November 2020 Update

With COVID, I’ve decided to go into deep(er?) sequester–only cooking through what food I already have; no more visiting parents–for the remainder of the winter, from now through May.

What this means–ideally–is having a five-month block to put this game together, start to finish, without interruptions.

How REALISTIC that ambition is remains to be seen. I plan on setting up a loose calendar of goalposts for the next five months based on my previous rates of progress, with at least one month’s “flex” time to work out kinks and bugs as they arrive. I’ve done a lot of preliminary work already: learning to code C#, getting the necessary hardware and software together, doing preliminary research into market demos and design. But now we’re getting into the actual design and production stages, which is where self-doubt (a perpetual enemy) can start to creep in and muddy any clear vision I might have.

(Vision questing from my research is my next major goal.)

Until then, here’s what I’ve been working on:

—ARTWORK

I finished up Molly Bang, and got about a third of the way through the textures exercise on Drawabox before I started getting drawn more towards conceptual research.

(As an aside, one thing I really appreciate about video game design is that whenever I start to feel burned out on a topic, the other two or three subjects I’m studying start to feel enticing again, and I can pivot over to them and let my current work cool down a little.)

I’m doing texture studies of an alligator’s scales on various parts of its body, though I’m not sure how much value this will have for me going forward since I’m not doing formal, realistic artwork for this project. (Still, I want a good foundation.)

Clip Studio Paint has been on Black Friday sale 50% off, and while I’ve heard lots of good things about it, I just don’t know that I can justify a $25 expenditure on a slightly better piece of software when I already have Krita, which is free (and which, according to various forum posts, handles colors better anyway). I guess I won’t BUT SALES THOOOOOO

I started putting together a moodboard of various artists and related subjects to get the feel of the game like I want. (I still have a lot more to do there, but it’s going to be a secondary concern to workshopping the “vision quest” primary design doc. for the project mentioned above: once I’ve done that, I’ll have an idea of just what all I need in terms of backgrounds, sprites, etc.)

I’ve also been idly side-browsing a few artists I follow online when they do Picarto streams and wondering when/whether I need to start studying the digital-specific tips and tricks that exist for producing particular aesthetic effects? (The alternative, I suppose, being “fuck around and find out”.) I also don’t really know much about brushes–their creation, their utility, etc.–but scuttlebutt in art communities seem to suggest they’re a useful tool, but too often become an overused crutch to more fundamental skills of drawing and design?

IDK. I guess I’ll just keep on keeping on with what I already have.

(One area of concern is my draw debt (i.e. time spent practing rather than just drawing stuff for fun) is getting redder and redder… I keep reassuring myself that by the time this project is done, I’ll have paid it back in full.)

—CODING

Haven’t touched this at all for the last month or so, and I can already feel the itch.

I’ve mostly committed myself to the philosophy side of things (see below) as it is my primary bottleneck which will inform not only the artwork and aesthetic, but also what ludonarrative and interactions will be necessary, so coding (by extension) has fallen by the wayside.

That being said, the fact that coding keeps getting pushed back has reopened the possibility of just abandoning Unity and switching to Ren’py. It would mean saving time on building an engine and codebase for the particular functionalities that a VN requires, but it would also mean needing to learn a completely different coding language and POSSIBLY having to drop features that I want for the game. (Then again, maybe a hardline block against feature creep wouldn’t be such a bad thing?)

VNs aren’t exactly a very code-intensive genre, so I’m not overly concerned with the burden of coding (even as a novice coder). There are tons of tutorials online for the specific features I need. Though I still have a lingering anxiety over my lack of firmness in understanding some of the features and functions of the way that Unity interacts with C# code vis-a-vis gameobjects. (Maybe I’ll devote some of the next few weeks to studying my C# and Unity flashcards…)

Of course, if the urge to code gets too severe I feel pretty secure in putting together the VN parts of the code (i.e. moving sprites around, transitioning between scenes, dialog boxes, interaction windows). Those conventions of graphics and interaction won’t really be different no matter where the ludonarrative falls in the end.

—PHILOSOPHY/WRITING

THIS has comprised the bulk of my November.

About three weeks back, I finished up Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex (in a kind of truncated reading that included about 70% of Part II). TONS of useful material there, though I continually found myself questioning/second-guessing de Beauvoir’s relevance for contemporary women, and trying to find women talking about her relevancy today largely fell into philosophical discussions about de Beauvoir’s position feminism in general (i.e. as a political position) rather than differences/similarities in lived experiences and/or psychological principles.

A couple days ago I finished Zizek’s Violence (which was kind of a breeze until I got to the final two chapters, where I TOTALLY lost sight of the references he was making and whether the positions he was staking out were criticisms of his own).

Today I’m about an hour or two shy of the end of Angela Carter’s The Sadean Woman and have just hit on an opening final chapter that feels basically like Carter is sitting down and skimming my project notes and offering feedback, holy shit, this is awesome.

THAT is what I’ve done so far.

Lately I’ve been humming and hawing about reading Bataille’s Erotism, for several reasons:

  • I haven’t been running into many/any citations of Bataille in my other research
  • my motivations in reading him are more out of desperation at the paucity of other philosophical readings on the nature of/definition of the erotic than any particular interest in Bataille’s positions themselves
  • with the time crunch I’m under, I’m really trying to cut my conceptual research to the quick

These first two factors combined make me distrust any authoritativeness I’d lend it, and the time crunch I’m under amplifies the third point greatly.

That being said, IDK where else I can go for other information on this subject…? Maybe I need to drawl some philosophy/psychology forums some more.

If I give that a skip (which it looks like I might), I’m going to instead finish up Carter today and then move on to a handful of Stanford.Plato summaries:

  • Sex and Sexuality (skim at least for broad topics)
  • Foucault (esp. section on history of modern sexuality)
  • Double-Consciousness (vis-a-vis objectification)
  • Feminist Perspectives on Objectification (whole thing)
  • Erotic Art (whole thing–should be valuable for contextualizing VNs)
  • Feminist Aesthetics (whole thing)
  • Desire (whole thing, esp. re: feminist aesthetics)
  • Love (esp. in terms of definitions and also in contrast with desire)
  • Alienation (in regards desire, esp. sexual desire)
  • Beauty (esp. with the Kantian idea of “beauty-as-distancing” and the double-concept of “taste”)
  • Jean-Paul Sartre (specifically, his work on “the gaze”)
  • Continental Feminism (specifically the sections where Irigaray rips into Freud and Lacan, and maybe the sections on Kristeva?)
  • Feminist Epistimology and Philosophy of Science (specifically any mention of “cognitive style”; skim the other subtopics for anything else of relevance)
  • Psychoanalytic Feminism (seems crucial to finding new ideas/flaws)

In addition, I’m to check out Susan Sontag’s “On Classical Pornography” lecture, and I absolutely MUST read my excerpted copy of Azuma Hiroki’s Otaku: Japan’s Database Animals, which had some theories about contemporary consumer culture that really looked intriguing. (I also need to finish Leo Bersani’s “Is the Rectum a Grave?” and dig more into the Pleasure Principle via Lacan.)

Then I’m going to do some contemporary film analysis on the aesthetics of the female gaze:

  • Secretary (2002) [as an offbeat romance plot that treats female sexual agency frankly]
  • Blue is the Warmest Color (2013) [by way of a counter-example: a totally failed attempt at female gaze aesthetics that falls back into objectification/]
  • Outlander (S01E07–2014)
  • The Handmaiden (2016)
  • Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019) [probably the most widely- and highly-recommended example of the female gaze PLUS a treatise on the nature of the gaze itself PLUS it’s just a really great movie]
  • Wynona Earp (S04E02–2020)
  • Cuties (2020) [as autobiographical work/treatise about male gaze turned inward and the dissonance between sexuality and sexualization]

Once all that’s done, I’ll assemble my own thoughts from the research I’ve done (plus my own ideas inspired by the various sections) and jump into the design proper. (As in my previous post, my primary concern is over my central position/theme, which will determine story and ludonarrative, and then every other design decision will be built up on top of that foundation.)

It’sssssss a lot. It’s a lot of a lot.

But I gotta do it so that I can at least feel reasonably confident that I know what the hell I’m talking about. (And I already have a lot of ideas.)

I’m also somewhat anxious to develop my CHARACTERS more, which can only come after I understand what their function in the story/in relation to my main character will be…

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