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miraclr: Divine Dating Sim Out Now on Steam and itch.io

We’re happy to announce that miraclr: Divine Dating Sim is out NOW on Steam and itch.io for PC, Mac, and Linux systems!

Desktop Changes

Last October, we released miraclr: Divine Dating Sim for iOS and Android devices. miraclr was Woodsy Studio’s first mobile-focused game, designed for quick, on-the-go play sessions throughout the day. However, we kept hearing from fans of our previous games that they wanted a PC port. We knew this would take some work–overhauling the UI and making sure it could be played more like a traditional visual novel. People usually have their phone on all day, but they’re not at their computer all day so we needed miraclr to be playable in longer sessions while still maintaining the real-time elements for those who want to experience them.

For the desktop version of miraclr, we stripped out the micro-transactions from the mobile version. Buy the game as a one-time purchase with all content and time skip/rewind features enabled. We realize that keeping the free-to-play model is possible on Steam, but we expect very few desktop users will want to experience the game without rewind and time skip. These features allow you to play miraclr at your leisure. You’ll be able to easily fix missed choices if you have to walk away from the computer. You can even play full days (or the whole game!) in one session, rather than waiting for private messages and meeting times. Also, once you’ve finished any given day, you’ll be able to start that day over from the beginning at any time.

We’ve also re-designed the UI to resemble a desktop workplace messaging program rather than a mobile app, re-sized all the CGs for desktop resolutions, and included higher quality versions of the art and music.

New Content

For mobile users, we’ve added LOTS OF NEW CONTENT available through an update of the game (all of which is included on PC, Mac, and Linux). New CGs for every angel, additional music, an in-game gallery, and a whole new secret romance path available after you’ve beaten the game once are all available TODAY!

So what are you waiting for? Go help the archangels make a miracle!

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Big miraclr Update Coming on Valentine’s Day!

We’re excited to announce that a big update to miraclr – Divine Dating Sim is coming to Google Play, the App Store for iPhone and iPad, and the Amazon AppStore for Android on Valentine’s Day 2018!

It will also release for desktop computers on Steam and itch.io!

New Avatar Options

An important new feature coming with the Valentine’s update includes new avatar options for the player. Currently, there are only 3 base options for male, female, and non-binary. We’ll be adding at least 3 new options for each gender, so 9 new options overall.

Valentine's miraclr Avatar OptionsGallery Addition

The update will also enable a Gallery system browse-able from the Main Menu screen. From here, you can view all the images you’ve unlocked so far while playing the game.

New CGs

Keep a look out for new CGs appearing in the Valentine’s update, as well!

Raphael Uriel new CG

     Raphael helps Uriel exercise (or so he claims)

Reply Improvements and Halo System

Whenever you reply punctually to a message in the game, you’ll receive Halos. You can use Halos to reply to missed messages or unlock special images.

Secret Story Branch

We’re also added a whole new secret story branch to the game of about 20,000 words. But it wouldn’t be secret if I told you more than that!

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Woodsy Studio 2017: Year in Review

2017 was a busy year for Woodsy Studio. Development started on our latest and biggest game. We ventured into the free-to-play market in two different ways. We released our first console titles and we (unsuccessfully) dipped our toes into crowdfunding. Here’s a quick look at the year in review for Woodsy Studio.

February – Echoes of the Fey Episode 0: The Immolation

Woodsy Studio’s first release of 2017 was an experiment on two fronts. To start, it was our first game developed in Unreal Engine 4 and, as a result, our first game to utilize 3d environments. We also decided to release it as a free, stand-alone chapter to help promote the series in general.

Even though we had to build a visual novel display system from the ground up, we quickly took to UE4. Resource management (especially related to sounds and music) was much simpler than in GameMaker Studio. Building 3d environments instead of drawing 2d backgrounds also allowed us to incorporate camera angles and increase the number of settings and CGs featured in the game.Using UE4, however, had a downside. For the first time, we had to worry about the performance of our games. On low-end machines–specifically older computers and laptops without a dedicated GPU–The Immolation ran poorly. We coded in a low graphics mode (which, quite frankly, made the game look rough) but we’re not sure how many people knew to take advantage of it. Visual novel fans aren’t used to worrying about performance or graphics settings, and some of our initial reviews likely reflected that. For future (not free) episodes, we’ll likely look into a way to default to low settings when the user doesn’t have a graphics card.

Overall, we’re very happy with The Immolation as an introduction to the series and as a functional performance test for our future VNs in Unreal Engine 4.

July/August – The Fox’s Trail on PS4 and Xbox One

2017 marked Woodsy Studio’s first release on console platforms, with our 2016 PC game Echoes of the Fey: The Fox’s Trail coming out on both PS4 and Xbox One. We were still on GameMaker Studio for this project and we did all of the porting work ourselves, so we’re incredibly proud at how the game turned out on consoles and the fact we were able to release both ports within (almost) a month of one another. Xbox One was especially groundbreaking for us, as (I believe) we’re the first traditional visual novel on the platform and one of only a few GameMaker ports to appear on the system. We’re hoping that with future releases, using UE4, we’ll be able to put our console versions out much closer to our PC version.

October – miraclr: Divine Dating Sim (ios/Android)

This October, Woodsy Studio made its second venture into the free-to-play market with the mobile title, miraclr: Divine Dating Sim. Developed in under two months, miraclr is a novel-length (75,000+ words) VN that takes place in real-time over a single week. You chat and collaborate with the archangels of heaven to plan and enact the first true miracle in over 400 years.

miraclr was a unique project for us, in no small part because it was our first mobile-focused game. We had released games on Android before (Serafina’s Crown and Quantum Conscience) but those had been developed with PC in mind first and ported over to the mobile platform. miraclr, by its nature as a game that required real-time interaction, only really works if you have the game with you at work or school or wherever you spend most of the day. There are in-app purchases that allow players to skip around the real-time elements of the game, but we wanted to be sure it was completely playable for free players.

We’re hoping to have some new miraclr announcements soon, so stay tuned if you’re a fan!

November – The Last Sacrament Kickstarter

Not all of our news in 2017 was good. For the first time, we tried crowdfunding one of our games, the upcoming Echoes of the Fey: The Last Sacrament on Kickstarter and fell significantly short of our goal. This certainly wasn’t out of lack of support from our current fans, who contributed and sent us plenty of messages of support. Unfortunately, despite various attempts to reach out to media and promote the campaign, as well as being designated a “Project We Love” by Kickstarter we simply weren’t able to get any press coverage or amplification.

Unfortunately, the reality of crowdfunding is that there’s only so much an independent studio can do to get the word out. We released a demo, still available here, and did what we could to try and drum up support. But ultimately we learned that we’ll likely have to take a different approach to getting press coverage when we release (which we still intend to do; more on that later!)

December – Echoes of the Fey: The Fox’s Trail on Jump

Finally this year, we expanded our reach to another platform–the online game subscription service, Jump!

Porting to Jump was a bit difficult, mostly because of the size of our game. On PC/Consoles, The Fox’s Trail is an installation a little over 700 MB. To make it work and playable via browser, we had to tweak our texture compression and sound streaming. This led to a few bugs we hurriedly fixed during release, but now the game is fully playable on the service. So if you’re a Jump subscriber but haven’t checked out our games yet, make sure you try out The Fox’s Trail!

Upcoming – Echoes of the Fey: The Last Sacrament

Of course, the year in review wouldn’t be complete without a mention of our biggest project this year, Echoes of the Fey: The Last Sacrament. We started production on our biggest, most intricate game yet back in March of 2017 and have worked on it throughout the year. Even with all the other releases in 2017, we always kept up work on The Last Sacrament and we hope to have it released in early spring of 2018 on PC, with a console version either concurrently available or out shortly afterwards.

Thanks to all our fans for your support! Hopefully we released something in 2017 that you enjoyed. We’re looking forward to more updates and releases in 2018 so make sure to follow us or sign up for the newsletter to know when we have something new for you!

 

How to Make a Visual Novel in Unreal Engine 4

A little over a year ago, I set out to complete a strange task: I wanted to build a visual novel in Unreal Engine 4. To some people this seemed like using a rifle to shoot a fly. I was even prepared to admit they were right. But once I got deeper into the UE4 engine, I didn’t regret a single thing.

Why UE4?

The short answer to why I love using Unreal Engine 4 is this: the engine can accomplish just about anything I imagine, and it can do so quickly. It’s a wonderful engine to work with and it’s capable of so much.

That said, Ren’Py is still a wonderful tool to create traditional visual novels. If you don’t plan on adding 3D elements or complex mini-games to your narrative, then there’s probably no reason for you to switch to UE4. BUT if you want to expand the boundaries of a traditional visual novel and set yourself apart from the other VNs out there, I can assure you that UE4 might be a great tool to accomplish that.

Screenshot from our UE4 visual novel, Echoes of the Fey: The Last Sacrament

How to Get Started?

When I started my first VN project in UE4, I struggled to find helpful resources. Not many people had tried to create a traditional VN system within UE4. I found a VN marketplace plugin, but it only functioned for very small-scale projects, and was completely unwieldy in terms of handling a large script or rewrites. So after a lot of searching and banging my head against the computer screen, I set about building my own system from scratch.

Now, one game and many months later, I want to share what I’ve learned with the game dev community at large. I’ve started a video tutorial series that will help you build the foundation of a VN system within UE4. This system is designed to handle large-scale projects and gameplay elements beyond just dialogue. You can begin by writing your script in a typical Open Office or Word document, then convert it into a spreadsheet and import it into UE4.

Watch the Video Tutorials Online

Part 1: https://youtu.be/qj_6dfzqaO0

  1. Create your text scene in a spreadsheet (4:05 )
  2. Create a structure in UE4 (8:45 )
  3. Import your first scene as a datatable (13:02 )

Part 2: https://youtu.be/KuHardkG37M

  1. Create a Scene Template Blueprint (1:09)
  2. Create an NPC character actor to launch the scene (2:56)
  3. Enabe click events (6:30)
  4. Spawn Scene Template when NPC is clicked (9:15)
  5. Feed the datatable rows into the Scene Template (13:57)

Part 3: https://youtu.be/ljaf1PHGq1Y

  1. Track the scene array with a Row variable (1:36)
  2. Create a widget to display the dialogue (4:08)
  3. Set text variables within the widget (9:18)
  4. Create widget from Scene Template and track as variable (11:14)
  5. Set widget variables from the Scene Template Blueprint (13:18)

Part 4: https://youtu.be/w7LxY8fZzdc

  1. Add dialogue widget to viewport (0:44)
  2. Track whether the row is finished displaying (2:11)
  3. Add an input to advance the text (4:26)
  4. Increase row number for next line (5:23)
  5. Enable input on the Scene Template (7:00)
  6. End scene and destroy actors when scene is finished (7:58)

Support us on Kickstarter!

In the tutorial series created so far, I don’t yet get to branching dialogue or character sprites. But if people find this first series useful, I may go on to create tutorials about that later. You can also find my posts about the VN system on the UE4 Forums.

Meanwhile, we’re running a Kickstarter for our current visual novel project, Echoes of the Fey – Fantasy Visual Novel Series! If you enjoy my work or find my resources helpful, please support us!

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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miraclr: Divine Dating Sim Out NOW

Available FREE for mobile devices!

Download from App Store  Download miraclr on Google Play  miraclr Available at Amazon

What is miraclr?

miraclr is a comedic workplace romance starring the biblical (and apocryphal) archangels, told  in a mobile office collaboration app.

Play as a human recruited to assist the archangels of heaven with the creation and implementation of the first true miracle in over 400 years. Because you can’t visit them in their office, you are  given access to miraclr, an app used by the Archangels for intra-office messaging. It looks a little like Slack, with similarly structured channels and PMs.

After you start miraclr, you can choose preferences for morning, midday, and evening meetings with the angels. From then on, miraclr will unfold (mostly) in real-time, whether or not you have the game open. Your co-workers (the Archangels) will talk among themselves, ask for your input, and private message you for both work and personal reasons. Your timely responses (or lack thereof) will affect how the story unfolds and romantic relationships.

Read the story behind miraclr‘s creation

Available FREE for mobile devices!

Download from App Store  Download miraclr on Google Play  miraclr Available at Amazon

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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

miraclr: A New Visual Novel Project

Hello Woodsy Studio fans! Today, we’re announcing miraclr, a new, small scope visual novel project that we hope to release for Android phones in early September with a (possible) iOS and Steam release later down the line.

What is miraclr?

miraclr is a comedic workplace romance starring the biblical (and apocryphal) archangels, told  in a mobile office collaboration app.

In miraclr you play as an unnamed human recruited to assist the archangels of heaven with the creation and implementation of the first true miracle in over 400 years. Because you can’t visit them in their office, you are  given access to miraclr, an app used by the Archangels for intra-office messaging. It looks a little like Slack, with similarly structured channels and PMs. (Very early screenshot below)

When you first start up miraclr, you will decide on a time zone and a scheduled time for daily morning meetings. From then on, miraclr will unfold (mostly) in real-time, whether or not you have the game open. Your co-workers (the Archangels) will talk among themselves, ask for your input, and private message you for both work and personal reasons. Your timely responses–or lack thereof–will affect how the story unfolds and romantic relationships.

Why a new game now?

Woodsy Studio is currently in the middle of developing Echoes of the Fey: The Last Sacrament, the next episode of Echoes of the Fey and the follow up to The Fox’s Trail, which just released two weeks ago on Playstation 4. So why divert our attention and resources away from that?

First off, The Last Sacrament is going to be a big game. Easily the largest and most complex we’ve ever done. We’ve made lots of progress–all but a few environments are done, half the game is playable and the RiftRealms mini-game is getting close to its final form. We still believe we’re on track to release in 2018.

But right now we need a break from it. We want to get something new out for people to play. We’d like to expand our presence on mobile, something the scale of The Last Sacrament just doesn’t allow with a two person team. And finally, we want to explore other methods of storytelling and experiment a little with what our audience wants from a visual novel style game.

With Echoes of the Fey, Woodsy Studio largely moved away from the traditional visual novel format and dating sim conventions. We’re bringing those back with miraclr, which will feature multiple romance paths and more focus on character/dialog than the mystery stories of EotF. It will also be a bit of a return to an older style for me (Malcolm), since most of my writing experience is in comedy. This will largely be a return to my writing style in The Closer: Game of the Year Edition, though with fewer baseball and philosophy jokes for a different audience.

When will it be done?

miraclr is a unique project for us, in that we’re hoping for a very quick turnaround. The format (a slack-like messenger app) limits the scope of the project, especially in regards to artwork. There will be CGs, emojis, and “photos” shared by the angels in the channel, but we intend for the main draw of miraclr to be the writing and unique time-based format. It won’t be a terribly long game–a visual novella if you will–but there will be seven days of content and multiple branches.

We’ve already proto-typed a version of the app that can display the story in real-time and have most of the first day written, which along with some initial art only took a few days. We also know that Echoes of the Fey is the main focus for our studio, and we can’t let a new project take too much of our focus away from that.

With all that in mind, we’re targeting an early September release date for miraclr. Hopefully you’ll be playing it soon!

*UPDATE*: As of September 20, we are finished with “miraclr” and in the testing/porting phase! We’re now hoping to release on Google Play and the App Store for iPhone and iPad September 26. Stay tuned!

For updates (as well as Echoes of the Fey info) follow us on twitter at @WoodsyStudio.

Echoes of the Fey: The Fox’s Trail Out Now on PS4!

We know a lot of you have been waiting to play Echoes of the Fey on PlayStation 4 so we’re happy to let you know that our first installment, The Fox’s Trail is out NOW for $7.99.

Did Folren ir-Adech die during the war between Humans and Leshin? Or is there a darker truth behind his disappearance? Investigate the mystery now on PS4. But don’t think we’ve forgotten about our PC users! We recently pushed a patch on Steam that improves controller support to match the PS4 version and fixed a couple minor issues regarding options menu functions and Steam Achievements.

Finally, we’re still hard at work on our next title, Echoes of the Fey: The Last Sacrament, with the majority of the script complete and a good portion already in game and playable. Keep an eye on us at @WoodsyStudio on Twitter for updates, screenshots, and other Echoes of the Fey news!

 

PS4 Release in July and Steam Sale!

This week, Woodsy Studio has two big announcements that we’re happy to share with our fans (and, of course, folks new to our games). While we’re hard at work on our next title, which promises to be an exciting continuation of the Echoes of the Fey series and our biggest game yet, we still want to bring our current titles to as many people as possible.

We’re coming to PS4!

First off, Echoes of the Fey: The Fox’s Trail will be coming to PS4 in July! If you held out to play on your TV–or you just prefer a console, or you were waiting on trophies–now is your chance. This is the first Woodsy Studio game to release for PS4 but we don’t plan for it to be the last. It’s our full intention to continue to release the Echoes of the Fey series across as many platforms as possible. We do all our porting in-house (and there are only two of us!) so moving to Unreal Engine 4 should help with the turnaround and we hope our next installment will be out on PC and PS4 in 2018.

PC Summer Sale

Second, for folks who haven’t played our games on PC, there’s never been a better time. All of our games are on sale for 33-50% off as part of the Steam Summer Sale. You can also pick up all three of our Steam titles–Quantum Conscience, Serafina’s Crown, and Echoes of the Fey: The Fox’s Trail for under $9 in our bundle!

If you’re all caught up on our games, then we still have some awesome news for you. Echoes of the Fey: The Last Sacrament will be playable at PixelPop Festival in St. Louis on August 5-6 and XPO Game Festival in Tulsa, October 13-15. If you’re in the area, come check us out for a sneak peek at Sofya Rykov’s next adventure, as well as a chance to try and early build of our in-game board game, RiftRealms.

That’s all the news for now, but stay tuned for more updates, more console release information, and (soon) an in-depth look at the new mechanics we’re adding in The Last Sacrament.