Jun 10, 2018

More about the Tone Wheel

So, we've been telling you there would be a way to adjust the way you interact with girls in Blanche Biche. Today I'm going to explain a bit more about that aspect of the game.

First, the idea behind is to provide the player with ways to take the initiative. In a classic dating sim, when you're presented with a choice, you always end up reacting to what's happening in the game. There's no way to do something like stop the game at any point and boom! do something—no matter how insignificant—that will have any effects whatsoever. In Blanche Biche, topics are a way to achieve that (like, you get to choose whether to stay in line with what your partner was saying, or you can break from it completely)—tones are the other.

In concrete terms, you will have a Tone Wheel at your disposal, which lets you adjust your tone at any point in the conversation—even mid-topic, although we're still discussing the relevance of allowing that. That means, if the girl is teasing you, you can go for a teasing tone as well, then if she has a bad reaction, switch to a friendly tone, then realizing the conversation isn't serious enough to your taste, and so on. The tone you choose to assume affects both the girl's immediate response, and her feelings toward you in the long run. That means, if you're constantly teasing a girl, she might not get angry at first, but at some point it will upset her. Conversely, if you're generally being friendly and choose to be teasing for once, she might be offended at that moment, but stay in good terms with you nevertheless.

The Tone Wheel works as a two-dimensional representation of mood, as shown below:

  • From left to right: how unpleasant vs. pleasant the mood is.
  • From bottom to top: how casual vs. serious the mood is.
  • Hence, the Friendly and Hostile tones are extremes on the plesantness axis, but neutral on the seriousness axis.
  • Just the same, the Casual and Serious tones are extremes on the seriousness axis, but neutral on the pleasantness axis.
  • All others tones are a combination of the two scales: the Intimate tone is somewhat pleasant and somewhat serious, the Teasing tone is somewhat unpleasant and somewhat casual, and so on.
At first, each girl will be Neutral toward you. Then as you start plying around with tones, you're going to affect how she sees you, dragging her mood around the two-dimensional space pictured above. Your ultimate goal is to push toward the Intimate quadrant, which is what you want to be for romantic involvement. So being Friendly won't be enough, you'll have to get your relationship more Serious (and conversely).

Sounds easy enough? Did I forget to mention that each girl has a distorted, subjective vision of that mood space? Simply put, a girl might think of the Provoking/Outgoing axis as her own pleasantness scale—which in turn makes the Teasing/Intimate axis as her seriousness axis. So if you're trying to be Intimate, in her eyes you will actually be Serious, which isn't bad, but not exactly what you wanted. And then, you might end up lacking pleasantness in your relationship to become romantically involved with each other.

SO, it won't be just as easy as spamming the Intimate tone to get in a girl's good graces. For some of them, you may even have to resort to unpleasant tones to earn their respect! What you WILL have to do is to watch closely for each girl's reactions, then try and guess what tones work for her. A whole world of experimentation lies ahead! :)

That's it for the most important aspects of Blanche Biche's mood management. There are still a few hidden mechanics to it I'm keeping secret for now, but this should give you a good enough preview of how things are going to work. :) Don't hesitate to share your thoughts or ask questions in the comments!

A Facebook page for Blanche Biche

As the development of Blanche Biche is going, we feel the need to tell the world about it. To that effect, I created a page on my blog, and also a Facebook page! Please visit and like and share all you can to help us reach as many people as possible. :) Thank you in advance for your support! :)

May 20, 2018

[Update] Live2D modeling progress

So, I announced Blanche Biche will be a Unity game due to its support for Live2D, but you might still be wondering what Live2D is all about. Simply put, it's a 2D animation software. But its specificity is that it's not a frame-by-frame animation tool. What it does is, it allows you to create a model which deforms itself according to a variety of parameters. Thus, you can effectively open and close the eyes, tilt the head, stretch the mouth, and so on, pretty much like you would with a 3D model--except there's zero 3D in there. So it's just animated 2D, but cleverly so. Models created by professionals may look incredibly lively and give an impressive illusion of depth.

Pretty nice, huh? Well, that's just what we're trying to do with our own graphics. My partner Blueroze is currently spending all of her free time rigging her first model, and she's not quite there yet, but most of the face is ready to be animated already. Here's a quick video from the editor to show you how it looks like so far.

So, I don't know about you, but as far as I'm concerned I'm a huge fan. And if you were wondering, it's her first shot at it, so I can't wait to see how it turns out in the end. :)

May 12, 2018

[Update] A name for Project Conversation

So, we've been thinking for a while about a proper title for our dear Project Conversation. And we've found it. Moonpearl and Blueroze proudly present: Blanche Biche (French for White Doe).

We'll leave it up to you to speculate about the implications of that title for now, and what on earth this has to do with a dating sim. :) But I'll provide a few elements of context as hints. Let us know if you have any theories in the comments!

La complainte de la blanche biche (The White Doe's Complaint) is a medieval ballad from Western France. Here's a link to my personal favorite performance of it, along with a translation of the lyrics.

Those who go to the woods
Those are the mother and the daughter
The mother walks while humming
And her daughter sighs
"What's with the sighing
My white Marguerite?"
"I have so much turmoil within
And do not dare tell you"

"I'm a girl during daytime
And a white doe at night
The hunters are after me
Barons and princes
And my brother Renaud
Who's the worst of all
Please, mother, quickly go
And tell him

That he must stop his dogs
Until tomorrow morning"
"Where are your dogs, Renaud
And the hunting gentlemen?"
"They are inside the woods
Chasing the white doe"
"Stop them, Renaud
Stop them, I beg of you"

Three times did he call them
With his copper horn
At the third time
The white doe is captured
Let's summon a skinner
To skin the doe
The one who skins her
Says "I'm at a loss of words"

She has blonde hair
And breasts like a girl
He drew his knife
And sliced her into pieces
They made a supper out of her
For barons and princes
"Here we're all sitting
Save for my sister Marguerite"

"You just have to eat
I'm the first one at the table
My head is in the platter
And my heart on spikes
My blood is splattered
All around the kitchen
And on your black coal
My poor bones are roasting"

(back to 1st verse)

May 1, 2018

[Update] A node-based editor in Unity

As I announced in my previous post, we were considering a switch to Unity, mainly because of the Live2D support. So I've been poking around, trying to assess whether the Unity framework and C# was for me. To be honest, I think if I'd tried it a few years ago, C# would've turned me off. But I figured, I have so much experience in programming, and I wish to go into business as a game developer, I can't just stop at the difficulty of a new language. Plus, I learned Python so easily that it encouraged me to take the plunge.

So I need to recode everything I've done for Project Conversation in Unity/C# and it's probably be tedious and boring (rather than actually challenging, since I merely need to translate scripts from a language to another). But first I had to recreate a visual novel-like gameplay, and that's when I realized Unity allows one to do something very cool--you can program the editor itself! If you remember my works for RPG Maker XP, you should know that I like to hijack the system to make the game designer's life easier, like I did with my Balloon System or the Party Interaction System. So the mere possibility of messing around with the editor was the ultimate argument to win my heart, I guess.

Thus, the first challenge I set myself was to create a node-based editor to make it possible for me (and more importantly, for my partner) to write dialogue scenes in a simple, visual fashion. I know such a system already exists in the Asset Store, but it's paid, and I don't like how it works, and I couldn't just build a game for someone else's scripts and call it mine anyway. So I gathered my courage and well, I made it. It's quite crude by the time I'm writing this, but the basic concepts are there. You can create dialogue boxes, connect them in the order you want them to appear. And more importantly, it all converts into game logic which make the scene unfold exactly like you've set it up when you run the program. To be honest, I was surprised it actually worked (almost) at first, with so few bugs. :p So I'm quite proud of my work. :)

So, unless I run into a huge problem, you can expect Project Conversation to go to Unity. :)

Apr 22, 2018

[Update] Project Conversation's first mockup screen

So, I can finally show you what the game might look like, or at least what you can expect from the interface.

First thing you may notice is that the girl is gorgeous. :) I was already in love with that character before she even had a face, but now I am even more. :p But enough eye candy already, let's talk a bit about the interface elements.

  1. Whenever it's your turn to submit a conversation topic, you may choose any of them among those you have previously unlocked (as long as your conversation partner has something new to say about it).
  2. You are also required to choose the tone you want to use for that segment of the conversation, among 8 possible tones (for instance, "Teasing" in orange is a combination of "Hostile" in red, and "Casual" in yellow). This will influence what your character will say, and in turn, how your conversation partner may respond.
  3. The objective gauge depends on the conversation situation, but the general idea is that you have to reach an objective before it fills up. In this case, you have to follow the trail of topics that the girl is giving you, in order to reach a particular topic that's not on your list yet. Each time you choose a topic, the Annoyance bar will fill according to how far you're straying from the path she has in mind. So, by cross-checking what the girl chooses to talk about, and how annoyed your own choices make her, you should get a pretty good idea of where she wants the conversation to go! (well, at least that's what the game will be expecting from you :p)
Note that this is a Ren'Py screenshot, and well... I'm a bit annoying with my changes of heart, but I think we're going to move on to Unity. The main reason we may want to do that is because we wish to animate our characters using Live2D, and there's a Unity plugin that allows full support for it. So, if all goes according to plan, our game should be GORGEOUS.

I will be posting about a more in-depth overview of each game mechanic later. Don't hesitate to leave a comment to tell us what you think about that first mockup screen, and Blueroze's beautiful art! :)

Apr 10, 2018

[Update] Project Conversation underways!

Okay, so I've been itching to tell about this for weeks. I can't say there's much to see yet, which is the main reason why I've been waiting to make a post in here. But what I can't show yet, I can already tell quite a bit about.

Perhaps you remember me trying my hand at Ren'Py about one year ago, messing around to create a prototype of a conversation simulator. It was a timid attempt at impressing the game-making community, and it didn't work out as well as planned :p, but I wasn't just putting up a style exercise. I was intent on building a whole game out of it.

And that's what's going on in my life right now.

I've paired up with the talented Blueroze, who turned out really enthusiastic at the game I had in mind, and we're in the process of building it as I write this, stone by stone. The programming is actually well ahead, so I'm waiting on my partner to produce a few screenshots (no pressure, mate). :p

So, what's the deal? Project Conversation, as we're uncreatively referring to it, will tell the story of a scout camp taking place on a fictional island, off the shore of Brittany, France. So yeah, you'll get characters with French names, baguettes and cheese, obscure French songs at the campfire. And strange phenomena that might be explained by local folklore. Maybe.

Gameplay-wise, it will revolve around three main concepts:

  1. Topic navigation, where each conversation is essentially a maze you and your partner try to walk by taking turns at submitting conversation topics.
  2. Mood management, where you get to choose your tone at each topic, which in turn influences your partner's mood, and the way she will react.
  3. Memories making, where each conversation goal you manage to achieve lets you bond deeper with each girl, and improves the chance that her artificial intelligence finds you good enough to be her lover.
That's right—you're looking at the early development stage of a next-generation dating sim! Forget the routes, forget the branching plots, forget the hours of reading through hundreds of endless, boring dialogues, just to wake up every now and then for an obvious choice before going back to sleep again. This time around, you will actually be required to think, to feel, to read between the lines, to adapt your decisions to each situation... and to live with them!

No screenshots yet, but you'll be seeing more of Project Conversation very soon! :)