Saturday, December 24, 2011

Firefly second edition - out now!


It's time to release Firefly second edition! 

Don't worry, the price will stay the same and people who bought it before will get it for free.

  • People who bought Firefly online – we will e-mail you with the details soon!
  • If you bought Firefly at a convention, please mail us at pegasi(at)weeaboo.nl (replace (at) with @) and instructions will follow!

What changed?
  1. The engine has been completely rebuild to look and work much better on slower computers.
  2. The visual novel now runs on 60 frames per second.
  3. The text box now switches between a small text box at the bottom of the screen and a full screen text box. The full screen text box is only used when you have long monologues.This is done so you can focus better on the sprites and other artwork.
  4. A lot of bugs, like the small opening movie not being stable enough, were fixed.
We also fixed some wording and typos and since one of our background music files wasn't that good, we did our best to improve it. It's the first music in the video below, in case you're interested.

Story
One fateful night, the mischievous thief Esta sets out to rob yet another unsuspecting nobleman of his riches. However, the mansion she targets turns out to be completely abandoned except for the, in her words, whiny and incompetent Yoru. Nevertheless, to her annoyance, she ends up having to take this young man along on her adventures. But despite his appearance, he might be more involved in the town's upsets than she realizes...

Promotional Video


Oh my god, a video!

Requirements
It runs on Windows XP/Vista/7, Linux and Mac OSX. You will only need Java 6 or higher, which can be downloaded here. 

Where to get it
You can buy the full version or try the demo on the Firefly project page.

If you still encounter any problems, don't hesitate to send us an e-mail.

Me and K-chan hope you enjoy the update! Happy Holidays! :D

~Anna

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Choices for choices

It's time for tips!

Today, let's take a look at the use of choices in visual novels. Most people are familiar with the concept, but there is a lot that can be done with them. When is it useful to include them, and what are the various ways in which you can use them?

Pros and cons of using choices
Since a visual novel is basically a book+, choices aren't necessary (as can be seen in kinetic novels). Yet many visual novels happen to use them to improve the experience of their story. So how do they help us?

Tension
Choices can add more tension, making the reader feel more involved with the story. When someone's decision can make the main character die or suffer, it creates a link between the player and the story. For example, during a battle scene, the player knows a wrong move can turn the main character into fine red mist.

Control
They can also give the reader more control over the story, which is fun, whether it be something simple as choosing the order in which you visit places or something far more complex that influences the entire direction of the story.

Story telling possibilities
Finally, they're perfect for when you really want to write a story with specific (character) routes and perhaps a true route which connects them all. This allows the reader to pursue his favourite character as well, instead of being forced to play other routes first.

However, like with anything, there are always things to consider when you add choices.

More work
When making choices in a visual novel, readers will only see a few of the branches, while the others will remain unread. This means a lot of extra work will be put in content which the player might not even see. Not to mention the work that goes in making the choices similar in content to one another, typing out bad ends, etc. That's a lot of time which could be used for other aspects of the visual novel.

Problems with routes
First of all, routes need to fit your story. There needs to be an important decision that justifies the route split, like which girl/guy to pursue, or a moral choice that drastically changes events. It might sound simple, but multiple routes which are roughly the same except for a few details don't have a lot of added value.

Second, it's hard to make all routes interesting yet diverse. If you don't manage to do so, people might end up only playing one route before quitting, which is kind of a waste.

Last, because the order of the routes can be chosen freely, your game will lack a proper ending. This can be solved by adding a 'true' or 'final' route, but this one needs to combine all of the smaller routes in one epic ball of awesome while remaining unique on its own, which is hard to pull off.

Kinds of choices
Of course, not all choices have to be the same. They can be used to fulfill specific roles in the story. Below we'll note a few examples.

Route choices
If your novel has multiple routes, these are the choices that determines which one you'll get. There are two common variations: The first one is a direct choice that will determine which route to enter. The second variety works with points, in which different answers give you different amount of points for routes. If you score high enough for a route, you will enter it, but if you don't score high enough for any of the routes you'll usually get a bad end somehow.

Order choices
These kind of choices can decide which events you see first and which last or which events you won't see at all if there's a limit to the choices you can make. Even without direct effect on the story, the player can choose his preferred girl or event first, increasing interactivity.

Skip choices
These choices ask the reader if he is familiar with certain lore or information. If he already knows about it, he can skip the explanation, instead of being bored silly.

Detail choices
A detail choice doesn't affect the mayor storyline in any serious way, but will only alter some small details. For example, learning about various details, or receiving a wound which might be mentioned later on and hinder your progress a little. It could be as simple as giving the reader bonus information about the character when you make a specific choice.

Fight choices
These can be seen as a variation of the first kind of choices - route choices, especially if you consider dead ends. When the main character is in a fight, it's far more exciting to influence the outcome or to decide on a way in which it's fought rather than to read the standard fighting scene. You have to actually think about your actions and their possible consequences. This could be, but doesn't have to be in the form of an instant death when you pick the wrong move. Though just like with route choices, you can also gain points instead of dying. One mistake will not instantly kill you, but many mistakes will. Let's look at an example:

An ogre throws an axe at your face 1) dodge 2) scream 3) block.
1) missed me, nanana~ - 0 wounds
2) he has terrible aim, but you're missing an ear and a bit of your cheek - 2 wounds
3) sadly, your incompetence in DEF shines through and you only decrease the damage - 1 wound

The following choice could be something similar. Imagine you have three of such choices and a limit of 4 wounds. If the reader failed badly twice or picked another combination to end up with 4 wounds, he dies/X happens. X could be an early defeat of the enemy or something else entirely. If you keep in mind where you want to end up, then the rest of your story can remain the same.

Keep in mind that if your surpass the threshold somewhere, death does have to follow swiftly. Nothing is more annoying than suddenly dying an hour later without understanding why.

Infuriating choices
Yes, this is a necessary category. Choices can make and break the experience equally well. Most of all, they need to make sense, not be entirely obvious from the start and be fair. Here's what I think you should avoid:
  1. Picking item X/food X/whatever random thing you may think of to decide which path to follow/to get the best ending. I don't think a route or ending should depend on whether I make spaghetti or a fruit salad for lunch!
  2. You have a naughty dream about character 1, 2 and 3... in which you go to bed wiiiiith? -insert answer-. Try to make your choices a little less transparant. I'm looking at you, Tsukihime.
  3. Why-are-you-asking-me-this choices. If you ask up front which boy you want to pursue, immersion is broken. Why not let the player follow his favorite love interest or route as the story unfolds?
  4. Out of character choices. Granted, this doesn't count if the main character is you or a personality lacking puppet, but imagine a rapist encountering a nude woman on the street and then getting the choices 'give her your coat', 'call the police' or 'gasp'.
  5. Irrational choices. Choices which make you wonder why the heck you or the character would ever do that. This is especially bad if all choices seem terrible to you. For example, an ass has been bullying you and then you get the choice to date him or give him flowers, while in fact you want to break his ne-... ignore him. Of course, the main character might be a weirdo which has fallen in love with our ass, but it has to be made clear before suddenly giving an irrational choice.
  6. Meaningless choices. We talked about choices being a way for the player to pursue their interests. However, choices where you're simply stating your favourite colour or something similar minor, clearly add nothing at all. It's hard to decide at times if a choice adds flavor or not, but there are some out there that clearly don't.

There are probably some other variations of choices or reasons which I missed, but my point is: Think it through. Your choices for choices also have consequences ;)!

~Anna

Friday, November 18, 2011

A New Visual Novel!


One fateful night, I sat up in bed, grabbed my notebook and started writing incomprehensible things.

In other words, hell yeah! Finally! Time to introduce a new project! It's called A Song of Truths and Dares * A Game of Spies...


Tadah~ The logo was made to go onto a darker background, so you can't really see everything well here, but it shows the general idea. 

Synopsis
After a tiresome mission on another continent, the high spirited spy Lloyd is happy to make his way back home. As a way to ensure the safety of himself and the troublesome items he brought back, he meets up with two of his fellow spies.

But because of their strange behaviour, he starts to expect they might be here for reasons other than just his safety – and maybe not even that.

Lloyd soon finds himself thrown into problems and even worlds he had never considered possible to exist. He will need to muster all of his wit and skills, in order to survive and come to the bottom of this all.

Note: They're spies this time, not thieves, there's a very significant difference there! Or so I'm trying to make you believe.

Specifications so far
  • Fantasy Visual Novel with choices
  • Art made in full HD (1920x1080)
  • Background animations + transition animations for sprites
  • Commercial

Characters



Mind that these are just the character concepts, so the quality isn't the same for the sprites and rather sketchy here. Anyway, from left to right we have...

Lloyd – the protagonist

A 19 year old, high spirited spy who enjoys his job and is actually pretty nice. Much like his fellow spies, Lloyd was raised in a special institute for spies and afterwards has been working as one his entire life - even though he doesn't always act the part. His most recent mission is quite troublesome, so he can't wait to get home and get it over with.

Lina

A 20 year old spy whose tactics and strategies in work are of a slightly different and more... mature nature than Lloyd's. She and Lloyd began working together five years ago and have been friends – or perhaps a little more – ever since. However, when the two meet again she seems unusually restless.

Note: I have never drawn a woman with such a daring outfit and large breasts before. I blame Xenoblade for everything.

Sirus

A 17 year old spy who takes his job rather seriously. He used to work for a different lord, but then left and started working for Lloyd two years ago. Even though Sirus is the youngest of the three and Lloyd's subordinate, their relationship is pretty casual.

There are about 3 or 4 other characters (who aren't even blue! *gasp*), but these will do for now.

Progress so far
Outline: 100%
Script: 5%
Coding: 0%
Character concepts: 50%
Art: 0.5% (I demand that 0.5% because of the logo :V!)
Music: 0%

As you can see, we've completed the outline and I'm busy writing the script. I don't know how long it's going to be, but my (highly detailed) outline is about 12 000 words.... oops? I'll abuse the rest of this month as much as I can to write more of the script, since it's the NaNoWriMo month after all :).

Either way, I'm really excited for this project and can't wait to you show more, since it's going to use a style and theme which is perfect for a visual novel. It will get really artistic and we'll be trying out some new things (like little animations), but of course we'll do our best to make it a great visual novel to play as well <3!

~Anna

P.S. I don't know who it is, but someone has been updating vndb.org with our works (even the most recent demos!). Whoever you are, you are a sweetheart, thank you <3!

P.S. #2 Sorry if you got spammed with our last two Firefly blog posts. I didn't know the RSS feed would update just because I added a tag ;_;...

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Firefly for Android

With the Android market being rather dry on visual novels, we've decided to help out a little :). Therefore, we're planning to create a mobile version of the upcoming version of Firefly.

As the second edition is still in production, we've only uploaded the demo so far. However, once it is complete, a full version will be released as well.






The application can be used in both landscape and portrait orientation, with the graphics scaling along accordingly. It should work on any Android 2.1+ device.

Please click on the picture below to try it out now:



P.S. This isn't the only thing we've been working on. Next time I'll introduce a shiny new visual novel project, so keep an eye out! ;D

~Anna

Friday, October 7, 2011

Writing an outline

Hi there,

Aside from our current projects, it might be fun and useful to look at the way we handle writing, art, music etc. So now and then I'll try to give some tips on that :D!

The first thing you usually do (and really should too!) when creating a visual novel is writing an outline for it. Without an outline, you won't know what kind of backgrounds, sprites or music the story will need. After all, you need to know what the setting, characters and atmosphere will be like, before you can properly work on any of those. That's why today we'll start off with exactly that! I'll talk a bit about how I prefer to write an outline and the preparation work involved with it.

Prep work
Before starting on an outline, it's useful to think about the setting of the story, an interesting main character and the general idea of a plot. Not only is this a nice basis from which you can build your story, it's also a short summary you can use to inform others of your plot. The order in which you think up these elements is not important - In most cases you'll have a cool idea about one of them, and the other two aspects will be derived from it.

For example, a short summary might be 'A woman living on a tropical island is convinced that kappas really do exist. Thus she sets out on an epic journey to find one, equipped with cucumbers'. What we have here is...
  • Setting: Tropical island.
  • Main character: a woman who believes in the existence of kappas.
  • The plot: Finding a kappa.
A lot changes from the point you start plotting to the actual finished script, but these details will remain fairly consistent compared to other aspects of your story.

Now that you're done with that, start daydreaming! I mean it. Inspire yourself with places, art, music or whatever you can think of that have a connection with your project. Start thinking about what kind of scenes would definitely have to be in your story. Start thinking your characters through more: what kind of personality do they have? What's their weakness? What's their mindset? What do they enjoy? How are your characters related to each other?

Personally, I prefer a combination of taking quick notes on paper along with keeping detailed documents on the computer. You can think of everything written in the notebook as very conceptual, whereas everything you make a detailed document for (such as the setting) will be more stable.

The outline
First of all, I know some people prefer not writing an outline and just winging the story until it's done. With short stories this usually works fine, but with longer stories you have to be careful. I didn't really use an outline for the rough draft of Firefly, but afterwards I regretted it. Without an outline it's easy to get plot holes, pacing issues, and other things like that. You might discover these problems at the last moment and would have to rewrite entire chapters. In an outline you can spot these problems more easily and you'd just have to rewrite a few sentences to fix them. So, in my opinion it's better to start with an outline first.

All right, now... the first outline you write will probably suck. Chances are it won't even get finished because you start rewriting it after some new ideas and insights appeared. This is normal and good, it only improves the story. Just don't overdo it, or you'll never finish.

What I notice when writing outlines is that it's very easy to get overwhelmed by the little details. Never forget your outline is nothing more than a quick summary of events, don't include details that will make it hard to follow. For our earlier kappa story example this could be something like:

Beginning:
- Introduction of the main character - mention that today she'll go for a swim!
- The main character is saved from drowning (accident-cramp in foot) by a strange creature, it resembled a kappa.
- Her friends tell her they don't exist, she challenges them, saying she'll find the kappa who saved her.

Build-up:
- She tries to lure the kappa to her with a trail of cucumbers leading out of the sea - it fails
- She swims around the area where she got saved, trying to find the kappa - it fails
- She's down because she can't find her kappa - maybe she just washed ashore and had a strange dream?

Climax:
- Wait, what's that? Something moved in the water and she dives in after it.
- After chasing him for some time, she catches the kappa! Hooray!

Ending:
- She goes to show off the kappa to her friends - who then conclude she captured a poor man wearing a diving suit with some seaweed stuck to his head.

Tadah! You now have a simple, basic outline of the plot! It shows how the tension builds up, where the climax is and how it begins and ends. If your plot involves multiple main characters, point of views, settings and is pretty long (let's say longer than a 1-4 hour visual novel), then this structure will inevitably become more complex. In the end though, be sure you write it out in the most basic way you can think of before developing it too much.

You can now take this plot and fill in the details. If your story is going to be long, it might be useful to start dividing it into chapters and then write down what happens each chapter. You'll basically work on your story until it's saturated.

And finally, please let someone proofread it! It's so easy to overlook something.


Surely, this didn't cover everything there is to know about writing an outline and there are tons of other ways to do it, but now you have a general idea of how I do it.

~Anna





Friday, September 23, 2011

Firefly second edition demo!

Firefly was originally a kinetic visual novel made for a convention in the Netherlands (and later released online as well). However, as this was our first visual novel ever with a brand-new game engine, we encountered some problems here and there. Therefore, with the comments we've received as well as our updated game engine, we've decided to do a little re-release.

Important - This is more like a free update than a new release - those who bought the old version will be updated with the new one free of charge, while the price of the new version will not increase for new buyers. If you bought Firefly online before, we will send it to your e-mail address. Those who bought it on a convention will be notified later on with more information - we'll think of a way to give you guys the update as well. 

Windows & Linux - For those who want to take a look, the second edition demo can be found here:






Mac - For those with a Mac, a specific version for you guys can be found here:



 



Changes in Firefly second edition (demo)
First and foremost, the dialogue window has been changed. In the first version, we used an old-school window that covered most of the screen when you played. After some feedback, we've decided to change it to a more common style, in which the textbox is down below the screen and uses a namebox to indicate who is talking. 


 
Hopefully it will be an improvement for those who found the former style to be inferior or hard to read. However, since long monologues work better in the old style, you will see it switch back now and then. We found this to be a nice compromise.


Furthermore, our engine has improved a lot. The small opening movie at the beginning is now completely stable, the visual novel runs on 60 fps, it looks and works a lot better on slow computers, all sorts of tiny little bugs got fixed, and tons of other things I'm probably forgetting right now :D.

And last but not least, we've also corrected a number of typo's, fixed some small visual bugs and improved one of the background music files.
 

If you notice any more problems or bugs or whatevers with the demo, please tell us! You'll have our gratitude and we'll fix it right away.

~Anna

Thursday, September 8, 2011

First post go!

Hi there!

We wanted to communicate more with the people who are interested in our work, and since it would be fun to share our projects' developments with the world...
A blog was made~

My name is Anna and I'll probably be the main blogger here, so nice to meet you! Of course, K-chan will post about her work progress as well now and then, so don't worry about one-sided reports.

In this blog, we'll be talking about various projects, since we work on multiple at the same time. However, we'll be using labels (which are on the right here --> and below every post) and will only talk about one project in each post, so it's easier to navigate through the posts which interest you :).

Our updates are scheduled to occur about twice every month. For easy reference, please use the RSS feeds on your right.

For now I'll leave it at this, but expect more posts with actual content pretty soon!