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TIGSource ForumsCommunityDevLogsUntitled AAA Visual Novel | Twitter, Publishers, and more Concepts
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oldblood
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« on: September 01, 2021, 10:05:47 AM »

DEVLOG I - THE GOALS

I have always been drawn to the concept of video games as a narrative experience. My last commercial project, MASOCHISIA, was an exploration of gaming as an 'experience' over something that could be categorized as traditionally ‘fun’. While that game explored the futility of a player’s decisions, I would like my next game to focus the impacts of a player’s decisions. I believe the visual novel would be an effective medium to focus on the combination of narrative + decisions. In many ways, the visual novel genre has been overlooked by game developers and players alike. I’m hoping to help change that perspective with this game.

My goals for this new visual novel will be focused around:

•   A dark, evocative tale filled with impactful decisions.
•   Create a unique lore with lush, ‘AAA’ visuals and vivid characters.
•   High-quality animations that bring the world to life.
•   Memorable voice-acting, music, and sound effects to build a moving experience.

These are lofty ambitions for any project. I am aware. But, they are my key areas of focus.

My admiration for stories like Redwall and Watership Down have led me to wanting to explore the world of anthropomorphic animals for this dark, fantasy tale. And no, before you ask, I do not have firm, concrete timelines for this game. Instead, I will try and take as much time as is needed to create the best possible experience. I hope you will follow along with me on this (potentially long) journey towards the creation of this “game”.

These are the very first character explorations for this world. Art by Jeanette Wong.

Initial sketches.

Determining posture.

Fleshing out the character.

Clothing refinement.
« Last Edit: September 24, 2021, 09:12:52 AM by oldblood » Logged

oldblood
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« Reply #1 on: September 03, 2021, 03:27:48 PM »

DEVLOG II - MARKET

Like any project with commercial aspirations, you have to consider the market for a game. i.e. Does one exist? Is it saturated? Is this unique for the market? In my research, the market for visual novels is predominately focused around one of several key elements:

  • Anime
  • Dating/Romance Simulator
  • Sex or Pornographic

The genre was, to my understanding, popularized in Japan, so the focus on more Anime-specific titles makes sense. There's also nothing inherently wrong with any of these items, but they're definitely at odds with what I'm trying to develop. In short, a game more focused on a darker story, more fantasy/medieval elements would be unique from the majority of the VN market, BUT that doesn't necessarily mean there is a market for it. Either the market for visual novels is under-developed and people do want a more diverse offering of stories, OR there isn't a market for games like this. Of course, the only way to really get an answer to this question is to put one out into the world and see what happens.

What do you think? Is there a market for darker visual novels? Would you ever play a visual novel?

The Protagonist | A WIP
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Alain
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« Reply #2 on: September 04, 2021, 12:46:12 AM »

What do you think? Is there a market for darker visual novels? Would you ever play a visual novel?

That is a very interesting question. I am sure I can't tell you anything that you would not find out during your research. But if you are interested in my gut feeling: With anthropomorphic rabbits you are adressing a specific audience. I saw your initial sketches and now your (amazing) protagonist WIP and thought of Water Ship Down and Overgrowth. I thought that it was going to be brutal and dark and was intrigued that you are planning this to be a visual novel. So why shouldn't others be intrigued, too? If you lean a bit towards the point and click direction Backbone and Wolf Among Us come to my mind, although they aren't perfect comparables.

In certain ways you have your own last game as a comparable, right? For your new project, people like me who got intrigued because of the anthropomorphic animals could be added to the audience. The question is, if your idea is viable enough to be profitable, I guess.

Either the market for visual novels is under-developed and people do want a more diverse offering of stories, OR there isn't a market for games like this. Of course, the only way to really get an answer to this question is to put one out into the world and see what happens.

To really really get the answer, you will have to make it, right. You could also pitch your game to publishers and leave it to their analysts to get closer to an answer before you make a whole game. But maybe you were planning this anyway?
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oldblood
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« Reply #3 on: September 04, 2021, 08:38:50 AM »

With anthropomorphic rabbits you are adressing a specific audience. I saw your initial sketches and now your (amazing) protagonist WIP and thought of Water Ship Down and Overgrowth. I thought that it was going to be brutal and dark and was intrigued that you are planning this to be a visual novel. So why shouldn't others be intrigued, too?

Thanks for the response. Recently subscribed to your YouTube, btw. Like what you're doing with the video devlogs. I appreciate your gut feeling and it's good to hear it at least intrigues you. I hadn't really considered Overgrowth, but now that you mention it--definitely can see that. I agree there is a certain market for anthropomorphic animals which I hope will offset the fact that it's not a traditional art-style or theme for a Visual Novel. Definitely drawing inspirations from Watership Down, Redwall, and Chronicles of Narnia. I hope others will be intrigued, too. Particularly if the presentation can be elevated a bit.

You could also pitch your game to publishers and leave it to their analysts to get closer to an answer before you make a whole game. But maybe you were planning this anyway?

You're not wrong. A publisher wouldn't partner with a developer unless they felt there was a market for the game. So, in essence, a publisher's interest in a game likely translates to at least some market existing. I'm not completely sold on needing a publisher, though I certainly see the value in them. I guess I'm saying at some point when the game is more fleshed out I might initiate some conversations with some publishers, but whether or not I will end up partnering with one might just come down to the situation, offer, etc. But it could be a good way to get a sense of the market.
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« Reply #4 on: September 04, 2021, 10:52:55 AM »

Quote
What do you think? Is there a market for darker visual novels? Would you ever play a visual novel?

I am in the exact same boat as you. I am convinced the genre is overlooked and begging for more serious games. To an extent, I would consider The Banner Saga or The Life and Suffering of Sir Brante to be proofs that there is a market for darker, choose-your-adventure kind of games. Neo Cab, which I just started, doesn't seem as dark but is definitely something else than traditional VN. I have not tried Dry Downing yet, but it seems to get positive feedback and appears to be a traditional VN.

I plan to try my own thing too if I can. I won't try to live off it though, so I don't face any pressure, but I definitely believe there is a space for this kind of entertainment.

After all, story and choice-making is a proven combination, and gaming seems to enjoy darker themes.
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oldblood
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« Reply #5 on: September 05, 2021, 07:45:49 AM »

I am in the exact same boat as you. I am convinced the genre is overlooked and begging for more serious games. To an extent, I would consider The Banner Saga or The Life and Suffering of Sir Brante to be proofs that there is a market for darker, choose-your-adventure kind of games. Neo Cab, which I just started, doesn't seem as dark but is definitely something else than traditional VN. I have not tried Dry Downing yet, but it seems to get positive feedback and appears to be a traditional VN.

I plan to try my own thing too if I can. I won't try to live off it though, so I don't face any pressure, but I definitely believe there is a space for this kind of entertainment.

After all, story and choice-making is a proven combination, and gaming seems to enjoy darker themes.

In full agreement, I view The Banner Saga as a bit of a choose-your-adventure game. Even without the combat, I would have still played and enjoyed the game. I've honestly never heard of The Life and Suffering of Sir Brante, but I just went and snagged a copy off Steam and will definitely be playing it. Glad to see I'm not alone in believing there is a larger market out there for these sorts of titles.

I hear what you're saying about not wanting to pressure yourself with the work. Pretty much in the same place with this. I have a tendency to give myself arbitrary deadlines to complete work by but going to avoid that this time around. Rather just get it done as best as I can, regardless of the timing. Best of luck with your own VN. Hope you'll devlog it.
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Alain
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« Reply #6 on: September 06, 2021, 12:27:42 AM »

Thanks for the response. Recently subscribed to your YouTube, btw. Like what you're doing with the video devlogs.

That's cool, thank you!


I guess I'm saying at some point when the game is more fleshed out I might initiate some conversations with some publishers, but whether or not I will end up partnering with one might just come down to the situation, offer, etc. But it could be a good way to get a sense of the market.

That's exactly how I see it, too. It can't hurt to have people from the industry take a look at your project and hear their perspective. It is always up to you if you want to take the criticism or even partner with them.
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« Reply #7 on: September 06, 2021, 12:16:11 PM »

There's an argument to be made that the TellTale games suggest the existence of a market for serious visual novels: barring the use of realtime 3D instead of 2D art and the inclusion of some quick-time events and the like, the TellTale games are essentially visual novels, I would say. And they seem to have been rather popular!
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oldblood
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« Reply #8 on: September 07, 2021, 04:57:41 PM »

DEVLOG III - THE PROTAGONIST

I'll keep this one short and sweet. I've had a vision in my head of the protagonist for a while. A fighter. Though not the sort of fearsome warrior you'd expect. Fern is a doe, the female of the species, though one that battles every day against the injustices done to the rabbits of her warren. Stolen away as a kit, along with her family, Fern is now attempting the overthrow the cruel tyranny of the villainous Nightshade.

I am super pleased with the end result. Artwork by the ultra-talented Jeanette Wong. What are your thoughts about the character? I'd love to hear your feedback. I'm excited to see how she will turn out once she gets animated. We will be using Spine to animate the characters.

FERN.

There's an argument to be made that the TellTale games suggest the existence of a market for serious visual novels: barring the use of realtime 3D instead of 2D art and the inclusion of some quick-time events and the like, the TellTale games are essentially visual novels, I would say. And they seem to have been rather popular!

I'd agree with this sentiment. They're essentially VN's with QTE's. Honestly, they may be the best example of a 'AAA' VN given the budgets, voice-acting, licensed intellectual properties, etc. I think I often forget they're just VN's at heart...
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« Reply #9 on: September 08, 2021, 08:09:37 AM »

I'd agree with this sentiment. They're essentially VN's with QTE's. Honestly, they may be the best example of a 'AAA' VN given the budgets, voice-acting, licensed intellectual properties, etc. I think I often forget they're just VN's at heart...

And perhaps that's a part of their success: because they don't immediately resemble VNs, they perhaps not assessed as such, and people pick them up who might perhaps otherwise turn down a VN.
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Moons in Crystal
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oldblood
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« Reply #10 on: September 14, 2021, 10:57:43 AM »

DEVLOG IV - SPINE RIGGING

We will be animating the characters in Spine, by Esoteric Software. If you're not familiar with Spine, it's a pretty incredible tool for 2D animation that is well-suited for this type of project. Its skeletal animations, but in the right hands, and with the right art, can absolutely appear to be frame-by-frame levels of detail. The animator for this project will be Jaang Eimyoung, who is one of the premier Spine animators and I'm excited to be working with him on this project. I apologize in advance for the chunky GIF load below.

The Skeleton and LOTS of Meshes

A WIP Idle Animation. More details to come.
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« Reply #11 on: September 14, 2021, 10:10:03 PM »

I'm 100% a 3D guy and I am in awe how vivid a painted character can become. Great job!
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oldblood
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« Reply #12 on: September 15, 2021, 05:09:23 AM »

I'm 100% a 3D guy and I am in awe how vivid a painted character can become. Great job!

Thank you, I appreciate the kind words. This is not the final version, ideally it will be even more vivid. Will add more details to it, make it a bit more 'rabbit like', but its definitely coming together. Realistically, the profile version of the characters head is a bit limiting, as you can't have much movement to it. So going forward, I expect we will shift more towards a 3/4 pose that the head can have a bit more sway to it, back and forth.

Here is a close-up that shows a bit of the 'head tilt' using mesh deformation, but you can also see how you can't really move it all that far given the fact its a profile. But, either way, using meshes really does help convey a more 3D feel to the artwork.

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« Reply #13 on: September 15, 2021, 08:11:23 AM »

That is indeed some beautiful artwork so far, and I'm totally floored by the capability of Spine.

Having a strong story supported by beautiful visuals, emotional score and meaningful choices is what these games are all about... Looks like you are off to a top-notch start!

On the question of whether I would play a dark visual novel or not: definitely yes! Something that hits all of the above is great fodder for gaming together with my spouse. I would think our situation is one of a reasonably-sized demographic group, but could be wrong...
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oldblood
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« Reply #14 on: September 18, 2021, 02:22:05 PM »

That is indeed some beautiful artwork so far, and I'm totally floored by the capability of Spine.

Having a strong story supported by beautiful visuals, emotional score and meaningful choices is what these games are all about... Looks like you are off to a top-notch start!

On the question of whether I would play a dark visual novel or not: definitely yes! Something that hits all of the above is great fodder for gaming together with my spouse. I would think our situation is one of a reasonably-sized demographic group, but could be wrong...

Thanks so much! I appreciate all the kind words. It's definitely encouraging to hear I'm not alone on wanting to explore more dark Visual Novels. Sometimes I tell people my next project is a VN and you just sort of see their eyes glaze over, because I know they're imaging most of the market, but I'm really hoping that if I can make the presentation on this stand out, there maybe a larger opportunity out there to tap into.

Here's a low-quality GIF of the final animation with some additional detailing. Made with Spine.

The final animation.
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oldblood
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« Reply #15 on: September 24, 2021, 09:14:20 AM »

DEVLOG V - TWITTER, PUBLISHERS & MORE ROUGH CONCEPTS

I shared the final animation from my last post on Twitter last Saturday and it didn't get much traction. Randomly a few days later, a Magic the Gathering artists retweeted it to her followers and it started picking up momentum and eventually did fairly well (at least as far as my tweets go).

https://twitter.com/JonOldblood/status/1439337404524122118

It had 280+ retweets and 1,200+ likes. With 25k+ impressions and 50+ followers. It was a nice shot in the arm of positivity that perhaps this project, or at least the visuals, may connect with a broader audience than I realized. One fear I've had with this project is that the nature of VNs means it isn't very 'gif-able' as far as gameplay goes, and we all know good GIFs can really help a project grow online. Not to insinuate that future tweets or animations will replicate that success but this does perhaps indicate that perhaps animations can work as an effective way to market and showcase the game if they're done well enough.

One surprising side-effect of the tweet was that I was contacted by a very large European developer that also publishes games. They asked about the game and said they would have their scouts keep tab on the project and to keep in touch. I don't really have any immediate plans to use a publisher, but it was definitely great to get an introduction, and it helps that they're a developer that specializes in narrative-heavy and darker games. So I'm filing that message away for later reference.

In other news, we're also working on more character concepts. This time exploring some ideas around the primary antagonist, named Nightshade. Here are some examples.

Rough Character Concepts - Nightshade

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