Dec 312014
 

*blows the dust off of the Ouroboros Connect blog*

Hey, everyone! Happy New Years. Inspired by other developers doing the same thing, I thought it would be a good idea to take a look back on 2014. Our output this year was definitely better than 2013’s. At the start of the year, I wrote a post where I said, “I want to diversify what I can do and really grow as a writer this year. On the visual novel development side, my challenge will be to release 3 things in 2014.” Did that happen? The first sentence did, but the second one…not quite.

In April, we completed Nanoreno 2014 and released The Mishka Effect, our time travel adventure-comedy. Then, the weekend of Halloween, we participated in Asylum Jam 2014 to finish and release Saving Zoey in 48 hours. Both of those projects were triumphs for different reasons. I’ll forever be proud of both of them. A second version of The Mishka Effect is still on course to be released some time in 2014. We haven’t forgotten about that, don’t worry!

To prove my skills as a writer, I started getting into interactive fiction writing. At the end of June, I participated in a narrative game jam and released Draw Everything You See That’s Mine and Yours. It was surprisingly well-received, managing to get #3 overall in the jam. A month later, I made a solid attempt at a genre outside of my comfort zone for IntroComp. It was called Mount Imperius and honestly, it didn’t do so hot. You win some, you lose some.

Taking what I learned from those two Twine attempts, I decided to enter the 2014 IFComp. I gave myself a rule: don’t hold anything back. Write whatever comes to mind, no matter how horrible it might be. This resulted in Venus Meets Venus, which pulled 13th place out of 42 and the unofficial Silver Banana of Discord (second highest standard deviation of votes). The response for Venus Meets Venus has been amazing. It made it onto Forest Ambassador (and won Best Numeral Exegesis, haha), was mentioned in a podcast, was described as a champagne and tiramisu breakfast (yes), got praised by one of my IF idols Emily Short, and continues to receive nice feedback. I read every review I can find.

It may have been emblematic of the problems that many people have with Twine but people seemed to enjoy it despite that. IFComp was truly a wild ride. I think you have to have a thick skin to participate in it. It can be tough to see your work get completely trashed. And believe me, VMV had its fair share of getting dumped on. The thing is, you can’t take any of it personally. You have to look at the negativity & the criticism, and learn something from it. Focus on the most useful parts of the criticism.

What I’ve learned is that if I do IFComp in 2015, I’ll be creating something with more interactivity and a little less poetry. I’m also going to start and finish my project much sooner than I did with VMV. Who knows? Maybe I can start practicing with some parser projects throughout 2015 so I can throw my hat into the parser ring. We shall see.

Overall, I’m proud of what I did throughout 2014. I didn’t release 3 visual novels, but I released 2 visual novels and 2 pieces of interactive fiction (Mount Imperius was only an introduction so I’m not counting it). I survived 5 jams/competitions. Wow, I just realized that I only released works that were meant for jams or competitions. Oops. Well, they’re good motivators for finishing things!

2015

The problem with doing all of these things was that it came at the cost of my works-in-progress. I’ve got three that are definitely in the pipeline for 2015.

Everything Around a Bridge: this was a project that was meant to be done in 2013, oops. The writing has been finished since then and hasn’t been touched. I think it’s under 6000 words total? The artwork’s all done. The GUI might need to be revamped. Sprites need to be coded into it. If I wasn’t so hesitant about it, it could have gotten released around November. There’s just something that it’s missing. I think I have to get over myself and release it already.

7 Months in Between: the first draft of the writing is all done. Both routes have gotten alpha feedback. The sprites are finished. It needs GUI and an extensive amount of photography done for the BGs. There won’t be any CGs because I can’t afford them. Editing is 0% done unless I’m forgetting something. In that case, it might be like 3-5% done. For some reason, I have a lot of issues with this project. The other day, I actually ranted on Twitter about needing a personal assistant to see it through. If I got my act together, this project could EASILY see the light of day late Summer 2015.

Besides, how much longer can we deny the world of Gus?

In This Dream of Ours Remake: Honestly, I dropped the ball on this one. The sprites are done. Haven’t started on GUI designs, BGs, CGs, or any of that. I’m taking way longer on the writing than I thought I would. I think I underestimated the amount of work required. Turning it from a KN to a VN took a tremendous deal of effort. That being said, it’s the longest visual novel I’ve ever worked on to date. I’m pretty sure it’s going to more than double the word count of 7 Months in Between when it’s all done.

YEAH! Cheer us on, Yasahiro, as we make it across the writing finish line!

Game Jams in 2015?: I’ll be doing NaNoWinter 2015 with some of my The Mishka Effect teammates so expect to see something new from me by February 1st. Nanoreno 2015 will definitely be happening, so that’s something else for April 1st. I’m expecting to do IFComp 2015 as long as I have the time for it. Other than that, I’m not sure! I’ve definitely got to get EAB, 7MiB, and ITDO ’15 out the door so they’re going to be taking higher priority.

I’d like to repeat my 2014 resolution for 2015: release three things in 2015. Here’s to 2015 being even better than 2014 was!

Chugging Along

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May 142014
 

You know… I need to stop being so tight-lipped about what I’m working on. Since it’s not an immediate need, though, I’m going to keep holding off on showing off the in-progress art for the visual novels I’ve got in the pipeline. School continues to be the bane of my existence, especially with finals (lots of presentations and papers) looming in the next few weeks.

I have a schedule for the summer that should give me a bit more time to work. Problem is that I signed up for a creative writing class for the first time ever, so I expect that to require a huge chunk of attention. I’m actually kind of nervous for it. I’ve never even been in a face-to-face writer’s circle before. This is going to be interesting. I’m hoping to get a lot out of the course! If I can, I’ll share my work for that course here and on my Deviantart account.

I wrote roughly 3000 words for In This Dream of Ours, including the first choice of the VN. So, it’s official, the conversion from choiceless KN to choiced VN is going to happen. Surprisingly, writing went rather quickly. I think it might’ve taken me an hour or two to write that much. Imagine if I had a whole day that I could dedicate to ITDO.

Art’s going great for 7 Months in Between. I still need to apply the feedback that I got to the script. Concept arting has also begun for another project that won’t be released for a while. I’ve also been toying with the idea of recruting for a GUI designer for ITDO. My current game plan is to get the In This Dream of Ours remake written up, then move back to fixing 7 Months in Between’s writing, and then move on from there.

By the way, Wednesday’s now going to be update day. Tuesday doesn’t work for my schedule anymore.

Moving Along

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May 012014
 

I’m sorry I am a few days late on this update. Honestly, because of my night classes, I’m having trouble sticking to a consistent updating schedule.

I’ve received some good feedback on 7 Months in Between. I think I am getting a better idea on what to do about that route that’s been left open. Art’s been moving along steadily. Once I’ve finished the new route, I can show the game to my editor, get GUI & music, and start hunting for backgrounds. It’s going to take me a long while to photograph all the parts of the city that I need. Getting the right photographic angle is going to be a pain, too…

I started doing some writing for In This Dream of Ours. I’m wondering if I can do the writing without an outline. Probably a terrible idea. For now, I’m just trying to improve the original script while marking off places where choices could be. I think I’ve got an alright GUI concept design in mind. Don’t know if I should move on with getting the GUI in place yet, though. I want the script to be done before I start looking around for help with that.

I’m working on some things for The Mishka Effect Version 2. Still discussing the possibility of a new ending for it.

All in all, things are going well. School and life are both keeping me busy. I’m surviving.

Research Shmesearch

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Apr 222014
 

I’ve spent the past couple of weeks doing research for the In This Dream of Ours remake, in order to make it more historically accurate. Rather than it being set in an alternate version of the dawn of the Edo period, it will be set during the actual era. I’ll take liberties where I have to, but gone will be the vague mentions of East versus West, and Emperors that never existed.

Upping the realism will improve the story. In the 2012 version, Kouji, a farmer-turned-warrior fought in the Battle of Sekigahara. If you cut through the fake reality, you’d know that he fought for the Western army under the Toyotoomi government’s flag. The story doesn’t tell who his commander was. Could’ve been Ishida Mitsunari. Could’ve been someone else. What helps determine that is the province that Kouji’s fictional farm village is in.

Then, there’s the question of where to place Saitoumura, the setting of the story. It couldn’t be too far from Sekigahara for story reasons. Dependent on the province and which daimyo (feudal lords) ruled over it, the village would have gone through an entire story on its own. This story would’ve affected how Hitomi, Yasahiro, and Tadashi are.

We learn in the 2012 version that Hitomi and Yasahiro’s father frequently went away to battles. Under whose name? What were these battles? How exactly did that affect their upbringing? Raakel, the artist for ITDO, helped me determine that they would have most likely made their money from peddling wares and trinkets brought back from the skirmishes their father fought in. Money would be tight. How does that factor in?

And then, there’s Tadashi, someone whose family would have been able to afford to send him to a temple to learn how to read and write. Hitomi would’ve become literate through different means. In the 2012 version, Tadashi mentioned that his father taught him how, but in 2014, the story changes in order to more fully reflect his upbringing. He’s the son of textile merchants who have a decent amount of steady wealth. Did this have any effect on the deterioration of his best friendship with Yasahiro? How does his comfortable lifestyle contrast with Hitomi and Yasahiro’s? Is pacificity a trait meant only for the well-off?

I’m doing this remake project to explore those questions. I’ve become entrenched in research to dig deeper into the setting and give a better picture on who these characters are. Unfortunately, the more research I do, the less time I’m spending on what I need to do to get this story finished.

Last night, I came across some great advice from an article on writing science fiction. While ITDO is far from sci-fi, the article still had advice that rang true. It actually said to Avoid Research (funny), except for when you’re in the brainstorming or rewrite stage. ITDO 2014 isn’t just a rewrite of the 2012 edition. It’s going to have choices this time. A first draft doesn’t exist yet beyond a bunch of notes and pages and pages of historical research.

At this rate, I could spend months perfecting my research, when I should be writing the story. Is it going to kill my story that I don’t know where to set Saitoumura at the moment? Is not knowing Kouji’s commander some sort of stop sign that shuts down my writing process entirely? Nope. It shouldn’t be. My primary concern should be on the plot and the characters.

Yes, research is good. I’m not saying it’s a terrible thing. I’m just saying that I shouldn’t let historical accuracy concerns slow down my writing for this project. I should shift my attention on forming a concrete outline detailing the routes. From my work on 7 Months in Between, I know that when I have an outline, my writing flies. From writing this blog entry, I’ve already gotten some more ideas for what I want to do with ITDO. The gears are turning.

Yasahiro_yeah2blog

This is Yasahiro! I’ve got a million things I could say about this guy. I definitely love writing him. He’s loud, opinionated, driven, and yet…immature and more vulnerable than he’d ever admit. I could go on and on about Yasahiro, ah. I find the way he relates to the three other characters the most interesting out of all of them. I love this guy, haha! Raakel brought him to life perfectly.

I am also going to move on ahead with finishing the writing for 7 Months in Between. I still haven’t been able to figure out what I am going to do for the John Mark-centric route, so I’m just going to send the script off to people for some pre-alpha text feedback. I want to know if I am taking the story in the right direction. Am I actually meeting my goal, or am I fooling myself into thinking that I’ve actually written a more mature otome story?

For people that are new to the blog, 7MiB is my story about a May/December relationship and the May (23 year old woman) getting to know the December (38 year old man)’s 15 year old daughter. She learns how to become the mother she never had. She does this while trying to become a hip hop producer working alongside a local rapper.

If you are interested in giving me feedback on that story, then contact me via the “Contact” page on this site. I’ll edit this post with a link to a formal thread soon.

Also, don’t forget you can connect with ouroboros[connect] via social media!

Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, & Google Plus are all within reach. 😀 Pressing the like button or following me is very helpful, thank you!

The Mishka Effect Released!

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Apr 092014
 

This blog entry is a little late, considering how The Mishka Effect came out on April 1st, but that’s alright! The team pulled together and successfully finished our one-month NaNoReno 2014 project. There are more details about the game on its project page. If you haven’t played TME yet, be sure to or else you’ll never get to know the joy of eating a crunchwich!

We’re working on an update to the game that should be out some time next month. I plan on porting the updated version to Android so everyone can take Mishka wherever they go. Well, not everyone. Just Android players. It’s the thought that counts… This updated version will have lots of CGs, updated art, updated BGs, updates to the text, and yeah, lots and lots of good updates. XD

Thank you so much to everyone who’s downloaded TME so far! It seriously means a lot to us.

Now that Nano’s over, I’ll be getting back to work on my other projects. I’ve been hit with sudden inspiration for In This Dream of Ours that’s caused me to wonder if I should change it from a KN into a VN. I’m still weighing the pros and cons of that decision. I’ve got more editing to do for Sleipnir’s part in Elysian Days (it’s not dead! XD) and there’s work to be done on the rest of my projects, too. I’m using this year to clear out the backlog as much as I can.

Stay tuned for more news next week! :)

7MiB Rough Draft Sort of Finished!

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Feb 052014
 

Sorry for missing last week’s update. By the time everything settled down enough for me to post, it was already Friday. I come bearing good news that should make up for that.

I’m going to push back the In This Dream of Ours remake’s release date for time and financial reasons. It’s not worth it to rush things for a May release. An extra couple of months will give me more time to save up for more of the assets. I underestimated how much I would need for the backgrounds. I’m expecting a late summer release.

happyhitomi

A happy Hitomi sprite, just to celebrate~

Everything Around a Bridge is moving along. I’m thinking…maybe late Spring? I hesitate since I might want to add a couple NVL-mode stories to it. The word count’s rather small. It might be overkill to add any more, though. As always, the sprites so far are looking niiiice.

I finished the rough draft for 7 Months in Between a few days ago! My playtester (hehe <3) confirmed that I should add an alternate path, so I’ve still gotta do that. I’m contemplating recruiting someone to help me figure out what the story’s missing. The script needs a lot of fixing in its current state, but now that the tracks are all laid down, the first editing phase should go smoothly. I’ll call in for script support once I’ve done my own editing to it.

Here’s the lint for the first version:

The game contains 2,824 dialogue blocks, containing 32,457 words and 169,259
characters, for an average of 11.5 words and 60 characters per block.
The game contains 29 menus, 0 images, and 12 screens.

I’m going to use this week for recruitment thread preparation and a minor amount of editing. My chief focus when recruiting is to find people who are after more than the dollar. They need to like the script and feel invested in the project, otherwise we’re not going to be a good match. I’ll be releasing the script (probably sans alternate route) with the thread in order to entice people into helping out.

7 Months in Between is a female-fronted story about an aspiring music producer’s May/December relationship, set against an urban backdrop. As she gets to know her boyfriend’s daughter, she finds herself becoming the mother she’s never had. Or, at least, that’s one way (and the way my playtester chose) to play through the story. :)

I can hear the storm already brewing outside. The ice is going to be nasty this time. They say there could be power outages lasting days for some people. Hopefully, I won’t be one of the ones affected, but if I am, I’ll be offline for a while. Let’s hope I’ll avoid the worst of it!

Onwards to Writing

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Dec 242013
 

First off, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, everyone.

Late Saturday, I finished the outline for 7 Months in Between. I spent some time on Saturday writing it. I’m happy to say that the technique is working so far! It took me a month to outline everything, but the writing’s going pretty fast and in control. Here’s a lint for it:

The game contains 242 dialogue blocks, containing 3,078 words and 16,418
characters, for an average of 12.7 words and 68 characters per block.

The game contains 5 menus, 0 images, and 12 screens.

I haven’t worked on it since then, mostly because of holiday stuff. The outline reached 6500 words by the time I was done with it. It’ll be interesting to compare the finished script to the length of the outline. It could be the holiday spirit but I am very happy right now!

Sprite work has been going great in regards to In This Dream of Ours. I’ll save showing off any for now.

Rainy Night Musings

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Nov 262013
 
Tadashi_sketches1

I fixed all of the cringe-worthy typos in In This Dream of Ours’ old script over the weekend (seperate and eachother, I’m looking at you). I’ve jotted down notes for a few scenes that I’d like to add, but I admit that I haven’t started writing it into script form yet. My main worry is keeping the game’s pacing tight. I don’t want it to turn into a words for the sake of words situation, and I really don’t want to add things in that were obvious enough to the readers already.

Like with anything in life, it’s all trial and error. I’ll give some more thought to this once I’ve done some actual script work.

Artwise, we’re moving into the inking phase. The expression list has been sent off and Raakel’s pretty much ready to go, pending an e-mail I should really reply to soon. Seriously: open communication lines between an artist and a writer are super important. I don’t think I have to tell anyone that, though!

Tadashi will be the first one up. Below are some of his sketches from ages ago. If you read my last blog post, you can probably tell which design we went with!

Tadashi_sketches1

Still trying to figure out what the GUI might look like. I’m thinking minimal, but I don’t want to think too far ahead until at least two sprites are finished. I confess that I was taking a (weak) page from Narcissu with the first design. I don’t think it will be the same way this time. It’s gotta be something that really works with the character art. Hm… must muse about this later.

In This Dream of Ours Full Cast Sketch

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Nov 202013
 
sprites_sketch

Here are the final character designs for the In This Dream of Ours remake project. There will be some slight changes (Tadashi’s hand will move down, for one), but these sketches will pretty much determine what the finalized sprites will look like. We’re still going for the side-image type of look, just way more enhanced this time.

sprites_sketch

From left to right, we have:

Kouji, our recovering farmer-forced-into-war protagonist. Tadashi, our thoughtful pacifist poet. Yasahiro, our hot-blooded aspiring warrior-to-be. Hitomi, our clinician that keeps everything held together.

I’m still confident that the remake will be released on the original story’s second birthday. Development is shaping up very well!

In This Dream of Ours Remake

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Oct 302013
 
Yasahiro_sketches1_BW

I didn’t give In This Dream of Ours a fair chance when I released it in 2012. The sprites were from a character maker. The GUI was Ren’Py default. The title screen and backgrounds were slapped together. Although the sound effects were a somewhat nice touch, the soundtrack itself was made up of overused Kevin MacLeod tunes. There wasn’t any life to its presentation. In spite of that, though, its story still managed to hold on strong through all of that.

That’s why I’m giving this project a second shot. I’m fixing holes, improving the story, and adding new scenes where it’s necessary to. I’m considering adding another bonus ending, but the project will more than likely remain kinetic to avoid project creep. At the pace the remake is going, I can confidently say that it will be released in time for In This Dream of Ours (2012)’s second birthday: May 7th, 2014.

With the remake, comes new art. I gave a sneak peek of it on the first blog entry, but here are some concept sketches of Hitomi and her brother, Yasahiro done by our sprite artist Raakelh. I’ll post their original art here, too, for comparison’s sake. Click the sketches to see them in a larger size!

HitomiGentle

Here’s Hitomi! We went for the stronger build seen in the bottom left area. It made the most sense considering what she does, her clinician occupation, and commoner status.

 

Hitomi_sketches1

If you haven’t guessed yet (did the clothing give it away?), this story’s set in the early 1600s of Japan. The main character wakes up in Hitomi’s clinic, surprised to have survived the Battle Sekigahara. The surprises don’t end there, however…

YasaDetermined

Heeeeeere’s Yasahiro! He’s Hitomi’s brash little brother. As to which design we went with, you’ll have to wait and see! We kept his headband from the original art.

Yasahiro_sketches1_BW

 

Pssssst. You can reblog this post on Tumblr for a chance to win something from Team Pärvelö, the arts alliance that Raakel’s part of. The giveaway will end this Thursday (Halloween, how spooky), so don’t miss your chance to be part of the raffle drawing.

In the future, I’ll be blogging more about the remaking process itself. It’s been rather interesting taking things back to the drawing board so far.

See you next Tuesday for more visual novel news from ouroboros[connect]!