Volleyball Heaven – Introducing Lana

Do you like short hairstyle in women? I must say I like it, and it fits Lana’s character well. But enough talking, let’s introduce this new character/love interest for Volleyball Heaven!

Lana Reddlyn, 19

Lana and Kayla have been friends since they met as five-year-olds on their first day of school. While Kayla grew up on her family’s farm, Lana lived with her dysfunctional family in the county town of Coleville. However, thanks to Kayla’s mother, who took her out to the farm as often as possible, Lana and Kayla spent most of their childhood playing together and forming the strong bonds that would unite them again in Asgard.

As Kayla’s interests changed from playing pioneer explorers in the woodlands surrounding the farm, to reading everything she could in the school and county libraries, to resurrecting old cars liberated from their decades’ old rest in neighbouring barns, Lana was always there, learning from (or more often latterly, enduring) her friend’s offbeat interests, hobbies, and occasional wild escapades.

Finally, her home-life disintegrating and feeling that she would never achieve her dreams of fame and fortune if she didn’t escape Cole County, Lana semi-reluctantly left Kayla behind to pursue her dreams in Asgard.

Once Kayla arrives in Asgard, she quickly realizes Lana is no longer the carefree girl she remembers and, perhaps, idealized. Lana has joined the Valkyries because being in the proximity of money, power, and fame – epitomized in her mind by Jade and Zoe – is the next best thing to having them herself. But being impulsive, headstrong and determined to leave her impoverished upbringing behind forever, Lana has made some unwise choices, the consequences of which will strain the friends’ loyalty to each other and to the other Asgard Valkyries.

Only time – and Kayla’s fateful choices – will reveal whether the two can repair their friendship or doom it and the future of the team forever.

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Volleyball Heaven – Introducing Zoe

As usual, in the next few blog posts, I’ll introduce the characters of my newly announced game “Volleyball Heaven” with the help of the game writer 🙂

We start with one of the most controversial/unique character of this game (well, she’s in good company though!). The only thing I’ll add is that fans of the Chambara’s romance CGs from Loren can find a new mistress in Zoe 😉

Also, in the introduction images I will show the character in the volleyball uniform and casual outfit. However there are several more outfits and, ahem, underwears that you can see in game… if you really must see the girls dressed. Otherwise, we got you covered! 😉

Zoe Markson, 22

According to Lana, if Zoe ever wrote a self-help book it should be called ‘How to Lose Friends and Alienate People’.

After her parents die in a light aircraft accident when she was ten, Zoe was formally adopted by Jade’s parents – her paternal uncle and aunt, who perhaps hoped her assertiveness and self-confidence would rub off on her far more reserved cousin.

Never shy of being herself and precociously self-aware, at the age of 14 Zoe announced she was a lesbian. When she was 16, she founded and front-lined Asgard’s first (and as yet only) lesbian death metal band, Apocalypse Sunrise, whose legend lives on even today.

Unmoved by the oft-expressed opinions of her dismayed foster parents but lacking the disposition to acquiesce to the overwhelmingly macho culture of the music industry, she wound up the successful band just shy of her 18th birthday and embarked on the one true cause of her young life – encouraging women to free themselves from patriarchal tyranny.

Using some of her inheritance as a scion of the wealthy and politically powerful Markson family, she founded Diana Gyms, a chain of women-only gyms, concentrating on self-defence and assertiveness training, in part marketing, – perhaps unwisely – to female immigrants and their daughters from cultures even more conservative than the southern United States.

When Kayla arrives, Zoe is entering the final year of her business and sports science studies at Asgard College. Zoe’s boundless energy, abrasive attitude, and extreme competitiveness have given the Asgard Valkyries a notoriety out of proportion to their league performances so far.

Being the final season in which she can play on the squad – and there are quite a few supporters and players who can hardly wait to see the back of her – she is determined that this is the year the team ascends to its full glory and senses in Kayla potential for realizing this goal.

Summer Sale has started!

Last but not least, I’ve started a Summer sale on my own site, which will last a week (so until next Friday, the 28th July). No need to enter any coupon, the discount will be automatic on checkout.

For games released in past years (before 2016), the discount is 66% off, while for games released last year, the discount is still a very generous 50% off!

Browse the catalogue of games and make your choice!

Posted in dating sims, volleyball heaven | 7 Comments

Announcing “Volleyball Heaven”

Hey, what time is it? TIME FOR A NEW GAME!!! Yes, and following what I said earlier this year, I would announce a game only when it’s quite advanced. What does it mean? Well at the time of writing this post, the main story is all finished and it’s being reviewed/polished.

As for the art, the main cast and several CGs are finished, but we’re planning to add several more CGs (including some VERY spicy ones…).

So the missing stuff is more CG art and scripting the whole thing. I believe it could be out before the end of year, of course depends also on the other games (if Love Bites comes out first, I’ll need to take a break of some weeks to test it).

This is a yuri-only game. This will make many people happy and other unhappy. However, I think I really owed the yuri fans something, considering all the delay of the <cursed game> and the “missing yuri routes” of Amber.

The training screen, where you decide what skill each character should try to improve

This is also a dating sim, with an emphasis on “sim”. Because as you could guess from the game name, you are going to manage a team of beach volley! And this includes training, and playing matches.

Playing a game week, each day several events can happen (skills increase and other stuff)

Regarding the matches: first of all, you will be able to skip them with instant result. So those who only want to play the game for the story won’t need to play them.

If you decide to play a match, you’ll need to pick the two players (in beach volley you play 2 vs 2):

Then, the match will play. For now in my current build, the match is non interactive and the outcome of each single action is based on the skills/stats:

It even features small animations for each action type (Dig, Smash, Serve, etc). I might introduce some more interactivity to the match later, like maybe some strategy that could modify the overall stats with bonus/malus system, for example “Play Aggressively”, will give a bonus to Strength and Determination, but will lower Teamwork and Technique and so on, so players could influence the match itself not just based on the players’ stats 🙂

Then, there will be the story, with choices, and the love interest (you can see them above but I’ll make a proper introduction for each one of them in the next blog posts). The story and writing is definitely MUCH MORE MATURE than anything else I’ve done before. It’s risky but personally I think will be worth it. You’ll be able to play the game “censored”, even if some hot scenes are key part of the story/characters. So… be warned 😉

And now I leave the word to the writer’s official game announcement!

Announcing: Volleyball Heaven

When 19-year-old Kayla Perrin leaves her eventful small-town past in rust-belt America to take up an athletic scholarship at upstart Asgard College on the Gulf Coast, she thinks she has reached heaven on earth. Imagining only a chance to start afresh after a troubled adolescence, and reuniting with her childhood best friend, Lana, little does she know what lies in store for her as she makes new friends and faces unexpected adversaries.

Abruptly drafted to captain the College’s nascent Asgard Valkyries volleyball team, which has experienced its own troubled development, Kayla soon finds herself striving to balance academic life with managing the squad and her social life.

As she tries to build a cohesive team with aloof heiress Jade, aggressive, hyper-competitive Zoe, controversial, secretive Rika, and unpredictable, newly estranged Lana, under the supervision of their driven coach, Emily, Kayla finds herself re-examining her past even as she strives to figure out her friends and her future. As for the present, Kayla must ensure that the team attracts publicity and sponsorship without becoming the object of salacious rumor and gossip.

Volleyball Heaven is a unique visual novel focusing on female friendship and love amid the complex social currents of contemporary America. Coming soon from Winter Wolves.

Hopefully, this time it’s soon and not “soon ™”* 😀

* it’s a joke often made in my forums, so that “soon” would in reality mean “it will be out ONE DAY” haha
Posted in general | 24 Comments

Amber’s Magic Shop postmortem

The light/dark system was one of the most appreciated innovations of Amber’s VN part

First of all, the usual Steam Summer Sale has started and my games are on sale with discounts from 30% to 50%. You can check them out here.

What I learned from making Amber’s Magic Shop

About two months have passed since Amber’s Magic Shop was officially out. The game performed well, as expected, however I want to talk about a specific topic in this post-mortem: the gameplay.

Reading reviews on Steam it’s always enlightening. Apart the usual joke reviews like “Sadly, no.” and a thumb down (ROFL that one was epic) in general you get a good idea why people liked your game or not.

Now in this case, reviews can basically be divided in two: those who played the game mainly for the story, and those who approached the game more for the crafting/sim gameplay. The first group has mostly positive reviews, the second mostly negative 😀

First of all, I think it was obvious that I wasn’t so arrogant to think to be able to make a game as good as the Atelier series! Fun fact: I started this game, back in 2011, because I noticed that on PC it was missing a crafting/dating sim game like one those.  Then, had the usual issues with writers and the game got GREATLY delayed. By Murphy’s law, exactly 2-3 months before Amber was ready, finally the Atelier series appeared on Steam! Perfect timing as always, right? 😉

But apart this “bad luck”, my goal was to make a more casual/accessible crafting sim. I was the first to admit that I wasn’t satisfied with the gameplay, and that in future games I will think carefully before adding gameplay.

Of course, don’t get me wrong, there are people who played/liked it. Just last week an user in forums reached level 30… so clearly played the crafting sim a lot! 🙂

Sometimes, less is better

Sometimes even just a map, and story that changes based on the order in which you do things, it’s enough to make a game fun (from Bionic Heart)

I came to this consideration: sometimes, doing less is not necessarily worse, more like the opposite. In future games, either I’ll be very confident about the gameplay I’m going to add to the game or … I wouldn’t even add it! It’s better to have a “plain dating sim” (it’s not a bad thing, really) than spend 3-4 months extra on something that: people who are playing the game only for the story won’t even touch, people who were interested in the gameplay mostly won’t appreciate/like because it’s not “good enough”.

At that point would be better to save my time, and release the game faster and maybe if possible at cheaper price, no? since after all I didn’t have to spend all the time/money to design/code/build a gameplay part.

I still want to have gameplay though

At the times of making it, Spirited Heart gameplay was very complex for a Ren’Py game. Luckily now it’s much easier to do sim games!

When I first started, I always wanted to have a story mixed with gameplay whenever possible. Sometimes the result was good, other times less. But while I want to offer a “VN Mode” for all future games, one of my goals will still be to try to provide some interesting gameplay as well.

Another conclusion I came to recently (not related to Amber but in general), is that unless the writer knows very well the gaming world (and luckily a few of my writers are also players), giving them too much freedom doesn’t always work well. It’s better if I write my own games and then ask an editor to do some heavy editing to turn my mediocre English into a decent prose 😉

I believe that this way the end result will be better, with the story more integrated into gameplay (because I can code while I write the story). Also, since I would be writing my own games, once the story is done the only delay would be due to the editing, but luckily that’s a quicker process (the editor doesn’t need to come up with the story, the characters or think how to write a sentence so that makes sense in the gameplay context etc etc).

This is something I want to try too, but of course once I have finished all the current games in progress, and are really many: including the unannounced ones, I have 14 games in progress! Time to trim that number down I think 🙂

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

Choose Your Own Portrait

First of all, public service announcement: Amber’s Magic Shop is out on Steam! If you bought it directly, you can as always redeem the free Steam keys from this site: http://www.bestanimegames.com/steam/

About this blog: I know I said I would announce a new yuri only dating sim today, but I decided to wait a bit more. The game is going well but I realized that even if I had all the assets (writing, art, music) ready TODAY (and that’s not the case), it would still take me at least 2 months to have the first beta version. For this reason, I decided to wait a bit more, even if the writing it’s at very good point. Also because while I’m not a superstitious person, announcing the games early didn’t really work well in the past, didn’t it? 😀

Cursed Lands character creation

This is what I’m working right now. I’ve finished the intro part of the game, where you’re recruited by the Human Empire, just before the big “open world” part which will be hard to code but also fun. For sure was fun to code the character creation so far!

The eternal 2D dilemma

Originally, this game was supposed to not have the protagonist displayed, seen in first person view. This because in a 2D game, you can’t have both character customization and romance CG scenes! Just imagine how many variants of each CG the artist should draw if the protagonist was displayed. So far I didn’t do this in all my games, but this was limiting the choice a lot. In Loren, SOTW, Queen Of Thieves you started with predefined characters. You could change their stats/skills but not their appearances. In Queen Of Thieves you could at least change their outfits (and it was a very popular option!).

A randomized head using the new character creation system. I think I was lucky!

In Cursed Lands, I decided to at least have the portrait of your protagonist shown, as you can see in the screenshot above 🙂 It will be displayed in the battles and inventory/character screen of course, not in the game scenes which will still be seen in first person (including the romance CGs).

Combo master!

However just creating your character, even if will be displayed only in those parts of the game, it’s already a lot of fun! I originally calculated 1080 different combinations but then I let myself go a bit when creating the color variations for hair/eyes, so now the unique combinations is over 10.000 😀 Of course, several hair/eye colors are quite similar, but I’m already proud of what I’ve managed to do, since it also includes the possibility to create characters with darker skin 🙂

Once I have everything working I’ll make a public alpha so people can play with it and reach the end of the intro of the game. Still a long way to go (need to code a LOT of things !) but I’d say that I’m on the right track for this game so far: the character portrait system is very nice, and the in-game character creation (including a sort of personality test after the intro scenes) it’s interesting as well! 🙂

After the initial character creation, a familiar face will ask us a few questions to determine better our personality…

I also spoke with the writer and we’re considering making both Nuala and Vaeril romanceable by both genders to make more options available to the players (as said the romance CG would stay the same but would only change the texts).

Posted in Cursed lands, development screenshot, roleplay games | 24 Comments