The post-Ludum Dare build of Lights Out is almost done and will definitely be released this month! So far I've added 2 road blocks (1 being a small puzzle), doubled the size of the map, changed the placement of Bedelia (you'll have to find her all over again as her room has drastically moved!), made it darker, added more talking sprites, and more. I'm pretty happy with this build, and I hope you guys will like it too. It hopefully won't be my only Halloween game this year!
Gonna start a series of irregularly-posted editorials where I talk about different subjects that I'm familiar with and give some advice from my own experience, whether they're about visual novels, RPG maker, art, etc. I wanted to start off with how to make a VN development team, but I figured I needed to start with the basics first- how do you even start making visual novels in the first place?
Get Familiar With: Your Terms
So, you wanna make a visual novel, so you'll probably end up interacting with the community. Here's a list of terms to know if you're new to the VN community like I was when I started developing:
EVN / OELVN - stands for English Visual Novel and Original English Language Visual Novel. Two terms used for describing Western VNs, although EVN is used more frequently nowadays.
Sprite - the individual character art that changes expressions. Commonly confused with CGs.
CGs - although it typically stands for Computer Generated, CGs in VNs typically means the cutscene art where no sprites are shown. CGs are usually reserved for special scenes, and are the type of artwork you'd see in a CG Gallery.
Nakige - a crying game, i.e. a game that is meant to make you cry. Do not get this confused with nakige for reasons listed below.
Nukige - a hentai or eroge game.
Eroge - an informal term for hentai games.
Otome / Otoge - roughly translates to "maiden's love" and is used to describe games with a female demographic, usually dating sims which feature males as the love interests and a female protagonist. This term is also sometimes used to describe boys love (BL) games.
Kamige - a term used jokingly that literally means "God-game". It's used to describe games that top-tier and virtually perfect.
Get Familiar With: Your Engines
With any game development, you have different engines at your disposal- some free, some more expensive, some good, some bad. When making VNs, there are several engines to chose from with varying degrees of popularity and features. I have personally only used Ren'Py and Twine.
Your main EVN-making engine. It's highly used, and for good reason: it's free, it's constantly updated, it has a very active community and lots of (somewhat old, somewhat helpful) documentation. It's the one I personally use as I feel it's easy to learn while also allowing the user a lot of room for customization.
Another popular EVN-developing engine- it's used by a good amount of developers with varying degrees of reviews. Some people think the engine works fine, others have used it and prefer Ren'Py. There are a good amount of differences between the two, the main being that Ren'Py will always be free and TyranoBuilder costs $15.
Want to make a simple visual novel but don't care about complicated things like save states or settings? Twine is for you. It's simple to use but can create amazing stories. Alternatively, you can also use it for planning stories or doing outlines on it. Twine can be used in browser or can be downloaded.
Like Twine, CloudNovel is an online tool for making visual novel. They have a good amount of ready-to-use assets for your VN, so it's a great option if you don't have any art and can't get any.
(I'm not including Novelty on this list as development on it has halted)
Get Familiar With: Your Structure / Needs
Alrighty, so you got an engine downloaded and you have an idea for a killer story that's going to be the next kamige. ...Now what? Well, let's start by going over assets you'll need to make the visual novel.
Get Familiar With: Your Websites
But wait you say, I can do none of those things, I'm just an idea guy! If that's the case, then you have 3 choices: find people willing to work for free, pay people, or learn how to do something. If you decide to go the route of forming a team, then your best option is to go to the Lemma Soft Forums, the main EVN forums on the web. There you can recruit members to your amazing brand new team, see other VNs in development, and even post about your own. I'll make another editorial soon about ways to establish a development team and keep the ball rolling.
Aside from LSF, the other main EVN website is Fuwanovel. It has a much smaller community, but is still a website dedicated to VNs nonetheless. There is also the /r/visualnovels subreddit, but it focuses more on releases rather than EVN development.
Get Familiar With: Publishing
Great, you've finished your game in record time, and you're ready to show it to the world after weeks of rewriting, debugging, getting feedback from playtesters, and more. ...Or you've just finished the last line of code and you're ready to shove it out the door. Either works. I won't get into too many details on publishing to say, Steam, as that's a whole other beast, but I will talk about your options as a broke EVN developer. You could always upload it to Google Drive or somewhere, make a blog post or a thread in the Completed Games section on LSF, and link it there to be done with it. Or, you can upload it to Itch.io or Game Jolt to reach a bigger audience.
Itch.io focuses on any type of indie game and even indie game creation, hosting things from game jam entries, VR games, and even game engines. However, although you have a lot of freedom with what you upload to Itch.io, so does everyone else. It's very easy for your game to be lost in the sea of other titles being uploaded every second. Game Jolt, on the other hand, focuses more on browser games, but download-only titles are accepted as well. The VN market on Game Jolt is vastly different from Itch.io, in that Itch.io has a VN market! On Itch.io, you'll find a lot of popular EVN titles, most of which are free, but on Game Jolt all you'll find are VNs with sprites made from dress-up maker games. So, don't get too disappointed if your download-only VN only gets an abysmal 12 views on Game Jolt (but keep in mind that browser games do exceptionally better on any game website than download-only games).
I hope this guide sheds some light on how to get into the EVN market and where to start making your own VN! If you want somewhere to talk about VN developing or get more advice on it, join us in the /r/visualnovels discord server in the #devtalk channel.
Yep, fully announcing that I've started on a post-Ludum Dare build of Lights Out for the horror game jam held by a few acquaintances, Pixel Horror Jam 2. I'm still not sure how much I'll add (I've been told I have to double the content, though that doesn't necessarily mean story-wise), but I have planned to at least double the mansion, add more tiles, add at least one puzzle, add more interactions, add a sprite for Hiram's head (which I already sketched, but never had time to finish), and make the game harder (making it darker to see). I've been working on it for the past few days- in order to make sure I don't get burnt out and am able to add a lot more content to it, I'm going to pace myself (as the jam doesn't end for another 3 months).
I did this stained glass piece originally during LD (I mean, of course I did) but never got to use it, but now I'm able to.
Here's a small post-Ludum Dare devlog. Lights Out is now on 3 different sites, for all your browser-playing needs!
I've received a few comments saying that the lights didn't seem necessary and that there should be some more foreshadowing/buildup to the story, so I'll most likely make a post-LD build of the game with darker rooms and more interaction and story.
Still, I've received a lot of great feedback on this game, and I'm very happy that people like it! This has basically solidified that I want to do RPG Maker games for most of my future LD entries, as they're a great way to blend game play with visual novel story telling.
Ludum Dare #39 is finally over, and boy, did it feel like forever! And yet, the time flew by whenever I was working on my game
:"D Anyway, here's some looks at the game and what it's about.
Lights Out is my attempt at a short and sweet RPG horror-style game, centered around the player controlling Rebecca, a young 11 year old girl who has her friends over for a sleepover when the power is knocked out and she finds that her house is now crawling with fairies. She tries to find them, only realizing that the back-up generator only has enough power to turn on the lights in one room at a time.
The (albeit short) story revolves around an elder fairy who is attempting to escape death by the hands of a dullahan, a headless fairy grim reaper of sorts. However, the other fairies kidnap Francie, one of Rebecca's friends, and swaps her out for the elder fairy, who is now a changeling- a fairy who is swapped out for a human in order for the fairies to keep the human child as their own, or in this case, to let the elder fairy die in peace at the hands of humans to take care of them. I really love folklore and such, so this was my attempt at bringing some of that folklore I've learned into a game while also making is accessible to readers who, say, don't know Irish folklore.
I do believe this is my 2nd best Ludum Dare entry yet- Nightowl will probably always hold a special place in my heart because it was made based off my own emotions that I felt after graduating high school, but I think this one deserves 2nd not only because of all the work I put into it (Steam says I've had RPGM MV open for about 30+ hours this entire LD) but also because I feel its story is short, simple, but round and complete. I liked writing Hiram, I hope he didn't come off as too much of a jokester!
Got a looot done tonight, but I still have a fair ways to go before it's finished. It'll definitely be close. Here's some in-game screenshots and a gif.
Who's that outside Rebecca's window, I wonder?
Oh, just your neighborhood Dullahan who has a knack for letting his head roll around unsupervised.
Didn't get a lot done today except for the main "antagonist", Hiram's, sprite.
Going to try to get a working build/demo/something tonight- if not, I'll have to wake up early in the morning and probably cut some stuff.
End of day 2 for Ludum Dare #39, and I made some good progress- not as much as I'd have liked, but still. I now have a more fleshed out plot, which I'll share later. Here are some looks at what I got done today!
Left is Bedelia's finished sprite, right is Francie's finished sprite.
Look at them in-game. Room isn't close to being finished, as I keep adding stuff to my tileset which throws every room askew. I originally had 2 other friends planned to be in the game, but I cut them for time, which was a good idea- now I have a better plot and I don't have to worry about as many sprites.
Got a fair amount done this morning, including some more items for the house and some work on the character sprites.
Left is Rebecca, the main character's, finished sprite. Right is Bedelia, one of Rebecca's guests at her slumber party.
A look at the first room. ...I should probably make some more things to fill it up with.
So, Friday of LD #39 is over, and here are some shots of what I got done.
First is showing the tilesets and furniture (and of course, stained glass) I did and the second image shows the WIP of the main character, Rebecca's, sprite.
For this Ludum Dare (the theme being Running out of Power) I decided to go with an RPG Horror type game (being partially inspired by my new friends) where the MC is hosting a sleepover when all the power goes out and monsters start to attack. The goal is to find all of the girls, but it's easier said than done- you can only turn on the lights in so many rooms.