Today, we’re proud to announce our newest addition to the Echoes of the Fey franchise, Echoes of the Fey: Fuel Your Choice. We think this program speaks for itself, so check out the video below.
Today, we’re proud to announce our newest addition to the Echoes of the Fey franchise, Echoes of the Fey: Fuel Your Choice. We think this program speaks for itself, so check out the video below.
Malcolm Pierce is one half of Woodsy Studio; cross-posted from redbirdmenace.com
The Bus Station
At three ‘o clock in the morning, the St. Louis Gateway Transportation Center is a hostile environment, but it isn’t the passengers at fault. This is a bus station, after all. Some of the people there are sprawled out across a few seats. Others are a day or two behind on a much-needed shower. But there is nothing glamorous about bus travel, especially trips stretching across multiple days and several layovers. Anyone forced to put up with those circumstances deserves a certain level of leeway.
The St. Louis Gateway Transportation Center is oppressive because it is a strange little building nestled away behind the home of the St. Louis Blues. Most directions to the SLGTC force drivers to arrive at the wrong part of the facility. The heat (more on the heat in a moment) is turned on. Everyone is sweating, even people who just arrived. And there are no water fountains.
A television above the waiting area blares an infomercial for a product called Astaxanthin. Astaxanthin is a chemical compound found (in extremely tiny amounts) in salmon and greater, but not terribly meaningful amounts, in krill and shrimp, giving the flesh of these sea creatures a pink-ish hue. It is also produced synthetically and injected into fish-based pet food, to give the cheaper meal a more healthy color. It is not approved for human consumption, but it can legally be fed to other salmon (which is messed up) to improve the pink tint of the inner meat.
The infomercial playing in the waiting room of the St. Louis Gateway Transportation Center claims that Astaxanthin will reverse aging. It will remove and prevent wrinkles. It will restore eye function. All for the perfectly reasonable price of sixty dollars a bottle .
At three thirty, the infomercial mercifully ends, only to be replaced with (presumably) the late-night edition of the local news. I hear the stories you expect from the local news in 2017. A suspect has died in an officer-involved shooting during a drug bust. Hundreds of headstones in a Jewish cemetery were defaced. Donald Trump tweeted again. The high temperature today, on February 22, will be in the mid 70s in St. Louis.
I wonder what the hell I’m doing in this bus stop, waiting to go to a conference about making video games.
The bus outside honks twice and I line up inside the stuffy terminal to board. The first thing I hear when I’m inside is a passenger telling someone he just met how he lost his finger on the job and was then fired for it.
****AUDITIONS NOW CLOSED****
Thanks to everyone who auditioned! Here is the resulting cast:
Nikolai – Christopher Vitemb
Katerina – Sara Secora
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.
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.
– 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.
This game will contain some adult language and sexual themes. However, we expect to remain in the Teen / PG-13 rating category.
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 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 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!
Send all audition clips and any questions you might have to jenny (at) woodsy-studio (dot) com. Thank you and good luck!
Imagine being the only survivor of an explosion that kills thousands of people. That is the fate of Sofya Rykov. And survival is just the beginning of her tale…
Today, we released Echoes of the Fey Episode 0 – The Immolation for FREE on itch.io. We will release on Steam February 7, 2017 with achievements and trading cards! Look for it here.
Episode 0 is a standalone chapter in the Echoes of the Fey visual novel series and the first game by Woodsy Studio made in Unreal Engine 4. This installment is an introduction to the world and characters for new players, but also provides important backstory for fans who enjoyed Episode 1 – The Fox’s Trail, also available on Steam.
As in The Fox’s Trail, you play as Sofya Rykov, but before she gained her magical powers and became a private investigator. An officer in the Imperial Army, Sofya is tasked with guarding Leshin prisoners at Onigrad, a city which will soon become famous for its fiery destruction. Sofya will also be able to explore the prison and learn more about the world from her prisoners, though with an impending disaster about to hit the prison, she will have to balance how to use her time before staging her escape.
Episode 0 is a short adventure game/visual novel, with ~15,000 words and a playtime of approximately one hour, intended as a bite-sized window into the world at the very end of the war between Humans and Leshin. It was also a chance for us to rebuild our game engine in Unreal 4 on a small scale, before embarking on the creation of a full length title that we hope we’ll be able to release by the end of 2017. Hopefully you enjoy Episode 0 and, if it’s your starting point on the series, continue on to play The Fox’s Trail.
Written by Malcolm Pierce and Jenny Gibbons
Art by Jenny Gibbons
Some concept art by Wendy Gram
Music by Jenny Gibbons
Marketing Consultation from Carol Mertz
Sofya Rykov – Amber Leigh
Heremon ir-Caldy – David Dixon
Rolan Volkov – Paul Hikari
Muriel ir-Kilmun – Helen Edgeworth
Made in Unreal Engine 4
With the game now content-complete (we’ve been in the bug-fixing and polishing stage for the last week now), we’re happy to reveal our latest trailer! Episode 0: The Immolation will be out later this month for PC for FREE! And if you’d like to see us on Steam day-and-date with itch.io, don’t forget to VOTE on Steam Greenlight!
By all accounts, The Year of Our Lord 2016 was a trainwreck. David Bowie died. Carrie Fisher died. Actually, so many people who were important to us or likely important to you died that it’s nearly impossible to name them all. The Oscars should just be a long tribute to the lost, punctuated by an occasional award handed out to La La Land (because you’re absolutely kidding yourself if you think Hollywood isn’t going to heap the statues on a musical love letter to Hollywood). But the deaths were just part of it. The UK cut off its own nose to spite its face and left the European Union. The United States elected to the presidency a sentient sack of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese Dinner who aspires to fascism, but with ill-fitting suits. The environment… we don’t even want to think about that one.
In light of all of this, it is strange to think of 2016 as a good year by any measure of the term “good”. But for Woodsy Studio, 2016 was full of growth. When the year started, we only had one game out on Steam–Quantum Conscience. All of our released titles were made in Ren’py and RPG Maker. Here’s everything we’ve accomplished and released in 2016, in relative order:
All of that was just one year of game development for Woodsy Studio, and we’re especially proud of everything we accomplished in a year that most people would rather forget ever happened. Right now, all of our games are on sale via the Steam Winter Sale. So if you haven’t checked them out, there’s no better time.
But what comes next? We believe the world is going to need inclusive, intriguing, and fun art more than ever as we approach 2017–which, as much as we’d like to hope, probably won’t be much better than its predecessor–so we’re not going to let up. As you can see above, we have ports and a free episode lined up for the early part of the year. There may be more–more systems, more small games–that we can’t talk about just yet, but rest assured there will be content.
For the first time in the ~3 year history, we’ll be starting the year with both of our principals (Jenny and Malcolm) working full time on Woodsy Studio games and, specifically, Echoes of the Fey. This is a scary proposition for both of us, but we think it’s a long time coming. The Fox’s Trail is out, and we’ll be putting it on as many platforms as will allow it. Episode 0 is essentially done and will soon be ready as a free taste of the series. Which means we’ll be pouring our time into The Final Drop.
With both of us committed to the game, Echoes of the Fey: The Final Drop will no doubt be the largest, most involved Woodsy Studio visual novel yet. We hope to push the bounds of what a VN can be and offer an awesome mix of story and gameplay beyond anything we’ve attempted. And looking back at what we’ve accomplished in 2016, we’re confident we can deliver something new and exciting!
So look forward to Episode 0 in the coming month, The Fox’s Trail on new platforms shortly afterward, and (later in the year) a completely new Echoes of the Fey story in The Final Drop.
The Steam Winter Sale is here, and with it we’re offering discounts on all of our games! Quantum Conscience and Serafina’s Crown are 33% off, while Echoes of the Fey is 25% off! On top of that, we bundled all three games together at an even deeper discount in our Visual Novel Bundle, which is only $11. If you already own one or more of our games, the bundle is even cheaper. The Winter Sale is the perfect time to complete your collection!
For those who already have our games (thanks!) we’ve also put the soundtracks on sale through Steam, so check your DLC tabs for the sounds of Woodsy Studio.
If you’d rather buy on itch.io, we’ve got a similar bundle available for Serafina’s Crown and Echoes of the Fey, as well as individual discounts on each game.
As for us, we’re hard at work on the next installment of Echoes of the Fey, Episode 0: The Immolation. If you’d like to see that on Steam early next year, head on over to Greenlight (after picking up some games) and vote!
Today, we planned on posting a recap of our weekend at the STL Scatterjam, where we worked with two awesome artists from the Saint Louis area to create a fun little 3d flying/score attack game, Schrodinger’s Phoenix. It was a lighthearted post that featured more jokes than actual insight into our development process, in large part because I’m better at writing jokes than 3d flight tutorials.
After the events of yesterday, we decided that it wasn’t the right time to post something so lighthearted. It felt tacky, uncalled for, and tone deaf. And it would not reflect our current feelings. So instead, this:
In the past, we have shied away from being explicitly political with our blog, our site, and our forward-facing promotion in general. That’s not to say we have tried to hide anything. Play our games or read Jenny’s novels as Jayden Woods or check out my personal site and you’ll get an idea of where we stand pretty fast. But we didn’t think there was any reason to make a post like this. It seemed indulgent, perhaps, or attention-seeking in a way that we weren’t entirely comfortable surfacing. We believe that has changed.
The election of Donald Trump is an attack on marginalized people in the United States. Forget traditional left-right politics. Forget the shortcomings of his opponent. Forget the problems with the two-party systems. This particular candidate was especially vile and his victory despite such open toxicity is terrifying. He spent months saying horrible things about minority races and minority religions. He was accused of sexual assault by a dozen women and was caught on tape essentially admitting to that assault as a matter of course. He chose as his Vice President one of the most regressive politicians on LGBT issues, Mike Pence, whose policies led to a massive Indiana HIV outbreak and who has paid lip service to supporting conversion therapy. Despite all of that, and being essentially unqualified, Trump won the election and will be our next president.
After last night, it would be easy for marginalized people to believe that the country hates them. And that’s why we think it’s important to say that Woodsy Studio stands with the people who look at Donald Trump and fear for their future. No matter what happens, we intend to keep creating games featuring people of color, queer, and disabled characters. We intend to write stories that subvert cultural expectations about minority religions, sexuality, gender politics, monogamous relationships, and power structures both elitist and populist. These have always been our goals, and they will continue to be our goals. And when we stumble, we will strive to do better.
We believe art and entertainment–and you probably believe games are at least one of those two things–shape how people see the world and see each other. And we believe that creating games with compassion and inclusivity can only make the world a better place.
That doesn’t mean our games and stories won’t be fun. Of course they will be fun (we hope). This isn’t a change of direction for us, just a statement of the direction we already had. You may have noticed this in our games, you may have not noticed it. We aren’t making strictly political games, but we do recognize that everything is political to some extent, and those politics must be confronted and improved whenever possible. We believe that it is important to be very clear on that statement right now, however, because today the world seems to be pointing in a very different direction. The tide may seem strong, but we will push against it in with what little power we have.
We’re not the only ones. We’re fortunate that so many folks in the indie games community are also working towards the same goals, because we know we can’t do this by ourselves. We are two people and a few pets, working out of the bluest part of a red state. And we also know that making inclusive games is no panacea. People from so many walks of life are going to suffer because of this election, and we will always look to do more. Visual novels don’t restore health care to those who will lose it. Games don’t prevent deportation or detainment. We know we’re not saving the world. But this is what we do. This is what we make. And this is how we intend to proceed.
Today we’re proud to release our first official trailer for Echoes of the Fey Episode 0: The Immolation and launch our Greenlight campaign with the hopes of releasing on Steam and other PC platforms simultaneously!
Episode 0 is a short prologue to Echoes of the Fey that we will be releasing FOR FREE in early 2017. This installment will take our players back to before Sofya Rykov was a private investigator and before she could use magic. In Episode 0, Sofya is an officer in the Human Empire with a (relatively) cushy assignment, guarding non-essential Leshin prisoners in the fortified city of Onigrad. Of course, anyone who has played Episode 1 or read The Prophet’s Arm knows that Onigrad is hardly the safest place near the end of the world.
The Immolation is also the first installment of Echoes of the Fey we are developing in Unreal Engine 4, utilizing 3d backgrounds and dynamic camera angles for dialog sequences. Transitioning to UE4 has been a lot of work–especially since we’re working with all new environments!–but we’re sure that the work we’re doing on this short project will help us in the future. And we think that both fans of Echoes and new players will enjoy this introduction to Sofya, Heremon, and the world of Oraz.
If you want to see Echoes of the Fey Episode 0: The Immolation, click the link below and throw us a YES!
We’ve been quiet over at Woodsy Studio for the last month or so, but with good reason: we’ve been busy! Shortly after releasing Echoes of the Fey: The Fox’s Trail on Steam, we decided to switch our development platform from Gamemaker Studio to Unreal Engine 4. This is no simple task. For Gamemaker, we had a very helpful base to build off of with ThinkBoxly’s EdgeVN system. With UE4, we don’t have such luck. There is a module for sale, but it seems unequipped to handle large multi-scene VNs, so we are building from the ground up using the UE4 blueprint visual scripting. On top of that, we’re converting to 3d backgrounds, which means re-making a lot of our general world assets to 3d models.
Most people are totally confused when we tell them we’ve decided to switch to UE4, and that’s without the troubles mentioned above. UE is best known for big-budget 3d games. It isn’t known for indie development or user friendliness. Unreal is total overkill for a visual novel, especially when the most GPU-intensive thing we’ve pushed out in previous games is a high resolution character sprite. So, why are we going to all this trouble to switch to an engine that is (on its face) worse for indie 2d development than our previous platforms?
To start, I need to go over the problems we had with Gamemaker. I don’t want to make this post a big list of complaints about GM–which I think is fantastic for certain kinds of projects–but addressing a couple of these is unavoidable. First off, audio files. The way GM handles audio files was frustrating from start to finish. Importing them was clunky. We couldn’t make batch changes to groups of sounds. And a couple times, references to entire groups of sounds just disappeared.
These would be annoyances for any game, but because of the nature of our (partially) voiced visual novels, we had over 2,500 sound files in our game. Any task related to the sound was a huge ordeal for us and, in the end I think the sheer number of sounds ended up creating our other problem with GM: porting.
Before we switched to GM, Woodsy Studio was releasing its games on Windows, Linux, Mac, and Android phones. However, so far we’ve been unable to bring The Fox’s Trail to any platform other than Windows. The problem is different on each platform, but without going into too much detail, our suspicion is that our sounds (or more specifically, the size of our sound files–2.8 gigabytes before compression) have something to do with it.
Finally, drawing backgrounds has been one of our biggest hurdles. Every room requires a background and these are Jenny’s least favorite thing to draw. They are also large, contiguous sprites that are difficult to break up into 1024 x 1024 pieces to keep our texture page size down (which is needed for performance reasons, especially on mobile). Moving to 3d environments is theoretically possible in GM, but would require rebuilding a huge amount of what we’ve already And it’s not what the engine is designed for.
I really do want to stress that Gamemaker Studio is a very good option for all sorts of games, we just decided it wasn’t right for us. Because going forward, these problems were only going to get worse. For episode 2, we’ll have the same–if not more–quantity of voice acting clips. We’ll want more backgrounds. And we might want to go to native a native 1080p resolution, at least for the PC version–further exacerbating file size and background creation issues.
All this added up to need to change. But again, the question comes up: why UE4? Why not Unity, which seems to be the favorite choice of indie devs everywhere? A couple reasons. No matter what engine we switched to, we were going to have to re-learn everything. Ren’py uses python and GM uses gml, its own language, so there was no real chance of transferring our knowledge perfectly over to either of our options.
Also, out of the (metaphorical) box, UE4 is fantastic at making your game look good. I don’t entirely know how the guts of either engine work, but it seems very easy to use the UE4 cameras and lights (as they are implemented without plugins) to make our art pop compared to what I’ve seen of Unity. And the material system lets (relatively) inexperienced programmers do some amazing things with shaders in a visual scripting interface.
Finally, I’ve always been a bit of a contrarian and everyone using Unity because the common knowledge is that Unity is more user friendly just makes me want to go down the road less traveled. And we’ve discovered that this common knowledge might be wrong.
It has been just over a month and a half since starting the conversion and we already have a full dialog system set up (developed by us from the ground up), with working choice menus and overworld exploration like in The Fox’s Trail. We’ve built out our first environment and imported the first handful of scenes for Episode Zero. Converting to 3d environments has allowed me–a person who couldn’t draw if my life depended on it–to take over a portion of the art process, building 3d models based on our original drawings. This required learning Blender along with Unreal Engine 4, but for a long time the art burden has fallen entirely on one member of the team and I’m more than happy to finally help out.
At first, I likened trying to make a visual novel in UE4 to using a rifle to kill a fly. Yes, it can get the job done but it will be harder and a ton of overkill. Now, I’d use a different tortured metaphor: it’s like putting together Ikea furniture with powertools. It’s still overkill, but the power tools have a lot more uses than just putting together Ikea Furniture.
So, when is Episode Zero coming out? Right now, we’re tentatively saying “TBD: Winter”. And yes, we mean this upcoming winter. I don’t think we can commit to anything more than that, but since we have so much of the framework already done and Episode Zero is a smaller project, we hope that you’ll be able to enjoy the first visual novel developed in UE4* fairly soon.
*I don’t know if we’re really going to be the first UE4 VN. I couldn’t find any. Correct me if I’m wrong!