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Akua

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A member registered Nov 17, 2018 · View creator page →

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A very cute short game! Because I have a weakness for dog (and specially wolf) boys, I got interested in it after seeing it on Twitter.

Hello, one of the CG artists here! While the team and I are glad you enjoy the game, I see calling the CGs of both the primary CG artist, Papaya and me, the secondary CG artist, Akua, poor and to be "reset" (I believe you might mean to replace) is uncalled-for and rude. 

We both worked hard, and I judge us both at a decent enough quality not to be downplayed like that. This might be due to language barriers that it comes off as more hurtful than intended, but I'd like to advise to be careful with your critique as this paints a very negative light of you to us, the team, as we can all read this comment. Perhaps you meant this as a compliment to the sprite artist to draw the CGs as well or the project worthwhile enough to give money to, but the way it's written is rather poorly worded in that case.


Please don't do this to other projects, and have a nice day.

Thanks! I hope you stay well, too!

Rather slow, but yes, I haven't given up on it. It's mainly slow due to my personal mental health care taking priority over committing to a long project. thank you for showing interest in it!

For whatever reason, you decided to do most of the creative assets, namely Sprites and CGs, by yourself. As someone who has a few projects where I did both Sprites and CGs, I can say it’s possible. But healthy? A clear no.

If you’re an average person that has college or work and is less experienced than me, you’re more prone to fail to finish all the assets during a jam. Which again, is a common thing to happen during jams, too.

So what can you do to make it manageable AND possible? Some of my personal tips are coming right up.

Scope

Cutting the scope” is a term you’ll often face and many times again in development and projects you create or participate in. Ask yourself if the number of sprites is really needed? Do all the NPCs need a face? How much of the sprite do you need to show? How can you position a scene for a CG to show less but have the same impact?

  • Use silhouettes for NPCs that have more lines. Keep the more insignificant ones to their name.
  • Keep eyebrows, eyes, lips, and extras like blush and sweat on separate layers to mix and match them for new expressions. Draw only the basic ones you need.
  • Keep only key CGs and reduce more menial ones to cutscene panels if time affords it.

Quality

Polished sprites are neat and all, but if your process takes 3 days for one sprite, maybe think about a faster way to finish them.

  • Instead of lineart, clean up the sketch. Sharpen it up and erase any dirt.
  • Use the Multiply Layer of your art software to shade. Use one layer of shade instead of two or three.
  • Forget about details and look at the bigger picture. Don’t get too hung up on the highlights in the eyes. No one will notice once zoomed out.
  • A CG happens in a specific location? Zoom in on a BG, blur it, and put filters and effects on it. Gaussian blur will be your best friend here.
  • CG doesn’t feel finished? Slap layer effects on it, some sparkles or other appropriate effects, a texture on low opacity, and an overlay layer. Noticed how often I mentioned layers? That’s because I abuse them nonstop for my CGs.
  • Use fancy lighting with a multiply layer, glow and glow dodge instead of adjusting the colour palette.

Shortcuts

A specific pose or motif is too difficult for you? Use references, pre-made brushes, and assets to your advantage!

  • If you own Clip Studio Paint, check out the Assets library. Lots of brushes there can and will help you redraw more complex motives in under a minute, and the 3D dolls are good enough guidelines to draw over for poses. These assets were created by others to help each other, after all, and you shouldn’t be ashamed to use them for their intended purpose.
  • Trace references and 3D images. Make sure the picture you use doesn’t require specific credits and is OK to use for your project, such as public domain images from Unsplash. Need a specific perspective? Use software and websites where you can set up and decorate rooms (SweetHome 3D, SketchFab, Planner5D, Roomsketcher etc.) and angle the camera. Or just use your phone and take pictures of the perspective yourself!
  • Look up or ask how other artists draw something, they might have neat tips and tricks that they discovered that helped them to speed up their drawings. In particular, tips by webtoon artists who also work on tight deadlines provide helpful insight on cutting corners and still looking good.
  • Again, using references and assets is NOT cheating. They are to help for a reason, and if you are tight on time, you can’t be picky with your originality.

Get Help

You want your art to be displayed, but despite planning ahead and precautions, you’re still unsure if you can manage it? Have someone help you.

  • Find someone with a similar art style and aesthetic to yours to draw additional art.
  • Ask someone you can trust your art with to draw the lineart or colour for you while you work on the next drawing. That way, your style is still presented and stays cohesive.

These are all the tips I can give based on my own experiences and certain hardships that come with it. I’m someone who has a lot of time to spare, and thus can afford to be a bit extra with the art I create for projects. But someone with a job or school or college? Most certainly not and that’s why I shared what I learned over the years. Remind yourself of what you want to finish and not to strain yourself and burn out. It’ll happen at some point if you decide to do a lot of work by yourself and take the appropriate time to recover afterwards.

- Akua

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On the one hand, the bigger your jam project is in scope, the bigger the hurdle will be, while on the other hand, the smaller your project is, the more achievable it is to have a higher quality and polish. It will not come as a surprise that you might not find a full team to work with, even after searching every corner. This is where you should look into using Creative Common assets if you’d like your project finished on time for the deadline when the original assets lag behind.

Creative Commons is a type of licence under which many creators share assets such as art, music, or even stories with other creators out there who might not have the skills or money to acquire appropriate original assets. Be sure to check the licence a creator uses, as they differ from creator and asset. Some you might be allowed to use in commercial projects without credits, while others may require you to credit them and strictly forbid commercial use.

Discord server communities like Devtalk and Otome Development cater to indie visual novel & game developers have resource channels to look for these assets as well as users ready to share assets they have found or made. Lemmasoft Forums is a website for visual novel developers and enthusiasts that is also well known for the free-to-use assets section it has built over the years. Lastly, you can check websites such as itch.io or DLsite (careful, there is 18+ content) for free or paid assets to use. When in doubt, don’t hesitate to ask around for links and recommendations to asset sites.

In this article, I am informing people about the availability of using CC assets, because more often than not, people new to game dev try to search for a full team and are still left standing with spots open for reasons such as; there are no volunteers willing to join or the ones who did apply do not meet the requirements you wish for.

First, ask yourself these questions:

  • Did you cut the scope to the very possible minimum?
  • Are you clear about the number of assets you’d need?
  • Do you really need all of those assets?
  • How much of that can you cover yourself?
  • Have you lowered your standards?

If you already have checked and have done most of the things above, I’ll tell you to look for free assets if you want to see your projects created or even finished. Even if you have positions filled, bookmark assets which can act as placeholders.

A personal example I have is the NaNoRenO Project I did with my friend Azuremia, Appetite Amor.

Most of the backgrounds we used are Creative Common and Free to Use assets I found, some we have recoloured and resized. Further down the development, we came to realize that the composer of the team couldn’t finish the soundtracks and sound effects for the project, and we instead looked out for asset tracks and SFXs as well. Neither Azuremia nor I were BG Artists, and we both were aware of how hard it would be to find one to draw the many locations we had in mind for the project. There is no shame in using them as many well-known indie developers tend to use these assets as well, and have still created fascinating stories and worlds despite that.

A highly sought after role in the visual novel community are BG artists, they are high in demand and they are few in between, therefore, teams should expect to not find anyone to fill this role. Keep in mind, however, that not many people pay attention to the background as opposed to the characters and wouldn’t notice similar BG unless they see the same ones right after another, which has a slim chance to happen unless a lot of people use the same school setting. If you look at big brand VNs, you might also notice some of them also use filtered photos, 3D backgrounds with a filter on them, or cleverly use the same backgrounds and only show specific sections of a much bigger picture.

A lot of times one of your biggest hurdles will be the background art because finding a BG artist is one thing, but if they can manage to create more than four of them in a month is an entirely different one. As I and many artists can agree, drawing backgrounds can be one of the most difficult work to do, depending on the level of detail that you want, and many artists will avoid that workload to primarily focus on something more achievable for the deadline, such as character art like Sprites and CGs.

For jam projects, you have to keep the deadline in mind and what each member on your team is capable of in the given time. Naturally, a bigger scope requires more work to be put into it to finish in a short time, but not everyone is good at managing big teams or keeping track of all the processes going on in them. So the only outcome for a less experienced person is to either cut the scope or give it up.

That’s why I say to not feel bad using premade assets. Same with Appetite Amor, as a team, we made it clear that the jam project version would have the minimum and decent quality of content that satisfied us. We decided that later, we can make an expansion where we can polish the project with more story, a few more art assets, replace placeholders and put our project on Steam when it’s finished.

The story and its characters are the primary focus of a visual novel and if those suck, pretty art cannot salvage everything. When it comes down to it, sometimes a game with all CC assets is better than no game at all. Don’t feel “ashamed” at using readily available assets.

- Akua

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As a veteran dev, I often see that those newer to game dev and game jams overall have a tendency to insist on original assets in every area. In real terms, this is often a rare case to happen, especially during a game jam, as volunteer workers are unpredictable and sometimes unreliable, especially if both of you were strangers before inviting them to a team.

A common term we use for team members who go silent or MIA is “Ghost”. I had such a case happen in The Last Matches, a game I co-developed for the Winter VN Jam. A background artist who we scouted and seemed decent enough to work with suddenly left the server without an explanation. As someone used to being ghosted, I was disappointed to hear them tell me that leaving a team without notice was something they weren’t aware was inappropriate in “game dev etiquette", so to speak. Here are the two perspectives of me as a developer and as a volunteer artist.

As a developer, I’ll tell you this:

If you ghost a team, you’re putting me and everyone else in a difficult spot to find a replacement in time. We developers keep tabs on people who ghost—a network of indie devs who help each other and also warn each other about people who abandoned the project without a warning, which in turn can ruin your reputation by a lot and make it harder to be invited onto teams in the future.

This affects your monetary gain as well, since who can be sure you’ll stay once paid and not run away with the money?

Often, we just want to be informed of a leave, and if you’re willing to, know the reason for your leave. As an example, I try to adjust and make changes to the project’s management while also keeping you comfortable and your stress levels low. In the end, we put a certain trust in that you do your work.

If you are the one affected by ghosting —  

first, calm down and look at your options. If you’re still early in the jam, you might manage to find a quick replacement. If not, opt for assets instead or reuse the given material the vanished team member left behind. Maybe also figure out what the issue with the previous member was that could possibly deter new applicants, such as an impossible workload or certain behaviour among the team and/or from yourself that might have made that person uncomfortable.

In my case, I attempted another search for a BG artist and made myself a backup plan to draw them together with my friend PumpkinSpike in the worst case. Thanks to previous connections, NiAsobu joined our team and filled the spot. Since we knew that she also worked on another project, we adjusted the necessary BGs accordingly by reusing the same room layout and flipping it, redecorating it a bit, and only keeping key elements we wanted to see in a certain background.

Addendum

Having connections is very important in the game development space, as seen from my example. I’m not a social person and most of the time introverted, but I realize the importance of friends and friends WITH connections in specific creative areas help to fill in tight spots. That’s why creating connections before a game jam can be vital to a finished project; you get to know how well you can work together with someone. Even with friends, though, you can start to clash with them and in high-stress phases of a jam project, become estranged from one another. Use any meet and greets to your advantage and join developer servers before a jam begins. Often those communities will be able to help you through road bumps in developments, as we are no strangers to that sort of predicament.

As an artist and volunteer, my advice is:

Never leave without a warning and be sure the workload expected from you is manageable. A newbie to visual novel dev tends to overestimate their ability to keep deadlines and production rates due to unforeseen events such as mental health or shortcomings in their private life. Don’t be afraid to tell the project leader and you should be fine. Most people should understand your situation, either from a personal standpoint or experience.

Is there a specific reason you left? A team member bothers you, maybe even the leader themselves? The workload started to stack up or suddenly switched over to something not described in the recruitment post?

A reason people can ghost is that they feel overwhelmed or uncomfortable facing the project leader with what they see as their shortcomings or to avoid conflict, which in turn creates a spiral of trouble later. If you have tensions with a team member, bring it up to the leader, and you might find out you’re not the only one bothered by them.

Feel uncomfortable with the leader? Attempt to relay your concerns and if the leader doesn’t change, don’t feel obliged to stay. Inform them about your leave—you don’t have to give a reason. Often due to miscommunications and misunderstandings, meaningless conflicts and tensions happen and can be resolved with most people by just talking.

It’s important to remain calm and not accuse each other, as that can only worsen relationships and destroy friendships. Of course, there is no excuse for people who are simply arrogant and abusive towards their team, and in these cases it’s better for your mental health to leave. You signed up for the work you were told and if something obstructs you from fulfilling it, inform the leader(s) and then leave.

A proper project director 

has to be aware of human limitations and the health of their team and not push you to work harder and neglect yourself. Not doing this would be a big red flag for people to leave immediately.

Furthermore, all the people you hire are voluntary and can chose to leave once the project is finished unless you keep them closer with monetary incentives or you’re with a group of friends who wish to expand on the game later on. If a person leaves after they’ve finished their work, don’t expect more of them. They came for the work required and nothing more.

If you enforce too much on a single person, don’t be surprised if they stay quiet and vanish. You want 10 sprites with variations and 6 CGs in total from one person? Yeah, scratch that, don’t expect me to join your project no matter how much I like the premise of the story. Does someone think they are up for that task in one month? Maybe, but most likely a definitive no. A jam project can’t and won’t be your Magnum Opus, especially not when you join one for the first time. Many people use jam projects to gain experience and delve into game dev, meaning there is many fresh faces who are naive and think it’ll go swimmingly and easy.

If ghosts and conflicts happen a lot in your team, take the time to self-reflect and see where the issues lie.

Some examples I came across that can also happen to you:

  • A team member is too sensitive about critique and goes quiet after that.
  • A team member thinks of themselves as a new project leader and wants the story you want more to their liking, which differs from what you want.
  • The work mentioned in the recruitment post GREATLY differed from what is given during the jam time or accumulates because the project leader’s scope grew bigger since
  • A team member is uncooperative or doesn’t uphold the level of quality others in the team do.
  • A team member is too nosy and criticizes the work or quality without the confirmation or consent of the other or chooses a poor choice of words that the recipient sees as an insult.

There are a lot of triggers where conflict and tension can happen, and it’s best to find them early before they can lead to major trouble later down the line; in our case, ghosting or broken friendships. It’s best to be transparent from the start and ensure the people you work with can handle critique and aren’t hostile towards each other when work begins.

When it comes down to it, you have to let go of people for your mental health and that of the team. It has come to cases before where people have been kicked out of teams for their behaviour and trying to besmirch the project leader and team. Often such cases are solved with ease because the team will know better if you mistreated someone based on how you treated them during the time and whether they were also affected by the person you kicked out. While occurrences like that are rare, ultimately they are not impossible. Again, in such times you should remain calm and dispel misunderstandings with clear explanations.

To wrap things up, please be considerate of your fellow teammates, whether you’re a part of a team or leading one. Conflicts and being ghosted are sadly common, but can be avoided in some cases. Please don’t ghost your fellow devs and always try to work things out when possible!

- Akua

Oh, it's more so on hiatus, mainly because I'm all over the place in terms of mental health and projects. Especially with the situation going on, I'm not rushing the development due to my editor's own personal absence and because I want to seek more growth in developing games first since this project was pretty ambitious when I first started it.

The problem should be fixed now and you can enjoy the CG in full view in the gallery! Thanks for providing feedback.

Thank you for the screenshot, the update will take a while since at the current time, the team is occupied, but we have found the issue and should have fixed it now.

Hello, thank you for playing! Could you describe what exactly you mean with not opening fully? As in, is it zoomed in on one part and won't change after clicking it? It'd help if you could give us a screenshot to figure out the problem with your next reply, thanks!

Thanks for the comment, we do plan on expanding upon the story in an updated version eventually!

Thank you for playing as well and leaving a comment. It encourages everyone in the team to get more stories like this one out there that have just as much of an emotional impact.

Sounds like our efforts paid off, thank you for playing!

Sounds about right, I'll be a sadist saying that I enjoy that it makes people sad, since that is the initial intention of the project XD Thank you for playing!

I mean, not even we could leave her there XD And thank you!

Thanks for playing Katy and hosting the jam as well!

Ah, poor Poppy, but thanks, we loved to put the details in and give it a polish players would hopefully notice.

And to your question:
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The connection of the butterfly symbolism is on the right track, that I can reveal.

Seeing that the game left a lasting impression, I'm glad we all put our effort in it. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

Yep, I do have help of friends for editing and proofreading, but most of the task are handled by me as a solo dev basically.

Thanks for the offer, but it would take a while since I also work as an artist for other projects (which you can also check out meanwhile hehe), and I'd also release a demo first to test the waters.

Oof, I really hope I won't disappoint you with this project since this will be one actually written by me ;;;

Thank you too and for taking the time for a comment and glad you enjoyed it!

Thanks for playing and I hope you'll feel better!

No problem!

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Since the story has only two real endings, there is basically a big difference whether they realized their feelings for each other and have a continued relationship after the forest event or not. And then there is a joke ending you can unlock by just waking up early.

Initially, it was a stretch goal during development to elaborate more on the tall stranger, but was for now cut off for the sake of polish and finish. Also yes, the composer really did a great job capturing the moments with the music.

Telling in the comments would be a spoiler for people, so I can only give the hint to look into symbolism and especially his connection with the butterflies more.

Great to hear that and

IKR. Sweet, little Poppy. TvT

Real tragedy isn't all kirakira anime tears after all.

Thank you for playing as well! Believe me when I say that my own playtests consisted of me screaming their names while wailing.

Glad to hear it left a lasting impression on you, thank you for sharing your experience with us!

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Unfortunately, we've been unable to reproduce this on our end. While it's possible there may be an incompatibility with your current set up and our game, we're not able to immediately identify the issue. If you could leave some details about your system, including make and model of your processor, graphics card and graphics driver with version, and operating system, we may be able to use the information to identify it and other issues in the future.

Have you checked the font in the folders of the game? It should be located in game/gui/font and called Varela. Install that font and check whether it's working in a word program.

And again, please check whether it's your GPU / graphics card having a problem and if it's up-to-date. Also which EXE are you running? We have a 64 and 32 EXE and you might run the wrong one on your machine.

More suggestions are to open the accessibility menu with A and check if the default font shows correctly.

Alright, so it's still unclear what the possible cause is, but the assumption are so far are either your graphics card (which would require an update) messing the text up or the font file being corrupted (in which case you would need to redownload the font and check if it's working as normal in other programs). I require more information based on this problem.

- Does a similar issue occur with games of the same engine? We used Ren'Py to built it.

- Does Anti-Virus detect any files as malware and thus deletes any of the files?

- Is it just the menus or also the ingame text and narration?

- Is anything else weird or broken in some way?

Depending on the issue, I might have to ask more questions later.

I see, could you make a screenshot of the problem and also check whether you have any special language settings enabled? This could take a little longer to investigate since it's the first time we heard of such a bug.

What OS are you running the game on? If I recall, Windows 11 has trouble with RenPy Games, since there is no support for it yet.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts! We are glad you enjoyed it, and we'll see what more could come as well!

Thanks! I'm taking my time to look out for myself, but as well I can't predict what will happen. And hopefully I won't disappoint anyone.

Well, I would just draw a new one in that case. Or end up redrawing him a billion times because I'm a perfectionist 3v3

thanks for being there, I'll work hard for people like you who are excited for this project! ^^