Carmilla [Philosophy][Shoujo Ai][Vampire][free][Demo]

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Qlara
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Carmilla [Philosophy][Shoujo Ai][Vampire][free][Demo]

#1 Post by Qlara » Sun Apr 01, 2018 10:15 am

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Carmilla takes a close look at the Age of Enlightenment and encourages to ask whether —alongside all the progress and benefits modern science has brought about— we might have lost something valuable in the process.
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You can download the demo here: https://visualgothic.itch.io/carmilla-demo
Length of the demo is around 45 minutes.
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  • A kinetic visual novel interpretation of the mother of all lesbian vampire stories.
  • length: min 5 hours
  • free
  • state of affairs: done, apart from a few stubborn Ren'Py issues
So, I had this really great idea for a game (Great Game, GG). Notebooks upon notebooks were quickly filled up with concepts and ideas. Naturally, a monster of this size could not be tackled unprepared. I needed a practice project (Practice Project, PP).
After a few months of working on PP, having finished its code, another monster had been born and I had grown surprisingly fond of it and couldn't bear to see it devalued by crappy PP-level artwork (I'm no artist, by the way, nor do I aspire to be one). I decided to promote it from practice— to my real first game, with "real" art. But, before I could approach "real" artists, I needed a practice game, a really small one this time (small practice project, pp).
I chose Sheridan LeFanu's In A Glass Darkly - Carmilla as a source. A short story, few characters and settings, what could go wrong? (Oh, the follies of youth!)
More importantly, it would serve as a fine introduction to the themes PP and GG would be exploring.
"Surely a month will suffice to get pp online with improvised artwork", is what I thought, years ago. Needless to say, lil' pp quickly grew into juvenile delinquent pp and —out of hand.
Although I actually managed to create a perfectly functional kinetic visual novel within a month this time, I naïvely began tinkering with the art. (You're not face-palming, are you?) That set me on an endless loop of: -> improving an image -> getting better -> seeing how bad everything looks -> needing to improve image ->... To this day, I am a prisoner of this vicious cycle.
However, although I levelled up a few times since the last out-improving-about-session, the urge to change EVERYTHING! AGAIN! has not overwhelmed me this time. Yet. This may be my only chance, my one window of opportunity.
I present to you: pp,

CARMILLA

Prologue: Visual Gothic

WIP_new_ada.png
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Dr. Martin Heselius, German physician/medical philosopher dedicates himself exclusively to those cases that promise to further his inquiry into the relation between the physical—, the spiritual—, and the divine sphere of existence.
Ada Brunswick edits and translates the doctor's manuscripts.
Under the name Visual Gothic they publish those cases that may interest —as well as benefit— a wider public while illuminating the interplay between the rational, the supernatural, and the superstitious.

The Story
WIP_new_gui.png
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WIP_new_lau.png
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Laura, narrator and heroine of the story, lives an idyllic life with her father in an old castle in Styria. Geographically isolated, she often feels lonely. A carriage accident delivers a mysterious young girl named 'Carmilla' to the castle's doorsteps, putting a sudden end to Laura's solitude.
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WIP_new_car_b.png
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The two girls grow close quickly, yet, Laura occasionally feels overwhelmed and confused by Carmilla's passionate advances which ignite in her fascination and abhorrence in equal parts. These tense situations, however, do little to tarnish the bond they share.
Nevertheless, life at the castle becomes increasingly overshadowed as Laura starts to experience disquieting nightly visions and strange physical symptoms...
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What is it About?

Carmilla has often been called a 'Lesbian Vampire Story', which is pointing out the obvious and missing its point at the same time. On this paper-thin superficial level it is also a romance, a tale of bonding between two lonely girls in an isolated environment with a dash of mystery for good merit.
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Not far beneath this entertaining level of the story, readers who prefer their text to play the role of teacher or moralist will readily discover a lesson here: Do not allow dogmatic rationalism to replace superstition and blind you to the truth!
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However at its center, Carmilla is an exploration of the human condition after the Enlightenment cemented the distinction between mind and matter, the so called mind-body-dualism, with its clear preference for mind over matter. Today, this duality is hardly ever questioned.
The editors appended a collection of Notes that might serve to illustrate how this new paradigm came into being and perhaps assist in carving a path to the real heart of the story.
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WIP_new_notes.png
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——————————————————————————————————————————————
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Why is it not finished?

- few persistent RenPy issues need to be fixed
- a website (there goes another year)
- I really should redo all 400 mouths again
- my main concern: an overwhelming mountain of tiny little details that never go away and stand between me and the publishing of this novel.
How does one let go of these projects? When is it okay enough for "pp"?

Finally, for your entertainment and my embarrassment, some before after images.


ladies_before_after.png

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Re: Carmilla [Philosophy][Shoujo Ai][Vampire][free][Demo]

#2 Post by Qlara » Tue Apr 24, 2018 1:18 pm

I've added a demo link.
It's basically the first chapter, play time is around 45 minutes.
Should anybody play it, I would love to get some feedback, especially on intelligibility.
I (myself no English native) realize Laura is difficult to understand at times and have thus simplified a few words here and there. However, I have so far withstood simplifying it to modern standards, because I think we can still catch the general drift and because I don't believe in dumbing down anything. Ever.
Should there be enough complaints, however, I might have to re-evaluate that principle. :wink:

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Re: Carmilla [Philosophy][Shoujo Ai][Vampire][free][Demo]

#3 Post by papillon » Sun Apr 29, 2018 8:38 pm

I'm posting here mostly just to remind myself that this thread exists and I should look at the game later, as I do not have time to look at it tonight. :)

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Re: Carmilla [Philosophy][Shoujo Ai][Vampire][free][Demo]

#4 Post by Dovahkitteh » Mon Apr 30, 2018 9:42 am

After just finishing the demo, I want to take my hat off to you and applaud you for this wonderfully beautiful project. It's amazing!

I normally don't get much into shoujo ai/yuri games, but what actually drew me in was the gorgeous GUI (so perfect <3 Can I ask who the creator is?) and general Gothic atmosphere. I think you conveyed said atmosphere perfectly, something that I think is surprisingly difficult to do.

The writing is really quite fantastic. It feels very Poe-ish and also reminiscent of other early Gothic works, so I think you've done a wonderful job replicating the style. I found it just fine to understand. My one real criticism is that I felt a solid 30% of the text was spent on describing the environment -- which, while undeniably important in setting the scene, started to get a bit tedious (especially when I could see a good amount for myself through via the backgrounds). If you plan on going back through and cutting or editing things, I think deleting or even just moving/breaking up some blocks of description would really help the flow and pacing.

The prologue chapter really caught me off guard with how cool it was. The lighting effects, as well as the foreground/background simulation with zooming out to show Ada behind the desk, totally tickled the dev inside me.

The way you decided to present in-game sprites was very interesting and creative, though a bit confusing to me. I couldn't tell at first if the close-up characters were close-up because of physical proximity to Laura or because they were the focus of the scene. The difference in sizes between the central/close-up chars and the ones on the sides is also a little confusing -- it makes it somewhat difficult to envision where they're standing in the environment and in relation to each other. If this is a purposeful stylistic choice, I understand. But since you already have a highlight system for the speaking character, I think the closeup is maybe a bit too much if it's intended to show focus.

Again, the GUI is stunning. I love your addition of a glossary; I was planning on including a similar thing in one of my projects. It's a very cool way to help keep players immersed in lore and the setting.

Finally -- and perhaps most importantly -- the story! It's quite captivating so far. The philosophical introduction intrigued me, since you don't normally see stories so plainly prefacing themselves with what they're about. But I think it works; it helps encourage the reader to take a look beneath the surface rather than simply taking things in as "a lesbian vampire story" ;p I like Laura a great deal already, as she quickly established herself as an intelligent and thoughtful protagonist. The other characters are also intriguing, although the two governesses felt a bit similar to me and somewhat difficult to separate in my head (maybe because they were introduced side-by-side). It would be cool if the side characters have fleshed out backstories or secrets we get to learn, so I hope for a deeper introduction to them later on!

The only bit that was somewhat jarring to me story-wise was
Laura's dad being so quick to take in Carmilla. I understand his kindness/hospitality and the circumstances and so on, but it did feel a little strange that he'd offer to host her indefinitely after the first words from her mom's mouth, without asking many questions XD

Sorry for the textwall, I just couldn't help myself! I already love this game and I intend to keep a very close eye on it. You have something remarkable here, and I highly commend you for it. :D
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Re: Carmilla [Philosophy][Shoujo Ai][Vampire][free][Demo]

#5 Post by Qlara » Wed May 02, 2018 12:46 pm

Wow, the first review I have ever received! And with so much detail, benevolence and constructive criticism on top. Thank you so much, Dovahkitteh!

Unfortunately, any credit concerning the writing goes to Sheridan LeFanu, whose novel In a Glass Darkly from 1872 I have adapted here.
It is sometimes hard for me estimate how widely known certain literary works truly are. I assumed Carmilla to be a household name, as it pops up a lot in popular culture (only last week, I was watching Durarara and the show keeps alluding to 'Carmilla the vampire ninja').

I actually share your critique of the longwinded envorinmental descriptions and have already scratched most of them. But at the same time, I'm torn between staying true to the original and making it palatable (technically speaking, LeFanu is a terrible writer). When he wrote it (30 years before Dracula) the Gothic Novel and it's idiosyncrasies were a thing of the past. By including those environmental descriptions, he is actually and purposefully imitating those 18th century conventions. Think of romanticism. The ficticious editors are part of the same tradition. From our point of view, it's all blurry, but what we're dealing with here, is a 19th century writer emulating the 18th century style known as Gothic. That's why I had decided to keep at least a few of those passages, at the risk of alienating readers. Still, I'll go over them one more time and see what I can do.

I'm unsure what to make of your compliment concerning the prologue animations, because I had quite a few more of the kind throughout the story, but then decided to remove all of them, as they felt so amateurish and distracting to me. Perhaps that was a mistake. (They were fun to make though, your "inside dev" will be grateful).

Where the GUI is concerned, all the credit belongs to chance, as I have no idea what I'm doing.

As for the Notes, they are the one thing I will happily take credit for, as I've put a ridiculous amount of effort into them. Having written my master's thesis on the subject (ages ago), I can say with confidence that commentator's always neglect the prologue to the story and the fact that Heselius is a glowing Swedenborg adherent. Though understandable (who would go to the lengths of reading Swedenborg to analyze a lesbian vampire story), by doing so, they missed the vital implications, and so I made it a point to stress them.
It just so happens that his critique of scientific dogmatism is as relevant today, as it was at his time (in case you follow the discourse on new atheism and religious fundamentalism today). More importantly, that's the subject all my games will be exploring, which is why Carmilla, in my opinion, made such a fine practise game.

About Laura's dad's reaction: Although he does not explain himself on the matter, you will later meet someone else who committed the same folly and reflects a bit more on it. Yet again, it all makes sense in the context of 18th century tradition that not only gave birth to the femme fatale, but also to the 'beauty in distress' trope which is heavily at work here. On a narrative level, though, I think Laura's dad was somewhat appeased by Carmilla's social status. Noble's among nobles, there's not much danger of being scammed.

Thanks again for the review, as a developer yourself, I'm sure you can imagine what a motivational boost that has given me.

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Re: Carmilla [Philosophy][Shoujo Ai][Vampire][free][Demo]

#6 Post by Nicckonator » Wed May 09, 2018 11:36 pm

Just want to say awesome work especially on the GUI! i love how much effort you put into it, have not played the demo yet but i've made a shortcut so i wont forget :D

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Re: Carmilla [Philosophy][Shoujo Ai][Vampire][free][Demo]

#7 Post by Zelan » Mon May 21, 2018 3:07 pm

Your art is absolutely beautiful. The style is really unique and it fits the gothic theme really well.

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Re: Carmilla [Philosophy][Shoujo Ai][Vampire][free][Demo]

#8 Post by Rastagong » Sat Jul 28, 2018 10:19 am

I'd been meaning to read the demo for a while, so I was very glad when I saw you uploaded the full release (edit: putting the link here for everyone, since the full release is available on a distinct itch.io page) on itch.io! Just finished reading it, and I really, really liked it!

Perhaps I liked it so much because I'd never read the original story, but still, I found the whole thing very endearing.
The backgrounds, the sprites, the GUI and the various animations were genuinely beautiful and technically impressive to look at. It's true that there's a good amount of extended descriptions and long turns of phrase, but I found it easy to get used to them, at least once the story really begins —perhaps precisely because there a so many beautiful animated scenes to look at?

The more I think of it retrospectively, the more I realise how much work must have been put in making the original style flow so well in a VN format.
And even with the abundance of redundant incident and clues in the narrative, it felt very entertaining to read throughout, in a fatalist way. All the dream and horror sequences were very well-done.

I really enjoyed Visual Gothic's frame story as well! I hope we'll see more of Ada Brunswick in your next VNs.
I'm curious as to how she managed to communicate with Martin Heselius, since he's from the 19th century. The most rational possibility is that he simply left letters and stories behind, but I'd love to think that there's more to it, and that he can truly communicate with Ada, whether there's a rational explanation or not…
Edit: just realised this frame story, and Dr. Heselius, were part of the original story! I hadn't thought of this at all. ^^
(Still wondering whether we'll see more of Ada, though!)


(This has put me in a very Vampire mood. I was incidentally supposed to do research to master games of Vampire: the Masquerade and at this point I think I'm just gonna go ahead read/watch plenty more of Vampire fiction.)
Craving for a slightly historical mystery VN with an unusual presentation? Some amount of psychological or folk horror? A bit of weirdness? I got you covered.


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Re: Carmilla [Philosophy][Shoujo Ai][Vampire][free][Demo]

#9 Post by Qlara » Fri Aug 03, 2018 2:39 pm

Thank you so much for your kind reviews, Rastagong!
Perhaps a word on why I decided to keep landscape descriptions to a large degree: Streams-of-consciousness of an I-narrator are rightfully common among visual novels. Here, in romantic tradition, the landscape mirrors or expresses the inner state of the protagonist, it takes the place of a stream-of-consciousness and is important to set the scene.
Yes, Heselius is (an often neglected) part of the original work. But so is Ada, except that the story's original editor and translator is a nameless I-narrator, a failed physician. I replaced him with a failed nun because, in the long run, I'd like to get different perspectives on the events and Heselius already covers the physician side.
I'll also add the piece to "completed works" now, which I had forgotten in my haste to put the project behind me and finally move on to the next one.

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Re: Carmilla [Philosophy][Shoujo Ai][Vampire][free][Demo]

#10 Post by philip » Fri Aug 03, 2018 7:45 pm

@Qiara-

Have downloaded the demo and played through . . . . as has been mentioned by other posters, the art is beautiful . . . and the story is captivating; I greatly enjoyed reading it.

I look forward to the release of the remaining chapters.

philip
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Re: Carmilla [Philosophy][Shoujo Ai][Vampire][free][Demo]

#11 Post by Qlara » Sat Aug 04, 2018 8:03 am

@philip, thank you for the compliment.
Actually, I already released the remaining chapters, so should you wish to see the story through, you can get there via my signature.

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Re: Carmilla [Philosophy][Shoujo Ai][Vampire][free][Demo]

#12 Post by Rastagong » Sat Aug 04, 2018 7:07 pm

Qlara wrote:
Fri Aug 03, 2018 2:39 pm
Perhaps a word on why I decided to keep landscape descriptions to a large degree: Streams-of-consciousness of an I-narrator are rightfully common among visual novels. Here, in romantic tradition, the landscape mirrors or expresses the inner state of the protagonist, it takes the place of a stream-of-consciousness and is important to set the scene.
Yes, Heselius is (an often neglected) part of the original work. But so is Ada, except that the story's original editor and translator is a nameless I-narrator, a failed physician. I replaced him with a failed nun because, in the long run, I'd like to get different perspectives on the events and Heselius already covers the physician side.
Thanks a lot for these explanations!

Yes, the landscape descriptions worked really well in this context.
I sometimes worry about the steam-of-consciousness and a natural spoken style being the only effective ways to tell a story in VNs… but every so often, I'm proven wrong by stories like yours which do succeed in evoking different genres and storytelling styles (ebi-hime's Asphyxia also comes to mind for the writing style; there must be others as well). I'm all the more content I read it. ^^
Craving for a slightly historical mystery VN with an unusual presentation? Some amount of psychological or folk horror? A bit of weirdness? I got you covered.


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