"State of the Visual Novel" project progress report
It's been a while since I posted an update on the progress of the Megatokyo Visual Novel here on the Kickstarter page, and it's overdue - so much so that one of our team members actually wrote one up for me ^^;; Paarfi has been writing up regular updates to the vn.megatokyo.com page, so it shouldn't surprise me. He actually has covered most of the stuff I wanted to cover pretty well, so here is his update (which will let me get back to drawing which I am much better at than writing updates :P)
** Paarfi's update **
Hi. Paarfi here. I've been doing Megatokyo Visual Novel and other Megatokyo related updates over on the visual novel site. We know a lot of y'all don't check there, so this is a catch-up "state of the visual novel" update. We will try to do Kickstarter updates every few months or so, but you can check out the visual novel site for more frequent updates.
Progress on the visual novel has been, as you have probably guessed, a mixed bag. Yes, it is still very much in production and it's looking really good, but it is taking much longer than Fred had originally anticipated.
Fred is taking a 'slow animation' approach to the MTVN. Rather than the static images and heavy text typical of visual novels, the MTVN has the characters change as the dialogue advances. Their mouths open and close, expressions change, etc. It makes the visual novel feel so much more like the comic and more alive. It's not quite the Megatokyo anime we've all been wishing for, but it's about as close as we're likely to get. It looks great so far, but it's a huge amount of work, especially for a story as big as MT. Alarmingly, he seemed to think that he had to draw new artwork for every scene - kinda like drawing the entire Megatokyo comic over from the start. I think we've finally convinced him that it is ok to re-use artwork more than he's been doing.
Things were looking kind of bleak this spring with how very slowly progress was being made. But we pulled out of that, changed our approach a little, and had a strong stretch over the summer where we made real progress. In October, unfortunately, things stalled as Fred focused on several other projects that needed to be completed as he worked to bring the MegaGear store back online with new products for the holiday season. Thankfully, we are on the other side of that two month hiatus from the VN project, and Fred is in his usual panicky way desperately trying to make up for lost time.
We have learned a lot in the process of making this game so far. Visual Novels seem like deceptively simple things to make, but once you get into production you can really see how hard it is to make a good one. As I said earlier, Fred was taking this 'draw everything' approach that helped us get to where we are now, but is simply not going to work in the long run. It worked for the first chunk of this game because the first few hundred Megatokyo comics were kind of haphazard anyway, but now that we are well into the main story, we can use what we learned to be more efficient with the artwork.
One of the new changes we will be making is the development of a core set of character drawings. Over the summer, Fred and I had written the Ren'py script based off of the comics and Fred's storyboard thumbnail drawings. Fred has used that script to determine what character images he needed to draw. That way, he wouldn't have to draw more than was really necessary. Unfortunately, we've found that this gave us a little too much freedom in defining character expressions, poses, etc, in script, causing Fred to draw new images where reusing another existing image might have worked just as well. To try to improve this, Fred is developing a set of core character images with common poses, expressions, etc. Going forward, we will try to use those first in the script and only draw something new if there isn't a core image that will work. We think this should make things go a lot faster, once Fred has the core sets done.
Shadow has written some nice tools that have made the Ren'py scripting easier, including the renpedit script flowchart tool. Plus he has been handling the short animated scenes, decision mini-games, and trickier Ren'py bits. Chemi has been working on writing some of the filler scenes, non-canon story branches, and other routes. Shaggy has been making the background music and sound effects. If you are a registered beta tester, you can hear some examples of these in the beta section of the visual novel forum at vn.megatokyo.com. I have been helping Fred with the scripting in Ren'py. And DarkMorford and Klange have been helping with other parts of the programming. But so much of what needs done has to be done by Fred himself that our progress is limited a lot by what he can do.
Fred has been spending a lot of time lately getting the Megagear store back open. His tshirt printer is still broken and he's looking at alternatives there. But he got his dyesub and fine art printer back working, so mugs, mousepads, and fine art prints are back.
There is a new 2015 Megatokyo Calendar available, with a lot of the artwork also available as fine art prints. The new "Mugi in Leaves" blanket is available for pre-order until December 20th and should ship in early February. And he has a number of nice new fine art prints that should be going up soon, including the "Miho's Good End" (my favorite) and a number of excellent Mugis. Check it out. Xmas is coming and there's no better way to support MT.
Chemi [Thomas Knapp] published his new Megatokyo Endgames light novel "The Tower of Kartage" a few months ago. It is available in print or for Kindle on Amazon or for the Nook at Barnes&Noble. Give it a try. I really enjoyed it.
Fred broadcasts a lot of his visual novel, comic, and other drawing work live on Twitch. Fred is now a partner on Twitch, and you can subscribe to his channel or follow him in the "Creative" and "Game Development" categories, so feel free to drop in at any point and see how the drawing development is going for yourself. He usually announces when he's drawing live on his Twitter or Facebook, but the best way to make sure you don't miss a live draw is to make an account and follow him on Twitch. Join us for the live draws; they're a lot of fun.
When will we have a Beta version for you to play around with? Not yet, but we are working towards it.
tl;dr The visual novel is progressing, if slower than we'd all like, with Fred (as usual) blaming himself for the pace of progress. Sorry this is taking so long. Thank you for your patience.