The Devil's Broker

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Perihelion
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The Devil's Broker

#1 Post by Perihelion » Wed Jun 29, 2016 11:32 pm

Removed due to outdated information. Please check my Twitter for the latest info on the project:
https://twitter.com/apogeedwell
Last edited by Perihelion on Tue Aug 04, 2020 7:02 pm, edited 5 times in total.

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Re: The Devil's Broker [Action, Magic, Guns, Intrigue]

#2 Post by gekiganwing » Thu Jun 30, 2016 12:36 am

First things first, I like the 2D character sprites. They don't remind me of any specific illustrator, or any published work with illustrations. Was your artist influenced by anything specific?
Perihelion wrote:This is our first commercial release as a studio, and if the sales aren't completely terrible, we hope to make it a series. This one has a fully self-contained story, however.
1. Where will you sell your visual novel? Do you plan to focus on any specific distribution services?
2. Are you already planning how to market it? How will you find people who might be interested in your story, and who are willing to purchase it?
3. Windows / Mac / Linux only? Any chance for mobile versions?
Perihelion wrote: What do you think of the premise? Is a story focused on action and intrigue interesting to you even if there's no romance?
My first thought is to say "Sure, why not." One of my personal favorite visual novels, Tears 9, 10, is a story about a guy trying to help a poor girl, and encountering complex problems which don't have easy solutions. It's not a romance story.

I have experienced books, comics, movies, etc. which focus on action and intrigue. That said, no matter what format or genre, most stories involve people interacting. Fictional characters have relationships with each other. Sometimes their relationships are defined as family, friends, coworkers, rivals, enemies, and so on.

I only know of a handful of VNs which focus on action and intrigue. Then again, my tastes can be eccentric. There are a number of people on r/visualnovels and r/vnsuggest who know much more about well-regarded translated VNs than I do.
Perihelion wrote: How do you feel about a VN with more western influence than Japanese influence?
Your story can take place anywhere you want. If you want your story to occur in an alternate rural Texas with magic, that's fine. I sometimes recommend that people write stories about places which they have visited, or places where they have lived. In my opinion, local color works when writers are familiar with a city or a community. Therefore, you may benefit if you know the location of the story.

All stories exist in a place and a time. I don't think that any story is universal. Your VN might be difficult to understand for a person who currently lives in Germany or the Philippines. Likewise, your story might seem dated in five or ten years. Therefore, think about what you want to say with your story right now. Does it comment on your setting? Does it comment on present day challenges and issues? What ordinary human concerns do your characters have?

I believe that if you care about your characters and their world, it will show.
Perihelion wrote: Do you have any questions or feedback?
How many endings do you plan to create? If there will be more than one, then how will the endings vary?

If your VN were rated by the MPAA or the ESRB, then what sort of content rating would they give it?

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Re: The Devil's Broker [Action, Magic, Guns, Intrigue]

#3 Post by Perihelion » Thu Jun 30, 2016 1:09 am

gekiganwing wrote:First things first, I like the 2D character sprites. They don't remind me of any specific illustrator, or any published work with illustrations. Was your artist influenced by anything specific?
She's a comic artist with a manga influence. I'm not sure about anything more specific than that. Her website is here if you're curious, though!
1. Where will you sell your visual novel? Do you plan to focus on any specific distribution services?
We're planning to distribute primarily through Steam on PC, although we'll be considering other services as well.
2. Are you already planning how to market it? How will you find people who might be interested in your story, and who are willing to purchase it?
This is an excellent question and one I've spent a lot of time agonizing over. Since the game is fairly western and has a comics-y art style, I feel like there's an audience for it outside of the normal VN market, but reaching them will be a struggle. I have friends in RPG development and interactive fiction communities I might be able to leverage, but aside from that I'll probably be doing the normal social media/reddit/etc. rounds.
3. Windows / Mac / Linux only? Any chance for mobile versions?
Yep, I'm planning on mobile and hoping to do console releases as well, although I can't say anything in public at this time.
My first thought is to say "Sure, why not." One of my personal favorite visual novels, Tears 9, 10, is a story about a guy trying to help a poor girl, and encountering complex problems which don't have easy solutions. It's not a romance story.

I have experienced books, comics, movies, etc. which focus on action and intrigue. That said, no matter what format or genre, most stories involve people interacting. Fictional characters have relationships with each other. Sometimes their relationships are defined as family, friends, coworkers, rivals, enemies, and so on.

I only know of a handful of VNs which focus on action and intrigue. Then again, my tastes can be eccentric. There are a number of people on r/visualnovels and r/vnsuggest who know much more about well-regarded translated VNs than I do.
Oh, sorry, my question was totally misleading. I actually generally prefer to write character stories rather than plot stories, and this definitely features a lot of strong character dynamics, arcs, etc. The long-term plan for the series is a character drama about alienation from society, but since this game is sort of an establishment of premise, it leans more towards plot.
Therefore, think about what you want to say with your story right now. Does it comment on your setting? Does it comment on present day challenges and issues? What ordinary human concerns do your characters have?

I believe that if you care about your characters and their world, it will show.
Don't worry, they have plenty of ordinary human concerns. Morgan makes unwise decisions out of concern for her reputation among her coworkers, Jessica worries about the ethical implications of her research, Savard struggles with following the orders of his superiors versus following his conscience, etc. The overarching theme is about how bad things can happen through the complicity of well-meaning individuals.
How many endings do you plan to create? If there will be more than one, then how will the endings vary?
There are two main endings, which vary according to the relationship Morgan develops with her employer through the story. There are also 3-4 dead ends.
If your VN were rated by the MPAA or the ESRB, then what sort of content rating would they give it?
Probably 16+. There's swearing, alcohol, and violence, but nothing too graphic. It's definitely aimed at adults, but I try not to be gratuitous.

Thanks for the post! I appreciate your time.

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Re: The Devil's Broker [Action, Magic, Guns, Intrigue]

#4 Post by Zelan » Thu Jun 30, 2016 2:39 pm

Right off the bat I am a HUGE fan of the art. The second background is eye-catching and really well done, kudos to whoever drew it. ^_^

What do you think of the premise? Is a story focused on action and intrigue interesting to you even if there's no romance? (Edit: That said, there's a lot of character drama, just not of the romantic variety.)
I am 100% okay with that. Romance is all well and good, but not everything has to be romance. Those Without Names is one of my favorite VNs of all time and there is no romance whatsoever. Some other ones that I enjoyed are Banality Man, The Elevator, and Who Is Mike. All very different games, but none of them with romance (with the exception of Who Is Mike, but this one features a couple who have been dating for a few years, and the focus is more on the conflict at hand anyway).

How do you feel about a VN with more western influence than Japanese influence?
Pretty much all of the ones I listed above and many more that I've played are more Western style. ^_^ I think it's becoming more of a thing, with a small but growing audience in America as well as some other European countries (I see France and Russia around here a lot, it seems like).

Do you have any questions or feedback? I'd be happy to talk about any part of the development process. Background and animation workflow in particular might be interesting.
Talk backgrounds to me! Like I said, that second one is gorgeous.

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Re: The Devil's Broker [Action, Magic, Guns, Intrigue]

#5 Post by Perihelion » Thu Jun 30, 2016 4:20 pm

Zelan wrote:Right off the bat I am a HUGE fan of the art. The second background is eye-catching and really well done, kudos to whoever drew it. ^_^
Thank you!! Ahahaha it took 35 hours to render at 8k please kill me. But yes, the bar is definitely the gem of the lot, which is why it's cunningly the only screenshot without stuff obstructing it.
I am 100% okay with that. Romance is all well and good, but not everything has to be romance. Those Without Names is one of my favorite VNs of all time and there is no romance whatsoever. Some other ones that I enjoyed are Banality Man, The Elevator, and Who Is Mike. All very different games, but none of them with romance (with the exception of Who Is Mike, but this one features a couple who have been dating for a few years, and the focus is more on the conflict at hand anyway).
I've heard of some of those before, actually! A friend recently gave me a recommendation for Banality Man. I'm gonna give it a shot soon.
Pretty much all of the ones I listed above and many more that I've played are more Western style. ^_^ I think it's becoming more of a thing, with a small but growing audience in America as well as some other European countries (I see France and Russia around here a lot, it seems like).
Yeah, I've noticed more western ones around recently too, and I hope it becomes more of a trend. I think visual novels have the potential to be the low-budget indie version of narrative games like Life is Strange and Heavy Rain and everything Telltale makes, and I fully believe there's an audience out there for them. How easy it is to reach that audience is another story, unfortunately... But I hope that VNs can become more mainstream and seen as an appropriate medium for western storytelling over time.
Talk backgrounds to me! Like I said, that second one is gorgeous.
So the backgrounds are actually all renders with heavy post-processing. The skies and foliage are painted, for example, and all the light beams are added in post. The bar in particular is a VRay render (the industry standard renderer for photorealistic archviz things if you're not familiar), which is why you have all those nice reflections and light interactions in the glass. I'm using a 3ds Max plugin to get soft cel shading on the objects and line art.

I'm planning to write some dev blogs about the process in more detail, but here's a gif I made a while ago of the mansion exterior WIP (which for some reason I can't get the image source from so I can embed it, thanks Twitter):
https://twitter.com/apogeedwell/status/ ... 0723484672

Here are a few WIP shots of the pier:
Image
Raw render with lines.

Image
Mainly what I did here was add in some soft light and shadows and slap a sky + reflections in. It's amazing how much more hand-done a render looks when you just put some gradient lighting on it, or light beams in the interior shots.

Image
Realized the clouds were going the wrong way, painted in some water, and did color adjustments.

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Re: The Devil's Broker [Action, Magic, Guns, Intrigue]

#6 Post by Zelan » Thu Jun 30, 2016 5:10 pm

Perihelion wrote:Thank you!! Ahahaha it took 35 hours to render at 8k please kill me. But yes, the bar is definitely the gem of the lot, which is why it's cunningly the only screenshot without stuff obstructing it.
Clever girl. c: Looking at them again, I really like the last one, too. The details around the room and on the desk are nice.
I've heard of some of those before, actually! A friend recently gave me a recommendation for Banality Man. I'm gonna give it a shot soon.
Banality Man is an experience. Have fun, and make sure you have your sound on (but not too loud).
Yeah, I've noticed more western ones around recently too, and I hope it becomes more of a trend. I think visual novels have the potential to be the low-budget indie version of narrative games like Life is Strange and Heavy Rain and everything Telltale makes, and I fully believe there's an audience out there for them. How easy it is to reach that audience is another story, unfortunately... But I hope that VNs can become more mainstream and seen as an appropriate medium for western storytelling over time.
I really want to play Heavy Rain but I don't own a console that it would run on. :/ Is Life Is Strange one that you would recommend? I don't know much about it but I know it's fairly well-liked. I have the same issue with that one as with Heavy Rain, though.
But yeah, I think they're definitely becoming more mainstream. Katawa Shoujo was the first one that I played, and I found out that a lot of other people were also introduced to VNs through that one. And I know that Dandelion in particular is pretty popular on Steam, although that one's also a stat-raiser.
I think VNs actually aren't all that uncommon in mainstream games, but they generally have some sort of gameplay element added in as well, so there aren't too many pure VNs. Trauma Center is a good example of that; it's got pretty standard sprites and dialogue like a VN would, but in order to progress the story you have to successfully complete surgeries.
So the backgrounds are actually all renders with heavy post-processing. The skies and foliage are painted, for example, and all the light beams are added in post. The bar in particular is a VRay render (the industry standard renderer for photorealistic archviz things if you're not familiar), which is why you have all those nice reflections and light interactions in the glass. I'm using a 3ds Max plugin to get soft cel shading on the objects and line art.

I'm planning to write some dev blogs about the process in more detail, but here's a gif I made a while ago of the mansion exterior WIP (which for some reason I can't get the image source from so I can embed it, thanks Twitter):
https://twitter.com/apogeedwell/status/ ... 0723484672

Here are a few WIP shots of the pier:
Image
Raw render with lines.

Image
Mainly what I did here was add in some soft light and shadows and slap a sky + reflections in. It's amazing how much more hand-done a render looks when you just put some gradient lighting on it, or light beams in the interior shots.

Image
Realized the clouds were going the wrong way, painted in some water, and did color adjustments.
I've always liked looking at how backgrounds progress even if I don't understand all of the technical stuff. ^_^ The final product of the pier is nice.

Also, I got lost in your Twitter and stumbled upon The Enigma of Amigara Fault. 10/10 will not sleep again.

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Re: The Devil's Broker [Action, Magic, Guns, Intrigue]

#7 Post by Perihelion » Thu Jun 30, 2016 5:29 pm

Zelan wrote:Clever girl. c: Looking at them again, I really like the last one, too. The details around the room and on the desk are nice.
Thanks! I only wish I were cool enough to have a skull on my desk. I was looking for random nicknacks on various 3D model sites to flesh out the room and knew I had to put it in as soon as I saw it.
I really want to play Heavy Rain but I don't own a console that it would run on. :/ Is Life Is Strange one that you would recommend? I don't know much about it but I know it's fairly well-liked. I have the same issue with that one as with Heavy Rain, though.
I'd definitely recommend LiS. The ending is rather disappointing, but everything up to that point is some of the best writing I've seen in a game. The individual episodes have way tighter plotting and pacing than the vast majority of games big-budget games, which tend to have competent dialogue these days but terrible structure. Again, I found the ending to be a pretty big letdown, but it's still very good overall, just not amazing.

HR is interesting, but the writing is a lot less polished than LiS. You could watch an LP if you really can't run it on anything.
I've always liked looking at how backgrounds progress even if I don't understand all of the technical stuff. ^_^ The final product of the pier is nice.
Glad you like it! It was one of the more straightforward ones to make.
Also, I got lost in your Twitter and stumbled upon The Enigma of Amigara Fault. 10/10 will not sleep again.
Ahahaha, yeah, I stumbled into that gallery from a random reddit post. It got me to read some of his other things too. You might like Uzumaki if you liked that one, although the writing's not as tight. It's definitely an interesting read, though. It has this surreal nightmarish quality that's quite nice.

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Re: The Devil's Broker [Action, Magic, Guns, Intrigue]

#8 Post by psy_wombats » Thu Jun 30, 2016 10:13 pm

Thanks a bunch for the process notes on the background, it's very illuminating. And some really nice finished results, definitely will be following this (first sub on RMN I think haha). I'm also appreciating the character design, Savard in particular is quite nice.

I'm curious though -- the way you've outlined the story it seem pretty character driven, but based on the tags I'd envision an action-heavy VN (ala F/SN or something). Are you going for a mix? I'll be reading either way though haha.
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Re: The Devil's Broker [Action, Magic, Guns, Intrigue]

#9 Post by Perihelion » Fri Jul 01, 2016 12:30 am

psy_wombats wrote:Thanks a bunch for the process notes on the background, it's very illuminating. And some really nice finished results, definitely will be following this (first sub on RMN I think haha). I'm also appreciating the character design, Savard in particular is quite nice.
Thanks! Yeah, Kate did a great job with the character designs. Savard's in particular was totally out of left field, but I really like it. In my head he was originally a stuffy middle-aged paper-pusher, but I'll definitely take Super Cool Dude instead. Her original design actually had him in a leather jacket, but unfortunately that was just Too Cool for his role in the story.
I'm curious though -- the way you've outlined the story it seem pretty character driven, but based on the tags I'd envision an action-heavy VN (ala F/SN or something). Are you going for a mix? I'll be reading either way though haha.
I've tried to do both. It is actually very action-heavy, but the action is driven by character and plot (as action always should be imo; it's not exciting without context that makes it matter). Besides, you don't actually need a ton of page space for character development if you use it economically. I've tried very hard to avoid filler.

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Re: The Devil's Broker [Action, Magic, Guns, Intrigue]

#10 Post by Googaboga » Fri Jul 01, 2016 12:53 pm

What do you think of the premise? Is a story focused on action and intrigue interesting to you even if there's no romance? (Edit: That said, there's a lot of character drama, just not of the romantic variety.)
Sounds pretty cool to me.

I prefer VNs with the focus on an active, moving story and have a preference for friendship over romance.
How do you feel about a VN with more western influence than Japanese influence?
I'm happy to see it.
Do you have any questions or feedback? I'd be happy to talk about any part of the development process. Background and animation workflow in particular might be interesting.
I'm very interested in how the Live2D animation is gonna work out. Any info on that would be neat.


Anyways, this seems really impressive and I hope it ends up being a success for you guys :].
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Re: The Devil's Broker [Action, Magic, Guns, Intrigue]

#11 Post by Perihelion » Fri Jul 01, 2016 11:29 pm

Thanks, I'm glad you like it! :)

As for Live2D, the way it works is it turns layers in a 2D drawing into planes in 3D space, and then you deform the vertices to make them animate. Here's an example of how the eyelash moves as the eye open and closes:
Image

And here's a basic breathing/blinking/talking animation (still WIP and would appreciate feedback):
Image

Live2D is cool, but it honestly ended up being way more trouble than I expected. Complex animations like head-turning are really fiddly and difficult to get looking good because there are so many different parts that have to deform just so to fake a change in perspective. Consider this WIP, for example:
Image
There are a few things that are still a little bit off, and it kind of ruins the overall effect. Someday I'll get it fixed... o\

I also thought the huge number of different expressions you can make once you have it set up would be a good return on investment for getting everything configured in the first place, but I'm not sure that's really true. Setting up the deformation takes a lot more time than you'd think, and you can run into trouble and have to redo work if you don't set up your hierarchies of deformers correctly. I'll probably do some dev blogs once I have the animations more polished and in a more complete state. I've definitely had to figure out a lot of things on my own I haven't seen explained anywhere, so it might be nice to save others some trial and error.

This is the first time I've done character animation outside of pixel art, so I'm not super great at it yet. It's definitely been a learning process!

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Re: The Devil's Broker [Action, Magic, Guns, Intrigue]

#12 Post by Googaboga » Sat Jul 02, 2016 9:18 pm

Thank you. That's super nifty! But I can definitely see how it'd be a huge pain. I wish you the best of luck getting it hammered out.
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Re: The Devil's Broker [Action, Magic, Guns, Intrigue]

#13 Post by gekiganwing » Tue Aug 02, 2016 5:30 pm

It's been about a month. I'm hoping that this project is still active. If there are development concerns, be sure to ask for help.

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Re: The Devil's Broker [Action, Magic, Guns, Intrigue]

#14 Post by MarkusLappalainen » Tue Aug 02, 2016 8:35 pm

It is late here so I won't go too deep in my feedback and praise due to a tired mind. I'll do that after a few hours of good sleep <3

But this game looks great and I'm very happy to see more westernish appearance. The premise of the story is interesting even without romance. :) I'll get back to you with more tomorrow. But a question before I go, I noticed you don't have music yet? Have you got any plans on that aspect?

----------------

Good morning! New day, new eyes!

While reading through the discussion I got a suggestion for you. Regarding marketing. While being active in the social media is paramount, press is important too. Can you think of anyone who reviews games? Or does let's plays and other things? They can well be your gateway to a bigger audience. Think about it. And I bet there is a myriad of marketing advice online.

Meanwhile, I hope to hear more of the current progress! Thinking of releasing a demo or a teaser?

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Re: The Devil's Broker [Action, Magic, Guns, Intrigue]

#15 Post by Perihelion » Wed Aug 03, 2016 10:55 am

gekiganwing wrote:It's been about a month. I'm hoping that this project is still active. If there are development concerns, be sure to ask for help.
Yes, it's definitely still active! Sorry for not updating. I've been doing late-stage editing, which is dragging on longer than I hoped and is hard to discuss in an interesting way. I may write up some posts about the art process in the near future, though.
MarkusLappalainen wrote:It is late here so I won't go too deep in my feedback and praise due to a tired mind. I'll do that after a few hours of good sleep <3

But this game looks great and I'm very happy to see more westernish appearance. The premise of the story is interesting even without romance. :) I'll get back to you with more tomorrow. But a question before I go, I noticed you don't have music yet? Have you got any plans on that aspect?
Hey, thanks for the kind words! :) So music is something I've been gnashing my teeth over a lot, since no one on the core team is good at it. I've spent a lot of time looking at different options, and I ultimately concluded that hiring a composer won't give me better quality than what I can get from royalty-free sources unless I want to spend upwards of $200/min for it. I don't have the budget for that, so I'm just going royalty-free. I've already sourced a lot of the music, though, and I've honestly been very impressed at the quality and suitability of the things I can find. If the sales are good enough, I would definitely consider hiring a composer for future installments, but I don't think it makes sense right now with how few copies EVNs tend to sell.
While reading through the discussion I got a suggestion for you. Regarding marketing. While being active in the social media is paramount, press is important too. Can you think of anyone who reviews games? Or does let's plays and other things? They can well be your gateway to a bigger audience. Think about it. And I bet there is a myriad of marketing advice online.
Yep, I've definitely been thinking about press. When I have a trailer and launch a Greenlight campaign, I'll definitely be reaching out to press, as well as when the game is out.
Meanwhile, I hope to hear more of the current progress! Thinking of releasing a demo or a teaser?
The game is fairly short, so I'm not planning on releasing a demo. As for current progress, I'm currently on what I hope is the final major content editing pass (subject to editor input, anyway). I'm hoping to have that done in a week or two, at which point I'll do line edits and ship it off to the editor. I've also been sourcing music and planning out the next backgrounds.

Oh, right! I've also been doing monster designs, as there are a number of monsters in the story. I haven't finalized any of them yet, but here are a few quick doodles I did recently to generate ideas:
Image
It's surprisingly hard to come up with a good aesthetic for monster designs that doesn't fall into the normal categories of scary animal, Lovecraft blob, etc. I want them to look distinctive and like part of a set, so I'm putting a fair bit of thought into it.

I recently wrote up Trello tickets and estimated points for the rest of the content editing tasks, and this is the current state:
Image
I'm doing maybe 5-8 points a day on workdays, but I keep adding more stuff to the to-do pile ahaha. The main high-level things I'm doing right now are adding more foreshadowing, since the finale has a lot of moving pieces, and adding more specific concrete details to make the world and events feel more real.

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