2017 Year in Review

2017 has been a really busy year for me, but now it’s coming to a close, so it’s time to reflect on what’s happened and where I can go from here.

For starters, I almost ended 2017 on a sour note! My laptop had been having a lot of smaller, strange issues over the past few months (such as freezing when coming from sleep) but on the 26th the hard drive decided to really start failing by making all my programs not respond and freeze the entire computer for over an hour (which it had done before, but it usually came back from it or we just turned it off). Frustrated, I ran a check on it, and found that the hard drive was failing. Over the next few days I went through the process of saving all my data onto another computer- the biggest jump drive we have is only 64GB, so I had to transfer some files to it and then transfer them to my parent’s computer and then repeat the process about 5 or so times. Once the files were backed up in numerous places, we installed a new hard drive and my laptop is back up and running! 

This summer I wanted to work more on visual novels that weren’t my own, so I offered sprite artwork. This took up most of my summer, but I was able to meet with and work on several different VNs from a variety of stories. However, now I’ve taken priority to my own VNs, as I have a lot to finish on my own time.

Around the beginning of the year, I started getting more into Discord and joined several VN communities- now, I’ve met so many amazing people and learned so much about VN dev that I’m thankful for it all. I eagerly look forward to the road ahead in the next few years.

โ€‹I published a lot of games this year! Like, a lot. I (barely) met my quota for finishing all 3 Ludum Dares this year, and I published 3 other games outside of that. So, let’s look at them.

First this year wasย .help, another attempt at a game that uses a chat-like system just likeย Nightowl, my LD entry from the event previous. However, I just couldn’t recreate the feel of Nightowl, and the game suffered from it, becoming a big mess of generic and obvious twists.

For my second LD entry in 2017, I hadย Lights Out, my RPG horror-homage. It detailed a few young girls having a sleepover, only to be thrown in the middle of fairies fighting. This entry was alright, and I later expanded upon it for a post-jam build where I included a bunch of small improvements, from more fairy types, a harder difficulty, more puzzles, a much bigger map, and more.

Last but not least, my third entry for the December LD wasย Feathers, my first real attempt at Twine. A short, sweet story about a harpy and a boy that I made in 5 hours. I feel like this entry best shows how far my writing has come this year.

โ€‹Now, onto full releases!

Starry Dreams
This project has had a long dev cycle, for me…. it had been in limbo for about 3 years, as it was one of the first projects I ever started. Suffice to say, a lot has changed since I started it, which is why it took so long for me to finish it. Cause I didn’t want to. It started off a cutesy VN about a LGBT couple wanting to make a bakery… and that was it. No plot. No actual characters. If I had to make a game with a similar concept completely from scratch again, I’d quit dev. This project taught me that I can only really work on projects with fantasy, drama, and intrigue. 
Still, after redoing all the assets, learning how to do custom GUI, and finishing the 20k word script, I was able to release it. I still try to shove it in the corner, but some people have liked it so….. more power to them…?

The Witch in the Forest
Again, this is another project I started a few years ago but never finished. However, TWITF was originally a webcomic, not a VN. Like Starry Dreams, it’s a moege, so it’s mostly for the cutesy characters and simple plot, but it was easier for me to work on because I worked harder on making the characters and interactions more interesting. It also helped that I only worked on it for a month, for the Yuri Game Jam. I tried a lot of different stuff with it- I made a new moe style for the sprites, and went for a more classic NVL type to make it reminiscent of older VNs. I’ve gotten good feedback on it, so in early 2018 I’ll be releasing a mega-update that adds a fair amount of content for it. It’s only 10k words and is mainly about the two girls, Fidelia and Jastiline, going on dates, but this is definitely my best full-length VN so far and I’d like to possibly get it on Steam in the future.

That Which Binds Us
The last entry in the list, and the one that was the most fun for me to work on- it’s a modern fantasy, mystery, josei, and romance VN (gee, I wonder why it was the easiest for me to work on?). This was made for IGMC, the somewhat-annual game jam held by Degica, the publishers of RPG Maker. Likewise, I made this is RPG Maker MV, and found out how hellish it is to copy and paste dialogue into RPGM while also changing sprites. It took forever, which is why after the jam I opted to move it to Ren’Py where I can finish it much faster and hopefully release it around Valentines Day. The post-jam version will feature a much longer script (currently about 16k words), more characters, and a more fleshed out plot. 

Now onto New Year’s Resolutions! Here are my resolutions from last year:

  • Focus on my original projects / games!  I want to finish some longer (AKA non-Ludum Dare) games this year, but I also want to do more original art in general. Currently I do about 1/4th original art and 3/4th fan art, but this year I want to make it more even, and maybe draw more original art more than fan art. I’ll still draw fan art, but focusing on original art will help me a lot more in the future than drawing fan art will.
  • Work on one non-Ren’Py game. I love Ren’Py and I’ll always try to be active in the visual novel community, but if I want to be a better game developer I need to broaden my horizons and work with other engines. I’ve done work in other engines, but nothing as concrete as my work in Ren’Py. 
  • Work on composition and thumbnailing. In 2016 I worked on anatomy and lighting, so this year I want to make more interesting drawings.

Looks like I finished all of these, except a bit on the last one. I didn’t do too many full drawings in 2017, though the ones I did I tried to make more dynamic. So… not a total fail! Now, onto 2018 goals!

  • Publish all the games I’ve started. Now, this one comes with a bit of a catch- basically, I want to publish something from every project I’ve started. I want to finish That Which Binds Us, upload the update for The Witch in the Forest, finish a side project, and upload a demo for Asterism (as I’m shooting more for summer of 2019 now). That sounds like a lot, as you also have to include all three Ludum Dare games I hope to make in 2018 and maybe other side projects, but I’m nearing completion on a lot of projects right now, so publishing 5~ games this year isn’t out of my scope at all.
  • Get faster at writing. In 2017 I started writing much more heavily, and thus got better at it as I went along. In 2018, I want to focus on writing better and faster.
  • Get better at marketing. Yeah, I’ve learned marketing is super important this past year. So, in 2018 I want to get better at it.

I hope I’ll be able to accomplish all these things in more! Here’s to another great year โ€‹๐ŸŽ‰


Feathers: Ludum Dare #40 Entry

Alright, alright, hear me out.
“But Miko, your last post said you dropped out of Ludum Dare due to IRL reasons!” Yes, yes it did. Buuuuuut I finished one of my finals today, came home, and strapped down for about 5 hours and cranked out an entry after I thought “I’ve never missed a Ludum Dare before, and I’ll be damned if I do now!”. So, I made something not extremely labor intensive, which was a great break. I said before that this Ludum Dare was going to be for a non-story driven game, just something that’s cute, since I’ve done a lot of story-driven stuff the past few months, but yet here I am submitting a completely story-driven game.ย 

So, what is this game about? It’s a small story about a young harpy who has too many feathers and too many friends. The harpy doesn’t really have a set gender- they can be female, male (making it a BL story), or even non-binary, etc. I didn’t really care, and in the event that I draw something for this in the future, I’ll just draw them androgynous.

This is my first real attempt at Twine, and I hope you guys like it!


Why No More Ludum Dare Updates?

Short answer: I had to withdraw from Ludum Dare #40.
โ€‹Long answer…

Long answer is this weekend is just too hectic for me to handle with Ludum Dare. Finals are this week (my most important being Monday, when LD is in the final hours), I had to use almost all of Sunday to prep for my moving out in a month, I’ve already stretched myself a bit thin over the past couple months on 3 other game jams since the last Ludum Dare, and some more excuses I can pile on. Although Ludum Dare is extremely important to me, this is also a crucial weekend in school for me and this weekend I just have to prioritize school over one game jam.
All the sprites I had finished for it (which weren’t a lot) will be uploaded to Lemma Soft as CC-BY sprites that are free to use for any commercial or personal project.

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First Ludum Dare Tips

Is this your first Ludum Dare this weekend? Don’t fret! Here are some tips on how to survive your first LDJAM!What is Ludum Dare? It’s a tri-annual event that runs for 48-72 hours where you make a game in the time limit!

So, this is your first Ludum Dare. You’re thinking, “I want to become a better game dev”, or, “I want to challenge myself”, or, “I hate myself so let’s do this!”. But how do you get started once the theme drops? Here are a few tips on how to survive Ludum Dare from me, someone who’s entered it 10 times before successfully.

  1. Don’t spend too much time on one thing. If you spend all your time on the art, guess what? You have a nice portfolio of art assets now, but no running game. Spread out your time evenly among what is needed. If you need to, make a plan of what you’ll try to accomplish every day.
  2. Make a list of everything you need. This is more of a general game dev piece of advice, but it works just as well here. Games require a lot of different things, and if you’re like me, you just can’t do everything by yourself, no matter how hard you try. I can’t do music, so it’s almost always one of the things I forget about since I’m not making it. An easy way to avoid it being 5 minutes before the deadline and you realizing you forgot music or such is to make a list of everything you need to accomplish. This will also help you see if you’ll be able to finish in time and if you need to cut parts out.
  3. Have a playable build by mid-Sunday. If you’re entering the jam (where you have 72 hours), you need to have something playable by Sunday night at the latest. If you don’t and you still have other assets to finish, you most likely won’t be able to finish in time. Even if you have a couple assets to finish on Monday (as I usually do), if you have part of the game put together you should be relatively safe.
  4. Stick around for game rating! It can be easy to say “I’m tired and don’t even want to look at my game” after that Monday, but you need to rate at least a few games! Rating games is how your own game gets rated- the karma system works based on how many games you rate. The more you rate, the more ratings you’ll receive. The “minimum” amount of ratings you’re supposed to give (and receive) is 20, but sometimes people aren’t able to / won’t (I got sick twice in the 3-week span 2 Ludum Dare’s ago, and I wasn’t able to vote on any games).

โ€‹These are just a few tips for first time and seasoned game jammers- if you found these helpful or already do some of these, let me know!