Update #31: Year-End Production Update. Onwards to 2017!
[Monthly Update #12: November & December 2016]
Hello gang and Happy New Year to all of you! We hope you had a blast last 2016, leaving no regrets behind, as we march forward to a brighter year. :)
Anyways, We apologize for the very late production update. There's been so many things going on that it's becoming a challenge to compile everything and write it down in words. But here it is, finally, and it's going to be a lengthy one! Thank you in advance for taking time to read it!
2016 Year-End Production Update:
In general, we've been crunching these past months between the beta releases and the actual completion of the remaining assets and features for the rest of the game. However, we've met a major halt during the holidays because everyone took breaks after a long year of hard work, but we'll be back full force by next week!
Until then, here's our current progress for each department of the game:
1. Beta Testing:
We're so proud that we're finally able to get Chapter 1 (last November) and Chapter 2 (last December) out to our early access backers! Unlike in beta demo, we can't share the survey results for the chapters, but what we can say is the reception has been positive so far. To be completely honest, we always have doubts and fears if we're still making the correct decisions/moving forward with the game, given how different it is compared to other visual novels out there.
What if nobody likes it? With all these risks we're taking, what if they're all just for nothing?
But reading comments such as "You've gone above and beyond my expectations when I backed the Kickstarter" and "This visual novel is on a different level, it's setting a new kind of standard", among other things... they definitely make the sacrifices worthwhile. We're reminded once again why we're doing what we're doing in the first place, and at the end of the day, we just need to continue having faith in our game. :)
So, with that said, we're working hard towards bringing Chapter 3 and 4 by January or early February. If you're a beta access backer (Digital Exclusive tier and above) but haven't received an email from us, please message us so we can sort it out ASAP! You won't want to miss all the beta action now! ;)
We're still behind schedule with the writing. orz;;; We've mentioned before that the last three chapters are the biggest chapters of the game (they exponentially get bigger as the story goes on...) so we're struggling to finish, just by the sheer size of them.
We've finished writing Chapter 5 since last November, but due to exporting problems with the software Rebecca's writer was using, we ended up having to re-do and re-type a HUGE chunk of the chapter. It was very frustrating for us, because instead of already moving forward with Ashton for the better part of December, we're stuck re-doing the whole mess of Rebecca's chapter. And the worst part is, we're still not done fixing it! =__= Oh well. A painful lesson was learned, and our writer has already switched to a different program for Ashton's chapter, to avoid making the same, costly mistake.
On the bright side, despite the on-going problems with Chapter 5, our writer still managed to clock-in a couple of thousand words for Chapter 6, so it's not like it was on a complete standstill (just almost). Meanwhile, our second writer is also busy chipping away at Chapter 7. Since this is the last chapter of the game, we're being very, very, very careful with it.
All the butterfly effects, all the decisions, and all the possible endings/relationship status, it'll all boil down to that single chapter, and we have to make sure everything is going to tie smoothly with one another. The game started with a bang, so we need to end with a bang as well! :)
To summarize, here's our progress for all the remaining chapters:
- Chapter 5 (Rebecca) - 100% done, sitting at 95k words. But there had been some exporting problems and we ended up re-typing a huge chunk of the chapter. Editing and re-typing will be done by this week, and hopefully, we can already forward the script to our VA director for recording by next week.
- Chapter 6 (Ashton) - G route was originally 100% done with 30k words, but after reading it again, our first draft didn't meet our standards, so we had to overhaul parts of the G-route to flow nicely with the events of Ashton's S route. So far, we're at 35k words for both routes (or 15% done), and we're expecting Ashton's chapter to reach 100k+ words (S and G route combined). We're pushing hard to finish Ashton's chapter (both routes) by this month.
- Chapter 7 (Luke) - 40% done, sitting at 40k words. As mentioned above, we're taking careful measures with handling the game's last chapter. Like Ashton's chapter, we're also pushing very hard to finish this chapter before January ends.
Looking back, the original word count we promised in the Kickstarter campaign was 180k words. As of writing, we now have written over 350k words (Chapters 1-5 + our progress so far with 6+7), and we're not yet even done with the last two chapters. As it stands, the game may very well break the 400k count.
- Backgrounds - as already mentioned in the previous updates, all 80 backgrounds of The Letter are now complete and ready to use!
- Animated Sprites - all major and minor character sprites are done, so that's 14 fully animated characters in total. But we sometimes find bugs when testing them in-game, so we still do bug fixing from time to time as needed.
- CGs - we've already tackled our CG process in our September update. Despite our best efforts to finish all the CGs within the year, we sadly did not make it. As it stands, our lead artist has just started the final polish of Chapter 6 (he was able to finish Chapters 4 and 5 before the year ended), while our CG artist is still finishing his lineart/rough colors of Chapter 7's CGs. Once the rough colors and lineart for Chapter 7 are done, our CG artist will then proceed to making the CGs for the various endings of the game. The style for the ending CGs are stylistically different than the rest of the CGs, so there's no need for our lead artist to polish them.
- Animation - since our character sprites are done with only occasional bug fixing left, our animator is now working hand-in-hand with the game's CGs. Once the lead artist has finished finalizing an entire chapter's CG, our animator imports them to Spine for animation. Once that's done, he passes the necessary materials and files to our programmer for implementation. So far, we've finished all the CG animations of Chapters 1, 2 and 3. Once our animator gets back from his holiday break, we'll proceed to Chapter 4 and 5. I don't think we've shown yet to the public how the CG animation works, so here are some samples:
The first one is a scene from the beta demo wherein Isabella finds the letter for the first time in the mansion's attic. The CG in the beta demo we released is not yet moving, so this moving CG is only exclusive to the builds we sent to the early access backers so far. As you can see in the .gif above, Isabella moves a bit upwards when she picked up the letter, versus just staying static.
This second example is a scene from Chapter 1. When you trigger the CG, you can see Isabella and Zach slowly moving closer towards each other, plus the light rays of the cinnamon rolls are rotating.
We're trying not to be over-the-top when it comes to the CG animations because they might end up being too distracting, which is opposite of what we want. As it stands though, the beta backers who responded to our survey loved the CGs and their movements, so we're really happy about that feedback!
These objects are fairly easy and quick to make, so there's not much problem in these areas. Art-wise, at least. But we can't finish them altogether because this is closely tied to the writing department. Without the complete script per chapter, it's quite hard to plot down all the needed icons/sketches/sprites. So until all the writing is done, we can't completely 100% finish these:
(a) Item Sprites - finished all the sprites needed until chapter 4. Artists have yet to receive the item list for chapters 5-7 from the writers, though item sprites for chapter 5 will be done by this month.
(b) Achievement Icons - finished all the achievement icons of chapters 1 and 2 (33 total achievements so far). Icons for chapters 3 and 4 will be done by this month.
(c) Journal Sketches - finished all the journal sketches needed for chapters 1 and 2 (37 total journal entries so far). Sketches for chapter 3 will be done by this month.
With the beta releases underway, our programmers have been fairly busy these past months fixing bugs, optimizing codes, upgrading our engine, and polishing the game in general. The biggest feature we've overhauled is the Options page.
We've separated the options page into four major categories: Text, Sound, Display and QTE:
- Text - finally implemented a "skip only read text" function, which has been a requested feature since 2015. When this is selected, skipping will automatically stop if the game detected a line you haven't discovered yet. In addition, you can now also manually adjust the auto-play speed.
- QTE - The Letter's hit-or-miss feature. Ever since the Kickstarter campaign started, it has always received mixed feedback from players. Some players enjoyed being challenged, and felt that the QTE added more tension and interactivity to the game, while others thought otherwise. We've been coming up with ways on how to improve this feature since then. In the updated demo, players can now disable/skip the QTE. In Chapter 2's beta access, players can now also select its difficulty between Easy and Normal.
We're more or less done with most of the background music we need for the game, with only about 1-2 BGMs left to compose. However, our sound engineer is currently remastering the finished tracks because when we compared our BGMs to the BGMs composed by professional sound studios... we noticed a jarring difference in terms of the actual audio quality. Most of our BGMs are quite mushy to listen to, while theirs are very clear and crisp.
We already found a good formula on how to improve our tracks, it's just a matter of implementing it to the rest of the game's music. By the next monthly update, we'll see if we can provide a "before and after" mixing of one of the game's BGMs, so you guys can also listen to it and share your comments! :)
In the meantime, we hope you enjoy this new BGM we composed! If you're a beta access backer, this track can be heard in Chapter 2.
6. Voice Acting:
We're 100% finished with all the voices of Chapter 1, while we're still waiting on a couple of lines/revisions for Chapter 2. Our casting director is also moving forward with the recordings of Chapters 3 and 4.
For our part, we'll be able to give the script of Chapter 5 by next week for recording, followed by Chapters 6 and 7 by February. We're pushing very hard to finish all the VA recordings early this year to make it in time for our target release date.
A Year of Lessons
2016 wasn't exactly kind to us. Our first month was a disaster, and moving forward, we kept missing our internal deadlines until eventually, we had to push back the game's release date (in which I now personally consider as the biggest failure of my life).
But we can't let the negatives drag us down. If anything, we should be counting our blessings instead: (1) YYM turned 1 this year, (2) Despite what happened, we found ourselves a very talented VA cast, (3) The Diary reached more than 50k downloads on google play, (4) We showcased The Letter in ESGS Philippines and G-Star Korea, and (5) We were able to release an updated beta demo, as well as Chapters 1 and 2, AND got positive feedback!
These are our biggest milestones for the year, and we're really proud of what we've achieved so far.
The pressure is on now that it's already 2017, but we're not about to crack. 2017 will be the year of The Letter. Please look forward to it! (•̀o•́)ง
Until then, we thank you all for your support, and we hope you don't stop believing in us! We're nearing the finish goal, gang! Cheers to a grander and better year! :D
Congratulations to our friends!
Before we end this update, we'd like to say congratulations to our dev friends for their own accomplishments!
Everyone in the NoBread team gave their all in bringing this wonderful visual novel to life! Please support them by buying the game on itch.io, and/or by spreading the word around! The game will also be available in Steam this 2017, so watch out for it! :D
This is a little late, but we'd like to say congratulations nonetheless to Crazy Cactus team for their successful Maid Mansion! :) If you missed their campaign, they're contemplating on opening a Patreon account to further reach their stretch goals! If you're interested be sure to follow them on their social media accounts and on their Kickstarter!
Thanks gang for sticking around! Let's talk again soon!
Happy New Year! ❤