The History of Date Ariane part 2: How the 3D Rendered Western Dating Sim genre got started

In the next month or two I will be releasing Date Ariane Remastered to the world. This is a game I’ve been developing on and off for 18 years as a hobby. It started as a silly project I did for fun, but it became the first of a gaming sub genre (3D rendered Dating Sims / Adult Visual Novels) that is still showing amazing growth.

The oldest image of Ariane made for the dating simulator dated August 2004

2004 – 2007 Pre-viral days

Around 1999, I got a hold of a new computer program called Poser 2 which allowed you to take 3D human figures and pose them how you like, and it would produce a 3D render of the figure doing that pose. I was into “metaverse” fantasy, at the time having read Snow Crash multiple times, and I wanted to be on the ground floor of whatever was coming. I figure this 3D graphics thing was going to be a way in.

With this pursuit in mind I got involved online with a couple of other projects. One was “The Beast”, the first ever alternate reality game (2001) built by Microsoft to promote the movie Artificial Intelligence, and second was a number of groundbreaking 3D social MMOs in 2002 and 2003: The Sims Online, There.com, and Second Life, the closest thing to a metaverse that has ever existed, (way better than Meta’s Horizon). “The Beast” taught me the potential that online games have, and the social MMOs taught me the appeal of virtual love.

All of this inspired the idea for a “dating simulator”. I had heard that Japan had games that they called dating simulators. At the time I had no access to these games to use them as research, so I just took the term literally. Prior to creating Ariane’s Date Simulator, I had been using Poser to illustrate online picture book stories so it only seemed natural to use it for my Dating Sim.

My idea for a date simulator was to make it like a picture book, but have it branch off like a “choose your own adventure” style book, what we call today a “visual novel” which also has ties to adventure games. (Side note, I wrote text adventures in BASIC when I learned computers in school.) Inspired by “The Beast”, my game would be written in HTML and Javascript.

The 2004 game was very simple: meet and greet, have dinner, make out, and if you play your cards right, have sex. I had fun making it, so I started tweaking it every now and then, adding backyard activities like swimming and a hot tub, a park to walk to and downtown shopping or a nightclub, and I have been adding new stuff in every revision I made.

Lake trip, vista, and strip club scenes were already in the game in 2007, often using video game stills as backgrounds.

2007 The game goes viral

I believe it was a fantasy football forum that discovered my dating sim around January of 2007. My site went from a thousand visits a month to millions of visits a week by March of 2007. I basically had to take the game down for a while because I could no longer access my own website. I offered the whole game as a zip file that you could install on your own computer and run offline, because you could still do that back then (doing that today results in at best security warnings from Firefox, or in the case of Chrome, it is completely not allowed without tinkering with the code of the browser).

This is when the game got the attention of Shark’s Lagoon, a website for developers of sexy video games. Before Ariane’s Date Simulator, the main focus was either on AIF (Adult interactive fiction), or adult oriented arcade style video games. Ariane’s Date Simulator was revolutionary because it bridged the gap between the two. The Ariane’s Date Simulator thread is the longest and the largest in the sites history.

Among the people inspired by my Date Simulator was Tlaero, creator of an adventure creator that makes creating HTML pages for date simulators real easy (the problem with being first is you don’t have access to the real cool tools, I had to get by with Microsoft FrontPage), Chaotic, the creator of vdategames.com a site dedicated to HTML based dating sims, and the people at Lessons of Passion who took my idea of a 3D rendered dating sim and added flash animation and turned it into the huge online industry it is today.

Getting rid of video game screenshots means building my own sets

2010 The First Major Visual Upgrade

Until 2010’s version 7.0, much of the game was made using video game background screens. This not only looked tacky, it prevented any future commercialization of my game. I also wanted to make a sequel and make it a commercial success, but in order for the sequel to look like a sequel, I need to build all new sets and set both games in them. So gone is the downtown from Need for Speed Underground 2, gone is the nightclub from Vampire The Masquerade, gone is a lingerie and dress shops and house backyard from Sims 2, good riddance. Welcome to my own creations based on licensed models. There have been major visual upgrades every 4 years since then: 2014 for the 10th Anniversary and Renpy version, 2018 for the Renpy HD version, and 2022 for the Date Ariane Remastered version.

The Sequel game Something’s In The Air was developed during 2012 and 2013. I will discuss it’s significance to the gaming world in part 3, but the important thing to understand is that I decided Ariane needed a looks upgrade. The frustratingly difficult process to find the right look is documented on this website elsewhere, but it involved upgrading Ariane from a Victoria 3 based character you see in the above pictures to a Victoria 4.2 based character which is what she still remains today. Something;s In The Air introduced that look on it’s release in 2013, and so in 2014, I moved that look to Ariane’s Date Simulator in the last version of the HTML game called “The 10th Anniversary Edition”.

Opening couch picture of the 2014 10th Anniversary Edition

If you want to see what that version looks like, it is being hosted on a third party server here: https://datingariane.com/default2.htm This would be the last HTML version of the game I made, as after that I moved on to Renpy. That will be discussed in part 3.

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