After working on it for over a year, I am declaring an end to the “Principal Photography” portion of Something’s In The Air. When I started this project I had in mind a 6 story visual novel. It got whittled down to 4. One (a “romantic” story) was dropped because I couldn’t figure out how to make it interesting. Another (a “porn” story) I dropped for a multitude of reasons: it is too stylistically different from the rest, it does not advance the plot any, it pushes the game from R rated to X rated, but mostly it is because I never finished writing it and I already have enough material. Don’t worry, I’m thinking of doing the “porn” story either as a separate game or an add on.
Anyways, I have 4 stories now. Story 1, “Another Date” is Ariane’s story which serves as an introduction. Story 2, “A Man About Town” is Rachel’s story which introduces a mystery. Story 4, whose title I am not releasing yet, is Paula’s story and solves the mystery.
The one I just finished is story 3 “Magic, Malice, and Mayhem” which is “comic book” themed, uses comic book fonts (not comic sans but this) and is the shortest of the 4. To make it more like a comic book, I use visual sound effect words, simplistic backgrounds, often break away from the first person perspective, and sometimes go multi-panel.
Basically, you end up with one of two girls. Bonnie the good girl bartender (top picture), or Veronica the bad girl (bottom picture). The stories are short and linear with no real choices in outcome. The purpose in the overall plot is to show the consequences of actions taken in the other 3 stories.
Generally speaking, in visual novels, or “Choose your own adventures”, you usually get two clear choices to choose from. I break that rule repeatedly in Something’s In The Air. Sometimes the choices are clear, but sometimes (inspired by Bioware games) I offer a menu of dialogue choices that only lead to different responses, but ultimately the same outcome. Then there are times that I disguise big choices as if they are simple dialogue choices.
I mention this, because that is exactly what happens in story 3. At one point you end up at a bar, a strange woman you have not met (Veronica) asks if you want to go to a party. She has no date and can’t show up to the party alone. You are given two choices, both of which sound like “maybe, tell me more”, but one will be a major turn off as far as Veronica is concerned, and the offer will be withdrawn, and you end up with Bonnie.
There is a 4th category of menu choice in the game that I anticipate will be highly praised, known as the verbose dialogue avoider. There are plot developments that make mores sense if you have some backstory, but on repeat plays of the game the backstory just slows the plot down, so I offer a way out. Sometimes I even split the backstory in two, and menu choices to let you choose which part of the backstory you want to hear — or none at all.
What’s Left To Do?
Now that principle photography is done, does that mean the game is about done? I still have second unit (additional pictures to enhance the story), rewrites, reshoots, editing, and some side stories left to do.
Switching from a movie making metaphor to a software dev metaphor, it means I have a fully playable “alpha” version of the game. It means I can say some time in 2013 (hopefully early 2013) it will be ready for wide release.
When I think back about 2 years ago when I first imagined this story, I had some specific images in mind as to how they were going to look. Along the way in creating the visuals, I found that there was some things I could do and some thing that I couldn’t. Sometimes graphics look a hell of a lot better than I originally imagined them, and sometimes, I was forced to take shortcuts. Now I know how every writer feels when they get their stories visualized: “It’s not how I imagined it, but…”