This month we're happy to announce that we'll be participating in the otome jam.
A fantasy, romance visual novel based on chapters from my up-and-coming book.
Upon the untimely passing of the late daemon king, Prince Drakon will take the Crown and reign all seven kingdoms. The prince's first task is to wed the fae princess of Tarafin.
The unification of a daemon and a fae is as unnatural as milk in mead; what could the Dark Prince possibly want with her?
I decided to make this game to take a short break from my other projects. The Dark Prince is nearly identical to the novel I have been working on under a different alias. The story's original title is The Divine, but for a visual novel, I think The Dark Prince is more fitting. This visual novel will be a little different from my previous work. The story will read like a novel as the chapters are almost identical to the WIP book.
Here's what the jam version of the game will have so far:
The Dark Prince: Chapter 1
The speed at which the final story is completed will depend on feedback from players. So far, it's only been a few days into May, and we've been getting good traction on socials; I'm impressed!
Hi! It's been a while since I've posted on here. I've been knocking out my goals for Garden of Seif this year.
Since January 2022, there's been:
The extended demo was set to drop on Steam for April 1, but I will admit that I'm not sure I'll be able to make that happen. There is a lot that goes into uploading to Steam, and currently, I am dealing with family matters and other issues, so that date may need to be extended. I want to make sure that the demo functions properly on Steam (of course). You can still play the demo on itch.io.
The official launch date of the Kickstarter is TBA but will be announced once we gain a bigger following. If the Kickstarter succeeds, I want to do a full release of the game in August 2022. Depending on the results, this date may need to be pushed by another month or more. The purpose of the Kickstarter is to allow me time to focus on the game, and it gives the project a fighting chance to have partial voice acting. Partial voice acting is the stretch goal I'm hoping we will reach.
I may take a few weeks of hiatus while I adjust to matters in my personal life. As you may know, I work on all of these aspects of development solo. All core artwork has been completed for the project by wonderful freelance artists. It is now up to me to pull the final strings together, which involves 80% marketing and 20% programming, writing, UI, etc.
Lastly, we've reached 2k+ downloads on the Garden of Seif demo. That's an achievement, and I'd love to hear more feedback from players!
Thanks for reading! :D
Hello! Duchess here, the lead developer and writer at Foxdrift Studios, currently working on the visual novel Garden of Seif that has been in development for about five years running. There are times when I found myself asking, "Will I ever finish this project?" or "There's no way I can do this." If you are like me and have been relentlessly and desperately crawling to that finish line to release your visual novel to the world, you're not alone. I wanted to share my experience and thought process with other developers who may be struggling to find their footing, especially earlier on in their projects when they're still miles away from release yet are knee-deep in development.
Having worked on a few releases in the past and having executive management experience in my day job, I have learned to pave a clear path and reach my goals. So this is my two cents on the topic of visual novel development.
1. Get organized.
This is so important, especially if you are wearing many hats in your project. Trello is an excellent application for managing the different areas of your project. I create a Trello board for each "department" of my novel. Sound, Story, Art, Programming, and even a Management Board where I list my short-term and long-term goals checklists, which we'll discuss later.
A huge tip, I keep a spreadsheet/checklist keeping track of my completed artwork, its location, and what needs to be done next. (CG and other sections hidden for spoilers)
2. Be a director.
Whether you are working by yourself or leading others, you're calling the shots. Be decisive and be clear about your vision. Poor direction leads to poor results. If you decided to create a visual novel, you chose to be in the director's seat.
For example, when I order my artwork, I rarely find myself disappointed with the results. My co-dev, Neptune, and I work together on creating
what we call "Work Orders." Work orders are simple sheets we put together, whether in a google doc or a spreadsheet, and we make a mood board.
Here's an example of a Sprite Work Order:
We compile image references very cleanly in one sheet and send it off to the artist. This is usually enough information for the artist to produce the final result:
Garden of Seif character Freya - Artist: Remnantation
3. Set weekly goals and long-term goals.
Know the difference between what is part of the daily grind and what's a long-term goal. Make a "Long Term Goals" checklist in Trello and then make week by week checklist.
Long Term goal examples:
Weekly Checklist examples:
I frequently view my long-term checklist, but I place my focus and energy in weekly checklists. Those weekly checklists make the long-term checklist come to life. Don't overload your weekly checklist. Make it realistic.
4. Give yourself a break.
This part is essential. It doesn't mean fall victim to becoming a lazy potato, because if this is something you're passionate about—like most of us who are squeezing VN dev time in between school, work, and real life—then remember that you are doing this out of devotion to your passion. So don't push yourself too hard.
I'm a firm believer in deadlines, but I allow flexibility for my passion projects. I make official announcements once I know that I'm already close to completion first.
5. Consistency is key.
We've all heard the old saying that Rome wasn't built in a day, and it's true. I cannot stress how I've often heard people say, "I want to do -insert a high aiming goal here-" but never do anything about it. Or maybe they work hard at that for a week and then drop their project out of impatience or perhaps boredom of the grind. Visual novel development, like a lot of projects, requires consistency. Depending on your project's length, it could be many hours of mundane bug testing or programming the UI for the settings that just won't cooperate. Maybe it'll mean weeks of rewriting a chapter that you found didn't make sense. Either way, it's not always going to be the sunshine and rainbows of writing your favorite scene or a magical error-free coding session.
All in all, those are my top five points in how to get into the mindset of managing a visual novel without losing your head. I have to say that in our humble VN community, I'm really impressed with the amount of people that seem to have this down pat (or at least it seems like they do) because there is a lot of work that goes into VN development, and to have an ongoing or released project is a big feat.
Thanks for reading and be sure to subscribe to our newsletter to receive more updates on visual novels and stay up to date on the progress of Garden of Seif.
- Duchess, Lead Developer and Writer at Foxdrift Studios
A day in the life of a dev at Foxdrift Studios.
Sure we've labeled ourselves as a studio to reflect that we are a serious organization of people coming together to create a project, but at the end of the day we are just a handful of passionate indie developers seeking to fulfill our dreams of developing a visual novel. Considering we're are running this based off of our personal monetary investments, and working during our measly days off from the normal workforce grind, there's going to be some pros and cons.
Will this profit? I don't know. I hope so, but that's certainly not going to stop me from pumping a million dollars worth of mental and physical effort into Garden of Seif. I've seen experienced visual novel developers advise that you focus on what the community wants to see rather than pour energy and money into something niche in what is already a niche industry in itself. Sure, I could go for the big-booby dating sims. There's nothing wrong with that being your cup of tea, and I'm not saying if your VN isn't all about nudity that you aren't going to make a profit, but I understand that those kinds of games may cast a much wider net than my story about desert assassins in a politically unbalanced world.
To me, the lead developer of Garden of Seif, I happily donate my early morning hours and late evening hours to get this story told. I have less time this past year than I've ever had in my life, and yet somehow I've managed to pump out a demo and plunge forward with this VN more than the years prior.
At the end of the day, I want it to be known that we are a studio founded by passion and dedication to our goals. Whether or not Garden of Seif makes a profit is irrelevant. I want to give a shoutout to Alexis, the co-developer in GoS, who has been sticking by this project through thick and thin!
The FDS Team
First of all, I want to thank everyone who has played and given feedback to our demo! We are currently at 432 downloads and hold a 5-star rating! While the number of downloads may be humble in comparison to other VNs, words cannot express how much it means to me to receive such positive feedback.
The demo has been out for about two months now, and we owe it to the community to introduce ourselves, give an update on development, and our plans for the future.
Garden of Seif was born roughly three years ago. I had recently left the Lucid9 development team as one of the creatives, and I had felt something was missing. Working on Lucid9, I had truly discovered what I wanted to do with my life: create visual novels. I cannot thank them enough for giving me that gift the moment they accepted me on the team, and not to mention the skills I learned while being there. It pained me to leave, but at the time my life had been chaotic and I didn't have the time to give them the focus that the project deserved.
So, while I desperately felt the urge to create, I had an idea brewing in my head: a visual novel that takes place in a middle-eastern inspired world. Arabian nights. Tales of sultans, Arabian-assassins, and rebellious nations that challenge the Imperial reign. I have always been drawn to historical fantasies and mesmerized by desert landscapes, so it was only natural for me to envision a novel that illustrates these concepts. Would people like it? I often asked myself that question as I wrote Iris's story; a story and setting that differs from a vast majority of the VNs I've come across. But I proceeded anyways.
It started off as a rough, half-baked idea and hand-drawn, comic book style sketches made by me and my close friends from high school. I was the writer and art designer. Elijah drafted the very first sketches of all the characters: Seth, Mara, Duran, Malz, etc. Erik began coding the original demo (which has changed dramatically since then.) It was a learning process for all of us having been beginners at the time we initially formed. Me being a meticulous perfectionist, I had high exceptions for this project. So we would re-draw, re-write, and re-code until everything became what it is today. And now, finally, the story and art are solidified. I've commissioned two artists to design our backgrounds, CGs, and sprites which has tremendously sped up our process. This past year, Garden of Seif transformed from a "rough idea" to professional project.
The original team had left to pursue different areas of work once our demo was published this last March 2020. I have personally taken on the coding, and went from novice coder to being able to code 3D camera movement. Erik crafted the main skeleton of the game, and in his absence I'm going through and refining, adding SFX, VFX, and 3D movements to breathe life into it.
Another person worthy of mentioning is Alexis, the "assistant" for this entire project. She has played this demo a thousand times, making sure it's polished in all aspects. She has helped steer the direction of the plot dramatically, idea-bounced, and refined the inconsistencies in the script.
Our future. There is nothing that can stop me from finalizing this project in entirety. I cannot say for certain when our full release will be, but my goal is to finish a good portion of the coding by the end of 2020. 2020 has been a difficult year, as you all know. And it's only natural that amidst these difficulties, we must slow our financial endeavors. It is likely that we will open a Kickstarter in the future, but as of now we are self-funded. We have been able to do this slowly but consistently.
Regardless, I'd like to have the main route finalized by the end of this year. The main route is 8 chapters long (aprox. 3 hours of reading.) There will be two routes following the main, each aprox. 3 hours of read time as well. It is an option to release the main route entirely, and release routes separately in the future, but that is something I am still contemplating.
There is much in store for the future of GoS. I have story boarded and begun designing the opening video, which will play about halfway through the main route. I am a video editor and animator for a living, so it will be a pleasure for me to design this video, but it certainly takes time. One thing is for sure: there is nothing more important to me than getting this project done as soon as possible, but it is of equal importance that I get it done as epic as I've envisioned it to be.