A Transient Experiment [NaNo2019] [Drawing] [Friendship] [Unreal] COMPLETED

NaNoRenO is an event where creators make a game from scratch during the month of March.
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A Transient Experiment [NaNo2019] [Drawing] [Friendship] [Unreal] COMPLETED

#1 Post by Wight » Sat Mar 02, 2019 9:04 pm

Image

A simple experiment.
Listen, respond, and play.
For the sake of the experiment.


You are invited to partake in an experiment.
If you can agree to be on good behavior, you'll be meeting with Alie in an empty-looking realm. You and Alie will be interacting and learning about each other. Simple as that. You will not be in any danger. You are free to leave at any time and will always be welcome to return.
Keep in mind that this is an experiment, which means this is being observed. Just try to be on reasonably good behavior during your visits, please.

Available here: https://wight.itch.io/a-transient-experiment

A simple visual novel made in a single month for NaNoRenO 2019. It involves you answering questions, drawing, and a bit of playing around and getting creative. More character-driven rather than story-driven, but you will also play an important role. There are multiple choices to answer questions, but it still plays out in a linear way.

Image

--
Update, April 1st:

Done-ish.

For the final week of the month, all that was left was finishing art assets. However, I underestimated how slow I can be with drawing, so I ended up cutting a lot of corners and not cleaning up as much as I would like in order to prioritize getting this done in time. A mistake I'll have to learn from for next year.
I'll admit, it's still rough and unrefined in some places. A part of me wishes to spend more time fixing it up and make it more presentable, but that doesn't change the fact that it is technically finished and the gamejam has come to an end. However, I'll try and immediately fix any serious flaws that are reported. Since I've been working all month on this and could really use a break, any major changes to art and writing will have to wait. Who knows, maybe I'll remake this and expand upon it if I feel up to the task.

But hey, I guess I still technically won this year's NaNoRenO and was right about being able to complete it in time. I learned some new things; like maybe I should stick to creating kinetic novels HARRR. But for real, it was an interesting experience bringing some ideas I had to life. And, despite the art and writing being rather simple, the technical stuff has been the most complex I've worked on. Maybe I'll be able to impress or surprise someone, that would be neat.

Anyway, first I'll get a good well-earned rest, and then I'll check out the other entries. There was more than a handful that caught my eye that I would like to finally read.
If anyone does play this, feel free to share what you thought about it. I've intentionally kept some things vague and unexplained to leave room for speculation, in case I do decide to expand on this - We'll see.

--
Original OP:
I've made some VNs before, but this will be my first time participating in something like this and publicly sharing a project of mine.
I'm working on this by myself, so I'll be keeping this simple - at least when it comes to the art and writing.
It seems like this will have about 10,000 words in total.
Even though I know how it will all unfold, I'm unsure at the moment as to what genre to categorize this as. I'm aiming for something simple, cute, and sentimental that's somewhat like a Slice of Life. One element I'm going to make use of is to allow the player to draw within the game (which I already have working). In fact, this type of VN is something I haven't done before, so it will even be experimental for me.

I'll probably include more details and information later. Sorry if this all sounds really vague at the moment. I don't want to say too much and it's already going to be quite simple.
For now, I'll be posting this to help me feel more committed. I'm confident that I'm capable of getting this done in time.
Last edited by Wight on Mon Apr 01, 2019 6:59 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: A Transient Experiment [NaNo2019]

#2 Post by nerupuff » Sun Mar 03, 2019 5:41 am

The concept is mysterious, but I'm interested in it because it tackles with experiments (I'm reminded of school because of it). What counts as "reasonably good behavior"? I also wonder how Alie is as a person, and why we begin meeting in an empty-looking realm in the first place.

I wish you the best of luck! I'm looking forward to your progress, and am definitely excited for being able to draw within the game (never seen that done before!) :--)
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Re: A Transient Experiment [NaNo2019]

#3 Post by Wight » Sun Mar 03, 2019 11:35 am

nerupuff wrote:
Sun Mar 03, 2019 5:41 am
What counts as "reasonably good behavior"?
I can say it's not going to be overly strict nor meant to pressure the player to always be nice. There will still be some degree of freedom on the player's part but there will also be a bit of restriction to keep it under control. It's mainly for the sake of the experiment and so that the player will take it somewhat seriously instead of misbehaving the entire time.
Honestly, it probably sounds scarier than it really is, but that's fine too.

I'm excited to present the ability to draw within the game! I think it can be one of those things that helps make visual novels a bit more distinct in its storytelling. It will be a semi-major part of the game, but I'm planning to have the option to keep it limited in case it's too troublesome for the player.

Thanks for expressing interest and the good luck wishes!

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Re: A Transient Experiment [NaNo2019]

#4 Post by azaraih » Sun Mar 03, 2019 1:05 pm

This looks really interesting and original! I also really like the idea of drawing within the game (and as a programmer I'm really curious about how it works haha).

Alie looks very cool and mysterious. Just wondering, is the art going to be all in black and white?
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Re: A Transient Experiment [NaNo2019]

#5 Post by Wight » Sun Mar 03, 2019 1:45 pm

azaraih wrote:
Sun Mar 03, 2019 1:05 pm
I also really like the idea of drawing within the game (and as a programmer I'm really curious about how it works haha).
I'm using something based off of what Human Bolt Diary shared, with very minor adjustments. Here's the thread I found when I wondered if it was even possible:
viewtopic.php?f=8&t=51370
The way it functions seems simple, but it works. I'm not expecting people to make stunning works of art with this, more like doodles. That's what it seems more appropriate for, which is perfectly fine by me.

azaraih wrote:
Sun Mar 03, 2019 1:05 pm
Just wondering, is the art going to be all in black and white?
Very likely. I'll admit that coloring is a weak point of mine but I believe having it monochrome will be appropriate for this sort of project. This also means that the player's drawings will be limited to black and white to match the color scheme.
I hope it's not a major drawback for a lot of people.

Thanks for expressing interest! It would be neat to see other VNs try out the drawing gimmick, I think there's some fun potential to be had with it.

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Re: A Transient Experiment [NaNo2019]

#6 Post by minyan » Mon Mar 04, 2019 11:53 am

I'm really curious about the "drawing in the game" aspect. The black and white looks like it could be really cool too. I love the mysterious look of the sprite you have there!
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Re: A Transient Experiment [NaNo2019]

#7 Post by azaraih » Thu Mar 07, 2019 11:55 pm

Wight wrote:
Sun Mar 03, 2019 1:45 pm
I'll admit that coloring is a weak point of mine but I believe having it monochrome will be appropriate for this sort of project. This also means that the player's drawings will be limited to black and white to match the color scheme.
I hope it's not a major drawback for a lot of people.
I actually really like the monochrome color scheme! It gives it an interesting feel/aesthetic. Also limiting it to just black and white kind of forces you to be more creative with your drawing. I recently did Global Game Jam and one thing they do is have a list of diversifiers, which are optional constraints you can add to your game to push you to think outside of the box, and making a black and white only game was one of the options. Anyway, I thought that was a cool idea at the time and I'm interested to see what you do with it!
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Re: A Transient Experiment [NaNo2019]

#8 Post by Wight » Sat Mar 16, 2019 4:42 pm

minyan wrote:
Mon Mar 04, 2019 11:53 am
I'm really curious about the "drawing in the game" aspect. The black and white looks like it could be really cool too. I love the mysterious look of the sprite you have there!
azaraih wrote:
Thu Mar 07, 2019 11:55 pm
I actually really like the monochrome color scheme! It gives it an interesting feel/aesthetic. Also limiting it to just black and white kind of forces you to be more creative with your drawing. I recently did Global Game Jam and one thing they do is have a list of diversifiers, which are optional constraints you can add to your game to push you to think outside of the box, and making a black and white only game was one of the options. Anyway, I thought that was a cool idea at the time and I'm interested to see what you do with it!
It's good to hear the color limitation is being well received so far. I'm used to working with just black and white as well as grayscale, but I wouldn't go as far as saying I'm specialized in it. Still, I think I have enough experience to pull off something decent or interesting with it. It might be considered a limitation, but I believe the simplicity of it can have a lot of appeal when it's done well.
I hope it doesn't disappoint!

---

It's been about two weeks since I posted this, and NaNoRenO is ending in just over 2 weeks. I figure now is a good time to give some sort of update since we're at the halfway point. I don't have a lot to really show off right now, but at least it's something. It also a bit of a heads-up to let everyone know I'm still working on this and haven't given up or fallen behind.

Until a few days ago, I've been heavily focusing on making sure all the technical programming stuff works as it should. I'm still not quite done with it all, but I should have most of the trickier stuff working fine now.
For writing, I'm finally putting it into Ren'Py's script which has been my main focus recently. About half of the story has been put into it so far. There's still adjustments I need to make to the writing which means it still has rough spots, but nothing too out of hand. I should have this phase mostly done over the weekend.
For art, the majority of it is currently awkward placeholder doodles, nothing ready to be shared just yet. I'm also still deciding on what sort of style I should settle on for the character sprites. But what I can share right now is what I'm coming up with so far for backgrounds. I want to have the "empty realm" look barren but without being too plain and dull. Something cosmic and dreamlike seems perfect.
(Too wide to insert images, posting as hyperlinks instead)
https://i.imgur.com/SBbxt6K.png
https://i.imgur.com/wRcXgeG.png
https://i.imgur.com/BQnuLY3.png

And here's the drawing screen at work.
https://i.imgur.com/sKdRGXm.png
Not exactly the most pleasing to look at, I'll admit, but I think it's at least a bit better than the first version I had.
https://i.imgur.com/CAOz25U.png
This might not be the final design, but polishing this is low-priority. As far as I can tell, it works, and that's good enough for me.
I can always change the background for it and the "Clear" and "Done" buttons still look kinda blah. I had to change the placement of the buttons in the second version because I noticed it acted up when I released a mouse-click over it, which you can see from me trying to fix the drawing on the left-half. Like I mentioned, I'm not expecting stunning works of art to be made in this, primarily doodles.

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Re: A Transient Experiment [NaNo2019] [Drawing]

#9 Post by Wight » Mon Apr 01, 2019 6:59 am

Done-ish.

For the final week of the month, all that was left was finishing art assets. However, I underestimated how slow I can be with drawing, so I ended up cutting a lot of corners and not cleaning up as much as I would like in order to prioritize getting this done in time. A mistake I'll have to learn from for next year.
I'll admit, it's still rough and unrefined in some places. A part of me wishes to spend more time fixing it up and make it more presentable, but that doesn't change the fact that it is technically finished and the gamejam has come to an end. However, I'll try and immediately fix any serious flaws that are reported. Since I've been working all month on this and could really use a break, any major changes to art and writing will have to wait. Who knows, maybe I'll remake this and expand upon it if I feel up to the task.

But hey, I guess I still technically won this year's NaNoRenO and was right about being able to complete it in time. I learned some new things; like maybe I should stick to creating kinetic novels HARRR. But for real, it was an interesting experience bringing some ideas I had to life. And, despite the art and writing being rather simple, the technical stuff has been the most complex I've worked on. Maybe I'll be able to impress or surprise someone, that would be neat.

Anyway, first I'll get a good well-earned rest, and then I'll check out the other entries after I wake up. There was more than a handful that caught my eye that I would like to finally read.
If anyone does play this, feel free to share what you thought about it. I've intentionally kept some things vague and unexplained to leave room for speculation, in case I do decide to expand on this - We'll see.

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Re: A Transient Experiment [NaNo2019] [Drawing] [Friendship] [Unreal] COMPLETED

#10 Post by Wight » Thu Apr 04, 2019 8:27 pm

Posting in Completed Games, since it seems that's where you're also suppose to post when you've completed a NaNoRenO project:
viewtopic.php?f=11&t=54677

Now that I've taken a break for a few days, I feel like I can type again. Below, I will go on about what I've created and some of the process behind it. This is just extra info for anyone that's curious enough to know, It's not necessary to read all this.

It was late December when I decided I should try and participate in NaNoRenO 2019. I had some ideas of what type of VN to make but I didn't decide on what exactly my project will be about until the end of January. Throughout the month of February, I spent it brainstorming ideas and concepts that the VN would have. It was a bit ambitious for me because it would involve using a bunch of code I haven't used before, especially the drawing mechanic, but once I had it confirmed that my ideas would work I decided to try what I could. It was the most time-consuming part of working on the VN, which left me less time than I expected to fix up the writing and create the art. If I participate next year, I'm keeping it simple.

Alie is a relatively new character concepr that I've already had involved with people before. There's a few very simple concepts behind the character, and I was a bit surprised how fond people grew during that time. I suppose Alie's massive ignorance, inexperience, curiosity, and naivety while still showing some wisdom and elegance was a charm point. Being a bit of an unusual character is intentional. The overly formal speaking style, to name an example, is meant to give the feeling of someone that has just started speaking a new language and isn't yet familiar with actually talking to people, so it's natural if it happens to come off sounding a bit awkward and off-putting.
Alie often asks questions, curious about people and the outside world, and people seemed naturally curious about Alie's mysterious nature, so I tried to create part of the VN based on that mutual sense of curiosity of the player and the character wanting to learn from each other. But I also had to still keep things simple... I might have overdone the simplicity, but oh well.

Being able to draw and have the player's drawings used in the VN was a major focus I wanted to have while working on this. After introductions were out of the way and both Alie and the player got to know each other more, it moves on to being about creativity and almost celebrating it. In each following chapter, I wanted both the player and Alie to get creative and share ideas, because ideas are meant to be shared and it can be a lot of fun. I wanted Alie's creativity to be childish and simple but endearing, to remind that everyone has a very humble beginning and to not forget about about that sense of wonder we all used to have about everything. I also wanted to make it a bit inspiring, showing that you can accept that there will be flaws and mistakes, that you should understand how to fix them, and to look forward to outdoing yourself on the next attempt rather than giving up.

The idea for the ending wasn't planned from the start, I was uncertain about it for a long while.
At first, I considered it to have it be like a virtual pet. Something the player can always return to after completing the main story. But that seemed too complex and didn't quite feel right.
Then I came up with the idea that the player could choose to "reset" Alie after playing long enough, to replay it. It was meant to be a tough choice, to either take away everything Alie has experienced and learned just to keep Alie happy by always playing together, or to not reset it and having to leave Alie alone. But it still didn't really feel right and I couldn't come up with a good justification for how and why Alie was being reset, but I felt like I was getting close.
Finally, I settled on The Observer and The Experiment. Alie being reset no longer became a choice, and there was justification for it happening. Who The Observer is and what exactly the The Experiment is about isn't explained, but I do have multiple ideas for what direction I can take it if I ever expand on it. At the very least I will say The Observer isn't necessarily myself.
For now, I want to let the players speculate on it. Is the experiment Alie, being able to interact with Alie, or the player? Is the experiment mainly using Alie for the sake of collecting data, or is it the player that's being observed? What sort of data is being collected, and what use will it be? Stuff like that is what I would like to see people wonder about, but it's fine if I don't, I can accept if I didn't provide enough clues or kept it too open-ended. Like I said above, I currently have more than one possibility in mind, which could be a fault.

One more thing I will mention that inspired me to create this VN was the longing of having a fresh mind.
Remember when you were a child, and everything felt so mysterious and the possibilities seemed truly endless? When there was always so much to learn and experience for the very first time? Learning can be fun, but once you've learned something or experience something new for the first time, that's it. It sticks. The more you learn, the less there is to learn.
The world can still be an interesting place after learning so much and there's always going to be more things to learn than possible in a single lifetime, but don't you ever miss having completely free rein with your imagination without having knowledge of facts or experience from reality getting in the way of it? It's not like it's impossible to have that old mindset and attitude, but it seems to become more difficult the older and wiser you get. Things lose some of that magic and wonder of being new and unknown, and your expectations become more grounded to reality and rejects anything too unrealistic and unexpected.
It's suppose to be a good thing and part of growing up, but isn't there also something sad about losing that ignorance and imagination?
In a way, I guess that's one small positive for Alie being reset, being able to preserve that. Although it does deny Alie from growing.
Or maybe I'm just being melodramatic. HARRR

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