Corona Borealis: June

Let’s start the characters introductions for Corona Borealis! For each one I’ll show two outfits and an “older” version (in the game there are epilogues happening several years later).

But first I realized that in my previous post, I didn’t even write what this game is about! Oops. So here we go, directly from the writer:

“June Pinegar is forced to spend the summer working at her father’s quaint country café, far away from her urban home in New York City. Will romance spark with the dutiful barista or friendship form with the bubbly cashier? Or perhaps she’ll mend the strained relationship between her and her quirky father. One thing is certain: with each passing day, June is finding herself more and more charmed by the intoxicating mystique of the Southern town and its residents.

Corona Borealis is a heartwarming story that shows the lasting effects our lives are capable of having on others, as well as their effects on us. Rather than just providing the player with romance options, it aims to explore the depths of non-romantic relationships, too.”

And now the introduction of June herself:

“June is Basil’s daughter and the reluctant new employee at his café. At first, she prefers to keep her distance from the others, but she matures and opens up as the game progresses. Player’s choices will determine how hardworking or friendly she’ll be, which will in turn affect how other characters perceive and interact with her. However, she remains a sassypants throughout the game regardless of player decisions.” 

That’s all for now. Next time we’ll introduce a new character of the game!

Cursed Lands and Love Bites update

Everything is going well with those two games: for Cursed Lands, I’m at good point with act 3 (the last one), so much that I think I could do the final update with all the content next month. It’s still a beta and still a complex RPG so probably the final game will be out 2-3 months after the beta is out. I think June/July could be a good potential release date.

For Love Bites, same, I should have all the writing finished by end of this month, so depending how long it takes to get scripted, the beta might be out next month as well 🙂

Posted in corona borealis, dating sims, general | 2 Comments

Announcing Corona Borealis

First of all, a short PSA: Cursed Lands new beta is live. It contains the full act2, a lot of content ! For more info see my forums: http://www.winterwolves.net/viewtopic.php?f=45&t=4083

And now let’s talk about today’s announcement. Or better, re-announcement, since it’s a game originally ideated by Jill Harris, who gave voice to Myrth in Loren and helped me write Never Forget Me. A while ago she approached me asking my help to finish the game, so I accepted.

I accepted also because beside the cute story, Deji was doing the art for the game and she said she would gladly finish what she started time ago. It’s a “smaller game” compared to my crazy standards and to be honest will be a good distraction while I finish some huge games like Cursed Lands (which now broke the 275,000 words barrier already!).

Of course since the story was already largely written, I didn’t want to change anything. This means you won’t see any of the things I promised I’d do in future games (optional adult content, male/female protagonist, etc). I only wanted to clarify before someone complains 😉

The game reminds me closely the Fairbrook series, romance and friendship above everything. You play as June, and there are two otome routes, one yuri, and… not sure how to call it, maybe “father friendship route”? A path in which you make peace with your father, with which you have a shaky relationship.

In the next blog posts I’ll introduce (as usual) the various characters of the game. There isn’t a fixed release date yet, however the writing is basically all done (maybe some more events for the scheduler but nothing big) and the art is at good point too. This is one of the various “surprise projects” I mentioned in a previous blog post, stuff that was going on behind the scenes since long time (I was involved in this project starting from Summer 2016 but the game was in development since longer).

I’m sure some people will rejoice seeing a more cute/friendship-focused game, but for the others who like more sexy stuff, don’t worry, all the other games in production have that option!

Posted in corona borealis, dating sims, general | 9 Comments

The ‘vocal minority’, feature creep and keeping yourself sane

One of the many custom screens I added to Cursed Lands. Feature creep? yup

I always wanted to write a blog post about the topics in the title, so here I am. First let’s start with a premise: what makes a successful game? of course gameplay, art, music, etc. But if we want to analyze a game’s success there’s a simple formula: a popular/successful game is a game that matches tastes of as much people as possible.

I think the above statement is inconfutable: the more people like game X, the more copies will sell and more successful will be. Then of course if the company doing it spent too much time, or money, it could still be a financial failure for them, but it still would be a popular game.

OK now that this is clear, what is the so called ‘vocal minority’ and how can impact the development of a game? Nowadays is very common to have an open development, with alpha/beta demos, early access, etc. Almost everyone is doing it now, but the same principle works even if you’re doing a closed beta with only 20-30 testers.

Now let’s say that the 10% of your fans/betatesters want desperately feature A. They’ll start posting in forums, sending you emails, and so on. It’s like if they’re fans of a soccer team. “Really, you should implement feature A because the game will be SOOO much better!”. In some cases, they even know it will be easy, even if maybe they have no programming skills whatsoever “I could program it myself in an afternoon”. And so on, even with veiled threats “If you don’t implement feature A I’ll ask for a refund!” or “your game won’t sell a copy!” etc 🙂

If you’re a developer, I’m sure you’ll be familiar with all this, and if you’re a player or an user, trust me, this really happens (but probably you saw such posts too).

Note that I’m using a fun tone while writing this, but for the person on the other side, the developer, the situation is often dramatic: maybe they invested a lot of money, mortgaged their home, or simply spent already so many hours on their game. But for the player of course this doesn’t matter (it shouldn’t, since they’re judging the game and not how much the developer worked on it or how much money they spent).

Anyway, what happens now? The developer can either follow the suggestion, think about it, or refuse to implement the new feature. As you can imagine the last option will result in an uproar in forums and some insults to the developer. But even if developer agrees to do it, is in all cases a good choice? No, it depends.

Back to the starting point: if the feature A that the 10% of people want is something that once implemented even the remaining 90% will like (the so called “silent majority”) then, all good! But what if the new change is disliked or even worse, hated by the other 90% or part of it?

That’s the big issue that developers have to face on a daily basis. In some cases the suggested changes are obviously a good idea. In others, devs have no clue themselves: is making the RPG more complex a good thing or not? Is using randomized items a nice feature? better turn based or real-time? etc etc.

There is no clear answer in some cases. It’s a bit random, really. Unless your game is selling so well that you can afford to do changes on a new beta, gather new feedback and just in case revert to previous version, then it’s a minefield. You could implement the feature and risk losing players, or you could gain more fans. But in most cases developers aren’t sure themselves about what is going to happen, while one thing is sure: adding the new feature will cost time and money.

The devs are the only ones to know well how much time and money they’ve already spent, how much money and physical/mental energies have left. And they must not fall into the famous “feature creep” for which they keep adding feature after feature, thinking to make the game better, when maybe that’s not always the case. Or simply, it’s not worth all the extra time/money spent to add the features.

In summary, I’m not writing this blog to say that players’ suggestions are bad. I have added a lot of nice features in my RPGs exactly thanks to players’ feedback. What I’m saying is that as developer you need to learn when to say ‘no’. When you have no more money to spend. When you have no more time or energies (because adding a feature when you’re burned out it’s not a good idea, trust me). When to say “OK, I know I could probably keep working on this game for years, but I must release it now.”

And as player, you need to understand that (in most cases at least) when a developer tells you “sorry but can’t do this”, it’s not because he’s a bastard, he’s lazy, or he necessarily disagrees with your idea: it’s very likely for the reasons stated above.

I’ll end with an analogy because many players find odd that someone would want to stop working on a game, adding new features they suggest because it will likely make the game better. To make a comparison with a game developer, imagine if one day the boss at your daily job calls you and tells you that you should stay in office doing overtime every day for the next month. At the end of that month, and only at the end, you might get paid for the overtime, or not. You don’t know before, but the boss still asks you to do it, insisting saying that “yes, maybe I’ll pay you more”. What would you do?

Now maybe you understand why, sometimes, us developer don’t add all the new features you request, especially if they require a lot of time/money to implement them 🙂

Posted in development tricks, game design, general, indie life | 2 Comments

My 2018 Goals

Political intrigue! Hot milfs! Cursed Lands has it all!

First of all, Happy New Year! Let’s see what I hope to achieve this year.

Considering how went in the past years, this time I’ll try to be more realistic. Of course two games already in progress (Love Bites and Cursed Lands) should really be finished this year, plus some more possibilities:

Cursed Lands – I don’t know exactly when it will be out, because with RPGs is really hard to set a good estimate release. Let’s say I get all the writing by June (just a worse-case scenario). The game should be finished by Fall of this year, even considering long time to do balancing, etc. Of course as soon as I finish the second act/full moon, I’ll update the current beta version.

Love Bites – Even in this case I can’t say exactly when it will be out, but since it’s not a RPG, once I have all the writing should be a matter of weeks. I want to be a bit more optimistic and say Spring in this case.

Volleyball Heaven – like above, in this case while the writing is basically done, there’s still a lot of art to draw, and do the scripting of the whole story. So it depends on those two things mainly, plus some extra coding required. I think that Summer could be a good estimate.

Anyway just looking at the last title above, I hope you understand why I’m done announcing games: even if VBH writing was 99% finished when I announced it, it was last Summer! And the estimate release is this Summer. One year. For an almost finished game. And it’s honestly nobody’s fault, everyone involved worked hard on it, just a series of bad luck happened.

That’s why I won’t talk about the current games in progress and it was a mistake doing it in the past.

I can also say that I have a few ideas for some SHORT GAMES ™ that I could write myself with an editor’s help. Of course for my standards “short game” will probably mean at least 70-80k words lol

And then there’s Planet Stronghold 2, I didn’t include it in this year of possible releases only because I honestly don’t think I’ll manage to finish it. After all I am already doing another RPG this year, and after I finish it I’ll probably need a few months to recover. So an early next year release it’s a more likely outcome for PS2. But you never know what’s going to happen 🙂

That’s all, and Happy New Year again!

Posted in Cursed lands, dating sims, general, indie life, love bites, planet stronghold 2, roleplay games, volleyball heaven | 13 Comments

2017 and you never stop learning from your mistakes

I’m writing the naga storylines now and yes, I’m having fun!

I decided to break my “a new post every 2 weeks” rule today, and will also do another the 5th of January to make the usual two posts where I review the year and I write my goals for upcoming year. It’s a tradition and I don’t want to stop doing it 🙂

Let’s start from what I posted earlier this year, my goals for 2017.

What went bad

Well, I did release Amber’s Magic Shop. I didn’t finish Love Bites, but at least it’s half done. And even if it’s not finished, Cursed Lands it’s at good point and I’ve personally invested at least six months of time on it (only the character creation phase with the custom portrait generator took me over a month to code). So even if I haven’t anything else finished doesn’t mean that it was a unproductive year, not at all!

Regarding my only release, Amber’s Magic Shop. The game didn’t do bad, and to be honest in current climate where you’re lucky to break even, it did much better than the average, but still… I have the feeling of a missing opportunity, that it could have been something much bigger.

I know the game got several complaints about the writing (especially on Steam) but I don’t want to talk about the writing quality itself but my own mistakes. First of all, doing a new game genre like a crafing/sim game, and having the story written BEFORE the gameplay. That was a totally stupid move and I am banging my head on the wall every time I think about it. Second and related to this, if I do a dating sim or a visual novel, there’s no problem in using external writers, but if I do a game where the gameplay is so interwoven with the story, I HAVE to write at least the storyboard myself. Otherwise, as many people pointed out, the story feels too detached from the gameplay.

Still, as I said it could have been much worse. Many people loved it, maybe I’m being nit-picking, not sure 🙂

What went well

Planet Stronghold: Colonial Defense manga version. I was unsure if to do it or not (investing a non trivial sum of money to redo almost all the art of an already released game was risky) but the reception was amazing, and the sales increased by 300% (so now are in line with my other games more or less). I’ve said it many times: you won’t ever see me do a game with non-manga art again! 😀 I also felt relieved because I thought both the gameplay and writing of that game were good, and the results of the manga version just confirmed that the main/only issue was the art style.

Roommates extra nudity/sexy patch. This time was a smart move since the costs were much smaller (the original CGs were just edited and not redone from scratch, so much less work involved) and people obviously liked the possibility to (re)play the game with optional sexy content. I might try it again with other games but depends how quickly/cheaply it can be done.

Cursed Lands. As very often happens, some projects remains are there, unnoticed, slowly making progress in silence, I even forget about them, until one day I check all the writing already done and I’m like “DOH! this game could be finished relatively soon!” and then I start working on it full-speed (also because I don’t like to stay idle as you guessed). The game is in beta and so far people seems to love it, even if of course it’s still early days. I know for sure that we put a lot of effort in it 🙂

Volleyball Heaven. Yes the game is not even in beta yet, and there’s still all the CGs to do, but I was particularly happy how the new writer finished all the story in basically 3-4 months! It’s also a very different game from my usual ones, so I’m curious to see how people will react to it. An experiment, but personally I like it. Hopefully you’ll like it too.

In Summary

Things didn’t go as planned, and I’ve learned a lot of things which should prevent me from doing the same mistakes in the next years. The main thing will be to get back writing one game a year myself with help of an editor.

This will also help me reduce considerably the amount of games I’m working on at once, because I noticed in the last months that I’m being too much stressed and health comes first.

It’s also “fun” for me to see how there’s a sort of pattern for my work which repeats almost every two years, alternating a good/lucky/productive year with a bad/unlucky/unproductive one:

2012 Loren+DLC, good
2013 Nicole, bad (not for the game, but because I just released one simple dating sim and it’s not much in a whole year)
2014 Roommates and SOTW, good (probably my best year ever since both games did great)
2015 No games, very bad!
2016 Five games!, very good
2017 One game, bad

The good news is: based on that “magic pattern”, 2018 should be a good year!! Let’s hope it is. Happy New Year to everyone!

Posted in Cursed lands, dating sims, general, indie life, love bites, roleplay games, roommates, volleyball heaven | 8 Comments