Happy Thanksgiving + Promo Sale

First of all, to all my Americans followers, Happy Thanksgiving! πŸ™‚

I am doing a sale on itch.io: https://winter-wolves.itch.io/
And of course on Steam: http://store.steampowered.com/search/?publisher=Winter%20Wolves

Every purchase on itch.io comes with a free Steam key. You might have also noticed that I started pre-orders there for both Cursed Lands and Love Bites. Usually I don’t like to do pre-orders much, but in this case both games are in a very advanced state (as you know if you read the previous blog post) and since some people asked, I thought to do it.

Some news

In the image above, one of the animated intros of the various vampire boss fights

And now some updates:

  • We’ve decided to use the same artist who did the PSCD manga version to do the romance CG of Volleyball Heaven. So you know what to expect… HOT STUFF!
  • I’ve finished coding the four “vampire lieutenant boss fights” for Cursed Lands. Each boss fight can be won peacefully using social talents. Or if you want, you can just exterminate them all and get the achievement of “vampire killer”! Expect a beta demo featuring a good amount of the game story next month.
  • Works on… the <cursed yuri game> is going on steady. I can’t say more because of the curse, but the release date is not “before next ice age” anymore! However, not soon either, so don’t get too excited.
  • I’ll make a beta build of Love Bites as soon as both Viktor and Sabrina routes are fully finished (only the romance CG and a few minor scenes left). Maybe I’ll announce it even in next blog post.

That’s everything for now, but hopefully next time I’ll have some more good news πŸ™‚

Posted in beta demo, Cursed lands, dating sims, love bites, roleplay games, volleyball heaven | Leave a comment

Love Bites and Cursed Lands update

First of all, I made an updated version of Roommates with completely optional “nude romances CG” currently in beta testing. More info/details in my forums here: http://www.winterwolves.net/viewtopic.php?f=34&t=4078

Now let’s talk about today’s post: 7 months ago, in April, I made a post with the same title. You can find it here if you’re curious: http://www.winterwolves.net/blog/2017/04/love-bites-cursed-lands-update/

So, after all those months, how are things now? I already posted an update in previous blog, but today I’m going to go deeper.

Love Bites scheduler and romances

As I wrote back then, this game has a scheduler but no stat raising. The relationship bar is increased simply by spending time with each character, it’s not influenced by the choices. The things I said in that blog post are still valid, but using the image above I want to explain how the different endings work.

Originally I wanted to keep those values secret, but after thinking more about it, was pointless – since a game must not be hard by making people guess which choice will increase what variable πŸ™‚

So in summary each character has two possible… let’s call them “variants”. Viktor for example has Social and Nerd. Sabrina has Artist and Huntress. Nadia has … wait, I don’t want to spoil the fun!

Anyway, with your choices in the dialogues, you’ll influence the character (for example by making Viktor more sociable, or on the opposite by pushing him to take advantage of his nerd side). Those values will determine, at end of the game, which ending you get (beside the romance ending and CG which are fixed). Probably better call it epilogues, more than endings.

Here’s the mystery of those hidden variables explained!

Cursed Lands romances and bonus scenes

I already posted a few on twitter, but here I’ll post a male and a female one to be fair!

Leena in a very… suggestive scene beside the campfire πŸ˜‰

Vaeril trying to get through a forest and, ops, his precious dress is scratched open! Well, considering he’s a druid he’s in good shape, don’t you think?

What are those bonus CG? Simply said, after the big success of Amber pin-ups, I decided to add some more for this game. As you probably should know, the original artist is the same who did Loren art and sadly he doesn’t work for me anymore. So I had to use someone else, but that has a style similar enough I think. In any case, the result is good in my opinion.

Those CG are used in two ways: to illustrate a scene already in the main romance story, or to illustrate two bonus scenes when the player is a couple with the love interest.

Indeed, a big difference vs all my previous games, it’s that in this one if you want you can sleep with more than one character in the same playthrough – yes, unlock the “final romance CG” with more than just oneΒ  character. Of course, this is not without consequences ! In this case the usual “jealousy scene” will trigger and you’ll need to pick one love interest.

After you choose the love interest, all other romance routes are blocked, but as “reward”, you get two more bonus scenes with him/her, as couple (another thing that was missing in my previous games).

Plus of course there’ll be the ending epilogues which will change based on this (and also on other choices in the game but that I can’t reveal because are big spoilers!).

The game script as predicted it’s already 200,000 words now, with many boss fights missing and all the endings/epilogues yet to write. I wouldn’t be surprised if the final script will be around 230-250,000 words. Yes, another SMALL GAME ™!

In conclusion, I really hope that you’ll enjoy both games when are out, because as usual they’re big, with lot of content, very replayable, and we’re putting a lot of efforts in making them !

Posted in Cursed lands, dating sims, love bites, roleplay games | 12 Comments

Release plan and older games

First of all, PSA: I released a collection of my older games (really old, some of them date back to 2004!!!) on itch.io and Steam for the low price of $4.99! The collection includes some of my early sports sims and the two Vera Blanc games. I only put the games I was 100% sure would work under Windows 10 (no Mac or Linux, sorry).

I decided to to it since some people asked for it, and besides at such low price I think could be a good value for money (especially Universal Boxing Manager or TV Station Manager).

Also as you probably saw already, there’s the usual Halloween Steam sale with my various games discounted πŸ™‚

Release plan

We’re almost at the end of October, so time to look back at what happened this year so far and what to expect. As usual in this business, was a year of quick changes. As I wrote in previous blog post, for this year I won’t probably be able to finish any other game, even if I currently have 3 games at very good point: Cursed Lands, Volleyball Heaven and Love Bites.

If things go as planned, I will probably release Love Bites first. Half game is basically ready, so I could even try to do a pre-order/beta version with that relatively soon. I’m only waiting for the main trailer and some endings scenes: if I put the beta out with Sabrina and Viktor routes I’d like to have the ending CGs and the epilogues, so people experience the “full path” for each character at least.

For Volleyball Heaven, once the artist finishes the remaining CGs, everything else is pretty much ready, but scripting it will take a couple of months I think, also because (as usual lol) what originally started as 75k words max game became almost double that… πŸ˜€

Cursed Lands should be the last one to be released simply because, being a RPG with several innovations like the talent system and boss battles with dialogues/choices, it requires much more testing and coding than a simple dating sim. So even if I had all finished texts by end of year, I would probably need 3-4 months more to do the coding/testing/balancing.

A new way of working

Once I finish the 3 games above, with some exceptions for a few games already written/started but that I haven’t publicly announced yet, I am going to change how I work in future. In practice I’ll still be using a few selected external writers who have proven to be reliable and also skilled, but mostly I’ll be back writing the games myself and use editors only. I am already experimenting with this for Cursed Lands, adding some more camp talk scenes, and I think honestly the end result is good and progress are fast.

Fast, because I write them myself, and I always wrote things fast. And this doesn’t mean that what I write is set in stone, but I noticed that the writer while editing/reviewing the scene, often get ideas for more dialogues or even future scenes. It’s weird to explain but it’s a sort of brainstorming and exchange of ideas. I think this system works much better than an isolated writer writing on his/her own, no matter how good is.

Also after all those years, I know well what my players want, how much important is for them romance, relationships, sexy elements, jokes, etc.Β  And since I’d write the game as I’m coding it, the game story will feel much more integrated with the gameplay (a problem that some of my recent games like Amber or Queen Of Thieves had).

I believe that with a good editor/writer reviewing all the scenes, tweaking what I wrote, or even reworking/rewriting completely whole sentences, the ending result should also be of a decent level regarding grammar and writing quality! And most importantly with this system I shouldn’t have anymore delays of YEARS since I announced a game and its release. Yes, I know that’s a very common thing in the game development business, but honestly I don’t like it (and for sure my players don’t like it either).

Posted in other games, strategy games | 5 Comments

Status update, codesign and other amenities

Yes I know that I said I would talk about games, and I am going to. But first, I need to make a short deviation πŸ™‚

I certify I have enough

Recently there has been a BIG drop of direct sales. Probably because of Steam direct, but also I suspect other factors. In summary, in last two months I reached the bottom. Luckily, sales on other platforms (mobile, Steam) while are going down (it’s the Indieapocalypse baby) didn’t totally collapse as the direct sales.

Chatting with other indies, I found out that actually my direct sales so far were much better than the average! lol, so the situation is global, even for very successful indies, there has been a great drop.

Why? Well, most people are used to buy/play on Steam, but the OS have their faults too: indeed both Windows and MacOS, now require apps to be “codesigned”, otherwise they show various warnings and it’s hard just to download the game (not even run, just download it’s difficult!). Yes you could codesign, which means you had to pay a yearly fee to get this “certification”, which IN THEORY should protect users from malicious software. A pity that in reality this doesn’t matter – because the codesign only certifies who made it, but not if there’s any virus/trojan/whatever in it (see what happened recently with a famous registry cleaner tool…).

I was codesigning my games (both on Win/Mac) but recently I am really too overwhelmed by all the stuff to do, so I am considering switching all my downloads to the itch.io platform, which seems well known to visual novel authors. The main reason it’s that it uses really great tools, on par with Steam. I will just mention two things that makes a big difference:

  1. incremental upload/download, like Steam. If I change one line in a file and it’s 5kb, both me and players only need to upload/download 5kb, and not the whole game installer (which maybe is 170mb). And for the customers who don’t want to use the itchio client, you can always download a .zip file normally. Doing beta testing with that system will be a breeze. How many times in the past I found a bug when it was almost midnight, so I simply posted in forums “sorry, I’ll update the game tomorrow”. Now I can just run a command-line tool andΒ  do it in 5 seconds making the update instantly available! πŸ™‚
  2. using the client, the codesign/OS warning don’t show. Since your game exe is launched by Itchio app (similarly to what happens on Steam) the various Windows/MacOS don’t show up those annoying “WAIT ARE YOU SURE!? YOU COULD START WORLD WAR 3!!” messages πŸ˜€

Of course, I won’t instantly switch, but I think it’s safe to say that for future games I’ll use itch.io exclusively to sell my games directly.

Speaking of games…

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not really happy about the current status, by now I hoped to have at least another game in beta testing or even finished. But honestly, this year was a bit crazy, also considering the terrible Summer temperatures I got here where I live, which put me KO for 2 months!

Anyways, let’s see how is the progress of the various games:

Cursed Lands – this game simply became much bigger than I originally thought (lol, a new thing!). I am still coding the various sidequests, and writer said would write the main plot missions in the next weeks/months. When those are done, the game will be very close to completion. It’s going to be another of those 200k+ word RPG games, and I have pushed to add more camp talk and CG (each love interest has two bonus CGs besides the romance CG!). Also, both Vaeril and Nuala are bisex now, and you can romance them both with male or female protagonist. So at least looks like should be worth the wait πŸ˜‰

Love Bites – it’s half done: half of the game routes are fully scripted. In this case, once the writer finishes them, the gameplay is very simple (there is some stat raising but not like my other games) and it could be “put together” much faster. Depending on how things go, I think this one could be done faster than Cursed Lands. But of course depends when the writing is finished and the last thing I want to do is rush the writing of a game as you can imagine πŸ™‚

Volleyball Heaven – luckily the writing is 99% done, but there is still a lot of artwork to draw. So in this case we’re waiting for the artist, who is working hard, but there’s a lot to do. Drawing all those hot CGs takes time, you know πŸ˜‰

And what about estimate release dates? that’s the big question! Well, for all the 3 games above, I think early 2018 would work. Which means I could be in a fun situation where all of the 3 games above will be almost ready at about the same time. Then I’ll decide in which order to release them, but ideally I’d keep the RPG as last since that will require more testing.

As usual there could be some “surprises”, like games I’m not talking about much that suddenly get a boost and could even be released before the 3 above. You never know what’s going to happen! It’s the magic of working on so many games at once with different people all around the world.

Posted in Cursed lands, dating sims, general, love bites, roleplay games, volleyball heaven | 21 Comments

Professional vs amateur freelancers

In the image above, this is what happens if you make Tofu angry. Be careful!

I’ve always been a rather unique indie. My main peculiarity was to release games at good pace, without necessarily sacrificing quality (at least, in my intentions!). I’m not writing this to brag, but as a matter of fact. And of course, doesn’t mean that my games were more successful than those of other indies.

Why I work this way? Mainly because I get really bored if I am always working on the same thing, same game, same story. If you think that SOTW was my game with longest development time, and still it was “only 10 months” (for the base game) which is really nothing compared to how long most indie games take (usually at least one year, yes even for normal dating sim/visual novels). And in my case was a full featured RPG…!

Consider also that except for some of my first games, all my stories are at least 100,000 words long, with an average length around 170-180k words! :O

As I said, I’m not bragging, wordcount in definitive means nothing (but if it’s well written, for sure players appreciate a longer story). Many indie colleagues are ten times more successful than me making smaller games and taking much longer each one. But I wouldn’t even try it, simply because I know already that I wouldn’t enjoy the process.

So what does this has to do with the blog post title? well like many other indies, I get a lot of people who want to offer their services (writing, art, music, even coding though it’s more rare). Since I made so many games, I worked with A LOT of people in the past.

I’m only aiming to give my humble advice to anyone who want to collaborate with other indies to create games over internet. This is my opinion, but I believe it’s also valid for other indies (or even other freelancing jobs in general). So what separates someone doing it professionally vs someone doing it in their free time?

Keep in touch

There’s literally nothing worse than not hearing from a collaborator over internet. This doesn’t mean you need to email every day but, especially if some work is expected from you, don’t disappear. This is literally the worst thing ever for me, something that really can’t forgive. Of course I’m talking about weeks (even months lol) of radio silence, not days.

Believe me, it’s much better to hear even stuff like “sorry but a new expansion for the MMORPG I play is out, so updates will be slower for the next week”, than hear nothing. Of course, strictly related to this, there’s also…

Meet deadlines

This is obvious, but it’s probably the thing all my collaborators miss. I’m more lenient because I know how hard is to met a deadline myself. However, there’s a lot of difference from missing a deadline by a day or a week, or by months…

But still, if you do the point above and keep in touch, it’s still somewhat OK. “Look boss I can’t finish XYZ by end of month, but I promise to finish it before the next” etc. Obviously, if you always miss deadlines one after the other… well that’s not good! πŸ˜›

Be honest

Another seemingly obvious thing, but that many times doesn’t happen. You don’t know how to do a task or are unsure if you’ll make in time? don’t say “yes I’ll do it” and then maybe either do a bad job, or be late or any other bad outcome. Another thing to avoid is coming up with sudden expenses before talking with the other part. The writing is going to be twice long because you think you’ll do a better result? inform,discuss, not write twice the word count, and then show the bill after the work is done. This is not going to make you get more work from that person…

Conclusions

In conclusion, if you keep those 3 points above in mind, I think you’ll have a much easier life as freelancer. Honestly? even if you only follow 1 or 2 of the point above you would be already a good freelancer! πŸ™‚

Notice that I didn’t talk about skill. First, because except coding, everything else is based on tastes after a certain minimum level. It’s better the art of Nicole, Roommates, C14 Dating, Loren, or PSCD? depends on tastes. Same for music and also writing.

But also, because sometimes someone who keeps the 3 things above in mind has more chances to get work (from me at least) than someone 10 times skilled but that’s always late, lies or disappears for months. I’m making this example, PSCD artist: you probably know that the character art was the main reason the game greatly underperformed at launch (now it’s doing well after the manga update).

Still, that artist definitely meet ALL the 3 points above. He is honest, works fast, always asks when it’s the deadline and if he cannot met it, emails me. Result? since people didn’t like his character art, I hired him to do other art: a LOT of icons for my future RPGs,Β  Amber’s all crafting icons, the shop builder rooms, colored all the PSCD manga CGs, and he’s doing even more work for me right now.

Speaking of skill, it’s also true that sometimes I have to stop working with someone if the results aren’t “good enough”. If I get a lot of comments like “this art/music/writing is bad” all for the same collaborators, well sadly I need to run a business so I need to think mainly about what customers say.

If you’re short on cash it’s fine to work with amateur (that don’t follow the 3 point above), just don’t expect to get anything done very quickly.

Well hopefully this post was useful for someone and wasn’t too boring! Next time I’ll talk about the games in the works and their status πŸ™‚

Posted in general, indie life | 4 Comments