Errant Heart

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Errant Heart

Postby Angra Mainyu » Thu Dec 22, 2011 8:39 am

Well, being brand new, we need SOME sort of content to start populating the place. I'll post what I've got for Errant Heart. Most of this info has been posted elsewhere, so I don't necessarily expect much commentary on it. But I'll post it as an example of the sort of content I'd like to see in the WIP threads...


PREAMBLE:
In ancient times, Gods and Demons dwelled among man. But as mankind developed and his power grew, the influence of the Gods slowly receded. One culture—the first great civilization of humanity—chronicled the exploits of the Gods during their waning time among man.

The ancient Egyptian civilization knew of the Gods. They also knew of men who walked with the Gods. Men who were not men. These were the Servants of the Gods—and of Demons. It was the Servants who were charged with the protection of the order and tranquility first divined by the Gods. Yet, despite the rise and fall of the Egyptians, the Greeks, the Romans and countless other civilizations, these Servants, these men who are not men, walk among us still, vying to keep order intact and keep the forces of chaos at bay.

STORY:
Lira Moretti, a shy, young artist from a small island in the Mediterranean makes her way to the mainland city of San Moritz in pursuit of her career as a painter. There she encounters peculiar people whom she never before thought could exist, nor would she befriend.

As Lira spends more time in San Moritz, it becomes evident that she's being pulled into a world that she can scarcely comprehend, much less desires to be a part of. However, her developing friendships will help make her become a better person and prepare her to meet the ultimate destiny that awaits her.


PRIMARY CHARACTERS:
Image
Rather than a temperamental, bombastic creative figure, Lira is a shy, demure, introverted artist who is unsure of her talent.
She's a very private person—preferring to keep her thoughts and feelings to herself whenever possible. Typically, only her
paintings allow her inner self to show through.

Being such a reserved introvert, dropping her mask and confiding her thoughts in others is truly a special privilege bestowed
on only the closest family and friends.

When faced with the challenge of stepping into the world of Gods and Demons, only her developing relationships will help
prepare her for the life that fate has bestowed upon her.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Image
Lira's younger sister, Priscilla is almost her polar opposite. A talkative, social butterfly, Priss cultivates relationships with
myriad people and has developed an information network that is quite impressive given her age. She talks to anyone who looks
the slightest bit interested, about any topic under the sun. A truly gregarious young woman, she's also a talented violinist at
the age of 16.

Apparently more excited about Lira's trip to San Moritz than Lira, she pines to follow in her sister's footsteps. The prospect of
moving from such a small, isolated island to a large city, filled with diverse people excites her to no end, and hopes dearly to
move to the big city once she graduates high school.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Image
A fourth cousin to Reme Girard, Karl works as an assistant in a veterinary hospital in San Moritz. As luck would have it,
Karl was visiting Reme for his graduation celebration and is returning to the city at the same time as Lira is moving there
herself. Being a very handsome young man, this makes him a very intimidating person to Lira and someone whom she would
prefer to avoid.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Image
An archeologist from San Moritz, Cassandra met a local girl—Salima—at her latest expedition. Because of Salima's assistance,
she managed to make a number of spectacular finds. Finds, not just in regards to artifacts, but also in regards to herself and her
own latent abilities.

After tragedy befalls her expedition, Cassandra takes Salima and what remains of her finds back to San Moritz. There, she
tries to determine the cause of the tragedy. But misfortune has followed her back to the city and threatens to snuff out her
and Salima.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Image
A young Egyptian girl who befriended Cassandra during her latest expedition. Her parents, having died a few years ago,
lives with her uncle in her home village. Wanting more out of life than existing as virtual chattel, she takes an interest in the
newly arrived archeological expedition by the Europeans.

Despite the need for strong, male backs, Salima catches the eye of one of the expedition members; Cassandra. Or rather,
Cassandra catches Salima pilfering some of her findings. Rather than an antagonistic response, Cassandra finds the young
girl intriguing. With her help, Cassandra makes a number of discoveries in the area. She also learns about the wider world,
of which Salima is a part.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Image
Mrs. Hinze's granddaughter, Elena is a stern, stand-off-ish woman. She appears to have a single-minded tenacity. That
tenacity is directed at making certain the boarding house runs smoothly and that her grandmother is not troubled by any of
the tenants.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Image
Noel manages Flower Shop Melchior and is something of an enigma. A large and aggressive-looking woman, her mannerisms and
dress belie a desire to appear more dainty and feminine than she really is. A long-time friend of Eva, the two have an unusual
relationship. Eva works for her at the flower shop, and is typically admonished on a daily basis for sleeping or otherwise
slacking. Yet, at times, Noel almost behaves subservient to her. It's unknown just how deeply their relationship goes and what
path their affection for one another travels.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Image
Eva is quite the social butterfly. She's a supremely confident individual who has a passion for antiquities. She has a hand in a
number of prominent associations and charities around the city. And yet, she works the register at a flower shop as part of
her day job.


She takes an immediate and somewhat unsettling interest in Lira the moment she shows up at the shop. Over time, she
positions herself in such a way as to be there with a job offer at precisely the moment when Lira is in need of funds. And yet,
for some reason, despite all the apparent planning and plotting, she doesn't seem to care if her obviousness is exposed.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


SECONDARY CHARACTERS:
Image
The mother of Lira and Priscilla. She's raising her two girls on her own, as her husband died a number of years ago. She
struggled quite a bit to make ends meet shortly after his death. However, she has gained some notoriety—some would say
infamy—by becoming an illustrator for a popular "Gentleman's Magazine". By securing work with such a widely distributed
publication, she's been able to afford her girls a very comfortable life, and give them both a chance to strike out on their own.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Image
A talented young woman from San Moritz. Nina attends one of the schools near Mrs. Hinze's boarding house. However, her
talent doesn't lie in academia. Rather, she's very mechanically inclined—an unusual, and rarely encouraged skill for a woman in
this time period.

Her father secured her a job at a local auto shop. However, the owner has no intention of letting someone so young, let alone
a woman, actually take part in the tasks of repairing automobiles. Frustrated at having been relegated to custodial work,
Mrs. Hinze gives her a chance to shine by becoming the boarding house's "manager". With that position, she has the opportunity
to fix whatever might break or fail in the house.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Image
Reme is Lira's childhood friend. Their homes are next to each other. And being from such a small island, they were classmates
ever since they began attending school. Over the years, their relationship deepened. However, there's some ambiguity over
whether that relationship veered more towards a platonic, almost familial role, or whether they "experimented" with one
another in a romantic way.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Image
The landlady of the boarding house in San Moritz in which Lira resides. She's a kindly old lady, who apparently doesn't speak
a word of English. She primarily relies on her granddaughter, Elena, to impart her desires to the boarders.

She's apparently a long-time friend of Eva Klein, and insists that someone always picks up a fresh bouquet of roses from her
flower shop every Tuesday.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


IN-GAME SCREEN SHOTS

Image Image

Image Image


BACKGROUND INFO

You ever have an idea that you thought was really cool? You worked the idea over and over again, refining it, correcting deficiencies, adding concepts, etc. In the end, what you created bore little resemblance to that original idea? Yeah, that's what Errant Heart is.

The idea originally came about as a way to subvert and/or lampoon the Magical Girl genre. I mean, what happens to the evil baddies once they're defeated? Disintegrate into dust? My, that's convenient. What if they didn't? What if, after the battle, the magical girl(s) were left with a corpse? And what if this repeated week after week? Well hell, the cops would start getting involved in all the homicides.

That tongue-in-cheek approach eventually gave way to a more serious approach. Basically exploring just how screwed up a magical girl might become once immersed in the "magical world". So far, the result is what I consider a more...Shonen Jump-y title than a magical girl title. Although, if one were to take Bleach as an example of a quintessential Shonen Jump title, where it places a far heavier emphasis on fighting and "leveling up" versus character growth and development, Errant Heart takes the opposite approach, and emphasizes character growth and development over fighting. At least, the Visual Novel component does.
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Re: Errant Heart

Postby Auro-Cyanide » Thu Dec 22, 2011 8:59 pm

I've always found this project visual intriguing, and the variation in the sprites is very impressive. The backgrounds are, of course, beautiful, and I've seen them on DA.

I love tongue-in-cheek stuff and stuff that asks 'What if...' instead of following preset formulas. There sounds like there will an interesting mix of cause and effect that shows consequence to ones actions, as well as the unpredicatable nature of the world that will screw you over as readily as it will reward you. It's a nice balance.

The idea of having peace keepers between gods and demons is not a new one and has been explored many time. Constantine is an example were angels and demons keep the 'balance' while the high ups fight for human souls. It's pretty classic and it is something I am partial to because I like the whole idea of good and evil being two sides of the same coin. Good Omen is an absolutely brillant example of this theme... that is than is turned on it's head by it's authors XD

The sprite colouring looks a little inconsistent in the two examples. Are both going to be present in the final version, or are you picking one direction? I prefer the colouring on the main sprite, because I feel the other sprite is done too hard compared to the backgrounds, but it's not bad to look at or anything.

I've mentioned that I love the art deco theme, I did an entire real estate design project about it once. Is the theme relevent? Is the game set in that period, or is the town built in that period? Is there another reason for the choice?

I was very impressed by the sprite tinting, so much so that Camille and I borrowed the idea, though ours is done with layers and not coding. It does make a great difference visually.

I know you have been working on this for quite awhile, and the scope is pretty big. Where about would you say you were with progress?
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Re: Errant Heart

Postby Angra Mainyu » Fri Dec 23, 2011 8:07 am

Auro-Cyanide wrote:The idea of having peace keepers between gods and demons is not a new one and has been explored many time. Constantine is an example were angels and demons keep the 'balance' while the high ups fight for human souls. It's pretty classic and it is something I am partial to because I like the whole idea of good and evil being two sides of the same coin.

Well, for this particular story, rather than focusing on the good guys vs the bad guys, it's going to be more about the good guys vs the good guys. Lira has to do deal with the unusual...mechanics of the "magical world". She (and the audience) will question whether or not the good guys really are good—whether the system that is in place is really worth protecting and perpetuating.

Auro-Cyanide wrote:The sprite colouring looks a little inconsistent in the two examples. Are both going to be present in the final version, or are you picking one direction?

Both of those are just prototypes. We're going to be going with a style more like what you see on the Lira sprite.

Auro-Cyanide wrote:I've mentioned that I love the art deco theme, I did an entire real estate design project about it once. Is the theme relevent? Is the game set in that period, or is the town built in that period? Is there another reason for the choice?

The game is set in what I refer to as a "fictional 1940's Europe, sans Hitler". As for the choice? I'll be honest, it's primarily because I really really liked the setting in Kiki's Delivery Service. That whole kinda-sorta 1950's-ish European setting was so rich and colorful. Plus, with a setting back far enough in time, it lines up nicely with the era in which Egyptian archeological digs were big news—Egypt being another part of our theme.

Auro-Cyanide wrote:I know you have been working on this for quite awhile, and the scope is pretty big. Where about would you say you were with progress?

Well, we've recently approached and have gotten assistance from a very talented professional video game composer. So, we can't really dick around any more. Come hell or high water, we're going to be releasing a final product by late spring/early summer 2012.
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Re: Errant Heart

Postby Angra Mainyu » Sun Jan 22, 2012 9:20 am

Okay, so since someone has been pestering me to lead by example, I'm going to try and accommodate said someone.

It was brought to my attention that perhaps one of the ways in which to differentiate this place from LSF and Teacup is—rather than just talk and theorize—to show examples of problems and issues that we run into while creating our work and how we get around those problems.

So, one of the issues that we have with Errant Heart is the absurd amount of sprites. For the most part, the primary characters have roughly 20-or-so expressions. Those expressions are spread across three poses. Some of those poses have alternate arm positions. And in the case of a character like Salima, she has four costumes and four hair styles—not to mention the lighting system that gets applied on top of all of that.

Because of the paper doll system, some of this complexity is actually reduced quite a bit. At the start of every scene, all we have to do is declare some variables. In the case of Salima, we declare a variable for her hair style and for her outfit. We also declare a variable for the lighting in the scene. Then, when embedding sprites into the dialog, all we have to worry about remembering are the expressions. Um, and whether or not we want to use any "alternate" versions (meaning a sprite with an alternate arm position). Er, and whether or not we want to invoke a specialized "close-up" sprite. Oh, and we have to invoke the positioning system too. :sweat:

So, yeah. As you can see, by including so much variety in our sprites, the complexity ramps up to ridiculous levels very quickly. One of the biggest issues is just how to keep all of that straight when deciding which expressions to invoke while embedding sprites into the dialog. If I rely just on my memory, it's very likely that I'll forget about specific sprite expressions. Thus, all the effort that went into creating the extra poses and expressions will have been lost.

Below is a snapshot of my desktop. In this case, I've got Jedit running and I'm in the middle of embedding some sprites into the story. Also, you can see that I've got Adobe bridge running to the side. But you know what? I don't like Bridge. Or rather, I don't like having to switch back and forth between two programs while I'm inserting sprites. I also didn't like the option of printing out samples of every sprite and every pose, thereby keeping stacks of papers hanging around.

desktop_sample.jpg


The solution? Okay, this is probably going to seem a bit decadent, but—I use an iPad.

ipad_sample.jpg


Basically, thanks to Archer, there is a handy "guide" that he put together for every sprite/expression/position etc. It needed to be done simply to make sure the paper doll system would work. But because of that, I'm able to grab snapshots of every character expression and pose (as well as their name), and then upload them to the iPad. I can use the iPad as the "contact sheet" for each character. I can either flick through each image individually, or as you can see from the bottom of the sample image, there's a scrubber bar at the bottom, which can be used to quickly navigate to a specific image.

I can either prop the iPad up on my desk or lay it in my lap. As I go through the script and need a new sprite expression/position, I merely need to flick through my collection of images until I land on the sprite that I want. Then I invoke the name and position in the script, and I move on. One of the side benefits being that the last image selected on the iPad is always there as a reference. So, if I go for pages without a new expression, I don't have to scroll back in Jedit to see what I used. I simply look down to the iPad to see what the last sprite was, and then I can pick the most appropriate follow-up sprite. This is surprisingly important, due to the fact that most sprites have three positions. It looks awkward if a sprite transitions from facing left to facing right. So I try to make sure sprites go through a progression of positions—left to center to right and back again.

So, there you have it. Strange as it may seem, an iPad actually CAN be used for work. Who'da thunk it? Anyway, I do have a follow-up "issue" along these same lines. But, I think I'll save that for later. This post will serve as a test to see if that someone's idea actually pans out—to see if people really are interested in observing/discussion this sort of "train of thought" in regards to development problems/solutions.
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Re: Errant Heart

Postby Jake » Sun Jan 22, 2012 7:29 pm

Angra Mainyu wrote:At the start of every scene, all we have to do is declare some variables. In the case of Salima, we declare a variable for her hair style and for her outfit. We also declare a variable for the lighting in the scene. Then, when embedding sprites into the dialog, all we have to worry about remembering are the expressions. Um, and whether or not we want to use an "alternate" versions (meaning a sprite with an alternate arm position). Er, and whether or not we want to invoke a specialized "close-up" sprite.


I used a similar-but-simpler approach - conceptually speaking - with Tristan and Iseult, where I would set a variable that determined the emotion/expression of each character, which would then be reflected in the character sprite shown on screen.

The problem I found was that I was using ConditionSwitch, which updates the Displayable more or less as soon as the variable changes. Because of the way Tristan sprites were shown only during their dialogue, sliding on from the side of the screen when they started talking, it wasn't so much of an issue - but there were still a couple of places in the script where someone's expression changed halfway through their dialogue and it felt a bit jarring to me, since I'm used to a dissolve-driven smooth transition between one expression and the next.


So how did you go about this in Errant Heart? Do you get sudden, no-dissolve transitions between one version of the sprite and the next? Do you have a custom displayable set up to do the transitions for you? Something else?
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Re: Errant Heart

Postby Archer » Sun Jan 22, 2012 9:25 pm

Jake wrote:So how did you go about this in Errant Heart? Do you get sudden, no-dissolve transitions between one version of the sprite and the next? Do you have a custom displayable set up to do the transitions for you? Something else?

The way the sprites are defined in RenPy allows them to work pretty much in the standard way, so...

Code: Select all
show eva happy
show eva sad with dissolve

...works just fine, with a dissolve transition between expressions.

The color tint for lighting and the character costumes/styles use a ConditionSwitch, though, so if we change them while the sprite is on-screen, then yes, the transition will be instantaneous. In the case of the latter, it's not too much of a problem, since it's pretty unlikely that we'll ever need to have a character magically change outfits while still on the screen. We are, however, considering cases where it might be useful to see a visual change in the lighting, or to have characters being lit in different ways (i.e., one in shadow and one in light), so it probably could have been done better...though at this point, I think we'll just handle any such instances as special cases.
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Re: Errant Heart

Postby Ren » Wed Feb 01, 2012 5:02 pm

I do find it quite interesting in itself that you found a use for an iPad.

I also find it even more interesting to see how different scales for projects bring different needs - it's something that I only ever considered when discussing the process to follow for localisation with PyTom (longer games would be a nightmare to translate with the wrong tools, so I'm pushing him... giving him some friendly advice to accommodate longer projects) and it's certainly interesting to see how you solved the problem of having several sprites and expressions to use in your script.

If you don't mind, I do have a comment to make, and possibly a couple of questions for you.


The comment would be on your main menu layout - I'm far from being an expert in this kind of thing (the only main menu I've ever done was for Tristan & Iseult, and it heavily borrowed graphics from inside the game itself) but I did look at it quite a while trying to figure out why it didn't quite work for me and came up with a couple of observations. At the moment it seems to me you don't have such a defined focus particularly in the main area. The title and drawing of a city behind it in my opinion fight for attention, making it so it's hard for me to concentrate on either and making the title itself look a bit pasted on. Were it me, I'd try to perhaps move the clouds around a bit to accommodate the title itself and move the city/horizon line down a bit so that there is less space for the sea - which feels to me like it's taking a bit too much space at the moment.
If you try and draw some lines where where there seems to be a direction suggested by the way the clouds are positioned you sort of get a "V" shape which as of now points to a bit of the city where there isn't a focal point (the bigger building is somewhere to the left) - the "Errant Heart" bit would probably fit better in the centre of that "V" shape. The city itself has a couple of lines that on its top seem to point upwards, but point to the left of the point where the clouds are pointing. Lastly, the frame of the menu also has a fairly strong line that comes down from the top-right almost diagonally to the bottom left and end in a curve but doesn't seem to work in any way with the others. Working more on how your force lines flow you could guide the eye of the viewer where you want and make the image more pleasing and easy to read as a result.
I would also consider using some colour from the menu itself in the illustration - the thing that comes to my mind more easily would be to use the ochre for the coast in front of the city. I'm suggesting this because I think it would tie the two main elements of the Main Menu a bit more, and make them less disjointed.

(Or course, I have no idea of how final that is.)

Still on the menus: I've seen the way it's animated and I think it really looks quite good - props for the work that has gone into making it work the way it does.


The idea that your sprites adapt to the lighting of the scene is something I really like. Not everyone would think of it, in fact animations seem to be the first thing people aim for when they want to give their characters a characteristic that may impress people. Personally, I think you concentrated on something that the quasi-totality of people overlook (I think only Mikan used a similar system quite some time ago) and it tells me you probably have interesting takes on other aspects of the creation of a visual novel.


As for questions; let's see:

I found it quite intriguing that you mentioned this story was supposed to be - at least in part - a different take on the sort of mahou shoujo story with battles and what have you. Recently I've seen Red Garden, which seemed to do that in part. How much of it is going to just deal with the practical problems you seem to be thinking of (ie: the deaths of the villains) and how much of it is going to deal with the internal conflicts the magical girls (I'm assuming it will be more than one) have and the conflicts with each other? I see that you emphasised the preamble with the ancient civilisations in the WIP post, but I have to say that all the implications I could think of on how you could twist the magical girl genre were the thing that interested me the most, so I wonder what is going to have more weight in the finished game... and you said "Visual Novel part", does it mean it's actually going to have some game play?

I've skimmed through the Lemma Soft thread for this game and I noticed that some people commented on how they felt some segments were too long: how do you personally approach this kind of critique? If you agree with the suggestion, it can mean you will have to do quite a lot of editing work on your script which you already worked on quite a lot. Do you find it hard to "kill your baby" or do you find that having comments from other people gives you a different perspective? I'm interested in this because even when I was sharing more of my work I rarely got in-depth critique - it was either mild praise or a very hazy idea of something the person didn't like. Either way, because I second-guess myself a lot I tended to start doubting everything I did. Do you manage to keep a fairly objective eye on your work when you receive interferences/opinions from the external work? Do you find that there's the risk of changing too much stuff because other people said so or too little because you're clinging to your original idea?

What was the reason for you to choose the visual novel medium? Does it offer something more than, say, publishing a comic? Was there something in your story that somehow fits well either with the presentation or the format itself with the possibility to have different endings or routes through your story?
Presently, I often find that a lot of story could work just as well as novels or comics - do you think you'll experiment with the "tools" you have to see how you can take advantage of them to deliver your story in a way you couldn't have had with other media?
This is something I'm really interested in myself for the projects I have planned: the way you make choices, the way you use the scene (dialogue window + characters + background), the way the endings work are all things that seem to be used more or less in the same way in most visual novels.

And the last one, which is probably a bit weird: was there any reason why you decided to give your protagonist an Italian-sounding name? :-)
I find it quite intriguing that you describe her as someone who's introverted and calm, as we tend to have the complete opposite reputation - we're often described as passionate and firey. I'd find it quite amusing if anyone remarked on the double clash of characteristics, but that's just me.


I do appreciate that I most likely asked some things that you don't want to share because they'd reveal too much of the story itself, and the post is quite long as it is so I don't expect an answer for everything. Take it as a cue for you to discuss anything related to your project that you may want feedback on. ;-)
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Re: Errant Heart

Postby Angra Mainyu » Wed Feb 01, 2012 7:08 pm

Not everyone would think of it, in fact animations seem to be the first thing people aim for when they want to give their characters a characteristic that may impress people. Personally, I think you concentrated on something that the quasi-totality of people overlook (I think only Mikan used a similar system quite some time ago) and it tells me you probably have interesting takes on other aspects of the creation of a visual novel.

Take Katawa Shoujo as an example. Their animations are very nicely done. And the animations for each girl runs approximately one minute. Okay, great. What about the other 10 hours that the reader is looking at the screen? What's being done graphically to help keep the reader's attention?

I'm not a fan of "saving up" effort and resources to make one killer moment. If readers have to "suffer" to reach that moment, well...there probably won't be anyone around to appreciate it. Plus, YouTube is such a bitch in that regard. One can easily view all of the KS animations without the need to play the game. So that "payoff" for all those hours is effectively gone.

How much of it is going to just deal with the practical problems you seem to be thinking of (ie: the deaths of the villains) and how much of it is going to deal with the internal conflicts the magical girls (I'm assuming it will be more than one) have and the conflicts with each other?

The VN is really going to focus more on character conflicts, character advancement/growth, etc. Technical details of the "magical world" will be touched upon (so why is it no one in the "mundane" world has ever noticed these "magical" conflicts—for thousands of years at that), but the focus has shifted away from that in its current form.

In fact, with this iteration of the story, there's far more conflict that comes from other "magical girls" rather than "baddie monster of the week".

I see that you emphasised the preamble with the ancient civilisations in the WIP post, but I have to say that all the implications I could think of on how you could twist the magical girl genre were the thing that interested me the most, so I wonder what is going to have more weight in the finished game... and you said "Visual Novel part", does it mean it's actually going to have some game play?

I'm surprised you picked up on that. Honestly, I have difficulty gauging just how astute my audience may or may not be. But I digress...

The VN will be just that. However, in order to lower the "barrier of entry" to the world of Visual Novels, we're planning to release a webcomic component. A webcomic plays to our strengths, and offers an easy way to introduce and hook readers on the universe. Consequently, if we do in fact go forward with a webcomic component, it will be far more "Shonen Jump-y" in its execution—Faster paced and more action oriented.

I've skimmed through the Lemma Soft thread for this game and I noticed that some people commented on how they felt some segments were too long: how do you personally approach this kind of critique? If you agree with the suggestion, it can mean you will have to do quite a lot of editing work on your script which you already worked on quite a lot. Do you find it hard to "kill your baby" or do you find that having comments from other people gives you a different perspective?

...Do you find that there's the risk of changing too much stuff because other people said so or too little because you're clinging to your original idea?

Those comments you found were a double-edged sword. The issue I have is that there simply weren't enough comments. A handful of people said the story drug on (I'm looking in your general direction, Jake...). A handful of people said they enjoyed those same sequences.

I have no qualms about chopping out large swathes of story if need be. I always try to remain cognizant of the fact that I may need to kill my babies. But I either need to hear that from a knowledgeable, trusted editor, or I need to hear a lot of individuals siding one way or the other.

Since the writing of those comments, I have cut out moderate portions of the story that were little more than time-wasters. As for doing heavier editing, well...I wracked my brain for quite a while on what I could do about trimming things down. And then it hit me: I shouldn't be worried about trimming down the text—I should be adding MORE text!

And by that I mean, creating "fast tracks" in the branches that allow readers to bypass substantial chunks of the story, but still get the gist of what's going on. If those readers are really enamored with the story, well, they can then go back and pick up those extra details if they so choose. That's an inherent advantage of the medium—might as well utilize it.

While I'm still not done with editing, I have since brought down my original play time estimate from 8-10 hours to 6-8 hours.

What was the reason for you to choose the visual novel medium? Does it offer something more than, say, publishing a comic?

Oh hell yes.

We slaved away under the yoke of Tokyopop for three volumes of manga. That came out to about 450-ish pages worth of material. While there were breaks in between books, that took us three years to do. And that content doesn't even represent 1/10th of the content that we can convey in a VN.

Sure, the up-front investment in creating sprites, paper doll system, lighting system, menu system, etc. is high. But it represents maximum re-usability. If -IF- Errant Heart gains some popularity and people start clamoring for more, it becomes ridiculously easy to "crank out" some more...relative to creating comics.

Presently, I often find that a lot of story could work just as well as novels or comics - do you think you'll experiment with the "tools" you have to see how you can take advantage of them to deliver your story in a way you couldn't have had with other media?

Having worked on both animation and comics, I suspect we will be bringing perspectives from those two mediums to VNs. I'm currently slated to work on an "experimental" version of one of the scenes which will attempt to incorporate "shot composition" and "camera cuts", much like animation.

Think about it for a moment...Visual Novels are a lot like animatics (the precursor of full-on animation). If you were watching some animation, and the camera sat still, holding the same shot for ten minutes, wouldn't you get bored, even if the characters moved around a bit? One solitary shot does not make up a scene. Scenes have multiple shots, from multiple angles, positions and zooms in order to emphasize the action and the pacing.

I'm not sure what the end result will look like, but assuming I'm not horrified with the results, I suspect I'll be posting samples here for evaluation.

And the last one, which is probably a bit weird: was there any reason why you decided to give your protagonist an Italian-sounding name? :-)
I find it quite intriguing that you describe her as someone who's introverted and calm, as we tend to have the complete opposite reputation - we're often described as passionate and firey. I'd find it quite amusing if anyone remarked on the double clash of characteristics, but that's just me.

Well, the naming conventions came about simply because of personal preference. Lira's namesake is actually Lyra from Full Metal Alchemist. That poor, poor girl. She deserved better. Salima's namesake is Salima Ikram—a favorite "celebrity" Egyptologist of mine. Cassandra's name was taken from Greek mythology because, well...don't Google "Cassandra Greek mythology" if you want to be surprised about her plight in the story.

Eva's name was chosen because I think very highly of Evangelion. Likewise, Elena's namesake is Elena from the Turks in Final Fantasy VII. Noel and Priscilla's namesakes come from Claymore because I think it's the hands-down best manga series ever made in the history of the universe (excellent balance of Shonen Jump fighting, with goodly amounts of character development).

All that is to say—the names weren't chosen to reflect any sort of ethnic stereotypes. They were chosen on whims, and then made to vaguely conform to naming conventions that one would find in and around Europe.
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Re: Errant Heart

Postby Angra Mainyu » Tue Feb 07, 2012 8:38 pm

Alright, so here's a good example of what the majority of the game is going to look like from a "directorial" standpoint. I've attached a sample scene from the middle of the introductory branch.

It's the first meeting with two of the primary characters. But, there's nothing particularly special-effect-y about the scene. There's no fighting or any particular action. It's just characters talking amongst themselves. So, the idea is to add a little bit of visual interest by occasionally panning or zooming or "cutting" to a new shot.

One thing I worry about is the large amount of expression changes in combination with the NVL window. Is it too distracting to have the window disappear every few seconds in order to display new expressions and poses? Should there be a longer delay before returning to the NVL window (in order to get a good long look at the new expressions)? Or should the NVL window NEVER go away during expression changes?

These are the things I wonder about.

Anyway, the demo shouldn't take too long to get through. Certainly no more than 10 minutes. Of course, it's disjointed from the story, so it won't make too much sense on it's own. But I'm putting this out here so it can be evaluated on its technical merits, rather than its literary merits.
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Re: Errant Heart

Postby Ren » Wed Feb 08, 2012 3:18 pm

A couple of things you may already have addressed:

- Preferences is mispelled when you start a new game.
- After a few very nice bacgrounds a filtered photo (in the flower shop) clashes a bit and is fairly noticeable.

A couple of interface things:

I'm not a great fan of the NVL mode, to be honest. I find it fairly obstructive, particularly when the text goes over the characters' faces. I'd have suggested a half-NVL mode like in Torrey and the Vampire, but I quite like the way your characters behave when there's more than one on the screen (and one is smaller 'cause they're farther away, and they slide here and there etc.), so it's not a viable solution. I was told that in your previous demo you used a normal text window - I'd personally go back to that.
I find it harder to differentiate the characters just based on their lines' colour if their text is all lumped together with all the narration from Lira, too, so that would be another reason why I'm not so fond of NVL here.

I play with Auto mode on and I found it a bit annoying to find that when I middle-clicked to see the characters or backgrounds it turned itself off. I then had to left-click, click on Preferences and turn it on again. According to PyTom he's made it so now you can just pause and un-pause Auto directly from inside the game - would it be possible to add that to your game? If you add the ability to use the feature, you may as well do it the best possible way. :-)

It seemed to me I barely had the time to see the characters, as it is. While this is kind of a moot point considering I'm suggesting not to hide the characters under the NVL window, I'll still say that I'd have liked to have more time to see them between poses.



Finally, I realise you asked only for feedback for the direction of your scenes, but I'd still like to say that I was pleasantly surprised by the presence of an epilogue at the beginning. It didn't have a lot of text nor did it last long, but I thought it was a nice touch - it did set the mood quite a lot, surprisingly, for me. I'd have liked it if the music faded a bit less abruptly, perhaps by fading right after the bells (or however you call them) and not letting the music almost continue but not really... I'm not sure I can explain it better than this.

So far I'm intrigued, there are a few things you do not in the way everyone else would to impress (like the sprites' hue and the epilogue instead of, say, blinking animations and a pretend animated intro) that are refreshingly your own thing.
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