I've recently been reading the light novels for Rising of the Shield Hero (my favorite anime of the year) when it hit me: I can do something similar for Musume.
I've been working on the game's story (particularly the first volume of the game, which I hope to have done by the end of 2021), and realized that it doesn't take much to use the descriptions of the levels and dialogue and just convert them to novel format, so I've decided to create a Musume light novel. The first novel, which I hope to have done in the next two months or so, will cover the events of the first game.
My goal with the novel is to both flesh out the game's story as well as gain more publicity for the game (and hopefully earn some extra development money). I've already written the first chapter (which covers the game's first level) and am currently working on the second.
I need to point out that this will not slow development at all. Writing out the game is something I need to anyway. Game development tends to work from a master design document; I'm taking the concept of that document and tweaking it a bit to gain more benefit from the effort.
The novel will be available on Amazon.com as soon as it is done. It'll be a quick read (no more than two hundred pages) and (I hope) a fun and engrossing one. See you there.
I've spent over a year trying to build, create, or commission an idle animation of Suzu that I'm happy with. Today, it finally happened.
What you see in the above video is the work of @Otakuluis1, a freelance animator I met through Twitter. His art style and animation fit the game perfectly, and he turns out animation incredibly quickly. The background may not match the character, but don't worry-the background was always a placeholder. As the game continues to take shape, more fitting background assets will be added.
For now, though, I'm ecstatic. I spent more than a year trying to figure out a way to get Suzu animated. Now, she's finally moving. I can't wait to see the rest of the animations that @Otakuluis1 draws.
I've spent a lot of time building the heroines of Musume, but I've spent almost no time on the creatures that they're going to be fighting. That, however, has changed.
This is very much a work in progress; it's likely that none of the assets you see here (Suzu, the background, the mechanical bug) will make it into the final game. However, it gives an idea of what I'm going for. This game will have big monsters and big robots to fight, and the world will definitely be a post-apocalyptic one (similar to what you might see in Guilty Gear).
By the way, this robot was a pre-made asset that I got from graphicriver.net. Graphic river is an awesome resource for cheap game assets, which definitely what you need when you're trying to create quick prototypes.
In my quest to redo Musume in the style I want, I've had two different 3D modelers take a stab at creating Suzu. I won't be posting images of either, because I wasn't happy with the final result.
3D modeling is hard. Finding someone who can model in 3D and capture that cartoon/anime look borders on impossible. I'm giving the 3D thing one more shot, but after that I may go back to 2D puppet animation, this time using Live2D. I'm not a fan of 2D puppetry, but if it's the only option, so be it.
I've also deleted all the old character art and am putting up new art as it comes. I may have to shuffle the voice actresses who play the different characters as well. We'll see what happens. For now, just remember: the game is being worked on, even if it doesn't always seem so from the outside.
In my last post, I wrote how various things in my life were cropping up and preventing me from working on the game. And while there is some truth to that, the reality is that I just didn't want to work on it anymore, for a very painful reason: I hated the way it was shaping up.
When I first started working on Musume, I envisioned it as a 3-D action RPG. That slowly changed as my small budget and lack of dev skills dictated that I take a different approach. I wound up making a (barely) working prototype in Gamemaker Studio 2, a beginner-friendly engine that is built specifically for 2D game development. And while I made some progress, I wasn't happy with the final result. The game was going so far away from what I originally wanted it to be that I lost my motivation to work on it. Finally, I came to a crossroads: either make the game that I actually want to make, or stop work on it altogether.
I chose the first option.
I'm going back to the game's original character design and the original vision (minus the RPG part-this will be an action title). I'm also changing the engine to Unity so that I can build the exact game that I want. This will make everything take more time, but I don't care. I'd rather take an extra year or two to make the game I want to make rather than cut corners and publish something that no one, myself included, wants to play.
By the way, below are the original designs for Suzu, the game's main character. I'm having 3D models built off of this drawing. If that works, then 3D will be the tool I use to animate her and all the game's other characters. If not, I'll figure out something else. One thing is for sure, though: I am continuing work on Musume, and it's going to be the game I want it to be, one way or another.
Another thing: I've reconnected with the artist who drew these (@xesxus on Twitter) and will have him redraw all the characters in his style. Make no mistake: this a total reboot, from the ground up.
Development on Musume slowed to a standstill at one point due to my day job but I've been able to get some work in the last few days. This scene - where Suzu (left) and Mara (right) face off has been on my mind for a while, so it's great to finally see it in reality.
The next order of business is to start working on the first boss battle. My goal was to have it done by the end of June, but like so many things in indie dev, that goal slid to the right. I need to find some good mech art, and then build and rig the mech. Then, I get to get some background images made and put it all together so that the battle actually works. It'll be an interesting challenge, but it will also feel awesome once it's done.
Development has been slow-going recently due to things getting super-busy at my day job. However, I still managed to build and rig Tsurune, the third of the four heroines to be built.
This model was actually pretty tricky, because I had to figure out how to create a bow string that can bend and vibrate. I ended up using a simple trick to solve that problem, but I won't be revealing that trick here.
Now that Suzu, Mayu, and Tsurune's in-game models are done (or, in the case of the last two, their idle models), I can create the game's first cutscene. All the English and Japanese audio has been recorded, and Moonraccoon has created some awesome first-level music. It's just up to me to create the visuals, and with Tsurune's creation I am one step closer.
Every anime that has multiple female characters eventually finds a reason to put those characters into an onsen, or hot spring. It's fan service and a cheap (but typically effective) way to get more eyeballs on the show. I thought I might try the same with Musume, so I had the above image commissioned and drawn by Fiverr.com artist satya_rizqy (Twitter: @RizqySatya). Beautiful art, three pretty girls, just enough skin to generate some excitement. Perfect recipe for success, right?
I posted the picture on Twitter yesterday, and unlike the "selfie" pic (see previous post), this pic got no reaction at all. Two likes, that's it. I pinned it for a little while, but then took it down. It wasn't doing the game any favors.
My timing was pretty bad, too. Yesterday was International Women's Day (I had no idea, although as the creator of an all-female action game I really should have known), so I couldn't have picked a worse time to post a pic that objectifies women to sell a product.
In truth, however, I shouldn't have created this image at all. My all-female cast isn't a marketing gimmick; my most interesting characters just happen to be female, and it made more sense to make a game starring them. Using them in this way was a bad idea, and it's a mistake that I won't be repeating.
I've started gathering the resources necessary to create the first level of Musume. The English dialogue for the first cutscene has been recorded (working on the Japanese version now. I have the character art for the level's three playable characters (Suzu, Mayu, and Tsurune, pictured above. Moon Raccoon has composed some great music for the level, and I'm now working on both crafting enemies (because the ladies need someone to fight) and the actual environment art. But you probably didn't care about too much of that, because you're too busy staring at the beautiful image above.
This selfie, drawn by Fiverr.com artist satya_rizqy (Twitter: @RizqySatya) isn't concept art. It's the picture the heroines will take after they complete their first mission together. Suzu (left) and Mayu (middle) look fine because they're both combat veterans and this is just another day at the office for them. Tsurune, on the other hand, looks a little freaked out because this is her first real fight and it gets far crazier than she expected. The first level will end shortly after this image pops up.
You've noticed that treasure hunter Mara Kimbry isn't in the picture. She'll make an appearance at the end of the level, but she won't be playable until level two. At this point, she isn't friends with the trio above.
You've also no doubt noticed that there's no background. That's because I plan to insert a background myself after finalizing the first level's art. Keeping the background out for now gives me more flexibility as to how to create the level.
There's still a long way to go, but the game is beginning to shape up, piece by piece.
On January 31, Musume officially stopped being a collection of concept art and became an honest-to-goodness functional video game. Well, game is a bit of a stretch: there is only one room right now, there are no enemies to fight, and there is no way to score points or complete quests. But the game is playable:
First, a little explanation.
After a ton of behind-the-scenes work, I was finally able to find an artist who could re-create the four heroines of Musume in a style that works for my animation process (Spine 2D, for anyone who's wondering). After getting the art, I had to separate her body parts by hand, then re-assemble her into a fully poseable doll. The final step in the process was animating her and then making her move inside the game environment. These thirteen seconds of video represent a whole lot of unseen labor, which is how it goes in game development.
So why did I record it via phone? I typically use a program called screen-to-gif to create videos, but with this video, screen-to-gif was creating ugly, choppy footage. It wasn't doing the animation justice. So, with no other handy options, I grabbed my phone and hit record.
There are a few screen recording programs out there, and I'm going to check them out to see which one is right for recording Musume. Future videos will have much better quality. But I wanted to post this, because I wanted to show the real progress that is happening on the dev side. Is this just one room? Yes. However, it's also validation of the workflow that I'm using. Now that I know it works, I can build bigger and better levels.
More characters are on their way, too. The in-game art for axe-wielder Mayu Suzuki should be done soon, and I hope to have her animated by the middle of February. Archer Tsurune and treasure hunter Mara should be done in March.
As you can probably tell, I'm very happy about this. Game dev is hard, but when it clicks there's nothing like it.