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Onwards to a new year

Onwards to a new year

I hope you’re all having a merry Christmas and a happy New Year when we get that far!

This is the time of year where most people do a lot of reviewing and looking both back and forth in what they have accomplished, and what they hope to do. 2014 has been a generally quiet year for White Cat on the outside. Most noteably is the fact that we managed to get Blue Rose Greenlit on Steam, something that I am still terribly excited and grateful for! Unfortunately I have not been able to make the Steam release itself happen this year. If you are interested in what changes are happening to the game that causes this wait, you can read about some of them here.

Of course that isn’t the only thing that has been going on. But rather than go on about that again, I’d rather mention some of those things through the goals for 2015. These are the ones I’m quite certain that will be completed in the following year, in expected chronological order:

– Blue Rose Steam release
– Finish Angelic Orbs: Fallen Star script, shift focus to other game assets
– Redo Broken Memories script
– Finish AO: Fallen Star editing

It is still not certain whether AO: Fallen Star will be ready for release next year or not. It is my general goal for it to do so, but most of it rides on how things go when production of the game’s other assets can properly begin. I have considered options such as Kickstarter and Patreon to improve the odds, but this is not yet set in stone.

I would also very much like to go through with the remake of my first (and very unpolished) visual novel, Broken Memories. This should hopefully bring it up to a more enjoyable level, and to give an idea of the things to come in the bigger game. While I create bigger, commercial games now, I do like the idea of still having smaller things to offer on the side, and I think this little side story still has some potential for you all.

In general I hope 2015 is a year where you will be able to see more come out of White Cat, and I really do look forward to sending Angelic Orbs out in the world, be it in one or both forms. Here is to a great new year 🙂

 

Blue Rose is Greenlit!!

Blue Rose is Greenlit!!

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Thanks to everyone’s support, Blue Rose is now greenlit and ready to join the rising number of visual novels on Steam! Give eachother a good pat on the back, and throw some confetti around!

Of course being greenlit is not the end – it only mean that the game is now allowed to be posted in their store, but the final release is not quite ready yet. I want Blue Rose to be presented the best way it can be when it arrives on the store. Most of the things I want to do with it have been mentioned before both here and on twitter, but here is what you can expect from the Blue Rose Steam release:

  • Improved script – I got myself a very promising editor, and am confident that the upcoming script patch will greatly improve the text of the game, getting rid of the typos that are still there and generally give it an extra polish.
  • Trading Cards – I am planning to add trading cards, especially as this is something that some people seem to have looked forward to.
  • Achievements – of course!
  • Soundtrack DLC

I really want to provide steam keys to people who have supported the game until now by buying it, and will look into the possibility of doing so! News on this front will follow after the release.

So when will it happen?

I can’t promise any specific date as of yet, mostly because of the script improvements. It has taken some time to find a reliable editor, and it might still take a couple of months at worst. Blue Rose’s 1 year anniversary is coming up next month though, so I am hoping to be able to do something close to that time, if all goes well!

Steampunk, Otomes and Dreaming Stars

Steampunk, Otomes and Dreaming Stars

"Get behind me. The games, they are flooding in!!"
“Get behind me. The games, they are flooding in!!”

Some great news came up on the visual novel front at AX14, with some nice big story-focused titles announced to come out from the different VN companies here in the west. I’m excited about quite a few of them, more than I have been for VN releases in a while. I’ll touch briefly on some of them here, and will likely return to take a closer look at all of them as time goes by.

To start with, there is the big player, MangaGamer. With two of their titles, MangaGamer confirmed their expansion into Otome and BL territory with the games OzMafia!! and No, Thank you!!! (what is with all those exclamation marks!?!?)

More than that, they also gave a bit of news on their long awaited Steam release of Higurashi. In an earlier post I mentioned the concern for how Higurashi would be received by non-fans on Steam due to its very basic graphics, something that is now being resolved in an interesting way: The Steam release will get its own graphical makeover, with new character art by artist Kurosaki. A teaser of the new art was shown on MangaGamers blog:

Higurashi_002-450x337As the matter of rights would likely get in the way of using the Playstation version of the art, this is an interesting solution I had not seen coming. Along with how some of the translations of 07th Expansion’s works have been handled, this shows some really nice and close cooperation between the two parties in bringing these titles overseas. I look forward to seeing if this makeover only goes as far as character sprites, or if we get new backgrounds or even event CGs as well. Maybe the latter is too much to hope for?

The last big thing from MangaGamer was their new partnership with Liar-Soft, a company that I have been interested in for quite a while though I have not managed to try any of their games yet. The title MangaGamer is bringing from them first is Gahkthun of the Golden Lightning, a steampunk visual novel.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GcrI1B_gesA

I’m really excited for this one – Liar-Soft appears to make interesting stories, and the art is very beautiful. (This opening doesn’t beat the one for Shikkoku no Sharnoth though, still one my favourite videos and songs.)

According to this tweet from Moogy, the game also seems to consist in very large part of a female PoV. I wonder how it all comes together, and it is definitely something that intrigues me. Different viewpoints like this in visual novels can be interesting.

Sekai Project is also proving a force to be reckoned with. After their work with World End Economica, and the promising Fault coming up, they have now announced releasing the first of the Grisaia games in english. This is a game that has had an english fan translation for a while, and even before then I remember often hearing this title come up when people were asked to mention great VN titles. So far it seems like another title I will be looking very much forward to, and I’m pleased to see such solid and big VNs being released commercially in english.

grisaia

And last but not least! Sekai Project have also come together with VisualArts, securing a release of Planetarian for Steam.

For many people who got into visual novels around the same time as me, Planetarian holds a dear place in their hearts. It is a choiceless novel, or ‘Kinetic Novel’, with only two characters – only one of them actually shown on screen. It is a great example of what stories can be told in the medium, without taking hours to slog through like some of the titles mentioned above, and I will be sure to pick it up again when it comes out. Especially since I believe the digital download I once bought is now defunct. Or at least it was, for quite a while.

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I hear Planetarian has been out on iOS for quite a while before this, but Steam should be a good platform for raising much more awareness of the title. As well as one other important factor: this means VisualArts/Key could finally be inclined to release more titles here in the west. I really hope this will help convince them that bringing over more games is a viable option.

From all this I definitely think Gahkthun, Grisaia and Planetarian were the most exciting announcements for me. OzMafia and No, Thank you! are also very interesting, if only for the fact that they mean that the western companies are finally giving those genres some more attention. I don’t know much about the two titles personally, but will be keeping an eye out for them now after these news. Of the two I am most likely only going to be interested in OzMafia, a game that will hopefully prove to be a good representative of the genre, and convince them to go further with games for the female market.

Angelic Orbs: Fallen Star

Angelic Orbs: Fallen Star

Tia

Time to talk a little about what was introduced earlier – White Cat’s next visual novel, Angelic Orbs: Fallen Star.

Angelic Orbs is the story about Tia, an angel who is unable to return home, and the three people she meets who feel just as lost in the world as she does. Together this unlikley group begins a journey to correct the wrongs she has done, and learn the truths of the world they live in.

AO is planned to take part over three or so ‘episodes’ or ‘chapters’. Fallen Star is the first, and will contain a story that hopefully works well on its own, but also leads into the greater scheme of things that follow in the next chapters. This is done because AO in general is a much bigger story than Blue Rose was, and because I plan to try out a number of new things in the way the story is told and the visuals are presented. Splitting the story into well-sized chapters will make the completion of each of them easier to accomplish, and let me get a game out there earlier to see if this kind of projects works well with its audience. And for the things that do not work, I should be able to improve that so much more for the following chapters.

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Angelic Orbs is not BxG or GxB – the player is not a narrator but an observer, and the ways you can interact with the story are shaped, maybe limited, around that. There will be times where you can change the point of view on the story that unfolds, and a few occassions where you can interfere with the with the circumstances that the group finds themselves in.

At the time of writing another kind of interactivity is also planned. Whenever the group finds themselves in a situation where they have no choice but to fight, you will be able to control these battles in a turnbased rpg-like manner.

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At this point however, the game is still very early in its production. It is currently in the writing phase, with the first draft of the first four parts of the chapter written so far. Many of the concepts about player mechanics and even art presentation are therefore still up in the air, and many things can yet change before the final game sees completion in the distant future. I will most likely return with several different blog posts about this, while also trying to gauge people’s thoughts on different ways of handling these topics.

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The sad part about this point of the production is that there is so little to show! Therefore we will have to make do with these little concept sketches for now. If I can set some time aside for it, then hopefully I will have some more visual things to present at some point, and maybe do a more indepth presentation of the world and the characters that this vn will be about.

So see you next time!

Perceived Quality

Perceived Quality

It’s time to go on a bit of a tangent!

So this should be the year where we get to see the original Higurashi digital novel released on Steam! There is still no date, but apparently the game is going through a re-translation before its final release to the mainstream masses.

I’m currently going through the second half of Higurashi myself, and a little shine on the script probably wouldn’t hurt, putting aside the faults that were probably in the original to begin with.

This is great (even if old) news to the vn crowd though. Lately, especially with the Greenlight program, visual novels have seen a small surge in places like Steam and the general gaming media. From the start with Analogue to japanese titles like World End Economica.

And that’s not all. Recently a wave of crowd-funded visual novels have appeared on Kickstarter, most of them very successful. And many of them very ambitious, such as the returned SunRider and Exogenesis, two of my favourites at the moment.

For me at least, it raises an interesting question though. Looking at the last two projects, and then back at Higurashi, there is a steep difference between the two when counting first impressions and glossy surfaces.

"I just want to be a real girl!"
“I just want to be a real girl!”

This is going to be a hard sell to people who don’t already know of the novel or the popular anime based on it. (There are un-official patches on the internet that replaces the original art with the art from the polished console ports, but because of copyright issues I wonder if these will be able to make it to the Steam Workshop?)

Looking past the visual impression, Higurashi also lacks another thing that visual novels have become known for – interaction. There are no choices or branching storylines in this novel. Past each chapter the game likes to tease you with “good or bad endings” and “difficulty” depending on what you as a reader has deducted on your own so far, but that is all. It is simply a linear textbook with added sound and pictures. (For those wondering, without patches the game also has no voice acting. It’s a true barebones doujin game).

For those who know and love Higurashi however, this doesn’t stop them. After all, to my knowledge it didn’t take much for this title to be greenlit in the first place. There are plenty of people who already got this from MangaGamer (me included), and more that want to make their first buy on Steam. For these people the shoddy art and simple UI doesn’t deter from what the game is really about. Some are willing to look past it, and for others this simple style is part of the story’s charm.

How much leeway does this give other non-japanese indie games? Will people be just as willing to look past the simplicities of the surface of similar games that are not from Japan, and find similar hidden gems?

It’s a difficult subject. With the increased focus on this part of the market, both “good” and even more “bad” are flooding through, and no one has the time or patience to look through it all. Without Higurashi’s reputation, something of similar looks and simplicity will probably find it difficult to find proper footing in the market. But the question of what people find “acceptable” in terms of art and presentation still intrigues me every time titles like these manage to make it through, when they have competition like this.

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What are your thoughts on the subject?

(And speaking of Steam Greenlight, have you voted for Blue Rose yet?)

What’s brewing?

What’s brewing?

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Time to finally talk a little about what is currently going on with White Cat!

It’s been almost half a year since Blue Rose was released, and I’m very thankful for the nice reception of our Visual Novel so far! Even with private and open testing though, there will almost always be hiccups with the script after release. Some of you have sent in your corrections and comments on these, a few of them very detailed as well, and I really appreciate it. They will all be taken into consideration, and a future patch for the script will take all these things into consideration. Feel free to still send me a mail if you run into something bugging you!

Remember that the game is also still up for voting on Steam Greenlight, should you wish to show your support there.

Now for what is currently on the drawing table for White Cat. Those who have followed my twitter or tumblr, you may have already noticed me mention one of these projects in passing a couple of times. I have been reworking and rewriting Angelic Orbs from the bottom up for a little while now, our company’s next big visual novel title. Some people might know the title from our first free vn from years back, while a very few might even remember its roots as a webcomic from even longer ago.

The first vn of this title was a kind of sidestory, while this project is a complete telling of the original story from the ground up. It will also be different from Blue Rose in a few ways, one of the most noteable ones the fact that this is not a first-person story. The reader will not step directly in the shoes of a protagonist and aiming for romance routes, but will instead follow a small group of protagonists and influence their journey over the course of the story, sometimes even choosing what POV to follow in the coming events.

A few other features are in mind for this title, that I won’t speak of yet however. The script is in the middle of being written, as well as general character and world designs being made. Hopefully I can show you something more of this soon, though the game itself won’t be done in a while.

At the same time as this, I am also working on another project of a very different kind than Blue Rose and Angelic Orbs. It will be cute and deadly. But that is all I’m going to say about it so far.

And that is mostly what is going on at the moment! After our first big release we are hoping for 2014 to be another good and productive year, coming closer to bringing you great storytelling and entertainment.

And in the future if the support for it is there, I might return to this lonely folder on my desktop named “Blue Rose 2″…

Blue Rose best Romance of 2013!

Blue Rose best Romance of 2013!

Blue Rose best Romance 2013

VN’s Now! announced their winners for the 2013 Best Of’s, and Blue Rose got the spot for Best Romance!

A big thank you to the site that has also given the game and White Cat a nice bit of attention with their review and interviews!

And of course a congratulations to the other winners on the site, especially Muesli and Dischan for winning “English Visual Novel of the Year” and “Studio/EVN Circle of the Year”!

Here’s to hoping we can all keep it up in the new year!

Vote for Blue Rose on Steam Greenlight!

Vote for Blue Rose on Steam Greenlight!

Blue Rose

The visual novel Blue Rose is now up for voting on Steam Greenlight! If you’d like to see some Otome fantasy action on Steam, go vote now! If still in doubt, you can always try out the demo.

If you already bought the game, feel free to vote anyway and maybe get the chance to get a steam key for your copy.

The past or the present?

The past or the present?

writing

I just stumbled across this article, that puts light on something that bothers me about me current project. It discusses how, in time, some authors in printed literature began to drift away from using third person past tense, to use third person present tense, most likely because they were inspired by the style of writing screenplays. The article then goes on to touch on how those two different ways of writing have a different impact on the way your story is perceived, and that you should choose one depending on what you wish to achieve. This is all when discussing traditional novel writing.

How does this come out when writing for the visual novel format? They are usually a mix between choose-your-own-adventure stories and comics, making them very different when approached from a writer’s angle, sometimes more than you’d think.

The script of most visual novels are written with a first person POV, putting the reader in the shoes of the protagonist. He’s seeing things happen, he makes the choice as they come up. Present tense lends itself well to this type of story, as you’re supposed to be there, experiencing all this, in a story where no one knows the ending yet. It is part of what sets visual novels apart from reading book or a comic.

In comics themselves, this issue most often does not exist, as there is no descriptive text – only dialogue. The rest is something you see happen, it’s not told.

The voices in my head, duking it out.
The voices in my head, duking it out.

Now what if you want to write a third-person visual novel?

This is what I’m currently doing, and it’s proving surprisingly challenging. You’re no longer “in the shoes” of one person who sees all this unravel – you’re not making choices of what one person in particular would think or do. Adding to this, I’m trying to lean more heavily on the visual side of things, mimicking the original comic roots of the story I’m writing. But that’s for another day.

I soon realised, that when returning to third person, I naturally wanted to revert back to past tense as well, as I used to do. It’s what I’m used to reading, and writing. And it’s something people might be more used to reading as well, as the article puts it. This is something I’m struggling with quite a bit at the moment – as a reader you’re still put directly into the action, you’re still making choices for these people on the screen and impacting their lives as you go – should it still not be present tense?

eri_blushingwhilereading
“Omg, the writing is so bad! What was she even thinking!?”

I think the evidence still points towards the latter, though I still have to be careful with not falling into pitfalls of old writing habits. But the subject interests me.

What are your thoughts on the subject, as readers and writers?

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