently colored choice option, as a choice they already took during the last playthrough. The game usually uses this method to remind them about their previous choices so that they can change direction or pursue it again depending on where they want to get. Of course it's a feature I'd like to use, I mean, it's useful! However, the reason why in Serenade you meet choices with green text is quite different. 

To say the truth, there will never be an ingame explanation for those choices. Player will receive some hints at the beginning and then they will make choices accordingly to their deductions. Nothing complicated, I just wanted to implement something a bit "psychological". Also, there won't be "wrong deductions", choices will have different meanings to the player regarding their emotional nature.

Kairi always has two choices and one is green. For example in the first screenshot the options are quite similar, one saying "You'll go" and the other one "Say that you'll go." When the player reach this point, they supposedly know that "You'll go" will make them encounter Isahai again, while "Say that you'll go" won't. Indeed, when choosing "Say that you'll go", Kairi change his attitude all of a sudden, complying with Isahai kind of enthusiastically and with a smile.

You can call them "lies", "manipulation", etc. I don't plan to label them. I'd like to have the player figuring their meaning out and use them in a way they think it's working out the best in their opinion. Do these choices alter points, stats, routes, etc? You'll know depending on the situation. I'm doing my best to have choices and outcomes very clear and related, so that the player can easily figure out which choice lead to which outcome.

In the case of "You'll go" and "Say that you'll go", you can't choose "No". Because "Say that you'll go" is how Kairi says no. And, hopefully, the player is going to learn about this "vocabulary" without tutorials, ideally before the time skip. 

Green choices have a further mechanism and logic, and I plan to talk about them some more in a future blog post : D

The trailer

And that's all. I'm already receiving some feedback and I'm so grateful! The hill is still ahead for the most part but I feel very excited to continue this adventure! : D I hope my blah blah made some sense, ahah. So, if you haven't checked the trailer yet, please do it! And if you have some time, leave some feedback to make me improve Serenade. I feel relieved I was able to publish at least a trailer, because at this point I definitely need some feedback! 

Thank you for reading! I wish you serene and heartwarming holidays! : )

First Gameplay Trailer - Commentary -

Last week flew away before I could notice it! Shifts at irl job were quite long and I needed to reserve some time to think and decide a few things regarding game development during the next months. Needless to say, I didn’t even begin the production of the gameplay trailer but, unless I find serious problems in making a simple video, I’ll deliver it in time, just before Christmas ; )

Before going through the progresses made this week, I’d like to talk about something that I care quite a lot about: the spirit of supporting friends who are creators.

Lately, a couple of young Italian digital entrepreneurs I follow since a while, started their own podcast on iTunes (Italo-Digitali Podcast, only Italian though) and during the latest episode, they answered a few questions their audience asked. I found it interesting when they talked about selling their own products to people they know closely, such as friends or relatives.

They sell online courses, and, as it may happen with whatever product you make, a genuine customer is generally someone who is interested in trying it to the point they pay the price. So what happens when you give someone your product for free, only because you know them? Maybe the person who receive it, doesn’t really need it. They love you and want to be supportive, but are not interested in what you produce, therefore they don’t even find the time to take a look at it. Or maybe they do, but still not interested to stick until they consume the whole.

This is not hypocrisy, it’s just the natural flowing of events and there’s no malice in it. In Italy it’s also a very common attitude: relatives have a priority lane to the products that you, their blood-related cousin, or brother, or auntie are selling, getting it for free or discounted most of times. But then, the two podcasters reported the American entrepreneurial reality, where friends are the first ones who support you and buy your product, and, honestly, this is what I’ve always believed to be the fair approach to it.

I had a close friend who published a book once, but in this case he couldn’t give it for free because of printing expenses. It probably happened to a lot of people: for physical goods there’s usually a cost to cover and you’re called to pay even if the seller is your close friends. On the contrary, digital goods are much cheaper in distribution, and giving away a few copies don’t damage the production cost as when we buy a 3D item. An e-book is just a copy. Yes, but not so true, right? : D

When I’m given of a digital product because the maker is close to me, I always feel a bit shy in saying “No, I’m going to buy it”, like I’m offending the person who thought about making a gift to me. Listening to that podcast made me wide my eyes. I should have said it more and louder, darn! Obviously, creators don’t get offended if I’m willing to pay, what was I thinking about! XD But, again, I guess my shyness was due because the environment I grew up into.
Anyway, I think this could turn out to be a very useful tip to those who, like me, feel “shy” in paying creators close to them, eheh. (Well, I always feel shy but never stepped back on this point ; P)

Alright, now back to Serenade dev progresses. I started working on a new background art, from the university courtyard Kairi and others are going to attend after high school. I planned to have two recurring backgrounds of the university and both are shots of the courtyard. The first one is the cafeteria (I loved the idea of the students eating outside, and it was also appropriate because 80% of the story is set during summer).

I’d like to have background art commissioned soon or later, but hadn’t the proper time to look for an artist yet. The issue is that background art is veeeery time consuming. This time I used a smaller canvas indeed. Being this a shot that doesn’t require a zoom in, it wasn’t a problem.

Finally, I’m working on holydays illustrations. Something “humble and simple” because of an analogue lack of time in this field too, orz. Lately I’m focusing on getting better at art, so I’m starting with something basic. Have a Kairi holding his gift for you then, at the lineart stage. :)
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Next week (18-24) I’m going to work further on the current scene, revising the script and completing the cafeteria background. Take care! : )

Releasing even a short demo was among the "achievements" I planned for 2017. But, as it happened before, I did my math wrong and overestimated my abilities and control over my plans. I feel that I learnt a lot from this experience, and became a bit more aware at planning, however, this doesn't change the fact that the demo I wanted to deliver before the end of the year - the one I spent over one year over working on - is still quite a bit far away from completion.

Nevertheless, the work I'm doing on it fills me with satisfaction every day, and I'm enjoying the process and the results I'm getting so far. For this reason, I thought that it's about time to share with you some early screenshots! They would be the very very first screenshots ever I share from Serenade! : D

And that's not all. I plan to release a gameplay trailer just before the end of 2017 as well. The in-game menus are not ready yet, and there are some issues here and there with the flow of the game itself, so I don't feel confident in releasing any demo, even of a shorter section. But I can surely show you what the game looks like and its general appeal.

The scene I'm going to feature in the trailer does not come from the beginning, instead, you will be shown an advanced part of the first hour of game. However, if you ever read the summary of the story in the Story section, I think it won't be difficult to jump straight into that part and enjoying it.

I'm talking about the part featuring the meeting with Doc. Isahai. Yeah, I've been working over that scene and that character for weeks and I thought it would make a nice display for Serenade. It's a short, mostly comedy scene, so it won't go that deep into the story, but at the same time, it can provide the general feel of what you're going to play, in my opinion.

No comedy here, this is just Kairi being blunt, though.

I prepared a Youtube channel and will film the scene during the next two weeks (I need to fix two or three things yet). I will embed the video here on the blog as well, obviously, and will make a short commentary as well. 

Next week (11-17) I'll work on background art again, depicting Kairi's university. 
As always, thank you for reading. See you!

Quick entry with the updates from the past week : )

I prepared all the assets for the scene with Doc.Isahai and after coding it I'll be able to send it for a preliminary testing, useful to have feedback on the flow of the narrative and on the new choice menus I've implemented during the last weeks.

I recently held a survey on Twitter, regarding Kairi's outfit in the game (the one I'll use after his graduation from high school).

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Bow or tie? (・_・?) A rather difficult choice for me, and judging from the survey, even for everyone else... Both me and "partner in crime" cheered for the tie, but for the first prototype of the game I'll go with the bow (I'll now explain why).

I kind of want to give a distinctive color to each character and, as you probably have noticed so far, for Kairi said color is green. The original design for him was the one with the bow and, honestly, I can't quite remember why, when I had to draw his sprite exactly one year ago, I drastically changed his outfit. Maybe because the tie looked more "realistic" and, probably, "adult"...? Anyway, I'd like to give the game a "tone", and differentiate the style of people living in Kujikawa from the ones from Tokyo which the player will meet later in the game. I always thought of Kujikawa as a place "frozen in time", more graceful and delicate even for its fashion. Moreover, I'd also like to give Kairi a distinctive feature for his clothing style. There will be other outfits in the game for him (and I plan to have him featured in some illustration too), and I'm thinking about having him wearing a bow when it's possible. This won't only be an aesthetic choice, but it sort of have a meaning for the story too. It's too early to talk about it though ^ ^. I've saved the tie outfit as well, so if I ever think about going back, or the bow look doesn't please at all I can always change it again. (I don't like frequent changes of outfits so I don't think I'll use both).

Anyway, I'm really grateful for all the people voting. Learning that both outfits were appreciated helped in my choice a lot! : )

The second entry for the "Chara Plus Flower" series is also ready, and it features Fujisa, with her iconic flower, the wisteria (her name has this meaning).
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(You can check the Gallery section for further illustrations about Serenade.)
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I also want to thank Euan Robertson, who kindly helped summarizing and polishing the Story section of the website, now looking as a lot more appealing text to read! If you please, have a check! As an only person developer I'm extremely grateful for such support! <3 

Next week (4-10) I'll finally code a portion of the second half of the demo and have it tested. I'll probably begin working on some other scene as well : )
Thank you for reading, see you!!

On the way to the prototype.

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