Lessons learned and ideas for Loren 2

I know that Planet Stronghold 2 is not out yet, and it’s definitely too early to do a postmortem. But as I am coding Planet Stronghold 2 I am learning a lot, and it was really a good thing that I did it before embarking on the odyssey that will be making Loren 2.

Too many romances!

Planet Stronghold 2 romance graph. Notice how foolishly hoped to have it done by Q1 2013! lol

If you ask a player, there’s no thing as too many romances! But if you ask me, or any other developer who cares to bring good characters and realistic romance routes to life, they’ll shake their head and say “yes”.

While writing Planet Stronghold 2, I realized how complex is a game that offers a lot of romance options AND also the possibility to continue a previous romance. I will explain better with some examples, because I understand that for players some details aren’t immediately noticeable, but for people like me who are behind the planning and coding, it’s a nightmare!

Let’s not talk about the fact that for each single romance combo (male/female and straight/homosexual) I had a different starting scene in PS2, in that case even if you were loyal or rebel there were different variations (for example, Michelle moved away if you were Rebel).

So that aside, for each scene in PS2, I had text variants depending if the character was in a romance or not. For example, if Rebecca saw Joshua looking at other girls and you were in a starting romance with her, a jealousy scene would follow. Which of course would make no sense if you were NOT in a starting romance with her! And so on. There are a lot of those variants thorough the whole game, and they take time and effort since they must merge with the story well.

A small parenthesis: this is one of the main reasons why I didn’t use an external writer for this game, because either that writer knew very well how Ren’Py / branching games work, or would have been a mess to explain what to do.

But that’s not even the worst – the worst is, that since I offered the option to “change your mind” and break the current romance to pursue a new character, for each starting love interest I had a “break up scene”. Then, for each character I also had an “engagement scene” which would “set” your love interest in chapter 3 and until the end of the story. Phew!

Even for Cursed Lands there was a lot of effort but at least there, all the romances except Leena and Jasper were bisex, removing several problems. And you had no starting romances. Here there are all the previous romances: Rebecca, Tom, Michelle, Rumi, Cliff and Damien, plus the new entries: Milo, Lakadema, Shiler and Avae!

To use a technical term, this amount of work behind the game romances is fucking insane. Lol, jokes apart, at least for the new entries I had “only” to write the engagement scenes since you couldn’t start in a romance with them.

Talking about Loren 2

As I was saying, this experience with Planet Stronghold 2 made me realize once more that all the romances of Loren 2 was a totally reckless decision and I don’t think I can possibly do a good job as it’s currently planned.

My idea (which is not set in stone of course) is to have a full experience with the new romances, I mean like the first game, so that each character has a long, satisfying romance arc. And then, maybe a sort of smaller story or something for the existing romances. It could still be done in form of a DLC, but what I want people to understand is that I simply cannot have both games of same length, also because it’s hard to find new ideas for the existing romances (there’s already 240-250,000 words of texts of the first game after all!).

But beside length consideration, even for Loren 2 I simply cannot have all the combo of Planet Stronghold 2, so probably I will have either a starting romance that will be the same for the whole story (with no possibility to change) or starting with no romance, and then you could romance the new characters only.

Already the change described above would cut a lot of work, making the story much easier to write and I wouldn’t need to have 500 variants of the same scene depending on the starting romances!

In summary right now my idea is that at beginning of the game, the choices would be two: 1) start as “new”, with no pre-exisiting relationship and possibility to engage with the new characters only 2) start with an existing relationship from Loren 1 and keep it until end of the story (this probably would be done as DLC to be released later)

Anyway, there’s time, since after Planet Stronghold 2 I plan to “take a break” and work on Undead Lily since that’s also another game delayed for too long (and that has too many romances problem as well! haha). I’ll also be releasing other “regular” VN/dating sim games along the way since taking 1 year between each release is really too much time and bad for business.

This entry was posted in general. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Lessons learned and ideas for Loren 2

  1. Arc says:

    Well after reading that my initial reaction was “wait but you gonna let us romance Loren right I mean the name of the game is Loren for a reason I wouldn’t skimp on part of the game.” But I do understand that how you continue Loren’s story may present differently then expected. I suppose I should ask will you continue the player being Saren or will you allow a custom character like cursed lands? Lot of possibilities so I don’t want to jump right to right or wrong I just hope that Loren’s personal story and tale is as developed as it was in the first one.

    • admin says:

      No you can still play as Saren or Elenor. But not continue previous romances, and break them up, and pursue new romances as explained in the post. That increases the amount of work needed exponentially!

  2. Tommy W. says:

    It’s understandable, but I am quite disappointed by this news. Whatever your decision is, please remember that a large chunk of your player base will come from Loren 1. Please remember that most of us have already had our favorite pairings. I don’t expect hundreds of new dialogues for the old romances, but something like a “small story”, as you put it, won’t do. Old romances need proper closure too.

    • admin says:

      I’ll try my best of course, and my definition of small is usually twice the amount on average of other games 😉
      For example in PS2 each character gets on average about 16-18k extra words!

  3. Arc says:

    I am going to have to use another game as an example here to accurately describe the point I am making. Baldur’s Gate 2 like Loren was a very open ended game. Lots of potential for different endings depending on choices. It made for a great game. Problem is when someone made a tabletop module for continuing the story the writer disregarded all the choices and pretty much crapped on everything that happened in the previous game with the path he took the story.
    I love that your muse has taken you back to Loren, I’ll have my credit card on stand by. I’m just hoping that your newly inspired story doesn’t have to take away from your previous one. Which can be very difficult from a writing standpoint considering the open ended potential of these games.

    • admin says:

      Well there are going to be some choices at beginning of the story, but due to complexity I’ll have to pick some “canon ending/starting conditions”.
      In PS2 you can choose if you were Loyal to Empire or Rebel, and that basically changes the whole first two chapters of the game… and took forever to make 😀
      The thing is, I’m not sure if people are going to replay the game to see the other paths, otherwise in practice the story is shorter, if you only play once in one of the two factions for example.
      The ideal is if you can still keep the choices and have that impact SOME areas of the story without changing it completely. We’ll see what I manage to do! 🙂

  4. Eadric says:

    Frankly, cutting the romance options is the right thing to do. The extra CGs are a sunk cost if it’s preventing you from shipping the game.

    I like Loren, but I’m a little skeptical for Loren 2. That’s because if I play as my main character, any romance I chose that isn’t from Loren 1 will make me feel like I’m cheating on them. If the most popular Loren 1 options were available, with maybe a handful of the highest quality new ones, I think you’d get the best spread.

    • admin says:

      I already have all the art including the CGs 🙂 The problem is writing/coding such a complex game as I’m starting to understand with PS2.
      The thing with the current romances is that for example the previous writer (who can’t work on the game anyway) said that was running out of ideas, after having written already 250,000 words of story for them for the first game. And indeed I think she was right.
      Anyway we’ll see, as I posted some time ago, just deciding to make a sequel was the big mistake, now I’ll try to do something good anyway even if will be extremely difficult.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *