Monthly Archives: January 2016

Queen Of Thieves gameplay update

As you SHOULD know, I just released my game PSCD. My new year resolution was to release one game this year! Yay I made it! πŸ˜€

Haha jokes apart it was because in 2015 I didn’t manage to release anything. But of course, I knew that PSCD was out soon, since it was basically already finished in December (I had to wait to get some voices and an update of Ren’Py to make it run correctly under Windows 10 fullscreen).

So now what I’ve finished it, what I am doing? While I have several projects in progress, I mainly resumed working on Queen Of Thieves, since it’s the game in which I’m more involved right now (because I’m coding it myself).

Queen Of Thieves gameplay update

First of all, a short summary: I had already finished the “catacombs exploration” (optional) part, the first draft of all the romances is done, and a good amount of the romance CG is done already. Clearly we’re at good points.

I decided to work on the robbery part, the infiltration into the houses/mansions to steal money. I made an interface on the right so you always have all the info you need about your current target:


The encounters level influences the enemy stats (it’s a bit randomized of course), while defenses also influence the enemy party composition (higher defense = more enemies) and how often you’ll randomly encounter guards, watch dogs, etc.

The rooms explored is a good way to know if you missed any place in the house (some are quite big, with 10 rooms). Finally the gold gives you an estimate of the maximum amount (the sisters cannot know the exact amount, only make a guess) of gold available, and how much they’ve robbed already.

I’m testing the system and seems to work well πŸ™‚ I also made a new addition, this time to the battle itself. Behold: hit or miss ratio!


People who follow me carefully might remember some posts in forums, in which I was furious against hit percentage, and how in a certain AAA game I had 72% hit chance and I missed six times in a row, forcing me to ragequit it πŸ˜€

I still think that’s a bad system. My idea, is obviously better πŸ˜‰ Read on.

The main issue with hit or miss, is that if you hit you do X damage, if you miss, you do zero. That’s a difference too big. So in my game, if you miss you’ll do HALF of the normal damage. Since the numbers in this game are much more smaller than Loren or SOTW, in the screenshot above means that instead of 8dmg, if I miss will do 4dmg. Clearly less, but not so less that makes you want to quit playing!

This way I also found an use of the characters critical hit stat. Before damage was determined by attack multiplied by critical hit divided by target defense. Now, it’s still calculated like that, but the hit percentage is influenced by the critical hit stat.

Last minute update: I am thinking to change slightly the formula, as illustrated in this forum post:

Might sound a bit confusing right now but when you’ll play the game, will make sense. I tested it already and even with enemies with high avoidance (like the vampire bat of the screenshot above) they don’t ruin the game at all, they add more strategy. For example, magic attacks (like Joanne magic bolt) never miss the target. So even if she does less damage than the other two sisters, she will always do that amount of damage.

That’s enough technical stuff for now! About the story and romance CG, I’m proud to announce that all the yuri romance CG have been finished. Below you see a sneak peek!


Planet Stronghold: Colonial Defense postmortem

So first the great announcement: Planet Stronghold: Colonial Defense IS OUT!!!!!!!

To get the game or try the free demo, visit this page:
Like always, buying direct will grant you a free Steam key when the game will be out on that platform (probably around March, not sure yet).

It was basically done since early January, but I wanted to wait to get some extra voices added for some cards. I think it was worth the wait, check some previews:

A postmortem aka “The Miracle”

The story of PSCD is a very troubled one. It all started back in autumn 2014, when I had the crazy idea of combining the tower defense gameplay with a visual novel. Yes you read it right: originally the game was to be a tower defense game! :O

Then for various reasons, I gave up the idea (I had to use a custom engine, learn new stuff, etc etc, doing those kind of games is harder than it looks). So, what could I do? Already the whole base plot was written by Miakoda, the game writer, and I had to find something that could fit. I had this enlightening moment: since for Undead Lily I wanted to have a collectible card gameplay, why not use it also in PSCD?

This way, once the coder had built the system, I could have used it at least on two games (more in case it was well received). I’m a big fan of making engines/frameworks and reusing them, as you can see with what I did with Loren’s framework: I reused it on SOTW (adding 31298 new features! lol) and I am reusing it in a different way for Queen Of Thieves as well.

Anyway, I had made my mind. Unfortunately, the coder couldn’t work until August on it. The situation was a bit weird last year, since I had so many games in production, and SOTW was a “relative flop” (would still be a good seller if only I hadn’t used 10 months of my own time coding it!!). I needed to get at least one game out, since as you can imagine until I release the games, I can’t recover the money I’ve invested. At some point, I can’t keep investing in new games if I don’t release anything new! πŸ™‚

Of the other games, while they were making progresses, none was really advanced as PSCD. The other one, Queen Of Thieves, was at good point but still missing all the scripting and romance CGs and there are MANY of those πŸ˜‰

That hot Summer, and the Fall/Winter rush

Seems a porn movie’s title, doesn’t it? haha nothing like that though! Summer 2015 here was insane, with temperatures over 39Β°C (and I live at 800m on sea level!!!). As result I couldn’t regularly work for almost 1 month and half. Then, at end of August / beginning of September, it cooled off and it all started.

As of the 1st September 2015, PSCD was just a prototype of the deck building screen.
By the end of that year, PSCD was basically finished!

I think it was an amazing achievement, to do such a game in 3 months!! Of course I already had most of the writing and art done, so I am talking about the coding part on my side, but still there were so many things that could have been gone wrong!

Thanks to some dedicated forum users (among them I want to mention Franka the master of CCG, and Troyen who is always willing to help with typos/proofreading) I was able to test the game, and I also made a very smart move adding a “VN Mode”, so everyone could play the game, even those interested only in the story/romances (and there are really some interesting ones in the game!).

The work done by Anima (the coder) and Miakoda (the writer) together with Dennis (main artist) was amazing. Without their help I surely wouldn’t have made it!

What is even more fun, it’s that this was the latest (or maybe one of the latest) game I started, and was the first to be finished! And surely not because it’s small, rather the opposite: 200k words of story (not including the DLC!), complex optional gameplay, lot of romance CGs and ending CGs!

It is also the most expensive game to date I’ve made, and I think it shows (the quality of art, music, everything put this among the best games I’ve done I think).


I can only draw a conclusion from this experience: if you are motivated, and work with people who are motivated/professional as well, nothing is impossible. On the opposite, if you work with amateurs/unmotivated people, even doing the simplest task becomes impossible.

I don’t know yet how the game will do in the next months: I hope well enough, since beside recovering all the money/time I’ve spent, I really enjoyed designing the cards and the gameplay in general. And I have already Undead Lily that will use this system. But I hope in future I’ll be able to do even more card games beside that one πŸ™‚

A different writing style

Rei looks older in black & white, doesn’t he? πŸ˜€

Jokes apart, the image above is a test/mockup I made a few weeks ago to illustrate the kind of “old book style” I wanted to try in a future game.

The images could probably be done in color too, even if personally I don’t mind the black & white style, is quite charming (I was a big fan of comics when I was a teenager).

The biggest doubt I had was about the writing, since in my games is mostly dialogue based, with a few description, “screenplay” style. In this case is more like reading a book, as you can see.

I’m well aware of the “Choice Of Games” company, and that they’re using exactly this style (minus the images, it’s only text). Looking at their games, it seems that like in my case there are more or less successful ones, and it’s mainly about the idea/story/characters, and of course, writing quality. But not writing style.

You might wonder why on Earth I am thinking to do such a game ? well, first of all, to experiment. Loren was an experiment and is one of my best titles after all! πŸ˜‰

Also to try something new. There’s no need to say that even if I make a game like this, and is super-successful, I won’t stop doing my usual VN/dating sim style! Of course not. But I might ALSO do a few games like that.

Regarding some more technical/commercial point of view, using that layout/style would offer some advantages:

  • the writing is like a book, which means the writer I hire wouldn’t need to know about Ren’Py at all. Only about the branching system (and depending on gameplay, variables and such) but no knowledge required. It might seem not much, but I think matters.
  • the art, if is done in black & white, will be less expensive. Which means I could add more images, or make games with a lower price tag. Even if in black and white I would still want to keep the art quality at high levels, as it’s usual for my games πŸ™‚
  • much less scripting needed. When you play my games, there’s a lot going on behind the scenes. Every background or image shown on screen is a command in the code. And even if Ren’Py is quite powerful, it’s still a lot of work. For example, scripting PSCD took over a month of time, and the scripter was particularly fast! With that style instead it would just be an image shown on the side.

So you can see why I was considering it, several advantages. Also, possibility to have a more “dynamic” narrative. I don’t know how to explain, with visual novels you often have to imagine things. I cannot draw every single action/pose/situation. In that case I could show a much bigger variety.

Anyway, for now I’m only thinking about it, since I have already enough projects to finish this year. But in future, who knows? Wait until I’ll have the crazy idea to make a 3D visual novel… πŸ™‚

No, not really. 3D is insanely expensive to get it right, so there’s risk of spending more than 2d to get a worse result!

Changing your mind

Before I explain, let’s start with some famous quotes:

β€œThe measure of intelligence is the ability to change.” – Albert Einstein
β€œThose who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” – George Bernard Shaw

I agree with them completely, and this applies to game development as well. What I am referring to, exactly?

The “indie freedom”

You probably hearΒ  around the net the story that indies means independent, so are free to do what they want. Well, yes as indie you’re free to do any game you want. However if you want to survive doing commercial games, you CAN’T do what you want πŸ˜‰

I don’t mean that you need to do what some “developers” do, that is looking at the top selling games and cloning them (also because very often this system doesn’t work at all). But I mean listening to your customers’ feedback, and analyzing sales to understand what people want, and not just what maybe a “vocal minority” says.

For example after the past year I clearly understood that what made people love Loren wasn’t the RPG part, but the story/romances. I understood that while SOTW was my best RPG, it wasn’t my best game (or at least the most popular). And so on.

Changing your mind means changing direction, and create the future games adapting to the market and what (the majority of) people want. Obviously, you can also just follow your personal interest and do niche products, as long as they provide enough income to support you (sadly with SOTW wouldn’t have been the case).

Prototyping and testing

This is not really new, but worth repeating for the few people who don’t know about it: an essential process of developing a game is brainstorming, testing the ideas and keep the good ones (at least the one you think are good of course).

For example, I’ve recently resumed coding Queen Of Thieves, in particular the “robbery missions”.

timelimitAs you can see in the screenshot above, I thought to use a very common stealth mechanic: each action would generate noise (even if in the game Joanne will use her magic to reduce it) and so it could increase by triggering traps, or fighting (guards, watchdogs, etc).

The only way to reduce it was to hide and wait, using time. Finally, you would have a certain amount of time to complete the robbery, before morning arrives.

The idea seemed fine: but when I asked for feedback in forums, I had the first doubts. People complained saying that it could lead to a luck-based gameplay, and as a consequence not really funny. I thought that since the mission are randomly generated, it wasn’t a big deal, but decided to make a few tests myself, and I discovered that indeed was a bad idea!

First because of what people said (good/bad luck would have too much weight) and also because the size / amount of rooms of those building won’t be really big. So the “hide and wait” mechanic was also a bit pointless if you could explore the buildings in 10-12 moves πŸ˜€

The result is that I’ve immediately discarded the idea, without even needing to do any public testing. Yes, I’ve changed my mind!

Making “tough business choices”

Somewhat related to the first point, I also realized in the course of the last two years, about certain choices that had to be done, despite I wasn’t really happy about it. The first one was to reduce the amount of complexity in games, a bit because they weren’t helping sales, but also because I was getting burned out while working on them.

It’s better to release a few more simpler games, than none at all for a year (like past year!). Also, even if you like a particular genre, but it’s hard to make and there’s the risk of getting you burned out, you need to take that into account. That’s why I’ve decided to keep making RPGs, but not so often as in the past.

Another “tough choice” I had to make was to treat people professionally and expect the same in exchange. If someone suddenly stopped responding, or delayed too much a project, in the past was chasing them, trying to understand what was going on, trying to motivate them, etc.

Thinking about it, I was a bit of a fool, and wasted of my own time. If someone that’s being paid to do something behaves that way, it’s his/her problem and not mine. This also led me to do some “selection process”, so the people I’m working with now are much more professional than what was happening in the past, and as a consequence more reliable πŸ™‚

What makes a good game?

Yesterday the sky was particularly good looking!

First of all: Happy New Year! I am writing this blog when in some places is just a few hours after midnight πŸ™‚

The tradition as the first blog post of the year is to list the possible releases. But I just did that in the previous blog post, and since in the last years when I did it, it didn’t really bring much luck, I’m happy to write about something different this time!

During the holidays I took time to think and read some users comments. Some complained about my potential interest towards making more shorter/smaller sized games. Other said a good story must have some crazy elements to it, others mentioned Roommates as a great example of a good dating sim story. Some people complained about specific characters of specific games or praised for the same reason other characters.

So I asked myself this question: what makes a good VN/dating sim/story based game?

The base idea

The first thing I do when I decide to make a new game, is think about the base idea behind it. Sometimes, I have a scene/character in my mind, and I base everything around it or use it as starting point to get inspiration. Bionic Heart for example: I had this crazy thought “what if somehow a sexy android entered forcefully your life, and your girlfriend didn’t know about it? and if one evening your partner was going to have a romantic dinner in your apartment, where your sexy android is hiding?”.

I thought the idea had a lot of potential, both hilarious, sexy and rather unique. Then I started to think about the rest of the story.

So, while in general there can be even stories based on the classic “college dating sim”, I think the starting idea is one of the most important things when creating a new story for a game.

The characters

Then of course, the characters. As many pointed out, Loren’s setting was nothing particularly original. It was also my first game set in Aravorn, and I hadn’t yet done any research/world building. Everything was a bit rough πŸ™‚ Still, the characters were rather memorable (Draco, Mesphit, Chambara, Loren herself, Karen, Rei… the list goes on) and made that game one of the most popular I made.

SOTW, while focused more on the gameplay, was appreciated too for the characters. Rowinda and the volcano joke will remain forever in my head… πŸ˜€

PSCD, while is not yet out at the time of writing this blog, has really some great characters. A great character is not only someone with special powers (Graciela) or particularly good looking (Charlotte/Rigel) but also a “cool” and “pro” like Galina, or a rebel like Kaden πŸ™‚

My conclusion is that even if you can’t find a very original idea, you can still create something good by building interesting characters.

And last but not least, the writing!

Even if is still in beta, PSCD is getting already a lot of praise for its writing!

The writing of course is another very important aspect. Roommates is a dating sim set in college. Original? Not really. The characters are the classic archetypes: there’s the shy girl with glasses (Anne), the nerd/serious guy (Dominic), the hot latina (Isabella), the crazy artist (Rakesh), and so on.

Yet, it’s my most popular dating sim so far! Why? because of the excellent writing. Don’t get me wrong, even many other of my games have good writing! I’m just using this as example because it is really the best combination of classic/unoriginal setting with awesome writing. Already a game like Nicole had a more original setting/plot setup that this one πŸ˜€

Of course, other aspects matter too

I have been talking about the writing but of course art, music and gameplay are very important too. But here I wanted to focus mainly on the story-part of the games.

Of the games that will be (hopefully) out this year, I can say that I’m quite enthusiast of all of them, because one way or another (great characters or original idea or good writing) should be a worthwhile addition to every VN/dating sim/story-based game fan πŸ™‚

So, onward to 2016! My new year’s resolution will be to release at least 3 games. Considering both PSCD and C14 Dating are at such good point, I think this time I should make it πŸ™‚