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Archive for April 2018

[Week 70]

*:....:*・゜Table of contents *:....:*・゜
  • A Walk With Teru
  • New Illustration Preview

I'm in the middle of a quite long script revision. Parts to revise are not very extended, however... some of them are tricky to fix. Script is everything but "conspicuous" to show, as progresses are just words and most of the time they make no much sense outside of their native context. Anyway, I guess I'm going to blab about this topic a bit nevertheless, and stay close to the latest achievements PBS demo has reached. Wish you an entertaining stay on PBS blog this week as well! 😁

A walk with Teru.
The 4th scene that has been planned for the demo is aimed to explain Kairi's personality. (You can check the various "theme sections" of the demo in this post.)
Mock screenshot from an older test version of the scene in question. 
Aim of the scene is to explain to the players why Kairi, Fujisa and Teru chose the same class at university. Each of them has a different reason related to their characterization and their evolution in the Fujisa's route. Easier said than done, I obviously need to provide such information in a natural way, communicating Kairi and Teru's personalities at the same time, since this is also the first long interaction the two have.

Communicating both information and characters' personalities is something I've already done in the cafeteria scene. Hopefully I made that work correctly, I just need to repeat the formula here.

Another difficulty of the 4th scene is to insert one of the special choices of Kairi. I'm not sure I'll manage to do it for the demo release. In case I don't, you're going to read a quite long interaction without any choice, and experience a sort of interruption in the timing of such choices. I'd like to avoid it but at the same time, inserting any meaningless choice would feel worse than having a pause from them in my opinion. So, yeah. If I make in time for the demo release I'll insert the "right one" and that only.

New illustration preview.
We already entered Golden Week, uh? So why not portraying PBS's main two "kids", Shin and Kairi, on Children's Day? πŸ˜‹

The illustration is still in a draft stage and my plan is to be able to show the final result on next week blog post.

That's all folks! I'll keep working on the script and on the complexion of the demo as always. Wish you a nice week!✨

Thank you for reading, see ya!πŸ™ŒπŸ’œ

[Week 69]

*:....:*・゜Table of contents *:....:*・゜
  • The Early Game Overs
  • PBS's Time Frame
  • "Spring Festival Suzume" 

New details about PBS coming with this week's entry! I'm going to talk about some gameplay features of recent development and the general time's flow of the game. I hope you'll enjoy this post! πŸ˜‰

The early game overs.
A recent add to the game. It was an idea that came up during a brainstorming session and I found it fitting for the High School scene. It's the scene dealing with Kairi being threatened to death so... Since he's already with "a gun put to his head", why not adding the risk that that "trigger" could be pulled for real...! 
Game overs in the High School scene will be triggered by certain choices plus a further condition.
I imagined that "making things serious" for the player would turn into further motivation for them to save Kairi. It won't be easy to trigger the game overs, you'd literally have to work against Kairi. But when you do, you'll face a reasonable outcome to your actions and this will hopefully bring more engagement and enhance the game experience.

However, even in the case you'd run into a sudden interruption of the story, the game will provide an automatic save point to start again from. Therefore, unexpected game overs won't be something to worry of.

PBS's time frame.
I talked about the "time skip" contained in the demo more than once by now. So, after quickly summarize it again, I'd like to give some more information about the time frame the story will unfold within and how the time will be distributed through it.

First of all, the time skip. The game starts in 2009 and you'll be able to play only one 24 hours session there. Then the story will fast-forward to 2012.

After the time skip, you'll play from April to December 2012. The story is divided in "events", so Kairi is going to "virtually live" only the days that make the story progresses. There the player can input their choices and change the story direction. 

Events can be anything: for example you're going to have the "Golden Week" event which will be three to five days; or a weekend off to the beach, literally two or three days. After experiencing one event you'll skip to the next one, "muting" the days in between them.

"Spring Festival Suzume".
A new illustration adds up to PBS gallery! Suzume is the same girl featured in the header of this blog. Despite being everywhere it's not the time yet to unfold too many details about her though...

For the moment, just consider that she's going to be a very central and romanceable character for PBS story.  

Click to enlarge or browse the Gallery section for more artworks.

If I have succeeded in portraying her, you should perceive that Suzume is the joyous type of girl. A bit carefree, she's got a talent for singing and likes lolita clothing style. Her route won't be immediate to get to. She's only dateable through Kairi's memory and, as you certainly remember, Kairi suffers from amnesia so... one must first regain Kairi's lost memory to have a chance to meet Suzume. 

A bit of a weird game structure perhaps, but that's also the first route I planned when I first started working on PBS, so, in a sense, Suzume's route can be considered the "core" of the game. I honestly can't wait to reveal more about this part but unfortunately it's a bit too early for it... πŸ’¦

Next week I'm going to continue my revision of a whole bunch of script and hopefully hand it over for proofreading! 😌 
Thank you for reading, see ya!πŸ™ŒπŸ’œ

Early Game Over.

[Week 68]

*:....:*・゜Table of contents *:....:*・゜
  • New Attempt at The GUI
  • Two Types of Players

I'm currently working on the script for all the parts of the demo that don't involve any investigation. Two of them have already been released as trailers, a few others need to be fixed and proofread. I've actually a "sad news" for this entry as I've decided to postpone the release of the new gameplay trailer a bit as if I work on that now it will drastically slow down the completion of the demo. In short, this post won't deal with anything really new in development terms, but I'd like to cover some few progresses I and Livestraes did with the GUI, and have a bit of "nerdy talk" as well.

New attempt at the GUI.
I admit that GUI work is the one I delay the most. I do believe it's one of the things that matters a lot as it's the very vehicle the player uses to interact with the game, still I think that, in the specific case of PBS, going with the simplest thing will do a good job anyway as I prefer to focus on the story and characters. I have yet to "go to a retreat" a few days and do the GUI work properly, however, I think it won't hurt to show some little progresses about that for the meanwhile.

First of all, I'd like to talk about the colors the game will be mostly recognized for. Since Kairi's main color is green, I've been thinking of drawing a forest green and white promotional art/cover for the game since years now, and I'm determined to do it as the release date for the demo draws near. This duo of colors surely has been influenced me since PBS development started and until very recently I thought of using it for the GUI as well. However, after brainstorming about that a bit more, I've changed my mind and main colors for the game user interface are now set to be white and violet. Therefore, this is what I'll keep in mind when I'll sit and work on that in the near future.

With the help of Livestraes, we finalized the textbox as well and now it appears to be a bit different from the one you saw in the trailers. (If you'd like to, you can also check a few first attempts of textbox from 2016 here).

Textbox when the name of a character is shown.
Textbox for Kairi's thoughts.
We used to have labels for character's names (commonly called "namebox") coming in a different color depending on the character speaking. We changed that and had everyone using a standard white label in the hope to make the GUI looking cleaner. Main characters will still retain a different color for the font of their names. Has it been a good decision? One of the reason we changed the namebox was to make the coding easier to write. As for the aesthetic result, it's still early to make a final judgment for me too. However, I'll gladly accept any feedback especially in the case this choice somehow shocked you, eheh.

Two types of players.
Here we are again with the nerdy talking. This time as well I'll be dealing with some brainstorming I made while, unfortunately, I can't show it in practice to you yet. However, the topic I'm about to write about is what you may call the "foundation" of the gameplay mechanics I have in mind for PBS.

There is in PBS the possibility to "hurt" other characters and not paying consequences for that as Kairi will be protected by a thick reputation for most part of the story. How will a player behave in such conditions?

You had a small taste of this in the second trailer I prepared. Kairi is basically speaking ill behind his best friend and fiance while the two of them completely trust him. This circumstances will recur with persistence through the story, giving the player the chance through their choices to make Kairi climbing the ladder of success with few to none regards for people around him.

In planning such, I identified two main types of players:
  • The "nice guys" players. Theoretically, they dislike to hurt other characters and want to act righteously towards everyone. Even in the event of Fujisa and Teru not being enough of a reason to act nice, I'll be sure to provide further characters or situations that will move the sense of justice of such players.
  • The "villain" players. The ones who enjoy seeing themselves as the evil mastermind behind other characters' pain. Because, why not ; P. 
And surely, it could be a nice outcome to have players interested in play the story in both modes. As a matter of fact, there could be a few "virtual rewards" I plan to have when the player repeatedly does a same action or act in the same way for a long period of time.

As usual, a lot of planning and a lot more to implement! 😌

I'm going to finalize the script during next week too and, hopefully, have some time to work on a new artwork since it's a while I don't! 
Thank you for reading, see ya!πŸ™ŒπŸ’œ

GUI progresses.

[Week 67]

*:....:*・゜Table of contents *:....:*・゜
  • High School Scene's Early Screenshots
  • Genba no Teru

My plan for April is to have the new trailer for PBS released and a definitive code for part of the GUI. During the past week I and Livestraes had a play test for the scene involved in the trailer and we're currently trying to fix the GUI as well. In this blog post I'm going to give you an overview of said scene and later I'll talk about a special feature for PBS as well. Hope you'll enjoy this week's contents! 😁

High School scene's early screenshots.
If you remember my post about the partitions of the demo, the High School scene is the third one in order and part of the "Choumugai sub-arc". As said before, scenes from the same sub-arc aren't necessarily set in the same place even when the name of the sub-arc refers to a specific location. As in this case, the High School scene is just the "second chapter" of a story concerning the Choumugai location.

Another peculiarity of this scene is that it's the only one set in Kairi's high school from the time he moves in Kujikawa.

Originally, when I first drew the concept art for Kairi, I had the green uniform in mind. Later on I realized Kairi would have spent very few time if none at all in high school because of the story of PBS. However, I decided to have that uniform as a default clothing piece for the three main characters of Kujikawa anyway to give them some kind of unique look. Moreover, that uniform's color and crest have a deep meaning for the investigation segment in Kujikawa so showing it carefully to the players turned out to be of main importance.

Enough for the premises, let's overview the scene in question.

The High School scene is set in Eizono Private High School (ζ „εœ’η§η«‹ε­¦εœ’), located in Educational Hill (学丘), up on the hills of Kujikawa. People from Kujikawa are well known for a high degree of common courtesy and Eizono Gakuen, that covers education from elementary school, is often referred to a place where students are especially kind and polite.

With such premise, when a rather aggressive man suddenly breaks into the main hall yelling and cussing, panic happens. The man is drunk and attacks Kairi accusing him of a wrong endured.

This CG has been revised to match the new character art and personality of the man "visiting" the school.

The goal for the player will be trying to free Kairi from such attack. Completed such task, the scene continues with Kairi meeting Fujisa and Teru for the first time. 

Eizono High's corridor background art was 3D designed and rendered by Livestraes back in 2013.
The choice system.
As mentioned before, such scene will introduce the "true" choice system to the player. I'd like to wait for the trailer to be completed before talking about it. However, one things that I can say is that, especially in the beginning, these choices are mainly related to the player's perceptions of what's happening and their knowledge about the story so far. The fact that the demo's scene sequence has a fixed order is purposeful for this mechanism to work.

"Genba no Teru".
Now let's talk about a special feature which Teru was recently honored of! 😏 Less than a week ago the awesome visual novel developer team Gosatsu published the demo for one of their upcoming games, GENBA no Kizuna (which I hope you'll try since it's absurdly cool!). As a fan of the team's works, words aren't probably enough to express my surprise and excitement of when I was gifted with fake GENBA screenshots portraying Teru! 😍

As it will be revealed during Teru's self-introduction in the High School scene, Teru's passion is about police and fighting criminals. For a long time he's been dreaming of pursuing the policeman's career.

PBS and GENBA no Kizuna's connections don't end here though. The profile of the main character of GENBA, Keiichi Genba, shares indeed a few information about one of the location of PBS.
Screenshot from the in-game Character Profiles section in GENBA no Kizuna demo.
As Keiichi's profile states, Oudou district in Kujikawa has been prey of a few cases of burglary as well as other crime problems. Since it's the district where rich people live, their luxury mansions often lure thieves. During the High School scene, considering that an aggressive man is threatening students, PBS took the opportunity to talk about this topic as well.
Draft for minor characters' dialogues in the High School scene yet to be proofread.

Remarking how I feel honored to have PBS featured in GENBA no Kizuna, I'd call it a day for this update! πŸ’₯πŸ˜‹ Next week I'm going to refine the High School scene and work on the draft of another one, aiming to be able to show you some more of this game ASAP.
Thank you for reading, see ya!πŸ™ŒπŸ’œ

"Genba no Teru"

[Week 66]

*:....:*・゜Table of contents *:....:*・゜
  • A Case Study: "Spring Stroll"
  • A Case Study: "The Day Akatarou's Blood Ran Out"

As mentioned in my previous post, from time to time I'd like to feature game mechanic insights here on the blog, especially in regards to other authors' games.

Since I started worked on PBS I've been experimenting several ways of telling the same story in an interactive way, looking for inspiration in other works or emulating the games I was playing. During this process I mainly focused on my reactions and reflected upon my experience as a player, and it's now something that happens on a regular basis during my playtime or simply whenever I watch a movie or a tv show.

What's the feature that makes a game entertaining to go through? What's the part that provides me the satisfaction of having played it? What's interesting and memorable? What shocked me? What made me do that jump in surprise? 

That's what I find charming while going through whatever experience. πŸ˜€

Lately I had the pleasure to play two short visual novels by two awesome authors and despite them being extremely quick (5 to 15 minutes) they offered a few things to reflect upon in terms of story techniques in the specific case of visual novel's telling.

Being kindly granted the permission to have the two of them as the guests of this blog post, there's nothing else left for me to say but to offer you my humble perspective! πŸ˜‰ 

A case study: "Spring Stroll".
"Spring Stroll" is the short and gentle VN by NovelistEzhno and Khana_chi (check also their MoeWritings' project!). To play the game please get your copy here! (My review is not going to spoiler anything, don't worry!)

What it is about.
"Spring Stroll" deals with the main character, Ace who entertains the idea to take a stroll into one of his first spring days of the year. At first glance, I was fascinated by the nostalgic atmosphere and the lively dialogues between Ace and the heroine Jane. Later, I realized how the game structure is extremely enjoyable as well!

Game mechanics.
Going through all the routes of this game is indeed the fun part of it! After all, one among entertaining features of playing a visual novel is going through it several times, isn't it? "Spring Stroll" makes a very good use of this device as Ace's backstory is split among  the game's routes!

Hitting a good ending won't make the story complete as you won't know all the details about Ace's solitary character. And ending up in a neutral or bad epilogue will make you think there's more to find out. Replayability is indeed one great feature in games like visual novel, and during my playthrough of "Spring Stroll" I was certainly surprised that it was implemented in such effective way!

Surely impressed by the narrative, the dedication of the two authors (a beautiful CG art graces one of the endings) and the short time during which "Spring Stroll" was completed, I recommend this short game, as for me was a great example of VN development, along with the refreshing story it contains!

A case study: "The Day Akatarou's Blood Ran Out".
TDABRO is the short VN entirely made by Gospel. Be sure to get your copy here!
(Note thad when Gospel doesn't test his awesome skills with particular works as TDABRO, he's part of Gosatsu VN team that produces amazing murder-mystery and investigation games like SHINRAI series and the upcoming GENBA no Kizuna! Be sure not to miss them out!πŸ˜‰)

What it is about.
My main concern about this review of mine is to talk about the game without revealing too much, I guess. So I think I won't deal with the story at all, since, in my opinion, the "element of surprise" that you experience with TDABRO is very important for the playthrough! Let's get to the game mechanics part right away then! πŸ˜‰πŸš€

Game mechanics.
Another feature that can boost replayability in a game is the same one that can push a reader to go through the same book a second time. That is when you get to the end of a story and that ending adds a new meaning to the whole experience.

The first time I reached the end of TDABRO, I literally burst out laughing and I was really surprised of my reaction as I didn't expect it at all! I then wondered why it worked so well and analyzed the game to look for the elements that made that possible. And it resulted into two major factors:

  • The foreshadowing is well camouflaged into the story. When reading through it I was so concerned about the main event, focused on how it's going to unfold, that I didn't pay much attention to everything that's secondary. Apparently, these conditions made the surprise work well!
  • A second replay. After one play through I wanted to start it again to see the adventure with different eyes and check the foreshadowing part now that I could pay more attention to it. In my opinion, this could work because the ending itself added a different perspective to my experience.
I recommend this game because it can make you laugh and you can be surprised in a 4-minutes span which is the cool part!

My aim with this post was to deal about game mechanics and story devices in visual novels and I hope to have you gotten curious about the two games I mentioned as I was positively impressed by them and gotten eager to present them to you!

Next time it's PBS's dev journal again. I'll talk about the new progresses I made and we're also going to have a roundup of PBS's gift arts!😊
Thank you for reading, see ya!πŸ™ŒπŸ’œ

*Post icon by Radoslav Krumov

A case of study: two short VN's mechanics review

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