Never Forget Me official release

Let’s get straight to the point: Never Forget Me is now officially out! You can download the demo, find more info and purchase it from here: http://www.winterwolves.com/neverforgetme.htm

And now a short “postmortem” about the game and a few considerations.

The game idea

The game basic idea came to me last year, I thought that could have been fun to explore the married couple life, something very different from what the usual dating sim do. In practice, start the game where most other dating sim end! And then I thought that the perfect game to do this was a sequel to Always Remember Me.

For this game, I wrote the storyboards myself, since I am quite attached to those characters and this story. The first game was quite popular, also thanks to a series of videos by the famous youtuber Dodger. Will she cover also this game? who knows, I hope so! 🙂

Of course, being about the married life there was a basic problem: you couldn’t pursue several romances! (well, at least in theory…)

So I had to think how it would work, and I opted to let the player choose at the beginning of the story which romance route they wanted to play:

The other characters might appear on each route, but only as secondary/minor characters. The main focus would be the one you picked.

The gameplay

Then I had a big problem: what kind of gameplay? Originally I wrote the game as a pure visual novel, with the endings determined only by the choices. Each character has 10 scenes, with a choice in each and two options.

Based on your choices, you’d get 5 endings: 2 happy, 2 sad and 1 neutral.

Please note that while obviously people will want to get the happy endings, I think that even the sad ones are somewhat meaningful or interesting to play. In one sad ending for Eddy for example you learn how to stay away from men interested only in their career, while in a Hugh’s one you could learn that you need to fight to get your hard work recognized, even if the boss is your husband, etc.

Every path has a specific theme, as described in the game page.

I decided during the last month of development, to try adding also a scheduler/stat-raising gameplay. By completing the game in this mode, you would unlock two extra bonus epilogues: a happy epilogue and a normal epilogue.

Even for the stat raising, I wanted to try something different from the usual: the big difference in this case is that beside raising the character’s associated stat (like in most other games) to get the 100% relationship you also need to complete “goals”. The goals are randomized a bit, based on each love interest, and they are based on raising the OTHER stats.

For example, Aaron main stat is Romance. But to complete the goals, you’ll need to raise the other 3: Diligence, Culture and Creativity. Each goal will have different requirements. Some are also influenced by the Social/Energy values at the end of each week. This way, there’s more variety of gameplay and also a bit of strategy I think. Time will tell if people liked this idea or not 🙂

Conclusions

The game is just out so of course I cannot know how it will do, etc. During the beta it was doing “OK”. However, this game also took me only 2 months of storyboarding (done last year in February/March) while I was waiting for other games to be done. And another 2 months to script/code.

In summary this could well represent one of the infamous “smaller games” (for my standards: it’s still bigger than many other games! about 90k words and 8 CGs is not bad!) that I want to make, to ease the wait for the bigger ones.

Posted in dating sims, Never Forget Me, otome games, postmortem | 8 Comments

Amber’s Magic Shop: Introducing Bernard

intro_bernard

Bernard has one of the most interesting story arcs in my opinion. I also like his design, hot muscular guy, but looking different than the others, more slender but still sexy. The classic cursed / hot tempered guy 🙂

Bernard’s Intro:

Bernard tends not to talk much about himself and he rarely opens up to people he does not know well. What people do know about him is he is a rising star in the Adventurer’s Guild and he has little time for anything but his ambitions.

He wants to rise because he believes the guild system is unfair but he also enjoys the praise and wealth that comes with promotion.

As an adult, Bernard continues his rise although grows frustrated as his previous meteoric pace slows to a crawl. He suspects his superiors are plotting against him and reaches out to Amber to help him rise to the position of Guild Leader. Amber agrees although she quickly finds that years of constant struggle have started to take their toll on Bernard’s psyche. She only hopes that she can help him before paranoia and ambition consume him completely.

Passion is Bernard’s greatest strength and weakness. He always tries his hardest and he never lets setbacks get in the way. Unfortunately, his drive blinds him to potential problems and he frequently gets himself into dangerous situations due to his refusal to believe he could be wrong.

So far, he has survived every situation he has got himself into, but it just fuels his invincibility complex further. Someday his luck might run out, but for now he will continue to push himself until he breaks himself or someone else.

In other news, the beta for Never Forget Me continues, and I’m only waiting for the missing trailers before doing the official release. I think will be around half-November 🙂

Current game page: http://winterwolves.com/neverforgetme.htm

Posted in amber's magic shop, dating sims, life simulation | 14 Comments

Never Forget Me beta + Future romance games

luis

First of all Public Service Announcement: my upcoming otome game “Never Forget Me” is now in beta. The only thing missing is the official game main menu and the theme song. Everything else is there and should be working!

For more info, check the forums: http://www.winterwolves.net/viewtopic.php?f=29&t=3937

Expected final release should be end of month or November at the latest, depending how testing goes (however being a visual novel/dating sim, most of the mistakes could be typos or other minor stuff!).

And now I wanted to talk about a topic I find interesting to me:

Romance in future games

After Heirs & Graces release on Steam, there was an interesting discussion in the community forums. To be honest, I expected a much worse reaction, considering the game topic (yaoi/gay only dating sim). I just deleted a couple of obvious stupid threads but not much.

Anyway, here’s what I’m going to do in future games, regarding the romances.

Finding an audience

The most important thing for an indie dev, is finding the audience, the niche. Either you try to make a game in a popular genre (platformer?) but in that case you have to compete against many top indies (and the chances of succeeding are small) or you can try to cater to a smaller but loyal audience. That’s what I’ve always tried to do.

The question is: there’s a gay/yaoi audience on Steam? probably, but it’s very small. It’s not just Steam though: I sell the games directly, but also on mobile. The result though, is that  Heirs & Graces did much worse than, for example, C14 Dating, on all platforms.

So if I had to make games for an audience, I would stop making BxB games completely. BUT! There’s a big but 🙂 What is my goal? I think everyone should ask themselves what is their goal in life. I did it when I went indie. Originally, I wanted to make simulations and RPGs. Recently, I still want to make RPGs but also make experiments and story-based games. And regarding the stories, my goal is:

“I want as much people as possible to read my stories”

Yes, as simple as it is, that is my goal. Not because I’m arrogant and I think my stories (and those of my writers) are good or better than anyone else (they’re good though!). But simply because I want everyone to read them.

Now in the case of Heirs & Graces, I think it has one of the most beautiful stories of all my games. The father/son relationship, the fun and sad moments, etc. Not just my opinion, but basically of everyone who played the game. And here’s the problem: many people didn’t play the game because is yaoi only. And they missed a great story. This is bad, but honestly I knew it, it was inevitable, as much as some people wouldn’t play a yuri only game, etc.

What is the solution then? Well, the most obvious solution is to make games in which you can play as male/female, and have all kind of romances! On the other hand, doing such games takes a lot more time, as you can imagine. Also, usually you can’t offer 8+ romances (since you need to write them from the male/female point of view! it’s a LOT of work) and then you have complaints like with SOTW, in which people say that the game could have been better than Loren, but because of the few romances, it isn’t 🙁

Are they to blame either? No. I can understand that as male straight player, perhaps Krimm is not my kind of romance. Or as female player, I could find Jariel just too “nice” (the DLC changes things quite a lot though!). There’s no one to blame, really.

Finding a compromise

So as author I need to ask myself what is the best thing to do. As you can imagine it’s not like I can do all games with male/female main character AND 4+ romances each gender. Then we have situations like Loren 2, Roger Steel or Undead Lily where the game isn’t ready yet after 3+ years! Doh, insanely huge games takes a lot more time to make! Who would have guessed! haha

However, I think perhaps the best way is to try, whenever possible, to have a male/female main character and at least 2 romances for each gender. Sure, there won’t be as many romances as if the game was otome or yaoi or yuri only, but at least this way there are more  chances that everyone can read my stories. My main goal.

If someone thinks that having maybe only 2 romanceable characters/combos is too few for a full price game, well they can always wait and buy the game discounted later. But at least they will read the story, as long as there’s at least one romance they’re interested in 🙂

Of course, I have a lot of games I started years ago (some even in 2011… ahem) so for those, they could still be yuri only, no straight male romance, etc. Nothing can be done about this, except finish them as they were originally planned.

But for future games, especially bigger ones, that’s what I’ll try to do 🙂

Posted in beta demo, dating sims, game design, general, indie life, Never Forget Me, otome games, postmortem, remember me | 73 Comments

Amber’s Magic Shop: Introducing Ruby

intro_ruby

Time for one of my favorite characters (ahem and not just because she looks incredibly hot, I swear) of Amber: Ruby the vampire! Here’s the introduction:

Despite her age in human years, Ruby is regarded as extremely young for a vampire and still clings to her humanity because of that.

Despite these things, she and her brother are well respected in the small vampire community that live in Icesilia. Her word carries a lot of weight and she’s not afraid to use her influence to get what she wants. Outside of vampiric politics, Ruby finds herself fascinated by Amber and strikes up a friendship with her after a few chance encounters.

Over the years, she finds it harder to resist the urge to feed of mortals and so asks Amber to find a way to return her to human form. Such a request is not without its perils but she knows without a cure she will soon lose what humanity she has left.

Ruby is an extremely outgoing person who enjoys flirting with members of any sex. As a human, she was a dancer and she still shows signs of that in the way she moves and acts.

Despite her pretence of aloofness, she actually cares a great deal about those whom she calls friends and will do anything for them. Her fear of becoming as monstrous as the legends say drives her to avoid drinking blood and often only on animals when the need becomes overwhelming.

Animals barely sate the need, however, and she often turns to Amber to help her resist the true hunger for the warm blood of mortal men and women.

As you can see from her intro, she looks like an interesting character. Her endings are great, even the “dark ones” are somewhat cool 🙂

Posted in amber's magic shop, life simulation | 8 Comments

Queen Of Thieves now officially out!

Above you can see the game official trailer!

I am very proud to announce that my new RPG/Dating sim “Queen Of Thieves” is now officially out for desktop platforms! You can check the game official page and download a demo here: http://winterwolves.com/queenofthieves.htm

Like always, a Steam and mobile release is planned, but will come in the next months (hopefully before Christmas, though not sure).

Better late than never

This is the first game of my series called “Better late than never” ™. Haha jokes apart, it’s one of the many games I announced back in 2011, that for a reason or another were delayed until now.

To be honest, to make a good RPG, you need at least one year of work just for the design, skill balancing, enemies, encounters, and other mechanics. So it’s only late by 4 years 😉

This game was intended from the beginning to have a more “casual/accessible view” on the RPG world. Sure, there’s the Nightmare difficulty mode which it’s still, well, a Nightmare to play. But in general the approach is more similar to Loren than SOTW. Following the majority of complaints, I have designed this game so that:

  • there’s no time limit. You can grind as much as you want. The final boss battles are designed for a party level 30, but you can grind up to level 35 if you want!
  • there are more rock/paper/scissor mechanics. There’s guard skill like in the past, but now there’s also a skill that can break the guard. You can cast fire spells to a target, but if you hit it with melee, you’ll get burned effect. And so on.
  • the party is fully healed after each fight, not like SOTW
  • there’s again a skilltree system, with two different skill trees (offensive/defensive) for each sister
  • there’s a lot of characters to romance: since you can play as all the three sisters, and each can potentially romance two characters each, there’s a total amount of 6 straight + 6 homosexual romances, for a total of 12!

There are also a couple of new features that I’ve introduced in this game:

  • the inventory has 5 slots, 4 armor and 1 for a weapon. Less than Loren and SOTW.
  • in addition to this, the armor pieces are only aesthetic: instead you can socket gems in them to add stats. So you can customize your character’s appearance AND the bonus stats you get from each piece of armor.
  • there are some new starting conditions: like Ambush that lets you move before enemies, or (based on the story choices) in some battles one of your party members might start injured, etc.
  • there’s no front/back row. This to make the battles last less than before.
  • except for a couple of fights at the end, there’s no game over. You’ll always manage to escape the battles if you lose.

So as you can see, definitely a more casual/user friendly approach. I dare to say that between the ones I’ve made, this game is the most appropriate for people new to RPGs.

However as I said don’t be fooled: if you play even only in Hard mode, the fights won’t be a walk in the park! If you’re not familiar with RPGs you should play in Easy mode. Or if you don’t like RPG at all, maybe play in “visual novel mode”.

That’s all for now. I hope the game does well, since it’s well written, has nice art/music, interesting gameplay and I enjoyed doing it. I really like doing RPGs, even if they’re really time/money draining, and generate stress anyway (lots of testing is needed).

But in the end, I think it’s worth it 🙂

Posted in dating sims, general, iPhone & iPad, queen of thieves, roleplay games, Steam | 27 Comments