Category Archives: other games

talking about other games, either good shareware or commercial ones that I liked in particular

Release plan and older games

First of all, PSA: I released a collection of my older games (really old, some of them date back to 2004!!!) on and Steam for the low price of $4.99! The collection includes some of my early sports sims and the two Vera Blanc games. I only put the games I was 100% sure would work under Windows 10 (no Mac or Linux, sorry).

I decided to to it since some people asked for it, and besides at such low price I think could be a good value for money (especially Universal Boxing Manager or TV Station Manager).

Also as you probably saw already, there’s the usual Halloween Steam sale with my various games discounted 🙂

Release plan

We’re almost at the end of October, so time to look back at what happened this year so far and what to expect. As usual in this business, was a year of quick changes. As I wrote in previous blog post, for this year I won’t probably be able to finish any other game, even if I currently have 3 games at very good point: Cursed Lands, Volleyball Heaven and Love Bites.

If things go as planned, I will probably release Love Bites first. Half game is basically ready, so I could even try to do a pre-order/beta version with that relatively soon. I’m only waiting for the main trailer and some endings scenes: if I put the beta out with Sabrina and Viktor routes I’d like to have the ending CGs and the epilogues, so people experience the “full path” for each character at least.

For Volleyball Heaven, once the artist finishes the remaining CGs, everything else is pretty much ready, but scripting it will take a couple of months I think, also because (as usual lol) what originally started as 75k words max game became almost double that… 😀

Cursed Lands should be the last one to be released simply because, being a RPG with several innovations like the talent system and boss battles with dialogues/choices, it requires much more testing and coding than a simple dating sim. So even if I had all finished texts by end of year, I would probably need 3-4 months more to do the coding/testing/balancing.

A new way of working

Once I finish the 3 games above, with some exceptions for a few games already written/started but that I haven’t publicly announced yet, I am going to change how I work in future. In practice I’ll still be using a few selected external writers who have proven to be reliable and also skilled, but mostly I’ll be back writing the games myself and use editors only. I am already experimenting with this for Cursed Lands, adding some more camp talk scenes, and I think honestly the end result is good and progress are fast.

Fast, because I write them myself, and I always wrote things fast. And this doesn’t mean that what I write is set in stone, but I noticed that the writer while editing/reviewing the scene, often get ideas for more dialogues or even future scenes. It’s weird to explain but it’s a sort of brainstorming and exchange of ideas. I think this system works much better than an isolated writer writing on his/her own, no matter how good is.

Also after all those years, I know well what my players want, how much important is for them romance, relationships, sexy elements, jokes, etc.  And since I’d write the game as I’m coding it, the game story will feel much more integrated with the gameplay (a problem that some of my recent games like Amber or Queen Of Thieves had).

I believe that with a good editor/writer reviewing all the scenes, tweaking what I wrote, or even reworking/rewriting completely whole sentences, the ending result should also be of a decent level regarding grammar and writing quality! And most importantly with this system I shouldn’t have anymore delays of YEARS since I announced a game and its release. Yes, I know that’s a very common thing in the game development business, but honestly I don’t like it (and for sure my players don’t like it either).

So, what’s next?


This year, so far I finished three games, with the fourth (Queen Of Thieves) already in a good state for a beta. So, what’s next? 🙂

First half of 2016

First of all, we’re halfway through 2016. I’m not going to lie, things have changed A LOT for the indie business. For the first time I heard other indies quitting or taking contract work to pay the bills. It’s scary. I am fine, since I live very frugally (my biggest expense is cat food! haha) but still, I cannot deny that I’m a bit worried too!

Early this year I released PSCD, which underperformed despite great writing and good gameplay design (not my biased opinion, it has 100% positive ratings on Steam!). I didn’t know why at first, but soon I understood the main reason: the art. The next games, C14 Dating and Heirs & Graces, did as expected, or even better than I thought.  Queen Of Thieves is in beta and in preorder since a week so it’s a bit early, but so far the impression is very positive.

In summary, all is good! I only hope the artist finishes the main plot CGs soon… I might need to use my motivational whip to speed things up! 😉

So, what’s next?

Going back to the original question: a few weeks ago I talked about burnout, and the risk of ignoring it. So I’m well aware of it, and indeed I’m taking frequent breaks from work. In practice instead of long holidays, I work every day (even weekends!), but less hours than I used to. Thanks to that, I am not really burned out or tired right now, and I’m planning what to do in the next months.

As already posted in the past, I am thinking to do some “other games“: games in which the gameplay is more important, without a plot or with a smaller plot. This because honestly, writing a good story of 120k+ words (like all my recent games, in some cases even double that amount!) is going to take time. And I don’t want to rush writers, because if the story of a story-based game is bad… yeah, you get it! So, an alternative is to work on something else on the side, while I wait for them to finish.

They could be pure-gameplay, or mixed with a story, but one thing is to write a story of 120k words, another thing is to write a story 30-40k words long (which is more than enough if a game is not strictly story-based!).

I made a small poll in my forums asking what kind of gameplay people would like to see mixed with visual novel/story:

At the moment of writing this, “simulation” seems to be the most popular. Which is good, since it’s one of my favorite game genres and one I think I’m skilled enough (my early games were all simulations). This means that maybe I’ll try to add a more complex/detailed simulation part in my upcoming game Amber’s Magic Shop!

This is what I’m planning to do in the remaining months this year: some gameplay experiment/prototypes. I might post them in public and ask for feedback and then decide if they’re ideas worth pursuing or not.

Of course, the “regular games” will have the precedence. I’ll do those experiments while I wait for my collaborators to send me updates and make progresses 🙂

The wind of change

Need to give credit to my wife for the nice photo above!

And now after writing this title, I have the good old Scorpions’ song stuck in my mind!

“Listening to the wind of change” or better listening to the critiques, to suggestions by other more experienced indie, and listening to my heart 😉

Between this and last year I have learned a lot, and I’ve decided that (after the current “batch” of games is done) it’s time to change:

  • no more “insanely huge epic games”. I know, I know. Everyone would like very big, long games (even if honestly I haven’t finished yet some AAA titles because… they were too long!). Anyway, I’ve realized it’s not possible anymore, with the exception of a few titles like could be Loren 2 and Roger Steel (big RPGs) to make games too big. I’m talking from the story point of view. I want to have a good story, but also add more gameplay. When I talk with more successful indies doing the same kind of games, I’m often surprised to see that their wordcount is always not even half of my most recent titles!
  • story based on the gameplay, and not vice versa. When I will make more “hybrid games”, apart of course the usual VN/Dating sims/RPGs, I will first decide the gameplay and then craft the story around it, or at least design them at same time. This is even more important for “experimental games” like PSCD was. In that case it was a mess (because of first coder quitting) but in general for my own games it’s not wise to have a story written and then have to code the gameplay around it. The result can’t be good. So, first design the gameplay, and then have a story to complement it.
  • much clear separation of genres. One of the strong points of my games (based on what OTHER people say, so it’s not my opinion) has always been the mix with visual novel and other gameplay genres. Well, there will still be this. But if the two genres don’t work well together (like visual novel and card games) doesn’t make sense to mix them, better have two separate games. Or if I still want to have story and gameplay, the story cannot be 200k word long, 10+ romances, etc. It’s just not possible to do that in the current climate, to have a huge story AND good gameplay. I should price the games over $30, and that’s honestly not going to work anymore right now, so it’s not really my choice! So instead of that, a card game for $9.99 and a story-based game for $19.99 for example (just a simple example of what I mean).
  • less grinding, more fun. For the dating/raising sim, one of the major complaints of my past games was the grinding. I’m definitely going to address that. For the record, I don’t consider grinding using a scheduler like Roommates. More like the various activities in Nicole to reach the required stats. Love Bites should be a good example of a dating sim with stat raising but not grinding. For the RPGs instead, I’m going to leave it. Since many RPG players like to grind! 😉
  • gameplay-only games. I had already announced this, and it’s also related to future card games. I’ll make more (not just card games, even other genres) games like this to be sold at cheaper price, since I think is good to have a bit of variety over the dating sims/RPGs/VNs.
  • shorter but full of branching story-games. As you know I want to make a CYOA/old gamebook style game in future, illustrated with pictures. Well, that one won’t be 100k words, but even if it’s only 50k words will have a lot of branching. After all Bionic Heart has one of the highest review rating on Steam of all my games, and it’s just a little more than 50k words! Of course, I won’t write the games myself, only the storyboards.

OK I think I’ve explained enough! For many games that will be out (even next year) the things above won’t apply since I started them time ago, so they will still have maybe some grinding or be really “too big” (but of course since the text has been already written, it’s not like I’ll cut it down!).

But in future, doing the things above, I should be able to release games more regularly, and some of them cheaper than usual (which in the current climate seems very important) and even if the word count might be lower, the overall fun (and critic/players reception) will probably be higher. At least that’s what I hope, we’ll see!

For those wondering about the progress on games, I made a sort of estimate release schedule in my forums, which I copy paste here:

– launch C14 Dating on my site “soft release”. Probably on Steam towards end of April or early May
– finish all the QoT romance coding (not much left)

– Forsaken and artist should finish the last scenes/CG for QoT
– I will take a look on Heirs & Graces and probably code the gameplay and start the beta maybe (though could be delayed to May)
– decide what to do with Undead Lily gameplay, possibly a RPG. Make a detailed storyboard this time :)
– probably do the PSCD extra romances free add-on (though could slip into May)

– Heirs & Graces beta
– Queen Of Thieves beta

– hopefully release of both Heirs & Graces and Queen Of Thieves, but this last one could be delayed to July

– it’s likely that will be too hot to work as usual, plus I might want to take a break considering the insane amount of releases this year! I might do a few prototypes for new games though

– Love Bites beta (though it’s just too early to say it now)

That’s all for now! Happy Easter by the way 🙂

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 🙂

New CRPG vs old CRPG

I can’t believe what I’m about to write but… I recently bought Temple Of Elemental Evil from GoG, and… I didn’t like it anymore! Yes, the game that back in 2003 was considered by my brother and I (at those times we used to play CRPG together, sharing thoughts and impressions) as “the ultimate RPG”, right now, 7 years later… sucks.

Why? I think is because I aged up, am working full-time, and in general I’m used to a more “casual” gameplay (even if the right term would be “less hardcore”, not really casual). Just as example, I liked Torchlight MUCH more… and that’s an action RPG.

What does this means? I asked myself. Probably several things:

  • as I said, I’m no longer a teenager or young adult (I’m only 36 but well, I can clearly see that my interests,tastes are different from when I was 28-29 years old). Before, I had lot of free time, so reading a 100 pages manual for me was FUN, not a pain 😀 And a game like ToEE was fine, even if had lots of texts to read, even if had a complex inventory and spell management, and so on. Right now, that scares me off!
  • the gameplay of CRPGs evolved a lot. Now, you’re used to see several improvement/behaviour that if are missing really annoys you. Like moving the mouse over an item, and instantly see the difference with the one currently equipped in the appropriate slot (this was a feature requested from a user to my upcoming RPG Planet Stronghold and indeed, is very useful but also EXPECTED from nowadays players). So, there’s a long list of things, more or less important, that now players assume will be present by default in a game. And if they don’t find it, they feel frustrated/annoyed!
  • Party based vs single character and real-time vs turn based. Most old CRPG were party and turn based. Most of new CRPG are real-time and single player based (you can still have a party, but the NPC AI usually is good enough to fight in your place). When I was playing Mass Effect 2 in particular, I almost never cared of what my other companion were doing. I was just fighting on my own, assuming they would do their part 😀

Of course, not everyone will share the same thoughts as me. But I was a bit surprised to discover how much my gaming tastes have changed in just 7 years! And I can somehow understand why all the new titles are more action oriented, or have excellent GUI system that let you do most of the actions with very few clicks.

However, I think you can still have a good gameplay, rule system, and variety even using the good old turn-based or an hybrid approach like real-time with possibility of pause. A good example is Dragon Age, The Witcher and Drakensang. The last two in particular IMHO represent a very good example of “old-school approach” into a “new fashion” of CRPG. They have still many statistics, items, but the interface is not as clumsy as ToEE. They have lots of tactical challenges but still, you aren’t forced by a turn-based system.

Don’t get me wrong, ToEE is still a great title and I wish Troika Games would still be here today, I’m sure they would make a RPG that would kick Bioware’s ass 🙂 For my upcoming titles though, I think will try a more real-time approach, both for RPGs and also strategy/management games like the Heileen spin-off that I should start prototyping very soon.