Direction guidelines, a technical post.

Venice 2016.12.14, written by Kuna.

After the tough week of the previous post, this time I can say I had a really nice and productive one : – D

Ok, when you decide to dive into this kind of project I think it’s obvious to have dark periods and good ones and it makes no sense to point them out from time to time. Still, a good week which produced tangible outcomes means maximum motivation for future steps! Mood is still one of the most important parts of the process even when your “creed” is to keep on going whatever happens. I’m not obsessed with results or else, I will definitely change project, still, after almost a year of prototypes and attempts we finally built a screen composition and decided a way of telling that will keep us company until the demo and beyond. Trying to make things perfect and perfect, over and over is the most annoying trap, so I’m glad I overcame that part.

So, what I have accomplished this past week is:

  • General appearance of the screen composition. Which means textbox, fonts, direction guidelines
  • I finally decided to write in correct Japanese : D. Serenade is set in Japan, with Japanese characters which obviously have Japanese names. I have postponed this process till now but it makes no sense to keep going this way. So I had to decide a way to write Japanese words among the official international methods (till now I was just using a mix of them). I decided to use vowels with long accents to show long vowels: i.e. ou will be shown as ō. It looks like a small detail I didn’t even need to mention here but… this process burned me more time than ever because after you decide to use “special letters” you also have to find a font which is suitable for the game and that include them. It also have to be a true type font since some aesthetic functions of Ren’Py only work with them. In the end it took me two days. I looked for free commercial fonts with these features. Now the game have two main fonts, one for the text in the textbox and one for the menus.
  • Direction guidelines. I decided how to show the show. Visual novel’s basics are pretty linear at times: you have a background, some characters showing up, some text appearing in the textbox, music, maybe voices, sounds. Then you can add effects to show up more. Actually I have nothing fancy up in my sleeves, not at all. I just thought of some background art zooming in and there or sliding from a side to the other when it’s needed. We tested it and we decided it will be the way Serenade will stage.
  • Scene 0 is fully coded and working. I used Scene 0, the very prologue of the game (a one-two minutes scene), to test the direction guidelines, since this scene largely uses them. So while testing direction, I had the scene fully coded. After months of prototypes this is a big accomplishments!
  • Main character Kairi’s sprite set is completed for one outfit.

As you can see I accomplished a lot of small steps, but together we have some basic functions for the game.

Lastly I’d like to talk about another decision I made, about showing characters’ names.

In visual novels you can have different solutions. One of them is, for example, to have the player exploring a world and its characters, and have the same knowledge as the main character. I.e. theoretically, you already know your best friend, so when you first meet them in the game, their name is written on their textbox. Similarly, when you meet a new character for the first time in MC’s life, you will see something like “???” until they speak their name. 

In Serenade there is a “Narrator”. Not meaning that you will have a 3rd person narration, but something more like the player exploring a story and not the world or the characters. So, specifically, even when Kairi doesn’t know the person he has in front of him, the player will still be able to read that character’s name. Player can always read the names of the characters even if they haven’t met them before (with exceptions*).

Why is that? It’s not new to vns at all, but when you have a first person P.O.V. it may look a bit odd, maybe. But as I said just before, it’s because the player must explore the story and the story only. I’d like them to observe the events, more than identify themselves with Kairi. I took this decision for two reasons: 

  • Kairi has a strong personality. The player has to share its position with him, more than impersonate him. I think at some point it won’t be difficult to understand Kairi’s personality and figuratively team up with him, but at the same time, before anything, Kairi is part of the story and cannot be separated from it. 
  • You won’t see the game through Kairi’s eyes only. You will “impersonate” two more characters to go through some parts of the game.

This week post was a bit more technical than the previous one, hope not to have bored you : D I actually like making decisions about the game I’m carrying on, and before that, thinking logically why one road or the other. So I thought about sharing my thoughts with you.

For the rest, during these days I’m working on background art for Scene 1. I think I’ll show something in next post.

Take care! : D


*There is only a character at the moment whose name isn’t shown because of plot reasons. You can see her in the Character page for Kujikawa Arc. Anyway in the game she won’t be shown as “???” but with a phrase like “Girl 1” or such.