Monthly Archives: March 2010

Realism or not

This is a question that has been spinning in my head since I started writing Vera Blanc’s game.

You might say that the answer is obvious since is a detective game: it MUST be realistic. However, you also know that is a mystery / detective game, with a solid mythology background which picks the most common myths from occultism, paganism, and so on. In other words, werewolves, zombies and vampires won’t be unusual guests! 🙂

So, you could say that the answer is “unrealistic” then. Well, I don’t claim the game will be impeccable but I’m trying to, with the help of many researches, friends and Amy who’s proofreading the game. The goal is to have the game be as realistic as possible, and not use the paranormal as an excuse to change completely the clues from a chapter to the next one. I don’t want the player to think that the assassin might be XYZ, and then find out that was ABC because XYZ was a ghost so all the clues about him were wrong!

You might ask: So how would you describe the game?

The game will provide you solid clues, but also many red-herrings. The clues, even if will regard the supernatural world, will be consistent. For example, if you took a blood sample, and you suspect it’s werewolf blood, you could use a certain metal who is well-known to be the werewolf-bane and see if there’s any unusual reaction (I’m talking about silver, for those who don’t know!). This is just an example how I tried to merge the normal investigation practices with the paranormal.

This is my first attempt in writing a mystery game and trust me, is ten times as difficult as writing just a regular story. I *think* I made a decent job but ultimately will be the pubilc to judge for it!

About the game, I am now writing the final chapters, and it will be finished at end of the month: however will need to be proofreaded completely, and since there are 25.000 words in the game (despite not being a VN) will take some time. I hope to have it finished by mid-April!

Heileen 2 voiced

Yep, finally the voiced version of the game is out, after almost 3 months of delay 🙂 you can find more info and download the voiced demo at the official page

Everyone that bought the game before can simply log-in to my server (not BMT one) and redownload it. The link is on the purchase email 😉

Now going to explain a bit my choices when doing the voiced version. As you might know (at least those who reads my twitter or blog) there were LOTs of troubles when voicing the main character, Heileen herself. In the end, I decided to leave her unvoiced. Several factors influenced my choice:

  • after trying 2 voice actress that both gave up on the project (mostly because of the length) I started to think if I would ever find one that would finish the job
  • even if I found one, the game wouldn’t have been finished before next summer (or even later)
  • leaving the game unvoiced was like leaving a “unfinished” game on sale, and I didn’t like that!
  • there are many mainstream games (Dragon Age, Mass Effects and probably some less known japanese VNs) who leave voluntarily the main character unvoiced

So even if my initial idea was to have the game fully voiced as Bionic Heart, I decided to go this way. I think you’ll agree with me that the actors involved did a great voice acting job, so I want to thank them all, in sparse order:

  • Ayu Sakata – Ebele, Marie
  • Steven Mane – Elias, Marco, Adam
  • Lucien Dodge – Black, Morgan, Otto
  • Morgan Barnhart – Lora, Juliet and Heileen kid (which unfortunately had to cut, since the main character won’t be voiced)
  • Erica Mendez – Magdalene, Marcus kid
  • Dan Conlin – Robert, Jack and some minor male characters
  • Mauri “Darkblade” Majanoja –  John, Jonathan

As you can see, quite a large cast 😉 Doing the voices was a great task though, and I don’t think I’ll repeat the experiment anytime soon! For sure not for games with lots of texts, because it’s really time consuming !

The importance of minigames

As you might know reading my tweets, in my upcoming game Vera Blanc: Fullmoon I am going to have LOTs of “minigames”. They became very popular recently, especially on casual games portals, so I decided to give it a try too. I must admit they work very well to increase the replayability and the immersion of the game.

Now you could rightly ask me: how does a “memory game” or a “find the differences” does help the game’s atmosphere/immersivity ?! Well, I’m going to show you two examples.
Check the image on the left: it’s one of the “find the differences” minigames. In this case we’re in a wood nearby the main town of Wolfach (it will be an imaginary town even if I know probably such a name exist for real).

We’re looking for clues. So, such a minigame can help because the player will feel like if he’s searching the surrounding, trying to spot any detail can help in the investigation.

That’s what the real detectives do: look around to see anything that can catch their attention, even really small details like in this minigame.

Now for the other example, I’ll show you a youtube video:

This is an “action scene”. The player must run away from an ominous big man who’s chasing Vera for some reason. For this scene I thought would have been much better to use something like that – I even thought about a real-time sequence but probably would have been too difficult. However there is a real-time minigame already, but don’t want to talk about it because would be a spoiler for the story 🙂

I believe the minigame above with the music and the images represent well one of those scenes typical of the action-movies, helps player immersion and I think is also fun to play 🙂

I have now reached the point where the demo would end, and I’m starting the rest of the game. The art is almost completely done, so my aim is to finish the game, at least the beta version, by end of this month, even if I know it won’t be easy!

Online vs offline games

More and more developers I know are going to move online-only (some have already). But what are the key differences of online vs offline games, both from the developer and the user point of view? This is what I gathered so far. If anyone has any comments/suggestion, is welcome.



As developer, you basically eliminate piracy. People making online games in general make MUCH more money than people making offline games. Also, online enable you to use subscriptions, microtransactions, pay per item, and so on.

As player, you can now compete/collaborate with friends. You can have new experiences otherwise unattainable by offline gaming, like new content/leves, updates, bugfixes.


As developer, you enter a whole new realm. You need to guarantee people are able to play. If your server is offline, your game is useless and this will make people angry, very angry. Also it means you need to learn network programming, which is a pain. There are also increased costs (but as we saw you should also expect increased profits). Usually once you go online, you’ll need to focus on one game. Most online games takes YEARS to make, so be sure to have a backup plan. Also, you enter a VERY CROWDED market: everyone is making MMOs now, so while the potential revenues are much higher, the competition is also more fierce. Online games are mutually exclusive too: people playing WoW are likely to play that for 4-5h a day, leaving no room for other games. This means that if a big player has established a foothold in a certain niche/segment of the market, will be very hard for you to get new players.

As player, you can say goodbye to immersion. Most people playing MMO knows how annoying some people can be. You can meet anyone, from a 60 years old polite university professor to a 16-years old boy always yelling at you. There can’t be a plot in a online game. You’re also going to pay MUCH more, and some games feels more like a scam. With normal offline games you pay a price and know what you get. Online games are designed like mousetrap: they lure you in with the FREE word, and then you get addicted and you’ll end up paying even hundred of dollars for, let’s be honest, what you could get for 1/10 less. You’re also going to spend much more time to a single game and become an addict (that’s exactly what the companies want).



As developer, offline games are much easier to program. Even if you’re not an expert programmer you can easily put a normal downloadable game together. You don’t need to have a dedicated server or be a network expert.

As player, you know what you get. You can have immersive games with wonderful plot and NPCs, like Dragon Age (or any of my games hehe), you can play RTS knowing your ping doesn’t matter, you can play while flying on a plane with a laptop, you can pause anytime, you can play games at your pace (and not be tied to a raid or a online event) and the list goes on. All of this knowing you’re going to pay a FIXED amount (that recently is getting lower and lower).

(Note – I am one of those players. I can’t honestly believe that people pay 15-20 eur a month to play WoW when they can get wonderful games from Bioware for a fixed price!)


As developer, expect to make much less money: except very rare cases, a offline game is always going to earn less than a online one, since you can’t bill multiple time the same person (selling him subscriptions or items for example).  Also you have to deal with piracy which is a real pain and will seriously hurt your business.

As player, I am not really sure what are the cons of offline games. I guess stupid/paranoid DRMs are the worst thing you can experience. Apart for that, I can’t really think about any cons, except if you like competition, ladders, etc. But then you wouldn’t be playing offline games at all 🙂

That is. As you can see there are several things to consider, both for the developer and the player. I also think that the age influences what people play: I used to play EQ1-2 when I was younger, and had more free time than now. As I grow older, I found I hadn’t time anymore to invest HOURS in a character, or pay for a monthly subscription when I wasn’t sure I would be able to play the game. About the new free to play games, I honestly think it’s plain stupid to pay $5 “for a sword” when you can get complete new games for the price of 2-3 swords 😀 Also I like games with plots and writing, so that’s not really what I want. But know many devs making a fortune with free to play / MMO games.

Will I be making a online game? No, not really soon. But who knows, maybe one day… 🙂

Vera Blanc gameplay

I’m working on the “main game loop” of Vera Blanc right now. There’s a first “introduction” part where you get to know your powers, the setting of the investigation, and meet a few characters. Then after a shocking encounter (which I won’t reveal since I don’t want to spoil the game!) the game will enter in the main loop, showing the map that you can see below in the screenshots.

The game will be time limited, but only after certain events. For example, when you start, there won’t be a deadline of 30 days to solve the case. The days will pass, but until you find a specific clue, the story won’t go on. After some key events are “unlocked” though, you might have to hurry up and find / discover some information within a certain number of days, or in the case of real-time events, some minutes.

In any case the game will inform the player about what’s going to happen next and “suggest” him to save the game to avoid restarting from the beginning!

About the investigation part, there will be choices like in my other VNs but this time with much more freedom. I tried to represent as more choices as possible, and you can repeat the same action many times or try the same thing in different order to change the course of the story. So it’s not really a story with branches, but more like several actions that you can do in a specific location/situation of the story that will lead to different results.

On a final note, I’m happy about the final look of the game. I think that kind of art is more suited for mystery/horror stories than pure manga style (that’s my personal opinion of course) 🙂