Erotic Visual Novels Part 6

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Another year another group of erotic visual novels to check out.

Coming to Grips with Christine

Written and programmed by Tlaero
Graphics and sex scenes by Mortze
Download Link
Online Link

Coming to Grips with Christine is the latest game by Tlaero and Mortze, it is a sequel to a previous game by Tlaero and Phreaky Getting To Know Christine, an 8 year old game that is currently raked #2 dating sim on Playforce One.

Coming to Grips was distributed in pieces for subscribers to Tlaero and Mortze’s Patreon page, but last month they made all 5 parts available to the public for free.

Acknowledging the previous story, you have been in a relationship with Christine for some time now.  The main paths of the story involve either renewing your love for her, or drifting apart from her, especially when you meet her cute younger sister.

The two games demonstrate the changing maturity of this genre.  Getting to Know had what I call a “porn plot” — a series of crazy pretenses to get to the next erotic scene. I did a bit of that myself in SITAComing to Grips has a more mature “real life” feel to it, and it works.

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The Academy Part 1

Written, Programmed, and Graphics by dsp3000
Online and Download link

Speaking of “porn plot” pretenses for sex scenes, vdategames has recently moved the first game of the 5 part Academy series from the member section to the free to play section.  The academy series is created by dsp3000:

The Academy series takes place over one week, with each part representing one day. Parts one, two three and four were Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Part five will be Friday.

The basic plot is that you have been hired as a media expert at a female only college academy for girls.  The last person was fired for fraternization.  You have to write a report with your recommendations, but the sexy girls keep distracting you.

Part 1 makes some rookie mistakes, the introduction section is a bit too long, as I had to repeat it a few times as I kept on getting fired myself.  The graphics are not that interesting either, though I have already seen his later games and the graphics are improving.

What does work is some of the puzzles.  The first involves finding login codes to the cameras so you can see what’s going on from your desk. The second involves fixing a secret camera hidden in the girls locker room fire detector, and you have to get in there to replace the battery.  This is where I kept on messing up.

I’m trying to create some puzzles of this sort for my games. His ideas are better than mine.

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These Nights In Cairo

Written, Programmed, and Graphics by Salamandra88
Published by 7DOTS via Steam
Link to purchase

This past June Steam decided that they were tired of trying to censor every game on their library and allow erotic games on their system, so I decided to look into what was being offered there, especially during the December sales.  Unfortunately most of them looked pretty bad.

One of the games I decided to try out was These Nights in Cairo, a Renpy based classic visual novel made in Russia. It got a lot of very positive reviews, so I bought it.

The story is set about a century ago, you play a female character Margaret Dawson whose father is looking for a lost Egyptian temple.  There are curses and strange twists in the story to keep it interesting, and similarities to the 1999 version of “The Mummy” are purely coincidental.   The story is interesting, the translation to English is very good (the game was originally in Russian), and the original music is well done. The images are hand drawn hand painted and look like western style comic illustrations rather than the traditional manga style you see in most visual novels.  It’s very beautiful.

My only real complaint is that many key action scenes are not illustrated.  The finale has about 5 or 6 important things happening at the same time, only one of which is actually illustrated.  This includes many of the love scenes, there are naked backsides and side boobs but nothing very explicit.  There are at least three potential lovers (two males, one female), the heroine is a modern female trapped in a male dominated era.

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One of the things they did in this game (which is actually common to many visual novels) is that when the character you are playing says a line, it shows a portrait of your character along with the line.  They also added in different expressions.  I liked this feature so much, I’m adding it to Ariane in Paradise, the Renpy visual novel I am working on.

Of course that is the reason I play these games, it inspires my own games.  Plus the games themselves are fun.

An Interactive Adventure writer reviews an Interactive Episode of Black Mirror

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On December 28 2018,  Netflix released a stand alone episode of their hit series Black Mirror called “Bandersnatch”, which was a first of its kind experiment that allowed you to change the story by picking options along the way.

Before I delve into spoilers, here is my brief non-spoiler review of the episode: As an episode of Black Mirror, it is actually one of the weaker ones.  Most episodes go with the “Speculative sci-fi” premise of introducing a new potentially great technology that may theoretically exist in the future someday, and tell a story about that technology creating some kind of drama.  I’m a huge fan of speculative sci-fi, so I am also a huge fan of Black Mirror — most of the time.

This episode actually introduces a technology of an interactive TV episode (which has only existed in a limited way with interactive DVDs, this is the first of its kind for streaming) and proceeds to create artificial drama with the technology itself.  This is ultimately a rather cheesy thing to do: You are introducing a potentially groundbreaking and profitable technology, in a way that satirizes the same technology making it less desirable in the future.

The rest of this review contains spoilers.

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The story is about Stefan, a promising young programmer in 1984 who is working on a computerized version of a complex and very thick choose your own adventure book called “Bandersnatch” by Robert B. Davies.

I have a personal connection to this story as in 1984, I was also writing adventure games in BASIC on a TI 99/4a that did not have enough memory and constantly crashed. I was writing text based adventures in the style of Colossal Cave or Zork, though at the time mine were pretty lame.  In the last couple of decades I have been independently writing and publishing my own choose your own adventure games, formally known as visual novels, some of them are rather successful.

Bottom line, not only do I know what writing interactive fiction is like, but I also know what programming was like in 1984.  I’ve experienced “the hole” as one character calls it, though I have never ever in my life heard it called that.  I could actually be a technical advisor on this episode, and nit pick all the stuff they got wrong, and maybe that is why I am giving it 2.5 out of 5, but I’d rather just stick with reviewing the episode itself.

There are basically 8 endings, only two of which are satisfying, I’ll call them the “TOY” ending and the “Perfect Game” ending.  Most of the endings have the main character dying or in prison.  The three exceptions are easily the worst.

The first ending you are likely going to his is one of those bad ones. The main character sells out to the gaming company, and produces a bad game. I’ll label this the “tutorial” ending, and if it was the first ending you got, so did almost everybody.  The other two awful endings are the “Netflix” endings (“Netflix/Window” and “Netflix/Fight”) which are 4th wall breaking cheesy plots that some viewers will probably find entertaining, but it ultimately just shits all over the whole concept and ruins it.  Basically I stopped looking for new endings after I saw this one.

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The next two bad endings are also fourth wall breaking, and involve visiting Colin and dropping acid. Colin breaks the fourth wall by saying we are in a game, stuck in a loop, but the speech worked much better when delivered by the Luteces in Bioshock Infinite.

Colin tries to prove his point by saying either he or Stefan should jump to their deaths off the high rise balcony.  Choosing Stefan leads to the “nozedive” ending, choosing Colin leads to Colin jumping rather casually and opening up an ending I’ll call “PACS” which is a less meta version of the Netflix endings, where Stefan is the subject of an elaborate conspiracy.  This is actually the second ending after “Tutorial” that I got.

The third ending I got, is the last of the eight, which I’ll call “Kill dad, bury dad” named after the choices you do to get there, which actually has a number of versions depending on whether you dropped acid with Colin or not. They all end basically the same: Stefan never finishes the game, goes to prison for murder, and the game company goes bankrupt.  While not as bad as the meta endings, it lacks a coherent story.

The two good endings

“Toy”, or to be exact “any cereal, any music, refuse, yes talk about your mother, no don’t go with mom, either album, yell at dad, follow Colin,  Yes, Colin, pull earlobes, flush them, hit desk, pick up book, enter TOY, yes go with mom” is the story of a troubled young man that blames himself for the death of his mom who died in a train derailment when he was five.  Thanks to an LSD trip he has a realistic vision of himself going back and changing things in the past and being with his mom at the time of the accident.  This results in him dying along with his mom.  Since he really isn’t time traveling, he can’t actually save her, but he can be there and make her last moments happy.  His real body just suddenly dies in his psychologists office.

“Perfect Score”, or to be exact “any cereal, any music, refuse, no don’t talk about your mother, no don’t talk about your mother, any album, yell at dad, visit Dr Haynes, pull earlobes, flush them, hit desk, pick up either, JFD, Throw Tea, Glyph symbol, kill dad, chop up body.” is the story of a novel “Bandersnatch” that drives people mad.  The original author of the novel went crazy while writing it and chopped off his wife’s head, the author of the video game adaption went crazy and chopped off his dad’s head, and the episode ends in the present day with a woman named Pearl (Colin’s daughter?) adapting the novel/game for Netflix, and showing the same early signs of madness.

These two work on their own, the first sad, the second creepy, and could probably be released as stand alone episodes.  If you want a whole map of the show you can find one here.

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Lessons for future interactive TV producers

Interactive stories have been around for decades, and there are a lot of really good ones. A recent famous good one is Detroit: Become Human by David Cage who also made Heavy Rain and Beyond Two Souls.  These stories generally have one good happy ending, and a large number of tragic bad endings. This is also the general pattern of most of the Tell Tale Games before they closed.

Another really good interactive story writer is Ragnar Tørnquist who did the trilogy The Longest Journey, Dreamfall, and Dreamfall Chapters.  His stories branch off in many directions, but then tie themselves together in a big finale.  Any path in which you survive leads to the same ending, but the differing paths lead to more details about the story, characters, and settings.  This is how my game Rachel Meets Ariane works.

My favorite kind of interactive story is rare, and the most difficult kind to pull off.  It is where every path leads to a different and interesting ending on its own, but there is a greater story if you follow all of the paths.  This is what I was going for with Something’s In The Air, it was successfully done in Tlaero and Mortze’s Saving Chloe I have heard that Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors is designed to work this way, but I have never played it to find out.

I’m hoping that “Bandersnatch” is not the end of interactive TV programming.  Charlie Booker is a very clever guy, but his lack of experience writing branching stories shows. It takes years of practice.  My message for future interactive TV producers is learn from Black Mirror’s mistakes: Don’t add branches just for the sake of adding branches, if you can’t make every branch interesting, then trim those dead branches.  Stay the hell away from “meta” stories.  Learn story structure from interactive games, the best ones don’t always fit the usual three act structure of linear story telling.

Rachel Meets Ariane: The Game

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Being that it is close to the holidays, and the game is set during the holidays, I thought I should finally release the Rachel Meets Ariane game.

How do I download?

Links to the PC, Mac, and Linux versions are available at the bottom of the “Rachel and Ariane” page.  As of now, it is only in English, and there is no android version.

Why the delay?

Two fold. First, It was just easier to share the short story online than put it in a game.  Second, this was a bit of a failed experiment.

My original intent was to start with the two characters meeting, then based on 4 possible scenarios from Something’s In The Air and new choices along the way, come up with multiple stories.  Unfortunately, only one of those multiple stories was interesting enough to share: the one that I did.

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Is there different material in this game?

Yes. What I have done is kept the four scenarios from Something’s In The Air, and created four versions of the story which ultimately end the same way.  So basically the beginning and the ending are the same, and many of the plot elements are the same. but there are some interesting twists to the story depending on choices.

What four scenarios?

The online story is based on the scenario that the player dated Ariane again in Something’s In The Air and ended up in a threesome with Lydia.  The other three scenarios are: the player dated Ariane again but did not end in a threesome, the player dated Rachel instead and Ariane dated Rebecca, the player dated someone else and Ariane dated Rebecca but the storm still happened.

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These other scenarios will affect the story because if Ariane never meets Lydia, then the two scenes with Lydia cannot happen.  If the player dated Rachel, then the storm never happened, so Rachel cannot ask Paula for help with the photography assignment, etc.  I basically had to write substitute versions of various scenes, some of which are better than the originals.

There are other choices along the way that change the story.  One in particular will drastically shorten the story.

Any other extra features?

There is no background for the text except for a black outline.  If you find the text difficult to read, you can change the color and font in preferences.  I made sure self voicing works (press ‘v’ to toggle it on and off).  To avoid accidentally missing text, the text scrolls in, but you can disable this feature in preferences, too.  Hitting ‘tab’ skips over scenes you have already seen.

Will there be an Android version?

Maybe.  The truth is I’m not sure the game will be very popular. 90% of the material is in the online story.

Bottom line is that I am releasing this game for completeness sake. This game picks up where Something’s In The Air leaves off, and Ariane in Paradise picks up where Rachel Meets Ariane leaves off.

Porn Bans Are Just The Beginning

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This month the most popular unfiltered social media site Tumblr has banned porn, nudity and any other sexual content starting December 17th 2018.

Of course sites have every right to ban whatever they want, I’m not that upset about the ban itself, although it likely means I’ll be off the platform in the future.

I maintained a couple of pages on tumblr including Rachel Spahr’s modeling portfolio mentioned in Something’s In The Air,  a few of the pics have already flagged for nudity.

Even though the nudity doesn’t involve actual human nudity, the new Tumblr Community Guidelines now include this line: —this includes content that is so photorealistic that it could be mistaken for featuring real-life humans (nice try, though). 

The thing that upsets me is how this came about.  Despite there always being rules against it, the site was used by criminals to share very illegal child porn. Tumblr shut it down as soon as it was reported, but the incident caused Apple to remove Tumblr’s app from their app store.  That was enough to trigger the ban.

In other words, one company forced another to change its rules. That to me is a bad sign for the future of the internet.  No it is not the first time something like this has happened, but it is the biggest case I can remember, and likely to be the first of many.

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Corporations influence on the internet

Tumblr is not some indie site. It was when it began, but then they sold out to Yahoo, who in turn sold out to AOL, who in turn sold out to Verizon.  Such is the nature of the internet right now.

My last post on the status of the internet was primarily about government policies negative effects on the internet, but the status of the internet is also heavily affected by corporate interests.

Websites need advertisers to generate revenue, and advertisers are getting picky about the websites they are willing to advertise on.  One of the biggest losers of this is You Tube.  Once a great place for smart and talented people to make money, it is not that way anymore.  One such star Comic Book Girl 19 breaks it down like this:

Corporations don’t like to advertise on controversial parts of the internet. The good news is that far right wing websites are losing a lot of money as advertisers pull away.  The bad news is that LGBT friendly websites like You Tube and Tumblr are forced to become less friendly to that community as well.

Targeted Advertising is crap!

Another thing I pointed out last time is that “targeted advertising” which is the buzzword of Google and Facebook for the last two decades is proving to not be as effective as promised.  I really think it is a scam like blockchain and bitcoin.

I visit a lot of tech sites, and as a result, tech ads follow me around.  I also visit a lot of entertainment sites, and what shows up? Tech ads.  When I go back to the tech sites, I get a bunch of entertainment ads.  To Google I ask, “How is this more effective?”  To advertisers I ask, “How is this more bang for your buck?”

It seems to me a much better way to “target advertise” is to advertise on sites that potential customers are likely to go.  That way there is no incentive for Google, Facebook, and other associated scammers to collect personal information.

VC Money is out! Consolidation is in!

For the last decade or so, the main source of income from the internet came from investors looking to get in on the next big thing.  It seems that VC money is drying up, thanks to too many lost investments, and that means you have to make money by selling a service, selling advertising, or getting bought out.

The biggest trend right now is that internet media sites are consolidating, or closing their doors.  The ones most successful at it, like Vox, Vice, and Buzzfeed are moving into multimedia and offline content.  The less successful ones are closing their doors and putting up “for sale” signs.

The overall health of the internet: Bad!

While researching this page I came across a report by Mozilla about the health of the internet. Between personal data collection, bots, “fake news”, fraud and abuse online, and a number of other factors, it looks pretty bad.

Click here for the full report.

What can be done about it? That’s a whole other post for later.

 

Ariane in Paradise Status Report: “Day 1” Done

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Ariane in Paradise is divided up into 3 days, each one being sort of a mini visual novel, which if successful leads to the next day.

I recently completed  “Day 1”, meaning I’m a third of the way done.  Day one, like act 1 of a story, is about establishing character and settings.  Day 1 objective is to learn 4 things about Ariane: She likes dancing, gymnastics, astronomy, and outdoor activities.  Of course if you play Date Ariane, you already know these 4 things about her, but it is all about getting her to talk about herself and ask the right questions. to get the right responses.

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Meanwhile, you can talk about yourself and make decisions about your character as you do.  The main decisions:  business trip vs. vacation trip, rich vs. middle class, business degree vs biology degree vs never went to college,  outdoor enthusiast vs science geek.  There are a couple of others, but they only affect minor dialogue choices.

Finally, Day 1 is about establishing the setting. There are three main paths the story can take.  One focuses on the island’s past, one on the present, and one on the future.  From a Date Ariane perspective, Day 1 = before and during dinner.

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It took me about 9 months to finish day 1. So far there are 235 pictures, and over 1000 lines of dialogue.

I practically have to start over to establish day 2.  From a Date Ariane perspective, Day 2 = downtown and outskirts.  Day 2 involves 5 new paths, 5 new sets, and different wardrobe and dialogue for each and a “game” of some sorts in each, without repeating myself from DA or SITA.

This last part is the biggest challenge.  One of the 5 sets is set in a casino, so creating a “game” challenge is pretty easy for that one.  Another one is going to a beach. Besides swimming, tanning, drinking and getting sand everywhere, what is there to do on a beach?  and how do you make a game of it?

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These are the challenges I give myself, and of course the fun is in solving them.  Maybe in another 9 months or so I can say Day 2 is done and then I can start Day 3.

Date Ariane HD

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In honor of Renpy version 7 finally being released, I’m releasing Date Ariane, one of the most downloaded Renpy games ever (5.9 million downloads all versions combined), in Renpy 7 and in HD.

The images are all 1500×900, originally rendered when I did the graphics update in 2017. Add in the 180px black bottom part and the total resolution is 1500×1080. It looks really good blown up on a full sized monitor.  The Renpy engine automatically changes the fonts when you change the size so they always look sharp and crisp.

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I know some questions are going to come up so here are my answers:

What versions of the game are available in HD?

For now just the English PC, Mac, and Linux versions.

What has changed?

The section which used to be called the gallery moved to the main menu and many of the gallery sections have been rewritten to work better in Renpy 7.  This includes a new animated credit sequence, and a help sequence that points out the key binds of Renpy better, allowing play via Keyboard, Mouse, or Gamepad.

I’ve taken advantage of Renpy’s background/foreground tools to change the look of some scenes, primarily the bad endings. This reduced the number of images, but because foreground requires images in larger png files, it did not reduce the size of the download.

I’ve gotten rid of the “button” look of the player choices.  Larger screen means the buttons don’t have to be obvious.

How do I download it?

You download it from the same download page as before. When you pick to download the Windows, Mac or Linux versions, you get the HD versions instead.

How big is the download?

Download size has increased from 180MB to 340MB due to larger images, many of which are in png format instead of jpg.

Are you going to release it in other languages?

I would love to if I can figure out a way to move the translations to the new version. That’s actually very difficult.

Are you going to release it in android?

No. The game is already a challenge on android at 200MB, the increase to 350MB would make it unplayable on most android devices, and the smaller screens cannot take advantage of the increased resolution.

Is there any new material in this version?

Yes, but you’ll have to find it yourself.

Why do some of the walkthroughs not work with the HD version?

To make the game a little challenging, there is a rule that if you engage in intimacy too early, like open with a kiss, or try for second base while dancing before eating, then Ariane might reconsider her opinion of you later and change the outcome of the walkthrough. I have updated “Pizza Dinner”, “Steak Dinner”, and “Start of a romantic evening” to avoid early intimacy.

UPDATE: For Mac Users

If you use a Mac to play I added an icns file which should replace the generic Renpy icon with a proper Date Ariane icon. If it worked, leave a comment.

More screen shots from “Ariane In Paradise”

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I’ve been posting random pictures I’m making for the game on other social media. Thought I’d collect them here in one post.

Here is a render I really like of Ariane eating a banana in front of a grocery store.  Some have pointed out that the banana looks huge. I think that if you are on a tropical island where bananas are grown you are likely to find bigger and better bananas. At least that is my story.

“Epicerie” is French for Grocery.  Notice that the chalkboard sign is in French as well with prices in Euros. This is partly due to the grocery store prop came that way, but also due to a conscious design decision on my part.

If I am going to make a fictional tropical island, I need to make some decisions like what language they speak there. Looking at a map of the world and tropical islands there in, I decided that French speaking islands are the most common. French speaking islands exist in the Mediterranean (Corsica), Caribbean (French West Indies), the Pacific (Tahiti and the rest of French Polynesia), and the Indian Ocean (Seychelles, Reunion).

Therefore as a fictional member of Overseas France, most of the predominant signage should be in French, and prices in Euros. But to attract English speaking tourism, there will be a lot of stuff in English as well, like the “Come In We’re Open” sign.

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I dubbed the island “Duquesne” (pronounced “doo-cane”) after a tiny town in Arizona. It sounds French and a little exotic, even though it is also the name of a University near Pittsburgh.  I googled it to see if an island by that name exists, turns out there is one in a lake in Ontario Canada, which was the set of a fake documentary made in Canada.  (I had to change my VPN to a Canadian ISP to watch it, it’s hilarious)  That made me want to keep the name even more.

I also came up with a whole backstory to the island, but I’ll save that for the game.

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As promised Rachel makes an appearance or two. The weird pirate stuff in the background and Rachel’s goofy hat have logical explanations.

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Here’s the first actual screenshot of the game. As promised you can play as a buff and tan male or female, and you can name your character whatever you want. While most of the game is in first person, occasionally there will be moments where you can see yourself.

There will be scenes that only male characters get, and scenes that only female characters get.

An early objective of the game is to get to know Ariane.  As you do, she asks about you, and you get to make stuff up about yourself.  For example, the first question Ariane asks are what you are doing on the island. You can say “vacation” or “business”, and just like choosing male or female, there are things that only vacationers get to do, and things only business people get to do.  There are at least five other similar choices you can make.

This will likely result in confusion over choices, and make extra work for me in writing it, but it just adds to the fun of repeat play.

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I made this image for fun. Not sure if it will ever be relevant to the plot or not, but for now it makes a great loading screen.

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One of the joys of making your own game is throwing in the odd pop culture easter egg just for the fun of it.