Dev blog #14 – Playtests and updates and voiceovers, oh my!

DRAGONS OF TIRENIA

So the playtest! The playtest, that is, for the adventure that we are going to be selling in our Quick Start Guide at Armageddon (and online as a PDF thereafter, watch this space). Well, one half of it happened last week. The second half is tonight. We had LOTS of fun. I was the dungeon master, to give James a break for once. It has been a long time since I’ve GMed anything (except online text-based) and I realised pretty quickly that I had forgotten how much fun I have when I do it! So that was a happy revelation. The first session revealed to us a lot of minor bits of detail that might need to go in, but for the most part the structure and characters we have are very supportive to a GM, and allowed me plenty of freedom to go with the players, while at the same time always knowing the motivations of the NPCs and what would happen next logically with them.

I’m feeling very proud of this adventure James has written, and am really excited to be selling it in a month’s time. Also, we hashed out a system to run a chase scene in the climax the other night, after realising that D&D can’t really sustain a cinematic vehicular chase scene rules as written. So that part is getting tested out more fully tonight, we’ll see how it goes!

Art for the book and posters on the expo stand is all coming along nicely. Can’t wait to be able to share some of this stuff online closer to the time. There’s going to be a big print order going in next week for all the books and posters… it’s pretty daunting but still very exciting. Part of me just wants time to hurry up so I can see what our experience of the expo will be like. I hope we are popular. Not going to lie, I will be slightly devastated if we don’t find our audience there. We have contingency plans for if we fail there though, so at least there is that. It won’t end up being a big waste of money (I hope…)

PC GAMES

So voice acting carries on for Prince of Cats and White Rabbit. It’s a long process but we are getting there.

I did a lot of work on the code of Prince of Cats in the weekend. Mostly minor fixes, adjusting the positions of things to fit 16:9 ratio better, etc. But it just occurred to me this morning, there is a major feature I wanted once upon a time that I completely forgot about… and I think I know just how I can do it! I’m going to try and put in a visual depiction of the humours changing. Like a little gauge, with the humours’ colours and stuff. I think it’ll going to be easier than I think! But I reckon at the end of this weekend, I will have finally finished all the code updates to Prince of Cats, and I’ll just be waiting on the final pieces of reworked art and all the voice work to come in.

Speaking of art, Sean has actually finished all of Her Jentle Hiness, and caught me on the back foot! I am regretting not having the code for the game ready by now, otherwise who knows, I could have potentially released this year! Oh well… realistically, I don’t see how I could have fit it in with everything else. And I still have to get the music, voice acting, proofreading, and also I’m going to trial a testing firm for the first time (but Claire, you’re a tester, I hear you cry. Well, it’s always a good idea to get someone else to test, second set of eyes and all that). So I’m thinking vaguely in a February direction for the release of HJH. This will also be the first one I’m doing without a Kickstarter! I’m happy that means less admin for me, but I will miss the sense of community that it brings with it. Perhaps I can create that in some other way.

PODCAST

We’re recording this tomorrow, just a small interlude episode after our big political one last week… but also because the one after will likely be big and political again hahaha…

Well, here I was thinking this would be a small update. Oh well. Busy busy busy. Better get back to it!

Dev blog #13 – Another week goes by

Feeling optimistic!

DRAGONS OF TIRENIA

Things are coming together nicely for the Armageddon Expo. As I busy myself with preparing for the physical stall itself, sourcing power, posters, and ETFPOS amongst other things, James is constantly chipping away at the Quick Start Guide which will be available to purchase for $10 at our stall. Tonight I will be GMing a playtest of the adventure which will be in the guidebook! I’m pretty confident in James’s writing, and I reckon things will go fairly smoothly even once we meet the players.

PC GAMES

Everything going well here. The two companies I am working with for porting and translation seem happy, or at least no complaints so far! Lauren and I are working hard on the voice acting files (her harder than me, I’ve had to take a break from computer work because of a crick in my neck). I’ve had three actors around to my house for recording, and that was a lot of fun. Some of these people I had in mind for the voices when I wrote the characters. But not all – and those were pleasant surprises, to see what the actors came up with!

Really looking forward to focusing on Her Jentle Hi-ness again after Armageddon is over! And possibly going back to the theoretical Android releases.

WHAT ELSE…

The most recent podcast episode has been getting some good feedback from people who were touched by the subject matter. Hopefully in the future we can bring some more interesting topics like this out, with interviews!

Meanwhile on the Discord, we’re at the very start of an exciting heist event! Let’s see what happens over at https://discord.gg/rQbSkMZ

Dev blog #12 – A pile-on

Feeling a little overwhelmed this week, but we’re doing ok.

DRAGONS OF TIRENIA

James is back at work now with lockdown over, so less time to work on the material for Armageddon, but he’s still cracking along. Everything looks to be on schedule!

PC GAMES

I have another company interested in translating and distributing my two games to a further market not covered by the first company. So having confirmed there is no conflict between them, now I have two companies working on my games! Exciting times, but there is a lot of paperwork involved…

The previously released games are coming along nicely in terms of extra art and voice acting. Not worried about meeting the deadlines there. It is A LOT of work though. I’ll have to focus on the code fixes this weekend when I have some time to myself. I am so grateful to my two lovely artists, my voice actors, and my sound engineer. I really couldn’t be doing this alone.

Meanwhile, Sean is cracking along with the art for Her Jentle Hi-ness! I’ll include some below. I’ll have to get back to the code of that one once Armageddon is over!

PODCAST

We’ve got an exciting interview on the next episode, coming out next Monday. I won’t say too much about it yet, I’ll let the interview speak for itself!

Dev blog #11 – Big Wheel keep on Turning

Hi all, let’s just get straight into it!

LIVESTREAM TONIGHT!!!

Now we don’t usually do this kind of stuff, you probably know by now, but it’s International Gamebook Day, and James is a huge nerd for this sort of thing. So we’ve set up for a livestream of Fabled Lands, which we mentioned in our podcast earlier this week. Maybe we will do more things like this if it goes well. You can catch us at 7pm New Zealand time at twitch.tv/skybeargames

PC GAMES

Everything is chugging along here nicely. Art changes coming in, voice files coming in, little quality fixes going into the code… everything is coming along nicely. I’ve just finished writing the regression test plans. My overseas partners have my code now and are converting it. I feel a little like the meme below…

I hope that the other developers aren’t judging my code too harshly :\

Oh, and Sean has been doing more work on Jentle Hi-ness! It’s so exciting to get more work from him. Once all this is a bit calmer, maybe in November, I’ll perfect the code for that one and look a bit more seriously at releasing.

DRAGONS OF TIRENIA

It’s been an exciting week for us, because dropped into the milieu of James and I working super hard on the text of the guide and the posters and layouts and everything for the expo… now we have an artist, a cartographer and a graphic designer working on visuals! This makes it all a lot more real now. Can’t wait to share some of their work!

DISCORD

We’re about to start chapter 2 of event 2 on the discord, so drop on in if you’re keen! https://discord.gg/QHUYs9k

PODCAST

Episode 5 dropped earlier this week, so check it out. Exciting interview coming up in the next episode!

Dev blog #10 – Big developments

It’s been a really big week, and I’ve got a lot of plates spinning at once. Let’s take a look.

White Rabbit: Royal Scheduler is undergoing a name change (to secure an absolutely unique trademark, rather than the very generic ‘White Rabbit’), getting extra art done, and getting voice acting added in! All my team are working very hard to get it done asap so we can hand over to the company who will do translations and porting. When I say all my team, I mostly mean Rose who is back at it again with new pieces of ending artwork and a few other bits and pieces, and my friend Lauren who is doing all the sound engineering and a great deal of the coordination with the actors for me. Then I have a bunch of voice actors working on individual characters, and it is so exciting to hear everyone coming to life!

Prince of Cats is also undergoing a name change (for the same reasons), but is going to be done second for the porting and translation, so it’s not as much of a rush. I can’t remember if I’ve said this anywhere before, but Jade’s working hard away at turning all the backgrounds into 16:9 and other bits and pieces, and Lauren is also engineering and coordinating the voice acting with this one. Many more characters but smaller roles mean that the voice actors for this one have several roles, so they get to try lots of different voices. James and I have had a lot of fun recording our voices to add to this one 😀

Meanwhile, even with all that going on, we still have our grand Armageddon plans (it looks like the expo is going ahead! cross fingers!). As I mentioned last week, James has shifted focus to working on a small sample world guide to sell at Armageddon, so I’m working on formatting that, and we’re working with some new artists with more sort of typical Dungeons and Dragons styles for art and maps for that. But the other big plan is to run a massive drop-in campaign all weekend, where the players can affect the fate of a city under siege by siding either with the home side of silver dragons, or the bronze dragon invaders. Not only that but we’ll let people walk up and ‘pledge’ for either side – that’s all it takes, just saying ‘I pledge for the silver/the bronze’ – and you’ll get a faction sticker for doing that. I’m hoping we can sorta ‘go viral’ in a way, become something that people have to see at the convention. We’re still brainstorming whether we do some sort of giveaway e.g. recruit people to come and pledge and you earn points towards some actual personal reward. Marketing stuff like this does not come naturally to me but I am actually really excited about this.

I don’t see how things can get bigger over the next week but seeing how busy things got over the last week… who knows. I know I would like to streamline things into working on less at one time though, hahaha… I feel like all these three projects right now have hard deadlines or ends so at least there is that. One project at a time after that 😉

… yeah, I’ll keep telling myself that…

Image from page 266 of “Science and literature in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance” (1878)

Dev blog #9

So in the end, between the podcast and the extra work for Prince of Cats, I didn’t get very much done at all on Jentle Hi-ness before returning from holiday. Add in the fact that my artist has been unwell and so his work is delayed, and the result is… I’m just going to see what happens! I’m just going to take it as it comes, work on getting Prince of Cats and White Rabbit as best as I can get them for porting to console in the meantime, and once we’re all quiet on that front again, I’ll pick up Jentle Hi-ness again and see how it goes.

The resumption of lockdown here in Auckland means James and I have some time to reconfigure and set new goals. On holiday, we realised he should probably be working towards a small publication we can either sell or hand out at Armageddon, which is a Quick Start Guide for the Tirenia setting. This means he needs to put the main guide on hold for now (but he reached 75,000 words out of his 100,000 goal, so not a bad place to take a breather!). But I think that making a QSG is a good way to reexamine his work and figure out if anything is missing or lacking in the first place. Also completing a smaller goal like that and having something physical like that will be a nice boost to him I reckon.

As for me, I am spending so much of my (very little) spare time editing code for the previous two releases to include new art and voice acting and other small fixes. The code stuff is not the most rewarding work in and of itself, but receiving the new art and the voice clips is really fun, and the ultimate goal of releasing in multiple languages and consoles is the thing I really have to look forward to.

After the seemingly insurmountable mountain of work is done for those two (I can’t even see a light at the end of the tunnel yet, but I know it’s there…), I think instead of working on Jentle Hi-ness, I’ll focus my efforts on helping James get everything perfect. It will be nice to trim down all these multiple streams of activity too!

Dev Blog #8

Coming to you live from that holiday we kept promising ourselves 😀

Well, to be honest, it has only been a holiday in some ways. We keep working hard as always. But we’ve made a lot of progress. James has reached 75,000 words for his Tirenia campaign setting, and is taking a break from that to make a Quick Start Guide in time for Armageddon Expo Auckland.

This week I got my Bitsy finished, as you can see in the last blog post. Then I spent three days working hard on new scenes for Prince of Cats. This is to address one piece of feedback I got on a Steam review, saying they wished there was more to the romance plots. So I’ve added more depth into each of the minor marriageable options.

Also happening this week with Prince of Cats… I’ve got voice actors recording away! Exciting times. Everyone who owns the game already can look forward to getting these new romance plots and voice acting in a free update. But there is still more to come… watch this space!

Today I’ll start rework on the code of the demo of Her Jentle Hi-ness. I’ve got more plots to add in, and more depth to add to the mechanics. Later tonight we’ll record our podcast episode. Since we’re on holiday we’re going to make it easy on ourselves and just talk about something we know already and don’t need to do too much research into, and that is the Ravenloft campaign setting: its history, its different domains, and then a deep dive into Curse of Strahd. See you there!

Dev Blog #1: State of the SBG

So here’s the thing. I am so crap at self-promotion. Seeing the abysmal sales of White Rabbit, a project I poured so many hours of heart and soul into, I’ve spent the last few days scrambling around trying to get some traction somewhere, anywhere! Someone on one marketing website was like, you’ve got to have a dev blog and always be writing about what you’re doing next. That cuts so against the grain for me. I prefer to only talk about projects that are 90+% done, so I don’t look like I’m tooting my own horn and then not delivering. I see so many people talk big and then… nothing. I don’t want to be that person.

But ok, fine. Dev blogs work? They build up hype? Ok fine, let’s see then. I’ll do a dev blog every Thursday and we’ll see how it goes.

This is probably an appropriate time to start this right now, because we’ve reached the natural finishing point of some things, and other things are about to jump off. Let’s talk about them, project by project.

Released projects: White Rabbit and Prince of Cats

So I’ve built a small following through successful Kickstarter campaigns and two good quality major releases. I also have been taking part in game jams on itch.io, specifically the Bitsy monthlies and Nanoreno. I’m not sure where to take it next, except for mobile. Yep, White Rabbit and Prince of Cats are going to come out on Android at the very least, and iOS if I can borrow some equipment to do that too. My goal for this is asap, but particularly before the end of October. Why? I’ll explain soon. (And I think if I do that, I really need to probably pay someone to give me a slick advert to promote those releases!)

Also, I would like to add more art and possibly a few other features to White Rabbit. I’d love to put voice acting in both White Rabbit and Prince of Cats. But we’ll see on that. It may be a while. That’s going to require significant financial outlay.

Some positive news on Prince of Cats. Even though I’ve made no money off it, the Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality on itch.io sold brilliantly, and 1000+ people have downloaded Prince of Cats from it. It was nice to be a part of that. I love the itch.io community.

Future projects (Claire)

My immediate current project is my deluxe remake of my Nanoreno project from earlier this year, Her Jentle Hi-ness. It’s going to have full colour art by local artist Sean Miller. It’s going to have a soundtrack by me and my brother. It is going to have more plotlines and better mechanics than the demo version (here). It is NOT going to have a Kickstarter, because it is a much smaller project which is basically done, and the art budget is manageable without funding this time. And it is going to be out on Steam and hopefully mobile too before the end of October. Why? Read on…

My mid-term goal is my next project, working title Super High. I’ll be working with my high school best friend (appropriately) Law Baker for the art. It will likely be my first non-Renpy based major release! I’m still deciding for sure on the engine. I am very slowly working on this, writing the script a bit at a time every day. I’ll pepper more details in future posts, but this time I will say my major influences for this one are Persona (game series), Twin Peaks (TV series), and The Luminaries (book/TV series). How on earth do those all fit together? You’ll have to wait and see.

What’s James up to?

I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before, but James has a major project going on too. You can find his main Dragon Princes blog here: http://tirenia.blogspot.com/ . He is going to turn all of this into a D&D setting and Kickstart it at… you guessed it… the end of October. Why?! I’ll tell you soon!

To get to this point, and drum up more publicity, he’s going to start posting regular D&D vlogs to our dried-up husk of a Youtube channel. Look out for that in the next couple of weeks!

What, pray tell, is at the end of October?!

I’m so glad you asked. Sky Bear Games is going to have a stall at the Auckland Armageddon Expo. James will be demoing scenarios and mechanics from Tirenia, I’ll be selling my two/hopefully three games at special expo prices along with merch, and Julia from Cheeky Parrot Games will be with us selling Cat Capers and other titles from her collection. Hopefully an artist or two from my games will come along and sign prints. We’ll see.

We’ve set ourselves this challenging deadline to, well, challenge us! I love love to be able to do this full time one day, and you know what? Not to toot my own horn too much, but I think I am worth it! I think my games are pretty fun and unique, and I think there is a bigger audience out there I just haven’t reached yet. All I need is a leg up from someone big, just a day on someone’s front page or something, for people to hear about Sky Bear Games! It is hard to get noticed these days. But delusional or not, I am going to try, and I want to do it honestly, ethically, and for the sake of art and entertainment. For the love of gaming itself.

Geez, sincerity sure whiffs, huh? 😀