Reworking the Plumbing

Sep 3

Helllllllo again! This is another dreadfully late blog post, and we wanted to start off by apologizing for that. We were holding off on making another post until after all the CG line art was wrapped up, but there was a bit of a hiccup on that front. We’re close, though -— just four to go as of the time of writing! As backgrounds have been progressing steadily as well, progress on the art front overall has been pretty positive.

In the last post we mentioned grabbing a new sprite artist without dropping a name on you. We did preview a rough Mekki mockup on Twitter but never showed anything here, so apologies if you missed that! In either case, we can 100% officially announce that AcoTan is working on our sprites now, and they’re looking great! For now we’ll still just dump some roughs on you, but we’ll of course have fully finalized stuff to look at hopefully soonish.

AcoTan's sprite sketches

Okay so, with that being said, we were going for full transparency regarding our situation in the last blog post, and would like to continue that trend in this one. What’s about to come will definitely sound dire, but we hope you’ll take our word that everything is going smoothly as of right now and we’re in a much better place than before.

First Snow was originally pitched as a small time investment, with the potential for asset reuse and the like, but that started being the case less and less due to some long-time developers’ cease of involvement. As such, First Snow’s new given purpose has been to provide us with a window to lick several years’ worth of wounds and take a critical eye to Twofold proper, giving us some time to look at the future of the main VN while simultaneously giving you guys something to chew on.

And that we’ve done. What we’ve concluded is that Twofold’s initial scripts and overall premise were more than a little messy, and we’ve been trying too hard to salvage them for the sake of consistency with publicly released information.

We’ve been trying to mask this for a while; avoiding questions in regards to writing, being vague about the premise while we tried to sort it out ourselves. We cannot apologize enough for this. Trying to keep everything you know about the story intact just tied our hands too much. Because of this we want to just air this dirty laundry out right now, so we can wipe away the things we had previously built up and re-examine things with a “nothing is guaranteed” outlook, without feeling like we were deceiving you.

So. What’s changing, as of right now? While we want to re-examine absolutely everything, here’s a few things we’ve already been mulling over:

  1. We’ve brought this point up repeatedly, but we really do want the emphasis of this story to be on the concept of family and what that entails. Despite us being pretty vocal about this, it isn’t actually super apparent with things like the website and such. This is definitely the core of our story and we want to treat it as such.

    One of the very first things we established in the story is that it would be about Oliver flunking out of school. This stopped being the primary focus relatively quick, but we kept hammering this point home because it was one of the foundations we built up early.

    Oliver suffering through his courses in one aspect or another is still planned (at this time) to be an element at the start of the VN, but we don’t want to cite this as the actual premise anymore. If we use this plot element at all in the final draft, it’ll likely just be a way to goad Oliver into a club but we don’t want it to be the focus of the story in the slightest.

  2. Trimming down characters. There were a lot of characters in early versions of Twofold. A LOT. We’re condensing them down as much as humanly possible. Some characters in the super old demo, Lawe and Izaac, have already been cut, and a few unreleased ones have also been scrapped entirely or merged into other characters.

    In addition to this, we’ve also been re-considering the roles played by the current characters in the story, and tweaking or otherwise changing their personalities and purpose in the story to better match the new situation.

  3. Oliver himself. We mentioned this a bit in the last post and before that as well, but we want to tone him down. In previous drafts he was just outright cruel and while we still think having him be a bit standoffish and antisocial can work, he was just way too deep into that.
  4. Some cosmetic and background changes. There are artifacts from Twofold’s very first draft that are recognizable, but don’t really represent the VN anymore. We want to consider removing them.

    A prime example of this is Caprice’s hat. We’ve heard Twofold called “the visual novel with the top hat girl” more than once and we considered stuff like this as sacred, unchangeable thing, but given the freedom to explore removing small elements like these would be nice.

  5. Re-working the background story of the clubs. In the really old demo and our own earlier drafts, the writing club was woefully underdeveloped and seemed to be drifting around purposelessly for the sake of giving the writing characters a place to interact. While the art club had a somewhat better development arc going for it, it needed some extra fleshing out as well.

Finally, we want to bring up the possibility of First Snow not using Twrlare’s sprites. Our plan as of right now is to go ahead and use them, as they’re all drawn up and just require coloring, but depending on AcoTan’s and Curchack’s speed and schedule, swapping them out may not be out of the picture. We’d prefer this to maintain consistency between the two visual novels, but have no intention of delaying FS to make this happen. It should not influence the release at all, so don’t worry about it too much, we just wanted to give you a fair warning just in case we update one day and the sprites looked entirely different.

At this point, we’d say that the vast majority of stuff that you’d know about Twofold from the old demo is not at all accurate anymore. As such, we removed links to the old demo from the website. If you really really need it for some reason, you can still get it HERE. It’d be nice to take the time to re-write the summary and bios on the website to reflect all the changes too, but please understand that’s a low priority right now compared to actually getting the stuff done.

We know there’s been a couple of apologies already, but I want to offer one more as we wrap this blog post up. There’s been a pretty severe lack of transparency on our part while we tried to fix things up, but all that caused was problems on both sides. While we continue to finish up First Snow, we’re going to use our time to plan out Twofold to the best of our ability and will hopefully have more solid stuff for both visual novels for you sooner rather than later.

If you have any questions at all regarding our status or the recent and upcoming changes, feel free to drop us a line in the comments below or ask on Twitter or Discord! Until next time!

→ read more

Revisiting Some Basics

May 31

We ended up breaking our monthly update rule recently due to some unrest caused by recent changes in Twofold’s staff. As we mentioned previously, we had to separate with Mehkanik due to scheduling woes, leaving All-Maker in charge of writing Twofold. Unfortunately, we also had to part with our long-standing sprite artist, Twrlare, and his assets will no longer be part of Twofold itself moving forward.

Our initial pitch of First Snow is that it made sense for us to work on, as it would share the majority of its art assets with Twofold, while being written by Suriko. While this is no longer fully the case, the good news is that the sprites necessary to finish First Snow have already been completed, so there won’t be any significant delays in getting it out the door.

This also gives us a decent enough grace period to establish a backup plan for Twofold, which we’ve started working on. We’ve been in contact with one or two people in regards to picking up sprite duty for Twofold, and we have a pretty good idea how to move forward. We don’t want to announce anything yet until we have something to show you, so hopefully we can finalize something on that end and share it ASAP.

This has been a pretty stressful period and starting over from nothing in regards to Twofold sprites isn’t great, but if we plan things well we should be able to pick ourselves up fine.

So, with First Snow sprites finalized, let’s move on to other asset matters!

The First Snow script has been done and finalized for a few months, though recently we did a quick pass through it to remove any references to Salt Lake City. We were already being liberal with the VN’s geography and features, so it made more sense to break free from namedropping anything specific. Naturally, this will apply to Twofold itself as well.

James can turn a song around really fast if something is requested, so we have zero worries in regards to music. Directing, at the time of writing, is wrapping up work on act 2. First Snow has three acts, for reference. Backgrounds are coming along at a steady pace, though Curchack does occasionally take breaks to color other assets or produce cut-in graphics like the one shown in the last blog post.

Twofold’s writing situation has been going well, CG rush considered. We’ve done another pass on Mehk’s existing writing and have a pretty solid idea of where to take it from here. Theres been several group meetings where we’ve focused on establishing what we want the core focus to be, as well as refining Oliver’s personality from our super super super old demo.

Here’s some thoughts we’ve had and examples to the changes or additions we’re making to put them into actions:

  1. Oliver’s personality in the demo was established as “antisocial jerk” but some of his interactions felt sort of flimsy (hating interacting with people and then initiating conversation with Wallace, seemingly disliking women in general and then openly flirting with Mekki). We went back to the drawing board and decided that the Oliver that we want to solidify and stick with is a pessimist and has a general negative opinion on most things, but isn’t necessarily antisocial. We also want to establish his independence as a notable character trait, how he’s largely capable of caring for himself. We decided to cut the character Izaac to emphasize this, along with the fact that Hayley contributed similar things to him which made him feel redundant.

  2. We also want to start focusing on the theme of family and establish some sympathy for Oliver early on, rather than waiting until after a club is chosen. As an example of how we’re approaching this, we’ve reworked the opening of the VN. The hike up to the campus and the counselor interaction have been removed entirely, and instead the VN starts with Oliver having a conversation with August. We think this starts the VN off on a better foot, since you’ll get a glimpse of Oliver with his guard down almost immediately. Having August be around so early allows us to use Oliver’s relationship with his mom more effectively in the rest of the story.

  3. The premise at the start of the VN has always been Oliver having grade problems, and that’s still the case. However, the real meat of the story comes after that is established and largely resolved. While there’s no solid examples of how we’re going to accomplish this yet, we want to dampen Oliver’s doomsday attitude towards his situation. Instead, we’ll move the spotlight onto the things relevant to the core of the story (family and the importance of the arts to the characters).

Finally, CGs. Everything in First Snow has at least one base sketch and initial lining done, and the majority are completely finalized in terms of their line art. Since All-Maker is writing Twofold’s script, we’ve tried to streamline the CG creation process by having Skrats help with the initial sketches, which either reduces or eliminates the need for redlines in most cases. Wrapping up CG lining is our number one priority right now, so that All-Maker can dedicate his full focus to writing, instead of splitting attention between the two VNs.

Caprice

Woo, this was a big one. While some things might seem shaky, please continue to wait warmly and we’ll continue to try our best. We tried to make this post as large and detailed as possible so everyone can get a good grasp of where we are. It’s not the end of the world just yet!

If you have any questions, ideas or comments, please drop them somewhere, either in the comments, on Twitter or Discord, or wherever. Until next time!

→ read more

Unexpected Difficulties

Mar 30

Hello again!

While we’ve been pretty good about our new commitment to monthly updates, this month has been a bit… tricky. Very recently, the server hosting pretty much everything related to development completely died: the site and blog, our internal wiki which hosted all of our asset lists and to-dos, and all of our central storage got wiped. This put us in turmoil for a couple days; it wasn’t anything fatal as everyone had the assets and code locally as well, but the wiki in particular was a huge loss in terms of our productivity. Thankfully, a miracle occurred and after a few days of panic, the server rebooted just long enough to create the necessary backups before dying once again.

While we’re thankfully returning to a normalized state, we’re still experiencing some hiccups getting absolutely everything set up again and amidst the scramble we’ve honestly slightly lost track of what we actually accomplished this month, so there’s no real in-depth progress report this time.

What we can provide are some relatively broad strokes: progress on all fronts! The remaining CG list for First Snow is growing pretty short and as a result All-Maker should be able to focus on Twofold writing soon, some music has been produced, we’ve been averaging a new background every week and a half or so, amid additional assets.

Cut-in

For the sprites, we’re going to be doing some minor redraws to a couple of characters to improve their anatomy. We typically wouldn’t do this, but since this is an important issue in consistency for these specific characters, we figured it was necessary. These character sprites are the only ones we plan to change, as we want to keep dev moving forward as opposed to sideways.

To prevent something like this from throwing us into turmoil again, the new server has an actual backup policy now.

Sorry about the relatively underwhelming post. We should be 100% back to normal soon so ideally our next update should be a bit more substantial. Thanks for sticking with us!

→ read more

Keeping Pace

Feb 20

Hello again! Last time around, there was mention of wanting to do more frequent blog posts leading up to the release of First Snow so here’s our monthly(-ish) wrap-up, with another hopefully coming near the end of March.

So, first off are the updates on our FS progress: The initial directing pass of Act 1 has been completed. There are some placeholders being used and some general jank to iron out, but you can read the first third of the VN with some sort of audio+visual backdrop all the way through. We’re a few scenes into Act 2 at the time of writing.

On the art side of things, we mentioned last time that we wanted a few more poses for Eileen given her prominent screen time in FS, so work has begun there as well. A large handful of CGs have had their lineart finalized, with even more (~2-3) planned to be ready before the end of February. BG production has ramped up as well, with an average of 1 being done a week at our current pace.

A small thing about sprites that we’ll be addressing is their temperature relative to their environment. Our initial plan was to use our standard color scheme for our sprites across the board when outdoors (like this from our preview site) but that ended up creating a noticeable contrast between the characters and their backdrop. We’ve been trying to find an easy way to adjust this en masse and found a pleasant solution, so now our sprites will blend in with their environments better:

Keep in mind that we currently only intend to do this in outdoors winter areas or cases where specific indoor bgs warrant it; we’ll be using our traditional color scheme otherwise, due to their relatively neutral lighting.

Okay, now for the big one: due to Mehkanik’s hectic schedule, he’s had to step down from writing Twofold. While this is obviously giant and scary and grim-sounding all around, we managed to establish a plan pretty quickly. Mehkanik will still be helping edit the TF scripts, but All-Maker will now be writing the actual VN. We didn’t want to rely on outside help for this, as we love our core story but didn’t think it would be fair to ask around for help and then ask that they stick to our story.

Thankfully, All-Maker felt the same and offered to step up and work on the writing. An obvious problem in regards to this idea is that he’d be juggling CG duties as well as writing an entire VN, so we’ve established a system where our other artists (Skrats, Twr, Curchack) will be drawing up the base of the CGs, with All-Maker doing the final lining to maintain consistency. So far this has gone great, with CGs going at the same, if not better, pace as before.

As for writing progress, All-Maker has established where he wants to take things and how he plans on doing that, so making some proper outlines is next on the to-do. We’re prioritizing getting the FS CGs out of the way ASAP so All-Maker can fully focus on writing after the fact.

→ read more

In the Cold

Jan 31

Hi everyone! We hope the First Snow reveal has gotten people interested and/or excited after our long absence. We want to keep the momentum going this time: while we absolutely can’t make promises, our new goal is to have some sort of status update on either a monthly or bi-monthly basis. Conveniently, it’s been just over a month since the FS reveal, so now seems like an appropriate time to talk about stuff!

The largest thing that needs some discussion is the state of First Snow. When we announced it, FS was given a fairly typical reveal. Mini-site, some basic info and so on. What wasn’t made clear was how much work had actually gone into FS prior to the reveal and how far along it currently is in production, so we wanted to go through that now.

As of a couple of days ago, the script for First Snow has been largely finalized, barring the usual fine tuning. The final draft was well underway by the time of the actual reveal, so it didn’t take too long to tie everything together. As a result of this, the required asset list for the visual novel as a whole is complete.

Base sprites for the entire cast are also entirely done. The bulk of the sprites will also be usable in Twofold, so this is a big deal on that front as well. Some alternative poses are still required, which are currently being worked on. For example, Eileen still only has her default two from Twofold’s demo, so she in particular needs some fleshing out given you’ll be seeing a lot more of her. Past that, good progress all around on the sprite front.

Roughly half of the planned CGs have finished their first lining and waiting on redlines, and a small handful are complete (ie fully colored, ready to ship). Twr and Skrats have been helping with CG composition recently, which should help speed things along. All-Maker will still be doing the final lining on all of them for the sake of consistency.

Backgrounds are a bit tricky - We have a decent number of them done, but we have a lot of them to cover yet. On top of this, we also need to take some pre-existing locations and set them in winter. While not as time consuming, they still require a bit of effort. On top of this, Curchack is still in charge of coloring every asset in the VN so he has lots to do concurrently. It’s difficult to pin down exact numbers to give an overall completion percentage, given the amount of planned variances and so on, but it’s going relatively smoothly. This is one aspect that would be nice to go into more detail about in another post.

Unlike Twofold, we wanted to get a good amount of work done before making our new VN known to the world, and hopefully this post clarifies just how much was done prior to said reveal. We still have a ways to go yet, but hopefully we’ll be getting there sooner rather than later.

→ read more