Corona Borealis is out!

Corona Borealis official trailer

The game official webpage is: https://www.winterwolves.com/coronaborealis.htm

I’m happy to announce that Corona Borealis is out. I can take off an item from my “2019 goals list” then! I said it would have been out first quarter and there was only a little delay.

As usual, for now the game is available on my site (through itch.io) only, but will appear also on Steam and mobile stores. I’m already working on those versions, though not sure how long will take yet.

I already wrote my feelings about the game when I annouced the beta, here I want only to add that it was really a nostalgic game for me, since it reminded me of my very early steps into visual novels / dating sims, both because of the art-style of the always wonderful Deji but also the kind of setting and story.

By the way if you’re stuck with the game, Jill (the writer) made a very useful walkthrough in my forums: https://winterwolves.net/viewtopic.php?f=49&t=4181

Planet Stronghold 2 beta

note to self: never make Shiler angry!

The beta will surely take place before end of May, as usual I’ll announce it on the social networks first. I have spent the last week adding more “camp talk scenes”. I’m going to follow the same system of Loren, that is many scenes but not necessarily all very long. Sometimes there’ll be a choice, other times not.

I am overall around 150,000 words considering all the main plot story and camp talk that you can unlock until the end of chapter 2. The game will have four chapters, though probably the last one will be shorter than the others (have still to plan it so I’m not sure really).

Compared to my latest/previous RPG, this one is much more RPG, meaning it has more complex gameplay. Just the fact that it combines crafting + isometric map exploration makes already the most complex game I made, but even the battles are, and the thing I was most pleased with was that you can win the same battle in different ways, using different “builds” or strategies.

Of course I’m curious to see what players will think too, that’s why I am eager to have it officially on beta, since you always find a lot of bugs but also solutions and/or different ways to solve problems only after the game is out and many people are actually playing it 🙂

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Fifteen years indie

Indie since 1896! 😛

Happy Birthday to me! Well it actually was earlier this month, the day before the previous blog post. But here I’m celebrating my 15th birthday as indie! I already wrote about my journey in my previous post of five years ago, so if you want to know more about it read here: https://www.winterwolves.net/blog/2014/04/my-first-40-years-10-as-indie/

The present

Now, five years have passed since that post, and things changed, changed a lot. In practice, everything has become insanely harder. I had to start a Patreon, because things are so tough recently that I felt I needed some help to finish the next games. Once again your response was really overwhelming for me, and I want to thank you all for your support!

Why things got harder? there are many factors but in the last weeks I thought about it a lot, and basically it’s due to a single main factor: “the gatekeepers”.

Back in 2004 when I started, you could sell directly from your site. I even knew people making six figures a year directly. And consider that amount using vendors which takes around 8-10%, not modern portals which take 30-35%…! But wasn’t only in 2004, I was still selling fine direct even when I wrote my previous blog post back in 2014, so 5 years ago.

In recent years instead, we had two different big changes:

  • the advent of mobile devices
  • Steam accepting all games and becoming “de facto” the most common way to discover/buy/play new games

In the first case, a new market opened, so thanks to Ren’Py I decided to try, and even if the money is really low compared to desktop, at least with Ren’Py doing the mobile ports is easy (except iOS, because of course everything Apple-related must be a pain in the ass, forcing me to hire an external coder!).

But in any case, even if probably some people who before were playing my games on desktop, now play them on mobile, for sure there are also new people/players who were introduced to my games (except for RPGs, I don’t know how you can play one of my RPGs on the tiny tablets! seems impossible) thanks to mobile devices. So that probably balanced things out in the end.

The ‘Steam tax’

But Steam? That is a different matter. Now, I am not “anti-Steam”. I am neutral, and I welcome the new Epic store because a monopoly is never a good thing (I can say it being neutral since there are 0% chances any of my games ever being accepted on Epic store lol).

As a matter of fact though, when before you could make a game, and say “I have 1000 true fans who will buy my next game. This new RPG costs $24.99, I’ll make around $25k and after vendor costs will be around $22-23.000.” now this reasoning is no longer valid. First of all the competition is crazy. Second, the discovery is a big problem on Steam right now due to non-working algorithm (I keep getting flight simulator games shown to me, even if I never bought one in my life!). But even if we consider that the same amount of people (the true fans) will buy my RPG, the problem is the fee: of those $25k in sales, less than $17k will end in my pocket after Steam’s cut. Such a difference for small indies like me is a lot, means less money to invest in the next game, more worries, etc.

Many of you still buy direct from me, and once again I thank you (I get almost 30% more each sale!) but the vast majority will obviously buy on Steam. I am not blaming users, since it’s not really their fault.

It’s what I call “the Steam tax” – basically when in 2014 Steam started Greenlight, IF your game got accepted on the store, you would get GOOD exposure. Really, really good, millions of views. Totally worth the 30% commission they asked in exchange of such visibility. Now? It’s almost like selling more or less to the same amount of people that before were buying on your own site, but of course you earn 30% less than before. Not a good thing as you can imagine!

The future

I won’t be lying and for the first time since I’m indie, I am not sure if I’ll still be here five years from now to write a new blog post. I mean, I probably will because even if this ended up becoming an hobby for me, I would still find the time to do it.

Things in life change, and nobody can really know what will happen in future, but the situation right now is rather tough. And it’s not just me, the mr nobody indie! I know of friends who made MILLIONS (literally millions) back in 2010-2014 on Steam that right now are not earning enough to make a decent salary (indeed many quit full time indie and took a daily job instead).

Haha this post turned out rather sad, didn’t it? It wasn’t my plan I swear, but if I had to write about the current situation, this is it. I hope nobody thinks I’m giving up or anything: I’m doing my best with my skills and resources. But I’m also living day by day, without much expectation about what will happen.

Hopefully we’ll see again in five years and I’ll still be a full time indie!

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Corona Borealis beta begins

the lovely main menu of Corona Borealis with the full cast

The game beta is finally ready! You can find it here: https://winter-wolves.itch.io/corona-borealis

No demo reasons

In case you’re wondering, I’m not going to have a demo for this game for a simple reason: during the scheduling part, you can talk with the person you’re working with. There’s a series of questions you can ask, and even if some questions are restricted to certain conditions of the game, you can actually play and discover most of them in the first part of the story (before the 4th of July event).

Also, this game is small, much smaller compared to my usual games: as you can see the price also reflects this, since it’s the chepest game I released in the last 9-10 years! Of course, you can replay it and unlock two different endings for each character, so the game length should also consider replaying the story, but still a demo wouldn’t have worked even in this case.

In summary the way the game is structured, prevents me from making a demo, a bit like what happened many years ago with one of my first dating sim games ever: Summer Session.

The game

That said, the game has 12 beautiful CGs, so actually the same amount or more than many other games I’ve made, so if you’re there for the art, you won’t be disappointed! The artist (Deji) really did a great job there.

The writing is really funny and lovely at the same time too. I’d say it’s a sort of spiritual successor of my early otome games, the Flower Shop series (even if the writer is different of course, it reminded me of those games).

If you’re looking for a simple, funny but at times also dramatic (because there are really some… unexpected events!) story, I’d say you can’t go wrong. Personally I’m really happy that Jill asked me to help her finishing this game because now that I see the final result my initial thoughts are confirmed: it really was worth doing it. Have fun!

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Miele

Miele 2001-2019

Not even a month after my beloved Nina passed away, and I’m here writing about another cat, Miele, who died due to renal failure. Unfortunately having so many old cats, it’s not something entirely unexpected.

In this case at least he lived a long life for a cat, he is the pet of mine that lived most, 18 years! Though we’re not sure about the exact birth date, since we rescued him in 2002 and he was already no longer a kitty.

He was a shy, a bit crazy cat – he would never stand still inside our house. Always exploring the surroundings, but finding time to go back and show his affection, especially in the evening when I was watching the TV.

It’s sad for me for two reasons: the first one obviously that I lost him. The second because he was the first pet my wife and I adopted together, and that’s also when I really fell in love with her beautiful soul.

Goodbye Miele, it has been a good and long ride!

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Planet Stronghold 2 Cast: Avae

Avae, another mysterious alien living in a cave

Avae

The last character introduction for Planet Stronghold 2 is Avae!  I was unsure whether to talk about him or not since he is a bit of a spoiler, and was supposed to be a secret romance! But I figured out that once the game was out, the news would spread out anyways, so…!

Nelson finds Avae in a cave, hiding from something or someone (I can’t go into more details, sorry) and asks for Nelson’s help.  While Avae isn’t a proper spy, he is very skilled in the art of camouflage and information gathering. When they first met, Nelson is unsure whether they can rely on Avae, but as time goes by, Nelson will learn to trust him and thanks to his knowledge they will learn a lot of new, interesting things. He will provide a lot of background information about the planet’s races and some unexpected mysteries that will change Nelson’s opinion on several things.

He can be romanced playing as Lisa.

Status update

one of the new game backgrounds

I’m at very good point on Planet Stronghold 2: with all my RPGs, the hardest and longest part is to build up the “foundations”. That is, code all the different gameplay changes vs previous RPGs, define the skills, the items, and all the sort of tweaks I need to do for the battles, inventory management, resources and in this specific game also crafting, salvaging, etc.

Coding them is the first step – then there’s also all the testing involved and believe me some bugs can pop-out even months after you coded the feature.

Anyway, I’m now at a good point where I mostly need to write the missions, main plot and camp talk scenes. I’d say about 70-80% of the gameplay part is done, so now I only need to decide which aliens are in which scene, which skills will use to do the skill check, and so on. So basically no new coding (or very small) but mostly writing and making sure everything makes sense from the story point of view.

Unfortunately this is also the most complex game I’ve ever made from this point ! Yes because for each scene I need to consider a lot of conditions/variables:
– was the player a loyalist of the Empire, or Rebel?
– was in a previous romance with that character?
– what is player’s alignment? (you can be Forceful or Friendly)
– what was the outcome of past missions? I play dialogues differently if you were successful or not

And that’s just one part of the things I need to check! Since in this game you can fail the quests (except some key plot scenes, you can fail many quests without a game over) the NPC will react differently. For example I just wrote a scene in which your team gathers around you, and then different things happens: if you failed all the missions, Tom will scold you (maybe even punch you lol). If you were successful in all, Tom will praise you and shake your hand (but if you’re in a romance with him, extra lines will play).

As you can see, I’m writing this game myself using an editor also because such level of complexity was really too hard for an external writer to consider (this is more close to ‘coding’ than simply ‘writing a story’!).

Hopefully all the time spent on this will show up in the final game 🙂 I hope to have a playable beta of the first two chapter fully edited by end of April!

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