Sunday, December 16, 2012

Demo followup and other things

Happy upcoming holidays, everyone!
Have some chibi "Pirate Mermaid" guys, courtesy of Nellie.

After releasing the Pirate Mermaid demo at the beginning of the month, Nellie and I have been stoked to see such a positive initial response! To every person who's tried our game and given feedback, or left even the simplest words of support - thank you from the bottom of our hearts! You are really lifting our spirits and inspiring us to work hard than ever! :D As always, please let us know if you have any suggestions or things you'd like to see in the full game!

Some people have asked if the full version will be a free or commercial release. To confirm, "The Pirate Mermaid" will be a free game (we'd like as many people to play it as possible xD).

Meanwhile, in the land of AXIOM.01, I've been working on-and-off on some more art. The amazing bunbun taught me a more pro way to color in SAI (thank you, great teacher! I'll work hard so I don't shame you, lol), and now the "fringe effect" tool is my new best friend. I must resist the urge to spam it for shading everywhere.

Heck yeah, fringe effect! (is shot for art crimes)
And so, after liberal amounts of fringing, I've recently finished some promo art. I've actually been wanting to do a "promo poster" for a while, so I'm happy that I've finally gotten around to it. Some of you might have already noticed that I've switched out the old banner on the AXIOM.01 page for a shinier (albiet more oddly-shaped) version.

Super fugly.

Slightly less fugly (I hope).
So yeah, I've decided to go with a puzzle theme to reflect the mystery side of the game. The full image has all the main characters, of course, but I'll save it for the demo release. Here's hoping that happens sometime before the world ends! xD

Sunday, December 2, 2012

"Pirate Mermaid" Demo is out!

Finally, the public demo has been finished! (throws confetti) Many thanks to our wonderful beta testers! Nellie and I look forward to hearing everyone's thoughts and feedback - feel free to leave comments here or at our Lemmasoft thread! :D

Edit to clarify - "The Pirate Mermaid" is a collaborative project between NSEY Studio (Nellie) and Variable X (Arowana). Just wanted to make sure NSEY Studio gets the credit they deserve, since Nellie is the one who does all of the beautiful art! :)

Download links:

Sunday, November 18, 2012

"Pirate Mermaid" Demo ready for beta!

(EDIT: We're currently looking for someone with Linux to beta-test the demo. Let us know if you're interested!)

As in, I literally finished building the demo distributions an hour ago! After coding like crazy and abusing my computer with tons of Photoshop tabs for the last few days, I feel like crying tears of joy right now. *_* I'm just going to cross my fingers and hope that the beta testers don't run into any major issues.

Here are some more screenshots in the meantime (I still can't get over how lovely Nellie's backgrounds are!):

Pirate Mermaid - ship bg
Pirate Mermaid - ship bg
Pirate Mermaid - sorcerer sprite
Pirate Mermaid - Prince Mikali CG

Now to go collapse in my bed for the next few days (haha, oh how I wish...ugh, I've still got to finish compiling all the credits...dangit...).

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Pirate Mermaid Pre-Demo Update

Hey all! So Nellie and I were originally hoping to release the demo for our otome/fantasy collab game "The Pirate Mermaid" at the end of October. Obviously that didn't happen, but we're getting pretty close! Writing, coding, and sound are all largely done, so we just have to finish up the GUI and a couple art assets before we're good to go. So hopefully we'll be ready in another week or two. (crosses fingers)

The demo will be slightly over 10K words and includes the intro and first scenes for each of the two main guys (a sorcerer and a mermaid prince). Hopefully that will be enough to give everyone a feeling for the full game and generate some good feedback! This will actually be my first ever game release, so I'm quite excited (and nervous)!

Some preview screenshots (because I, for one, cannot read a page of text with no pictures):

Pirate Mermaid - transformation CG

Making a magical contract with the sorcerer.
Pirate Mermaid - ship bg

Pirate girl protagonist rocking out on her ship.
Pirate Mermaid - sorcerer sprite

Fail the contract, and the sorcerer will turn you into a lobster.
Pirate Mermaid - Prince Mikali CG

Who could this "mysterious" merman possibly be?
As you'll see in the game, many of the scenes/backgrounds also feature some small animations (seeing as Nellie draws beautiful, beautiful frames and I have an unhealthy obsession with ATL).

Well, if anything, I've picked up a lot of cool new graphics and coding things from this project, so even if everyone hates the animations, at least they generated some fun learning experiences! :D  I'd like to do a post on my Renpy escapades at some point in the future (hopefully it can benefit other game makers as well? ;p)

Saturday, October 20, 2012

AXIOM.01 Gameplay Videos

Last post, I said the next update would be AXIOM.01 gameplay videos, and now here they are! Yep, I'm totally on top of things now! xD Ignoring my lateness...and inability to finish clue images...and the last hidden object room... (deflates like a balloon)

The first case centers on the disappearance of a priceless necklace called the Tears of Lyra. The owner of the necklace, the snooty Student Council Vice President, accuses Sylvia of stealing her jewels, and it's up to the MC to sleuth out the truth. Can you figure out whether Sylvia is really innocent and who else is involved? And what's this rumor about a "killing curse" on the necklace?

AXIOM.01 - Student Council Vice President Priscilla Mackeroy
Vice President Priscilla Mackeroy, who wins the prize for "most hair in this game"
(though Mikali from "The Pirate Mermaid" would probably beat her).
As you'll see, I've made a couple changes/improvements since the original gameplay intro post, most notably regarding the question presentation and HP penalties, but the basic structure is the same.

First off is a preview video of the Investigation Phase, where you travel to different locations and interrogate suspects. I decided to feature a Remy scene because he's blowing away everyone else on the character popularity poll (>50% of votes, seriously?!). Kago says I made him too mean, haha, but I think he has his reasons.

(The chibi art on the maps is placeholder for now...gonna replace them later with Nellie's awesome chibis once I get a chance to color them!)

And here is a preview video of clue collection and the Deduction Phase. Clue collection consists of hidden object games (the first case has three hidden object rooms in total), while the deduction is the final part where you must present the right clues to solve the case.

Graying out the hidden object items after they're found, as well as highlighting them when a "hint" button is pressed, is something that I've been wanting to add for the last few weeks, so I'm glad it's finally implemented. (Even though I had to redo all screens, I think the pain was worth it. Still have one room left to revamp...the most complicated one ;_;). We're getting there, slowly but surely!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Pirate Mermaid Preview Video

Hey, everybody! Check out this preview video from my and Nellie's upcoming otome game, "The Pirate Mermaid"!

The pirate girl protagonist gets stranded on a deserted island, only to find out it is not so "deserted" after all. Introduces one of the game's two love main interests - a snarky, monocle-wearing sorceror - and features lots of cute chibi animations. ^_^

Is the moving compass on the namebox too distracting for anyone, by the way? (It's only supposed to change when the speaker changes, but maybe even that's a bit excessive)  I think I need to restrain myself from spamming any more animations. -_-

Next video: AXIOM.01 gameplay preview? xD (I've finished the hint/fading clues system for one room; two more to go!)

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Pretty Pictures

Yay for art updates! I'm especially excited to show pieces from such talented artists - seeing their work really makes me want to practice hard and improve my own abilities! :)

First, I have some new main menu wallpapers by the beauteous bunbun. bunbun was kind enough to do wallpaper art for all of the AXIOM.01 guys, but I'll just show Sagan's for now, because it's my favorite (and because, according to my tags, I haven't posted as many pictures of Sagan as everyone else).

AXIOM.01 - Sagan Wallpaper by bunbun

You can unlock each guy's special "bunbun-style" wallpaper by completing their demo scenes. Eventually, I'm hoping to have a variety of wallpapers with different unlock conditions throughout the game. (hunts for more awesome guest artists)

Next, here's a CG preview by Nellie from the "The Pirate Mermaid." This is Mikali, the kindhearted mermaid prince. He's a sweet, idealistic guy who wants to learn more about humans, even though most mermaids avoid them at all costs. I'm especially fond of his long golden hair. :3

The Pirate Mermaid - Prince Mikali CG

In other news, I'm hoping to revamp the hidden object screens for AXIOM.01 this week (tip for anyone doing imagemaps in Renpy: do not put in any objects with overlapping bounding areas, else you will probably regret it!). Removing overlap will allow me to fade out objects once they are found, as well as to add a hint system. While it's going to be a pain to redo the images, I think these new functions should be worth it.

Then I need to sit down and finish those last few clue images! I keep on wanting to take a break to improve my art, but I should at least get the demo out the door first. ^^ Here's hoping for a release sometime next month!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Introducing "The Pirate Mermaid"

 Hey all! So I've been taking an impromptu break from AXIOM.01 ever since my computer died (luckily, I had most of my files backed up, so I didn't lose too much). Finally got a new laptop, so I'll be finishing up those last bits of art and coding soon!

In the meantime, I started working on a short-and-sweet collab project with my friend Nellie (who did chibi art for AXIOM.01 earlier). "The Pirate Mermaid" will be an otome game featuring a gender-flipped version of "The Little Mermaid" fairytale, with a ruthless pirate girl protagonist. You can either win guys over by becoming a nicer person, or by corrupting them to join your evil pirate ways. xD

More info about "The Pirate Mermaid" and regular updates are posted in our official WIP thread. We're planning to have a demo out by October, so wish us luck! :)

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Grand GUI Finale

In a previous post, I showed some screenshots/mockups for the AXIOM.01 GUI. I am happy to say that I finally finished coding all the GUI screens! Each screen has some small animations, similar to the animated main menu I showed before.

You can check out a quick demonstration of the AXIOM.01 GUI in this video.

Around 1:40, you can see my new setup for interrogation questions. Now, you can either view questions by scrolling down a textbox-sized menu, or expand the menu to display all the questions at once.

Before implementing this "expanding menu" thing, I had sprites sliding back and forth to avoid being blocked by the questions, which looked really odd. I definitely prefer this new system. :)

By the way, someone asked a couple posts back if I could do a tutorial on main menus. Would anybody else be interested in GUI programming or general Ren'Py tutorials? If so, what specific topics would you like to have covered?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

New Chibi Art

Great news - the amazingly talented Nellie of NSEY Games is doing chibis for AXIOM.01! Her art is so cute, I can't wait for everybody to see it in the game. xD Since Christie and Remy are currently topping the character popularity poll, I'll just show their linearts for now.

(By the way, anyone have any suggestions on what the character who wins the popularity poll should ultimately get? I was thinking about doing extra scenes or endings for the winner, but that wouldn't work if that's the MC, haha.)
Nellie's Chibi Remy
Nellie's Chibi Christie
Also, Tsuroika did an awesome Phoenix Wright-style parody pic - haha, I could totally see Christie doing this at some point!

Tsuroika's Christie Phoenix Wright parody

In non-art related news, would anyone like Sylvia (the female best friend) to be a love interest, potentially as a unlockable bonus path? I don't mind adding a GxG path, but it's gonna be extra work, so I wanted to see how much interest there was first.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Massive GUI Update

(Wow, Christie's beating all the boys so far in the character popularity poll? Go girl go! :) I feel bad for poor Sagan in last place...hopefully he can win over some more people in the game, haha. Thanks to everyone who voted so far!)

So! After revamping the main menu for AXIOM.01 last time, I was sad at how mismatched it looked with the rest of the default Ren'py theme. There was only one thing to do: customize the rest of the GUI! I have trouble deciding if everything looks cohesive, so feel free to leave suggestions. I was originally going for a cool and sleek feel, but might have ended up with dark and depressing instead. I don't want people to think AXIOM.01's a horror game haha; though it does get dark in the future arcs, the first part is relatively lighthearted. 

Below are the new save, preferences, and quit confirmation screens. I was able to code them into the game with the help of these lovely tutorials.

I was all ready to celebrate 100% GUI completion after that, until I realized that I hadn't done anything for the "Extras" menu yet. CG gallery, music player, etc...will it never end? ;_; At least I've managed to finish some mockups in Photoshop, which is definitely the hardest part for me - I usually have to mess around with two or three files before I can produce a version I like.

Here is the general "Extras" menu, plus the art and music galleries, so far.

The "Rewards" option is something I've been thinking about doing for a while, but am still considering how to implement. probably won't appear in the demo. Which means that after I finish coding in the two galleries...the GUI for the demo is done!! Finally!! (cries tears of joy) Now to finish those clues and CGs... ;_;

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

LSF, polls, and main menus

Finally put together a WIP thread for AXIOM.01 on Lemmasoft! Check it out and leave us a comment if you like! :)

Also, there's now a character popularity poll on the right side of the blog. The winning character gets...extra scenes? Extra endings? Bragging rights? Haha, I don't know. We'll see if there are any votes first.

In other news, I kinda sorta messed up the game's default menu screens while testing some new code. Note to self: try weird stuff out on a test game next time. ^^; On the bright side, destroying the screens finally motivated me to start working seriously on the GUI.

So far, I've been doing some mockups in Photoshop. Below is the main menu screen. My plan is to allow people to click on the character bars to switch the image to different "wallpapers." The further you progress in each character's route, the more of their "wallpapers" you unlock.

The default main menu.

Main menu with a Cody wallpaper.
Not a huge fan of the "bars" in the default main menu, though. Anyone have ideas for better alternatives?

Edit: Got some coding done, so I'm adding a video to show what main menu animations and wallpaper switching might look like, if I do decide to use the bars.


(Hope I don't overdo it on the animations...I think I have an ATL compulsion... ;_;)

Friday, July 20, 2012

What I've learned about CGing so far

Having wrapped up the major coding issues for the first AXIOM.01 case (knocks on wood), I'm back to working on CGs. Progress has been good so far - out of the 5 CGs for the demo, I just have to finish backgrounds on two. I have a mortal fear of backgrounds, though, so hopefully I don't end up coping out with more filtered photos. -_- But yeah, once CGs and about 6 more clue images are finished, all the major art assets for the demo will be complete! (kicks the save/load/pref screens under the rug and whistles innocently)

Hopefully I can take my experiences doing these early CGs and use them to make the later ones better. Some general things I’ve learned so far, which might be useful to anyone else who is just starting out with CGs:

1. Start with a sketch.
Pretty obvious, but bears repeating. A sketch not only serves as a base for lineart, but is also invaluable for testing image placement and animations. I found out the hard way that I should check if my CG sketch looks good in the actual game (is the image the right dimensions to pan, zoom, or shake the way I want? does it look okay with the textbox in front of it?) before I start working on the final CG. On that note:

2. Pay attention to where the textbox is!
When I started doing CGs, I just opened up an 800x600 canvas and started sketching away. Once I started sticking CGs in the game, however, I saw that what looks okay on an open canvas can get misaligned or cut-off once you stick a textbox in front of it. Sure, you could hide the textbox so people see the full picture for two seconds. But the textbox will pop right back up once the player starts reading about what’s going on, and it’s kinda sad if it’s blocking key parts of the image. As a result, you might want to resize or angle the sketch differently to make sure it looks alright both with and without the textbox present.

AXIOM.01 - demon CG
Oh look, there's a person down there.
AXIOM.01 - demon CG with textbox
But you can't tell when the textbox's up. ;_;
3. Go big if you can. 
PaintTool Sai brush size adjustment
That arrow could have saved me much pain.
While you can always reduce image size (which also helps smooth out imperfections), enlarging a too-small image makes it blurry and gross. With this in mind, I’ve taken to doing my CGs at anywhere from 2-4 times the sizes I think I'll need for the game, then shrinking them down.

I was originally going to add the caveat that max brush sizes for some programs (I use PaintTool Sai mostly) may not be large enough for big canvases. However, I just discovered that you can increase the max brush sizes on Sai (up to 500 px) by clicking the little arrow to the left of the size range. Well, at least now I know for the future. -_-

My other caveat is that huge images do not make computers happy. My poor little laptop freezes up for several minutes every time I try to save a Sai file over 200 MB. It probably doesn’t help when I have Photoshop, Ren’py, and Youtube open at the same time. ^^;

4. Draw a bit more than needed.
It doesn’t hurt to do an extra “buffer zone” around your image, just in case you decide to change its positioning or angle later. Cropping a picture takes a few seconds, but filling in extra parts to make your image wider or taller, especially after you’ve already done shading, can be a big pain.

If you’re planning to animate the CG with a pan, zoom in, or shake effect, then you will likely have to draw even more of the image than you normally would. Gauging exactly how much extra space you’ll need is what sketch tests are for.

AXIOM.01 - Remy CG spacing example
I have extra margins on this CG of Remy (mainly on the right because I wanted to pan the image in). In retrospect, I would have put more space on the bottom and left, to center the image better.

5. Screenshot major steps and changes. I like taking screenshots of my images every so often, since it reassures me that I’ve actually made progress haha. I also take screenshots whenever I make major lineart, coloring, or shading changes. Though these changes may seem good at the time, if I come back after a day and compare them to previous screenshots, sometimes I end up liking the previous versions better and switch things back. ^^;

Screenshots are also useful if you lose your original files for whatever reason. For example, I accidentally saved over my files for one CG with another. -_- Luckily, I had a screenshot of the lineart and was able to trace over it, so I didn’t lose as much time as I might have.

(To explain this process in a little more detail: What I do whenever I want to make major changes is to first take a screenshot of the current state. Then I either save a new copy of the file, or make a new copy of the layer(s) I want to change. That way, if I decide to switch the image back later, I will still have the previous file/layers available. The screenshots just provide an easy way to compare different versions all at once. The downside to this is that it takes up a ton of space. I either have multiple copies of the same image, or multiple copies of the same layer inflating the size of my one (already large) file. I'm really indecisive, though, so I can't bring myself to delete anything until I'm 100% sure I won't work on that image anymore.)

AXIOM.01 - Cody CG screenshots
Some screenshots from Cody's intro CG.
If there are any artists out there, feel free to comment with your own CGing tips and experiences! I would love to learn new things for future CGs! :)

ETA: For opinions and tips from other VN artists (including some great suggestions for saving multiple versions and working with other artists), check out a related discussion on Lemmasoft.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Preview video for AXIOM.01 intro

This week, I've been taking a break from art to work through some coding issues. Rather than regale you with my adventures in the awesome Ren'py screen language, I've recorded some videos to show my screens in action. :)

Here's the intro scene to AXIOM.01 so far, which explains a little about where the game's title comes from. Sorry that the demon background is still unfinished...I'll get back to it soon!

(I love how sometimes there's math lectures popping up in the "Related Videos." xD)

I think I'll probably do a clue collecting/deduction gameplay video next, after I find a nice video editing software.

Monday, July 2, 2012

The start of CGs

Originally, I wasn’t going to start drawing CGs for my game until I’d finished everything else. I figured, you know, I’m still learning, so the CGs are going to look wildly inconsistent unless I churn them all at the same point in my “art development.” Then I realized I wouldn’t have any “art development” unless I started drawing more often, so here we are.

So far, I’ve done sketches for the 5 CGs that I want to include in the AXIOM.01 demo. Coloring is coming along gradually. My neck is quite sore from bending down all the time haha – I need to toughen up! 

AXIOM.01 game CG in progress Christie

Here's the first one. Haven't started on any backgrounds yet. -_-

An increasingly attractive alternative is to be lazy and find some way of getting around doing full CGs. I’ve been toying with the idea of using smaller panels so I don’t have to finish the full images (and don't have to do real backgrounds either hurhurhur). 

So I started with this...

But maybe I could just do this instead (possibly with some small animations)??
The panels might look like something from an action sequence, though, so I don’t know if I can use them for everything. Hmm, actually, maybe I should make more of them for action parts...oh man, must resist urge to pile on more work...

But yeah, if anyone has thoughts on this, let me know! Do you generally prefer to see full CGs, or are smaller panels okay, too?

Saturday, June 23, 2012

AXIOM.01 Gameplay Intro

Since the mysteries are a central part of AXIOM.01, we wanted players to actively take on the role of detective. As such, you travel to multiple locations searching for clues and interrogating suspects. Once you've got all the evidence, you must present a thorough deduction to convince everyone of the culprit.

AXIOM.01 gameplay screenshot - Sagan

Don't be uncooperative, Sagan. If you aren't gonna talk, we'll just have to do things the hard way...

The system we've developed for this is still being tweaked and is definitely open to future improvement, but let's take a look at the state of the gameplay thus far. Onwards to the jump cut!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

AXIOM.01 Character Intros

Time for some more info on the cast of AXIOM.01! Lots of character details and more pictures under the jump cut below.

AXIOM.01 chibi characters

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Welcome to Variable X!

Welcome to the development blog for Variable X! We're two girls making our first game and will be posting various updates and game-related ramblings here as we go.

For info on who we crazy people are, check out About Us.

An overview of our first game can be found on the AXIOM.01 page. If that's tl;dr, here's a 1-sentence plot summary (watch me exercise my newly-acquired block quoting skills):

To solve a series of seemingly supernatural mysteries, a bookworm girl must ally with (or avoid the traps set by) several classmates, each of whom may have their own secrets.

I'll also be putting up more detailed descriptions of the characters and gameplay in the next few posts, plus lots of pictures. :)