Aurelion: the Visual Novel

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Re: Aurelion: the Visual Novel

Postby Кал » Sun May 01, 2016 10:17 am

On Alora Fane, Kal wrote:Friends (:

I've been quiet recently. Here's why:

Aurelion: The Coin : a hybrid F/SF visual novel is looking for artists ... and readers

I'll be unspeakably happy to have you join me on this journey. Or at least hear your first impressions. The Coin is very much about personal growth and relationships. Most of you should feel welcome there.

:)))


От пощата си Кал wrote:Като за празник...

... нашата дружна история Aurelion: The Coin потегля по света:

https://lemmasoft.renai.us/forums/viewt ... 43&t=38359

Ще стискате ли палци? Протегнатите ни ръце ще хванете ли?

Прегръщам ви, прераждащо и преродено,
Кал)))


ibid. wrote:To celebrate the day ...

... our joint tale, _Aurelion: The Coin_, has just set out across the world:

https://lemmasoft.renai.us/forums/viewt ... 43&t=38359

Will you keep your fingers crossed? Will you clasp our own?

I'm hugging you, renewed and renewing,
Kal)))


В Ятото Кал wrote:Великден е ден за нови начала. Ето едно от най-големите, в които съм участвал през последните години:

https://lemmasoft.renai.us/forums/viewt ... 43&t=38359
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Re: Aurelion: the Visual Novel

Postby Кал » Mon May 02, 2016 1:01 pm

В Ятото Кал wrote:Замечтавам се, когато си представя как тези шест души полекичка порастват до шейсет...

http://kal.zavinagi.org/?p=749
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Re: Aurelion: the Visual Novel

Postby Кал » Mon May 02, 2016 9:25 pm

Maybe it's time to split a new topic, for talking in English only?

Well ... time will tell. ;)


Azure Edge wrote:Ah that looks lovely! The cover gives off a Lord of the Rings vibe which I like.


Кал wrote:*blink* I never thought about that ....

(And yesterday, somebody told me the elf looks like my partner. *blink blink*

My partner disagrees, though. :D )


Tama Yoshi wrote:I could not quite get into it, although one could say that I did not allocate enough time to read it to get comfortable with it.
I did not read through the last two scenes, and ended with the strange scene that seemed to happen in the future/past/somewhere else.
There's a lot of things happening right in the first few scenes and it's not easy to assimilate. I personally struggle with stories where the world-building is rich.

Also, *I did a back flip* (models spin a 360) ... That's all.

The entire time I was reading, I kept asking myself "Why is this a Visual Novel?" And I still struggle to see that. Yes, you have background music, some pictures, and you have occasional 'choices', although I felt like the choices could have very well not been there and that it didn't matter what I chose beyond the scope of a fistful of lines.
If I can't see the immediate effects of the choices I make, I feel like I'm being baited in thinking I made a choice.

I thought about how a Visual Novel experience could help enhance narrative, and here are my thoughts:
A visual novel is visual by definition. If anything, it has the power of being more concrete than a novel, of being clearer and of conveying more information more quickly through images.
But that sounds very demanding from an artist's standpoint, right? I disagree. The very way you present your text is important. You can play with fonts, with text box size, text box texture, text box *sound effects*, text box *position*. Does that seem useless? Think back to games like Golden Sun (or more actual, Undertale) where each character has a sound that their dialogs are printed on the screen; the sound can be pitched higher or lower depending on which character is talking, whether it's a girl or a guy, or a monster, etc. So you see, a simple detail like that can help not only convey who is talking (or even, whether it's interior monologue, in which case there could be no sound at all), but it also gives a more distinct feel of what the person talking is like. For bonus points, you can even make the text stop for a moment after commas and periods.
You can even reveal additional details by using specific noises for specific "unnamed" characters.

Next in case are the models. It seems that they were intended to bring out the story... but more often than note I got confused about what the models' animation were signifying; it takes a bit of imagination to find out that a model rolling in the screen is actually a POV of the main character doing a backflip (and I don't think adding a spinning background will really help). Is this REALLY the POV of the main character? Isn't the character wearing a helmet? Why don't I see the shadows of that helmet in the screen if I am wearing a helmet? Or a greenish-metroid-prime-style visor if it's a sci-fy kind of helmet (because I can't tell anyway)? In the first few scenes, I was confused because I thought the elf was the narrator. The POV strategy isn't very obvious.
Similarly, consider making it clearer *where I should be looking*. A simple "fading to dark" of the character models could make a big difference in "bringing out" the characters that are talking, or those that are currently moving around. Modifying the Z-depth of the models is also a possible transformation, as you usually want the emphasis to be on the character on top. Animating a model as it's "about to talk" (like swiping it left and right, like one shuffles cards) also gives a more immediate sense of action.

So yes. Since I couldn't really get into the story, I won't really comment on it, other than saying I had problems tracking the relevant world elements.
I think it's very feasible to enhance the experience with just a few visual tricks like what I mentioned, and it should not require too much work either. What you want is really the power to immerse your audience in the experience. And, hey, look, Undertale doesn't really look all that great, but it does it all with its interface.


Кал wrote:Tama Yoshi, I find your 'enlivening' ideas extremely interesting. So interesting in fact that I would love to have you on our team: as a beta-reader at the very least, and as a proper 'choreographer' if you can find the time: one of the guys who say , 'Make this character move like this, and make this text behave like that.' (And then our programmers come and say, 'Can do. No can do.' :D )

I've already applied some of your ideas--such as pausing the text for greater effect, or fiddling with its size--but it's still entirely a 'work in progress'. As it will be until the end.

Re: choices. I cannot say very much about those lest I spoil an important pillar of the narrative design, but I can say this much: Every choice on a non-black screen matters; yet no single choice makes or breaks the story. This will become more obvious as the plot progresses.

I'm aware that beginning in medias res is a problem for a lot of people. Sorry about that ... but it is an approach that our team really relishes. (As do many Japanese VN creators.)

I'm also pretty proud of the shifting PoV. I'm not aware of a single VN that plays around with points of view as much as ours. (Yeah, I love messing up people's expectations. ;)

Did I miss any important point of yours?


Fenix Shakura wrote:Congratulations, it's amazing to see how far you got. Despite Tama Yoshi's objections, with which I mostly agree. (Except the choices thing. Most dialogue options hardly ever make a difference, and that's not bad.)

As a Game Engineer (to-be) myself, I'm intrested in the development process you guys are going through. Can you tell me more about it?

Also, a thing I find about the back button is that it works too well. It should display the previous portions of text, but yours replays all the transitions, transcends scene boundaries and even reverts choices, which is not the intended use in my opinion. After all, can you fit a whole game into main memory like this, or do your programmers use tricky data structures?


Кал wrote:Thank you, Fenix Shakura! :)

And this thing with the back button is REALLY bad. :((( So it can go past previous choices too? You're completely right: that's not the way it is supposed to work. I need to ask the creators of the Ren'Py engine what I've done wrong. (I'm still a newbie at this thing.)

Actually, would you (and Tama Yoshi and anyone else who is interested) mind to take your questions to the Lemma Soft thread? It'll be much easier for me to respond to people in one place only; and I'm sure there're lurkers there who'd like to ask similar things but cannot muster up the courage. ;)

Then, I can also answer more in-depth questions about our development process .... *hint, hint* :)
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Re: Aurelion: the Visual Novel

Postby Кал » Tue May 03, 2016 11:57 am

Tama Yoshi wrote:It happens that I finished my degree in computer science less than a week ago.
...but I'm probably too busy (got a job, and 2 side projects on top of that) to get involved beyond any significant threshold.
None of the things I recommended are difficult to implement; it's just about finding the right libraries/packages/classes to do the job for you. The most difficult job is perhaps implementing a 9-slice for implementing fancy dialog skins, which isn't really at all difficult either.

That said, I'd be pleased to make a difference, if only by volunteering. I do wonder how 'clean' the code is.

(Additional idea I just had: make the 'helmet visor' bob up and down to mimick the character breathing, etc.)

(PS: Are you aiming for an FF7's implicit karma-like 'who is Cloud going to date at that point in the game' kind of choice? I still think there needs to be more feedback to the player. A mere notice that says 'X character will remember your decision' like in modern tell-tales can do a lot of good to give the player the impression of control)


Кал wrote:Great! :)

Two brief but important questions:

1. Are you familiar with Python? How about Ren'Py? (It's the engine used by our VN.)

2. How much lag does this link give you? Is it annoying or acceptable?

... And I'm off to bed. :)

(Your PS question is another 'spoiler area' that I can't discuss without ruining the experience.)


Tama Yoshi wrote:I'm very familiar with Python, but I also know that some librairies can make Python a lot more esoteric than it usually is when Vanilla! Incidentally I've never heard of Ren'Py... it looks like it's been designed for use by non-programmers or something O_o

And 2, no, no lag, despite having an Okay computer and things running in the background (on Chrome).


Кал wrote:Re: Ren'Py: Exactly. And it's fairly easy to use. :)

But you can supplement it with any (AFAIK) Python code. For instance, our programmer has added a timer that makes the very first line of the VN appear during a particular beat of the soundtrack.

I asked you about the lag because our forum is hosted in Bulgaria and sometimes international visitors can barely access it.

Now off to my next logistic question: do you prefer to continue this discussion on our Bulgarian forum (I'll set up an account for you)? Or in the Lemma Soft topic?

I'd rather discuss general (non-spoilery) stuff on Lemma Soft and keep the spoilers for our forum. (There's a hidden subforum, visible only to members of the creative team. BTW, we're tentatively known as Aurelians. ;)

Also, where can I send you a sample of our Ren'Py code? Your email? I can also post it in our hidden subforum, so that other new participants can see it too.
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Re: Aurelion: the Visual Novel

Postby Кал » Sun May 08, 2016 11:44 pm

Re: the above exchange: Tama Yoshi is already part of our team. More volunteers? ;)

On Alora Fane, VaanHope wrote:So after reading a bit, not being a fan of visual novels, I can say I feel confused. I am at the part where someone is coming of age. Sometimes I can't tell who I am, I think I was Rad first, then Mephodi (?), then Kai or Kal, and then now I think the thief? It's a tad difficult to tell who my character is so far with all the hopping around. It seems okay, again I usually don't do VN, so in a new reader's perspective it's hard to follow along. The question thing doesn't make too much sense to me, plus if I click too fast I have no idea what I am answering.


Kal wrote:(Kal, yay! I'm in my own VN! :D )

Figuring out the point-of-view character in every scene is tricky, yes. But even if you don't have experience with visual novels, after a while you should get the hang of it.

By 'clicking too fast', do you mean that you don't read the questions? That can be a problem. ;)

Also, does the 'Back' option work when you get to a choice? If it does, it should help.

BTW, guys, I'm extremely excited by your responses. Even though Aurelion: The Coin mostly targets experienced readers of VN, it's very instructive to see how novice readers take it. Thank you!
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Re: Aurelion: the Visual Novel

Postby Кал » Tue May 10, 2016 11:50 am

Разпратих до Приятелите ни (и не само ;)):

На 1 май екип с осезаемо участие на Чобити публикува международното
демо на Aurelion: The Coin – визуален роман (visual novel), който
адаптира „Монетата“ на Светлини сред сенките към една нова форма на
четене:

https://lemmasoft.renai.us/forums/viewt ... 43&t=38359

Готвим този проект от две години; правим го от шест месеца; и
продължаваме да търсим художници; редактори... и, разбира се,
читатели. Ще се присъедините ли в приключението? :)

(Ще покажем мъничко от него на премиерата в събота.)
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Re: Aurelion: the Visual Novel

Postby kostadin_kolev » Mon May 23, 2016 6:49 pm

Здравейте . Аз съм фен ентусиаст , който обича да драска неща в манга стил. Разбрах за вашият проект случайно и реших да предложа своята помощ . За съжаление в момента не разполагам с много свободно време и няма да мога да се отдам изцяло на проекта , но обещавам , че ще направя каквото мога . Ще се радвам да бъда полезен по някакъв начин . :)

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Re: Aurelion: the Visual Novel

Postby Кал » Mon May 23, 2016 7:00 pm

Много ми е драго, че се засичаме и тук. :) И понеже до края на май и аз съм временемичен – засега само ти давам достъп до работния ни форум. Разгледай темите там – особено „Графиката: разговори“, „Графиката: решения“ и „Демото: разговори“.

А от юни ще те питам и по-конкретни питанки. :)
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Re: Aurelion: the Visual Novel

Postby Кал » Fri Jun 17, 2016 3:14 pm

Our second full review by Fenix Shakura, on Alora Fane

I'll address it point by point:

Fenix Shakura wrote:Generally:
And now I can finally understand Tama Yoshi's concerns about "Why is this a VN?". Because it isn't. How I perceived it is that you're reciting the novel and amplifying it with graphics and music. I'd call that a Graphic-Music E-Book, at best.
But that doesn't suffice for a Visual Novel, because the most important feature is missing: The Game. More specifically, the interactivity which constitutes a game. The only thing you can do is advance the mono-/dialogue and occassionally make a choice which in turn... advances the mono-/dialogue. That's not very exciting.

Now you may say that media that primarily tells a story is all about going through speeches. That may be so, but that's a really old question and it's a downright science to bring The Game into it. There are many possibilities and if you look at some Visual Novels you can see a pattern that has cristallized:
No matter what restrictions are currently applied, the player has always the choice to do several things. The most basic actions a player can do in a VN are talk to the people present, examine the current area and walk to a different area. But there can be more, for example managing the character's possessions, you imagination is the limit. In order to advance, the player has to execute some specific actions, sometimes in a specific order. Most choices won't make a difference, some may even work against the player. This is what makes him use his head, keeps him challenged, and -most importantly- intrested.


As I've said before: Every choice screen matters; yet no single choice makes or breaks the story. I dislike VNs where a choice changes nothing (unless it's really funny :D). At the same time, The Coin has something to say about the mentality "we want to see immediate results." ;)

This will become more obvious as the plot progresses. And now that you're on board, you'll be able to see for yourself: all those SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS! :D

Also, the routes of visual novels come in various shapes.

But your point about adding interactive elements is duly noted. Its implementation very much depends on the spare time and motivation of the programmers involved.

Graphics:
Big compliment to the character artists, they did a really good job (Rad's contures are thinner than everyone elses, but the outline is still good)! Especially on the facial expressions, I really like how detailed they are. I guess, I don't need to tell you that they need coloring. Though after that, the dissonance with the photorealistic backgrounds will be all the more evident. Obvously, you need background artists.

And, I know it's a bane for every character artist and project manager, but I want more character sprites. Most of all the game needs more character sprites, as you've noticed they can't express all the situations that happen to characters (Let alone the fact, there there are entire characters completely missing. There are no small roles, only small actors). I think you've noticed that faces by themselves already make a big difference. It's amazing how expressive a character can be only with one striking posture and several different face graphics (If you're looking for inspiration, Fire Emblem: Awakening did a really good job on this).

Although there's still some supplement needed for special situations. The most striking example is when Raphael lifts Aik by his (non-exsitent) feet. When it comes to character interactions, it's best to draw one big sprite depicting them both. That way you also get rid of the 180° spin of Aik's sprite, which brings be to my next point.


Thank you! I've passed the praises to the sprite artists who worked on the demo, Mellindor and xCindyNyan.

Yes, we definitely need background artists. Or better photomanipulation.

And we're working on more sprites. And more. I said, MORE! *whips out his Prodder's prod*

(With more legs, too. :lol: )

I'm not sure how the "big sprite depicting them both" will work. I suggest you discuss it directly with the artists, in the "Art: Discussions" topic in our working forum.

Animations:
Sorry to tell you, but they're an eyesore, at least to me. I'll have to explain. There is discrete media and continuous media. Discrete media is with "breaks in between", that applies for the character sprites, as you never see them follow their movement when they change posture or expression, you have one frame and then the next frame. Your Transform Animations (Translation, Rotation, Scaling) on the other hand are continuous. And when you use these two things together, like when a Aik exits to the left while still looking at you, it creates another dissonance, which I personally find unpleasant.

When it comes to characters entering and exiting, appearing and disappearing works best, after all, but the hard cut is, well... hard. You should use fading in and out to smooth it. Even though that's a continous transition, too, it's not as bad. I guess I've gotten used to that one by now. There's one other exception, where I'd accept a continuous transformation: You can use Translation of chracters to signify that the POV character turns their head to look at them.

Speaking of that, most 2D-VN's do employ some semi-continuity, in the form of frame-by-frame animations. That does look good, but means a buttload more work for your character artists.


I need input from more people about your preference of "fade in/out" over "walk in/out." You're the first (and so far only one) tester who has expressed explicit dissatisfaction with it.

(Another possible route to go is to cut down the number of transformations. Most VNs are quite static; motion is still considered a bonus, not a backbone.)

Can you give me a few examples of VN's that "employ some semi-continuity, in the form of frame-by-frame animations"? I'm not sure what you mean.

Sound:
Actually, there isn't much I have to say about the sound. The music sounds nice, the soundfont is good. It has either none or only very weak melody, so it's not memorable, but also not obstrusive. Although, discrete media actually can afford a bit more obstrusity, it's okay for the job, it fits the atmosphere. (Except for "fairytale". No, really, why did you include this one?)
It's okay to use sound effects, too. You just need more, and make sure that it's the appropriate one. There are tons of SFX libraries on the internet.


Thank you! These praises go to Mordred and Atriell. :)

Скрит текст: покажи
(Yeah, I'm the only one who gets the criticisms. :cry: )


"Fairytale" (you know the band, right?) is an example of my sense of humor. Weird. (Like the joke I made in the spoiler above. Could you guess it was a joke? ;) ) I doubt we'll be able to secure the rights for it anyway.

Then again, if LOADS of people fall in LOVE with it, we'll do our best ....

Yeah. Weird sense of humor. :D Worst part is, you can't know when I'm serious and when I'm kidding. If in doubt, ask. (I'm completely serious now.)

SFX, as far as my experience with VNs goes, are another "bonus, not backbone" area. We'll try to add as many as we can; but see my final comment below.

All in all, you still got a long way to go, but you're not doing so bad. Practice makes perfect.


Indeed. :) And I'd like to maintain an iterative approach to the process: first we complete the backbone (the storyline and the choice system), then we add as many extras as time/inspiration/available skills permit. So it will inevitably look rough during the early iterations. Please bear with us. :)

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Re: Aurelion: the Visual Novel

Postby Fenix Shakura » Fri Jun 17, 2016 5:33 pm

Ah yes, there really is the distinction between Visual Novels and Japanese Adventure Games. Though, like many other people, I have come to get the latter as the former, and the former as, well, what I said in my review. I would really like to see Gameplay Features and make an Adventure Game rather than a Visual Novel, but it's your decision. First things first, and the iterative approach has proven to be quite fruitful in software development.

Frame-by-Frame is just a fancy name of the oldest and most basic animation technique: swapping pictures at a rate fast enough to be perceived as fluid motion by the viewer.
It's the backbone of literally every 2D media, including games and Anime, while Affine Transforms are more 3D territory. Even though they have made their way onto the 2D world, too, int the form of skeletal animations (they were used in to animate the characters on the battle screen in MARDEK, remember?), this is not something you want to deal with, when you're just starting with computer graphics.
Take a look at one of the sprite sheets in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney for example: http://www.court-records.net/sheets/DSsheet-phoenix.png
Each animation there consists of around 4 to 9 different pictures (and they never needed legs either. :lol: ). And you can see for yourself how it translates into the game: https://youtu.be/bERHBN1zZ0Q?t=2m45s
As for the big sprite thing I mentioned, in the second to last row, you can see too, how it's just two characters drawn in the picture instead of one. So it doesn't really "belong" to a particular character, but instead to more. This is how I would have impletemented "that scene".

Actually, no, I never heard of the band, outside of Video Game context I don't really have to do much with music. But I can name you title, composer and game of several 100 soundtracks just from listeing the first few seconds, and hum the rest of the tune. :D
Well, you can say that anything aside from the plain text is just bonus. So you can't argue that SFX is not important that way, but if you want to focus on other things first, then that's all right.

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Re: Aurelion: the Visual Novel

Postby Кал » Sat Jun 18, 2016 9:57 am

I see visual novels as a new type of reading medium: one that may eventually become more important than traditional books. With the advent of the Internet, our attention spans have shortened and it's gotten harder to read an ordinary book for long uninterrupted periods. When I was a child, I could finish Lord of the Rings in two sittings. Nowadays, I wouldn't be able to even in two weeks. At the same time, I spent 30 hours in a single week, reading through The Devil on G-String. I notice the same transition in many other readers, especially young ones. We can't be passive recipients any more--we need to do something as we read.

That being said, any gameplay features would be a welcome addition. As long as: 1) they don't become the focus of the experience: the focus in The Coin should be the interactions between the characters; 2) they don't require too much time from the team members and prevent them from working on the storyline and choice system. We're all volunteers at this stage, so we should be wary of burnout. (Says a veteran of burnouts. ;) )

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is far more ambitious, in terms of gameplay and animation, than what we're aiming at. And it was done by a large company. ;) (Now, in terms of writing ... Hmm. Well, it's a translation too, so let's not be too picky about its verbal polish. ;) ) I'm thinking more along the lines of Katawa Shoujo or Brass Restoration or (hahaha, good luck with that) Cross†Channel.

The "composite sprite" in your example seems to be a simple overlay of two sprites. That should be doable with the Ren'Py functions for placing and manipulating sprites.

So, what did you actually think about "Fairytale"? :)
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Re: Aurelion: the Visual Novel

Postby Fenix Shakura » Sat Jun 18, 2016 10:45 am

"Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney was developed by a team of seven people, and took ten months to make."
- Castle, Matthew (2013-10-24). "Interview: Shu Takumi on the making of Phoenix Wright, Ghost Trick and more". Official Nintendo Magazine. Archived from the original on 2014-10-08. Retrieved 2015-10-03.

:p
It's quite incredible, what a bunch of ambitious people can do, eh? The record holder, though, is Core Systems with six people who made the first Tomb Raider game.
Sure, they were all doing it for a living, but still... you oughta aim higher than you'll probably shoot.
But anyway, VN, VN... I actually wanted to take a look at some you mentioned, but never got around it. After taking a quick look, it seems that they really are just graphical or, well, "visual" novels. Pity. But all right.

The "overlaid sprite" was not the best example, I guess. But I've seen in Ace Attorney, as well as other Adventure Games and Visual Novels that key scenes were depicted with special artwork like this one: http://www.court-records.net/screenshot ... oesema.png
It doesn't have to be that extensive, which is why I proposed a combined sprite, but please don't try hack that effect with Ren'Py functions, it just won't live up to the impact of the scene. D:

As for the song, well, of all the modern genres Rock is definetly the one that appeals the most to me. But as I've mentioned before, it just doesn't fit into the VN in my opinion. You said, it was an example of your sense of humour, but I didn't get the joke, sorry.

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Re: Aurelion: the Visual Novel

Postby Кал » Sun Jun 19, 2016 10:52 am

Re: ambitious projects: The one I find most impressive is The Devil on G-String, which was done by about 5 people, in less than half a year. As I said, it's a 30+ hour story, with the greatest amount of mindfuckery this side of Death Note. ;)

As I also said, I'm a veteran of burnouts, so I'm not so ambitious as I used to be. ;)

http://www.court-records.net/screenshot ... oesema.png is an example of what I called "special CG" here. We'll need them badly; and they take the most time to draw. (And get collected in an in-game gallery where readers can view them freely after seeing them for the first time.)

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