Monthly Archives: December 2010

Friday catblogging – Happy New Year

Gilda in a basket in the bathroom of my old home. Because we have so many cats, we never had a decorated Christmas Tree, otherwise would be instantly destroyed… πŸ™‚

First of all, Happy New Year to everyone! I have released Planet Stronghold alpha 0.8, which features lot of new content! If you’re interested in trying the demo or buying the game please visit the game website.

Then, a quick update on what you can expect in the next months:

Role Playing Games

Beside Planet Stronghold, which will be finished at end of January 2011, I plan to start 2-3 more RPGs. I love RPGs and I always wanted to make them, but in the past I was lacking proper funds and/or technical knowledge to make decent ones. Now, using Planet Stronghold RPG framework I can expand it and create new RPGs. Most of them will be in fantasy setting though, since it’s the most common/popular one (unless Planet Stronghold is so successful that convinces me to make add-on/sequels). I have already a good collaborator of mine who is starting creating the main game plot, character sketches, and so on. Another one should start hopefully in next months, and I want to do another myself as well. So the 2011 will be surely full of RPGs!

Adventure Games

I am still in love with my character of Vera Blanc, despite the first two episodes not being really topsellers. As I posted several times if I make a third episode, it will be an adventure (first person) and not a visual novel, since the adventure style integrates better with that kind of game. I have already a plot for the story, but since it requires lot of money, it’s still a risky decision, so if I make it, won’t be before next summer, or even later during Fall/Winter of 2011.

Visual Novels / Dating Sims

Of course I’ll keep making them! Flower Shop 2 release is really close, is just a matter of few months. But since is tied to external factors (artists finishing some pieces) I won’t dare to name a date for it. Instead I can already say that very likely the otome game “Remember Me” will be ready around February/March 2011, since the plot is completely written and need only to code the “simulation part” of it and do testing/balancing. Depending how my other projects go, I could make more VN/Dating Sims, but they’ll be mixed with simulation games.

Strategy / Simulation Games

In 2011 perhaps I will finally release the sequel of Spirited Heart. I have yet to start coding it though, so is probably more accurate to say that in 2011 I’ll begin coding it, which is a bit different. It won’t be ready probably before 2012, also because I have in mind some online-features (probably optional) that could improve the gameplay a lot, so I am not sure yet I’ll use Ren’Py to code this one.
There will be for sure more strategy/simulation games coming in 2011 though. A remake of my game Universal Boxing Manager, this time with the fights completlely in 3d realtime, is under production! Is made in partnership with a good 3d coder who is going to use Unity3d to power the 3d simulation. It’s probably my biggest/most ambitious game to date and the 2011 will be mainly focused on it. I hope will do well since I’d like to port more of my old games into 3d or start new ones.
As I said I might also find the time to do a sort of light-strategy/time management game based on Heileen settings. In particular, Heileen 2 settings (pirates, the caribbean). The game could be played as normal strategy game or with visual novel cut-scenes (they’ll be optional). This will be a sort of experiment since I am not sure if/when I’ll finish it. Let’s say I’ll work on it on my spare time and when it’s done, is done πŸ™‚

Online Games

Almost every year I say “next year I’ll make one”. So, this time I won’t say it! But, I would like to try making one, even if I am not sure I’ll find the time…or better, if I’ll find the right person, since I’m probably going to outsource the coding (will be most likely done in Flash or HTML5). Or if the new interesting BRL:monkey project from Mark Sibly (creator of Blitzmax) gets released, I might use that and do everything myself.

So in conclusion, looks like the 2011 will be a year full of new releases! Happy New Year again!!

Friday catblogging – Merry Christmas!

In the picture above, Mirtillo and Othello sleeping together peacefully. I wonder what they’re dreaming ?

I want to wish everyone reading this blog/following me Merry Christmas! πŸ™‚

Then, a quick status update about Planet Stronghold 0.8 (since is the game I’m currently working on). In the recent weeks had some eyesight problems, so the programming has been slowed considerably. I really hoped to have it ready by Christmas since would have made a great present… but sometimes, real-life problems get in the way and so I had to post-pone the deadline to end of the year!

I’m writing the latest two quest, regarding the Apex Rahn and Arnox races, including two boss fights. I think once you play the game you’ll realize why is taking me so long to make… because the game IS long! The part I’m writing now involves all the races, and if you side with the Empire you have to eliminate them, instead if you side with the King/Shiler you will unify them and form one single alliance.

So this part is the “core” of the game, the biggest one. If you played the demo, this part is basically 5-6 times longer than it…and you can play from two different sides, so some parts are different! That is also why the final release price will be $24.95 (so you have still one week to get it at the deal price of $9.95!). And now, for some postmortem-retrospective about the year that is about to end:

2010, The Year Of The Tiger

I admit I was excited about it (since I am a Wood Tiger in chinese horoscope). Well, my goal for 2010 was to release 5 games, and I was particularly excited about (quoting from my last year post):

And I am producing the art now for a new kind of game style that I hope will be a great success, since I like a lot writing the stories and the storyboards for it. For now I can only say that involves detectives, mystery, and a beautiful blonde girl with a French accent…

I was obviously talking about Vera Blanc, which as you might know, turned out to be a real disappointment in term of sales πŸ˜€

So, in 2010 I released The Flower Shop, Card Sweethearts, Vera Blanc: Full Moon, Vera Blanc: Ghost In The Castle. Not only I didn’t release 5 games as I had planned (even if I’m almost done with Planet Stronghold), but most of them didn’t sell well at all! So in all honesty, considering also the other real-life problems I had, 2010 was probably my worst year since I was indie. For the first time in 7 years or so, I didn’t grow my business. During the summer and autumn, I thought it was something beyond my control, the global crisis, the return of middlemen and so on (since also many other indies had very low sales during that period) but if I think about it carefully, it was my mistake for producing games without doing proper “market research”.

Vera Blanc got the most positive reviews I had for a game, on famous sites like Gamezebo & Gamertell. And it has some fans that are eagerly waiting a 3rd episode. Still, it would be foolish for me to release another one using the same gameplay system… so even as indie, you can’t simply do any game you want to do (unless it’s an hobby) but you must also identify the market you want to sell to, and make sure you have the right product. Making a good/original game just isn’t enough, if that game has a very small fan-base.

Next friday, more cats pictures and my plan for the 2011 which hopefully will be a better year πŸ™‚

Friday catblogging – Excessive branching is not good

In the picture above, Othello sitting in a flower vase with a blossoming cherry tree in the background. Took it in my previous home, during spring.

Sometimes when I have a little time I play other games. Recently I bought Alpha Protocol, and was completely fascinated by it (no wonder, Obsidian is one of the best AAA developers around). It interested me a lot because of the RPG/FPS mix, but mostly because of the dialogue system and the multiple paths/branching typical of VNs.

Here is the problem. The game promises lots of different paths, every decision influences the story, and so on. And it’s TRUE. The point is – is useful? Who is going to replay the game from beginning to see what he has missed (and no guarantees that he will really see everything) ? Very FEW people, believe me. Also, in a FPS/RPG you can’t just skip the dialogues forward like in my Renpy games, so you can’t just do a “quick replay” to see what you have missed.

So I thought if wouldn’t have been a wiser choice to have still some branching, but not so many. Or that would lead to a different subplot completely, like I did with Bionic Heart. Such games should either be quickly replayable to let the player see what he missed, or tell the player “Hey, save now because there’s a big branch of the plot now, so you can reload this savegame later and pick a different direction to see what you have missed”.

I watched on youtube many videos of Alpha Protocol just to see what I had missed, because I really couldn’t afford to replay the whole thing from the beginning. It felt like a “waste of time and resources” to me. The devs could have done a longer game (is already long, but could be even longer) instead of making it so “free-play”. After all, in a story-based game, is more important to KNOW that you can have 50 different endings but that you probably will never replay it to see them all (especially if you can’t play fast-forward), or that the story is much longer?

I’m sure most players would pick the second option. That’s why in my upcoming RPG Planet Stronghold I haven’t opted to have lots of different paths: it will have a common main plot, but with missions/quest that let you have some freedom (do them in any order you want) and several romance subplots that are optional, but can be done anytime after chapter4, without the need to restart from beginning (except if you want to see the romance from another gender). In practice, save the game at beginning of chapter 4 and you can then reload it and see all possible endings/branches for your gender.

Speaking of Planet Stronghold, the next version 0.8 will be out hopefully next week, I don’t know the exact day yet because I had some eyesight problem recently, and with the Christmas busy schedule you can never know. Anyway, as I wrote several times, with version 0.8 the pre-order price will increase permanently to $19.99 so if you are interested in the game, be sure to buy it now πŸ™‚

Friday catblogging – moral decisions in RPGs

In the picture above, the young cat Maja. I found her while on a trip in Croatia and decided to bring her home. She lived with me for 7 beautiful months (sadly, she’s not here anymore).

I’m writing right now the Planet Stronghold quest with the Matricks. They’re giant rocky humanoid, very resistant to physical damage but weaker against Psionics. During this quest, if you side with the Empire you’ll face a big moral dilemma: you have the option to kill their “breeders”, as sort of distraction so you can fight the King Rock (the evil tyrant of the race) with less defenses. Of course, even if we’re talking about aliens, killing breeders is always a bad thing! And indeed, some party members will be seriously disappointed if you do that.

I like how the “Empire side” is turning out. Because even if the ultimate goal is to submit all the alien races, it’s a somewhat grey territory – the decisions you make might seem inevitable since there’s a big war going on, but you’ll often wonder if what you’re doing is ethically correct, and you can still choose to act differently.

About the mid-december deadline, I’ll try my best to met it, however after the Matrick race I still need to write the Arnox and Apex Rahn quest, and then the final battle. My goal was to finish the game plot, apart for the romance subplots that can be done anytime since they’re not connected with the main plot (except when you decide to do the final fight). So I’m not sure I’ll be able to make it, it might be more like 20-21st december.

I want the next version 0.8 to have the full plot so anyone who preordered can play/test it and let me know any problem. Note that after 0.8 is released, I’ll raise the price to $19.95 and then once the final version is out, to $24.95.

Finally, I also got the new boys images for Spirited Heart new game. You can see a mockup below. Frebo is always the best! πŸ˜€

Friday (Saturday) catblogging – Planet Stronghold and Heileen spin-off

OOps, I forgot my friday cat-post yesterday! So I’m going to post it now. In the picture on the left, you see Batman on the stairs of my old house, taking advantage of a rare sunny winter day πŸ™‚

I’ve been working non-stop on Planet Stronghold race quests. I don’t want to say too much because is a spoiler, but later in the game (after chapter4) you’ll have to pick a side, and either submit or unify all the other alien races. Each race will occupy a sector of the map, so each race quest will take several special locations to complete. Considering the races are 6, this part is quite long, probably the longest chapter of the game.

After this, there’s the “final battle”, and the romance subplots. Is fun because even if in this game the dialogues are very reduced compared to a normal visual novel, it’s still VERY LONG, because the story itself is long. I think players should appreciate it, and I hope nobody will say “the game was too short”! πŸ˜€

Today I also got some sketches from Rebecca for Heileen spin-off. They’re the pirate clothing for some important characters: Lora, Ebele and Robert. They’re great as always – you can’t go wrong working with her, a pity now she’s making a career in comics fulltime πŸ™

Maybe will post the sketches on twitter. As I wrote, this game won’t be a visual novel but something ver different. I have yet to decide myself how the gameplay will be but I have an idea in mind. Will be a mix of several genres. There will still be the a main plot and dialogues, but not in form of a VN only.

Probably this will disappoint a bit the VN fans but I want to try something different, and broaden my audience. It’s tough times for indie devs! πŸ™‚ As for the other games in progress, no news about them this week. So Love & Order, Remember Me, and Flower Shop: Winter In Fairbrook are still going on- expect them coming out somewhere in the next months, just follow my blog or twitter (or subscribe to the newsletter) to be the first to know when they’re out!