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Topics - mikey

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Tea Lounge / Accessibility of VNs in the future
« on: February 12, 2012, 05:33:10 PM »
So recently I have been trying out things to see how I could go about the "accessibility" of the VNs I have created, in terms of making them readable on current and future software systems. It's not really a new topic for me, I have been thinking about it for quite some time now, sort of having it in the back of my head as a project after Auora Fall is released, and basically, I have thought of a few approaches:

1. Convert
The first approach I thought of was to convert the old-system VNs to renpy, and then gradually also convert games with the oldest versions of renpy to some of the later ones. Basically, this approach means to re-code the games every once in a while when their original platform becomes obsolete.

2. Provide an emulated system
This would be an alternative to the "ports", where I would not try to change the game, just to provide an environment where it could be played as it once was.

3. Release source.
The other approach I thought of was just to release all the source files in their original format, not obfuscated - pictures, sprites, music and text, along with documentation of how things are supposed to work, and if applicable, the program source code (e.g. script.rpy), in essence providing a package from which the game or the idea can be recreated. Of course the contributors of original assets would need to agree to the de-obfuscation.

So those were my two / three approaches - either "port" the games (alternatively emulate them), or release their sources. None of these is exactly a 1:1 experience, although the emulation is quite close. But now, I am thinking quite seriously about something else.

The idea was to create screenshots, one by one as if one would play the game. Then for perhaps the main path as the default sequence, and put the screenshots from other paths into separate folders or name them differently, so that any path can be created using an accompanying text document. In essence, make screenshots of everything and annotate them so that any path or experience can be recreated. Include music as an extra, too. And package.

Now, that all felt a bit barbarian to me when it first popped into my head, it's almost like an "analog" way of doing things when we have means of converting and transferring things to other formats, and they are often VNs with choices, so a lot of the point of having multiple choices will go away. But in fact I tried it, making full screenshot galleries from a simple game, and it kind of does convey the atmosphere very well. I will lose a lot of the software-specific elements, such as direct player choices and integration with music, and the actual full "snapshot" of all the screens will produce quite big files (so let's say an originally 10 MB game will translate into 150 MB), but I kind of like the simplicity of it all. I also like the fact that images are so universal, any device or operating system can display them easily.

So anyway, I just thought I'd share this - and ask whether you've also thought about some long-term way of keeping the VNs you care about available and the advantages and drawbacks of different approaches whatever they may be - I guess generally you want to convey the point of your games in as much an authentic way as possible, but also balance that with an approach or format that needs as little adapting and re-coding as possible.

Community Discussion / Creators' Book
« on: August 30, 2011, 07:48:09 PM »
Thanks for the positive response to the book project! I have decided to create a separate topic for it - let me know if I can also officially call it Teacup Event #5 - I don't want to impose. In any case, it makes sense to have a separate topic on it. To introduce the project:

The idea:
Quote from: another topic
In light of the conversation in one of the topics, I had an idea, which could be controversial or even impractical given that everyone has their own views on things, and I am in fact pretty much just thinking aloud, but here it goes - what if, for the next event (Event #5), we don't make a VN, but we write, collaboratively, a philosophical book about art and creating?

The thing is, I have seen pieces of very interesting thoughts here and there, but I've always wanted to have some reference work where the typical subjects like popularity, self-expression, what-is-art, etc would be dealt with. This would give us more space to elaborate on concepts, because it's difficult to hunt down a certain topic on forums and blog posts. I would even suggest this be a wiki-style collaboration, with revisions coming out whenever needed, though the scope of the event would "just" be to create that first version of the "e-book". It would be perfectly OK to rehash points we've made in the past, even copy/paste parts of things we've said (some of the posts here are good candidates, as well as BTW articles), because the point would be that the contributors collect all their relevant views on things into this one book.

As for the content, I would suggest not doing a collection of let's say "techniques for beating procrastination", but instead having something like "what is procrastination and how does it affect your mind", meaning writing even about the practical topics from a higher level. In this case this would be more of a psychological topic, not philosophical, but that's well within the scope, psychological angles are welcome. Therefore this book I am suggesting here now would not be a collection of "tips" or "best practices" or "how to get started", so it would not be for people who are beginning and experimenting and have not found their style yet. It would be for those who have tried creating things, they liked it, want to continue doing it, but are looking for a meaning or explanations why creating makes them feel a certain way to understand things about themselves and why they are happy doing what they do.

Also, from the same topic:

... on any given topic you can find many blog posts or forum posts of various length, and you have to read through a lot of them before you can distill the essence, so to speak. Many articles make similar points, and I believe that every topic can be more or less comprehensively portrayed, so that it combines for example 20 posts and essays on "Art" into one chapter the length of let's say 5 essays. It's still longer than any single essay, but it's structured and presents all the various ways of thinking about the topic, preferably without any significant bias.

I think a good way to approach this would be like you would some university paper, at least from the formal side. Definitions, structure etc. Also, it would be good to have an editor (or two), or even chapter-responsible people. Plus, just collecting interesting views and articles into a pool of resources would be good.

The structure:
So far, there is a chapter list (feel free to edit / shuffle):
[Segment]: Chapter

- [Personal involvement]: Vision / Satisfaction / Self-expression / Sentimental value
- [Design and Expression]: Characters / Plot / Storytelling / Art / Visuals / Music

- [Production & Team]: Commercial / Free / Money / Single person / Team
- [Motivation]: Procrastination / Writer's block / Failed projects

- [Perception]: Critique / Opinions / Audience
- [Success & Metrics]: Popularity / Word Count / Art quality / Downloads / Acclaim / Fan works

We could also agree on the inner structure of the book, meaning whether to each chapter we will have a structure as well, something like (for "Commercial"):
- Definition (what do we mean by commercial, terminology)
- Elements (creating by paying artists, games for sale, profit vs. artistic expression, etc)
- Connections (how does this topic relate to other chapters)

The name:
I guess it's better to give a title later, but if you have ideas as to how we could call the book, you are welcome to share them. "Creators' book" is not a very good name. It doesn't need to be "branded" Teacup, though we could have a random tea-inspired name for it, like "The Darjeeling Tomb" (let's not use that though :) )

The sources:

Although primarily the writing will be original, collecting existing articles and reusing already well formulated ideas is also a good idea and one of the main reasons for the project - so that theories or analyses you've put a lot of effort into don't get buried. You can post links to articles you've written that you think are suitable (or just portions of them).

Also, I would say it's a good idea to simply collect or write down miscellaneous creation-relevant topics or things "you always wanted to say", even if they don't fit into the structure, as new things can develop from them. These can be articles, "proven rules" or just "good points" you've made or come across.

The staff:
So I would say we have an idea what it is we want to do, now I think we can start looking for contributors and editors. I would like to be an editor (for the whole project), therefore I put my name in the list, and also I'd like to be an editor for a segment etc...

Editors: mikey, ?
Segment editors: mikey (Personal Involvement)
Chapter editors: ? (Word Count), ? (Storytelling), etc...

The tools:
Also, I would like to ask whether you have some ideas as to how we should do the collaboration. Via a wiki, or google docs, or some common blog? Can it be done through the forums?

The credits:
This may be a tricky one, how do we credit everyone? Is being a contributor enough, should we credit the person responsible (editor) for the chapter (though the chapter editor can just edit, he doesn't need to actually write that much, just use existing things). Or do we credit or color code each line?

My suggestion would be that we form a "circle of contributors" who will be the main authors and not take individual credit, but be credited as a whole. Then, smaller contributors can be credited individually, for quotes or other contributions.

Anyway, feel free to post your ideas or comments.

Tea Lounge / The last visual novel
« on: August 05, 2011, 10:19:29 PM »
So Umeda Sky is released and I have a small announcement to make.

There will be only one more visual novel from me - called Aurora Fall - after which I will not release any more original works. I may still be up for producing something under the ATP Projects label, or whatever fits into the other categories, or make technical updates to existing releases. But as far as my personal original works are concerned, there will be no more VNs, except for Aurora Fall, which will be the last one.

It all has a definitive tone to it, but that's for good reason - this isn't something that I just decided yesterday. For years now, the works I consider original have had their "themes". At first in my early works, I intuitively incorporated those "themes" into the visual novels, because they were one of many "things I wanted to express". Like "loneliness" in Black Pencil. Or "love" in River Trap. After a while though, I realized there were less and less things which I felt I needed to express. And with the two 2011 festival games (Anthridercynantide and Umeda Sky) a "death" and a "luck" story were materialized, closing two themes (out of three) that still remained in my mind.

Now, there is only "beauty" left, and that's what the overall theme of Aurora Fall will be. I know it's the only one left, because while in the old days, I would have at least five or six themes "in the back of my head", where I thought "I need to do this sometime", and new ones would emerge every now and then, I have meanwhile done them all, and ever since a few years ago, no new ones came along. I finished creating those which still occupied my mind, and I am now left with only one, which is the subject of my last visual novel.

I could blame this on some burnout, or disinterest, but the truth is, it's not disinterest, and it's not burnout. It feels right and it feels really good not to be held hostage by things on your mind, things that will go away only if you materialize them. Based on this, and on the fact that I am not feeling guilty or frustrated, but rather empty and happy, I am faced with the facts and it's not even awkward for me to spell them out anymore - my need to creatively express myself has come to an end.

Setting aside the "never say never" phrase, that thing with no new themes emerging is probably the main reason why I can say with quite some certainty that I will not change my mind about stopping making original VNs. Again, I am not saying I won't stick around VNs, or even be involved in their creation somehow - but it was the original VNs that have been keeping me going, and I feel that once I stop being active on the kind of personal level that I am involved now with my original works, even if I will stay around, my reasons for being around will inevitably have to change. I may then be many things, but "creator" won't be one of them.

But that will all be a different story, provided it even happens. Aurora Fall isn't going to be finished for some time, but I do feel that now is a good time to say all this. For me, this is a kind of official statement on something I've been thinking about for, in fact, years now. And for those who care about things I do, well, I'd just like to let you know. There will only be one more visual novel.

But by now I think you understand that this isn't a slightly sad message about me retiring, it's in fact a happy message about the fact that I can actually see on the horizon that I will, with those 22 visual novels, be able to finish what I set out to do - at first instinctively, and later while being more and more aware of it. It's no less than a dream come true.


Genre: Slice-of-Life

A man who has lived his whole life in Japan resolves to bring change into his life by going to Europe, for a vacation.

Note: Umeda Sky cannot be finished. You should realize this at some point, so from there on whenever you feel like ending, just pause the game, go to the main menu and exit the program.


Download: Windows


Genre: Slice-of-Life

A street worker gathers all his savings to go abroad and face a woman who he believes shares a common past with him.


Download: Windows

Community Discussion / Teacup Event #3: [works]
« on: October 30, 2010, 11:14:37 PM »
Hi everyone, (and sorry if I beat MB to starting the thread)

So the final weekend is now here, it's the end of October, and therefore everyone is invited to this thread to show their Event #3 works and discuss the making of them.

As a general rule, you can comment on the games in the completed games section, while you can comment here on how the event went for you and what challenges you had along the way.


Our game Look Twice is released in this thread:

I'd like to thank Vatina for a great cooperation, it was really very nice and comfortable - we made it all on time with a few completely changing late adjustments, but often things are influenced by circumstances, and more and more I really like this as an unexpected turn of events that finally makes the game what it is. I'll have nice memories associated with this project.

It's been a huge challenge for me to draw though. :) But I am quite proud, it's not as terrible as I have perhaps feared. Pursuing an artistic career though - not really for me, I'm afraid. Even though drawing has its interesting sides, I usually listened to some music, and the experience was really immersive, I haven't really properly drawn with a pencil since I can't remember when, so this was also kind of reconnecting with the past when the last time I used a pencil to draw was probably in the early high school years. And the only thing missing is a melancholic looking smiley to end this all with. Which I can't find. Too bad.

Completed Visual Novels / Look Twice
« on: October 30, 2010, 11:04:56 PM »
Together with Vatina, we'd like to give you our contribution to Teacup's Event #3.

It's called Look Twice, and you can get it here

Screenshots can be found here:

The story? Well, you find yourself in a strange world, piecing together what you can about your situation and the unknown girl who is with you.

If you manage to read the story disregarding the colors and pictures (i.e. purely focusing on the text), it comes to a different conclusion than with visuals. It's based on how the game was made and some of the things which are implied - in other words, it's a bit complicated. We decided however to keep this "duality" of the story, hopefully you will enjoy how it turned out in the end.

Tea Lounge / Does bias imply a moral statement?
« on: September 10, 2010, 09:45:53 AM »
I start this topic because I got completely sidetracked by replying to anomaly in the Narcissu 2 topic :), I'm so sorry. His comment made me think about a lot of the contexts about being biased. Anyway, here it is - anomaly replied to me dismissing N2 after playing just the demo and only because the girl refers to her hands as "small hands", which I explained by saying I feel it's like breaking the 4th wall for me.

Quote from: anomaly
IMHO I think that's misjudging the work. It doesn't seem to be fair to dismiss the whole work for something like that for no good reason. That's from the demo you said? That's not even half the content. If it bothers you that much you can just skip past that line.
I strongly suggest you give it another try.

When people suggest with reasonable arguments that I'm being unfair, my first reaction is to try to apologize or find some rationalization for the bias. You're completely right in saying it's not fair to dismiss things based on a single "red flag", especially if that red flag is not a recognized moral issue (like if I had a problem with nudity or religious content). It's perhaps also like dismissing something based on poor graphics or that it's done by "this company I don't like" - it does feel shallow and very unfair, especially when something you care about is dismissed like this, without giving it a chance at all.

But even so, I have to wonder if I should really put my energy into giving these things a fair chance. I think there has to be a limit to what you can be open to - it's not possible to like all genres of film, and with time people will develop certain tastes and avoid genres that don't give them as much as other genres based on who they are and their life circumstances. And once they are stable in their preferences, they will look for typical indicators of content they will not like to spare themselves the energy or re-evaluating - those are the red flags. I have my own set of those for VNs, and though it's easy to label me as superficial because I dismiss things based on them, I'm hoping people will understand that this is more than anything a mechanism to protect me from the incredible amount of time and energy I would have to spend if I had to give a fair chance to any VN, any film or any genre of music - if my own "map of preferences" which I now use to navigate through the content and genres out there, so to speak, was to always be blank.

Of course, typically people won't have the context of my entire life, which is normal - and when someone sees my comment on Narcissu, it's easy to assume I'm not giving it a fair chance - because I'm not explaining my life situation along with it, it's not apparent how I came to dislike the genre, and whether or not I like to perhaps enjoy this kind of content in a different form (like in a film; which would most probably not have the issue of referring to oneself in diminutive, as it's low on inner monologue, typically). I do see how that comment about me dismissing N2 as a whole, and perhaps even the whole genre with it, not just seems, but I'm sure IS in your perception - unfair.

But I hope you understand that I don't want to argue with you or be insulting when I say that despite of what you pointed out, and despite the fact that I find it absolutely logical and I agree with you that it's unfair - that knowing I am unfair still won't make me give N2 another chance. At least not now, or in the near future. I know you never accused me of this - it's a general thought - but while writing this and trying to explain why I am unfair, it occurred to me that we perhaps perceive unfair people as bad people too often, or that unfairness is synonymous with something negative.


So to completely derail this Narcissu 2 topic (and I'll create a separate thread because of this), what is your opinion on bias or being unfair in conjunction with being a bad or immoral person? Or more specifically, does bias have to come with a moral stance to it? Do you necessarily consider someone who is being clearly unfair (like bashing some product - not as flamebait, but a genuine dislike) a bad person? Do you require him to be more empathic and look at all sides of the story all the time (not counting actual journalists, because they in fact should)? Or do you require empathy from a stranger, but accept bias if it's your friend?

Because my bias in this case has nothing to do with any moral stance - you then may think it's pure convenience (avoiding thinking about things too much by putting them into "stereotype boxes" based on experience), but I actually think it's even a necessity, because you wouldn't be able to function as a person with constant openness to everything - not to mention you would probably have no personality if you had no bias.

I don't think that being biased, having a simplified view on some things necessarily means that you don't understand their depth. I can be very dismissive of Narcissu, but still understand that under different circumstances it could give me a lot more than it can give me now. Also, when I don't like RPGs of any kind and use simplified statements like "RPGs are a time sink", it doesn't mean I don't respect their creators or that I think RPGs are morally wrong.

Anyway, just something to think about on Friday, if you'd like to.  :)

Community Discussion / Teacup Event #3: Freshly brewed Tea-m
« on: August 23, 2010, 07:58:20 PM »
"Freshly brewed Tea-m"

This is the announcement for the third official event of the Teacup. The point is to create a (short) VN, with someone you have not worked before.

Teams are only 2 people and you are also encouraged to take a position in the team which you normally do not work in - like an artist would write the script.

If you're interested, just post in this thread and connect / form teams here directly or via PM. The event starts 1st of September and ends 1st of November.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask. This post will be updated with teams as they form, so if you have formed a team, post it in the thread and this opening post will be updated.

Team list:

  • Vatina (music + writing) / mikey (art + scripting)
  • sake-bento (art) / Hime (writing)
  • lordcloudx (music) / MoonlightBomber (writing + art)

Completed Visual Novels / Old-timer
« on: August 14, 2010, 03:36:59 PM »
Perhaps the only game in 2010 from me, this is the short non-story called "Old-timer".
Enjoy, everyone.

Tea Lounge / Using your time "effectively"
« on: July 20, 2010, 04:17:22 PM »
I have some newly thought-of theories about using spare time effectively, so I shall now present them to you:

Say my commute to work is via train, and it takes one hour - meaning a total of 2 hours there and back, on the road, daily.
This means that I have 2 hours of time not used for anything else, where I am "stuck" on a train with very few options.

Say I use this time to actually do nothing. It doesn't make me particularly proud to "waste" this time, and I probably think of this or that (what will I do when I get home), but mostly, I am wondering whether to get a smartphone or a laptop for myself and put this "empty" time to good use.

The theory is that by having a laptop, I could spend the time working something out about my project. Or I could get a book and relax by reading, or watch some TV series on a smartphone. This way, I will make use of this free time - relaxing, enjoying some entertainment or working. It's always better than doing nothing.

Sounds nice. But - and I haven't really seen anyone mention this - what if I just don't feel like doing anything? What if I just want to stare out the window, not really relax (I can't really sleep on a train), not really work, not read, not do anything, just sit there with a blank look on my face. Is this wasted time? And if it is, is it actually a negative thing? Because that all really depends on whether "using your time" is by default a positive thing - and I don't quite see the connection there. Just because you use your time well, doesn't mean that using your time is the right thing to do.

I have another situation to explain this in more detail:

Sometimes I am standing in line for the groceries, or waiting for the bus (or being on the bus), and these are 10-20 minute blocks of time which are impossible to use - unless you have a smartphone and use this time to check your mail, read a blog post or watch a short clip. You can also write a comment on a forum, play a web minigame, or something else that takes just a few minutes - activities which, in fact, you don't want to "waste" time on once you get home.

Because I would like to comment on some forum posts, but I never have the time to do it - usually when at home or at work, I have bigger  blocks of time, but those would be wasted on forum posting or web games, I'd rather use them to have a nice dinner, or get some writing done, or just watch an immersive film.

So the resulting logic is that indeed once I get myself a smartphone, I will be able to get involved in a bit of the internet fun - suddenly, I will have time to tweet, I will have time to reply - and it's not like I am taking away time from anything - the time was always there, it's just that the technology allows me to USE that spare time now, the time which I wouldn't have been able to use before.

However, I am not convinced. Because I am worried that even though I am using the time much more effectively and indeed am not taking any time away from my existing commitments and time reservations (evening with the family, work time,...), the fact that I now can be engaged in additional things (even at no extra "time cost") also means that those things will get some of my attention and focus and not only in the times I am engaged with them. Do I exaggerate? After all, it's a harmless tweet or two a day, an article or clip here and there, and people would rightfully say well, it's better than not doing anything, right?

Well, I don't really think so. Because I bet that all of those new impulses that the tweets and casual web browsing will give me, will make me think even in times when I shouldn't. So when I'm out for dinner, I may just think about remembering to tweet how great this restaurant is the next time I get a chance. Or I realize some great wisdom and will like to share it with someone on the internet. Or I will wonder how the cliffhanger of a webcomic ends tomorrow because something I see on the street reminds me of it. I won't ruin the evening with twitter or surfing the web, but that's not my point - my point is that these micro-commitments, additional impulses and mini-distractions stretch beyond the time I am actively engaged with them.

And my thought is that just because you use your time more effectively, doesn't mean it is good for you.

I think that more than anything, this kind of "effective time usage" really takes away focus. So in fact, doing NOTHING, according to this theory, is actually more beneficial to you, because you don't poison your mind and drive your attention away. Of course I'm not saying one should not have fun with the entertainment side of the internet or even get some work done in small bits, but it does seem to be like fast food. It's very time-effective (you don't have to cook, you free up a lot of time), but even in medium doses it is seriously bad for your health. In our case then, it's mental health - concentration, motivation, attention.

So actually, I won't be trying to get more time-effective this way. It may mean that sometimes on the train I will envy people tweeting with smartphones and every now and then get tempted to get into the world of bite-sized news stories, 2-minute funny clips or "networking" with your friends on facebook. But I just know it's bad for me and my project. So like the pizza stand, I will try to walk past that lovely smell as quickly as I can, because it could easily destroy a lot of my efforts. Like staying in shape, which is not a one-time thing, but a constant process where you need to balance things out.

Anyway, I'm not against smartphones or web 2.0 culture, because everyone can decide for themselves. I just wish that at least the fast food nature of it would be recognized. I think about news feeds, discussion forums, e-mails and friends. And I think that for the most part, despite the name, it's entertainment. Entertainment sprinkled with some mildly relevant information, entertainment with a flavor of sharing opinions, entertainment by writing messages to people. Even if I would work on my game, it seems that I'd spend a few minutes doing something and then actually not use the time I have allocated for it, because my brain doesn't feel guilty enough anymore.

Like fast food, there are clearly good ingredients there. But combined with the time you consume it and all the mysterious sauces which make it so appealing in the first place, I really wonder whether it's worth it. Well, I don't - because it isn't. And for me, it's often better in the long term to just sit through the sudden hunger and get home for an actual dinner.

So I'll keep on staring out of the window of the train for most of the time. It doesn't make my projects complete any faster. But the way I have things set up, it doesn't slow them down.

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