(cross-posted from the Kickstarter updates page 🙂
Obviously, it’s February here and the game is by no means done… in defense i have to point out that even doing the basic one-character-path game that originally posted this Kickstarter with would have been hard to have it ready by February – this bigger game has been far more complicated to write and put together than i imagined, but um, i guess we all know that. ^^;; Also, to be honest, my original concept of the in-game choices and the scope of actual branching in the game would be fairly simple and not too complicated… unfortunately, i have burdened myself with far more branching and complexity to the game than i probably should have. As this all starts to form up slowly, i will be able to make choices i think that will slim things down a bit – this is not a bad thing, there are some branches and directions i have mapped out here that are not as strong as others, so trimming so i can focus on filling out the more interesting branches better. I’m also probably being a little too gregarious with the artwork – visual novels tend to do a lot of art re-use, and coming from a comicking background where i am always drawing new panels… this sort of generic re-use is a foreign concept for me and i admit that i have not be applying it as vigorously as i should.
Is all this bad? For getting the game done quickly, it’s horrible. Will it make the game better? Oh yes. I actually am really happy with the general feel of how the game is coming together. (I posted a rough sample of Piro’s route through the flight to japan on youtube that you gives a sense of what it is feeling like so far:
Still a fsk load of work to do, yes. Making the transition from doing comics to doing a visual novel is actually not as straight forward as you might think. Even with the existence of a robust platform like Renpy (which has been working out really well for this, i must say) i had to develop my own system, a kind of shorthand with attributes that i could globally work with as i grind out the scripts. In a comic, you do drawings to show what is happening, to describe the scene, to show a characters expressions (Example: (drawing of Largo vomiting rainbows) largo: “woah! l33t sp33wage!”). In prose you use words to describe these things (Largo walked in the room and started vomiting rainbows. “woah! l33t sp33wage!” he said, wiping his mouth.). With a visual novel, you have to use a kind of short hand – and if you are trying to do this in a detailed way, the attributes for describing the images called will either make or break how your VN comes together. For example, for that scene, the way i would write it is:
show largo hunchedover tR 3v1l33t hR vomitingrainbows eR m0
largo “woah! l33t sp33wage!”
I could even make a call for sound effects (not something you should overdo) buy adding “play sound “assets/sounds/vomitingrainbows.mp3”) but i digress. When you do comics, you sketch what you are trying to do and add dialogue. trying to work with this sort of abstraction of shorthand, planning things out so i can pull sketches together right (largo_hunchedover_tR_3v1l33t_hR_vomitingrainbows_eR_m0.png would probably be a rather unique drawing, not just a simple variant with a subltely changed expression) but getting to this point was a major challenge for me – one that has been frought with having to live with whatever system i developed over the course of a VERY large game.
I’ve reworked this system a dozen times or more, each time havent to go back and gut what i had done and rework things to work with the revised system. Painful as this was, learning by doing has its benefits – my scripting shorthand here is, i think, more than robust enough to get me through this game, and its been working well for me for the past month or so, which has been a HUGE relief. Nothing makes you more jittery as you move forward on something than the dawning realization you have to go back and do everything over. Again.
Oh, one other thing i sorta didn’t realize when i took this project on – all of the dialogue for the canon routes exists and was just a matter of transposing things over to a VN format. Obviously things change because the format is different but what i really didn’t consider is the amount of aditional writing it would entail: inner monologue. Comics don’t generally show what a character is thinking in words – more by expression than words. A VN is different – you can’t see your own face, so i am finding that i have to communicate this side of things with a lot more additional writing than i thought i would. Keeping it balanced is not easy, but i feel like I have a good handle on it.
I’m sorry if that sounded a bit rambling, but it’s a good reflection of where things are at. Those of you who are in the Beta Testing pool it will still be a bit before i open the first chunk for you guys to look at, but it’s coming, and i thank you for your patience.
One thing i’d like to do is start providing more regular updates on the project. I’ve asked a friend of mine, Rob Miller, to help by making some regular updates to vn.megatokyo.com since I have this bad habit of just wanting to work on things and i’m terrible at making rants and blog entries (other than twitter, i can manage those).
Another thing i’ll be doing is sending out surveys over the next few days to collect information for shipping and other stuff (in particular, if you have ala cart items in your KS pledge). I’m going to work on seeing if i can start sending out some of the extras in the next month or so ahead of the game being finished, since there is no real reason to hold off on that. More on this over the next week or so as i figure out how to handle that. Also, i really need to get some info from you guys with NPC insertion stuff – i have places to work that in now, so it’s time to get that info from you guys. 🙂
So, rambling, but i think that covers a lot of things. I’m happy with where this is going, I just wish i could pull things together faster. I apologize for that, but please know i’m doing my best to get this thing together. Thank you very much for your support, this is an awesome project to be working on, and ugh, i have so much respect for anyone who puts one of these things together… ^^;;