Figuring things out again

February 16, 2012 in Painter Story

A lot of talk has been going on recently in IRC about reforging the project. We are considering changes to the story that would lengthen both it and the timespan in which it happens, amongst other things. We’ve been thinking about this because of issues we feel are potential problems with the story, or that could detract from enjoyment of it.

This is one of the problems with creative projects. It’s incredibly hard (if not outright impossible) to have an idea form fully and perfectly from one’s head like an Athena of thought. Instead, you have to keep adding and taking away, iteratively building up the concepts behind your story. This becomes annoying when you’ve already made progress on things that might have to be redone or completely thrown away.

In the end, the goal is a better story, a better product than what it might have been before, but the constant work at fixing and redesigning can be a dead end, as developers keep making changes instead of putting their foot down and saying “this is it”. That’s something that worries me, given my personal tendencies to get bogged down in details in the pursuit of perfection. At some point, the line must be drawn, and work has to continue.

Hopefully we can draw that line appropriately and tell a good story.

Bonus: new art from gebyy-terar: casual Kourin.

New character art, and some updates

March 10, 2011 in Painter Story

Yoshinobu by gebyyAnother piece of art, another KS dev (well, former). Thanks to gebyy-terar, we’ve now got a coloured sketch of Yoshinobu, the main character in Painter Story. We’ve also got an idea of what the male school uniform might look like!

In other news, writing is progressing very slowly lately, but it is actually progressing. There are a couple scenes we’re stuck on at the moment, but hopefully we’ll work through the humps soon.

Part of the writing issue is staff commitments outside of the project, but the big thing for me right now is completely overhauling the very first scene. As originally planned, it didn’t have enough of a hook to grab the reader’s attention — never a good thing, whether you’re reading a book, watching a movie — or playing a VN. So I’ve got to figure out how to redo things so that readers will be pulled into the world of Painter Story quickly, but still give an idea of who Yoshinobu is on the inside.

After that, it’ll be on to beating out and writing the next day’s scenes. Well, writing some of them, and assigning the rest to the other writers.

I feel we’re getting close to the point where it might be good to actually recruit some artists to do backgrounds, sprites, CGs. After we’re up to about the mid-point in writing, I’d like to get a demo put together and use that for getting feedback for revision. At this rate, though, we’ll probably not be at that point until at least November.

Beating things out

December 28, 2010 in Painter Story

With the detailed outline for “act 1” complete, we’re a step closer to actually writing the second draft for Painter Story. Our next step is “beating” the scenes — breaking them down into the particular actions and reactions of the characters.

This is something I picked up from a screenwriting book, Story, by Robert McKee. We’re not doing things exactly the way he says to do it, but VN writing isn’t the same as writing for the big screen anyway. Right now we’re still getting used to it, but the end result should be stronger writing and a more consistent storyline.

Right now, we’re going through the prologue’s scenes, working out the beats and writing them into an outline. Once we’re done with that, we’ll be pushing onto the main story, with the first day’s scenes beaten out, and at the same time start writing the prologue scenes. (There’s nothing saying we have to wait to beat out the whole first act this time!)

Meanwhile, I’m still working on writing up some character profiles that won’t spoil things while still providing a decent amount of information on the characters (who finally have permanent names). It’ll be a while before they’re up, however, as I’m waiting for a surprise to go along with the profiles!

Plotting from the top down

October 5, 2010 in Game Development, Painter Story

One of the problems with the first attempt at writing Painter Story was the unstructured plot. We knew a bit about the main character and the various girls he could pursue, as well as some potential outcomes. But we never really worked out the route from A to B. And in the old pre-alphas I used to circulate on IRC, it showed, just as badly as the temporary art and audio.

Something that I’ve been doing since we reset the project is building out the plot, working from the top down. (I say me, because the bulk of the work on laying out the plot has been mine, but the others certainly did contribute as well.) Things began by outlining a story for each of the dateable girls, entirely separate from common or shared events. From there, we worked together to take the three disparate mini-outlines, and combine them into one big outline that included common events. At that point, we also identified major story choices that would lead the reader towards a particular path, as well as other choices that might trip them up or lead to better endings.

That work is pretty much done, but for getting to the actual writing, it’s not really enough. It gives a good overall view of what happens, but this 50,000 ft outline doesn’t provide enough low-level detail to identify anything more than key scenes.

So for the past little while, I’ve been working on a more detailed outline for the first part of Painter Story. This one identifies individual scenes, as well as provides at least a paragraph of explanation for each one (or will, when complete). We can identify what’s missing at this level, and let us know where things will go from each particular scene. That way, when it comes to actual writing, I and any other scene writers are more likely to really drive the story forward, and lead in to following scenes better.

This is a long, slow, painful process — but without it, Painter Story would never be as good as I’d hope for. While it’ll probably never be on par with Katawa Shoujo or Cradle Song, I’d still like to create something that sits in the top 25% of original English language visual novels. By constructing a strong story, I’m sure that’s achievable.