History of Date Ariane Part 3: Switching to Renpy
After finishing the 2010 update of Ariane’s Date Simulator where I got rid of the video game screenshots making the game 100% my own work, I decided to make a sequel.
One of the things holding me back from making a sequel before was website bandwidth. The popularity of the game kept breaking my website and adding an HTML based sequel would just make it worse. My fix up to that point was to release the game as a download that you could play locally, and that was saving my website from complete breakdown.
I decided for that reason that the sequel would be 100% download only. That led to the second brilliant idea: What if I didn’t make it in HTML this time? By 2010, I had figured out that Ariane’s Date Simulator was a form of what the Japanese called a “Visual Novel”, a type of adventure game popular in Japan, almost always made with manga style artwork. I began researching gaming engines for visual novels I might be able to use instead of HTML. I found a couple of possibilities, but the most popular and seemingly the best supported was Renpy which was supported mostly by a website Lemmasoft Forums. I announced the sequel here, but because it is in the adults only section you will need an account to read it, so I’ll just post it:
I wrote the first versions of my dating sim unaware of the whole Japanese Renai tradition, and as a result mine is rather strange to fans of the J-H games. So for “Ariane’s Second Date” I have decided to incorporate some of the classic Dating Sim traditions, while keeping the basics of the first game. Like Japan dating sims, there will be multiple girls, with different personalities, and there will be a more complex plot with a decision tree format with 15 to 20 possible endings. Unlike Japan dating sims, graphics will be 3D renders, the game will take place over a single night (I like to take the word “dating” literally), and none of the girls will be under-aged prep school girls doing it for the first time.
Now I’m just starting the process, and thought I’d create a thread as a progress journal, bounce some ideas, maybe get some advice, or throw up some observations on the whole VN creative process.Tue Aug 17, 2010 12:29 am
For example, for my first observation, it turns out that in order to write a “Visual Novel”, you have to first write a “novel” which I don’t have that much experience doing. This thing has multiple characters, each with unique personalities, none of which I have got a good handle on yet. I write a ton of dialogue, only to read it back and have it sound too much like me and not enough like the character I’m trying to portray. Writings hard dammit. (oops, I mean Writing is hard dammit.)
And if I ever finish with the dialogue, there is the set design, and model design (at least 10 characters and a bunch or random extras), and wardrobe, and makeup (two characters have tattoos), and photographic rendering, and editing, and sound effects, and scoring including writing and recording an original song (one character is a lead singer in a band)… fun fun fun!
I’m posting in the H section because there will be sex and nudity in it, there was in the original dating sim and thus expected, though the mere fact that I have yet to write any of those scenes says it is not that important to the story.
What I didn’t really realize at the time is that nobody ever made Renpy games with 3D renders before. There were the occasional games made with photographs, but all other Renpy games were done with hand drawn images usually in the style of Japanese Manga art.
There was an another active fellow 3D render creator named Fleet who frequented the Lemma Soft forums, but he was making HTML games like me and later created his own web friendly visual novel platform instead of using Renpy. He was one of my beta testers for SITA.
This made the sequel game Something’s In The Air, the first ever 3D rendered visual novel made in Renpy. The first public alpha was released on Mar 03, 2012 here (again you have to be a member of the forum to read it) where it got a lot of constructive, if negative, feedback from the visual novel community.
Considering that the number of 3D rendered Renpy games now numbers in the thousands, it feels pretty impressive to be the first. The public beta came out a year later in May 2013, and proved very popular, with nearly half a million downloads throughout that summer. Then around 2015, new 3D rendered Renpy games became common place, ostensibly inspired by SITA. The second trend in gaming that I started!
Creating Date Ariane Renpy
As I explained in part 2, after completing Something’s In The Air, I wanted to update the graphics of Ariane’s Date Simulator so she looks like the Ariane in Something’s In The Air. This took a few months, but the “10th Anniversary Edition” was released in 2014.
I thought of making Ariane’s Date Simulator into a Renpy game while working on the sequel, even making a failed attempt soon after SITA’s release.
But when I finally released the 10th Anniversary edition, the writing was on the wall that the HTML era was about to end. Most of my announcement post was dedicated getting around the restrictions imposed by web browsers running scripts offline because of the security issues they represent. Firefox is the only major browser that allows you to do this without modification, and Firefox is declining in popularity (even though I hope it survives, it is way better than all the chromium based corporate bloatware browsers like Apple Safari, Google Chrome, and Microsoft Edge)
Within days of releasing the 10th Anniversary Edition, I was starting work on a Renpy version of Ariane’s Date Simulator which I dubbed Date Ariane thanks to the whole browser security issue which I knew was only going to get worse. I mostly used the pictures from 10th Anniversary in the making of the Renpy port which is why it took only 9 months to make, releasing in July of 2015. This is the version that is available online at Newgrounds (NSFW) at https://www.newgrounds.com/portal/view/733235.
Date Ariane HD
Because the images were designed to be for HTML, the resolution of the first Renpy implementation was 1000×600. The black bar below the images was 120 pixels tall meaning the game played in a 1000×720 resolution window, already smaller than SITA’s 1280×720 images from 2013.
I was learning better Poser techniques as I went, (making Rachel meets Ariane in the mean time) and between a desire to remake Date Ariane images better and larger, I started Date Ariane HD. This version would continue the 4×3 format shape but the pictures would be rendered in 1500×900, and the black bar where the text goes would be 180 pixels getting to 1080p. The HD release was completed in 2018.
The final release of HD was made in January 2021 as the pandemic economy forced me to create an online store for my games, so I decided to update Date Ariane HD one more time to make it worth people’s while to buy, adding some scenarios.
Date Ariane Remastered
After I opened the store, I restarted my Patreon to help make Hopepunk City, which I completed in September 2021. New computer hardware and a new version of Poser made the game look significantly better than any game I made before. I wanted to use this new tech to improve the look of Date Ariane again.
This time I went back to the drawing board and made a new house set and backyard set that could take advantage of the “cycles” rendering engine. The goal is not realism, but to make it look prettier, completely update the look to better compete with the now thousands of games in this genre.
While it contains the bulk of the same content from the 2007 viral game, it also adds a fair amount of new scenarios, and adds a representation of a player character which can be male or female, thus bringing it in line with my later releases Ariane in Paradise and Hopepunk City which do the same thing.
This ends the game history lesson. It skips over a lot of stuff that can be found digging through this websites archives, but I wanted to keep it short. Thanks for reading this far.