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Kickstarter Campaign for Echoes of the Fey!

Woodsy Studio has launched its first Kickstarter campaign!

Support us on Kickstarter!

You can read all about the campaign via the link, but here are some highlights.

Our mission

Malcolm and I (Jenny) began our careers as devoted storytellers, which is why we both went to college for screenwriting, and have each published several novels. Whenever we make a game, our goal is to create a unique, compelling narrative experience. With Echoes of the Fey, we set out to create a high fantasy setting with a dash of steampunk flavor and a full dose of detective noir.

The Last Sacrament will be bigger in scope than anything we’ve made yet. We’re building the game using Unreal Engine 4. This might seem like an unusual choice for a visual novel. But UE4 allows us to create complex 3D environments and multiple camera angles for each scene, resulting in a more cinematic experience.

We’re also adding a unique gameplay element in the form of a mini-game called RiftRealms. This is a tabletop game that exists in the world of Echoes of the Fey, and as Sofya you can play with other characters. We thought this would be an interesting way to showcase each character’s personality based on how they treat you as a Dungeon master. It also explores the question: what do people fantasize about in a fantasy world?

Story

Meanwhile, Sofya has a lot of work to do as a private investigator. Sofya’s childhood love and the Emperor’s daughter, Katerina, seeks her protection from threats near the border. Katerina’s rival, Nikolai, needs a dangerous drug stolen from the powerful Krovakyn Church and uses blackmails to force Sofya’s assistance.

Nikolai wants a dose of the Sacrament, a mysterious substance from the Krovakyn Church that can cure illnesses and extend lifespans. But repeated use of the Sacrament causes strange side effects, such as hallucinations and physical deformities. Nikolai wants to give the Sacrament to his grandmother, who has already received the maximum dosage allowed.

It’s up to you, the player, to solve each case and determine its outcome. Can you track down Katerina’s enemy? And if you manage to steal the Sacrament, what will you choose to do with it?

You also have several romance options in The Last Sacrament. If you proceed carefully, you can develop a romantic relationship with Katerina, Arkady, Nikolai, or Heremon.

We’re really excited to share this story with you. But we need your help to make it happen. About 75% of the game has already been developed, but your support will enable us to push to the finish line and add all the features we envision.

Our heartfelt thanks goes to anyone who chooses to support us in this endeavor. Let’s make our dreams for The Last Sacrament come true!

 
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Making a Miracle with “miraclr”

Jenny Gibbons here, gearing up to tell you an honest and not-so-glamorous tale about the world of indie game development.

Going full-time indie

About nine months ago, my full-time job told me that I had to choose between keeping my job or “ceasing activity” with Woodsy Studio, my own company. It was an impossible decision. I had already poured years of my heart and soul into my work at Woodsy Studio, and furthermore, my husband–Malcolm Pierce–had recently joined me as a creative partner. All our dreams lay with Woodsy Studio. I could not give that up. But the studio was not yet making enough money to sustain itself, either.

Malcolm and I were lucky in that we had a decent amount of savings stored up from previous years of caution and frugality. We tried to look at the misfortune of my lay-off as an opportunity to focus all our energy into Woodsy Studio and make it our bread and butter. Although Woodsy Studio was not yet self-sustainable, at least we had three commercially published games occasionally bringing in money.

Illustration from Serafina's Crown

Illustration from Serafina’s Crown

Floundering in a sea of games

Alas, as any other game developer knows, the gaming market is brutal. Try as we might, we were unable to make a big marketing splash with any of our titles, whether old releases or new ones. Even now, I struggle to figure out where we went wrong. By a large percentage, people who play our games enjoy them and offer high praise: both critics and customers. The challenge lies in getting anyone to play our games at all. And of course, I know I’m not alone in this. The sea of released games continues to grow and flood stores every day. Only so many can survive by floating on the surface. We were drowning, but we refused to give up.

By July, we had been pure indie game devs for seven months. We were living the dream–but we were also broke.

Our seven months of focusing on Woodsy Studio confirmed for us that this is what we both wanted to do. We wanted to keep making games together, and we knew we had the potential to succeed. We just needed to create something that could excite people more than anything we’d yet produced.

Drastic times = drastic measures

In a moment of desperation, we put our heads together and tried to think of something we could do to save our studio in the little time our dwindling savings still provided. It all happened in about ten minutes. Malcolm blurted something about romancing angels, I suggested making it unfold in real time on phones, and everything clicked. We knew we had a fun idea that we could produce relatively fast and use to branch out to a new audience: the mobile market.

The two months since that moment have been a non-stop storm of writing, programming, and drawing so that “miraclr” could become a reality. Malcolm and I are both extremely creative people and very prolific writers. But we pushed ourselves harder than we’ve ever pushed ourselves before to make this project happen. We reached the point we normally would have called “burn out”–and we kept going, knowing that it was dangerous, but also convinced it was crucial to our long-term survival.

I programmed a complex story system based on real-time to handle channels, direct messages, and plot branches. Together, Malcolm and I wrote over 76,000 words of story content (but Malcolm wrote most of it). I drew 19 CG illustrations, a dozen character icons, and five visual novel portraits with multiple expressions. Malcolm figured out how to incorporate ads and notifications into both Android and iOS ports. All in two months.

Gabriel from miraclr

Burnt out, but proud

We’re exhausted. We’re burnt out. But we also know that we did everything in our power to create a fun, unique game that might be the key to saving our studio. Whatever happens next, I can say with full confidence that we took our best shot.

We sincerely hope that you enjoy “miraclr,” and that it enables us to keep providing quality interactive stories in the future!

miraclr Main Page

Seeking Voice Actors for “The Last Sacrament”

****AUDITIONS NOW CLOSED****
Thanks to everyone who auditioned! Here is the resulting cast:
Nikolai – Christopher Vitemb
Katerina – Sara Secora
******************************************

About the Echoes of the Fey

Echoes of the Fey is an English-language visual novel series that combines the magic of high fantasy with the mystery of the classic detective novel. You play as Sofya Rykov, a private investigator operating in a town on the contentious border between the Humans and Leshin (Elves). While her job is to uncover secrets, Sofya has a dangerous secret of her own: unlike other Humans, she can use magic. It’s a handy trick for solving cases – in the rare instances she can control it.

About Episode 2: The Last Sacrament

The Last Sacrament will be the next installment of the ongoing series. Sofya’s loyalty grows divided when politics clash over the town’s water system. Her childhood love, who also happens to be the Emperor’s daughter, seeks Sofya’s protection from mysterious threats. But a ruthless politician seeks a fourth drop of Eszther’s Sacrament — the consumption of which is the greatest heresy against the Krovakyn Church — and he will go to any lengths to ensure that Sofya delivers it to him.

Released episodes:

Episode 0: The Immolation
Episode 1: The Fox’s Trail

Payment and Expected Work

– Payment will be $0.50 per line. Lines are categorized as each block of dialogue that appears on the screen at once, and can range from about 1-40 words, typically 1-2 sentences. They can also be “expression lines,” which are even shorter clips of dialogue used for emotional punctuation throughout the game. Payment includes at least two takes of each line, preferably more.

– The amount of recording needed is not yet set in stone. Shortly after choosing the cast, we will request a recording of expression lines (30-60 short lines of expressive dialogue). After that, we will request some scene dialogue over the next few months as our budget allows.

Rating/Maturity

This game will contain some adult language and sexual themes. However, we expect to remain in the Teen / PG-13 rating category.

Audition Process

Please record the included audition lines for the role that interests you and send them in either .wav or .mp3 format to jenny (at) woodsy-studio (dot) com. Multiple takes and styles are highly encouraged so I have a good sense of your range. Auditions will remain open until March 12, 2017.


Katerina Konstantinova Lapidus

  • Female
  • American accent
  • Appears both as an adult (20s) and teenager (about 13 years)

Katerina has a kind and empathetic nature, but she also grew up as the daughter of the Emperor during a time of warfare. Her kind nature is frequently in conflict with her need to firmly represent her father’s interests and crush her opponents. She rejoices in any opportunity she finds to kick back and behave like an ordinary young woman. She hates being called “princess” or any other unnecessary flattery. This is why she enjoys Sofya’s company so much. Sofya has never cared for politics, and always knows how to forget about all problems and have fun.

Katerina will mostly appear as an adult in the story, but there will also be flashbacks to her as a young teenager meeting Sofya for the first time. Therefore there are audition lines for both adult and teenaged Katerina (around 13 years old).

Please send lines for both adult and teenage Katerina, as she will appear as both in different parts of the story. Teenage Katerina should sound younger/higher-pitched.

Adult Katerina Audition Lines
KATERINA (angry): All of this was about a photograph?
SOFYA: I don’t know. But, Kat, take a deep breath. You’re okay.
KATERINA: I’m sorry, Sofyuska. I just… I had no idea that this might actually happen. When I hired you… I didn’t really think…
SOFYA: You didn’t think you were really in danger?
KATERINA: Not real danger! Not like this! I thought they’d throw vegetables at me or tag my carriage.

Teenage Katerina Audition Lines
SOFYA: Thank you, Kater– Uh, Lady Lapidus.
YOUNG KATERINA: PLEASE don’t call me that. I’m so sick of everyone sucking up to me.
YOUNG KATERINA: Just call me Kat.
SOFYA: Okay… Kat.
YOUNG KATERINA: Now, if you’re going to be stuck in the castle for the winter, maybe we can at least have some fun.

 

Nikolai Fyodorovich Melinkov

  • Male
  • American Accent
  • Late 20s/early 30s

Nikolai Fyodorovich Melinkov is the eldest heir of House Melinkov. House Melinkov is one of the wealthiest families of the west and one of the staunchest opponents to Imperial control of the borderlands. They are led by Nikolai’s grandmother, Alma Melinkov. Nikolai is the heir because his father (Alma’s son) died during the war and Alma’s daughter is a church matriarch.

Nikolai never wanted the responsibility of leadership. He is a man who enjoys fine dining and classy entertainment. If he had his way, he would run a theater or prestigious tavern rather than control his family’s domain. He also believes that his dying grandmother, Alma Melinkov, is much better suited to protect the family than he is. For this reason, he will use whatever tools he possesses to extend Alma’s life and protect the family’s interests in the meantime–even if that means breaking the most sacred law of the Krovakyn Church and blackmailing Sofya to help him.

IMPORTANT NOTE: We would like Nikolai to sing at some point in the game. Payment for recording song vocals will be a flat $50. Please include a singing sample with your audition

Audition Line 1:
NIKOLAI (firm, threatening): You will do as I say, Lady Rykov. My sister has ten copies of this photograph. If I do not wire back to Volgrad with other instructions within the hour, she will send it to Patriarch Arkady here in Vodotsk. However, if you deliver the Sacrament to me, I will destroy every single copy of the picture and the glass impression.
Audition Line 2:
NIKOLAI (determined): We are GOING to build a dam, and we’ll make the Leshin pay for it!

Audition Part 3:  Please include a singing clip!


I’ve also posted auditions to the following sites:
Newgrounds
Casting Call
Voice Acting Club

Send all audition clips and any questions you might have to jenny (at) woodsy-studio (dot) com. Thank you and good luck!

Echoes of the Fey: The Fox’s Trail Out NOW On Steam

The day is here, friends! You can now get Echoes of the Fey: The Fox’s Trail on everyone’s favorite PC gaming platform, the launcher we all know and love, Steam.

We’ve got achievements! We’ve got trading cards! At some point in the near future, we’ll have a demo and soundtrack DLC! Go check it out!

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Echoes of the Fey – Episode 1: The Fox’s Trail

Get game on Steam

Coming to PS4 July 11

For the first time in almost thirty years, the land of Oraz is at peace. For three decades, the Humans and Leshin of Oraz waged a brutal war over the right of Humans to power their cities and machines with magic. But the Leshin people have overthrown their theocratic leaders who pushed to extend the war and ushered in a new era of reconciliation and reconstruction.

This peace, however, is fragile and strained under the shared history of the two peoples. This is true nowhere more than the city of Vodotsk, a historically Human city that was occupied and ruled by the Leshin for years. Old grudges among the Humans have re-emerged. Leshin who lived there for years as rulers must decide whether to return beyond the Great Forest or stay as second-class citizens. And the wounds of the war threaten to re-open whenever the two peoples come into contact.

foxstrail

fox

Echoes of the Fey is a series of detective stories set in the high fantasy world of Oraz starring Sofya Rykov, a Human private investigator with a dangerous secret: following a near-death experience in the war, she spontaneously developed the ability to use magic. She is joined by her Leshin partner, Heremon ir-Caldy, a doctor fascinated by Sofya’s magic but fearful it will soon come at the cost of her life. Together, Sofya and Heremon navigate the mysteries and tensions of Vodotsk, the city they intend to make both their hiding place and their home.

Get Echoes of the Fey on itch.io


gameplay“The Fox’s Trail” is an English-language visual novel with multiple story variations. Will you uncover the truth behind the mystery on your own? And once you do, what will you do with that information? Your investigation will change the future of the city and its people. Over 100 individual choice points exist throughout “The Fox’s Trail.” Some will improve your relationship with the characters. Others will provide you critical information. And some will change the fate of the people you will come to know. Explore Vodotsk in side-scrolling segments and assist other characters in minor side-quests to uncover more about the history and lore of the realm.

You can find a full, detailed walk-through in the Steam community (may contain spoilers!)

Credits

Written by Malcolm Pierce and Jenny Gibbons
Art by Jenny Gibbons and Wendy Gram
Music by Jenny Gibbons
Programming by Jenny Gibbons with use of VN Edge Engine by ThinkBoxly
Sound design by Jenny Gibbons
Sound effects by: Drew Becker, Adobe Audition Library, Free SFX

“The Fox’s Trail” also features voice acting–fully performed critical scenes and expression lines throughout–by the following awesome voice actors:

SOFYA RYKOV – Amber Leigh

HEREMON IR-CALDY – David Dixon

ARKADY VANZIN – CJ Aulenbach

EDUARD GALKIN – Dillon Taylor

EMILIA OSBORN – Michelle Michaels

LUKA TETERIV – J.P. Daman

TIATHA IR-ADECH – Kristyn Mass

ANYA SAITOV – Helen Edgeworth

VIOLA ARISTOV – Olivia Steele

SIMION IR-SHEAF – Jacob Anderson

PRISONER: Isaac Lawson


Press Kit

Serafina’s Crown Out Now on Steam! 15% Off for Release Week!

Serafina's Crown released

 

 

 

 

 

Hello visual novel fans! I’m happy to announce that Serafina’s Crown is out TODAY on Steam, with a full set of achievements and trading cards that are all new to this version. And for the week of release, it’s 15% off. I’m excited to finally bring the world of Darzia to Steam.  Go check it out here and enjoy! http://store.steampowered.com/app/449340/

Making Music: The Challenge of Minimalism

First of all, let me be frank: I haven’t had much formal training in music. I rarely know which terms to use when, or how to technically describe some of the tactics I use while composing. But I grew up surrounded by musicians, started churning out my own music in middle school, took a couple college courses in composition, and kept churning more out. I’ve recorded about 19 full CDs of music altogether. So I’d like to think I have a decent amount of experience.

I’ve also allowed myself to develop some bad habits.

I’ve always composed with keyboard synthesizers using a wide array of digital instruments. I use software like Cakewalk or Ableton Live to record each instrument on separate channels. For me, the process of picking out the right sounds can take up at least half–if not much more–of the full time required to complete the song. Even once I’m done recording, I go back and keep changing the sounds–or adding new ones–until I’m satisfied.

It’s fantastic that the digital platforms for composing gives me that freedom. But as a result, I’ve noticed that almost all my songs tend to accumulate more and more instruments as they go from start to finish. In the beginning of the song there may only be two instruments; by the end there are ten, all playing at once in a mad dramatic frenzy.

After spending time with some other local musicians in Game Jams or panels, I’ve realized that my instrumental tendencies are not necessarily good ones. While I’m proud of my ear for instruments, I shouldn’t let the arrangement overwhelm the the structure of the song itself–or in many cases, keep me from thinking about the overall structure in general.

Here’s a version of the main theme for my upcoming visual novel, Echoes of the Fey. It is more or less a normal composition of mine in terms of number of instruments.

 

The overall feel of the soundtrack was very inspired by the “Legend” soundtrack by Tangerine Dream. But it was after I saw the movie “It Follows,” composed by Disasterpeace, that I started considering how many instruments I used. I was in awe of how a few simple digital sounds could create such compelling music, without complex instrumentation (that’s not to say, of course, that Disasterpeace didn’t work some brilliant technical wizardry to stretch those sounds the way they did).

I started limiting my songs to two or three instruments.

This forced me to think more deeply about the notes I was playing rather than obsessing over adding more instruments, drums, or sound effects to amp the drama as the song played. It also made me spend more time with the one or two instruments I did select, adding reverb, flangers, or other effects until they sounded just right. Here’s the result for Magic Energy:

 

I haven’t adhered faithfully to this rule all the time, I confess. But I’m trying to at least break my old habits. So far, I’ve learned that less can be more, even when it comes to increasing the drama of a song. I even made a song that only uses one instrument, and I’m damn proud of it. I can only hope that my music sounds as good as what inspired it!

Which version do you like better?

Echoes of the Fey: Character List

Voice actors are now cast for Echoes of the Fey. See the original VA posting here.

Echoes of the Fey: Characters

A new VN series by Woodsy Studio

For thirty years, the continent of Oraz was wracked by the great war between its peoples. The East was ruled by the kingdom of the humans, divided up into counties and family houses. Beyond the great forest of the west were the Leshin, undying men and women with a strong connection to the Fey, capable of powerful magic. When Humans learned to tap into the Fey with technology–powerful Fey reactors–the Leshin staged a decades-long invasion to disarm Humans of their Fey reactor technology.

As the years drew long, the Leshin resolve for war weakened and was propped up by a shrinking group of religious fanatics. In the last days of the war, these fanatics staged a suicide attack on the city of Onigrad. In what would come to be known as the Immolation, extremist Leshin mages detonated the city’s Fey reactor, killing thousands of humans.

Horrified by the actions of their religious leaders, the Leshin people revolted and the new government surrendered to the humans, ceding all lands seized in the invasion. The Immolation ended the war, but with a loss instead of the victory the extremists hoped for.

One Human soldier, Sofya Rykov, survived the blast radius of the Immolation. She awoke severely injured and as she recovered, she found that she now had a connection to the Fey that was stronger than any Leshin mage. She could use magic previously unthinkable by humans. This is an ability she can barely control and must hide from everyone around her. Disowned as a traitor by her family, Sofya opens up a shop as a private investigator in Vodotsk, a town on the Human/Leshin border.

Episode 1: Fox’s Trail

Tiatha ir-Adech’s son is dead. Or is he?

A Leshin soldier, Folren ir-Adech was supposedly killed while rising up against his extremist superiors when they attempted to execute several human prisoners of war. But Tiatha claims she never felt him die through the Fey, and his bonded pet fox remains in Vodotsk as if seeking its master. Not many humans would help Tiatha, but Sofya Rykov isn’t most humans. Besides, she just learned how to turn into a cat and that has to be useful in tracking a fox.

Sofya

 

 

 

Sofya Rykov

Female, mid 20s – The daughter of a powerful human noblewoman, Sofya was supposed to have a comfortable life in the Imperial Court. The events of the Immolation, however, imbue her with mysterious and unstable magical power that she must hide from all other humans. To make matters worse, she is disowned as a traitor. Hides her injuries–both physical and mental–behind a reckless optimism and a fondness for drink. Now works as a private investigator in the border city of Vodotsk, using her magic to secretly take investigative shortcuts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heremon ir-Caldy

Male, late 20s in appearance (actually much older as a Leshin) – Heremon is a Leshin (elven) medic with a stoic and analytical personality. Feels responsible for Sofya, who saved his life during the Immolation. Stays by her side out of a mix of affection, concern, and curiosity regarding her magical powers. Is deeply distrustful of other Leshin, due to the trauma of the Immolation.

 

 

 

Arkady
 

 

 

 

 

 

Arkady Vanzin

Male, mid 30s – The Patriarch of Vodotsk County Krovakyn Church. A fanatic true believer, Arkady has quickly climbed the ranks in the church by feigning an interest in politics and a loyalty to the Emperor. Keeps his composure 90% of the time, but at times betrays the wildness of his devotion to the goddess Eszther.

Luka

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Luka Teteriv

Male, early 30s – Imperial Inspector for the city of Vodotsk, plagued by a youngest-son inferiority complex. Was never the best soldier or socialite, now he’s assigned to be the Imperial police force for a city that isn’t even technically part of the Empire. Gruff and desperate to prove himself. Butts heads with Sofya, who he sees as a threat to his legitimacy as inspector.

Tiatha

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tiatha ir-Adech

Female, 20s in appearance (again, much older since she is a Leshin) – Powerful and well connected Leshin. Looking for her son, Folren, who is believed to have died during the war. Convinced he is either still alive or buried improperly, she hires Sofya to find out what really happened to him, but may have alternate motives for the investigation.

Eduard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eduard Galkin

Male, early 20s – Like Sofya, Eduard is a high-born noble who found himself in the wrong place in the last years of the war, and now at the center of Sofya’s investigation. Eduard conceals a dark secret from his time as a prisoner of war behind a flamboyant and flirtatious playboy persona.

 

Emilia Osborn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Emilia Osborn

Female, early 40s – Lady of the Krovykan Church in Vodotsk. Devoted to the people of the city and her own brand of populist church teachings, which she developed while secretly ministering during the city’s Leshin occupation. Jealous of the outsider Arkady’s position as Patriarch.

 

Viola

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Viola Aristova

Female, mid 30s – Arch-Commander of the southwest region, Imperial Army. An army lifer who has spent most of her time in command positions due to her family’s wealth. When she was young, people didn’t think she deserved her job and she reacted by becoming one of the most ruthless and pragmatic leaders in the Imperial Army. Now struggles with peacetime and her place as an Imperial officer in an Empire that isn’t recognized by her family’s lands.

Anya

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anya Saitov

Female, mid 20s – A commoner who lived in Vodotsk during the occupation and Folren ir-Adech’s ex-girlfriend. Spent her entire teenage and adult life living under Leshin control and learned to be resourceful and clever. Was well-regarded as a smuggler and white hat grifter. Has had some trouble adjusting to human culture since the end of the occupation.

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Your Friendly Neighborhood Vampire Detective

Last weekend I participated in the STL Scatterjam 2015 with Malcolm Pierce and musician Sarah Wahoff. Scatterjams are a type of game jam that started in St Louis last year. Teams are encouraged to form up long before the jam begins, thereby skipping the awkward phase of most game jams in which teams are hastily formed amongst strangers. While it’s still good to try working with new people during a jam, for a Scatterjam you have more time to reach out to other members of your community and ensure the team you form is a good fit. Group festivities are only at the beginning and end of the jam; while working on games, teams can scatter as they please to work at home or elsewhere.

The theme was “connections.”

It’s a broad theme that can encompass almost anything, so my team had a hard time deciding what sort of game to make at first. We drank beers and threw some ideas onto a white board. But as soon as Malcolm said, “What if you’re a vampire detective…” we knew we were on to something fun.

We decided to use RPG Maker like last year, and Malcolm is the RPG Maker expert, so he got to building the environment while I sat down and started drawing. We decided to put all of our assets through a specific color pallet, so that the tiles that come packaged with RPG Maker would have a fresh look. Sarah started composing some melodies, and we all dove deeply into the work.

On the second day of the jam I took a short break from drawing to try collaborating with Sarah on music. I haven’t had many chances to collaborate with other musicians, so I really enjoyed rearranging one of her melodies into a new piece. You can hear the song we made together in the game, and a little clip of it at the end of the trailer.

Finally, I asked David Dixon if he had any interest in throwing his voice talent into the mix, because I’ve really enjoyed working with him on projects like the Serafina’s Saga animation and Serafina’s Crown. My team and and I tried to voice the rest of the cast with our own humble VA efforts (and less than ideal recording setup).

By the end of the game jam, we had this!

It has some pretty rough edges like anything that comes out of a game jam (and a few of the art assets may be a little familiar :p), but altogether I’m proud of our little dark comedy. There’s about 20-30 minutes of playable content altogether, including alternate endings.

Download it free from itch.io!

If you give it a try, I hope you enjoy it!

 

Making a Visual Novel in Game Maker

My first three games (Serafina’s Saga, Quantum Conscience, and Serafina’s Crown) were all made with Ren’Py. Ren’Py is fantastic software that is free, easy to use, and reasonably versatile. When I first started making Serafina’s Saga, I knew very little coding outside of HTML, and I was very grateful for a program that required no programming knowledge to get started. After going through the typical tutorials and regularly checking the forums for help, I was well on my way to completing my project.

With Quantum Conscience, I wanted to make something more unique, and to do that I needed to push beyond the standard VN boundaries into the land of programming. I was lucky enough to get some programming assistance from “CheeryMoya” & FunnyGuts” (twinturtlegames.com), who already had a basic infoscreen system I could use, and they gave me some helpful tips on adding a system for reading thoughts. At this point I still had no idea what I was doing with the code, but I was able to get a system up and working. Gradually, as I began to customize and tweak the code, I learned what each line or function meant and what purpose it served. Eventually I was able to add a little code of my own.

Around the time I finished Quantum Conscience, I knew enough coding to be dangerous, but I still couldn’t program something new on my own; I just knew how to mess with other people’s code. So I decided to take programming seriously. Inspired by a local group of women called Coder Girl, I signed up for Harvard’s free CS50 course online. I made it a little over halfway through the course, and although I never finished, I learned enough about programming to jump-start Serafina’s Crown and add the mini-game debate system completely on my own.

By the time I finished Serafina’s Crown, I felt confident enough to call myself a programmer. I also wanted to keep pushing into new boundaries and add more “gamifying” elements to future visual novels. Specifically, I wanted to add a simple world for the player to roam and explore in between cutscenes. Although I could add these elements to Ren’Py with a lot of programming, I wondered if it was time for me to try a new engine. I considered RPGMaker, but it doesn’t yet have enough graphics or porting options for my tastes. So I turned to Game Maker.

My first few attempts to start a visual novel in Game Maker were extremely difficult and overwhelming. It took a ridiculously long time for me to get the tiniest parts of a text system working correctly. Then I found the Edge VN Engine by ThinkBoxly. It was well worth the price to get some solid code to start building a visual novel in Game Maker.

The Edge VN system was a sleek and solid platform from which to start building. But I still needed to build a lot; I remained a long way from the comfortable environment of Ren’Py to which I’d grown accustomed. I needed to add an in-game choice menu, a character costume layer system, character expression changes, branching dialogue systems, and a basic menu system altogether … all things that come default with Ren’Py. Fortunately, the EdgeVN creator, Luke Chasteen, was very helpful to me in my endeavors, and has since continued to add related features to his Edge VN engine.

Altogether, the transition from Ren’Py to Game Maker has not been an easy one. It has taken me several months to set up a coding environment from which I can comfortably write and expect to run smoothly like Ren’Py. Personally, I wanted to grow as a programmer, so I accepted the challenge along with the time sacrifice required. I continue to code other aspects of the game beyond the visual novel scenes, which in my case involves adding a 2D side-scrolling world with parallax layers, animations, and an inventory system. But now that I finally have a foundation with which to build my next visual novel, I am excited about all the possibilities ahead. The flexibility of Game Maker will allow me to add almost any gaming element to my visual novels that I desire.