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[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

[Week 65]

*:....:*・゜Table of contents *:....:*・゜
  • PBS Demo's Four "Partitions"
  • The "Mad Man"'s New Concept Art and Profile
  • A New Trailer is In The Making


It's not possible to estimate a date for the release of a demo for PBS yet, but one thing's sure: that day draws near! In this week's blog post I'd like to focus entirely on it and talk more in details about its structure and some of its features. I hope it'll be an enjoyable reading despite it being a bit technical! πŸ˜‰

PBS demo's four "partitions".
The time to share a preview of the scene structure of the demo has finally come! I'll try to explain it the more I can without being spoilery. πŸ˜‡

The structure I decided for the very first part of PBS is functional for the player to get accustomed to the story, to Kairi and to what they're going to experience as a game mechanic. A sort of "prelude" for the game itself that will be similar to a certain degree.

However, while the rest of the game follows a more linear sequence of events that's somewhat clear in order for the player, the prologue featured in the demo will be split into short scenes combined in a fixed order. If I'd have to compare it to some movie or TV show, I'd tell you to think of one where you have three or more parallel stories that meet and merge together at a certain point, and you'll be aware of it only at the end.

My general idea for the whole game (early preview). The demo I'm currently working on doesn't include the Tokyo Arc but I'll hopefully release a second, more complete one later.

In the demo we have four main settings where the player is called to operate in. Here are the bullet points to summarize them (I've given them iconic names):
  • Choumugai (3 scenes)
  • Investigation part (3 scenes)
  • Kairi's amnesia (2 scenes)
  • Kairi's personality (2 scenes)
And if I'd have the demo structure explained through these themes, it would be like this:

(Before the time skip) Choumugai - Investigation - Choumugai - Personality - Amnesia - Investigation

(After the time skip) Personality - Amnesia - Choumugai - Investigation

Basically you have four "stories" split up into ten scenes and you go through each of them accordingly to the sequence I reported above. Note that, for example, not all the three scenes of the "Choumugai sub-arc" are set in the Choumugai location, and same goes for the other partitions. It's a "behind the scenes partition" but, at the same time, my main aim is to have the player be aware of "continuing something that they left opened" every time they get to the same theme a second or a third time.

This is basically the technical introduction to the upcoming demo and I'll surely cover the matter again in the future. Before moving to the next topic though, I'm going to briefly recap what these partitions are about so that you can have a clearer picture of them. (A crucial detail about these partitions is that they evolve accordingly to the time flow).

  • Choumugai sub-arc: it's a short story aimed to introduce Kairi to the players and it also introduces Fujisa's route. As you can see from the list above, you get to play the end of this sub-arc only after the time skip.
  • Investigation sub-arc: now and then, the game will ask you to gather clues, actively or passively, to solve the paranormal mystery of the story. You'll learn about this mystery only when you reach the Tokyo arc though. So, yeah, during the demo you'll have a partial understanding of what it's about.
  • Personality sub-arc: its main aim is to describe Kairi's personality to the player. In this case it also introduces the other characters of the Fujisa's route. The cafeteria trailer was set in this sub-arc.
  • Amnesia sub-arc: it's about Kairi's amnesia and Kairi's past. The Isahai trailer belongs to this sub-arc.

The "Mad man"'s new concept art and profile.
While revising the script I ended up rewriting a whole character from scratch. πŸ˜“ I'm referring to the "Man" character you can still see in the Characters Profile Page

So why am I now wasting time in rewriting things and, in this case, drawing a character again? 😌 Well, I actually have been having difficulties for the scene concerning this character since the very first draft. It was originally planned to have some sort of realism in it but, after several tries I couldn't combine that with the scene's pace quite well.

In addition to that, I'm using this "Man" character to let Kairi introduce the choice system, so... even if I have to do some huge changes in it I guess that in this case they are somewhat worth the while! πŸ˜‡

The new design is the following one, accompanied by a short description with some info about his background story. His name is now changed to "Madman" (waiting approval though).
Early sketch for the "Madman" character. The design has totally changed to adapt to the new script. (Gruesome) comedy is guaranteed!

A new trailer is in the making.
It took quite the time but I'm finally able to work on a new trailer and this time properly introduce the choice system. The trailer in question will feature the scene with the "Madman" and deal with Kairi's encounter with Fujisa and Teru back in high school. Yeah, finally a trailer set before the time skip! πŸ˜‰

That's all for this week. I plan to use the next post to open a new "special column" of the blog featuring thoughts on game mechanics. If you like nerdy post, don't miss it!
Thank you for reading, see ya!πŸ™ŒπŸ’œ

The demo's partitions.

[Week 64]

*:....:*・゜Table of contents *:....:*・゜
  • Door Creation 
  • The 3D Warehouse (Decorate with Furniture) 
  • Paint in Colors 
  • Having your 3D as A Lineart 

Second and last part of the tutorial for the basic usage of SketchUp MAKE! 🏑
We're going to continue building where we left last time so if you missed the first part, check the related post here

Door creation.

We built a floor and three walls. The next step of this tutorial is about creating a door. First of all, let's proceed with making a hole in one wall (!).

Double click on the wall to start the edit mode. Now let's select the tool for geometrical shape-making and let's draw a rectangle over the wall's surface.

We now use the pull-and-drag tool (the solid with the upward arrow) to push the rectangle inside the wall until it vanishes.

Ta-dah! We (proudly) made a hole into the wall! This is the basic and raw way about making passages into your buildings. Click anywhere else in the screen to exit the edit mode.

The 3D Warehouse (decorate with furniture).

We made a hole and created a passage. To refine our room we can consider to have a proper door. Of course, one can choose to built one from scratch but in the case of this tutorial I'm going to illustrate how we can use the users' online library 3D Warehouse and download models for almost every object and save time! 

Okay, here again with the language barrier. Simply click on the File menu and select 3D Warehouse > Get models or the equivalent in your version (an internet connection is required).

A new window appears. Let's write "door" into the browser. We can adjust our search priorities from the AZ menu on the top-right and have, for example, users' favorite models appearing first. 

I'm going to choose a simple one. When we click on download, the program asks us if we want to have the model directly downloaded into our 3D project. Let's say "yes".

The model will materialize in a few seconds! Let's rotate it and resize it to fit the hole, then let's move it into it (we learnt how to do all these operations in part I of this tutorial, remember? πŸ˜‡)

Ta-dah! We have a cool door! (If you prefer, you can first download a door to your satisfaction and make the hole afterwards).

Paint in colors.

As you have probably guessed, you can use the 3D warehouse to look for the other pieces of furniture as well and decorate your rooms as you wish. I'll leave you the fun, while for the next part we're going to cover how to change colors and textures. Let's color that door then!

Lets' double click on the door once, and then again a second time to activate the edit mode. On the right side of our canvas we have a popup panel. Click on that and select "Materials". We're going to choose a texture from the wood selection. Use the bucket tool to pour paint over the door (complex models have the surface divided in several parts so we have to bucket them one by one).

We may want to change the color for the wood. Let's say we want a white door. Next to the panel where you selected the material you have a further "edit panel". There we can adjust the RGB values and get the nuance we prefer.

Don't forget to move around the model to paint the tiniest parts too.

Ta-dah! We got a white wooden door with golden metal handle and tag.

Having your 3D as a lineart.

Least but not last, we may want to have our model outlined as a lineart. Sketch Up can actually render it that way for us.

Let's browse the Styles in the panel on the right side of the screen until we find some used for the "photo rendering". Once selected the style applies instantly.

You can have a .png file of your model by clicking File > Export > 2D image. The picture will save accordingly to the style you selected.

Sketch Up MAKE basic tutorial ends here. Thank you for sticking with it! πŸ™‡πŸ’•
Next week PBS updates will be back again. Get ready for some new screenshots! πŸ˜‹

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

Sketch-Up Basic Tutorial (Part 2)

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