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Showing posts from 2017

The Meaning of Work (So long, 2017!)

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In every life, there's always that handful of stand-out years that mark events which go on to be catalysts for great change. As I look back on my own, it's not hard to recognize them. In 2011, I hit rock bottom and spontaneously traveled halfway across the world to rethink where my life was going. Seemingly unrelated at the time, I also started a blog which would eventually evolve into the website you're reading right now. In 2014, I pivoted from writing about the creative industry to becoming a creator myself. (And also contracted a chronic illness I'll have to live with for the rest of my life, but that's a story for another time.)

In 2017, I took everything I'd learned, reorganized from the ground up, and published my first new product in over a year: the world's most advanced consumer visual novel engine (yes, really!).

As 2017 draws to a close, I think it's safe to say that this year will be included in that list of pivotal moments in life. Not to im…

Update 24 - Less is More

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It's almost hard to believe it's been two weeks again. Not because they flew by (they did), or because they dragged (they did). In fact, they were filled with as many ups and downs as usual. And yet, after spending so long stuck in documentation purgatory (which you can read about here), just getting things done was a startling change of pace.

VNgen's to-do list grows shorter every day, and since the last dev blog I've published not one, but two updates to the Early Access release. You can read the full changelog here, if you're interested. But what the changelog won't tell you is just what these updates mean for the future of VNgen—and how it's gaining features even as the codebase gets smaller and smaller.

An invisible problem NO ONE cares aboutWhen VNgen first released in Early Access, it had a fundamental problem—a problem almost nobody would've noticed, and that didn't affect functionality in the slightest, but a problem nonetheless. That problem…

Update 23 - Extra! Extra! Read all about it!

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As a developer, sometimes you've gotta write code, and other times, you've gotta just write. For me, November was one of those months. With VNgen out in the wild, it is now my priority to support the Early Access release with information and updates that will lead it to version 1.0, and that means providing resources to help users learn how to use it. In the space of only a few weeks I wrote the amount of a small novel doing just that, and at last the effort has paid off.

But don't take my word for it: this weekend you can finally see the results for yourself.

A long time comingAs a brand, XGASOFT is already almost a year old. Early on in 2017 I laid the groundwork for a long-term vision that might've been difficult to see from the outside, but with VNgen, hopefully that vision is starting to become a bit clearer.



On the developer side of things, X1 is now host to a massive library of VNgen documentation, which you can check out for yourself from start to finish at https:…

Update 22 - Itching for More

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It's hard to believe, but it has already been two weeks since VNgen entered public Early Access. A number of you have already become early adopters and left some great feedback. On that note, a big thank you to everyone who's participated so far!

But VNgen's just getting off the ground, and my work is cut out for me for the rest of the year. I can't wait to get on with the more exciting tasks ahead, but in the here and now, there's more important groundwork to be laid—things that will greatly impact all VNgen developers, moving forward.

Now Available: VNgen and Edge Engine on Itch.io!That's right: the GameMaker Marketplace isn't the only place to go for VNgen anymore! Both VNgen and the entire Edge Engine suite are now available on Itch.io, sharing the same discounts as their Marketplace counterparts. In fact, Itch.io is the only place the Edge Engine collection is available as a single package!

The decision to release on a second platform wasn't planned, …

Update 21 - VNgen Early Access: Available NOW

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You read that title correctly: after many missed estimates, VNgen is finally here, it's real, and it's out in the wild. It's been a long time in coming, but I promise the extra time has been put to good use. When I first sat down to write the design document for what would become VNgen, I feared I was being too ambitious. A year later, not only have I achieved the goals of that original design document, but also surpassed them in almost every way and even added at least a dozen more features to boot (not counting additions planned for further down the road). What's more, the core logic that VNgen is built on proved so useful that it has since been spun off into its own library, Quantum, which will go on to power further tools in the future.

It's been a truly productive year, but the release of VNgen doesn't mean it's all coming to an end. On the contrary, this is quite literally just the beginning.


Developers, start your engines!VNgen is available now in Earl…

VNgen Pre-Release Update

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Hello, World! As you may have noticed, today is the last day in October, and in the last devblog I said VNgen was on track for an October release. Well, the truth is... it's done. The build I have in my virtual hands right now is 100% functional and feature-complete. But as eager as I am to get it in people's hands, I've decided to hold off releasing VNgen for a few more days.

The official release date for VNgen is Friday, November 3, 2017.

Between now and then, I'll be doing everything I can to make the launch as strong as possible. It'll still be Early Access when it gets here, mind you, but with new product launches comes a plethora of images, text, and demos that have to be prepared (even if they're often just taken for granted) and I'm confident VNgen deserves the best presentation it can get.

Stay tuned for this weekend's regularly scheduled devblog for the full details. I'll see you there!

Update 20 - The End of the Tunnel

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You know the light at the end of the tunnel? Well, no more looking for it, because it's right up ahead.

I'll be honest: I had hoped this devblog would the one where I announce the early access release of VNgen. Well, that's not going to happen today, but it will soon—very soon—and I can assure you my time is being well spent until that day arrives. Indeed, the work I'm doing today is critical in shaping VNgen's future—literally.

So... what's the big hold up?Admittedly, part of it is plain old code OCD (a luxury of being a solo developer without a publisher breathing down my neck), but there's much better reasons to hold off on releasing VNgen in its current state as well.



Simply put, VNgen was designed to a set of standards, and over time gradually became de-standardized as more and more features were added. It's never been a complete mess, but even a little chaos is tough to reign in on a project that's still in flux. And as any programmer knows, prem…

Update 19: Exterminate!

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After a year in development, VNgen is almost here, and that means it's time to go over everything with bug spray and a fine-toothed comb. It's a little hard to believe it's only been two weeks since the last devblog, because in that small space of time many things have changed and improved so that when VNgen finally releases it will be rock-solid from day one. So much has happened, in fact, that time will not permit mentioning every last detail, so this weekend we'll be focusing on just the coolest and most important stuff. Check it all out after the jump!

Cleaning houseThere is a certain art to finishing long-term projects. As the saying goes, the last 10% is 90% of the work. In software, there's an additional challenge: not screwing up the other 90% of the work in the process. Fixing bugs always bears the risk of creating new ones, and sometimes even with heavily commented code it can be easy to forget your line of reasoning for doing something a certain way. Then…

Update 18 - VNgen: Coming Soon!

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When you've spent enough time working on a project, it's funny how the end can sort of sneak up on you. No matter how long you've spent anticipating it, how many tears you've shed wishing it were here, when the time finally comes to set foot over the finish line, it sort of just... happens.

"Oh, yeah. That was it." That was pretty much my response this past week when I checked the last feature off VNgen's to-do list. It was a feature I'd been dreading for a while—not because I was worried I couldn't do it, but because of the amount of unique code it required. Tedium, in other words.

Well, now the boring slog is over, and one year later VNgen is officially feature-complete! There's still a handful of work to be done before it's ready to be called Version 1.0, but that day is coming up fast! As such, this weekend we'll not only be taking a look at the many changes and additions that have been made recently, but what you can expect for when…

Update 17 - Music to the Ears

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It's hard to believe, but it has now been two weeks since the unveiling of Yugure no Kagami as the debut game of my indie career. Things have been a bit quiet since then, but don't let the silence deceive you: behind the scenes, things are more active than ever. So much so that, in fact, this week we'll be able to check off a category from the to-do list entirely—and you'll get to hear the results!


Yugure no Kagami Status Report
Script:100%Artwork:1%Music:100%Programming:60%Voice:0%
As promised, it's time for our second biweekly Yugure no Kagami status report, and if you recall the graph from last time, you'll notice that one category has jumped quite a bit this week—namely, music!

That's right: the soundtrack for Yugure no Kagami is 100% complete! Back in 2014 when I wrote the melody for the series theme song I never imagined it would get the professional treatment it has. The final soundtrack is comprised of several licensed tracks plus 11 original tracks com…

Update 16 - Total Eclipse of the Start

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Well, the USA's first total solar eclipse in nearly 40 years has come and gone, and along with it my promise to formally announce the project I've been keeping under wraps for the past two-and-a-half years. Overall it was a successful day, with hundreds of visits and interactions on sites and social media pages literally no one had ever seen before. You can check them out here (Twitter), here (Facebook), and here (official site), by the way.

Now, 'hundreds' isn't a very good number in the long term, but it's incredibly difficult to penetrate all the other voices on the internet. The initial task of raising awareness is a long and slow process, and often happens organically despite any efforts you may make. As an example, this site itself didn't receive much attention until I started operating as an indie developer, where traffic is now fueled largely by sites where I sell my work—and where I've done next to zero marketing.

Marketing can often seem an enig…

Update 15 - Announcing the Announcement

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If you've followed this dev blog for very long, you've probably seen a hint or two dropped that more has been going on behind the scenes than just VNgen. Well, the planets have aligned—literally—and that means it's finally time to take the wraps off the super-secret project I've been teasing all year.

But don't worry! Work on VNgen continues, so as is custom around here, we'll also be spending time looking at how it has changed and evolved over the past couple weeks too.

It's a bit of an unusual list this time around, so be sure to take a look after the jump!



Total EclipseThere are now fewer than 10 days until the US experiences its most complete solar eclipse in nearly a century. That might sound a bit random or even off-topic, but for me the timing couldn't be more perfect.

A few weeks ago I announced XGASOFT as the new brand for my commercial efforts, and today I'm pleased to announce that on August 21 the official XGASOFT website will be unveiled, b…

Update 14 - Hands Off!

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Last time, we took an in-depth look at some of the inner workings of VNgen and the challenges presented by adding very non-standard finishing touches on very standardized elements. It's an ongoing challenge, and one that will remain until VNgen's completion. For the past two weeks, however, that hasn't really been the priority. The problem with standard design is that it often leaves a few gaps behind, and the problem with non-standard design is that it often leaves a mess behind. This weekend, we'll be taking a look at how VNgen is cleaning up both, and how automation can make these and other tasks more convenient for the end user. Let's dive right in!

Don't touch that dial!While a big draw for visual novels is undoubtedly the addictive little mechanic of clicking through text, there comes a time when some users may wish to have text proceed for them. When first designing text, the challenge was to prevent events from progressing until the user clicked to conti…

Update 13 - Shader Business

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It has now been four weeks since text was first introduced in VNgen, and two weeks since the debut of X1, the site that will serve as the home for documentation for all my work, moving forward. That site is now live, by the way, and includes an official issue tracker to publicly manage bug reports and feature requests.

Needless to say, it's been a productive month all around. But as I said before, more often than not it's baby steps as opposed to huge leaps now that so much of the groundwork has been laid on my current projects. As a result, this weekend we have the opportunity to take a bit closer look than usual at what's happening in VNgen. Find out more after the jump.

As I've mentioned in the past, VNgen operates on a set of standardized functions for all major elements. These include things like:

vngen_thing_createvngen_thing_destroyvngen_thing_modifyvngen_thing_replacevngen_thing_animatevngen_thing_deform
Fitting text into this scheme proved far more difficult than …

Update 12 - Introducing XGASOFT and X1, the new face of ThinkBoxly Docs!

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If you've been following this dev blog for a while, you may recall at the beginning of the year I announced that, along with converting this site into a dev blog, I'd be spinning off my other creative efforts into a separate brand, then called Shaft. However, due to potential confusion with a Japanese studio of the same name, I was strongly advised not to move forward with that branding. Well, it turns out coming up with names is hard, but after days (and days, and days) of bouncing ideas around and checking on their availability, I've finally settled on how to move forward.

Oh, and don't worry: VNgen is still making progress too. All this and more after the jump!

A new nameConsidering the title of this post, there's not much point in delaying this one. As you probably already figured out, this new brand I speak of is (drum roll please)...



... XGASOFT!

What you may not have figured out, though, is what it means. XGA stands for "International Game Arts", and I…