What the hell did I start?

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The year was 2004. I was getting into 3D Virtual Worlds and meeting people online in places like There.com, Second Life, and the now defunct The Sims Online.

Besides these games, my other hobby was making 3D images using Poser 5.  One of the things that happen in these 3D virtual worlds is you get hit on — a lot.  People asking you out on virtual dates which can lead to cybersex, etc.  I, being aromantic, had no interest in dating anyone in real life, let alone online.

So combining my two hobbies and completely misunderstanding what a Japanese “dating sim” game was, I decided to create a virtual date simulator.  That way if I ever get asked out, I can just message a link and let people have some fun with a virtual me.

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About three years later, the game went viral, and triggered an avalanche of nearly 100 known similar games written in HTML and Adobe Flash. (Link is NSFW)

I continued to improve “Ariane’s Date Simulator” for a few years, and then I decided to make a sequel.  Because the HTML spaghetti code I created for the date simulator was incomprehensible to everyone including myself, I decided to find a better way to make “Ariane’s Second Date” and found a gaming engine designed for Asian style visual novels called Renpy.

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So in 2012 I developed Something’s In The Air in Renpy, which was as far as I can tell the first time anyone ever used Renpy with 3D rendered images to make a visual novel.

Renpy is way easier to work with than HTML, so I remade my date simulator into Date Ariane using it.  Goodbye incomprehensible spaghetti code.

Between the cost and ease of use of Renpy, with the expanding 3D rendering world thanks to Daz Studio, I have wondered why there still aren’t a lot of people making erotic renpy 3D rendered games like mine?

I recently decided to look into it.  There are literally thousands of games like mine out in the wilds of the internet.  My sub-genre has gone viral.

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The primary hub for these games are f95zone.com (this website is very NSFW).  I should warn you (or encourage you, take your pick) that while I try to keep things in the “erotic but not porn” area, many of these games are definitely pornographic.  They also contain taboo subject matter that is likely to be illegal in some parts of the world.

Have a fetish? You are likely to find a game that suits your taste.

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I downloaded five of them just to check them out. My primary interest in which ones I picked was in the art work.  I’m initially attracted to games where the art is good.

Some of them are unfinished, or being reworked. I really haven’t gotten very deep into any of them to know if the writing is good or not.  Tlaero and Mortze games are the best in my experience, and they set a high bar for others.

I’m also not sure how much I trust the people that rate the games on f95zone. The most popular seem to be the most erotic, which is not a measure I really consider.

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My thoughts

My primary goal in making my games is to make them for myself.  The only person I have to please is myself.  I see my games as challenging the status quo, pushing the envelope, doing something no one has done before.

Part of me is proud that I have inspired thousands of other budding erotic indie game developers to make their own games.  The truth is that once you get past the learning curve of figuring out Daz Studio and Renpy coding, these game are a hell of a lot of fun to make.  I have more fun making them than playing them.

Part of me is also a little sad.  There really are no status quos to challenge, no envelopes to push, and nothing I will do from this point forward will be very novel or original.  Others are filling that role for me.

Do I stop making games?  No.  I make these games for myself because I enjoy the process of making them.  Where’s the fun in quitting now?

Art Credit:
Heavy Five https://www.patreon.com/nottravisgames
False Hero https://www.patreon.com/enyoeerie
Elsa’s Nightmares https://www.patreon.com/tora
Away From Home https://www.patreon.com/vatosgames
Acting Lessons https://www.patreon.com/DrPinkCake

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

Adding Discord Rich Presence to Renpy Games

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I searched the web looking for a tutorial like this, and with a little help from Animadoria, the moderator of Date Ariane Reddit, I finally figured it out.

First thing you need is a Renpy game you are working on that you want to add Discord Rich Presence to.

Second you need to sign up your game on Discord.  First go here: https://discordapp.com/developers/applications/ and click on “New Application” and fill the info about your game.  You might want to add a 1024×1024 image to represent your game.  What you should get in return is an 18 digit “Client ID” which you will use a lot here.

(Note: You do not need to have your game reviewed by Discord, nor do you need to sign up for the developers license to do this)

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For this tutorial, I’m going to register “The Question” which is a free tutorial game that comes with Renpy. The client ID is 601663968288833536

While you are here, click on “Rich Presence” then “Art Assets” and upload some 512×512 images of the game. These should be safe for work and not contain sex or nudity as these will display publicly on Discord servers and you don’t want to get banned from Discord.

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Loading the Code

Step 3, if you have Windows.

  1. Install the latest version of Python from https://www.python.org/
  2. While installing, make sure you check the box “Add to PATH”, it may prompt you to use administration mode to make path longer if it is already too long. (this is left over from DOS which is next.)
  3. Click on Cortana, or your start menu search bar if you are not on Windows 10 yet, and type “cmd” without quotes.  Welcome to DOS.
  4. Open up a folder file and go to the directory where your game is stored, click on the white space after your name and copy the text (ctrl-c) of your directory name, like mine is C:\Users\(my name)\Documents\renpy\the_question
  5. On the command prompt window type “cd” without quotes, then a space, then ctrl-v your directory name, then press enter.

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If you have MacOS:

  1. Open your Terminal (/Applications/Utilities/Terminal.app)
  2. Go to the directory using cd [path to base folder of the game]. In my case, it’s /Users/[My account]/Documents/Renpy/the_question

Now to load the discord code we need to type two lines at the prompt and press enter after each. I made it so you can copy and paste if you want.

python -m pip install --target game/python-packages discord-rpc.py
python -m pip install --target game/python-packages requests

Your game directory should now have a new folder in it called python-packages and it should contain 13 sub folders including two starting with discord_rpc and two starting with requests.

Now to get your code to work in your game.  You will need to edit your script.rpy file.

We are going to start with the initialization code which should be put at the very top of the script.rpy file.

init -20 python:
    import discord_rpc
    import time

    def readyCallback(current_user):
        print('Our user: {}'.format(current_user))

    def disconnectedCallback(codeno, codemsg):
        print('Disconnected from Discord rich presence RPC. Code {}: {}'.format(
            codeno, codemsg
        ))

    def errorCallback(errno, errmsg):
        print('An error occurred! Error {}: {}'.format(
            errno, errmsg
        ))

label before_main_menu:
    python:
        # Note: 'event_name': callback
        callbacks = {
            'ready': readyCallback,
            'disconnected': disconnectedCallback,
            'error': errorCallback,
        }
        discord_rpc.initialize('601663968288833536', callbacks=callbacks, log=False)
        start = time.time()
        print(start)
        discord_rpc.update_connection()
        discord_rpc.run_callbacks()
        discord_rpc.update_presence(
            **{
                'details': 'Main Menu',
                'start_timestamp': start,
                'large_image_key': 'thequestion'
            }
        )
        discord_rpc.update_connection()
        discord_rpc.run_callbacks()

    return

You will need to change the red text to fit your own game.

If you already have a “label before_main_menu:” section of your game, put the python block at the beginning, and whatever else in the section below it before the return command.

Now we need to initialize the RPC when you start the game. This is done at the “label start:” part of script.rpy

# The game starts here.
label start:
    python:
        callbacks = {
            'ready': readyCallback,
            'disconnected': disconnectedCallback,
            'error': errorCallback,
        }
        discord_rpc.initialize('601663968288833536', callbacks=callbacks, log=False)
        start = time.time()
        discord_rpc.update_connection()
        discord_rpc.run_callbacks()
        discord_rpc.update_presence(
            **{
                'details': 'At College',
                'state': 'Lecture Hall',
                'large_image_key': 'thequestion',
                'start_timestamp': start
            }
        )

        discord_rpc.update_connection()
        discord_rpc.run_callbacks()
    #the real start of the game

Again, change the red code to fit your game.

Next we want to add state changes as new paths branch off.  This code is a subset of the above code.

label rightaway:
    python:
        start = time.time()
        discord_rpc.update_connection()
        discord_rpc.run_callbacks()
        discord_rpc.update_presence(
            **{
                'details': 'You Chose',
                'state': 'Right Away',
                'large_image_key': 'thequestion',
                'start_timestamp': start
            }
        )

        discord_rpc.update_connection()
        discord_rpc.run_callbacks()

Now go ahead and launch your game with discord running and watch your status.

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As a bonus, I uploaded a discord friendly version of Date Ariane HD for Windows with these Discord tags.  Test it out. If it works, I’ll add it to the main game.

Erotic Visual Novels Part 7

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Miranda
Story and Graphics by Chaotic
Link to Play online or Download
Link to walkthrough

Miranda is an older game that Chaotic has decided to convert to Free to Play at vdategames.com.  As I have mentioned a couple of times, Miranda is the inspiration for Ariane in Paradise, so if you want to get a taste of what AiP is like, play Miranda.

Over a year ago, I was declaring Rachel Meets Ariane to be finished, and was looking for inspiration for my next project.  I started playing a lot of other peoples games, but I was getting frustrated.  The truth is, I have grown accustomed to playing Renpy games. Online HTML games were getting annoying.  So I did the only thing a programmer could do and converted some of these games to Renpy.

I converted many Tlaero Mortze and Chaotic games because they all were created with Tlaero’s Adventure Creator, though with different versions, so the results varied.  But now I have this great collection of games I can’t share because they are not mine to share.

Miranda is a flawed game, but has a lot of potential, which is what drew me in.  My impression was, “With some improved graphics and a little expansion, this could be a great game.”  I was seriously considering doing just that, but with no access to the main model, I couldn’t do much.  Then I thought, “What if I remade it with Ariane?”, and started to do that instead.

All it took was that initial inspirational push and I went from there.  The initial scene, from the meeting at the pool, to the second meeting in the hotel lobby, is pretty much beat for beat the same in both games.  (Actually there is one MAJOR difference, but I’ll get to that after the public release of Ariane in Paradise).  From the lobby in Ariane in Paradise you go downtown shopping, from Miranda you go to a volleyball game.

I wrote Chaotic and sent her an early alpha test link. She noticed the similarity right away and appreciated the homage.

The other thing that the two games have in common is the objective:  Both games have two stats “influence or charm” and “sexy”, and you have to reach certain levels at certain checkpoints to advance the story. The other is you have to find out 4 things:

In Miranda, you have to find out she likes 80’s music, studies philosophy, likes to hike in the jungle, and is secretly a nudist.  You can also optionally meet her good friend Faye.

In Ariane, you have to find out she likes to dance, does gymnastics, has an interest in Astronomy, and likes the outdoors.  You can also optionally meet her good friend Rachel.

I’ll talk more similarities and differences later, but for now enjoy Miranda.

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Darkness Falls

Written by Tlaero
Graphics by Mortze
Link to Play online
Link to Download

From Tlaero: “Darkness Falls” is an episodic detective series set in the same universe as Dreaming with Elsa, Redemption for Jessika, Finding Miranda, and Saving Chloe. Today I’m releasing the complete Season 1 of Darkness Falls to the public. Season 1 ended up being 5 episodes as well as a bonus scene for getting all of the achievements.”

From Saving Chloe, we learn that a portal to another universe has caused humans in this universe to be gifted with super powers. Veteran Detective Blake, and his young hot partner Michelle Won work on homicide cases in this universe. They have no powers themselves except for detective brains, but start finding cases involving people that do.

There are cameos by characters from the other games, including a common event indicating that this game is on the same time line as the other games.  There are also a few new characters with different powers that arrive in the last case.

It sounds like Tlaero is leaving the scene, or at least taking a break. That means Darkness Falls may be the last Tlaero story we get.  She leaves with a novella called AAA, available for download here.

Message to Tlaero: Been there done that, I’ve taken long stretches off to clear the brain.  Doesn’t matter if you come back to the genre, or find a new genre to conquer, you are a great artist, looking forward to what ever you do next.

3D illustrator Mortze is now working with another writer Ikansabot who also writes games for Lessons of Passion.  They are working on a new project called The Science of Lust.

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Two Golden Hairs

Written and Illustrated by Fleet
Link to Download

I like to do three games with these posts, so I decided to find out what Fleet was doing. I’ve corresponded with him on various forms and he helped me beta test Something’s In The Air, so I’m kind of a fan.  His visual novels are simple and the low res graphics always seem to have a charming “handmade” feel to them.

He released this one about 6 months ago, based on folklore from the Brother’s Grimm, and of course putting an erotic spin on it.  It’s pretty short, but fun.

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.

Bandersnatch Black Mirror

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.

My Next Game: Ariane in Paradise

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I have been hesitant to post anything about this, because I have a bad habit of starting something and then bailing on it half way through, but I am far enough along on this project to tell you about it.

If you follow me on Facebook and Tumblr, you may have noticed that my latest Ariane pictures look similar and she is dressed the same. That’s because I am making a new game.  Currently titled “Ariane in Paradise”.

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After experimenting with the genre with Something In The Air and Rachel and Ariane, I wanted to go back and do a second game like Date Ariane that is a little more chaotic and spontaneous.  My original thought was create a new character, but I like Ariane too much so I decided I just need a new setting.

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I thought about a tropical island game since I made the epilogue of Something In The Air, but wasn’t sure how to go about it. Then I saw VDateGames has already done a couple of them,  Zoe is free to play if you want to get the idea of where I am going with this.

It also helps that over the years I have collected a bunch of tropical themed 3D sets that I have barely even used.

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The basic premise is this: Ariane follows Rachel to a fictional tropical island, where for Rachel it is a work trip: she is doing photo shoots for the entire week. This leaves Ariane all alone during the daytime hours to find some fun things to do.  You are on vacation alone on the same island where you meet Ariane at the hotel pool.

I don’t want to get into details, because they are likely to change, but I wanted to throw that premise out there to tie all the stories together.  You are not playing the same character as Date Ariane and SITA, in fact you can choose to be female if you want, that means you have to meet Ariane all over again.

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Also, Ariane only has free time during the day, which means that unlike Date Ariane and SITA, both of which primarily take place at night, this game will primarily take place under sun and mostly blue skies.

I made it a fictional place, because making it a real place could offend people that live there.  A fictional place allows me to, for example, create relaxed nudity laws. It also helps that my collection of exotic island sets include Mediterranean, Caribbean, and Polynesian looking props, so a generic tropical island in an unnamed ocean keeps the anachronisms down.

I have no time table of when it will be done. SITA and Rachel and Ariane both took around two years.  I’m doing this for my own enjoyment, and I hate deadlines, so it will be ready when its ready.

Erotic Visual Novels Part 5

rov11About once a year I highlight some more erotic visual novels similar to Date Ariane. You can read all my posts on this topic here.  Today I’m doing my fifth post, adding to the collection with 3 more.

Pandora

Story and Graphics by Mortze
Format: Javascript/HTML
Download link
Cost: Free

Mortze, the graphic artists who does the work for the last 4 Elsa-verse games (see last post), release his own story in two parts last year. It is now complete and available for download. It is not available as an online game.

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The story is set on a science vessel called Pandora, hired to do underwater archaeology in a part of the ocean that is supposed to be where the legendary lost continent of Atlantis is.  You play a young male college student from Britain hired to do engineering work on the diving equipment.  The ship has a fairly large number of beautiful women on this voyage, too.

Despite the cliche premise, the story is pretty good, and it is pretty linear.  While there are some additional scenes to unlock, there are no extra story branches to explore.

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My biggest concern is the illustration of the main love interest Maggie, the daughter of the ships captain.  They make it a point to say she is just out of high school, meaning she is most likely 17 or 18, therefore age appropriate, but the 3D model used to represent her (Teen Josie form Daz3D) makes her look around 13 or 14, which felt a little creepy at times.

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Leanna: Breaking the Facade

Story and Graphics by Chaotic
Format: Javascript/HTML
Download or Play Online Link
Cost: Free
Walkthrough

Chaotics games continue to go with a traditional plot: get the girl, but each game has gotten more and more sophisticated. Leanna is the latest and most sophisticated.

Leanna is the host of a local news show. On screen she is friendly and likeable.  Off screen she is arrogant and self centered, and hard to get along with. Your job is to make her likeable before you and her appear on a game show together as a couple.

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The challenge is in what you say to her. Many times you are given responses. One of which will make her like you more, another make you like her less, and yet another (and these are the hard ones to figure out) will humble her and “break down the facade” she has built to push everyone away.  Advancement in the game requires you to both make her like you and lower her facade, which requires a balance to your responses.

There is a secondary story branch of trying to reunite Leanna with the original “friend” she was supposed to take on the game show before she abruptly quit.  I actually haven’t completed that one yet.

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I love the graphics in this game, Chaotic’s usual humor is here, and the game proved to be a bit of a challenge.

Added benefit: The latest version of this game allows you to play as a male or female, with different gender appropriate sex scenes depending on your choice.

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April and Violet

Story and Graphics by Chaotic
Format: Javascript/HTML
Available from members area of vdategames.com
Walkthrough

April and Violet is a Members Only game. It is an indirect sequel to Betsy, a free game I reviewed before.  Betsy was a nice prim and proper conservative high school girl that wanted to be more open and confident. If you played that game, you met two other girls, the wild and crazy Violet, and the often mean but misunderstood April. The sub plot of that game (if you chose correctly) was for April and Violet to end up a couple (they are both bisexual).

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The sequel involves you driving to California, and needing a place to stay, you end up in a crappy roadside motel that April and Violet have also managed to find themselves staying at.  Weird twilight zone stuff happens like all of the gas disappearing from your cars, and hiking into the next town reveals a ghost town that recently was filled with people.

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The solution to these mysteries is silly, and involves a chainsaw, but then this whole adventure plays like a stoner comedy where weed is replaced by casual sex and booze.

Like many other Chaotic games, you can pick your gender, making it a crazy girl getaway, or play a male stuck in a hotel with three sex crazed girls.  Oddly, I found the female/female sex scenes to be better animated than the male/female ones.  There are also two skin tones to pick from.

What did you think of these games? Got any suggestions for me to review?

Saving Chloe: The “Elsa-verse” part 4

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Fellow erotic visual novel writers Tlaero and Mortze continue to up the game with their latest release Saving Chloe, which I believe is probably the best game of the genre ever, and sets the bar for the rest of us who work in this genre.  The story is excellent, the artwork is excellent, the 9 possible “good” endings all contain great erotic scenes, and oddly one of the most erotic scenes is in a “bad” ending, of which there are many.  So, lots of choices and lots of endings.

Probably the only flaw of the game is that to really enjoy the story you need to have played 3 previous games Dreaming of Elsa, Redemption for Jessika, and Finding Miranda, all of which I reviewed previously.

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There are other odd things in the game.  Some of the points where stories branch are not very obvious.  This is not necessarily a flaw, I like making seemingly meaningless choices turn out to have big consequences as well, but when you are trying to find those last two endings, and not sure how to get there it can be frustrating, but I made it to all 9 “good” endings without cheating and found about 5 bad ones, too.

Link to download Note: This downloadable game is played in a browser, and because of security issues it probably plays best in Firefox.
Online Link #1 (Playforce)
Online Link #2 (Mortze)

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The Story So Far

So you don’t have to play (or replay) three other games, I thought I would give you a breakdown of the first three games and what we learned about what is going on.  This review contains major spoilers for the games Dreaming with Elsa, Redemption for Jessika and Finding Miranda, all of which you should play first, but if you just want to start with Saving Chloe, or if you already played those games and forgot the details, here are some things you should probably know first or be reminded about.

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Dreaming With Elsa

In Dreaming with Elsa, you play Jason a delivery guy with a recurring dream of chasing a woman. One day your delivery route changes and you deliver a shipment of books to a bookstore whose owner looks exactly like the woman you have been chasing in your dreams. She has also had a recurring dream of being chased by a man. Are you in each others dreams?

Elsa is a shy introvert who lives above the store. She has one employee Chloe who coincidentally has an interest in dream interpretation. Chloe went to the store looking for a rare book called Morpheus which is a legendary book on dreams. Elsa said she did not have a copy, but in their discussion of the book, Chloe talked herself into working for Elsa.

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Elsa and Jason experiment and find that they are indeed sharing dreams together, their dreams get more intimate with each passing night.  Eventually Chloe suggest that they go out on a real date. Elsa who hasn’t gone outside her store/home in months finally goes out on a date.  Out at a restaurant named “Delfino’s”, they meet a waitress named Theresa who plays a role later.

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Upon returning from the restaurant, Elsa invites Jason up to her room where she discovered, someone has been in her apartment. Elsa quickly checks her wall safe, and the only completely intact copy of Morpheus (which she had all along) is still there.

The volume has been in her family for generations, and she was told never to read it, but she reads it to find out why everyone wants it so bad. It is a guidebook of “dream masters”. In it, Elsa learns to put people together in dreams, see into other’s dreams, and control dreams. With these powers she learns who it was who broke into her apartment: It was Chloe. Chloe, who also gained some dream powers from a few pages of a very incomplete copy, has been manipulating everything the entire way in order to get her hands on the full book.  Elsa fires her, and promising that if she catches Chloe in anyone else’s dreams, she will give Chloe nightmares for life.

In the end credit scene of the latest version, we see a strange woman named Xara show up in a dream and ask Elsa if she is the new Dream Master, and that she needs someone with her abilities.

Unanswered questions:

  • What was Chloe’s end game? Why did she need to be a dream master so bad?
  • What is so special about Elsa and Chloe that they would have these powers to begin with?

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Finding Miranda

This and Redemption for Jessika take place at the same time, even ending the same way, but parts of FM take place before RfJ, so I’m reversing them here.  Finding Miranda‘s main plot is an office romance between a systems engineer named Lucas (which you play), who recently lost his wife, and a beautiful and brilliant “problem solver” named Miranda.  For the purposes of backstory for Saving Chloe, the romance is immaterial, it’s the “b” story that is of interest.

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We meet Xara again, this time outside Elsa’s dream world.  She a short blind woman looking for revenge on a former boss named Morland.  He is rich and powerful, and like Elsa, seems to have a superpower, but we do not know what. Morland is protected by a goth female bodyguard named Crow who is a deadly killer with powers of illusion.

Xara isn’t helpless, she is trained in combat before she was blinded, and is basically a female version of Daredevil.  She earns a living teaching self defense courses at a local gym.

Xara can’t touch Morland, but starts recruiting “gifted” people that might be able to. Her first recruit is Miranda, who can solve complex problems in her head and come up with the best strategy rather quickly.  Miranda is also the childhood friend of Chloe, Morland’s daughter!

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Miranda and Chloe fell out about a year and a half ago, when Chloe caused an accident that left Miranda in a coma for a year. Chloe felt sorry and visited her old friend every day of the coma, but upon waking up Miranda refused to forgive her. Since the coma, Miranda has not been able to sleep again for the last 6 months.

Xara also recruits dream master Elsa, of course, and manages a secret contact inside Morland’s operation who goes by the code name “YellowFever”.  This contact leaks information about Morland’s operation to shut down another super-powered woman named Jessica.

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Redemption for Jessika

Jessica’s super power is that she can affect people’s emotions by singing.  Sing fun songs, everyone has fun, sing sad songs, everyone is sad, etc.  Jessica is the lead singer in a rock band that is gaining popularity, mostly because she sings fun songs.

Xara and Miranda work out that Morland plans to disable Jessica by getting her to sing angry by making her angry before a concert, then start a riot at the concert. Unfortunately, Xara is too late to stop it from happening.  Five people are killed in the ensuing riot.

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This is where Redemption for Jessika starts (her real name is Jessica Springfield, but “Jessika with a K” is her stage name).  You play Marc (with a “c”), a court stenographer who, being a big fan of Mayhem (Jessica’s band) was at the concert when the riot started, by happenstance you were also in the court during the hearing to determine if Jessica might have been at fault for the riot.  Jessica has become a drunk mess ever since the incident that left 5 people dead.  The plot of the game is to get Jessica to wake up from her drunken stupor and go back to singing again. Standing in your way is Chloe, who attempts to sabotage your efforts at every step.

Along the way, you learn that Charles, Jessica’s former boyfriend, is the one that made her angry, and that he purposely started the riot. The story ends with you and Jessica stopping a bombing at a political rally that was set by Charles.

Later, back in Finding Miranda, Xara, Elsa, and Miranda learn that Chloe is planning on attacking Jessica again at a concert to prevent her from stopping the bombing, but Miranda kidnaps Chloe to stop her and keeps her drugged for three days until Lucas convinces Miranda it is wrong to keep her that way. Chloe wakes up and she and Miranda have a fierce argument.  Ultimately Miranda feels sorry for the way Chloe is abused by her father Morland, and lets her go.

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In the epilogue of Redemption for Jessika, Jessica is meeting with Xara at “Delfino’s” to be recruited.  Xara informs her that Charles is a pawn of Morland, the man she is trying to take down.  Xara wants her help in recruiting other powered people starting with the waitress Theresa.

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In the epilogue of Finding Miranda, Chloe goes into hiding from her father.  After failing in both operation Elsa and Jessika, she is likely to be severely punished, maybe even killed. In a secret safe house, she grabs her laptop, signs into a secret message board as “YellowFever” and posts that she can no longer help from the inside anymore.

Unanswered Questions:

  • What is Xara’s beef with Morland?
  • What is Morland really up to?
  • What power does Morland have?
  • What power does Theresa have?
  • Where do all these powers come from anyways?
  • Can Chloe be persuaded to switch sides?
  • Can Miranda ever forgive Chloe for the coma?
  • Will anyone figure out Chloe has been working for the good guys the whole time?
  • Can Xara and her allies stop Morland? or Crow? or Charles?
  • Will Miranda ever get a good nights rest?

The above descriptions leave out big chunks of all 3 games, but should give you enough information to start “Saving Chloe”.

Update:

If you play the game and are missing an ending or two, I wrote a guide to how to reach the 10 endings (9 good, 1 major bad). Here is a link to my chart. This is not a complete guide, there are some bad choice traps you will have to avoid yourself. These are just to point you in the right direction.

Dating Pretenders on iPhone

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Many people have been asking me about releasing Date Ariane on the Apple App store for use on iphones and ipads. I have not done so because the Apple App store forbids erotic games like Date Ariane in their store.

And yet where there is a demand, there will be someone to fill it. Two different “Dating Sim” apps have been put into the app store using artwork from Date Ariane.

I know what some of you are thinking: “How can they use art from your game in their game?”, and the answer is I let them by offering the 10th Anniversary Edition HTML version under the Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution license.

Basically, art under the license is free to use in other projects as long as you disclose the source and disclose that it was used under the CC by 3.0 license. Both Date Ariane and Something’s In The Air use creative commons music and sound effects extensively, and per the license the sources and links to the license are documented in both the credits screens and the help files of both games.  I released the HTML versions of Date Ariane under the license as a way to “pay it forward”. Unfortunately, most of the people that are using my art are not crediting me, which makes me sad.

If people used my art in cool ways (see the “Related Content” links on this page), it probably wouldn’t bother me much that they left out the required attribution, but as a friend of mine pointed out: Creative commons doesn’t really have a provision for “only if you make good shit with it.”

Anyways, because I myself am an iPhone user, I figured I would download some of these pretenders and piss all over them give them honest reviews.

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Dating Kylie Lopez

I’m giving this app one star, and it only earned that star by being free. This came to my attention because a popular You Tube video series called “Reviewing Bad Apps” featured it in volume 4 at approximately the 11:45 mark. A reader of my blog and a good friend both posted me messages about it, so I had to download it.

While the images, text, and choices all look very familiar, as far as I can tell this app is a cheap joke app. (What do you expect for free?) As you can see, I managed to get “Kylie” into a swimsuit, went swimming, and ate a barbecue steak dinner. A couple of moves later the date was over for no explicable reason.

I think that is the whole joke, no matter what you do the date will end abruptly at some random number of moves into the date.

The app is only 41MB big with no extra downloads, a complete implementation of Date Ariane would be at least 150MB, so a lot of corners were cut. Steak dinner is pretty much the only one available, if you get that far. I suspect the dancing at the club promo image displayed above is an impossible goal. I’m also pretty sure nudity is non-existent.

If you try this app out, post screenshots of how far you got.

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Dating Simulator

This one is a near complete implementation, or more accurately impersonation, of “Date Ariane for iTunes”, and would totally be worth the $2.99 price if it weren’t for all the damn major bugs.

The game is only a 39mb download in the app store, but upon opening the game it downloads another 100mb or so of additional images from a 3rd party server to avoid the wrath of Apple. Make sure your iPhone/iPad has room.

Yes, the game includes at least some brief topless scenes of “Emelie” which is what the game calls her, though I have never managed to see much. I got her to flash her boobs playing basketball and at the dress shop when I handed her two skirts, but even after a flawless strip club show, she exited the stage prior to taking off her top. At least she won:

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From what I can tell, they set the variable that allows nudity to “never”. So far all the nudity I saw in the game including the completely nude “tennis instructor” routine is nudity that shows up when Ariane Emelie is not interested in being naked. This actually breaks the game in many places, like the photo shoot at the scenic vista does not know how to handle the situation with the variable set like that and the app crashes just when things were getting good.

But they also made other game breaking changes.  The most annoying involves the dinners. All dinners in this game end when you drink wine, so if you want to talk or compliment, you need to do that before you drink. “Going out for dinner” seems to default to the “Drive-N-Dine” which doesn’t have a “drink wine” option, so if you go out for dinner, you end up in a loop until  “Emelie” gets tired of your company.  This is a bug that existed for a short while in the Renpy version, until I fixed it. I’d like to see the makers of Dating Simulator fix theirs because it breaks an important part of the game.

Another bug: Occasionally for no reason after eating a steak dinner, we get the pizza sauce ending.

Those are the biggest I found so far, the most annoying part of the app is that there is no save game feature. As is, I’m giving the app 2 stars. Fix the major bugs and I’ll make it 3 stars, add a save game feature and I’ll make it 4, give me credit for the art and get rid of the Facebook spam and I’ll make it 5.

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Dating Ariane.com

If you must play Date Ariane on an iPhone, how about the original HTML version? Someone (not me) is hosting it at datingariane.com, and it is pretty much a complete port of the 10th Anniversary edition to a website.  I had to take mine down a couple of years ago due to devastating web traffic, but this one seems to be on a more stable server.

So faithful of a port, that they left my cheating secrets in, which I never shared until now.

  1. Start the game at datingariane.com/default2.htm, this sets up “debug mode” that shows stats of the game on the right side.
  2. There is a secret dot on the lower left corner. If you hover over this dot with a mouse, it will show you the current game stats which refresh whenever the page number changes (see the first stat in debug mode). This has been replicated in the Renpy version by turning hints on in options.
  3. At the beginning of the game shown above, hover over the secret dot, then enter the Konami code on your keyboard (B A), and that will enable cheat mode, making Ariane pretty much agreeable to anything. (The Konami code works in the Renpy version, too but it makes it impossible to collect achievements when used.)
  4. On the first page of the default2.htm version, there are 7 pairs of “head start” dots, the first 5 skip over the dinners, the last two were scenarios I made for testing purposes, though I don’t know what I was testing in this version. Anyways, the real fun stuff in the game happens after dinner, so use the secret links to skip over the intro and dinner.

And that is what I found, so far. I searched Google Play store looking for imitators as well but since the game is available in android there don’t seem to be any, which is good.

Just remember: the Renpy version is copyright, meaning the art is NOT free to use in projects, and I hate filling out DMCA requests. Yes there is some art that crosses over, though that will change soon as I am making new versions of all the pictures, (see my last blog post).