2014 Nanoreno Post Mortem!

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Auro-Cyanide
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2014 Nanoreno Post Mortem!

#1 Post by Auro-Cyanide » Wed Apr 16, 2014 8:36 pm

I was inspired to make this thread after reading Reikun's awesome reflection on Nanoreno which in turn was inspired by Sapphi's last year! Whether you succeeded or failed at Nanoreno I think it is still a great time to learn a lot about the dev process, so it might be cool to talk about your experiences. I've done Nanoreno four times now and Reikun's reflection included things I hadn't even thought of before so I really think they can be useful to everyone.

So! How did your project go?
What would you like to improve on?
What processes worked well and you would like to keep or refine?
What was the most important thing you learnt?
Did everything go to plan? Why/Why not? Did you have a plan?
What surprised you in the dev process?

This wasn't my first time around the track so I already knew a fair bit about my own processes and time frames. I was also working with a partner I was already familiar with. But there were still a couple of things that were highlighted for me this time round.

Life will happen. And it will kick your butt too. I ended up moving into a new apartment at the beginning of March, so I didn't get to start Nanoreno until the 3rd. I didn't get my internet set up until around a week after that. It definitely put me under some strain at the beginning. This wasn't including the usual things like work and, you know, sleeping. I had already changed to a project that was smaller than what I had originally planned, which ended up being a good thing. Anything larger and I would have been really struggling.

I'm only human. There was one side effect of moving that I wasn't expecting that caused progress to falter. I got lonely. I'm living by myself and I'm used to living around people. I ended up taking a weekend to travel to Bendigo to see my sister. Now to lose a weekend when you work full time is dangerous. Not only do you lose those two full days but you now have to fit all those things you were going to do into your evenings after work, further reducing my dev time. I was full expecting to have this impact my CGs and thus the game, but luckily they went faster than I was estimating. It could have gone worse.

Knowing the script before hand. One advantage I had in this Nanoreno was I made up the story and so I was more in control of what was going to happen then I usually am. This significantly speed up my process. I had already defined what backgrounds would be done right at the beginning for instance, which I think is a good idea. Nothing worse then scope being blown out when you have already scheduled time for a set number of things. This was further helped by the script being nearly completed by the time I got to the CGs. As an artist I ideally want my art to work with the script, so having that control was interesting.

So, how did you go? :)
Last edited by Auro-Cyanide on Thu Apr 17, 2014 7:55 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: 2014 Nanoreno Post Mortem!

#2 Post by Asceai » Wed Apr 16, 2014 8:47 pm

The problem I had was with scope. When I have a clear picture in my head, I can write 10,000 words in a day. At that rate, I'd be finished with my planned NaNo game's script in just 6-7 days!

Turns out getting that picture is the hard part and it took me the whole month to realise that. I think I got a solid enough start on the game to have a high likelihood of finishing it, but yeah, I underestimated how long it would take by close to an order of magnitude.

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Re: 2014 Nanoreno Post Mortem!

#3 Post by Auro-Cyanide » Wed Apr 16, 2014 9:25 pm

Asceai wrote:The problem I had was with scope. When I have a clear picture in my head, I can write 10,000 words in a day. At that rate, I'd be finished with my planned NaNo game's script in just 6-7 days!

Turns out getting that picture is the hard part and it took me the whole month to realise that. I think I got a solid enough start on the game to have a high likelihood of finishing it, but yeah, I underestimated how long it would take by close to an order of magnitude.


I definitely think this is a thing for figuring out the scope and time frames for your projects, and something I am still working on too. Just because you can, say, create a full sprite in one day, does not then mean you can project to create seven sprites in a week. In order to make clear projections you need to not only know how you work at your best, but also at your worst. And then add some :D

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Re: 2014 Nanoreno Post Mortem!

#4 Post by Asceai » Wed Apr 16, 2014 10:27 pm

"Multiply all your estimates by pi" is a good rule of thumb I've heard of before =P

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Re: 2014 Nanoreno Post Mortem!

#5 Post by chocojax » Wed Apr 16, 2014 11:21 pm

Just gonna try to say everything I learned this time.

As Auro-Cyanide said, life'll happen! I got into the project knowing that I wouldn't be able to spend much time on it for the first 2/3rds of the project, since ~18th was the beginning of my finals. I only got to start on actual art during spring break, where I was hangin' out far away from home. So, I tried to draw at least one stage past midnight, hah. Got slightly stressful on the last day, since I had to rush the little animation doodle-frames, since the game was definitely going to be published by the deadline! Or, super-near the deadline.

The people I worked with were great as well. Mainly the programmers, since they were talking almost everyday, spamming all of us with code-stuffs, haha. Seeing them constantly talk about the project really motivated me at the very end when I finally did stuff, since I knew the game would definitely be finished with. (It's a real downer when you work on a project with people and it sort of dies out, but it's luckily I got snagged by awesome people!)

To sum it up: Next time, I'll try to pace myself and plan deadlines for every stage of artin'! And to keep having a fairly reliable and active group of members. Or just supportive people in general!

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Re: 2014 Nanoreno Post Mortem!

#6 Post by MapleWizen » Wed Apr 16, 2014 11:56 pm

I tried to make it in time for Nanoreno but then my NEET procrastination got in the way, as usual.

(´・ω・`)

But I didn't delete anything, and I'm still working on my project, so don't worry.

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Re: 2014 Nanoreno Post Mortem!

#7 Post by MaiMai » Thu Apr 17, 2014 12:16 am

I've mentioned it repeatedly, but while I couldn't come even close to finishing NaNo, it helped me want to make something and continue working on it despite my RL obligations. Flight of Memory is a story I honest to god want to share with others even if it isn't the best thing ever, but it will be done!

This NaNo also taught me that I need to stay in communication with the people I work with too. Constant communication (I'm so sorry pyopyon ;a;)
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Re: 2014 Nanoreno Post Mortem!

#8 Post by sendo » Thu Apr 17, 2014 1:03 am

I learned that I have to set my plan and STICK with it. Even if along the way I discover a better way to write/draw/program it, I need to just stick with the original plan and finish the damn thing; no feature-creep, no epic-world-shattering-plotline, no adding a bunch of unneeded characters... Also, I learned that doing it all alone is fun and challenging, but doing it with other people is MORE fun and more rewarding ^^
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Re: 2014 Nanoreno Post Mortem!

#9 Post by KiloTango » Thu Apr 17, 2014 4:13 am

Scope scope scope scope scope! The story ballooned from a 2 sprite, 3 bgs thing to like 3 times that... however it's a much more interesting story because of it so I don't mind that it's not going to be a NaNo now.

It was my first time touching Renpy or writing for this format, or using python, so on my end there was a lot of learning the ropes to be done. Meanwhile life got in the way for TK as well so there ended up being a bit of me stepping in on the demo. We did stay in very close communication though which helped.

If we nano next year then I think we're planning something we could make in a week, because it's going to balloon again I'm sure.
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Re: 2014 Nanoreno Post Mortem!

#10 Post by Starling » Thu Apr 17, 2014 8:14 am

I guess I'll talk about both my 2011 NaNo and this one, since I don't think I've ever broken down what I got from my first game.

Rapunzel was a huge success for me. I came in with a clear view "Kinetic Version of Rapunzel set in the same universe as SWRR". Set my characters at 3, didn't pressure myself with a CG (though now I really want to edit it sometime to add one in at the end), and decided on filtered photos for backgrounds so I didn't have to worry about that as well. Having a super clear view was the most helpful thing in a challenge like this. Really the only goal I had was to finish it. I'd been working on big games for a while now, so it was important to just get something out.

I don't remember there even being much stress to the creation of Rapunzel. I got the story out quickly, the sprites and then we (Aleema and I for the most part) working on polishing and editing it for a while until we came out with the final product, which I'm still fairly proud of.

This year with The Empty Orchestra it was a bit different. I clearly knew I wanted to do a few things, mainly CGs and actual gameplay of some kind. I knew I wanted to do only two characters and that was about it. Unlike the plot driven Rapunzel, The Empty Orchestra has no plot and is just a character piece which made it a million times harder to write. I struggled a lot with with writing, editing and polishing tEO in that way.

Luckily between Rapunzel and completing NaNoWriMo (and finishing the book I wrote for it on top of that) last November I developed a certain drive and confidence that things would finish.

Also I scheduled things weekly and I'm luckly enough to gauge just how much I can pull out of myself.

Unlike Rapunzel, though, tEO is still in need of a lot of polishing and work and I'm only half satisfied with it. Though I was really happy to learn people really did identify with the story which was about 80% my goal with it. So even if the expressions are minimal, the coding a little shabby (I rigged up many, many last minute things), and the music still all over the place, it still achieves what I hoped and I'm glad.

Oh yes, I also thing Twitter was really helpful for NaNoRenO XD There's a lot of support there from fellow NaNos and people who were just following it in general. And posting something little in a tweet took way less time out of drawing/writing/coding than updating a post here LOL
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Re: 2014 Nanoreno Post Mortem!

#11 Post by Juneberry » Thu Apr 17, 2014 1:43 pm

From my perspective, the project was still fun to work on, but it was a bit difficult at times for sure. I feel bad since Sakura had to do most of the work, as my computer just loves to drive me nuts and turn the sound into my enemy on and off. Also, I stink at art, and had to learn a lot to do anything. >w<

I definitely need to work on my photoshop skills, but I at least learned a good bit. :) Also need to learn to manage my time better.

While things definitely didn't go as planned, I think it went pretty well. And I'm really lucky I had such a great person working with me (and keeping my butt in gear) >:D

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Re: 2014 Nanoreno Post Mortem!

#12 Post by Camille » Thu Apr 17, 2014 3:03 pm

Thinking about 2012 NaNoRenO as well... I entered in 2012 and 2014 and finished both years so here are my thoughts based on those two experiences.

What works well:
- Mapping everything out beforehand. Having an outline (or multiple) to work with makes the process a lot easier, especially since our work tends to have a lot of foreshadowing. No surprises later in the month = more likely the project will be finished as originally planned. This year we tried using a design document, though I tweaked it for VN purposes. You can see the one Auro and I did for Taarradhin here. We discussed and planned a lot as we filled that out so that we both understood what kind of story we were doing. I then took the basic outlines Auro did and wrote more detailed ones based off of that overall flow. Having that design document to refer to made the writing/art a lot easier due to being more organized.
- Understanding the scope. NaNoRenO is only a month long. You're not going to be able to finish an epic space opera VN (not a good one, anyway) in that amount of time, so keep the plot/characters small. I still don't know how I managed to write 60,000 words for RisAmo last time I did NaNo, but I honestly am not sure I could do it again. Taarradhin was a good size but I think I could have written a bit more if the month hadn't been so hectic. Speaking of which...
- Being careful with time planning. I gave myself 9 "buffer days" this year, which were basically days I'd allow myself to do nothing on the project but still have things be on time. They were for me to use up in case I had something personal come up or I just felt too drained that day, etc. This worked out really well. I really needed those buffer days, as it turned out, because March was an awful month for me this year. :'D I didn't give myself any sort of buffer days when working on RisAmo so it's really a fine bit of luck that I got through that month. If I'd gotten sick or something I don't think we would have finished.
- Doing the writing and programming separately. This might not be a problem for everyone, but since Cyanide Tea is a two-person team it kind of leaves me with a lot to do. In the past, I would code and write simultaneously. This always ended up with the project being finished a day or two before release which is problematic for a whole host of reasons. This year I did all the writing first, then all the programming (and I edited/tweaked the writing while I coded). This resulted in the writing being finished sooner, which was GREAT although I really would have liked to have finished it a week earlier than I did. :C
- Retiring the imagemap-based UI. Prior to this game, all of our VNs used an imagemap-based UI. IMAGEMAPS EVERYWHERE. While this makes the UI very pretty and customizable, it's a chore to fix typos and to prep the UI for translations. For Taarradhin I used text/text buttons for the most part. Still looks pretty great and is way easier to work with. The new Style definitions made my life much easier.

Things to remember for next year:
- If you write at 4AM after a long and tiring day, your writing will be incoherent. I pushed myself a lot this year to keep writing to try and make up for what I felt was lost time even when I could barely keep my eyes open. In the end, though, I spent even more time trying to decipher and fix up that writing and ended up throwing out a lot of it. It wasn't worth it. I would have benefitted more from going to bed and trying to write when I was fully conscious.
- DON'T FORGET ABOUT MUSIC. Because I usually code and write at the same time, I also end up picking the music for the game while I do that. I forgot about the music since it doesn't technically fall under "writing" or "coding" and was in a frantic rush to pick out the right background music tracks towards the very end. It was pretty stressful and I'm not entirely sure I did a good job with that this year. D:
- UI takes longer to code than I estimate. At least, it did this year because I had to position all the buttons and text, whereas imagemaps sort of position themselves. Since I'm more used to it, things might be easier next time around but I think it's best to allow more time for programming. I thought I could get it all done in 2 days but it really took more like 4 or 5.
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Re: 2014 Nanoreno Post Mortem!

#13 Post by 2dt » Thu Apr 17, 2014 3:39 pm

Finish the script BEFORE NaNoRenO. Though in my defense I only decided to participate in NaNo a two days before it began.

Another thing is don't underestimate the need for a fast computer. Whereas concept sketches were lightning quick in Clip Studio, it really started to bog down as I started adding folders of layers of expressions. Better to have the power and not need it than to need it and not have it.

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Re: 2014 Nanoreno Post Mortem!

#14 Post by heypetdragon » Fri Apr 18, 2014 5:22 am

I wanted to post here earlier but I barely finished the update post I did on my nano entry because my internet is really crappy this summer, and we have to leave for a trip. I at least want to get that out of my head before we went swimming. XD

So my first NaNoReno entry, objectively speaking it failed. Haven't delivered a final product at the end was disappointing, but I didn't regret joining in. Even if I know I have little to no audience for being new at this community. The knowledge acquired while in the production stage was awesome. I'm the type of person that takes so much time before I jump in to test the waters, but with this event I was able to learn a lot (in that little time I worked on it) since the day I got interested to make a visual novel back in October last year, lurking around. It made me want to warm up to people from this community and lemmasoft in general. At first I'm so distant, felt that people here would be hard to approach because of my awkwardness, but now...well, taking baby steps, haha.

This failure thought me so much, that for me it's not so much of a failure but a success in itself, with the goal I have in mind in the first place -was to learn as much as I can during the time period-, when compared to my progress outside nanoreno. I posted a lengthy post about the status and what happen with my nanoreno entry here if you like to read, just so I could make this one as brief as possible and for me not get out of topic. ^^;

Things I learned:
Just like everybody's been telling again and again, always plan everything before hand. I didn't plan at all because I wasn't intending to join, haha. But I learned that different methods to creating VNs differently for everyone. With me being a visual artist who wants to tell a story, it solidified the idea on how I would like to present my projects. To make them really a "visual" novel. It got me to read and research classic stories written in script format and not in prose or literary form because I felt this will work for me, production-wise. I want to show and imply visually because that's my stronger skill-set, than to tell and to narrate the things that are happening in the scene. I had to draw storyboards and the sprites I did was used minimally to drive the vision I had in mind. It ended up looking like every scene is a cg (but still has changing expressions, lighting effect, and pose change) and it was a lot of work. And well during that time, a lot of problems popped with my life, plus work, this vn was what kept me going this month. Well the development itself kept me going that I decided to help out with other teams I'm interested in now. This really drives the importance of planning everything ahead of time. Before nano, I know I need a plan, but didn't know how to make that plan because I don't know exactly what I need, that works for me. And now, I know how next time I join nanoreno, well in every project I work on now I think, to have grasp a better deadline.

Also, deadline is your friend. When I was still doing clean-up bgs in the animation industry, I always put quality first and I rarely get redraws or complaints. Deadline was always looming too, though it wasn't imposed, but because I put importance on quality, I ended up doing less work than my coworkers, means smaller salary, but it's alright with me XD (client and my boss were happy, lol). With my visual novel projects, I still don't want to sacrifice quality, haha. The beauty with making your own projects is flexible deadlines, but without a deadline the work won't be done because I revise, always. Deadlines make me stick to what I originally planned. I'm still having trouble with imposing deadlines on my own work but I really get the importance of it now. Nanoreno stabbed that into me the last few days of March. Funny that after the event ended, that's when a shorter story that could fit in a month or less time of development popped in my head. o uo; Well maybe because now I have a concrete idea on how I could do it, from what I personally experienced.

And last, don't be afraid to try something new or something you don't understand. Because even if nanoreno is a lot of work, stressful and tiring, it's also fun. I was afraid to really immerse myself, afraid to get my idea/work out there. Getting that little concept art featured on projetsaya during nanoreno both got me thrilled and pressured actually, but still it's a nice feeling when someone notices your work, amongst veteran and awesome developers here. I'm a ashamed with disappointing people though. But I promise to do better work, and finishing it.

So that's my newbie's point of view with nanoreno. ^ u ^
It's also nice to learn how other devs tackled this event, especially the established teams.
Thanks for this thread Auro!

Sorry this got long.

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Re: 2014 Nanoreno Post Mortem!

#15 Post by Anne » Sat Apr 19, 2014 1:30 am

I planned small from the start. Not because of NaNo but because the story I wanted to do didn't call for anything big. So I had plenty of time to be lazy and still finish on time. Maybe I should've made it more of a challenge... but then I'm really happy with how my game turned out. The only thing I find disappointing (although not totally unexpected) is how little people are interested in playing it now that it's done.

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