Thursday, September 6, 2012

Complications can be pretty.

I'm being ambitious with Twin Crowns (my visual novel).  The concept was very simple, twin princes vie for the attention of the player character and after you've gotten to know them you choose between them.  When I first came up with the idea I didn't think it was possible to make it complicated and hard to finish.  I was wrong!  I've been collecting complications ever since this stopped being an idea and started being a project.

Complication 1:  Twins look different.

I've known enough twins in my life to realize that identical isn't really identical.  Slight variations of features exist and even if they don't, the personality makes a surprisingly large difference in how someone looks.  The twins in my story have nearly the same face (Eric has a bigger mouth than Charles) but they have different hair, different expressions, different non-verbal cues and different fashion styles which means that I have a lot more art to draw than I first expected.

Complication 2:  Settings should be interesting.

At first this was going to be a typical European fantasy setting with lots of stone walls and nothing really fancy going on with the architecture.  As I drew the clothing for the boys I started adding Arabic influences to give the typical and boring some life.  After that I realized that if I was going to have Arabian inspired clothing and Djinn I'd better just make the whole thing that way so I scrapped the original foyer I was in the process of building and started researching instead.  Do you know what I discovered?  Arabic architecture is very detailed and complex, they seem to love patterns.  In a complete reversal of the norm, the more detail I added to the backgrounds, the better they looked so I couldn't justify simplifying it for the sake of getting it done.

Complication 3:  Default is boring.

How could I put this much effort into the artwork and pair it with the default text box?  It's an insult to all my hard work.  So as I began making mockups I ended up diving right in and making a custom text box.  Well, a custom text box would look out of place without a custom menu screen and GUI so I had to do the whole thing.  A custom GUI requires the right font, so I went looking and ran into a very big hurdle.  I couldn't find a single font that was both legible and Arabic looking.  The harder I looked for something that was marginally passable, the more frustrated I got.  So then I just gave up and made my own.  Let me tell you right now, if I could have found something remotely okay looking to go with my VN I wouldn't have made the font, it's got to be one of the most frustrating things I've ever tried to do and the kerning is still terrible because I haven't figured out how to fix it and in the end it may still be too fancy for the main font of the game.

Complication 4:  I don't know what I'm doing.

Got some linework for sprites done and was told the arms were too long.  Fixed the arms, made the head centered over the body and discovered I've been drawing pecs wrong my entire life.  Made something interesting and complicated in Sketchup, realized I had to make at least six more exactly like it but I didn't know how to extract it from a wall, so I redid the whole thing outside the wall so I could group it and copy it.  Spent hours tweaking the Sketchup generated shadows and coloring the background image to have someone mention that it was really obvious that I made it in a 3D program, so I went back to the lines, looked up how other background artists colored and attempted to make something pretty that wasn't computer generated looking.  Started trying to code my home made GUI into the game and found out I could either make a image map or customize the default buttons and I can't figure out which would work best for what I want  I will probably end up learning how to implement both methods before this is all over.  If I knew what I was doing it would cut the work I have to do in half, at least!

Compilation 5: Writing.

I had one simple question I needed answered before I could start writing.  "Why was the main character getting married to one of the princes in the first place?"  Once answered, the whole thing turned out to be trouble.  I suddenly had plot that had nothing to do with romance and was very different than the simple otome game I'd originally planned.  The short story that would end with the choice of a prince is now a story of unknown length with that choice somewhere in the middle!  I'm still trying to sort out the outline which means I'm still not writing, I'm just brainstorming and plotting.  I'm not very confident in my writing either, so this whole thing could just be an exercise in futility.  The only that gives me hope for the story not spiraling completely out of control is that I tend to write novels that are a lot shorter than I'm expecting them to be.

I'm fairly certain there will be more of these complications as I progress.  In the end every single one of these complications are really great learning experiences and except for not knowing what I'm doing they've resulted in some very nice things.  I'm accomplishing and trying things I've been wanting to do for a long time, just never had the guts to start.  I'm also finding that I'm not as horrible at these things as I expected.  I don't regret any of them, though I am going to have to be careful I don't let this project be killed by the feature creep.  Right now the only feature I've managed to not add was an in game dress up that would change your character's clothing for the day.  Still want to do that at some point, maybe the next game.


  1. I love the coloring & shading on the title. It looks awesome!

    1. If you have nothing but praise I must be doing something right, you're the one who keeps me honest when I want to just phone it in and call it good. ^_^