Updated: Jan 19
It's a new year, and now that Catalyst Wake is complete, I can move on to my other projects. I'm planning to release a lot of content this year. Here's an update on what the status is for all of my upcoming projects.
Phantom Limb is currently being rethought from scratch, due to both me and DWaM feeling like the project strayed from its original goal and didn't meet a high enough quality standard. It's being re-envisioned as a shorter story. I'm not sure when it will begin production again, but probably this year.
Life of the Dolls
When a struggling factory worker discovers a magical dollhouse that can control people, she thinks she can use it to turn her life around. But dark magic always comes with a cost.
Life of the Dolls is being developed as a live action horror/mystery with stop-motion animated elements.
It's a project that I'm creating specifically for an online class I'm taking, with the end goal of creating an animatic. I'm trying to improve on my visual storytelling as I continue to make more "cinematic" visual novels and games.
I will probably only get around to Broken Spirits in Q2 of this year at the earliest. I want to make sure I've planned out all of the game's complicated mysteries properly, and make key decisions regarding what the gameplay is like. Currently I'm trying to decide whether to cut aspects like the Social Trees and instead put all that relationship-building into the core story, and whether to scrap the third-person camera for interior environments.
The Social Trees
With narrative-based game design, you want to make sure the gameplay you come up with enhances and complements the story rather than getting in the way of it. The only reason I can think of to have the relationship building be separate from the main story is if there are "branching paths" involved. But the cast of the game is very large, and involving a feature like this is essentially like making an entirely separate, equally long game on the side.
Ideally I'd like to maximize my time spent on things I know players will actually experience, rather than entirely optional content that many of them won't see.
The way I would solve this is by weaving my plans for the relationship development into the main story, and not involving multiple paths.
However, I'm having trouble letting go of the idea, especially because I think it would help make the story more interactive, encourage exploration and enhance other systems, and let me delve into the characters without making players feel like Midori's wasting time while important plot events need her attention.
As you may have seen in the gameplay first look I showed last year, a third-person camera indoors can be a bit clunky. This is a problem we were experiencing on Phantom Limb too. There's a reason most third-person games feature a short little guy like Mario or Raz, it's the optimal kind of character because they don't block important stuff in the environment.
One solution is to have the camera off-center, but it's so awkward if you're not making a shooter. Japanese houses tend to have low ceilings, so the camera is kind of forced to stay close, making the character even bigger and blocking even more stuff.
Something I've been considering since I started the project was the idea of switching to first-person when indoors, and have third-person only be outdoors. Another idea is making the interior exploration be exactly like Broken Minds, where you're locked off to one angle and rotate around the x axis, except with fully 3D environments. The advantage to this is that first person/limited angles are the ideal kind of gameplay for horror. I'm slowly warming up to the idea, especially because it makes optimization way easier.
Overall, I'm trying to think of ways to cut down on the amount of time it will take to make Broken Spirits, as I know my two year prediction is very optimistic.
I was going to try to release a few chapters of Hovel this year, but now I think it's probably better if I keep the focus on Broken Spirits for now. Hovel is going to be another project with a ton of CGs like Catalyst Wake, except on an even larger scale, and I'm going to need a while to recover before doing something like that again.
Methods is getting more extra content this year, but I'm changing the plan a little. I will have more details in the future.
I've decided that for this year my main objective will be "taking breaks". I really went overboard last year, so the next time I begin production, I'm going to try to go easier on myself. I also want to explore new ways to maximize efficiency and take shortcuts so that I can focus more on doing the parts of production I enjoy.
Until next time!