October 2020 Update

It’s been a busy month. Busy busy busy.

So what all have I gotten done in the last month on game stuff?

—ARTWORK

As of today, I’ll have finished the 250 box challenge (and possibly Molly Bang too), and moved on to the next lessons! My draftsmanship is improving somewhat, esp. with digital tools, which no longer feel totally alien (though they are a bit crude in my hands, since I’ve only been using a standard hardline brush, the line tool, and layers).

I also reevaluated my learning resources (books, Drawabox) and have redesigned my “path” through, based on what Drawabox does and doesn’t offer and when:

  1. Drawabox 0 – Getting Started
  2. Drawabox 1 – Lines, Ellipses and Boxes
    1. 250 Box Challenge
    2. Molly Bang – Picture This
  3. Drawabox 2 – Organic Forms, Dissections, and Form Intersections
    1. Marcos Mateu-Mestre – Framed Ink
    2. James Gurney – Color and Light
    3. (gesture drawing practice–from here onward)
  4. Drawabox 3 – Applying Construction to Plants
  5. Drawabox 4 – Applying Construction to Arachnids
  6. Drawabox 5 – Applying Construction to Animals
    1. George Bridgman – Constructive Anatomy
      1. George Bridgman – The Book of a Hundred Hands
      2. George Bridgman – Heads, Features, and Faces
    2. Michael Hampton – Figure Drawing
      1. Ozawa – How to Draw Anime and Game Characters Vol. 1
      2. Ozawa – Bishoujo Game Characters Vol. 5
      3. ImagineFX Manga – Digital Painting Techniques
    3. (figure drawing practice–from here onward)
  7. [GENERAL RESOURCE: Loomis – Creative Illustration]

Bang and Mateu-Mestre will hopefully give me a good grounding in composition (which I’ll need for CGs) and Bridgman and Hampton seem to be solid foundations for figure drawing. (Loomis remains a widely recommended resource, but Hampton seems more inline with the construction-based approach which Drawabox teaches, and Bridgman has been recommended as a better “bottom-up” resource for figure drawing, as opposed to Loomis who presumes a bit of experience (which I probably don’t have enough of).) The Ozawa books seemed particularly geared towards my personal concerns, but many folks online were recommending just copying the drawings of other manga artists that you like as a way of learning manga style, so maybe I’ll do that as well?

—CODING

I’ve done some more research here and there, but none of my fiddling and poking hasn’t gotten me much further in memorizing what I need to know.

I’ve made some Anki flashcards for C# to try and ingrain the various terms and methods and keywords that will come up a lot in coding, just so I don’t have to cling quite so desperately to my notes from Miles’ book.

In the meantime, I’ve dabbled with prototyping in a Visual Studio sandbox those features that will be used in the scripting program (and, by extension, in the game itself), mostly by Googling the techniques or code I need and learning how others did it and tweaking it a little to fit better with what I need mine to do.

My current sticking point (from a design perspective) is working out the nitty gritty of how to encode in-game dialog and event SCRIPTS so that they take up as little memory as possible during actual game runtime, while also being versatile enough for my needs, and also so that they’re easy to code for. (It’s feeling like the most efficient method might be aping something similar to the way disk space is allocated in hard memory, with a “key” file at the start denoting character positions of specific lines, scenes, etc.?)

Right now the game is looking like an interaction between two “engines”: the Architect Engine that monitors the worldstate and moves the game between different scenes or gameplay elements based on that worldstate condition, and the Dialog Engine, which handles the standard VN presentation of text in a dialog box, moving sprites around, changing sprite faces, and triggering special effects/sounds/user interactions.

I’m also coding in a “skip previously-seen dialog” function, which most VNs have, but I want to incorporate that into narrative design rather than just being an immersion-breaking hard jump. (Specifically, I want the game to treat it as a diversionary path into alternative dialog that sums up the conversation that was going to happen, but didn’t.)

—PHILOSOPHY/WRITING

I’ve watched a couple of the aesthetic references, but this part of things has been neglected over the last month in favor of getting my art skills through Drawabox’s boot camp.

I’m still making progress on the “Myths” sections of Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex, and the insights there have been equally conciliatory and thought-provoking. (And hopefully SCENE provoking once I start drafting the script.)

I also still need to finish compiling my VN market research… Maybe I’ll do that tonight as a breather from learning for a bit?

I’m still at 2/15 on the snowflake, but with an eye towards the future.

Overarching design remains a concern, but that will undoubtedly be fleshed out by the later stages of the snowflake method, which remain bottlenecked by philo. research, so maybe I’ll focus on that more in the next month.

Emotionally, I’ve been feeling the usual vacillations of ennui and optimism that mark most of my creative projects, doubting whether it’s a good idea at all vs. seeing the potential in it. (Doubt is a good friend to have for a creator, just as long as they don’t have the reins.) Usually I try to keep terror at bay until the end of the project, but for a longer project like a game or a novel means having to work on everything piecemeal; I guess existential dread is part of that too.

My main worry is that I’m offloading too much “work” onto the narrative portion of the project. I do have some confidence in my ability to write, but the story itself still feels extremely vague and lacking in characterization to me: I have the loosest sketch of the story, but I don’t know where or how many divergences that story will have. The more effort I put on the other sections of the game–artwork, coding, design–the emptier the (pivotal!) narrative feels, and the bigger my ulcers get.

I’m also fretting over how to balance narrative against player agency. Specifically, I want to avoid any situation that will override a player’s entire “run” through the game due to the choices they’ve made, and their unanticipated consequences–I don’t want the player to feel like their entire run/narrative arc is meaningless bc. they were aiming in a specific direction and failed to get it. Or maybe the real problem I’m having is balancing “a feeling surprise/wonder” with “player agency in narrative”? Or maybe moving away from a linear VN format means I shouldn’t worry about edge cases like that?

More thought is needed here.

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