Camp Handiba Development Thread

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EwanG
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Camp Handiba Development Thread

#1 Post by EwanG » Wed Dec 20, 2006 5:45 pm

As promised after taking a poll a few weeks ago, my next story is "Camp Handiba".

The setting is a summer camp for handicapped teenagers. Somewhere that gets them out into the semi-tamed wild so they can have some wilderness experience, and still get around.

However, last year some interesting things happened at camp, and this year you decided to volunteer as a camp counselor to help out with your younger sister who went last year, and to see what is going on.

Many of the other teenagers are in wheelchairs or need other help walking. Your sister, Suki, has problems speaking, and so mainly uses sign language to communicate.

Specifics on the main characters -

Hiro Ohba (You) - Male, 18, Brother of Suki. This will be your first summer working as a volunteer counselor at the camp, and in fact this is only your second job. Your first job was working as a janitor at the factory where your Dad was a manager.

Suki Ohba - Female, 16, Blonde Hair, Brown Eyes, Handicapped, Sister
of Hiro. This is her second year at camp, and it was quite obvious to
you and the family that she had a great time last year. She has always looked a little thin because of her handicaps (she can only walk a few feet
due to problems with her joints, and she can't speak more than a few
words vocally, although she has a great ability to understand what
others are saying and can sign with a fairly large vocabulary).

Arisa Sagara - Female, 42, Camp Coordinator for Camp Handiba, Red
Hair, Blue Eyes, Reiko's Mother. Ms. Sagara has run the camp since it
opened ten years ago. She doesn't own the camp, rather it was started
by a non-profit agency, but it is her responsibility to keep it going.
She has a kind face, and is a surrogate mother to all the campers and
counselors.

Reiko Sagara - Female, 18, Red Hair, Blue Eyes, Arisa's Daughter. She
has helped her mom as a counselor for the past couple of years. While
you can see the family resemblance, she is more headstrong and
impulsive than her mother.

There are also some other female counselors, one other male counselor, and then a number of interesting campers - including DaFool's cheerleader.

What I most need right now is someone who can do Background Art. I can do some initial blocking of the story if I can see the setting, and using some early sketches of the characters to fill in as necessary.

I will also probably want help with the character art for this one. While the ideal situation would be DaFool's generator, I suspect it's not going to be ready in time. So someone who can either copy my style from Senior Year (divide and conquer approach - I do some, other artist does some), or who has a ton of ability and time to do it themselves would be next best.

In the ideal world, this would be ready for release when summer hits (next June). We'll see how horribly ambitious that proves to be.

Thanks again to everyone here,
Ewan

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#2 Post by monele » Wed Dec 20, 2006 7:17 pm

All I can say for now is that it really sounds promising ^.^

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#3 Post by DaFool » Thu Dec 21, 2006 9:51 am

Nice.

Question, though, don't you still have leftover manga clipart which you didn't use for Senior Year?

Although, a different style would be refreshing.

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#4 Post by EwanG » Thu Dec 21, 2006 10:40 am

DaFool wrote:Question, though, don't you still have leftover manga clipart which you didn't use for Senior Year?
No backgrounds (at least, no appropriate backgrounds), and no one in a sitting position. I can probably do the character art by myself if I have to - it's not my favorite thing, but I certainly have picked up a few skills from Senior Year - but background art is a whole different story.

That's not to say I won't do it if I have to, just that if there's someone who has some time in the next several weeks who would be interested, I'd like to chat with them :D

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#5 Post by EwanG » Thu Dec 21, 2006 5:51 pm

OK, given that my choice was to sit here and wait for lines from the new Julie, or to try and get SOMETHING done, I decided to get something done :lol:

After reviewing some 7000 photos (I only know because Google kept count for me), I think I now have photographs I can alter to be most, if not all, of the Camp Handiba backgrounds. Initial step was to find ones that might work together (similar types of trees, etc), which left me with 86 possible backgrounds. I'm going to try to get that down to about 60 before I start altering them. That would put me in the same ballpark as Senior Year - although several of the SY backgrounds are altered versions of the same one (daytime, sunset/afternoon, night).

At least it makes me feel like I'm making progress :D

One other idea I've had for Camp Handiba is to make the protagonist a choice - i.e. you can be Suki's older brother, or her older sister. That would require more script (can't just replace the girl images with boy images), but would make the game more interesting to female players. That's the theory anyway. Would any women care to comment yea or nay?

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#6 Post by musical74 » Thu Dec 21, 2006 11:21 pm

Well, I'm not female, but I can give you an idea based on personal experience <a failed game, but learned a lot from that failure...>

When deciding on a main character, we kicked the idea around of having the main character be either male or female. The rational behind it was that it would appeal to more people, and therefore make it better. The problem we ran into was thinking EVERYTHING that was from both a male point of view, and a female POV. It was a LOT harder than it looked...a guy will look at a given situation and think *choices are A or B* and a girl will look at that SAME situation and think *choices are A, B, C, or D*...and what made sense as a girl player made no sense at all as a guy player...at that time, was more headache than either of us wanted. (That, and we were both in HS at the time...)

If you can swing it, it's a great idea. Just have to keep in mind the differences that men and women view a given situation, and you can make it work, I'm for it :)
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#7 Post by Mirielle » Fri Dec 22, 2006 4:51 am

Hmm...I do like the sound of the dual perspective and pov choice although that would be time consuming to say the least.

Character art? I can help you there. I am no longer tied down to doing art of my own game and I only have to code about 1/3 or so...

I'm not sure if I could copy the style of senior year. My own is quite...how should I put it...generic manga?

Image

An example. I am also quite profecient in basic soft cell Cg-ing using Adobe Photoshop! I'm using the word "basic" and I use the term "proficient" lightly.

However, I am now looking forward to this game with much anticipation!
Available for voice acting - Please listen to my demo reel!

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#8 Post by mikey » Fri Dec 22, 2006 9:29 am

musical74 wrote:Just have to keep in mind the differences that men and women view a given situation..
I'd say that it's also dependent on the situation as a whole.

Some situations (like helping a drowning person) will be viewed the same way by both genders, other situations (like having a baby) may be viewed differently. I say "may", because it's hard for me to think of a situation where I would see definitive differences between a man's and a woman's POV - unless you want to work with cliches.

What is possible is to somehow smuggle a "woman's touch" or a "man's perspective" into the respective narratives, but that usually manifests in tiny differences in the choice of words throughout the game, or slightly altered choices, rather than something completely different.

What could work and give a new experience would be a choice of personalities, rather than gender. This way, differentiating and making two unique experiences would be much easier.

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#9 Post by DaFool » Fri Dec 22, 2006 9:44 am

I think a good idea nowadays would be to write as the opposite gender.
Think about it, there's an inner woman inside every man, and an inner man inside every woman. Make sure to listen well to that inner subconscious creative, and you can make very convincing opposite gender main characters.

Just a couple of examples from various media:
Mushishi (very masculine story, written by a female mangaka)
books by Nicholas Sparks (well I don't read romance novels, but this is what I hear often is he writes women well)
The Nativity Story (the film was directed by a woman, and it was the most convincing portrayal of Joseph I have ever seen. Not to mention all the men had beards :shock: )
The Girl Who Lept Through Time (I am anxiously waiting for a chance to see this award-winning anime movie, which was based off some shounen novel in the sixties or something)
Harry Potter
Memories of a Geisha

So yeah I agree with musical...write with one perspective, but make sure you are really comfortable with your inner creatives to pull it off.

mirielle...I am really pondering making a project just so that I can recruit you and your skills.

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#10 Post by EwanG » Fri Dec 22, 2006 10:13 am

Just to reassure folks, you'll notice that I said that there would have to be additional script if I went this route. I am aware that there will be differences - some subtle, and some not so subtle - if you play as the elder sister versus the elder brother. Of course, if I'm going to invest the time in doing both, I'm going to add a little "something" to 'encourage" players to at least play a little bit as both :twisted:

Mirielle - How are you at drawing characters in a wheelchair or using a walker? If you can do that, I think that's more important than whether they look like my style or not. Plus if you're using photoshop, then I can work with the files as well (and vice versa) to collaborate. If you are really open to doing that, please email or PM me as there's one thing I need to let you know first that you'll need to think about.

Thanks again to everyone for the great input so far. It really helps with keeping the motivation going!

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#11 Post by monele » Fri Dec 22, 2006 12:48 pm

In a way, I wouldn't mind rather different paths depending on wether you're a guy or a girl. Some events could only happen if you're a girl;.. some if you're a boy, and then have a bunch of common events that don't dwell into what's specific to men and women.
This could also lead to making men datable if you play the girl. Sorry for yaoi fans but it would at least be something ^^.

Or you just focus on the original story and, in turn, have more content for that single male character. Anything goes :)

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#12 Post by Mirielle » Fri Dec 22, 2006 10:12 pm

Characters using a wheelchair and/or walker are no real trouble for me. All I need to do is look up a few reference pictures and then I could draw it pretty easily. If you would like to use my drawing ability (?) then feel free to ask.

Dafool - Haha! I'd be willing to work on your project if you decide to make one. ^_^
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#13 Post by EwanG » Thu Dec 28, 2006 6:39 pm

No, I haven't forgotten about this. I've just been a little preoccupied this week with another project :D

I think the big things I've learned from Senior Year and the reviews so far are:

A) I really SHOULDN'T do my own character art. Of course I never really wanted to anyway, so I don't think I'll have much trouble following this advice...

B) No matter how long it makes the game, fully develop the characters. In Senior Year for reasons I've detailed elsewhere, I cut down the size of the game because I really wanted to support multiple endings, and because I wanted to make the voice parts manageable. I think it still made for a fun, light game, but I'm not going to be able to do that with Camp Handiba. The more serious tone will require a more serious character development. I think that folks will be more willing to put in the time now that I've shown I can deliver. But I suppose it begs the question - will people play a game with a playtime in the 40 hour range?

C) More fluid poses for the characters. Which will put even more responsibility on the artist(s), but it's going to be necessary to make sure that the game flows.

D) Get the voice actors sooner, and try to establish some process to get the noise out of the recordings. Getting them sooner in the process isn't too hard - although it means I'll need folks who are willing to do additional lines a week or more after they are "done" with the initial script. For the noise in the recordings, I'm going to have to see what my options are. Noise Reduction in Audacity (as far as I've been able to determine) causes too many annoying artifacts to use. I'd hate to have to restrict who I use based strictly on the noise level in their recordings - but I may have to consider that this time.

E) Last but not least, assume that some folks still won't like the game. Given that Senior Year was two months out of my life, and was my first game, I'm not as bothered by some of the reviews as I would be if I get the same types of reviews for Handiba. I think if I follow A-D above, that at least folks will be more likely to like it or dislike it because of the type of story it is rather than because of technical details and such.

SO, there's my marching orders. I need to get back to script writing, but look forward to y'alls input as this goes along. I'm tentatively planning a release date now of Labor Day, 2007. We'll see how that works out.

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#14 Post by musical74 » Thu Dec 28, 2006 9:17 pm

I'll give you my two cents on the various ideas, Ewan =)

A) Well....I'm no artist so I can't give ya an unbaised opinion of it. But if you don't mind having to wait a few days later than what you may have wanted, having someone else do the artwork helps things out. It's one less thing you have to worry about.

B) Myself, I wouldn't mind playing a game in the 40-hour range, but not everyone feels that way. It all depends on how fleshed out the characters are, and if you can keep it interesting for the bulk of the 40 hours. There are games that last over 40 hours - the bulk of the Final Fantasy games fall into this catagory - that most people really like sticking it out until it's done. Just...keep in mind that if you do make a game that's 40+ hours, it will probably be monstrous in size. and that will make it difficult to impossible for dial-up users, unless you break it into multiple parts. Senior year took about 4 hours to download for me on dialup...

C) I don't think the artists will mind making more poses for the characters if it makes the game better :)

D) So long as you keep in contact with the voice actors, this SHOULDN'T become an issue on the *I need to call you for some more lines...* issue. Regarding the latter...wish I could help you there, but don't know enough about it to really give you an opinon. :?

E) No matter how good a game is, there will ALWAYS be someone who won't like it. After reading numerous reviews for various games, it's a fact, someone will still dislike - out outright hate - a game everyone else seems to love. The best way to gauge a game is what the players are happy or upset with. Music? Too long/too short? Characters too foward/too reserved? Graphics? Filler Text? What the naysayers complain about can give good insight on how to make future games better =)
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#15 Post by DaFool » Fri Dec 29, 2006 1:28 am

EwanG wrote: A) I really SHOULDN'T do my own character art. Of course I never really wanted to anyway, so I don't think I'll have much trouble following this advice...
I didn't read any really negative reviews regarding the character art (so far). Only that they needed more poses, and the compositing between them and the BGs. Of course if Camp Handiba were to really have 20+ different characters, its understandable why doing this task is such a challenge.
B) No matter how long it makes the game, fully develop the characters. In Senior Year for reasons I've detailed elsewhere, I cut down the size of the game because I really wanted to support multiple endings, and because I wanted to make the voice parts manageable. I think it still made for a fun, light game, but I'm not going to be able to do that with Camp Handiba. The more serious tone will require a more serious character development. I think that folks will be more willing to put in the time now that I've shown I can deliver. But I suppose it begs the question - will people play a game with a playtime in the 40 hour range?
You overestimate game length :D So it will be more likely in the 20 hour range. I don't think even with uncut writing you'll achieve that, more like 6-9 hours. But yes, the most important thing is story or writing. Look what happened even to commercial games that focused too much on production values (EF, School Days)
C) More fluid poses for the characters. Which will put even more responsibility on the artist(s), but it's going to be necessary to make sure that the game flows.
Well the expression lists (35 total or something) have already been listed in the Superdoll thread, so if you cannot wait for the Superdoll (eta June/July), then you may pick the expressions already so the artist can have a head start.
D) Get the voice actors sooner, and try to establish some process to get the noise out of the recordings. Getting them sooner in the process isn't too hard - although it means I'll need folks who are willing to do additional lines a week or more after they are "done" with the initial script. For the noise in the recordings, I'm going to have to see what my options are. Noise Reduction in Audacity (as far as I've been able to determine) causes too many annoying artifacts to use. I'd hate to have to restrict who I use based strictly on the noise level in their recordings - but I may have to consider that this time.
I haven't done any voice recording, but perhaps there is a (usually low) bitrate you can specify for everyone that reduces the high-frequency. The unfortunate thing is that people expect more from a voiceover than from a podcast.

One particular general comment, about the aversion to English dubs in general, is because it doesn't work for Westerners to try to act like anime characters. Then just have them act more like in a Shakespearean play...that way even if you turned off your monitor it will sound more like a western radio drama and can stand on its own. Of course this means that the character sprites will have to look less anime.
E) Last but not least, assume that some folks still won't like the game. Given that Senior Year was two months out of my life, and was my first game, I'm not as bothered by some of the reviews as I would be if I get the same types of reviews for Handiba. I think if I follow A-D above, that at least folks will be more likely to like it or dislike it because of the type of story it is rather than because of technical details and such.
Well I've learned to adopt a minimalist philosophy, knowing that the amount of time or money you put into something usually but does not always translate into a work considered excellent by many people. So the important thing is that its evident that some amount of effort was put into the work, but no more than that.

There are always people who would rather watch a half-assed home video on youtube than a fully edited work from the blood, sweat and tears of an aspiring filmmaker. Likewise there are always people who would pay money to read tabloids regarding the next escapade of the paparazzi rather than a scholarly article that took months of research. But these are not our audience since we want the visual novel medium to be one of craftsmanship.

So regarding minimalism, this means that you may have to be a little more creative in style. What would one do on a low budget without being evidently low budget?
1.) show less of the character sprites, but have the remaining sprites be very diverse in expressions and allow ample time when recycling them. The impression to the viewer will be that there are more sprites than there actually are.
2.) show less backgrounds. People won't mind reading the more than occasional text on a blank black screen.
3.) select only the lines that really need voice acting. The voice actresses may thank you later for this. For example, you don't really need voice acting for something like
"I am going to the beach."
but you will need one for something like
"I just can't, because it goes against my very nature!"
Of course this may require some balancing act. One strategy is to play music during the non-voice-acted parts and to have silence for the voice-acted parts for maximum dramatic effect.
That way even if someone complains that the game is not fully voice-acted you can say in your head (Well we didn't have the time so F__ U)
4.) Have smaller selection of music, but have the music tracks last longer. Many classical and jazz pieces run fro 4:00 to 10:00 and they do the job as well as multiple rock jingles (they probably can compress better due to fewer high-frequency percussions). It will be less evident when you reuse music...if you ever even need to reuse music of such lengths.
5.) Use the techniques you have been using to achieve day/sunset/night effects for the same backgrounds. If you're using stock photos, you can blur them with some nice soft watercolor theme, and this will also reduce their weight.
6.) Have more scenes, but make them quick and snappy, while the amount of writing and character development essentially remains the same. This will reduce the risk of boredom.

In general, people tend to be more forgiving of visual novels compared to visual novels.

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