Sunday, December 30, 2012

Making Manga (the Pegasi way)

While we mainly focus on visual novels nowadays, we started out as (and still are) a small Dutch doujinshi circle to make our own original manga stories. In fact, we have a short story in the pipeline for Tsunacon, an upcoming convention in February.

Basically, we have the following idea: in a Victorian or fantasy setting (I haven't decided yet), a young noble lady is about to be betrothed to the most stoic man alive. Although she likes him, the only interest he has shown in her is his occasional glancing when she's not looking, likely due to her beauty. Sadly, that won't last long either...

While I can't tell you more about it (the curse of a short story), in this month's post I can show you the Pegasi way of how we make our printed work.

Story idea
Whether you're creating visual novels or comics, it all starts with this.

For us, thinking up the main idea is usually the easy part. Once we've got one that sounds like an interesting concept and of the correct size for our visualized page count, we work it out in very basic terms: see whether there are any major plot holes, clichés or other problems which you need fix early on. If it passes this phase, it's ready for the next step, in which I work out the idea and Kiki checks it.

The general story idea is also what usually ends up being the synopsis on the back of our books, so I usually write it down somewhere.

Story layout
It's a good idea to have the story laid out before you start drawing. It will help you stick to your page count and visualise how the story unfolds over these pages. This also means you can pace your story, not to mention correcting mistakes before they become a pain. There are a few ways to do this, of which I've found the following to be useful.

1. Script outline
page 1
"Hello" (man looking grumpy, 1/3)
"Hi" (woman looking grumpy, 1/3)
(man and woman sitting opposite of each other at a table, profile view, 1/3)
Above you see a very simple example of a page layout when you decide to write everything. You simply describe what should be seen and how big each panel is. The "1/3" here means the panel is 1/3 of the page or the available drawing area. It's a great way for writers who can't draw to visualise the story for the artist, or if you want to let your editor make adjustments even though he/she can't draw.

2. Thumbnails
While the above method works fine, I've come to prefer thumbnails. What you do here is drawing a thumbnail (tiny simple picture) of every page before you draw the pages themselves. It's great for visualising your ideas and laying out compositions ahead of time. If you draw the thumbnails in one image and number them, you can also see the pacing and an overview of the story with just a glance!

Since the thumbnails are so small, I just number the balloons and type the text which goes with it in a document.

Sketching
In this part you work out the thumbnails or outline of the last step in more detail. The sketches show the compositions and basically what's going on in the panels, but also who is who and who is wearing what, the general expressions, etc. After you've finished, you can lower the layer's opacity so it's easier to ink over later. 

Another tip here is to use 300 dpi for your files: although it's the minimum for it to look good in print, 600 dpi might be too much for the printer, it might ruin your tones,  and you probably don't need it if your manga isn't a super detailed work of art. You can always ask what your printing office prefers though.

Inking
When the sketches are done, it's time to ink! In my experience it works better to first ink the panels and balloons. You can do this by hand or with any other computer software you may have, but I prefer using Manga Studio EX 4 (MS).

MS has the advantage of pre-made balloons which you can adjust to your liking and they have a great panel-ruler tool. I've made panels in Photoshop and SAI, but MS wins by far; it takes me a grand total of 1 minute to draw all the panels on a page perfectly straight and exactly how I want them. This program also supports .psd files just like SAI, so I find it wonderful to use alongside those two.

For line-arting the characters and such you can use whatever you like. SAI is really nice for line-art, but MS has many traditional pen options. Just mess around and choose the one you like. A tip in MS by the way: make sure your inking is done on colour layers so you can use anti-aliased pen tools! This means the lines won't be all pixely. Here are the settings you need:
It says 32 bits, but it opens fine in both Photoshop and SAI.

Editing and lettering
Aside from criticizing the story, this is an editor's job! ...Fine fine, my editor's job, because she's cool like that. Kiki/K-chan mainly cleans up the inked pages (to make sure the lines stay inside the panels for example), or adds things in the background (filling it with a pattern or colour).

In addition she writes the text in the balloons with Photoshop. The latter isn't too hard, but requires some tricks to make it look good: adjusting the wording so it fits inside the balloon, keeping the text roughly the same size (it looks neater), making sure it's centred, following the shape of the balloon and preventing the text from being too close to the edges of the balloon (a common mistake). She also adds sound effects by using various fonts.

Colouring or toning
MS has "materials" you can import to draw with the tones you like. It also gives you the option to make a row of favourite tones so you won't have to look for them all the time (this is a life saver). Tones can be drawn on or you can select areas and fill them with tones, either one works.

However, no-one's stopping you from making a full-colour manga (except for your wallet, perhaps). This can be a great addition to a comic if you do it well and could be more appealing than the black and white tones; every panel will turn into a small piece of art :)! Just make sure you save the file as a .psd, so you can open it in SAI and Photoshop (unless you colour with another program) and keep the ink and background layer separated.

Printing
Look up a nice printer or ask someone who is already doing this for help. I definitely recommend the latter, since I had to learn this the hard way with people who didn't even know how to open .pdf files or that "back-cover.png" was the book's... back-cover.

When you've found one, read everything you can find about their procedure or just ask them a lot: how much do they cut, what type of binding do they offer, how fast they can print and deliver, what their prices are, the kind of paper they offer, the type of files they can work with etc. Do not hold back questions if you're unsure, be bold and merciless!

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I hope that was helpful for people and that it gave a decent idea of what we're doing. Although I'm doing this short manga (about 20 pages) in between, Kiki and Triah can just continue working on Locus Magici in the meantime (no slacking off). I'm also good at switching between both projects, so everything will go on as usual~

Also, expect an end-of-year review soon!

~Anna

Friday, November 30, 2012

Locus Magici: sketching sprites

While November seems to try everything it can to halt our progress, we still managed to work on some things~

Sound effects will be completed soon, we have three (out of fifteen or something at most) music tracks done and all sprites are being neatly sketched. Since it's a bit hard to talk about music and sound effects, I'll just tell you guys a bit about the sprite-progress.
Lloyd/MC - with each design his belts decrease.
Sketches first
Not a single sprite is going to be finished (i.e. properly coloured and lined) before all of them and ALL poses and expressions are sketched. We have three reasons for doing this, the first being that it's easier to make the sprites consistent if you do it this way (I noticed this while making Nanolife). The other reason is that Kiki can use these sketches to start coding, to see what should be added and if everything is all right. And finally, I am going to try out a new (for me at least) colouring style, so I don't want to focus on two things at the same time when I need to colour them.


From rough to final sketch
When sketching the sprites, I have a lot of anatomy reference stuff opened next to my art program, ranging from photo's of models to pictures of how the human muscles work. I can really recommend always using tons of reference to get an idea of how things work in real life. Also, this gives you a marvellous excuse to stare at bare chested (wo)men; it's research, man :D!

Anyway, I usually go through about three sketches until I reach the final sketch. The first is just a bunch of shapes, the second is made up out of muscle-shapes/lines and the third is like the 2nd but with some unnecessary lines erased and details (clothes, hair, eyes) added.

Below is a 3rd rough sketch and a final sketch to give an idea. I sometimes sketch new poses on top of the previous one, but sometimes also next to it. *shrug*
Sirus the Serious. >:[
After the sprites are sketched, I add some place-holder base colours so Kiki can see if she agrees with the colour scheme and check whether the light effects and other stuff she codes work well enough.

Since Lina is completely done, here's what the final sketches look like:
Lots of Lina.

And that's all I can show/tell you at the moment. Next time I will try to have most of the sprites sketched, Kiki will start doing some real code-work (long live vacations~) and Triah will probably have a few more tracks done too.


Also, the day we can create a Lemmasoft work-in-progress topic is getting closer and closer~

~Anna


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Locus Magici: Finished GUI!

After a lot of work, the graphical user interface (GUI) is finally done, so it's time to show off! Some of the content inside of it is still made up out of placeholders though, because those assets don't exist yet (such as sprites), but let's not ruin the fun. Below is a selection of the more interesting ones.

Chapter page

The chapter screen will appear whenever you begin a new chapter (a grand surprise). Because some of the chapters end in night, we made the chapter screen a bit dark. This way it's a little easier on the eyes so you don't get blinded suddenly.

Dividing the story up into chapters will hopefully help people find a nice break in the story flow so they can resume another time, since it was something people had some trouble with while playing our first visual novel Firefly. There is also a more plain version for the interludes in between chapters, but you'll get to see that one another time.

Journal

This is the in-game journal which can be entered at any time you wish while reading the visual novel. It gives a short summary of each chapter you finished, making it easier to jump back into the story if you need a little refresher.

On the left, you only see one journal entry now, but more will pop up as the story progresses. The map you see on the right will also be updated, portraying the route as Lloyd travels on. Furthermore, the summaries will be written by Lloyd himself, so prepare for some snark and doodles while reading these.

Savescreen

The savescreen will present a screenshot and other information of all your save-files, while marking the latest save as 'new'. It will also have a few autosaves (created after each scene) and the quicksave, should you wish to override it.

Novel mode
Novel mode will appear whenever there is no dialogue, but rather a monologue or an explanation where there is little movement on screen. Now everyone can read those in style. And in all other cases, we have...

ADV mode
We showed this one last time, but now has a small 'end of text' indicator for good measure. Also, a certain main character's developer nickname has been leaked out thanks to this image :D...

The other screens (e.g. profiles, dead ends, etc.) are also done, but they lack too much in-game content, making them feel rather empty now. This post is long enough as it is anyway, so this is all for now.

Next I'll begin sketching poses and deciding on colours for all the sprites, while Kiki is still making sound effects. On we go!

~Anna


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Locus Magici: progress x3!

Happy Halloween!

In honour of this day, we wanted to bully Lloyd (the main character). All you need is water and ships :D! See, it's this simple:
Now you can scare Lloyd too!

As for actual progress, we have some from three different angles!

Coding

Many, many scenes.
First, Kiki has begun doing some simple coding such as dividing the script into scenes, adding the names, adding choices/jumps in the script and when to switch between novel and adventure mode.The first bit of coding is always kind of mundane, so she has my pity. 

Also, for those wondering: the number system works in the order 'chapter number, scene number', so 00 is the first scene of the prologue, 10 is the first scene of the first chapter, etc.

Art
As you can see, I'm still working on the GUI. I wasn't satisfied with the first colours of the GUI, so I took a screenshot, made a colour palette and doodled over it until it was all right. The menus match each other now~

Every menu is sketched/designed, although this screenshot is missing the choice-button, titlescreen and interlude/chapter images. Kiki says she'll think up some cool button effects for the menus, so I'm really curious how everything will look in the VN~ I'll work hard to finish this as soon as I can!

Music
It took us a while before we finally decided how and with whom to do the music, but a good friend (known as Triah) is helping us out now. While we're still deciding on and messing a bit with the instruments, below you can find a small sample of Locus Magici's music (used for fun and happy scenes).



And that's all for now, back to work!

~Anna

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Locus Magici: Evolution of a textbox

Hi all,

Despite Anna's epic fight against illness and other stuff she had to do, we still found the time to do some work on Locus Magici. Right now, we're busy with designing the graphical user interface. With the textbox done, let's take a look how it got to completion.

Since we don't have any art yet, we used some old art from Firefly, scaled up to fit the 1920x1080 requirements. In other words, the following images and fonts are not representative of the final product.

Version 1

We argue a bit back and forth about the general style of the textbox, the colours, the size, etcetera. Anna makes the first version, as can be seen above. Quite some changes need to be made at this stage: the gradient within the textbox is a bit too much and the shading makes the border of the textbox bleed into the background. Also, while making the quick menu at the bottom, we soon noticed the textbox would work better if we moved it further down.

Version 2

As you can see, the changes mentioned above have been applied. The placement of the namebox has been decided, and the quickmenu at the bottom is done as well. The buttons each show a different style which will be used: the leftmost button is the disabled version, the second one is the normal look, the third one is the look it will get if you hover over the button with your mouse, and the last one is how it will look like if you press the button.

Version 3

What is this? A namebox has been added! However, we have some new issues to deal with. The green is too saturated compared to the rest of the look, which makes it feel empty and forces us to put the name in the center. Also, the red diamonds don't match well with the rest of the design. Time to fix!

Final version!

We now have the final version. All problems have been solved, and it looks a lot nicer than our first try. As the textbox will visible during most of the visual novel, it better be nice~

As an end note, we now have a Facebook page as well. Please follow this link and give us a like!

~Kiki

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Locus Magici script done!

Delay, you say? Nonsense. The last blog-post just happened to be written by our ghost member, Mahal. Don't pick on her, it's hard for a transparent being to type! ;_;

So yeah, we're done now! No more writing, no more editing, for real~!

The writing process
Aside from real life getting in the way, I think we underestimated editing a bit this time. Usually, we worked like this:
  1. Anna writes
  2. Kiki adds remarks and edits
  3. Anna applies edits/adjusts them if needed
Now, we did:
  1. Anna writes
  2. Anna writes 2nd draft
  3. Kiki checks for plot-holes
  4. Anna fixes and writes 3rd draft
  5. Kiki adds remarks and edits
  6. Anna applies edits/adjusts them if needed
That was painful, but worth it! We fixed a lot of mistakes in wording, plot-holes, spelling and improved a lot of scenes. I also added some scenes we needed, so the word-count definitely surpassed the sixty thousand by now.

The next steps
Since the script is done, our next steps in development shall be designing the graphical user interface (GUI), the sprites and do some basic coding. Kiki will take care of the last one and I'll deal with the first two.

In fact, I upgraded my drawing style a bit (it needed more nose), so I already made new rough sketches and designs for all the characters. You can find two of the new ones below:

Alex
Merin

My sketch folder tells me I have about 22 people in there (duplicates such as maids/guards not counting) so I'll have a lot to draw from now on. But first, it's time to make a simple, clean and pretty GUI~

We'll show you the results in the next post!

~Anna

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Nanolife now on Android!

While we're still busy with editing Locus Magici's script, we've also been working on something else entirely: the Android version of Nanolife! Why? Well, it's fun, so why not~

To show off a bit:



If you haven't tried it out yet, or simply want to have Nanolife on Android too, you can find it by clicking the image below. The visual novel should work on any Android 2.1+ device.



Thursday, August 16, 2012

Locus Magici: Writing Achievement Unlocked!

As promised, this post will focus on the progress we made on our new visual novel, Locus Magici. Or to be more specific; its script.

Days and nights were spent typing, planning and fixing the story. Our amazing plans were all written down in an incredibly professional way, using the most high-tech software available to doodle comments on the photo below. After all, as a small business, you have to stay cool.

Like a pro.
So yes, after an edit phase or three, we are almost done with the writing. Actually, the writing is done; the story is written and all the plot holes we could find have been fixed. Hell, we even wrote an unlockable extra story. The total word-count is going to be 60.000+, which is more than we expected.

All that's left to do is the final editing phase in which we correct any spelling, wording and grammar mistakes that might have sneaked in. This means I edit them, then Kiki edits my edited writing, after which I check her edits.

This also means we've reached our first milestone! So check this page for the unlocked content~

Expect the editing to be done sometime next week, and after that... I'll finally, finally, finally have time for art! I hope you're looking forward to that as much as I am. See you!

~Anna

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Anniversary Discount!

Next week, we'll tell you a bit more about the progress on Locus Magici, but for now we have something different to talk about.

You see... me and Kiki just returned from our vacation, but while we were relaxing there and working on Locus Magici, we realized that it's our group's five year anniversary already! Though we haven't produced many digital projects yet, we've been self-publishing small comic one-shots since 2007. Look at our grand history of amateurism here~

But I do~

We barely noticed since the group mainly consists out of us two, and we've been friends since... uh... since we were six years old or something?

Anyway, for the occasion, we decided to introduce a discount week! From this moment until the sixteenth, Firefly will be half the price for both the Android and PC version. They are now 2.50 and 5 Euro respectively.

In case you're interested, you can find them on our Firefly project page.

*eats cake*

~Anna

Monday, July 23, 2012

How to make (simple) sprites

It's been a while, but here we are again!

Today I will tell you how to cheat draw simple sprites. At least, the way I do it. I don't know what exactly I'll do for the Locus Magici sprites yet, but it won't be the same. Might do a post on that later, but these following sprites are meant to be done quickly.

So in short, I'll tell you how I made this:
Cecile


What I used
I mostly used Paint Tool SAI, but also used Photoshop for colour adjustments and aligning the sprites. Since they both open .psd files, it's a nice combination. 

Step 1 - Concept and sketch
First of all, I make a rough concept of the character, which usually becomes a pose later on. For Cecile I made a different pose first, so her concept looked like this.

The reason why it's good to do this, is because:
1) You can test it on a background to see how it looks in the VN!
2) You can define the general personality well with this concept.
3) You can decide on the lighting and the general colours (which is great if you work with a team who needs to OK it).
4) You can still make big adjustments easily, should you need them. 

Besides, you will need to make a good sketch for the sprites anyway. Just remember to keep the sketch and rough colouring on two separate layers or it will be a pain to ink over later.

Step 2 - Inking
Inking means it's time to get all the fun details added in. Create a new layer above and below the sketch layer. Turn down the opacity of the sketch layer and fill the bottom layer with a nice colour. Ink on the top layer.

I used a dark brown colour for the lines, to make them a bit more natural, but you could also use black, lock the transparency of the layer and colour over it with your desired colour once you're done.

For these sprites I was experimenting with the lines a little, since the last time I drew lines I noticed how sharp they were. To get a bit of a softer look I used these settings (SAI):
- Brush tool at size 8.0 ~ 10.0
- min size 0%
- density 100%
- colour blending ~30, opacity mix ~20, persistence ~80

You should really experiment with these settings (and the advanced settings) to get the look you want. I will be doing that as well, since I'm not yet satisfied with how the lines look; I want something between the sharpness of the pen tool and the smudginess of the brush tool, and thinner lines might work better.

Important:
Please keep in mind that the expression should be on a different layer! You can leave the nose if you  want, but the mouth, eyebrows and eyes shouldn't be on the same layer as the rest of the lineart. You should also colour the eyes and such on separate layers, not on the main/body colour layers.

Step 3 - Flat colouring
I am very, very lazy with this. You know those people who make one layer for each colour? I'm not one of them. All my flat colours are on one layer, because it saves me time and keeps things simpler.

Using the magic wand is the key in this process if you want to get it done quickly. Simply select your line-art layer, pick the magic wand tool and click on the areas you want to be a certain colour. Now, because I am even more lazy, I made a hotkey for the bucket tool.

Go back to your colour layer and smash your hotkey or use the bucket tool to fill the selected area with your current colour. Check if you missed any spots (you will, trust me) by using convenient background colours and filling these spots up with the pen tool.

Also, if you want to add details on the flat colours (such as lines on the uniform) creating a layer on top of it and colouring on that should do the trick. Just call it 'details' and voilà.

Step 4 - Shading
Again, we'll be using one layer, but this time it has a little trick to it. You see, we're going to set this layer to 'multiply'. It's an option you can find somewhere close above the layers window in both SAI and PS.

Now, take the brush tool, increase the size, pick a nice colour. I used Salmon-ish pink for this to give it a warm feel, but blue and other colours work fine too. Whatever you do, don't use some kind of grey colour; it makes your sprite look dull and dead.

Then shade that baby while keeping the direction of the light source in mind. You can use the water tool to soften the shading on the skin and get a nice hard-soft shading balance.

You can also lock the transparency of the shading layer and then use the airbrush or brush tool to make slight variations in the shading colours. For example, I wanted some parts of the shirt to be more blue-ish, so I went over it with a colder pink.

Step 5 - Lighting
This is much like the shading step, except with a different layer mode. You will set the layer to 'overlay' this time and then use a nice fitting colour (for example pale yellow or light blue, experiment!) to add light.

I also like adding just a little bit of light on the opposite side (where the shading is) because it gives the drawing more depth.

For Cecile I even made an additional layer to light her hair better (I wanted the light to be more blue), and just lowered the opacity of that layer to prevent it from becoming too bright.

Step 6 - Poses and finishing touches
I prefer sketching all poses at once and colouring them all at once for the sake of consistency. You can make a rough sketch on top of the first pose and then check if proportions are all right by dragging it to the side (which is why I prefer using a bigger canvas than I would need).

In the end you can save each finished sprite, make one big psd file with all the finished sprites in it and then align these in Photoshop to make sure they're on the same spot. You can also then do colour adjustments, by messing with the levels (image -> adjustments -> levels, or ctrl+L). I like adjusting the individual levels manually. Same goes for contrast and what not, just have fun trying things out.

---

And that's all! To keep it short, I might have skipped over a few things here and there. Cecile is one of the public domain sprites I made for this project by the way, so go ahead and use the two of them if you want.

~Anna

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Animations in visual novels

As you may know, we've been thinking about adding animations to our projects, like sprite animations. So, with Cinders being released this week, we thought it would be a good opportunity to talk about animations in visual novels~

Where would you add animations? What kinds of animations are there? What should you watch out for? Let's take a look! I'll pick a few of the most interesting and/or common ones and discuss them here.

1. Blinking animations
You know them, where the poor souls on screen need to blink every few seconds to remind us of it. Or blink so little that people forget they're blinking at all. So, for starters, blinking is hard to do right. But there are more reasons why I avoid adding this.

While reading, these sudden movements (especially if the eyes are big) distract my attention from the text. I guess this is because unlike looping animations which you see constantly (rain, snow), blinking has short periods of animations after a period of no animation. Furthermore, when the eyes of an otherwise static character sprite blink, it just makes me more aware of how static the sprite is.

The only times I can remember when they didn't bother me, were when the timing of the blinking was just right or when the eyes of a character weren't all that big. The bigger, the more I notice it.

2. Mouth flaps
If you ignore what she says, this is kinda cool. However, like with blinking, it's hard to get right.

Setting aside the fact that some visual novels don't use voice acting, so matching the lips to the words is harder and a little awkward, it's actually also a lot of work for little gain. To make it look good, you have to use the right frequency and enough frames, or it will just look off.

Having the right frequency prevents it from looking extremely slow or hyperactive, but it's not easy getting it right. Shira Oka, for example, in which the characters were often moving their mouths at incredible speeds they could match my Greek mom. Of course, the other extreme would be characters whose mouths move so slowly they should only be able to say two words per sentence.

As for frames, like for any kind of animation, you need to draw enough of them. If you only use a frame for mouth-closed and mouth-open, it will look really... silly.

3. Sprite animations
When I say sprite animations, I mean sprites which don't just change poses, but are fully animated as they change poses. This is a really cool addition to a visual novel and a step further than mouth flaps or blinking eyes, but the rose has some nasty thorns as well.

Let's look at uguu-san below for an example.

I will never exist, sir!
Uguu-san took me about 10 minutes to doodle. This may not seem much, but keep in mind I was rushing, abused ctrl+C, didn't care for the character and knew that the sooner she was done the sooner I could finish this post and be lazy the rest of the eve-- well you get the point; I wanted to get it done quickly and didn't care.

So, while it may be cool, decent looking and animated sprites will take a lot of work, and that probably means cutting poses in return.

The other reason why you may reconsider using this, is what convinced us of discarding the idea of sprite animations in our current project. Since your characters will be animated, their colouring and lines may become a lot less detailed and refined. As animation quality depends on the consistency of the sprites, it's very hard to use epic highlights, cool shading, layer effects and what not to keep the quality up.

As it's very tough and time-consuming to get it right, most animated characters end up looking more simplistic than a character which wasn't animated at all.

4. Movement of background elements
The fun thing about moving background elements is that it is relatively simple to do, compared to the other examples, and that there are a lot of ways to utilize this one.

For example, translation. Moving clouds from A to B and then starting at A again to loop it, which is not that hard. Add multiple layers with clouds with different sizes and speeds, and you can create depth. Or make use of rotation to let wheels turn around and let grass sway in the wind. However, the moving background items should be drawn onto a different layer, so plan them out in advance.

5. Pans and zooms
Use this. Seriously. Pans are another gem of an easy animation method which makes your visual novel much more dynamic just by moving the camera. You will have to use backgrounds which are broader or higher than your VN's resolution is, but in our opinion it's totally worth it.

The same goes for zooms; you could have one CG for a battle and still make it an epic scene by just throwing in some sound effects and focusing on different parts of the CG, matching the current text (hi there, Fate/Stay Night).

6. Particle effects!
I love this one! Particle effects are simulations of otherwise hard-to-create phenomena by creating many simplistic images; it's commonly used for rain and snow. It's a little trickier than pans and zooms or moving stuff, but these are awesome mood-setting animations.

---

Well, these are the main ones we wanted to discuss. I think we'll mostly use the last three ourselves, but there are many techniques I haven't covered here (blur, depth of field, etc.). It's a lot of fun to look around and see what you can do to make your visual novel even prettier.

Explore and experiment, I'm sure you'll create some lovely effects!

~Anna

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Locus Magici WIP page added (+ twitter)

As promised, this post will (mainly) focus on our newest work in progress, Locus Magici! We have a few things to show and tell, so let's get to it~

Character Sketches and Profiles
Alex's ogling is totally in character.
You might have seen Lloyd, Lina and Sirus before (although we changed Lina's hair colour to mesh better with the rest), but we added the other important characters as well now. Note that these are still sketches, since university is taking most of our time right now, and we're still finalizing the script with 1000 words a day. Though in a week or two, we'll really be able to put our all into this.

Since we're slowly getting more and more information to show off, all of it will be summarized on the Locus Magici Work In Progress page. Right now, we've added the above sketches, the logo, and character profiles in it, so please check it out! Plus...

Unlockable Content
No, we're not talking about DLC.

You might have seen the new tab at the top on our blog. Once we get to certain milestones with our progress (as indicated in the progress bars on our site), we'll give you a sneak peak of our work. We'll mention it when they'll be unlocked, so stay tuned.

Twitter
Another new addition can seen at the lower right of this blog. That's right, we're going to spam Tweets from now. You asked for it, you got it, so please follow us~

That's all for today, but I hope you enjoyed the update!

~Anna


Friday, May 25, 2012

We won an award, hurrah~

Something not visual novel related?... le gasp!

First, for the non-Dutchies; We regularly visit some conventions in the Netherlands to sell our stuff. Last week we were at Animecon, which also organizes the annual Dutch Manga Awards. These are basically awards which can be won by amateur manga artists who self-publish their stories.

As you can see from title of this post, we happened to win in the category original story with our book The Lost Angel Arianna. This resulted in us getting a cool, shiny, super professional(ly handmade) trophy and some moneyz!

Hell yeah.

Actually, we didn't think we would win. It's not that we're not confident about our work, but more the fact that two of the three jury members had a great interest and history in western styled comics.

Yeah, that didn't reassure us much; since people like that usually show a clear preference to a more western style, and our style is totally shoujo. What didn't help either was that another person was nominated in this category with a story using a pure western comic style, and that one of the jury members said he didn't like manga.

As you can imagine, we prepared ourselves to not be butt-hurt after that guy won, only... he didn't. The importance of style did turn out to be an huge discussion point among the jury members, so at least our fears were justified. Also, now I can complain without looking bad~

Anyway, enough gossip about behind-the-scenes Dutch mangaka politics (man, what a sentence). As for the actual convention experience, it was a little different this time. Unlike conventions in America and such, Dutch conventions never had an Artist Alley (or as they say Avenue) before. Instead they just put the artists between the real dealers and shopkeepers.

However, this year they did separate the groups and thus we got our own Avenue. Yes I find it amusing writing this. As expected, sales went down and what didn't help either was that it was placed after the dealerroom. You know, the place where people spend money? Still, it wasn't that bad and if they make sure people realize we're there, then I think it will work out more smoothly.

At the very least, we had lots of cool conversations with our neighbours into the wee hours of the night. Please, accompany us again next time, we still have to convince you to make more visual novels <3.

So, that was our con-report. We had a lot of fun there and will now resume pushing our trophy into people's faces. I'm off! /o/

Next post will really be about Locus Magici, I swear!

~Anna

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Resource management

It's already been a month since NaNoRenO, so that's enough time to recover and pick up our work on our latest project; Locus Magici. However, since we haven't done anything else yet save for writing more of the story (Anna is working hard on that one), today's post will instead be the return of the tips section! Brought to you by me, the ever mysterious K-chan.

First, let us move back to 2010, when I was putting Firefly together. Not planning ahead on how to handle my resources, I pretty much threw everything together in one image folder with a few exceptions for stuff like the title screen images. The result?


Yeah... I kind of regretted that one. Some problems that arose thanks to this:
  • Obviously, it was harder to find specific images.
  • It was harder to get an overview: How much sprites characters had, which background had handmade evening/night versions and which could go without, etc.
  • More descriptive names were needed to be able to find them, result in longer names to type out.
  • All of these problems were tenfold once I hadn't memorized the locations and character's names  anymore.
When it was time for Nanolife, I decided to turn things around:


There, much better. Characters, backgrounds, fades, and various parts of the system all get their own folder now, making it much easier to work for me. Also, the names used in Nanolife were rather short, but otherwise I could have also worked with three-letter abbreviations (like kee/smi.png for the image path, instead of keeffe/smile.png)

I talked mostly about images now, but the same goes for scripts. Instead of putting everything in one master document, I like to split it up in multiple scenes, sorted by number. For example, '1.lvn' or '1-description of scene.lvn'. Like images, it is easier to find and edit a specific scene, or see whether a scene is too long in comparison or not.

This seems like a pretty simple concept, but it saves quite a bit of time, at least in my case. At the very least, it's enjoyable to see oneself developing tricks like these. Well, until next time, where hopefully we'll have something to show related to Locus Magici :).

~K-chan

Monday, April 16, 2012

Nanolife promo video


To be more specific, a Nanolife promo video with commentary done by us! Yes, really, it's as horrible as it sounds.

So, why commentary? Well, we had some problems with recording ingame audio for a promotional video (like the one we made for Firefly), so we decided to fix the problem creatively.

Whether that was a good choice or not I still don't know, but at the very least I got the privilege of hearing K-chan's Kiki's awesome Denglish. Being Dutch is fun during times like these :D~





That's all for now, I'm afraid. See you next time!

~Anna

Monday, April 2, 2012

Nanolife released!




Synopsis
A boy has recently found a great MMORPG in the depths of the internet. Excited, he stays up behind his computer late at night, while a thunderstorm is roaring outside. However, just as he completed his character creation - thunder strikes!

All electricity and thus also his computer shut down at once, leaving him in the dark. Though sad, he has no choice but to wait for now. However, in the game, his character has already begun playing without him...

Specifications
  • three routes with one ending each
  • unlockable extra and choices
  • 1920x1080 resolution
  • ~20.000 words
  • very tiny, but cute, animations

Age Rating: 3+
Beware! Brush your teeth before and after playing!

Warning
Because of the very tight deadline we haven't tested thoroughly on all systems, so please let us know if you find a bug.

System requirements
You will need Java version 6 or higher, which can be downloaded here.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Yes! Yes! Oh hell yeah~ we made it!

That was the most horrifying month we have had in a long time. Next time, we're definitely making something simpler haha. We didn't even have the time to sleep or update this blog properly.

All right so what did we do?

Art
We made a lot of art for the graphical user interface, but the minimap has been simplified to only show the area's name and a small picture for it, since it just didn't work well with the 2D atmosphere we created.

Nevertheless, this was my first time doing such a big and strange GUI, so I'm satisfied with the results, especially since Firefly only needed a simple black transparent text box. It took a looong time to do though.

Story
Me and K-chan discussed the story and made an outline and flow charts before the writing even began. After that it was a matter of me typing at the speed of light and her and me doing a lot of proofreading afterwards.

Still, the script turned out to be double the size of what we originally planned – oops ^^;. I had a lot of fun writing it though, since it was a very novel way of telling a story for me.

Scripting
From what I heard and asked of her to do, scripting was hell for K-chan, but that's probably because I gave her the final pieces of art and sprites so late ahaha... I have to admit though, she had to do a LOT of new things for this project too, from flying people to changing title-screens to little animations and what not.

However, she can't fool me that it was 100% bad. I bet you she was secretly smiling with glee when mistakes made the characters rotate through the air while looking smug. Definitely.

Music
OK, the music was downright hell :'D! I was struggling with another deadline last night and only had this day left to do the music. Then, I OVERSLEPT. K-chan called me awake at 12:00. Why thank you, body! Couldn't you hang on for a couple more hours? Dammit.

In the end I managed to make 1 simple track while I stole some from our other work to fill most of the gaps. We finally added 3 other creative commons tracks after looking around for a good couple of hours too.

Music on the last day? Never again man.


And that's about it. We hope you enjoy it! Now please excuse us while we go sleep, game, eat and blissfully do nothing at all. Aah bed, I missed you too <3<3<3~

~Anna

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Nanolife update

Today let's look at our progress for Nanolife - our NanoRenO project. As expected, we are perfectly on schedule and this post is totally not late because we were working our asses off to meet ridiculous deadlines.

Ahem, so yeah! Let's take a look :D!

Script
I'm currently doing the final final check of the final check after which K-chan will do the final final final check. In short, it basically means it's 99% done.

Title screen



This is the title screen, I spent way too much time on it and you will like it dammit. You can see three silhouettes, which will appear as people once you complete their routes. Since we like to be captain obvious, we also tell you how many routes are completed in the lower left corner of the screen.

As you can also see, we added a "guide" feature in our visual novel. It will show you all those awesome short-cuts and features to read through Nanolife like a pro! Last but not least, our circle's logo will be click-able and send you to our website because we can.

Graphical user interface (GUI)
Apart from the script, the GUI has the most progress so far. We've made a MMO-like interface which has:
  • A text box containing skills and items (which you can click for more information about them),
  • A minimap in the upper right corner,
  • A main character information window in the upper left corner which shows your class, name, level, HP, MP and EXP. They will behave and change according to what happens in the story.
  • A smaller information window for party members below yours,
  • A custom in-game menu,
  • And a crystal thingy which hovers over the character who's currently speaking.
The only things still left are to draw the different maps for the minimap, the classes, skills and items icons. K-chan has most of it coded already too.

I would show you a screenshot, but the only one I have is with a background of K-chan's amazing, jaw-droppingly, gorgeous art which would change the art world forever!... and which was drawn without a tablet in one minute. Oh well, it's probably cooler to see it when it's done anyway.

Sprites
I sketched them and inked two of them and I have many, many left to do... and the deadline for that is Sunday. In other words, this weekend Anna is screwed.


Conclusion
We're slightly behind schedule, but the toughest parts are done now. We'll continue working hard to make this!

~Anna

Friday, March 2, 2012

Nanolife: Our NaNoReNo project starts now!

It's the 1st of Marth - also known as the kick-start of NaNoReNo!

For those of you not in the know, this is basically a visual novel making month inspired by NaNoWriMo. The challenge is to start and finish an entire visual novel in one month - March! Planning and preparations are allowed before March, but the content of the visual novel should only be done within this month. Results are then posted on April 1st.

So here we are! We will participate in this event with our own shiny new project, Nanolife! Everything in it will be made by me and K-chan, since we need to be extremely flexible with this project and we'll probably have to work our asses off. Another reason is that it's going to be absolutely free~

Now onto the fun stuff! First off, the rough sketch of our logo:
Synopsis
A boy has recently found a great MMORPG in the depths of the internet. Excited, he stays up behind his computer late at night, while a thunderstorm is roaring outside. However, just as he completed his character creation - thunder strikes!

All electricity and thus also his computer shut down at once, leaving him in the dark. Though sad, he has no choice but to wait for now.

However, in the game, his character has already begun playing without him...

Further information
As you can see from the synopsis, this visual novel will focus on adventures in a MMO world through the eyes of an AI. We'll try to make it look as MMO-ish as we can, so think of a concept like this (only, you know, not crap):


It will have choices and three routes with one ending and no bad ends (I cannot harm chibies), 1920x1080 resolution (Full HD, hell yeah) and maybe small background animations where I can think of them.

We'll update with our progress every week, but here's a rough schedule to give you an idea:

week | Anna               | K-chan
--------------------------------------------------
#1     | writing              | editing + sound effects
#2     | sprites              | coding
#3     | BGs + CGS     | more coding
#4     | music               | needs more code man

... that code better be god-tier, K-chan.

Anyway, we hope you'll enjoy the ride! Let's do this!

~Anna

Friday, February 17, 2012

The final day

~Dawn of the final day - 24 hours remain ~

;_;
It is finished! \o/

Who cares only I can understand what I wrote and that in fact, sometimes, not even I can understand it entirely - I made it!

Oh, and epilogues are obviously overrated. This story never had one, the results section was lying all along, it is still lying, maybe, perhaps, a little...

And the last two battles of doom are unnecessary as well; even villains need holidays! They'll be back to kick Lloyd's ass next week, surely.

As for last night/today, I fought and tortured my hands until an unmentionable hour in the morning, only to go to K-chan's place after that, because we had some things to discuss. Then, while we were joyfully arguing over the plot, we discovered some 'tiny' plotholes. Though we fixed those... it spawned another chapter/interlude ;_;!

K-chan, you're cheating! You cannot make your face fall on me, you caaaaaannooooot!

Someone hide me somewhere quick.

Results of today
About 11.500 words.
K-chan's cheater chapter/interlude, end battles and the epilogue still have to be written.

Results of three days of doom
So in the past days I wrote about 21.500 words, while I did all kinds of little other stuff on the side. I wish I could have written more, but nature isn't yet convinced that a day should contain 30 hours.

The next week I'll be finishing the last bits of the script and editing what I wrote. Though it really is rather bare bones at some points now, I am not in the least bit unsatisfied with what I wrote.

So, after some final edits and additions here and there, the script is done :')! I'm satisfied enough.

~Anna

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The second day


~Dawn of the second day - 48 hours remain~

N-No! Stay away!
Waaaaaaaaaaaaah ;_; - oh, um, hi!

Today was strange. I woke up early (7 AM) while my alarm was set at nine, and couldn't get back to sleep - so I wrote. Sadly, I had to meet with some people at university, which means that for a 15 minute chat I travelled three hours... -_-;.

On the bright side, I sketched two character concepts in the bus and train, so now I just have three more of those to go. I'm pretty satisfied with the ones I drew today, even though they oppose the main character in one way or another. I also fleshed out their story/motives while drawing them (I just can't stop thinking when I'm drawing).

I'll work extra hard this rest of this evening and night to make up for it!

Today's results
4000 words written.
2.5 chapters, 2 interludes and the epilogue to go.

FFFFFFFF-


~Anna

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The first day

This morning, I realised my impending doom is near.

You see, though I have been working on the script of Locus Magici, because of colds and university deadlines I didn't get too far. But this week, I finally had a little spare time from university. Like many times before, I half-jokingly told my partner, K-chan, that I would finish the script in the next three days. The problem is... she's going to keep me to it this time.

K-chan: I'll be checking it on Friday evening then :D!
Anna: Ahaha...ha...

All right, let's see what I can do!
I am so doomed.

~72 hours remain~
Link had it waaaay easier!
I started with preparations, as for the coming days, I need the utmost concentration to reach my goal. So, I made sure I enabled my 'see no typos' vision, prepared 10 litres of Ice Tea (I live off that stuff, OK?) and quickly dealt with my university-obligations.

Furthermore, I had to make a tough decision: write on my laptop, which allows me to type much faster, yet I have to switch files to see my outline; or write on my desktop, which means I can see both outline and the chapter I'm writing at the same time, but I will type slower.

It was a difficult decision, so I decided... I just wouldn't decide.

When in doubt, go with both!

The desktop shows my outline, while I type on my laptop. And yes, it's pink and it has a :3 face.


Today's results 
I wrote about 6000 words, so I still have three chapters, three interludes and the epilogue to go.


... I can do this! I'll post my day-reports of the next two days as well, so wish me luck!

No Anna, stop deluding yourself, you are so screwed.

~Anna

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Firefly for Android - out now!

Since Firefly second edition has been released for the PC, it's now Android's turn! This version will be half the price too, since it doesn't include a high resolution mode.
















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

Please click on the picture below to get it now:



We hope you'll enjoy it and we'll do our best to bring more visual novels to Android in the future.

Last Firefly post ever!

~Anna

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Legend of Placeholder Art

Today, your usual host Anna has been replaced by her mysterious assistant.

Right now, we're not going to discuss handy tips or show cool stuff. Instead, I'll show the beginnings of our new project... with delicious bad programmer art, fufufu~ Now you can learn how to make a good test environment while not being able to draw at all.

First, let's discuss backgrounds. Most of the time, Google can be used for simple stuff like rooms and hallways. However, with more unusual or important backgrounds, we need to make them ourselves. Thankfully, I don't have to worry about it actually looking good - as long as the important elements are in place, Anna will make something awesome out of this... eventually.


Let's look at the characters next. This is a little bit more work, since I need to think out some important stuff, such as the characters' expressions and their general poses (which makes Anna's life much easier when she starts working on the art). Still though, you don't want to spend too much time on this, so I can pick an existing sprite, do some quick editting work, and ignore the large gaping hole in their necks and edit them into the game.

Also, the sprites may appear somewhat familiar >:3...


There are some CGs as well, but since those are fully drawn by myself, I would die of shame your minds cannot comprehend them yet at this stage.

That was a rather short update, but it was fun showing you behind-the-scenes stuff like this. Now it's time for me to go back to work /o/!

~K-chan