Progress Report: January 2014

I started working Aurora’s Nightmare back in the summer of 2011, though the original idea and early planning came long before (maybe I’ll talk about that in a future post).  However, work on it has been rather sporadic since it often has to take a backseat to both my current full time job (Professor of Game Design) and some of my other side jobs and projects (most recently, the writing I did for EverQuest Next).  So how far along is it now?  I’ve prepared the following chart to track its development progress.

Aurora's Nightmare Progress Jan 19 2014

Aurora’s Nightmare Progress Jan 19 2014

And that’s the chart.  It’s pretty simplistic now, but I think I’ll slowly make it fancier each time it’s posted.  Anyway, since this is its first appearance, I think some explanations are in order.  The color scheme is simple.  Red stands for completion (in terms of both the progress bars and text), black for everything else.

The story section represents the plot and script.  At present, I’ve completed all the initial setting and character development and have a rough plan of what’s going to happen in each of the three main story paths or routes, completing the planning section.
In terms of fully written script, I’ve got around 87 pages so far, which encompasses the entirety of the common route (things that happen at the beginning of the game before it has any major splits) and the first part of the first route (I’ll talk a bit more in-depth about the routes and what sets them apart in future updates).  I’m expecting the story to end up somewhere between 600 – 800 pages.  Though it’s still too early for me to say for sure.
Finally, editing is the process of going back over the completed script, fine tuning things, fixing typos, and so on.  I tend do a lot of rereading and light editing as I write, but I decided to have the editing bar represent the final couple of passes only (after the first draft is completed).  I tend to be pretty fast when it comes to editing so, once this phrase rolls around, it’s likely to be completed fairly quickly.

Character art refers to all the different poses for each character (visual novels tend to switch between a large number of still images, rather than use full animation).  The characters designs and sketches, done by artist Hanbee Lee, are all complete.  However, she’s not really a digital artist so, while she made a lot of great drawings, they need some additional work before they can be used in-game.
Clean-up and coloring is just what it says.  I clean up her original sketches so they’ll look better on a computer (which mostly involves retracing a lot of lines along with some mostly minor editing) and then color them in.  That’s what I’m currently working on.  It’s proven to be more time consuming than I originally estimated, but is progressing smoothly.
Finally, shading is the final pass on the colored images, adding shadows, light reflection, and other visual tweaks and improvements.  Right now, the shading is being handled by my friend Brian Morris.
I’ll note that, in terms of the progress bars for both clean-up and shading, they’re not entirely accurate since some poses take a lot more work than others.  For example, cleanup and coloring on an original full body pose could take me anywhere from 6 – 10 hours, while doing a derivative pose with a different expression might only take 2 – 3.  If you were to look at it in that regard, you could probably add around 15% to both of those gauges.

Background art are the images that go behind the character art to show you where the current scene is taking place.  Since Aurora’s Nightmare isn’t a globetrotting epic or cross stellar adventure, relatively few backgrounds are needed compared to the character poses.  But the backgrounds do require considerably more work.
At present, I have a complete list of necessary background images along with text descriptions of what they should look like, completing the planning phase.  None of the backgrounds are finished, however.  At present, I’m just starting to look into hiring an artist to create the backgrounds.  I could do them myself, but that would take a while and require a somewhat different art style than I’d prefer.

Sound covers music and sound effects.  At present, I have a complete list of necessary musical tracks, though I’m holding off on compiling a sound effect list until the script is near completion, which is why that gauge isn’t quite full.  I’ve done a little bit of work on the music front in terms of finding a composer but haven’t made much progress yet.  I’m shooting for 18 unique tracks, but that number could increase or decrease a bit once I start working with the composer.
For sound effects…  I’ll probably do things the quick and easy way and just buy what I need from a sound effects library, but we’ll see.

The final phase section is the final tasks that need to be done before the game is released.  Compilation refers to taking all the assets (script, art, and sound) and putting them together in the engine to make the actual game.  I’ve done a bit of early planning in that regard but naturally this is a phase that won’t progress much until nearly everything else is finished or near finished.
Bug testing will require playing through everything multiple times to ensure it all works properly.  I might do that myself, I might bring in some friends, or I might have semi-public beta test for people who pre-order the game or something like that.  I haven’t worked out the details yet.

And finally, the last section is for things I’d like to add to Aurora’s Nightmare should the opportunity arise, but are iffy and low priority due to budget and/or technical issues.
For ports, the initial release will be for PC but I’m hoping to get an Android version out at the same time or relatively soon after.  Other potential platforms include iOS, Windows Phone, 3DS and Vita.
In visual novels, CGs are special high quality images used to accentuate key scenes.  I’d love to have some in Aurora’s Nightmare (and, for this section, they’re a fairly high priority) but I don’t know if I’ll have the budget to pay for that much more artwork.
Some visual novels even have animated opening movies that play at or near the beginning of the game, often accompanied by a theme song.  That’d be a really cool addition, and I have the perfect song in mind, but it could easily triple or quadruple my current budget so it’s looking fairly unlikely at present.
Voice acting is another thing in the cool but overly expensive category.  Unless I went with an all amateur cast, which could be more affordable.  That said, I’m not putting voice acting into Aurora’s Nightmare unless I’m extremely happy with the quality, so it would have to be a really good amateur cast.  Anyway, this could happen but it’s probably the least likely feature on the list.
Lastly, translation into Japanese!  Why?  Well, Japan is the home of visual novels and they’re a whole lot more popular there than they are in the US.  In fact, I think there’s a very real possibility that Aurora’s Nightmare would sell far better in Japan than it will here.  Problem is, my Japanese isn’t anywhere near good enough to translate something of this scale and complexity, much less make it sound good.  But I do have some friends who could potentially handle it…
So, that’s how things stand.  I’ll repost this chart, along with updates on the current status of things, every month or two so you can track the progress.  See you next time!