Patreon and future blog updates

This is going to be a weird blog post. I want to get straight to the point: I opened a Patreon at https://www.patreon.com/winterwolves where I’m going to post some juicy stuff/previews, including unreleased art, or talk about the games not yet officially announced. I am also going to post in the blog every two weeks from now on.

But…why?

I know you might think I opened a Patron to get some money. That’s for sure, but it’s not just about the money, it’s also about time.

The most precious thing we have is time, and making a blog post like this one, or image previews like my famous “romance sneak peek” or “romance graph” and so on, takes time. You need to open the various sprite images, scale down, cut the portrait, put them in the grid, add a text, nice effects etc etc. One hour is gone and you don’t even notice it!

Then, there’s also other things. Maintenance for example: unfortunately running your own site needs attention. I need to update the blog/forum software, do backups, approve posts, etc. Another issue are images that gets deleted after a while. A while ago I posted all Loren 2 “camp talk” images in forums, but the original hosting places deleted the images, so now they’re not available anymore (I’ve reposted them all already in the Patreon).

What I’m trying to say is that by using Patreon to post such things, I’ll eliminate a lot of problems and issues that keep me busy, and at the end of the month they add up! Imagine even only an hour a day – that’s 30h a month “wasted” doing other things, while I could have used them to do game development instead (that’s what most people are interested in).

Lastly: lack of ideas. I don’t know how many other developers have a blog/diary where they regularly post every week. Recently I was struggling to find ideas, find something to talk about. I asked writers to make the characters introductions for future games, to help fill some blog posts. But many times I had to stop and think for hours about what to write!

In summary, I think we can all agree that it’s better if I could save all those hours I usually spend on admin/maintenance and thinking about what to write in the blog, and instead work on the games, right? 🙂

If you can’t afford to pledge, don’t worry!

Of course I’m aware that not everyone has the money or is simply not willing to support me on Patreon: so it’s perfectly normal to just keep buying my games (which is the most important thing). The Patreon page is for those “super fans” who want/can support me even more, and in exchange get to know firsthand about the new stuff or see exclusive content.

But the games themselves will remain the same as before, I’ll put the same efforts in making them, no matter if you’re a patron or not 🙂

Posted in general, indie life | Tagged | 4 Comments

Better late than never!

ambersmagicshop

In the image mockup above, you see Amber and Vin in Vin’s witch house 🙂

As you probably have guessed by the title, I’m talking about yet another game I started… “a while ago”, that it’s finally getting done! Amber’s Magic Shop was originally announced in this blog post, from 2011. Of those four games, Roommates was done in 2014, Queen Of Thieves is in advanced beta testing right now, and “The Hospital” it’s being worked on but as a side project (without hurry).

I must say that while of course having to wait for 5 years is a long time, I am happy that the game is being done now. Now I have much more experience, and similarly to what happened to Queen Of Thieves, which was supposed to be just a simple dating sim with no combat/RPG part, I’ll be able to add more (optional) gameplay stuff even to Amber’s game.

Go craft yourself!

In particular, one of the aspect I want to put the focus on it’s crafting. If you’ve been playing RPG games recently (but even some simulations or other genres) the “crafting” has become one of the key features for many games.

So, together with Anima (the coder) I’m building up a crafting system, not just for Amber’s game, but even for future titles. I’m building THE ULTIMATE CRAFTING SYSTEM MOUAHAHHA!!! 😀

I’ve commissioned over 150 items to PSCD artist, since he is very good and fast (and he’s only drawing objects this time! hehe). He already finished some items:

ore

This system will be expandable, which means that you (obviously) won’t see the same ingredients or recipes for all games. For fantasy games probably a lot will be in common (since the games also share the same fantasy world) but I could reuse it even for a sci-fi game (allowing people to craft weapons/armors in Planet Stronghold 2 for example) or modern settings (for example a zombie game where you can craft weapons with scrap materials).

As you can see the possibilities are endless. Obviously for Amber this is also a key feature since you play as a young alchemist, so gathering/buying ingredients/materials and crafting will be what you do most of the time 🙂

So as you can see, sometimes it’s better if a game doesn’t come out right away. Because there’s no way that the “myself of 2011” (or even 2012!) could have added such complex system to the gameplay!

Posted in amber's magic shop, general, indie life, life simulation | 10 Comments

Size does it matter!

tofuyawn
In the picture above, my cat Tofu is exhausted by the heat

Regarding the blog post title, I am not referring to what you think! I am talking of course about a game’s size 😉

From time to time, I get asked the usual question “when game XYZ will be out”. It’s because of that if I made a thread in my forums where I TRY (more or less sucessfully!) to keep track of the status of my various projects: http://winterwolves.net/viewtopic.php?f=33&t=3128

The main thing is, that I think I went a bit overboard with some projects. I won’t make names, but projects which have over 6 love interests… and maybe aren’t even normal dating sim, but RPGs!

I often ask for advice and feedback from users. Many times, it is very useful. Sometimes, not. A classic situation is this: I announce a new game, and a list of romances. Inevitably, someone is unhappy and writes the infamous “aww why I can’t romance character X!? sigh sob”. And too many times I changed my plan, to make everyone’s happy. But it was a bad move 🙂

Of course, it’s all my fault. It’s not like the users know what’s behind making a game or anything. They just look at what they will get, and of course they want more, or they want what they like (a specific character, a romance combo, etc).

Anyway, the thing is simple: you can’t think to have a game of over 100,000 words, or with a crazy amount of romances (8 characters or more) and hope to have it done in a year or so. I mean, it’s possible: look at PSCD! Writer made everything in about a year, over 200k words, 16 romances. Or Queen Of Thieves, under 6 months to write 150k words and 12 romances. But those are exceptions, not the rule 🙂

For example, Roommates took about 2 years to write (2 playable characters and 6 romances), Heirs & Graces too (4 romanceable characters, all yaoi), and so on. It’s very rare that a complex game is written in around a year.

The process itself

I’ll try to explain how it works, “behind the scenes”:

  1. I want to write game XYZ. Sometimes I post in forums/social media, other times people come to me with ideas, etc. Anyway, decision is made to start working on game XYZ.
  2. unless the idea was submitted by a writer, I need to look at the various writers submissions/portfolios before deciding who will write it. Once I decide, I can do on step 3.
  3. writer starts to write game XYZ
  4. writer sends me updates as he/she writes. I read it and give feedback. Usually, all it’s OK though
  5. if all goes well: repeat steps 3-4 until the game script it’s done. Might take a long time, since writing is not like coding, you need to gather inspiration, etc. But usually it’s done.
  6. if something goes wrong: here comes the troubles! It can be any reason. Health issues, daily job, etc. Anything, but there’s something that prevents writer from going on. In this case, I need to repeat step 2, until I find a suitable replacement writer.

Step 6 though can be much harder than it seems. Maybe the new writer is OK with what the other/previous writer did. Or maybe not, so he/she wants to rewrite it from scratch, because is faster, or because the style is too different, etc.

We all know the infamous legend of THE CURSED GAME (which shall not be named). In practice, for that game I repeated the first 4 steps, and then the 6th, for THREE TIMES already. For three times the story was started and then abandoned. And the new writer(s) decided to start from scratch every time… And if steps 1-4 could take 3-4 months each, you can see how it’s easy to “waste” already one year, without making any real progress!

What’s the solution?

Recently I started to think about a way to avoid this. Because it’s becoming a real problem, especially for some bigger games. And I think I got a possible solution: go back to make storyboards myself.

In the past, I used to spend quite some time making a sort of storyboard/draft of the story. In practice a sort of guideline of what happens in each scene. They would look something like this (remember this is my bad writing!):

##SCENE 02 ##
#Time: morning, ice cream shop. Amy is helping Lawrence since she can’t find inspiration to write poetry, besides today seems a very busy day. They’re working, when a customer behaves badly. It can be anything, either he refuses to pay pretending the ice cream is bad, or something else. Should be a petty excuse for not paying. Amy starts arguing with him saying that he must pay, when the man wants to leave, and pushes Amy out of the way. She almost falls down, and is furious. Lawrence runs there, and apologizes for Amy’s behavior and tells the guy that he can go now. The man leaves with a grin.
#CHOICES

 (yes it’s an excerpt from Never Forget Me storyboard!).

With a clear storyboard, detailing what happens in each scene, even if I have to switch/replace the writer mid way, it should be possible to keep what has been already written, maybe just review the texts, but not discard everything and start from scratch like happened too many times in the past!

I’ll need to spend a bit of my time doing this (Never Forget Me storyboard took me about a month to make) but probably in the long run it will save me a lot of time!

Of course, even using this system, if a game has a lot of romances or two playable genders, it will still take a lot of time to make. There’s no shortcut to write a long AND good story 🙂

Posted in development tricks, game design, general, indie life | 20 Comments