Monday, November 29, 2010

The Post About the Boring Part

What, exactly, is the "fun" part about making a game?

Is it the writing, the art, the combining of the elements to make a finished product? The voice acting, the releasing? The promotion?

I think you'll get varied answers depending on who you ask.

I haven't gotten very far in the game-making process, mind you. The farthest I've gotten is the writing element, which can be awesome fun, but also really hard work. Not to mention, and I'll just come out and say this, there are some parts that can be downright boring.

Like right now, I'm probably on the most boring part of my latest work. Right now I'm going back and tying up all the ends I left REALLY loose. Most of them will have to be cleaned up during the editing process. But going back and catching all those little narrative screw-ups is tedious at best.

I'm not a detail-oriented person, so going back and fixing up details is pretty boring to me. What's the boring part of making a game to you guys? The exciting part?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Post About Saying Something Cheesy

Y'know, sometimes I think writers are so afraid of writing something cheesy, they avoid any deep emotional conflict whatsoever.

Having a character confess that they love another character is a pretty dramatic event. Often I'll hear writers say they're "uncomfortable" with writing something that emotionally naked, saying "it'll come off as cheesy". So instead of writing a story that should end with a love confession, they write a story that ends with the two characters waiting in line at Starbucks.

"See, it's more realistic!" they'll say. I disagree. I've been around the emotional block, and love, hate, compassion and pity - all those "cheesy" feelings that writers often skirt around - are so present in everyday life. Every day, someone gets their heart broken, or someone falls in love. Why should those events, quite realistic themselves, be "less believable" than people waiting in line at Starbucks?

I feel the difference is the emotional commitment the writer is asking their audience to make to the story/game. Video games have never been marketed for their "extreme emotional commitment" until relatively recently with certain games (FFX made me cry like a baby, just saying.) Some game makers might say that inserting a deep, heart-wrenching story in a game is a mistake. After all, a player buys a game to play a game, not sob in front of their TV, right? It's an activity meant strictly for entertainment.

I disagree. All the best games I can think of at this moment (Shadow of the Colossus, FFX, Prince of Persia 2008) have all asked for some emotional commitment out of the player by presenting very real and very tragic relationships. I can talk about those games for YEARS, play them over and over again, picking apart their great story-telling every single time. You'll never hear me talk that way about Tetris or Pac-Man.

If you want your game to be memorable, make it memorable. If you want your game to be as memorable as waiting in line at Starbucks, then have them wait in line at Starbucks. But be honest with me. Which of the following stories interests you more?

A.) "So I really wanted a latte, so I waited in line at Starbucks, then I got my latte."

B.) "So I really wanted a latte, so I waited in line at Starbucks, but when I got to the counter to place my order, my ex-girlfriend, Lily, walked in the door, texting fervidly on her cell phone and quietly crying to herself."

Seriously. Which do you want to keep reading? The one where nothing happens, or the one where the characters might actually talk about something important?

So when approaching game-making, I encourage developers to tell the story they want to tell, and not be afraid of "saying something cheesy". I'd much rather play a game with broken hearts and emotional triumphs than eighty levels of Tetris.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Love the Art in Yourself

So recently I've been in a bit of a rut when it came to my art. All sorts of art I mean. My acting, my writing, but most poignantly, my drawing and painting. I would just stared at my drawings and think "this isn't where my skills are supposed to be! I'm supposed to be better than this!"

That, I think, is the most destructive thing an artist can think. Saying "I'm supposed to be better" may spur you on to study more, but it'll also frustrate you and make you constantly disappointed in yourself. How can you love to draw if you're always reminding yourself how much you suck at it?

I talked to an artist friend of mine who voiced these same concerns to me. His art is awesome, in my opinion, but he was still coming down on his stuff. I watched him sketch a bit and, when I went home, I did the same. I just free-handed a bunch of headshots (my favorite thing to do) and let myself enjoy the moment of drawing.

And what do you know, I actually liked the result.

I need to leave myself alone. Stop self-editing. I love the art I do, and while I'm always striving to improve, I need to be happy with where I am now as well. Whatever level I'm at, however much I still need to study, I need to remember why I started doing artistic stuff - because I love it.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Post About Bad Writing And Why It Sucks

A bit of a rant here.

It seems like when it comes to media-productions nobody cares if the writing is any good.

I've recently played video games and watched movies with INTENSELY amateurish writing. So much to the point where there is no conflict-resolution, just a jumble of ideas that never reaches any sort of fruition. I see writers spending eighty-bajillion years explaining their intense exposition, boring their readers/viewers to tears, only to throw it all out in lieu of some scene that really doesn't have a place.

Why is it that writing seems like the first thing to go when it comes to large media projects? I've seen people who say things like "I don't need a writer, I've written stuff before." Yes, I'm pretty sure that you learned how to write as a child, unless you grew up in an intensely difficult situation or were born without hands. You've written grocery lists, and book reports, and maybe some e-mails that you thought were just the cleverest things in the world, but until you know how to write a story, you have not written "stuff" before.

Good writing is the kind you don't notice. You're too busy enjoying the rest of the film/game/show to stop and say "wow, this has a comprehensible plot and well-written characters" and that's the way it should be. Often, you don't notice bad writing either. You're just saying "wow, this doesn't make any sense, and wait, why is that happening, and what about these characters, where did they go?" It's only when you have to really sit down and think about what made the project good or bad is when you come up with "The writing rocked/sucked".

PLEASE. Creators of the world.


If you suck, either admit it and get a real writer, or learn how to write. Don't just say "oh, I've written stuff before".

It's an insult to writers and an insult to your audience.

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Post About Part-Timing

So I'm officially back in school. For those who didn't know, I'm actually a full-time college student, part time indie developer.

I'm actually taking a class this semester on indie game design and development, which is going to be AMAZING. I'm so excited and I was really lucky to get into the class (there were only eight slots available.) I can't wait to start building projects - it's going to be an intensely fun learning experience.

Another class is on romantic literature (that is, literature about romance, not literature from the Romantic period). That should also really inspire my own writing, especially in my Ren'Ai games.

And then all my theater classes. Big surprise here - I'm not only a full-time college student/part time indie developer, I'm also an aspiring actress! I know, I'm a little eclectic.

Creating games on a part-time schedule is tough. With all of my classes, rehearsal, and club commitments, I barely have any time for game developing. That's why I've given myself all the time I need to get my projects out. I haven't really announced any of my games, my studio is currently nothing but a blog, my deviantart has a few pieces from my game artwork, but those are so conceptual I really can't consider them "official artwork".

The truth is, I can't really announce my projects until I have enough content to give at least semi-frequent updates. I don't want to disappoint fans or lose momentum. The worst thing a developer can do is announce a game and then let the hype die. So for now, I'll just develop quietly and at my own part-time pace. After all, college papers don't write themselves. (Sadly enough.)

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Post About Stitled, Nasty-Ass Dialogue

Okay folks, a bit of a rant here.

There's nothing that bothers me more than bad dialogue. You know what I'm talking about. The type of dialogue that reads like this:

Sam: But Jill, I know that you and your father have been wanting to move away from here for a while, but there's no way you have the money to leave now!

Jill: I don't have a choice, Sam. It's either leave now or have Grandpa come back and stab us in the back again! We may be poor, but we're not going to let ourselves be taken advantage of so easily!


Have you EVER heard human beings speak like this? Technically, the sentences are fine! Grammatically correct and everything. But DEAR GOD how they sound like robots.

Real humans converse with much fewer words, especially in English. Not only that, but both Sam and Jill speak exactly the same way. There's no difference in their language, in the words they choose, in the length and density of their sentences.

A rewritten, better version of this exchange:

Sam: Look Jill, I know you want to get out of here, but you really don't have the money right now.

Jill: I don't care. Sam, I can't stick around waiting for Grandpa to stab us in the back again. Just because we don't have any money doesn't mean we're gonna let anybody take advantage of us.

See? Don't they sound MUCH more like humans? But I bet we could make this better. Let's make Sam a high-end kinda guy - maybe a fancy attorney, and Jill his trailer-park-resident high-school sweetheart.

Sam: Jill, listen. I know you want to get out of here, but you just don't have the money to move.

Jill: I don't care! What am I supposed to do, stick around waiting for Grandpa to come and stab us in the back again? Me and Dad are getting out of here whether we got any money or not, Sam. We're poor, not suckers.

Hey! This is fun! Let's try it another way. Sam is Jill's nervous subordinate at a shipping warehouse and Jill is his immediate supervisor. Let's say their relationship is an amicable one, but Sam is still a little nervous about speaking up to Jill.

Sam: Jill, I just...I don't know... I get why you wanna get out, but - I don't know - do you really have the money to move right now?

Jill: I don't really care. We aren't letting my Grandpa take advantage of us anymore. I'm tired of getting stabbed in the back, and so's Dad. So that's it - we're outta here.

Or my favorite! TEENAGERS. <3 Teenagers speak with even FEWER formal parts of speech than adults and use a lot of slang/shortenings. HOWEVER, they don't sound like Jersey Shore obsessed fluff brains all the time. Observe:

Sam: I dunno, like, it doesn't sound like you have enough money to move.

Jill: Don't care - Grandpa's been totally stabbing me and Dad in the back for years. So now we're doing something about it. We're poor, not stupid.

So yeah.

Basic lesson: dialogue is SUPER important and it ticks me off when people write it crappy. I mean seriously - you talk everyday and hopefully, people talk back at you. LISTEN. Maybe even eavesdrop on a conversation and write it down. See how real people talk. It'll be a big help.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Post About Why Size Does(n't) Matter

So today is apparently a day for Indie Game Developers to write articles about game length and how it often plays into how a game's received. "It's too short" is a common complaint indie games often receive. And while I'm not a true indie-developer just yet, I think I have something to say that I haven't seen in the other responses.

From what I've seen from other posts (linked below), the general consensus is that size doesn't matter, and in fact, longer games are often WORSE because they are often full of padding. People have cited JRPGs that run up to forty five hours as opposed to wonderful indie titles that only run two hours. "I appreciated the latter so much more!" is the general consensus, and so you should!

If the 45 hour game honestly sucked.

Here's how I break this argument down: Size doesn't matter. What matters is how you feel once you're finished with the game.

Now when I say "finished" I don't necessarily mean you've beaten the story and unlocked every super l33t X-Box live achievement and can tell me exactly how many mobs spawn in the Dungeons of Solitude Basement Level 3. I mean, when you personally have finished your experience with the game.

It's much easier to finish a 2 hour title than it is to finish a 45 hour one. If you finished the 2 hour title and feel unfulfilled, you will most likely go to the first thought that crosses your mind "It was too short." I mean, if your experience wasn't what you expected and the end credits are rolling, more often than not, you'll feel like it could've been what you wanted if it were only a bit longer. You were hooked by the exposition, enjoyed the characters, but felt it just wasn't enough. It ended too soon.

As for the 45 hour game, more often than not, if you're not digging it, you'll quit by the 10 hour mark and claim "it wasn't interesting enough to keep me engaged, it must've been full of padding". But, to be fair, you've played more hours on the 45 hour game than you have on the 2 hour game. How do you know if the 2 hour game wouldn't have left you with the same impression if it had been 10 hours long?

What I'm trying to get at is this: as long as the game feels finished and fulfilling, the length is accurate. If it feels too short, the story hasn't been fully explored and there's a pacing problem. If it feels too long, there needed to be cuts - the story dragged and, once again, there's a pacing problem.

On the whole, I prefer more over less. Not because I like my video games with repetitive, dull tasks or boring sub-plots, but because I love more good story. A short good story with awesome, fun game play is GREAT! A long good story with awesome, fun game play is better just cause there's more. I am an ardent believer in "two scoops are better than one" (as long as said scoops of imaginary ice cream don't have any calories. XD).

I'm not a true indie developer just yet. Read the peeps below for a real developer's insight. These are just my two cents on the subject.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Post About Fun Extras That Became the Post About Goals

Poll results are in, and most people voted for the "creator commentary, concept art, new content" extra types. A fandisc or extended "non-adult" content also ranked well. I was really happy that no one voted against extras completely! I know that I'M often tempted by extras for my favorite games. Glad to see everyone else is on board with me.

Creator Commentary is one of my favorite things in a game. It's so cool to get that "behind the scenes" look, although I don't really like having to replay the whole game to see the commentary. (Such as in a movie where the commentary is playing over the film). If the game is nearly 10 hours long, replaying it all with creator commentary sorta seems tedious to me.

I'd prefer interview style commentary with the creator, writer, artist, cast, etc. Maybe THAT commentary could be accessed via an "extras" menu that would skip you right to the scene of the game they want to talk about.

ALSO BLOOPERS. Bloopers are my favorite. <3 A must-have if you have VAing in your game.


I am proud to announce that the other day, I finished writing an ending of Project "O". There are still many more endings to go, but finishing the beginning, middle, and end of my script just felt incredible.

The writing is far from over. I'd say I still have a good month of work ahead of me. Not to mention editing. But I'm on my way, and once I achieve my ultimate goal of a 100% finished script, I know I'm going to be on Cloud-9.

Thanks for voting in the poll everybody! I'll keep you guys updated on more progress. :) Can't wait till I have enough to actually show people.

Monday, August 2, 2010

New Poll: The Post About Extras!

No, your eyes do not deceive you. Those individuals are indeed Yoda and Darth Vader of Star Wars making cameos in Soul Calibur IV.

Now, you're probably wondering why on earth I'm opening this post with a laughably stupid screenshot from a fighting game. Darth Vader and Yoda were included as extra characters to the game depending on which version you bought. (Yoda for the 360, Vader for the PS3). In that way, they were marketed as incentives to buy both versions. (Stupid incentives, but what can you do?) You want both the characters? Get both the versions! This tactic was used for Soul Calibur II as well, where popular characters from other franchises were added to the line-up based on which version you bought. (Link was on the Gamecube version! Lucky devils!)

So there's a new poll up asking about what extras you as players would pay for when it came to Bishojo Games/ Visual Novels. I'll go through each option to break it down:

Adult Content: Pretty obvious. Do you wantz the pr0nz? In all seriousness, paying for adult content isn't completely out of the question. I know some people who don't like adult content in their games and some who play strictly FOR the adult content. In that case, having the option is a good one. Not to mention that producing adult content requires more time and resources and thus one could arguably justify charging a couple of bucks for it. (To those over 18 of course).

Extended Non-Adult Content: What about paying for extra scenes? An extended "+" version of the game? How'd you like to pay a few extra dollars to see an extended version of a movie? See the "other side of the story" perhaps? Maybe a new protagonist?

Fandiscs/Side Stories: This one isn't rare in Japan at all. You've played the game, you've fallen in love with the characters - you just wish there was more out there starring them! Often, Bishojo games will get spin-offs called "fandiscs". They might have extra stories, more capturable characters, etc. But they're stand-alones, that is, not tacked on to the original game.

Extended Bonus Content: Including things like an art gallery, interviews with the cast and crew, creator commentary, bloopers... Would you pay for the "behind the scenes" look?

I wouldn't pay for extras: Do you just expect the extras to be included in the game? Do you not really care about extra stuff at all?

Extras are unfair and lame: Or do you think that extra pay-for-play content is lame? Even if the original product is free? Or does that make it worse? (Getting you hooked on a free product, then asking you to pay for more fun stuff concerning it (god I make this sound like a drug-ring O_o;;)).

The reason I'm asking this is because I'm dedicated to making MG Studios a freeware studio (at least the first few titles) in order to spread the love for Bishojo/Otome gaming to as many people as I can. However, hosting a website and games requires funds, and so, one has to think of creative ways to keep oneself afloat.

So what do you guys think? Which of these appeals? (You can pick more than one). And if any of them do, how much would you be willing to pay for them?

Thanks guys! Poll is on the main page, on the right, and closes in ten days!

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Post About San Diego Comic Con

Just got back from SDCC! I had a BLAST, for the record. Seriously, I figure Heaven has to be something like Comic Con.

I got to meet a lot of really cool creators behind tons of different stuff. Most notably Man of Action, the group responsible for Ben 10 and Generator Rex, two shows on the Cartoon Network. Along with professional VN developer and actress, animation screen-writing is up there with my dream careers. Getting to meet those guys (and get stuff signed by them!) was awesome. Joe Kelly is amazing, for the record. Check out his comic "I Kill Giants". I just finished it and loved it to death.

I attended a panel on Sunday about "full-time creative projects on a part time schedule". I figured it was important to me, considering my VN development is precisely that.

The panel was really helpful - I got a lot of good tips that I'll share right now!

- Find like-minded people to help out
- Know what your goal is right from the beginning and make sure the entire team is aware of and committed to that goal
- Designate responsibilities and deadlines from the start so everyone pulls their own weight.
- Be friendly and professional
- Use people's talents to your advantage! Specific skills can REALLY come in handy, even if, at a glance, they seem irrelevant.
- Make contacts NOW.
- If you're a student (which I am) do something besides your school work. Every early success story starts with "well, it was just this thing I was doing in college..."

So yeah, I'm hoping to put this knowledge to good use. I have a small team developing (read: my friends and my sister) around MaGi Studios - maybe it's time to think about how I can REALLY use their skills to help me out.

Nerdy weekend was nerdy and awesome. <3 If you can make it to Comic Con, do yourself a favor and GO. It is too awesome for words.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Post About Character Building

The very nature of Ren'Ai games demands strong characters. Considering the mechanics revolve entirely around attaching yourself to a character and pursuing them, it's important to make sure the people you create are engaging. Some other games can get away with weak characterization through innovative gameplay or an interesting plot. But it's my personal belief that the best stories are the ones about interesting people, not the ones about interesting events.

That's why I pretty much start every story by drafting characters. Don't get me wrong, I have SOME idea of what the plot's going to be like - it would be pretty impossible to create characters otherwise. (Errr...well, in the story, she could be uhh...well I don't know, but she likes whales and beer and has purple hair! Whoo~!!)

But I have literally created a cast of characters and then COMPLETELY changed the story to fit them. Example:

Awhile ago, I came up with an idea for a game and created an INCREDIBLY lovable cast. I was seriously in love with every single one of the characters.

I then decided the idea for the story was, to put it bluntly, stupid. Not to mention it literally wasn't going anywhere. Like, I wrote a few pages of this and was stuck because I had no ideas for conflict that weren't trite as all get out. So I scrapped it.

But what about my cast? I didn't want them to die just because their creator had a crappy idea. So, I drafted a new idea (a much BETTER idea for the record), and molded those characters into that story. There were tweeks, re-designs, changes made along the way, and there will probably be more to come, but I managed to save the cores of my charming little people. It was kinda fun to see them transition from one world to the other.

Right now I'm in the process of drafting characters for a new project and I'm having a lot of fun investigating these people.

What are your tricks for creating characters writers/developers out there? I tend to interview them, look for character questionnares online or whatnot. My FAVORITE way of building characters is sorta roleplay. That is, someone other than me asks questions about my character and I answer as said character. It's just kinda nerdy and fun, to be honest. Not to mention super helpful for finding voice. <3

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Post About the Home Stretch

Who else is watching The World Cup? I know I am. This year was incredibly exciting for some reason. I followed the US team adamantly and was heartbroken when they lost to Ghana in the Top 16. After the US went out, my interest waned considerably, but I managed to keep up with all the scores. I'll definitely watch the finals!

Still, it's weird, but the World Cup is one of those tournaments that actually gets LESS exciting as it goes along, mostly due to the fact that the team you support has probably already lost. If the US was still in it, I'd be cheering my head off every game, wearing red, white, and blue to work, stalking, the works.

In writing games, you should hope for the exact opposite effect - the end should be the most exciting, nail-biting part! It's important that you don't make the most exciting event in your game happen at the beginning. Some people think starting off with a bang is the right way to go - I completely agree. But no one wants to watch the fall-out of a bomb going off when the explosion was so much cooler.

I'm currently in the Home Stretch of Project "O". Major climaxes are coming, the endings are being written - this is where it counts. The last thing I want my players to think is "God, this is dull - just end it already!". There's nothing more disappointing than...

"Epic warriors with dragons have to fight alien ghosts that have invaded the entire Northeastern United States! Their only hope lies in one magical boy who can stop time and conjure up mythical beasts from a far off-dimension! After much exposition and a fantastic inciting incident followed by hair-raising build-up, our heroes find themselves stuck in line at Starbucks."

There's NOTHING more disappointing than a crappy climax. Especially when it's prefaced by some fascinating exposition. A crappy climax isn't a climax at all. That's the point of the word: it's supposed to be climatic.

My personal strategy? I make my climaxes super dramatic, heart-wrenching, action-packed - maybe overly so. I can always go back and tone it down if I need to. Sure, I may go back at roll my eyes at my cheesiness, but at least I won't get stuck in line at Starbucks. :/

(Awesome Shakira video is official World Cup Music Video! ENJOY!)

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Post About Wadjet Eye Studios

So I just got finished e-mailing Dave Gilbert, head of Wadjet Eye Studios, an Indy Game Studio most famous for its "Blackwell" series of games. I've played all three recently and LOVE them to bits.

The reason I e-mailed Dave was to ask him some advice about developing Indy titles, which is, obviously, what I plan on doing with my own projects. While Dave runs a commercial studio, I'm still planning on making my projects freeware for now. All the same, he's an experienced developer with plenty of titles under his belt and I seriously respect his experience and talent. (What's that!? The Kiss-Ass readings are spiking?! My God, they're off the scale! HIT THE DECK!)

In all seriousness, I'm hoping Dave will have some interesting advice for me, some tips and tricks for really getting started doing something like this. I've made good progress in my projects so far, but I'm still very much at the beginning of my studio and want all the advice I can get!

BTW - you should all go play his games. Link ! They're awesome. :)b

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Post About Bad Endings

So...another question for all VN developers out there.

How do you feel about bad endings?

The other day, while working on "Project O" (which, by the way, is getting closer and closer to having a completed script), I got to a point where a bad-ending could be very easily written in. I said to myself, "Sammy, this would be a really good point to have a "rocks fall, everyone dies" ending". It would be organic, it would make sense, it would function well within the story.

But somehow, I just couldn't bring myself to write it.

I don't know, I've been writing these characters for so long, I just don't have the heart to write a bad ending for them. They deserve to be happy, and an ending where things don't work out just seems so upsetting and un-fulfilling.

But to have NOTHING but happy endings seems like a cop-out. There are some people who enjoy their bad endings, and even more enjoy the thrill of the fact that they MIGHT get a bad ending. After all, if you end up happy despite your best efforts, where's the fun in that?

How do you muster up your courage and write a bad ending? Do you think bad endings are necessary? Share me your thoughts, if you please. :X

(Pretty Clannad picture is partially gratuitous.)

Friday, June 11, 2010

Poll Results: Whose Story Is This Anywho?

Poll's done and the results are in. In response to the question, "The Best VNs have stories about..." the overwhelming majority of you voted both the main character and the capturable characters. Some peeps elaborated in comments with very insightful stuff.

To be honest, the best VN's I've ever played are almost NEVER solely about the capturable characters. A strong "A" story (that is, the main plot) shouldn't be centered around a couple. That's for the "B" story. Now granted, in this medium, the "B" story can become much more important than the "A" story, considering how important romance is. And to be honest, we COULD care much more about whether Jin and Sayori are going to get together over if Sayori will save the world. But the "A" story has to be resolved first for the "B" story to really pay off.

And a good "A" story needs a good protagonist. So, I guess my answer is that most good VN's are about the main character and his or her journey. However, I think that having a capturable character that has NOTHING to do with the main character's journey is dumb. Why even pick a character if they're not going to change the story in some way? The caputarable characters should have arcs as well, even if they're subtle. Boring capturable characters make for a boring game. And there's nothing more annoying than reading an epic ending of a grand tale that devotes about one line to the character you ended up with. What's the point of getting all the endings if there's hardly a difference between them?

Thanks to everyone who participated in the poll! I was surprised by how many votes there were. O_O I didn't think that many people even read this blog. <3 Thanks you guys!

Expect some more scintillating discussions/reviews. I really want a copy of "Jisei" but ALAS jobless still am I. ;_; Oh'll be on my wishlist...

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Poll: Whose Story Is This Anyway?

So there's a new poll up. Check the right side of the blog page.

The question might come off as confusing at first. What I really want to know is, when you read/play a VN, whose story do you want told? The main character's? The capturable characters'? Both?

Example: Yo-Jin Bo is a story ABOUT Sayori, a girl who's sent back in time. While the capturable characters are important elements of the story, she's the one with the main character arc. It's her story that's told, not theirs.

Counter Example: Edelweiss is a story ABOUT a bunch of girls that your main character, Kazushi, happens to meet. Depending on which girl you pick, the story is completely different. It's her story that's told - her character arc. Kazushi just happens to be there to help them out and maybe discover something about himself as an afterthought.

So which do you prefer? A story about YOUR character that more or less turns out the same no matter what character you pick? Or many different stories about characters that aren't yours?

Vote! I'll let you guys know what I think in a week or so. <3

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Hanako Games: Date Warp

by Hanako Games and Spiky Caterpillar.

So, before I begin my demo review (there's a special discount offer for those who do - we poor college students appreciate said discounts!) - I want to say a bit about Hanako Games and Indy Developers in general.

Hanako Games is run by the lovely Papillon, a female developer who has created such games as Cute Knight, Fatal Hearts and the latest release, pictured above. Fatal Hearts is one of my favorite OELVNs - it's really innovative in terms of gameplay and writing and in general is really fun to play. I found myself playing for HOURS on end to get all the endings - it's a great game and pretty affordable in price nowadays. If you haven't picked up a copy, you should.

This is going to sound really sycophantic, but I really admire Papillon and her studio. I'm sorta trying to emulate it with MG Studios. Not necessarily in the types of games I put out, but in the professionalism and care that Hanako shows in each of their projects. I also really admire Papillion as a female game developer. No surprise, most game developers are men. The Eroge/Ren'ai market is dominated by men, and it's to be expected, as the audience for most of the material is male. But to see a lady come out of the woodwork and create her own VN/Indy Game/Ren'Ai influenced studio is really inspiring. There's nothing more exciting as a hopeful developer than to see someone who came before you succeed. That goes double as a female developer.

Also, in general, Papillon rocks for taking a chance and developing games in this niche genre. The OELVN community deserves some awesome contenders and I honestly believe Indy is the gateway to commercialism and wide-spread popularity. Anyone ever heard of this little Indy MySpace DJ "Owl City"? Nah, didn't think so. He's only like super famous or something with them thar Fireflies song.

So yeah - in short, Hanako Games rocks, buy their stuff, I'm a suck-up, but I am HONEST in my love, go me. o_ob Read on for the review.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

I Get By with a Little Help

Magical Girl Studios is a one-woman studio. ALMOST. I have an editor who reads through my scripts and gives me opinions/corrections. She's indispensable as I'm a pretty horrible editor myself - I've turned in papers for school after a simple "spell check" just because the prospect of editing intimidates me intensely. Having a second opinion on my writing is VERY important.

Last night, as she was editing Project G and I was writing Project O, she turned to me and said:

Editor: "Besides editing, is there anything I can do to speed up the process? It seems like so much work."

To be honest, I had no idea how to answer her. I am the sole writer, artist, and coder for this project. All of these are skills I've been developing for years outside of the VN medium.

But she's right - I could use more help. But what kind of help? I have no idea. Any ideas readers and developers? What kind of help are you looking for in your VN projects?

Friday, May 7, 2010

Writing Out of Season

It's May!

That's wonderful news for a lot of people, especially students. I'm a Freshman in college and I'll be flying home to Los Angeles a week from today. It's exciting, to say the least. One paper is separating me from summer break. Said paper will be written this weekend. HUZZAH!

So I finished two of my other classes' work yesterday. Both were extremely stressful, for the record. But now that those are done, I can get back to all the vapid, relaxing stuff I love to do. Read: writing dating sims.

But Project "O" is currently taking place in winter. That's right - the dead of winter. On the East coast. Meaning SNOW and freezing temperatures. And I'm finding it strangely tough.

All I want to do is draw my characters in pretty sundresses and swimsuits, but I'm stuck at the end of December. SAD, I know. Snow is pretty in its own right, but I love summer as a season SO much more. So when I look outside as I'm writing a scene that takes place in three feet of snow, I can't help but feel my inspiration zapped a bit by the pretty outdoors.

I wonder if that's normal. For an author to feel zapped of inspiration writing a story that takes place in weather so different from their own. It would be so much easier and more fun to write a story about kids sitting out in the sun, soaking up the rays, a glass of lemonade in hand...

Aahhh...summer break, here I come. <3

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Moe Muffins Can Go Die, K Thx

So I'm currently playing "Da Capo" courtesy of MangaGamer. I enjoyed the demo enough to want to buy a copy during their big sale. It has some likable characters, my favorites being Mako, Moe and Nemu. Kotori is also interesting. But this girl up here drives me BONKERS.

She's annoying, to put it bluntly. Also the fact that she looks like she's twelve freaks me out even if it's a plot point. Sakura shows up to harass the hero and I'm supposed to find this somehow endearing? Luckily if you manage to avoid her you see very little of this character after the beginning of the game.

I'll tell you one archetype you'll never see in a game I make: the moe-blob. That is, the loli, wide-eyed, annoying uber kawaii baby-doll of a girl. I personally HATE these types of girls, and while I know Japanese VNs are full of them, I just can't stand all the "desus" and "Uwaaaahhs!".

Da Capo has a few characters who do dangle close to the moe-blob edge. I mean, they're all pretty wide-eyed and have been known to make cute, uncalled for noises at times. But at least Nemu has a sense of responsibility that's very likable and anti-moe-blob and Moe's charming if only for her narcolepsy.

I have no problem with a younger character. I have no problem with a cute or ditsy character. But a character who literally behaves closer to a newborn kitten than to a human being? No thank you. I like my women with little to no fluff brain, thanks so much.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

What's Attractive Anyway?


I'm coming out.

I, Sammy, am a heterosexual female.

Now if you want to go and clicky that little "x" box right up there on your browser or de-follow me or something, I'd completely understand. Just know that your bigotry is not appreciated by the world at large and I don't need your acceptance to love myself. I know that maybe reading the blog of a straight girl who writes games for straight guys might make you uncomfortable. But I hope you can look beyond who I am as a person and see me for my ideas.

All joking aside, it sometimes weirds me out how much I enjoy playing and writing bishojo games despite being a straight lady. I guess the romance novel aspect of it just really hits home for me.

Don't kid yourself, I enjoy playing bishojo games, but hot damn do I LOVE playing Otome games. For ALL the wrong reasons. Read: 1.) the guys are hot, 2.) the guys are hot, 3.) Hot damn that's some pretty art and 4.) the guys are hot.

Now don't get me wrong, I can tell a bad Otome game just as easily as I can call out a bad bishojo game. And I hate suffering through either. But my libido just gets to me when playing super cute games about adorable heroines getting swept up by their prince charmings (or Prince Meganes, as I happen to often lean towards. =3=)

Still, Project "O" is an otome project, while Project "G" is bishojo. (Project G is my first title and is further along at this point). Project "O" isn't necessarily any easier to write than Project G was. Why is that? Shouldn't my perspective as a straight girl make it easy for me to develop some super likable guys that I just know will make girls' heads spin?

Yes and no. There are certain qualities about various characters that certain women find attractive and others consider a total turn-off. For instance, in Yo-Jin-Bo, a bunch of fans went crazy over little Yo, the youngest character in the game. I found Yo to be adorable, but not necessarily hot stuff. His ending, for me was "meh" at best.

So how do I approach making a game where I want each character to appeal to the player? Surely, I can start by making them all appeal to me in some way. But what about diversity? I'm certainly not the final word on what makes any person attractive, female or male. How can I make sure that I'm not just making a cast that appeals to me and people like me?

Well, I can of course pull from the tropes. They're tropes for a reason - they work. And to a certain extent, I've done that. But to make my characters more human, I've fleshed them out more, made them more down-to-earth, a bit more likable. I've also made sure to include characters who may not be super-OMG-hotstuff at first, but perhaps will grow on the player. Each guy is going to be super cute, don't get me wrong. But I want there to be a serious discrepancy in personality. I don't want carbon copies of my favorite Otome character, or anyone's favorite otome character for that matter.

I don't want to rely exclusively on the tropes and stereotypes because I don't want my player to write off my characters as "oh, the tsundere" or "oh, the tortured type" or "oh, the prince". That's not doing them justice. And it might be fun to play a game with your favorite guy in it once again (oh, Megane-sama), but that won't leave an impression - that won't make someone care.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

More Writing, Project O

Been a while since my last update. School's been killing me, but I'm currently on spring break, so I think a blog update is in order.

I've been steadily chipping away at my latest project, codenamed "Project O" for now. After making major cuts to the script, I've now got a much more manageable way of going about things and actually have an end in sight. Well, not in sight exactly, but it's on the horizon. At least I know it exists.

"Project O" is comprised of five chapters and an individualized sixth chapter depending on the character you end up with. It's possible to not get a chapter six at all, if you play all the wrong cards. No matter how much you try to screw up your choices along the way, you will get to Chapter Five at least. With a game of this length, I really want to reward my player with an ending of some substance. I hate putting in a dozen hours on a dating sim and getting "too bad you died" at the end of it because I didn't pick the right lunch option back at the beginning of the game.

Right now, I'm in the middle of Chapter Three. Chapter Three has five sections, I just finished the second section and am now moving on to the third. Chapter Three is definitely the longest chapter - Chapters Four and Five don't hold a candle to it in terms of length.

So once I finish up Chapter Three the end really will be in sight.

The problem with each chapter is that there is literally hours of content that the player will not see on a first playthrough. So while there's lots of writing, the actual play time is a fraction of what I've written. I'd like to think that's a good thing in terms of replayability. I love dating sims that have tons of alternative content. That way I can really shape my own experience - my game would be entirely different from someone elses' depending on which character(s) I pursue.

Still, it's a pain in the butt for the writer!

Oh well, Project O is going strong. Hopefully edits on Project G, my first game, will be finished soon so I can move forward on that.

Thanks for the support everyone!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

So...Eroge in Academia?

So besides working on my own Ren'Ai games as strictly a hobby, I've also managed to bring them in to my academics.

I'm developing a performance piece (I'm a theater student) that uses Eroge/Ren'Ai games as an element. I won't bore you with the details.

But hey - here are some pretties in progress.

BTW - I SERIOUSLY need an actual version of Paint Tool Sai. I love this thing, but the trial only lasts 31 days. ;_; $57... Well, my birthday's coming up.

This is a picture of one of my actresses as a Ren'ai game character. ^^ She thinks it's awesome, I'm really excited for how it's going to turn out. She really looks like she could belong in any Ren'ai game!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Killing Babies

Not literally, of course. I mean making cuts and edits.

Someone once said that to be a writer, you have to be willing to kill your children. This weekend is definitely proof of that.

I'm working on a project - the script reached 406 pages (the page count of my last project) and was close to 1/3 completed. This, I decided, was unacceptably long. With a page count of 1200 (as would've been the projected final product) the logistics of creating such a monster would be a nightmare. Not to mention the undeniable reality that the game would just be too damn long for anyone to actually sit and read all the way through. I'm not J.K. Rowling - I'm not sure I could get my fans to sit through an 800 page novel.

So after deciding last night that the script was too long, I went about making cuts this morning. Cutting is a depressing process, let me tell you. How many hours of work am I stripping away? How many great pieces of dialogue? There were scenes that I would've rather died than parted with... But then I realized they didn't add to the story I really wanted to tell, so they had to go.

I've found a much more quick and manageable way of writing the rest of the game. I'm hoping that with these cuts I'll get down to around 275 pages before continuing. (I know! Cutting over 125 pages? It's scary). I hope the rest will go much smoother/quicker.

Heh. I guess I could always shove a "deleted scenes" section in the extras of my game. There's some really cute stuff that I'm sad had to go.

Oh well - off to kill more babies.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

A. R. T.


Let's face it - without visuals, you ain't got much of a visual novel, now do you?

Being a one-woman studio, I provide all the art for my projects as well as doing all the writing. And coding, and designing, etc...

For my thirteenth birthday my parents bought me a sketchbook - the Strathmore Recycled Paper Series, size 9x12, retail value $11.75 at most art stores. I now have nineteen of those sketchbooks piled under my computer desk at home; one with a proud "20" sharpied on the front cover is sitting next to me. (And yes, it's the exact same brand and size! Hey, you know what they say: if it ain't broke...)

Along with my writing, art has been one of my most passionate hobbies for a long time. I sketch probably every day and have spent years developing my style. My greatest influences have probably been Yusuke Murata (Eyeshield 21) and most recently the artist for the Otome Game Starry Sky, who uses a pen name that I haven't found out.

I've been drawing for nearly five years, but I've only seriously begun practice in the art of digital coloring this past year. My current weapon of choice is Paint Tool Sai. It's sorta fabulous. :3

These past few days have been very serious studies for me in terms of developing techniques and style for my CGing. I'm still so all over the place when it comes to my style and what I really want to achieve.
That's something I threw together while practicing. Not my most recent - but I'm pretty happy with it. (As for who he is...well, that may be revealed a bit down the road. ^_~)

When it comes to art, I feel like I'm at that frustrating "not quite pro" quality. In terms of my drawings, my coloring, everything. I'm trying my hardest, but it never seems to achieve the beautiful quality of pro artists. I guess I can hack this up to lack of experience and practice.

So I'll keep working! I have a goal of uploading a new piece to my devArt every three weeks (I'm a busy college student, so as much as I'll try to keep up with this, it may eventually fall by the wayside.) Practice makes perfect, as the so overused phrase seems to go! Wish me luck!

Friday, January 29, 2010

These Impossible(?) Projects

So I'll be honest with you all. I've been a fan of Visual Novels since I was fifteen years old. I'm eighteen now. I discovered the OELVN community right before my sixteenth birthday and, of course, set to writing my own game.

I'll tell you this - that game got finished being written in July of last year. That's right - July 2009.

Granted, I took a large break in between there to apply to college and focus on graduating. Other things became more important for awhile. There was probably a whole year there where I did absolutely no writing on my game. It stayed in the back of my mind as one of those "I'll finish that one day" projects. I'm actually a bit proud of myself for really jumping on it in 2009 and writing until it was finished. This was no tiny project either - we're talking a 400 page Microsoft Word document of just script. This is an accomplishment.

Still, I realize that a script does not make a game. There's still plenty of stuff to be done, including but not limited to coding, art, developing the UI and more.

But I'm convinced that the hardest, most arduous part of the Visual Novel development process is the writing. Making yourself sit down and write out all that script takes a lot of discipline. And it's a easy thing to let a story lose its steam.

I used to keep my project entirely secret. Considering I consider Magical Girl Studios nothing but a hobby studio, I really didn't want outside pressure for me to finish and release my game. But showing my script to my dear friend/editor really has inspired me to pursue this hobby until I have a finished product.

The point of Magical Girl Studios is to make quality free Visual Novels for old fans to enjoy and new fans to discover. I want to bring this still rather niche genre to a larger community. And the only way I'm going to do that is with a polished final product. So I guess I've still got a lot of work to do!

These projects are hardly impossible. Just overwhelming. This is still a hobby - a side project in comparison to my real life which requires far much more focus and effort. I'm going to keep going at it as a hobby - something I love.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Arduous Editing Process

So I'd say the development of my original Bishojo game is pretty laid-back. That is, it's, for now, strictly a hobby.

But that doesn't mean I'm not approaching it seriously. That is, with every intent to finish it and make it polished and professional. The script is completely written - the game looks like it'll take roughly three or four hours to play through once.

Right now I'm in the editing process, that is, I'm having another set of eyes read through the script and send me edits. There are PLENTY of them. Not only is she proofreading (which is vitally important) she's editing for flow, consistency, and character. Her edits are always really insightful, I think.

Editing is an important part of the process that I think gets skipped too often. Rough drafts are just that - rough. And it's SO important to have someone other than yourself edit your script. Because often times you'll just glaze over errors or things that don't make sense. Often times, since you wrote it, it'll read just perfectly in your mind, but it might make no sense to another reader.

The editing process is out of my hands. Right now I'm tackling another project. Once I get my finished script back, the process will start up once again. :)