Date Ariane 10th Anniversary Edition is Done!

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There still may be patches coming in the future, but as far as I can tell everything works the way it is supposed to work, so I am fairly confident I can call it “done”.  Time for a much deserved celebratory margarita.

You can play or download it here. I have also uploaded a Something’s In The Air version 1.1 available here. Primarily, the only changes are a new touchscreen keyboard for name entry (a stumbling block for play on touch screen devices) and the last date flashback scene now uses actual pictures from Date Ariane.  Otherwise, it is the same game.

The Offline Web Security Problem

Since the last release of a Date Ariane download, much attention has been paid toward the running of scripts offline and the potential security risks they pose.  My version is safe, I assure you.

The problem is that certain browsers will no longer run websites with scripts offline.  Each major browser has their own way of handling it, but it means your browser of choice may not like the download version.

Firefox – Only allows offline content to run as long as it does not attempt to access any directories or sub-directories outside the one in which it is launched.  The Date Ariane download meets those rules, so it runs just fine on Firefox without any problem, in fact I built the game in Firefox.

Microsoft Internet Explorer – Follows the same rules as Firefox, except it will give you a warning as you start to play. Click “Allow Blocked Content” when you start the game and it should run fine. As the game now uses HTML 5 elements, it may not run on Internet Explorer 8 (the highest version you can run on Windows XP)

Apple Safari – I do not own a Mac, and the last version for Windows was Safari 5 which is 3 years old. Date Ariane runs fine on Safari 5, but testers are reporting issues in the latest Safari. According to one web site, the fix is as follows:  Enable the develop menu using the preferences panel, under Advanced -> “Show develop menu in menu bar”  Then from the safari “Develop” menu, select “Disable local file restrictions”.

Google Chrome – Google chrome, also known as Chromium has far and away the strictest restrictions to offline scripts: Basically, you can’t.  Well that is not entirely true, you can add a command line flag:

--allow-file-access-from-files

This is difficult to implement, however. In windows, you can edit the Google Chrome shortcut and add the flag to the target. In Mac you have to go into terminal and enter a long command.

The Web Server Solution

Note: There are some security concerns in doing this, please read notes in the comments before doing this. Another way around the security issue is a little more complicated, and may not be worth it, but I will show you a reason why you may want to below. It basically involves running web server software on your own computer, then accessing via http://localhost/

Here is a simple solution anyone should be able to do, these instructions are for Windows Vista, 7 or 8.1, but Mac or Linux should be similar processes.  There is a simple web server program you may already have on your computer built into a programming language that thousands of programs, including Something’s In The Air, is built on called Python.

    1. Download DateAriane.zip
    2. Right click and select “Extract All…”
    3. Extract it to c:\Users\(your username)\Desktop\DateAriane
    4. Open Windows Start Menu, and in the search  bar type in “python” without quotes, a black window should open, note the version, it should start with a 2 or a 3.
    5. If a black window does not start, or program is not found, you don’t have python installed, you can download and install it at python.org
    6. Close the python window.  Then click Start again. If the version you saw in step 4 is 2.something, then type this in the search bar:
      python -m SimpleHTTPServer

      if you are using version 3.something type this instead:

      python -m http.server

      You will get a black python window spewing a bunch of text you do not have to worry about.

    7. If everything is going according to plan, open up your browser of choice and enter the following address: http://localhost:8000/Desktop/DateAriane/dateariane/default.htm
    8. Play to your hearts content without lag or any 503 errors.

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Date Ariane In Other Languages

I noticed recently that Date Ariane has grown in popularity in countries where English is not a primary language.  I was curious to see how easy it would be to use Google Chrome, or any browser with a translation app, to view the game in another language.

The only language other than English I speak with any proficiency is Spanish. Until yesterday, I used special characters a lot in the text which would fail to translate, but I got rid of those and now the game should make at least some sense to anyone using an online translator.

To play the game in another language using Google Chrome you either need to play the online version, or play using the Web Server Solution above. Right click anywhere and select “Translate to…”.  Mine says Translate To English, because English is my preferred language, but if you click “options” you can do what you want. Set Page Language to English, then Translate Language to whatever you want, then click “Always Translate” then “Translate”.

As you select options and play the game, each page will appear in English, but within a few seconds you will see the translation. If not there is a translate button in the address bar, it should be blue, if it turns gray click it again to turn translate back on. The translation is done by Google Translate which is often inaccurate, and it does not help that Ariane often speaks in slang, but the results should be good enough for anyone playing to get the idea of what is going on.

Walkthroughs and Other Stuff

Because the game has changed so much, many of the third party walkthroughs may be inaccurate.  I am attempting to correct this by posting a few of my own on my tumblr page.  UPDATE: I have finished my walkthroughs which can be found here: https://arianeb.com/walkthrough.htm

There are probably more bugs I have not found yet.  Post any you find in the comments, and I’ll patch them as quickly as I can.

Meanwhile, I’m ready to take on new challenges. I will no doubt post about later.

Beta Download and Social Media Stuff

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Once I announced that I was done with the graphic update on Date Ariane, the traffic on the website shot up as expected, resulting in many 503 and 404 errors.  I know from experience that the best way to alleviate the traffic is to release a downloadable version, but the state of the game was not good enough to do so immediately.

In the past two weeks, I managed to debug enough issues in the code to call it “good enough”, and just released a beta download of Date Ariane, which will hopefully drop the site traffic enough to reduce the 503 errors.

The download link is available at the usual place: https://arianeb.com/dategame.htm and click to download the 10th Anniversary edition.

One big change made is how “maps” work (where you decide which room to go to). The original game was an overhead view of the house which is impractical with the new model, and not really needed now that links are obvious and not hidden.  Until now they were replaced by a wide shot of Ariane and her house from the living room looking toward the dining room. There are now 3 new angles: “kitchen” view is seen when you and Ariane were in the kitchen, or outside previously, “Entry way” shown above is if you came from a drive or a trip to the park, and “dining view” is if you came from dinner, dancing, bath, or bedroom.  If you come from the living room, you will still see the living room view.  This adds some variety as these views are at angles rarely seen. Some one off maps have their own angles as well.

Social Media Update

I have had a rather disorganized social media presence as of late, and I am trying to organize it better.  This wordpress blog will continue to feature approximately monthly posts about whatever I want to blog about.  My Tumblr blog I have designated a “developers” blog, to talk about stuff I am working on or stuff directly related to my web site.  My Facebook page is mostly for promotion purposes primarily directed at players of my games.  I now have a twitter feed @ArianeBdotcom which will aggregate all 3 sources, you can follow it if you want all the latest updates.  The hashtag #DateAriane will be the official hashtag to post to.

A Social Media Feature

With that in mind, there is now a social media feature in the game available in both the download and online versions.  Basically, I am repurposing the rarely used Something’s In The Air date experience code, giving players a way to share their Date Ariane experiences.

At the end of the date you will see on the bottom right a “date experience” followed by a 1 to 9 digit hex number that is also a link. Click on the link and you will get: 1. a link to see a summary of the date you just had, 2. a text in red you can copy and paste to tweet or post to your favorite social media so others can see what you did on the date, 3. instructions to add the date to Something’s In the Air, which practically no one does, but still a feature I’ll keep around.  The text looks like this:

I went on a date with Ariane and here is what happened. https://arianeb.com/d.htm?1 #DateAriane

Clicking on the link will show what happened on your date, as well as an invitation for whoever clicks to go on their own date.  The date summary will not show everything that happened just the broad highlights, it may not be in chronological order, and it will probably not display the exact same images you saw on your date, most commonly Ariane will be dressed differently in the summary in some scenes.

Its my attempt at viral marketing the game, so share your favorite dates.

Report Bugs In The Comments Here

The download is still a “beta”.  If you find bugs, missing pictures, spelling or grammar errors, text that does not look right, or links that are too hard to see with their background, the comments section of this blog or the Tumblr blog are the best places to post for me to see them.

I’ll keep everyone informed when a significant upgrade is available.

Date Ariane 10th Anniversary Edition is now in beta

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I have now finished updating 1155 pictures from Date Ariane. There are 5 pictures from the original game that have not been updated because there really isn’t a need. If you want to see a history of the updates, I documented it on my tumblr blog.

The original game had 1278 pictures, the majority of pictures I “cut” were from a rarely seen “Whiskey” drunk scene which had over 100 pictures in it.  I replaced it with a much simpler (and funnier) “Absinthe” scene consisting of 11 pictures.  There are numerous other places I added or removed pictures. Most of the time I added to enhance a scene, and most of the time I removed pictures because they were redundant.

What about the “Classic” version?

With all the changes to both the graphics and the interface, it looks and feels like a new game even with identical plots.  With that in mind I will continue to make the “Classic” edition available on my website as long as I have a web site.  For now, when you go to https://arianeb.com/dategame.htm you will have your choice of two versions.

Yesterday, I re-uploaded a fresh copy of the old version so you no longer have to play often outdated versions on 3rd party websites like this guy did.  I don’t know how popular the “classic” version will be in the future, but I’ll be monitoring it. Depending on how it goes, I will either move the old version to its own page accessible from the main page or just make it available as a download only.

Can I download the “10th Anniversary Edition”?

Not yet.  After spending a month changing all the hidden links to open links to make the game more phone/tablet/touchscreen friendly, then spending 9 months redoing all the graphics, there is still a final step of correcting text, moving text links to better places on the screen, and general bug squashing.

There are certain ways I want the game to flow following certain rules, and currently that is not the case.  Also, I need to make sure that every event in the game is reachable and every picture viewable through normal play.  There were a few months there when the couch make out scene could not be finished due to a missing quotation mark in the code.  Bottom line, I have not been very diligent in debugging during the graphics update.

That should change now that I’m done. I project another month to do debugging and text clean up, then I will make the game available to download.  It should be a 120 MB download when its done.

The First Single Character Erotic Online Dating Sim in 3D

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Date Ariane 10th Anniversary Part 2

Date Ariane (first released 2004) may not have been the first dating sim to only have a single character, though I don’t know any that predate it, and I wasn’t influenced by any.

Date Ariane may not have been the first dating sim done in 3D graphics, thought I don’t know of any that predate it, and I wasn’t influenced by any.

It is even possible that it is not the first dating sim with one character and in 3D, but it was the first to gain popularity, and directly or indirectly inspire dozens of similar games, mostly by independent creators like myself.

Because the one thing I can take away from all this is this: I invented a genre, or at least a subgenre (or a subgenre of a subgenre).  OK, “invented” is not the right word, because genres only become genres if other people are contributing.  Is “inspired” a better word? Still not accurate. How about “created a work original enough to influence the creation of” a subgenre.  OK, more accurate.

One of the goals of every artist to do exactly this! Achievement unlocked, I guess I can call myself an artist. (The other goal of every artist is to sell a work for a lot of money so they don’t have to work again. So far that one has eluded me.)

So I am going to tell you how I created a game that inspired many other games.  Short version:  I did it by accident.

I heard the term “Dating Simulator” as a type of game popular in Japan, “Dating Simulator” is a bad translation of japanese “ren’ai shimyureshon gemu” (more accurately a romantic simulation game).

But I was intrigued about the idea of a “Date Simulator” and instead of tracking one down and finding out what they are like, I just took the term “Date Simulator” literally, and created my own.

In 2001, I invented the “Ariane Barnes” online persona in hopes of creating an Alternate Reality Game based on her. That turned out too ambitious, so I created a “choose your own adventure” game based on the concept of simulating a date with Ariane Barnes.  Turns out what I created was a visual novel, a popular gaming genre in Japan, romance simulation is a subgenre of the visual novel.  Anyone familiar with the subgenre knows that they are always done with 2D manga style art, and almost always involve multiple partners to choose from.

I didn’t know any of this when I created Date Ariane, which is why DA defies so many conventions of traditional visual novels, like how it loops upon itself, has no coherent story, and involves a bunch of events that can be done in different order.  I have been using Poser since the late 90’s, which is why I used 3D graphics instead of Manga art.

So I released my “Dating Simulator” on the web in 2004, and made improvements as I went. I did not advertise it except through word of mouth in a few virtual world communities I was a part of at the time.  And then in 2007 it went viral, 3 millions “dates” from January to March of that year.  Complaints from my host forced me to release an offline version that people could play without spamming my website.

In August of that year, the first post about my game appeared on the Sharks Lagoon forum. The cool thing about that forum is that it is dedicated to 3D sexy games and their development.  At the time most “erotic” games  were either of the arcade variety, or the “Adult Interactive Fiction” variety (text based adventures with occasional graphics).  Date Ariane sort of bridges the gap between the two, more visual than an AIF, and more complex than an arcade sex game.

Shark’s Lagoon is where the vast majority of the 100+ games similar to Date Ariane got their start. The “single character date simulator” (for lack of a better term) is a perfect type of game for independent game makers: it is simple enough to make that one person can do it themselves, its a fun type of game to make, and it is also a fun type of game to play. So it is no surprise that a lot of people joined in on the fun.

One creator Tlaero, even wrote an “Adventure Creator” engine you can use to build your own online single character date simulator. More info here.

The one thing the genre lacks is complexity, which is why it only takes one or two people to make a game like this. That, plus the general public bias in favor of violent games and against sex in games, means that creating a commercially successful game in this genre is damn near impossible. That’s what is standing in the way of wide genre recognition.

Sex Games vs. Violent Games

But I knew this going in.  One of my continuing motivations for even dabbling in sexy games is my belief that the general population’s attitude towards sex and violence is completely backwards.  Sex is something we all engage in, and yet it is viewed in the public’s eye as dirty and shameful, while violence, something most decent people never engage in, is glorified and revered.  No where is this more true than in the world of gaming.

In movies, this double standard is understandable because we know that movie violence is fake, while movie sex involves actor nudity and touching that cannot be faked (actually it can, but let’s not go there now).  In gaming, sex and nudity are 100% fake, just like the violence.  And yet pixel nudity, or worse an animated sex scene will get your game an AO rating, the equivalent of an NC-17 rating in the movies, even if similar scenes in movies can still get a PG-13 rating.

This is because of the strange bias that video games are for kids, this despite the fact that 68% of all gamers are over 18.  “Kids play games, therefore games can’t contain sex or nudity.”  This is a horrible double standard.

If violent games reduce violent crime, I’m willing to bet sex games will reduce sex crimes. We already know this is true with the wider availability of porn, we have also seen incidental reports of reduced sex crimes in Japan where erotic games are more widely available, though I could not find any actual studies.  Illogical cultural bias is the only thing standing in the way of erotic games becoming commercially successful.

To the future…

While I’d love for one of my games to be a commercial success, I’m not holding my breath, and if it happens, it will happen the same way the genre was created: by accident.

My #1 objective is having fun creating. It’s my geeky hobby.  My #2 objective is making a game that is fun to play. My only criteria is to make a game that is fun for me to play, and if others enjoy it, well that’s just icing.

Meanwhile, anyone interested in other “Single Character Dating Sims” especially of the erotic kind can check out the following places.  WARNING: These links are Not Safe For Work and not appropriate for those under 18. Some are financed by subscription models.

Playforce One
Lesson of Passion Gold
Shark’s Lagoon Games
Pusooy Games
V Date Games

Date Ariane 10th Anniversary Edition (Part 1)

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So Renpy is out HTML is back in.  That is not to say there will never be a Renpy version of Date Ariane, I’m saying the HTML upgrade is a better use of my time right now.  I know this contradicts what I said here and here, but plans constantly change.

The numbers are in and Date Ariane is still popular.  A link on a popular Brazilian website has caused DA to go viral in Brazil.  I do not think a Renpy download version will ever achieve the same level of popularity, so I am concentrating on upgrading the HTML game.  As mentioned in my last post the resolution is now 1000 x 600, and the links are no longer hidden.  I have already made these changes and they are already live.

What I have not announced here is that I am bringing one change I had planned for the Renpy version and brought it to the HTML:  eliminating alcohol as a means to unlock content. Alcohol will still be needed to get to “drunk” scenes, and after two glasses of wine Ariane will decline to drive, but that’s it.

I am implementing a very simplified RP system to replace it. There are four personality traits you can demonstrate: nice, smart, funny, and sexy. The introduction part of the game (which was kind of lame anyways) has been rewritten giving you two opportunities to demonstrate a trait to Ariane.  The first is immediate and obvious: “Compliment her looks” = Nice, “Give her a hug” = Sexy,  “Say something smart” = Smart,  “Say something funny” = funny.  You then have a choice to kiss Ariane.  She will react negatively to the kiss, but you can explain/apologize in a smart, nice, sexy, or funny way.  Or you can choose to read a smart, nice, sexy, or funny poem.  These are less obvious.

The various dinner conversations, give you one to four more opportunities to unlock these traits when you “talk to” or “complement” Ariane.  The objective here is to demonstrate as many traits as possible, so ideally you should demonstrate all four before dinner is over.

You need to unlock at least two to go on.  Unlocking only one leads to an end state:  Too smart = too pretentious.  Too nice = creepy.  Too witty = cant take anything seriously.  Too sexy = obsessed with sex or too desperate.

The game plan is this:  Various activities will require different combinations of these traits.  For example, it used to require at least one glass of wine to unlock dinner at the restaurant or picnic in swimwear. Dinner at the restaurant now requires the “nice” trait, and picnic now requires the “funny” trait.  (since these happen before dinner, you need to unlock them during the introduction.)

The thinking is that Ariane has all four traits, and she feels more comfortable with date partners that do too. It also gets rid of the game plot of getting Ariane drunk to get her to do stuff, which is a trope I apparently started, and would like to see end.

I’m explaining the game plan, because I want it to work a certain way, and it probably doesn’t right now, so if you are playing the new version trying to map the changes for a “walkthru” or something,  the way it currently works is subject to change.

Note this trait thing ONLY replaces the drinking requirement.  There are also “activity” requirements and “foreplay” requirements for many of the advanced content.  I’m not changing those.

Combine two or three traits together and you get a personality “skill”.  It’s these skills that drive the various assignments.

Funny + Sexy = fun loving.  Any activity involving the pool or hot tub will become easier with this skill.

Funny + Nice = creative.  Any activity involving dancing and the removal of clothing, whether at home or in front of a crowd,  is going to need some of this.  In front of a crowd might also need some Sexy trait, too, if you want to win.  In front of a fountain at the park, creative and Smart leads to more daring snapshots.

Funny + Smart = clever.  Astronomy lessons requires some cleverness, so does handling both Ariane and Rebecca at the same time.

Nice + Sexy = cuteness.  This is meant to be more of a “lost puppy” kind of cuteness.  With this skill Ariane is likely to be more forgiving when you walk in on her changing clothes.  Cuteness is likely to help talk Ariane into skinny water skiing, too.

Nice + Smart = romantic.  A little romance is likely to get you further on romantic walks on the beach, or drinking contests in the kitchen, for some reason only Ariane knows.  Add some Sexy talk on top of it for some hot and heavy couch action in the living room.

Sexy + Smart = luck.  Risk taking is Sexy, especially to Ariane, but risk taking is less risky if you play it Smart.  That is why Ariane is more likely to get naked in a public place, say the store or the park, if you possess these traits together.  If you also happen to be Funny too, you can make her feel more comfortable at the scenic vista in the mountains.

Meeting the drinking requirement before was just a matter of a glass of wine before dinner, then two more during dinner.  Meeting the trait requirement is picking two up before dinner, then talk and compliment during dinner.  Failing to get all four traits, means some content may not work on this date, but you can always start again.

Next Part II: A brief history of Date Ariane, the first “single character dating sim”.

Full Circle With Date Ariane

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I came up with a complicated plan for the Renpy version of Date Ariane, too complicated — like another multi-year project complicated.

Sometimes you just have to take a step back and decide what is most important.  While many of the ideas I came up with are cool, there are only really two things that I want to actually do:  1.) Make a version of Date Ariane that can be played on a tablet, and 2.)update the pictures with all the cool new models, poses, outfits, and lighting tricks I learned while doing Something’s In The Air.

I realized that I can accomplish both goals by simply updating the current HTML version of Date Ariane, and I can probably accomplish my goal in a few months rather than years.

I already have a “proof of concept” in the introduction portion of Date Ariane online.  Instead of hidden links that don’t show up without mouse hovering, I have visible links pushed off to the sides or below to be as unobtrusive as possible.  The pictures are much prettier, too. What I am not showing on the online demo is pictures 1000 x 600 pixels instead of 800 x 500.  Trust me, it looks even better.  I’m positioning all text proportionally instead of exactly so I can use even bigger pictures in the future if I want to.  I’m also trying to make it HTML 5 compliant so it works with all future browsers.

I haven’t decided if I will change the game any beyond the updated look, though it is probably inevitable that it will.

Reimagine Date Ariane

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Not only is a “port” of Date Ariane to Renpy not happening (see last post), but a “remake” is not in the cards either.

As I explained hover text is very difficult to do in Renpy.  I have also found that converting the javascript code to Renpy is proving too difficult even with simple menus.  The javascript implementation is split up into 5 frames each with different parts of the code, making it difficult to follow and translate into Python, which is what Renpy uses.

Bottom line: “Ports” and “remakes” are not fun to do, and the whole point of doing projects like this is to have fun.  Time to just start over before I go crazy.

So I am taking a page from TV marketers and calling the project a “reimagining” of Date Ariane.  I’m basically rewriting the game to include many of people’s favorite scenes, and hopefully some new ones, but connecting them together a little differently.

I decided that I’m not going to try and explain what I am doing, especially this early in the game development.  But two big changes I’ll say now: 1. Not one date but many, and Ariane remembers past dates, 2. Event success no longer based on Ariane’s state of inebriation, but on player reputation.

I have no idea if what I have planned will actually turn into a fun game or not, but I am looking forward to finding out.