Questions about Ren'Py should go in the Ren'Py Questions and Announcements forum.
I expected it to take a long time, but what surprises me is how much time just managing the project has taken up. Most of the time, those 3 hours in the morning go towards reviewing art, drafting commissions, reviewing what the game still needs, and putting together the resources the artists have given me. I've hardly had time to do actual writing and scripting, and most of what I've done there has been proof-of-concept to get the GUI in place.
My question is, how do you guys find the time? Do you schedule time in your day for it, or do you get to it whenever you feel like it? Are you a student with a lot of free time, a part-timer worker, or do you work a full time job, and how does that affect your time spent with the game? I'm particularly interested in hearing from people that have finished a visual novel (of any size) how much time it took them on a daily or weekly basis to get it done, and what kind of commitment they think it takes to finish a game.
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As to scheduling things, for me thats impossible. My available time per day to do anything ranges from none at all, shower and go to bed, to around 3 hours. So as a result, no day is ever able to meet schedules even if I set them.
I imagine for some people, no schedule would be a nightmare, even if they had loads of time, but to me a schedule is equivalent to a collar and leash on a dog - you are tied up and any attempt to deviate from the master's path (the schedule) results in a sharp yank back, leaving the "fun stuff" out of reach.
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First of all, good for you! That is some serious dedication and I know all that time will definitely evident in the high quality of your project.
As for me, I'm actually taking a few weeks off writing to work on my otome game full-time. So, I'm generally working from 5-6AM to 9-10PM, with a few breaks for lunch and dinner. Usually, though, when I'm "working" from home, I put in about 12-14 hours of work into whatever I'm doing.
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I schedule out short-term goals to help pace out the work as well as I can, and try to schedule production breaks as well - no consistent schedule from day to day (my day job is at a game studio, so sometimes I just need to take a break from game production period), but on average, I'll put in maybe 10-20 hours a week of work into my project, setting aside Monday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings, and scheduling out weekend time.
This week is my "break month", where I'm doing alpha testing, bug fixing, and building/reviewing my production schedule for the rest of the year, so I'm putting in only 8-ish hours a week, most of it just playtesting. I made sure the month happened when Final Fantasy XV came out on PC .
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My writing is whenever I can and preferably as much as possible. Working on drawing needs a system for me. I have two streams that last anywhere between 2,5-4 hours that I listen to on youtube at 1.25-1.5 times regular speed. They've got weekly updates so that's about 4-6 hours a week I listen to them. I cannot listen to them unless I'm working on my sprites, meaning I get weekly reminders to get back to working on them. I don't work on them too much and get a burn-out resulting in me not working art for a few weeks, nor can I delude myself into thinking I'm doing enough for the art when only getting in an hour per week or so. That ensures that the art to writing ratio stays roughly in balance.
My first project, Pervert&Yandere, was over 100000 words long and had 15 sprites&35 CGs. Both of which and the coding I did all by myself. Add a lot of going through the game a lot for alpha-testing, about three of four months lost just to a very archaic and stupid coding choice (3-4 months on top of what the coding should've taken me) and a lot of expressions and outfits added, and you've got a proper idea of the project size. It took me a year and a half to finish.
Of course, things can be a lot shorter when you work in a group. I wrote the 15000-something script for S&Y in maybe 3-4 days, writing can really vary in length depending on the writer and the script. It took me a month to 'supervise' (read; talk and plead with the others) to turn that script into a project for NaNoRenO2017. But that's a jam specifically meant to be done within a month and I did spend a lot of hours just talking and organising.
My current project just went over 180000 words and already has 17 sprites (though far from all finished). I started with it after NaNo17 so I'm almost a year into the project, it will probably take me two years at least to finish as my anticipation is 300k words and I need a lot of time for the CGs and sprites still. (Why did I make myself make that many outfits and arms?!) But looking at P&Y, I am making quite a bit of progress in working faster and more efficient in how fast I've gotten to this point compared to before.
Want some CC sprites?
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You discover you need more artwork that you originally believed. A section of the script just doesn't work, so you have to rewrite it. That feature you thought would be easy to code ... isn't. You finally get that feature to work and it breaks another part of the code. Your story rewrite requires editing the artwork. Etc. Etc.
That's not even getting into things like Feature Creep®.
I work full-time and do commissions and try to squeeze my solo dev time somewhere in the middle. A lot of time I may have no more than a hour or two a day, and if I am extremely lucky, I'll get one day a week where I can spend 8-10 hours on development. But sometimes my day is just AWFUL at work, and so when I get home I can't really buckle down in that 1 hour between eating dinner and going to sleep, and 'waste' it watching videos or playing a game to recharge.
Every few years the "Apocalypse of Free Time" comes, when Bethesda releases an new open world game, and all waking hours not required to make rent are slaughtered for the next month. Thank goodness Bethesda Softworks is slow with their own game development.
I haven't been working on my own project lately (still my first visual novel), but when I worked on it, I usually did it on days when I had no work and tried to get as far as I could.
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