Moving In #1: The Model Loft

This is the first of a series of stories I’m throwing together whenever I’m in the mood.  I still haven’t decided what my next game will be, but I’m interested in carrying on with Ariane and Rachel, and adding a bit of sci-fi tech to the mix.

Note: If Ariane and Rachel look a little different than usual, it is because I’m using La Femme as a base model instead of Vicky 4.

Our story begins with Ariane and Rachel discussing moving in together now that Rachel is out of college and has quit modeling…

loftproject1aRachel: So what do you think?

Ariane: It’s nice, but it means living under the same roof as my mom.

Rachel: Ellison Tower is a huge building, I doubt you’ll even see her very often.

Ariane: I’m just wondering why we can’t move into my house. There is no pool here.

Rachel: The pool is expensive to upkeep, and you can only use it half the year.  This place is bigger than your house. We can even bring the hot tub.

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Ariane: I’m also closer to work, living here would save me a lot of money, and I really love this furniture.

Rachel: This is a model suite, we won’t have this furniture, but we both have furniture we can bring.

Ariane: Yeah, I guess. At least the view is spectacular.

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Rachel: We won’t have that either. This is model suite is on the 23rd floor. If we take it, our suite will be on the 5th floor.

Ariane: So our view will be…?

Rachel: A parking garage.

Ariane: Can I run around naked and give the parking lot patrons a show?

Rachel: Sure but the glass is one way so they won’t see you. This is high tech glass that traps solar energy and generates electricity.  It also has a TLCD coating.

Ariane: What’s that?

Rachel: Transparent Liquid Crystal Display, similar to color e-paper.

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(Rachel does something with her phone and suddenly the Pirate’s Cove from Duquesne appears in the windows.)

Ariane: The window is a video screen?

Rachel: It can display pictures, it is slow to refresh, so it can’t do video.

Ariane: So if we don’t like looking at the parking lot we can change the view?  Neat! Do the walls do the same thing?

Rachel: No just the glass.

Ariane: So I can paint the walls another color?

Rachel: That’s right, you are not a fan of white walls.  Sure, as long as I can hang my photos on them.

Ariane: Deal, let’s do this!

Links to full sized pictures:

Ariane in Paradise 1.03 – Teen Ariane

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Since the release of Ariane in Paradise, most of the comments have been very positive, so thanks for that.

The criticisms pretty much fall into two categories:

1. Bugs: The achievement scoreboard only lists 39 and you need 40 to get bonus content. Well the board left off the “Dead Parrot” achievement, which is one of the achievements that don’t come easily automatic.  It’s been fixed in 1.03.  Some android devices (primarily phones) have a dark bar across the screen when there is dialogue.  Thanks to Animadoria, it has been tracked to a default background picture for phones. We replaced the file, and that issue is now fixed.

UPDATE: Some devices still cut off text choices, this seems to be more prevalent on android phones, so I’m releasing a 1.04 version that moves menus to the middle of the screen for people having that issue. See download page or comments for link.

2. The controversial ending.  All paths lead to one ending: The vacation is over and you and Ariane say goodbye, probably forever.  For me it is the only logical way the game could have ended. The ending was heavily hinted at throughout the game. Every time you suggest getting together after the vacation, Ariane rejects it, and avoiding those questions is a major objective in Day 2.

Now I knew it would be controversial, because most all romance dating games end where the player and the object of affection declare their undying love for each other, the end.

One of the inspirations for creating the game in the first place is to undermine the standard dating sim ending.  It a theme I weave throughout all my games.  Date Ariane was different from a typical Dating Sim by being a literal simulation of a date.  Something In The Air was a typical “harem” dating sim, but choices not taken on one path affect the other paths.  Rachel and Ariane was a “kinectic” visual novel that changed structure based on choices in previous games.

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Ariane in Paradise undermines the typical “romance” story by actually being an “affair” story instead.  True to life: if you meet someone on vacation and you have a lot of fun together, that will likely be the peak of the relationship. Trying to keep a vacation friendship or romance going after the vacation is over never works, and Ariane knows this for some unexplained reason.

But as I thought about that recently, I wondered “How come I never explained Ariane’s reason for feeling this way?”  So I invented a reason and created a flashback to “Teen Ariane” and her first crush during summer camp.  It’s a very short flashback, but I had fun writing and illustrating it, especially coming up with what Ariane would look like as a teen.  It was mostly done by taking the Ariane model and applying a “young” morph to her face and body, and giving her some messy and oddly dyed hair.

Before you ask, there are no nude or sex scenes involving teen Ariane.  I like my games to maintain an “R” or “M” rating, and be legal in most of the world.

The next problem was where in the game do I add the story?  In day 3 there are two paths with identical endings that I call the “Casablanca” ending.  So I decided to leave that ending on the “lake” path, and add the “Summer Camp” ending to the “beach” path.

I also decided to give in and include a more hopeful ending.  It is still not the “happily ever after” ending people are used to, but it is not a hard goodbye either.  It also ties to one of the bonus epilogues that open after you finish all 40 achievements.

The version 1.03 patch (6mb) available here if you have 1.01 or 1.02.  Patch notes can be found here.

For PC and Linux, extract the patch to the same directory arianeinparadise.exe is located, it should want to copy over 28 files, say yes, when you launch it should say 1.03 in lower right corner.

For Mac users, you can try extracting to arianeinparadise.app\Contents\Resources\autorun folder and let it overwrite.

Android users should just redownload.  The download page is here.

Ariane in Paradise is Now FREE!

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Happy New Years! Ariane in Paradise is now FREE!

Ariane in Paradise Download Page

Ariane in Paradise FAQ

Ariane in Paradise Screenshots

Ariane in Paradise Walkthroughs

Join your fellow Duquesne vacationers on our official Discord, for chat and questions.

There is also more info in the Wiki

UPDATED! 1.03: I am releasing a patch available here.  Patch notes can be found here. Android users should just download latest version.

For PC and Linux, extract the patch to the same directory arianeinparadise.exe is located, it should want to copy over 28 files, say yes, when you launch it should say 1.03 in lower right corner.

For Mac users, you can try extracting to ArianeInParadise.app\Contents\Resources\autorun folder and let it overwrite.

For Android users, when I installed new version, it said it was corrupt, it is not.  I had to uninstall and reinstall to get it to work, and lost all my saved games in the process, hopefully it works better for you.

I’ll post more extensively about the making of the game and a “Directors commentary”, but for now have fun exploring!

Ariane Through the 10’s

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There is a meme going around where people are comparing themselves in 2009 and today in 2019.  I made the above graphic to fit in.  The picture on the left came from Date Ariane 6.1 that was released in December 2009. The picture on the right is from Ariane in Paradise released this year.  I thought I’d post some of the in between pictures.

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2010: Version 6.4 brought some new Rebecca images into the game.

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2011:  DA 7.0 Replaced the video game screenshot downtown with an original 3D downtown model.

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2012:  First started working on the sequel Something’s In The Air.  I was still using the old Ariane model, but I created Rachel that year.

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2013: Finalized Ariane’s Something in the Air model, giving her a new haircut.

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2014: Did the remake of Date Ariane for Renpy with yet another new hair style.

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2015: Finished Date Ariane Renpy by replacing the ponytail wet hair with more realistic wet hair.

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2016: Began the Rachel Meets Ariane story.

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2017: Finished the Rachel Meets Ariane story, Rachel and Ariane both get new hairstyles.

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2018: Ariane gets yet another new look as I start work on Ariane in Paradise.

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2019: Finished Ariane in Paradise.

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2020?: I’m experimenting with a new model of Ariane based on La Femme instead of Victoria 4.

Sexual Minorities in Games

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I’m old enough to remember when sexual minorities in media were never talked about.  Anybody wise to sexuality in the 60’s knew that Uncle Arthur on Bewitched was gay but it never got mentioned in the show itself.  It wasn’t until a show called Soap came on in the early 80’s that broke the sexuality taboo and featured an openly gay character played by not gay actor Billy Crystal.

Still it took a while for more openly gay characters to appear in TV and movies, unfortunately many times as the antagonist — often because of their sexuality.  Pretty much all positive portrayals throughout the 80’s and 90’s were also stereotypes.  Gay men were always effeminate, lesbians were always “Tom Boys”, and transgenders were portrayed as deceitful (The Crying Game) and/or just scary (Silence of the Lambs).

Gay and lesbian characters are pretty much mainstream these days, and portrayed as “normal” people, because they are.  It took a good 40 years or so to get that way.  There are still bad transgender stereotypes floating around, but shows like Sense 8, Supergirl and The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina are starting to catch on and do it right.

I bring this up because there are other sexual minorities that don’t get as much attention.  One of them is asexuality.  It’s going through the same phase that gays and lesbians went through in the 80’s and 90’s.  Literary asexual characters like Sherlock Holmes and Jughead Jones get hetero-normalized in TV and Movie portrayals, and the tiny representation of asexuals is either stereotypically naive like Todd on Bojack Horseman, or stereotypically cold and unemotional like Raphael on Shadowhunters.  Still it’s something.

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Rachel Spahr the Asexual 

If you played my third game Rachel Meets Ariane, you know that Rachel is canonically asexual.

This can be confusing to many as Rachel has a sexual fetish, and you can have sex with her in Something’s In The Air if you are willing to indulge that fetish.  The confusion mostly comes over the definition of asexuality: Asexuality is the lack of sexual attraction for any gender.

That’s it, that’s the whole definition.  Sexual drive (aka sexual libido) has nothing to do with it.  Some asexuals are romantic, some are aromantic.  Some masturbate, some don’t.  Some have fetishes, some don’t.  Some are willing to have sex to please their romantic partner, some are uncomfortable with it no matter what.  Asexuality is not the same as celibacy, and it is not a medical condition or a mental disorder to be “cured”.  It is simply a sexual orientation.

Here’s a video with more info:

The trouble with making games or any media with asexual characters is because of all the common myths associated with the orientation.  The general population doesn’t understand it.

If you make a character asexual, or if you mention asexuality in fiction, you have to be very careful to get it right, and not perpetuate the myths.

An example of a negative spin

Part of the reasons for this essay, is that asexuality has appeared in two very recent popular video games.  One does it wrong, one does it right.

The poor example from Death Stranding from Kojima Productions, where we get this text as part of the backstory:

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This is an example of a game maker completely misinterpreting the definition of asexuality, resulting in them making asexuality as one of the causes of the fall of civilization.

Kojima productions is based in Japan, which currently has a problem with decreasing birth rates to the point now where a third of the population of Japan is now over the age of 60.  This is largely due to economic causes as people of child bearing age don’t have the economic means to have families.  We are starting to see this in America as the Millennial generation who are now in their prime child bearing age are not having very many children — mostly because they can’t afford it.

Death Stranding is a sci-fi post apocalyptic game, and it’s reality does not need to match our reality, but to say the decline in births is due to the increase in asexuality is not only unrealistic, but rather offensive to the asexual community.

As a fan of the sci-fi genre, a sharply declining population is an interesting premise.  I consider Children of Men to be one of the best sci-fi movies, and it uses that as a premise.  Specifically it uses a sudden drop in human fertility as a cause for declining population.

I could see a lack of interest in sex as a probable cause as well , but it would logically be due to environmental causes that drop sexual libido.  Libido can be controlled by drugs, or can change in environments or with diet, so a sudden decline in sex due to changing sexual libido is a theoretical possibility.

But as I pointed out above, sexual libido has nothing to do with asexuality.  In fact it is one of most prevalent false myths about asexuality that leads to its misunderstanding.

An example of a positive spin

Coincidentally in the last few weeks, we had the first triple A title to come out with an asexual major character.  I’m talking about The Outer Worlds by Obsidian Entertainment.

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Like many of the better RPG games, there are a number of companions you can recruit to your cause and fight along side you.  The first one you are likely to meet, is Parvati, voiced by Ashly Burch (Life is Strange, Horizon Zero Dawn) a female Engineer who is very useful, and also very charming and funny to the point where she is pretty much most player’s favorite.   She is also a biromantic asexual character.

Her sexuality really isn’t relevant, because unlike Dragon Age or Mass Effect, this RPG doesn’t have any romance plots, but occasional positive mainstream representation to help get rid of persistent myths is all the asexual community is asking for.

Other minor sexualities

My interest in this is somewhat personal.  As I mentioned before, I’m an Aromantic.  It is an orientation often associated with asexuality because it involves missing attractions, I’m missing romantic attraction instead of sexual attraction, but the communities are closely linked, because we often deal with the same prejudices and relationship problems.

But where asexuality is finally starting to get some positive representation, aromantics, demisexuals, non-binaries, agenders and many other minor queer orientations are still waiting.

We have our “Uncle Arthur”s, like Mick Rory from DC’s Legends of Tomorrow who shows all the tell tale signs of aromanticism, but no mention of his orientation on the show.  They even gave Mick a hobby of writing erotic romantic fiction last season, a surprisingly common trait among us aromantics, yours truly being a real life example.

Representation is important to us all, especially accurate, positive, and non-stereotypical representation.  I’m not just talking sexual orientation, but race, nationality, religion, and any other category that often divides us.

It is important to break barriers to understanding each other without prejudice.  Popular media, whether it be books, movies, TV, comics, or video games, has proven to be the best way to do it.  We are human and enjoy human stories. Seeing different kinds of humans in these stories helps us understand our commonalities.

 

Something’s In The Air: 4th Edition

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I redesigned Something’s In The Air once again to bring it in line with the Date Ariane HD version as well as Rachel Meets Ariane and Ariane in Paradise. All four games now use similar GUI, fonts and 1080p resolution.  The changes are as follows:

High Definition.  The “third edition” is 720p, the “Fourth” is 1080p.  The vast majority of the images were simply enlarged to the new resolution and were not actually re-rendered.  It would take months to re-render and in most cases the difference would not be noticeable.

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Different way to select “last date”.  Since the first release, you could go into preferences and select what happened on the last date with Ariane, or you could select that you went on multiple dates.  I took that out of preferences, and put it into the game itself using the system I created for Rachel Meets Ariane.  When you get to a spot where the story varies based on the last date, it will pause and ask you.  The game feels more interactive this way.

It is now possible to reach all 25 endings without digging into settings.  The SITA Walkthrough page in the Wiki has now been changed with these options in mind.

Common GUI.  I’m using a modified default Renpy 7.0 interface, similar to what I am using in the latest version of the other 3 games.  Choices will appear in the middle of the screen, with the question being asked below it.  It is a little counter intuitive at first, but it is easy to figure out after a while.

The upshot is that this is the same pattern I am using in all four games so you can go from game to game and they all look similar.

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Reduced music.  In the original game I way overdid the music cues, and in the “third edition” I gave you a way to turn most of it off.  Now I have just removed most of it entirely. The music that syncs with dance routines, video games, and flashbacks are still there, but the distracting story soundtrack has been removed.

Some graphics changes.  When I did the graphics update for Date Ariane, I changed some of the models, specifically Rebecca, the convenience store and Ariane’s SUV. I made new renders of any picture involving those models.

This means that two endings (Ariane and Rebecca and Safety Pullout) have mostly new renders.  I also redid all 24 pictures of Rachel’s Photoshoot as well as most of the png sprites in the game.

Some of the more prominent images of Ariane and Rachel were redone as well. Specifically the Drive-N-Dine pictures on the Ariane path and the downtown pictures on the Rachel path were redone.  162 images have been redone for the 4th edition.

Download the new edition from the Something’s In The Air Downloads page.  For now, this version is not available for Android or in any language but English.

Elsaverse Games Now Available in Renpy

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I mentioned a couple of times that I converted the four main Tlaero and Mortze “Elsaverse” games to Renpy, but could not release them because they were not mine to release.  Well I sent the source codes to Tlaero and Mortze personally, and they have released all four of my versions for free download.  Link to thread is here.

Why Renpy? Because if you make a mistake, you can easily go back and try again.  You have about 60 save game slots, you see all the links on the page, and you don’t have to worry about download lag to continue the story.  All the animations work and are much smoother than waiting for all the images to download.

These games are in 1280×960 resolution.  Because they were designed for HTML, they are not widescreen, and the need to lower bandwidth means the images are not high res.  Like the HTML games, the text appears above the image, and the choices below, but unlike the HTML games, sometimes the text bleeds into the image.

To fix this, I sometimes split text into two different pages, so if you don’t see any links below the image, just click on the image to continue.

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Dreaming With Elsa was the first of these games.  The original game allowed you to play as a White Hat good guy or a Black Hat dirty minded sex hound. If you successfully played your role you get different versions of scenes. I changed it where you can up front decide to play “Black” or “White” and watch your score reflect it.

The scoring system is a little different and more forgiving. You can get bonus points for achievements which make up for missed choices.

There is also a “Gray” mode that unlocks a Chloe scene. I didn’t implement this the same way. Taking advantage of the multiple opportunities to ogle Chloe will unlock it instead.

In “Preferences” you can also turn on “Story Mode” which is basically a cheat mode and gives you the selected version of the story no matter what your choices are.

There is a bonus scene if you hit all the achievements, but there is no achievement page on this one.  Playing both black and white should unlock the bonus.

It also includes “Learning to Fly” and “Dreaming of the Dead”, two fun short stories that came after the main game.

Download PC version
Download Mac version

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Redemption for Jessika is a little more straightforward than DwE. The hard part was some of the interactive sex scenes which I had to fudge a little, so they are not as interactive but it works OK.  HTML games can have links embedded in the images. Renpy can theoretically do that, but it is difficult, and I wasn’t interested in perfect conversions, just playable versions.

Bottom line (and this is true of all four of these games) is that any embedded links in the image will either appear below the image as a link, or if it is a single “continue” link, it will not appear as a link, and you can simply click the image to advance the story.

This one has 9 achievements which are easier to get since the hidden links aren’t hidden. There is a bonus scene available on the achievements page once you do them all.

Download PC version
Download Mac version

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Finding Miranda I managed to convert nearly flawlessly except the scene where you go thorough your apartment looking for date ideas.  I had to convert it to a menu.  This might be my favorite game graphically as Mortze used the iRay renderer which wasn’t available while making the first two games.

The only downside is that instead of two versions of the story there are four, but doing all four, along with the other 5 achievements, unlocks an important bonus scene.

There is also a short story “Royal Guard: A Xara Origin Story”

Download PC version
Download Mac version

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My conversion of Saving Chloe is damn near perfect.  There are some built in HTML mini games in the original that I managed to simulate flawlessly in my Renpy version.  After getting all 9 endings, go to the ending gallery to see the biggest bonus in the series.  There is no “Story” mode on this one because it is not needed.  It’s all about the endings that you can get to following my map.

This is the finale of the series, though there is one more game Darkness Falls which serves as an epilogue and fills in some of the blanks as well as a few text only short stories that fill in more gaps.  (Yes I have an incomplete conversion of Darkness Falls, but I got busy with Ariane in Paradise and haven’t finished it yet.)

Download PC version
Download Mac version