Hearts Under Blades [BxG, BxB][Samurai][Kickstarter][Demo]

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ArtistMeli
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Re: Hearts Under Blades [BxG, BxB][Samurai][Fantasy]

#16 Post by ArtistMeli » Wed Sep 03, 2014 3:47 pm

Hey there, I'm the artist for the game! I thought I'd take some time and answer some of the questions I've seen. :)

First, thanks to everyone who pointed out the switched links on the site. They have now been fixed.
Wow, this sounds really interesting. It actually reminds me a lot of the Steel Samurai series from the Ace Attorney games. I hope there's gonna be an epic opening theme song to this one too! Hahaha. :D (Gazen hiiro da tonosaman... fly high!) Totally epic
We are in talks about music licensing at the moment. We've contacted a recording artist in Japan who does songs in both Japanese and English, and they'll be getting us more info after they finish their tour next week. Also, if we reach our stretch goal of $15,000, we will have a fully animated opening, featuring hand-drawn animation by Nas Pasha of Studio Crazy Horse. You can see some of his animation here: http://youtu.be/Sly5irW34mI
Wow, I was waiting for a samurai story! I hope there's a good amount of action since I do enjoy action and am expecting it to be in here.
There is quite a bit of action in the story, and you can choose to handle it in different ways! You can use weapons, magic, or strategy. Some fights you may even be able to bypass by talking your way out of them, but some can't be avoided.

Thank you all so much for your comments and feedback! Check out our Kickstarter, play our demo, and let us know what you think!

Hearts Under Blades on Kickstarter: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/21 ... -and-honor
Free Demo Download: http://hub.leadingscientistsgames.com/H ... .0-all.zip
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Re: Hearts Under Blades [BxG, BxB][Samurai][Fantasy]

#17 Post by Fungii » Wed Sep 03, 2014 4:01 pm

Do you have any plans to make a tumblr sort of blog for this at all? Simply asking because you I think you should submit a post to englishotomegames on there and get some real exposure, there's quite a network of VN players on that site.

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Re: Hearts Under Blades [BxG, BxB][Samurai][Fantasy]

#18 Post by ArtistMeli » Wed Sep 03, 2014 5:11 pm

I thought I'd address your post in a reply of its own, since you make so many good points!
gekiganwing wrote:Impressed by what I'm seeing so far. I had a total of ten thoughts and concerns:

1. Be sure to carefully think about your story's scope. Don't commit to writing more than you can handle. For example, I like the idea of an alternate gender-flipped protagonist in order to widen your audience and make all sorts of relationships possible. There are surprisingly few visual novels with both male and female love interests. But if you're not interested in writing this, or if you can't devote enough time to including this, then leave it out.
The story itself has been planned for over a year, in a structured but malleable form. As we get to certain sections, we do cut or deviate from the plans as the writers see fit. We are all very interested in having the female protagonist, but because of the extra workload, we've made it a stretch goal on our Kickstarter. This way, we only commit to the extra work if we can afford it.
gekiganwing wrote:2. Money as a motivator... I know that some people choose to release their visual novels for free. But if you are definitely going to sell the final product, then you can use money in order to hire assistants and motivate your staff. This might help find dedicated people who are willing to continue working on the VN until it's finished.
I certainly hope we can get to this stage with our earnings! Right now we are very much in the red, but if we meet our Kickstarter goal, that should at least help us break even. In the meantime, I am filling most of the roles regarding finance, promotion, and networking, as well as being the main artist on the game. This business and game is my full-time job.
gekiganwing wrote:3. On your FAQ, you state "Relationships can be platonic or political as well as romantic." Thank you for being willing to consider this. Friendship endings are rare. And I'm interested in seeing more VNs in which plot is at least as important as the characters' relationships.
Thanks! The relationship building in the game was one of the things we considered most carefully in development. We realize that not everyone plays VNs for the dating aspect, so while it is still there, you don't *have* to end up dating someone. You can be friends, or even shun the other young samurai and concentrate on your career.
gekiganwing wrote:4. Also, you said, "We want this game to reach as wide an audience as possible, so we’re trying to keep it rated Teen, or PG-13." That might help the final version get released through diverse services, such as Mangagamer's site, Desura, Amazon, and Steam.
For our first game, we felt it was very important to reach as broad an audience as possible. This doesn't mean we'll never do an 18+ game, but we don't want to pidgeonhole ourselves into that genre right away.
gekiganwing wrote:5. Do you think you will benefit from porting the final version of your visual novel to other formats, such as iOS or Android?
If we meet our stretch goal of $5,000, we will be developing an Android port optimized for tablets and TVs (the Ouya, etc). As far as I am aware, there is no way to make a distribution for iOS, but we will certainly look into it! Personally, I'd love to port it to various consoles, as well, but at this time we're not sure how to go about that.
gekiganwing wrote:6. On your gameplay page, you state, "Going into this game, the development team played a number of Visual Novels and [romance games] to get a feel for the genre. We quickly developed an idea of what we liked, and also compiled a list of things we wanted to do differently." Probably a good idea. There are some basic things to learn (Tokimeki Check-in: don't let trivial actions lead to vastly different results; Sakura Wars 5: don't place the battles back-to-back after two hours of conversation). Also, I learned about creating a document on what to include / exclude in a novel from the book No Plot? No Problem!, which is about Nanowrimo. When you have time, please state what interactive stories and romance games you thought were instructive.
This is really helpful, thanks!

I personally have not played a huge number of visual novels. I took inspiration from games like Ar Tonelico, the Atelier series, and Persona 3 for the look of the game, how to draw and pose the portraits and such. I felt the range of emotions was very limited in those games, so I went a little crazy adding to them. XD
Honestly, every VN I've played has influenced how I wanted to approach our own in terms of gameplay.

Things I wanted to do differently include:

* Small, seemingly irrelevant decisions can rule out character options entirely. You find this more in dating sims than VNs. We took a more natural approach to relationships, where you can build up points over time. So if you spend the whole game building a relationship with a person, and then order them the wrong drink on a date or something small, you haven't completely screwed yourself over because you've earned a lot of points with them and a small "mistake" would only be a small detraction. However, if you do something huge, like you kill somebody's brother, it might earn you negative a million points and you shut them out entirely as an option.

* Being trapped into playing a character a very specific way. VNs are awesome, but I think RPGs have spoiled me. In too many VNs, you are stuck playing the naive, innocent newcomer. You don't know how the world works, which is an easy excuse for some other character to give lengthy exposition about the setting. You are nice by default and traumatized by people taking advantage of you. I found myself very frustrated by this, as I am a very take-charge sort of gamer. I wanted the player to be able to influence the world around them rather than just let things happen to them.
gekiganwing wrote:7. On the same page, you wrote, "We really wanted to give the player more of a choice in shaping the type of character Shouka would end up being. To quote one of the team, we want to “Bioware it up.” ... The character is being written with extensive branching dialogue that will allow you to play him (or her) however you like. You can be friendly, humble, rude, or arrogant, and your choices will affect the way others react to you." Some of my favorite visual novels encourage the main character to commit to one person, or end up with a negative ending (alone for the immediate future; at least one person dies). For what it's worth, the freeware VN Winter Shard allows its main character to choose villainy. Also, Corpse Party has a variety of horrifying endings that are not considered "game over."
While we're nowhere near to writing the end of the game, we're planning a pretty absurd number of endings. ^_^; They will be based on your relationship stats as well as your Honor, among other things. There will be both good and bad endings, involving weddings, deaths, new careers, etc. There will be endings where you can die in the epilogue, but there will also be happy endings and even some open endings. We are still exploring a lot of possibilities with the relationships, too. For example, some characters are willing to date you regardless of how many people you're seeing on the side, but some won't unless you're committed. Some will only date you if your honor is above a certain level, but some are so dishonorable that dating them lowers your honor. XD Other things we're think of are options for friendships; maybe you can help your bff hook up with their crush in the party. We are still exploring our options and limitations with the relationship variables.
gekiganwing wrote:8. Your story is part of the fantasy genre. Even so, be willing to consider a reasonable amount of realism. Writing Excuses had something to say on this topic in their episode on Practical Fantasy. Be willing to ask questions such as "if this magic exists, what does it mean for people?" and "is this going to result in economic upheaval?"
These are absolutely things that are addressed in the game, and some of them are important plot points. Magic exists in three main forms; elemental magic, used by talking to nature spirits, which is explained within the game if you inquire about it in certain conversations. There's holy magic, which is used exclusively by priests and priestesses, granted by the gods. And then there's dark magic, which is acquired by making pacts with demons. This inevitably results in mental and physical deterioration, and finally demonic possession. Magic is not especially prevalent or reliable; spirits are whimsical and gods are busy. This is why dark magic is so tempting; demons are always hungry for blood and souls. However, the current Emperor has made it an overwhelming priority to exterminate these demons, so there are not a great deal of them left to bargain with.

There is also an element of anti-imperial conspiracy, so social and economic upheaval will be an increasing theme as the game goes on.
gekiganwing wrote:9. Promoting at a fan convention can be difficult. Don't spend too much getting a booth in the dealers hall if all you have is a promotional video and some sample art. In my opinion, the people at Okashi Studios made a mistake in promoting their game Shira Oka this way as late as 2006, especially because its demo was not playable until mid-2010.
We just got back from the con, actually. XD We made it a point to have our Kickstarter and demo ready and available on time for the con, and had a number of prints, buttons, and keychains for sale. We didn't do spectacularly at sales, but we talked to *hundreds* of people, and really got the word out. We got an Artist's Alley table rather than a Dealer's Booth, so the cost was relatively low.
gekiganwing wrote:10. Be sure to research both successes and failures on Kickstarter.
OMG, we did so much of this, and it was so important. I also talked to some different indie game makers for advice on promotion, as well as what makes for good rewards and what doesn't. I spent the last few years doing loads of research on how to get into business with art, took classes on copyright law, and generally just made sure I was confident in what I was doing before we formed the business. It's amazing how helpful everyone has been, and how much of a sense of community there is with indie developers.
Last edited by ArtistMeli on Thu Sep 04, 2014 4:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Hearts Under Blades [BxG, BxB][Samurai][Fantasy]

#19 Post by ArtistMeli » Wed Sep 03, 2014 5:13 pm

Fungii wrote:Do you have any plans to make a tumblr sort of blog for this at all? Simply asking because you I think you should submit a post to englishotomegames on there and get some real exposure, there's quite a network of VN players on that site.
Thanks for the tip! We have a tumblr, but it's been neglected for a while since we have very few followers. I will definitely revive it and give this a try, thanks so much. ^_^

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Re: Hearts Under Blades [BxG, BxB][Samurai][Fantasy]

#20 Post by Googaboga » Wed Sep 03, 2014 6:07 pm

Oh hey, I love fateline-alpha's backgrounds. I always thought they'd look great in a VN :lol:.

Anyways this sounds great. Best of luck on your project and it's Kickstarter. I'll see if I can contribute something C:.
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Re: Hearts Under Blades [BxG, BxB][Samurai][Fantasy]

#21 Post by papillon » Thu Sep 04, 2014 3:15 pm

ArtistMeli wrote: For example, in Magical Diary, if you sell the wrong type of candles at the school fundraiser, you lock out one of the date-able options. Argh!
Uh, that's not even slightly true.

Sorry to barge into your thread, but... no, that's not how it works!
We took a more natural approach to relationships, where you can build up points over time. So if you spend the whole game building a relationship with a person, and then order them the wrong drink on a date or something small, you haven't completely screwed yourself over because you've earned a lot of points with them and a small "mistake" would only be a small detraction. However, if you do something huge, like you kill somebody's brother, it might earn you negative a million points and you shut them out entirely as an option.
That is exactly how the relationship paths work in Magical Diary.

There are options in candle-selling that will get you one single solitary relationship point with a certain character. A point which you do not need. It makes no difference to starting the relationship path with him. None. At all. The only time that point will matter is if, by the end, you are just teetering on the edge of having enough points with him and need that one solitary point to tip you over, and that's a pretty unusual situation to be in and depends on a lot of other decisions.

Not going to comment on the other bit because that requires big spoilers and discussion of authorial intent and plot arcs, but this is just facts here. :)

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Re: Hearts Under Blades [BxG, BxB][Samurai][Fantasy]

#22 Post by ArtistMeli » Thu Sep 04, 2014 4:01 pm

papillon wrote: Sorry to barge into your thread, but... no, that's not how it works!
No offense intended! I had found that information on a detailed walkthrough of the game, after being frustrated that I couldn't get said date-able option. This walkthrough wasn't official, though, so I guess they jumped to conclusions in the same way I had! My apologies for the misunderstanding, I'll edit the post accordingly. You are definitely the authority in this matter. ^_^

As for the spoiler-laden part of things, I think I understand what you mean the authorial intent side of things.
I came away from it thinking that it was a very thoughtful commentary on the kind of unhealthy love stories that have become so popular in recent years, like Twilight, where the girl abandons her loyal friends and family to be with this shady character despite the fact that he repeatedly leaves her and puts her life in danger.
I think it's a really good issue to address, and that it was done well. It's just a personal preference of mine to be a little more take-charge in games, as you may have noted in the previous post. XD

I in no way intended to slam Magical Diary as a game. I *love* the game, it was the very first VN/sim game I played, and what got me into the genre. I've gifted it to several people on Steam, and it's one of my first recommendations when people want to get into that type of game. I just take a pretty different approach when it comes to gameplay, which is why I phrased it as "what we wanted to do differently."

I'd like to try to keep this thread on-topic, but I'd be happy to continue this conversation through PMs, if you like! Thanks so much for speaking up, the last thing I want to do is spread false information.
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Re: Hearts Under Blades [BxG, BxB][Samurai][Fantasy]

#23 Post by ArtistMeli » Thu Sep 04, 2014 4:15 pm

We have added new reward tiers in our Kickstarter to replace the ones that have sold out!

While options to be an Extra or Minor Character in Chapter One are no longer available, you can now buy those same kinds of designs to be published in the artbook, and get first dibs on being an Extra or Minor Character when/if we get to Chapter Two.
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Re: Hearts Under Blades [BxG, BxB][Samurai][Fantasy]

#24 Post by Mad Harlequin » Thu Sep 04, 2014 10:13 pm

Well, I finished playing the demo, and I'm quite impressed so far---more than I expected to be. I'll be adding detailed feedback tomorrow. :)
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Re: Hearts Under Blades [BxG, BxB][Samurai][Fantasy]

#25 Post by AERenoir » Fri Sep 05, 2014 3:25 pm

So... sorry if this is a trivial thing but in the intro you have a full-screen CG of Shouka leaning on the ship railing AND his standing sprite in the same scene. I remember you had a similar thing going on in one of the promo screenshot with Kyoko (her sprite showing while she is also in the background CG image), so is that something actually done on purpose and will keep on happening through the game? I find that kind of layout really bizarre, and... I wonder if you guys are still playing around with the positioning of the sprites or if that's something you guys wanted to do for a specific reason.

If you want to have a CG illustration while having the character show emotion at the same time, I would suggest making duplicates of the same CG, but with the expressions/poses slightly altered. A lot of the big-scale visual novels do this with their CGs. Example:
10k.png
10l.png
But if that's too time-consuming to do, I perfectly understand.
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Re: Hearts Under Blades [BxG, BxB][Samurai][Fantasy]

#26 Post by Mad Harlequin » Sat Sep 06, 2014 5:34 pm

Mad Harlequin wrote:Well, I finished playing the demo, and I'm quite impressed so far---more than I expected to be. I'll be adding detailed feedback tomorrow. :)
I apologize for the delay! I'm writing up my comments now and I should be posting them soon.

EDIT: That will probably be Sunday afternoon.

UPDATE 9/8: Still writing up my comments. I apologize again for taking so long! Between work and a bit of illness I'm now fighting, it may not be until this weekend that I'm finally able to post them. But it will be done.
Last edited by Mad Harlequin on Mon Sep 08, 2014 8:36 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Hearts Under Blades [BxG, BxB][Samurai][Fantasy]

#27 Post by Ammeh » Sun Sep 07, 2014 12:28 am

This looks super-shiny and I'm really excited about it--I love intrigue, and the idea of being able to build both romantic and political relationships has me absolutely giddy. I backed the Kickstarter, but I'm extremely surprised that there are only 37 backers after 10 days. (It looks like you'll make the main goal, but I'm very invested in the female PC stretch goal. ;)) The Kickstarter page looks polished and at the very least gets me excited about the game, so I'm wondering if there just aren't many people finding out about it. Have you been doing much to advertise the Kickstarter specifically?

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Re: Hearts Under Blades [BxG, BxB][Samurai][Fantasy]

#28 Post by ArtistMeli » Mon Sep 08, 2014 5:18 pm

AERenoir wrote:So... sorry if this is a trivial thing but in the intro you have a full-screen CG of Shouka leaning on the ship railing AND his standing sprite in the same scene. I remember you had a similar thing going on in one of the promo screenshot with Kyoko (her sprite showing while she is also in the background CG image), so is that something actually done on purpose and will keep on happening through the game? I find that kind of layout really bizarre, and... I wonder if you guys are still playing around with the positioning of the sprites or if that's something you guys wanted to do for a specific reason.

If you want to have a CG illustration while having the character show emotion at the same time, I would suggest making duplicates of the same CG, but with the expressions/poses slightly altered. A lot of the big-scale visual novels do this with their CGs.
Thanks for your feedback, it's certainly something we'll consider! We had several reasons behind choosing to display it in such a manner. (1) We're basing our visual style more off RPGs than VNs. In those, it's not uncommon to fade whatever the current scene is and display the character portraits over it for dialogue. (2) In some cases, we wanted a way to display the CG artwork longer without losing out on the character's ability to emote. I've seen this method of display used in several VNs I've played; I think it is simply a result of each particular game company's choice of presentation. :)
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Re: Hearts Under Blades [BxG, BxB][Samurai][Fantasy]

#29 Post by ArtistMeli » Mon Sep 08, 2014 5:20 pm

Ammeh wrote:This looks super-shiny and I'm really excited about it--I love intrigue, and the idea of being able to build both romantic and political relationships has me absolutely giddy. I backed the Kickstarter, but I'm extremely surprised that there are only 37 backers after 10 days. (It looks like you'll make the main goal, but I'm very invested in the female PC stretch goal. ;)) The Kickstarter page looks polished and at the very least gets me excited about the game, so I'm wondering if there just aren't many people finding out about it. Have you been doing much to advertise the Kickstarter specifically?
Thanks so much for your support! I have been advertising as much as I know how, through facebook, twitter, deviantart, and tumblr, and we even had a booth at a con for our launch weekend, but I have just about exhausted my outlets. If you have any suggestions, I would certainly be open to them!
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Re: Hearts Under Blades [BxG, BxB][Samurai][Fantasy][Demo]

#30 Post by Gospel » Mon Sep 08, 2014 9:32 pm

I've just downloaded the demo, but unfortunately don't know when I'll be able to play it.
However, I wanted to say I'm really intrigued and like what I've seen so far. The art and designs really are great.
I love stories set in medieval Japan just as much as I love murder mysteries/detective stories, so yeah, this definitely has my interest.

Can't help but think of Samurai Dou (or Way of the Samurai as it's called outside Japan), and wonder if it's actually gonna be similar.
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