indie games

Sweet Candy Adventures for a Rainy Day

Posted on Updated on

syrup_and_the_ultimate_sweet_by_nami_tsuki-d9f5ysn
Title screen for Syrup and the Ultimate Sweet.

In preparation for my very first Yuri Game Jam, I found myself browsing some of the best-loved entries from jams of years past. The one that stuck with me most is undoubtedly Syrup and the Ultimate Sweet. This is a cute and quirky adventure with a mildly romantic tone. You play as Syrup, a self-proclaimed candy alchemist and the owner of the only mundane candy shop in a village occupied entirely by witches and magical creatures.

Syrup is an endearingly grumpy character, devoted to her discipline but a little lacking in social skills, and surrounded by an equally endearing supporting cast. Her best friend Pastille is her only employee, in charge of dealing with customers and all the aspects of managing a shop that Syrup herself just isn’t very good at, while she works in the laboratory, creating fanciful candies. She carries on a friendly rivalry with the witch Butterscotch and her familiar Toffee, who are also her best customers.

screenshot0007
Syrup meets the candy golem.

The plot begins when Syrup enters her workshop and discovers a stranger there, a girl made entirely out of gummy pink candy. Being the suspicious character that she is, she immediately assumes the candy construct is a spy sent by her nemesis, Butterscotch, to discover how she makes her fabulous candies. Butterscotch is vain enough to accept the credit for creating such a complex piece of magic, bringing a candy girl to more-or-less autonomous life.

How the plot progresses depends largely on the player’s choices, unlocking one of several endings based on Syrup’s behavior towards both her friends and her enemies. Some of the endings are sweet and hopeful, some of them are quite depressing, and a few are ambivalent. All in all, the theme of the game is more around friendship than romance, which perhaps makes it an odd candidate for a yuri-based game jam, but I found it to be just the right kind of heart-warming for me.

Being a completionist, I made a decent stab at pursuing all possible endings, even the aptly-named “candibal” ending. The bad ends bring the good ones into focus, although I wouldn’t recommend playing them all back-to-back. There is also one friendship ending that’s only attainable after you’ve already unlocked one of the other good ends, and it even happens to be one of my favorites.

You can download Syrup and the Ultimate Sweet through itch.io or play it online through your browser. The browser-playable version has a slightly different interface, but I found both versions very playable. For a better look at the game’s art, check out Nami-Tsuki’s Deviant Art account, or find the game’s music on Bandcamp.

Crossposted to Dreamwidth.

Advertisements

Girlfriend Material Demo Out Now!

Posted on Updated on

banner_v2_400
Girlfriend Material is a Yuri Game Jam 2017 project.

The first Girlfriend Material demo is now out on itch.io. The demo introduces our protagonist, Lavinia von Adeline, and her ambition to design and build a robotic girlfriend AI for herself. Other characters appearing in the demo include: Jenny Jones, Lavinia’s mythological ex-girlfriend; Professor Eugenia, her mother; Ms. Margaret, her gossipy yet well-meaning neighbor; and Kasper, the helpful clerk at the hardware store.

Girlfriend Material is a hybrid visual novel dating game where you the player get to build a robot girlfriend and determine her personality from three predefined archetypes. The game is written in the Ren’py engine. Our team includes myself as writer and programmer, TellerFarsight as co-writer, and blankd as character artist. We hope to release the full free-to-play game in early November 2017.

Yuri Game Jam 2017

Posted on Updated on

banner_v2_400
Girlfriend Material is a soft sci-fi/romance visual novel.

It’s Yuri Game Jam season! A season to be especially queer in.

I know I mentioned before that I adore game jams. Deadlines tend to bring out my best work and I love the opportunity to potentially work with new people, not to mention I will jump at any opportunity to stretch my creative muscles. Yuri Jam is dedicated to stories centering queer female characters, which is familiar territory for me. The project I elected to develop, though, is something of a romantic comedy, which dips just slightly into camp territory.

Our protagonist is a self-styled mad scientist, a brilliant scientist who abandoned the world of academic research to recklessly pursue her own projects with no oversight. While she makes her living from the patents she takes out on her gadgeteering, she now faces her most ambitious invention yet. After years of romantic strikeouts, a phone-call from a concerned ex-girlfriend prompts her to take an entirely new approach to matters romantic, and she decides to build herself a robot girlfriend.

Yuri Game Jam is a two-month jam which takes place over the course of September-October 2017. I hope to complete the game, with three full romance routes, by the end of the jam. Accounting for last-minute complications, the estimated date of release is early-to-mid November. I will be posting progress updates on the Zinc Alloy Tumblr blog, and updating more regularly on the ZA Discord channel.

Crossposted to Dreamwidth.

National Novel… Again

Posted on Updated on

booksleeper_logo_large
BookSLEEPer Game Logo

One of the best things I’ve done as a novice game dev is get involved in game jams. Itch.io’s Finally Finish Something Jam motivated me to finish the alpha of my largest Twine project to date, Wreath of Roses, and submit it for feedback. After that was done I took a short break to focus on short stories, and just as I was wondering what my next project should be, I remembered that March is NaNoRenO.

I’ve blogged about NaNoWriMo before. It’s a month-long challenge to complete a novel draft, which has been running for years and engaged thousands of writers. NaNoRenO takes its inspiration from there, but is a rather more modest affair. The challenge is to create a visual novel or story-driven game, in one month. While some people can work alone to create all the writing, code and art for their game, most people prefer to work in teams and focus on their strengths.

Read the rest of this entry »

Niche – an Eco-Romp to Give Linnaeus Nightmares

Posted on Updated on

The game’s full title is Niche: a Genetics Survival Game, and thank Darwin fish for that, because “niche game” is the worst Google search term in history.

niche_screenshots_greenlight_3
Niche opening screen. Image via niche-game.com.

Anyhoo. Niche is an eco-bio-something sim that charges the player with raising a pack of vague mammalian critters, collecting food, breeding, fighting off predators, and exploring their surroundings. The game world’s science is a biological grab-bag of sorts. Differently colored tiles represent different “biomes” with different physical characteristics. Each critter has its own genome, where some traits divide to dominant versus recessive, and others mix interestingly, like fur color. A “mutation menu” lets the player pick specific traits to introduce into their newly-bred nichelings, rolling the dice and letting the odds determine the outcome. “Immunity genes” exist to discourage consanguinity. Later in the game’s life cycle, “alpha/beta” status for critters was also introduced.

Read the rest of this entry »

Greatest Hits

Posted on Updated on

Some of the posts on this blog receive very regular hits, regardless of how old they are. Hits from Google, or from social media of the shareable kind, where someone might decide to revive an old-ish post and give it second wind. It’s easy enough to trace my most popular posts through this method, as well as by the hit-count which WordPress provides. It’s almost as easy to get to the bottom of why these posts in particular receive more attention than others.

hits_by_month
Blog hits by month for the past year. See that big bump in January? Guess where that came from.

Some of them are reviews for niche products, obscure enough that my little blog is able to climb up the Google results to a visible place, maybe even on the first page. I’ve also been getting a few Image Google hits since I started including images in most of my posts. By far the most important factor, though, are the creators of the media that I review.

I review both books and games, most of them visual novels or other non-combat games from small-to-tiny indie studios. Game devs like these have to do most of their own promotion work. Authors also find themselves in this position sometimes, if they are self-published or else backed by a small publisher. Maybe the larger media review sites pick up on their creation, maybe they don’t. Either way, they need reviews. They need to get their name and the name of their product out there, to reach the readers or players most likely to pick it up.

Reviewers also need content creators. Most obviously, we need media to consume and review, for entertainment as well as work. But there are many mass media products floating around that I could be spending my time and money on. I could add my voice to the huge internet chorus talking about Star Wars or Supergirl (as I sometimes have). The media outlets that produce those properties, though, will never be aware of me and my work.

Not so for the independent creators. My best-visited review is still the one for Solstice, MoaCube games’ hybrid mystery visual novel. As I pre-purchased the game and played it before the release, my review was published right around the time that it became publicly available. The developer retweeted it shortly after, which led directly to three days of record hits for my blog. It’s still my most popular post by far.

Content creators and reviewers depend on each other. Books need readers, and so do blogs. When someone links to my review, they’re not only promoting their work, but also mine. They are also, to a lesser extent, promoting every other piece of media I’ve reviewed on this blog. Just as I rely on other review blogs, and on creators retweeting each other’s self-promotion, to find the subject of my next post. In fact, that’s how I find most of my favorite games and books, these days, especially through review-intensive sites like Goodreads.

Crossposted to Dreamwidth.