Tuesday, January 10, 2017

v0.26 is Live!

Play the latest version by going to the Play the Game tab above!

Alright! I've been working a long time on the content for this version, and I finally feel like it's ready to share. The next chapter of the storyline beyond the Stone Door has begun! It's far from complete, but there's enough content ready to at least go through a basic version of it. If you haven't already, I encourage you to go check it out yourself now before reading on!

While this new area has presented a lot of technical challenges I've had to work through, I've probably been most challenged by the question of exactly how to present it. It's something of a delicate situation for just about everyone involved, and it's absolutely meant to disturb the player to a degree. Especially toward the end of what's currently available, certain players will hit a scene that I've been anticipating with a lot of mixed feelings for a long, long time. So I've been looking forward to and also sort of dreading the reception of this version for quite some time!

I'd like to take a moment to clarify here, it's not that I have any spite toward players or just want them to feel bad. I'm anticipating some negative responses to this version because it will have a negative emotionaly impact on some, and I feel that's necessary. This is an important step in developing the storyline as a whole, both because it's important to developing the main theme and arc of the game, and because we're entering the final stages of the story. Up until now there have been lots of ups and downs, lots of charming moments and emotional sequences, but this is essentially the penultimate Chapter of the game.

I said before that the collar itself is, in a way, a halfway point in the game. If you look at the Table of Contents I made up (I'll be updating this soon) you can see that represented a little more clearly. Looking at this, you could say that MVOL is a story in six chapters or so, and we are just now beginning chapter five. If you're familiar with storycrafting, that generally means that this is where things are going to get more and more intense and conflicted, building up to the climax and resolution in the final chapter. We're really getting into it now!

So that's why the game is taking another emotional turn here. I've spent a long time kinda fine tuning this in my head to try and find the best way to present it to accomplish all my goals without making the player more uncomfortable than necessary. There are a lot of delicate topics being handled here, and I want to both give each player the chance to play how they want, but also to challenge them to make decisions they may not want to make, decisions they may not have ever thought they would have to make. Figuring all this out has been the biggest challenge for me in this new content, and I feel like there's not that much actually written down compared to how much time I've spent going over it in my head. But I feel like it's in a good place! I think it was worth the months, probably almost a year in advance I've been working on this on the side, trying to get just the right feel. I hope it comes across well for everyone.

This is another update with no sex scenes in it. Considering the content, I think some people may be relieved, haha. I used to feel like I really needed to include at least one sex scene with each update, and like maybe I needed to warp the story to make sure there was lots of sex, since that's something people expect. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized I don't think that's really what anyone wants. Sure, some people will always be here for the sex, and that's fine. But it's more important that it happens naturally. I've found that when I don't try to force sex to happen, it actually becomes a much more natural part of the flow of the story, and feels way better than if I just say "a sex scene needs to happen here, let's do it." And if you're this deep into the game, I think you'll appreciate a sex scene that comes a little later but feels appropriate over one that feels shoe-horned in.

So I've been trying to rely more on my own instincts in driving the story forward and just letting sexual content come naturally. I do plan to have sexual content in this chapter, and I think it's pretty obvious I'm building up to that, including a way to tempt/justify those that normally might not indulge. It's kinda bugged me how many people tell me they play the game solely for the story and don't even get sexual, and I'd like to see if I can give some of those players reason to think twice. Haha.

So there's a lot going on with this version, story-wise! It's still just the beginning, though, and there will be more options added in the future to really make this first sequence an interesting experience to explore and play through multiple times. Besides that, I've added two new pieces of art, of course, though I think this has finally burned through the very last reserves of my big art-commissioning spree a while back. Looks like it's time for another one!

Lastly, for anyone still concerned from my last post, yes, I did get my data fully restored. It was very expensive, but in the end I got lucky and they were able to restore 99% of my data. A huge load off my mind! If you'd ever like more up-to-the-minute updates on what I'm doing, including my restoration and the small delays we saw on the release of this version, you're welcome to follow me on Twitter! I make dorky jokes occasionally, but mostly I use it to talk about the latest developments with my work, good or bad.

That wraps it up for now. Thanks for reading, everyone, and I hope you enjoy the new content! Or at least... are intrigued by it?

Monday, November 21, 2016

Lost a hard drive...

I've hit a bit of a speed bump. A couple days ago, my biggest hard drive up and died for no apparent reason. Since then, I've found out that particular model actually had a shockingly high failure rate, and a ton of its reviews basically amount to "it's great, until it breaks, which was within two years/a few weeks/a couple days/before it got to me." So the fact it worked for a solid two years was pretty lucky for me, I guess.

Now, this drive had a lot of personal files and, as you may have guessed, the project file for MVOL. I do keep backups online, but I didn't update those as often as I should have. Fortunately, I do most of my writing on a separate computer, and between that and the archives from the daily updates I send out to my supporters, very little writing is actually lost. This will basically amount to maybe a week or two of work putting things back together, redoing the final polish, editing, and all the little bits. I also lost all of my files for the art I've commissioned, or more specifically, the edited versions polished up for the game. So it's basically going to be a huge pain, but hopefully I can recover everything from online copies or contact the artists.

Honestly, it's been demoralizing more than directly damaging. It's already been pretty rough around here for personal reasons, so throwing this on top has forced me to fall back on some old coping strategies. Right now, I've sent the hard drive to a recovery service and I'm waiting for word on how much it would cost. It would mean a lot to have all of that back, so I'm hoping I can afford it, but if it's a mechanical issue like my tech-savvy friends think it is, then the price may be pretty out there.

One way or another, I'll deal with it. The upshot is, v0.26 may end up a little lighter on content just to keep the schedule going, and this month's MMU will probably be a little odd, maybe compiled with an old version of the game or something.

Anyway, sorry if this seems like a lot of complaining for a relatively small crisis. I know I haven't been as active on the blog lately, and a setback like this is probably the most significant news I've had in a while. Hopefully I'll have better news soon. Thanks for your patience, guys!

And yes, I'll definitely be looking into more robust, automated options for backing up my work files, as well as any files I consider important to me. I'd encourage all of you to take the time to do the same.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

v0.25 is Live!

Hello, everyone! You can play the new version right now by going to the Play the Game tab at the top!

Development on the game has been frustrating for a while now. I'm not getting as much done as I want, and I'm not getting the particular things done that I want. I guess "slow but always managing to carry on" has always been MVOL's story, and this bi-monthly schedule has probably helped a lot, but I still feel like I can do better.

Originally this update was supposed to be largely focused on getting the post-Stone Door content ready. But the more I tried to work with it, the more I realized that there were so many problems and questions and tricky bits I hadn't accounted for in planning it out that I needed to figure out before I could really write it all out, both in terms of practical, line by line writing and coding and in regards to the overall feel of the scenes and how players would perceive them. I've often been pretty interested in how dramatically players' reactions can differ from the thoughts I had going into the scene, but here I realized there were some pretty serious issues on that front that needed to be addressed. So it's turned into a pretty big puzzle!

Well, after struggling with that a long time I decided I needed to switch focus just to make sure v0.25 could have enough new content. The Wooden Door has been pretty sparse on content, and there was one particular idea I'd had in mind a while that I thought a lot of people would appreciate: scenes that play up your species more than other features, to really make you feel like it matters that you're a dragon, or a human, or a horse. Usually in any given scene, I'm either focusing on the particular thing that makes this scene unique, or trying to touch more on things like what collar you have and the nature of your relationship. And of course, that's all with the given that almost every sex scene forces me to at the very least acknowledge both the various mixtures of genitalia and Lith's dominance, if not re-writing the scenes altogether several times to account for all that. So there doesn't tend to be much room for other things.

And it doesn't help that I have a bit of a bias. While I do find the variety of species in the furry world very cool and I like exploring what it "means" to be a certain species, it doesn't really hold the fascination or the emotional charge for me that it seems to for a lot of people. Some people are super into, say, foxes specifically, and want every single scene to reflect their foxy nature, but I can't really get as into that. With everything else, it just doesn't feel like as big a priority.

But these scenes are my big chance to try and make up for that a little. Of course, that does mean that there's effectively a lot of content here that you won't be able to see because it's buried deep in the game and you only get one small portion of it according to your species, which is less than ideal. But I'm hoping that means both that people will be encouraged to try out other options for species a little, and that this will be one more way the game rewards replaying in general! And I'm hoping those that really dig their own species will like getting their own moment to have something a little special on that front.

That was the big push of new content this update. As usual, there are two new pieces of art tucked away in the game as well! I still want to focus on the post-Stone Door addition next, but I don't know how many more problems that is going to throw at me. I'm going to try and force myself to get some "just for me" writing in now that this is out, that's a step in my creative cycle I've been neglecting lately, and I think it's been giving me a really hard time because I always think I won't really need it. It's important to remember why you love what you do, you know?

That covers it for today. Thanks for reading, folks, and I hope you enjoy!

Saturday, September 3, 2016

v0.24 is Live!

If you haven't seen it, go to the Play the Game tab above to grab a copy of the new version!

This update may seem like a pretty light one, depending on your perspective. And technically you would be correct-- I believe it has less writing in it than we've typically seen from the sprawling Stone Door updates of the past, though more than v0.23 did. But if it's sex scenes you're going for --and you're willing to accept scenes of this one particular nature-- then v0.24 may be the motherlode for you.

The featured addition of v0.24 is one new "scene," an addition to the first half of the game that's been overdue quite a while. Its main purpose is to act as a counterpart to one of the classic scenes for when you have different anatomy, but almost anyone can access it, and since it's where and what it is, it actually comes in three different versions, each larger and more elaborate than the last. So when you add it all up, that's a lot of sex! One of my proofers even said it might be one of my best sex scenes to date. Personally, looking back on it, I feel like I went pretty overboard with the whole thing-- it turned out much longer than the scene it was supposed to play counterpart to, and it gets rather more intense. I'm definitely considering dialing it back at some point to be a little more in line with its goals, but I've decided that for now, as the main chunk of new public content, I should at least leave it as is for everyone to enjoy.

Now, when I say public content, that points a finger toward the not-so-public content I've been adding. The other big chunk of development time with v0.24 has been spent on the next chapter of the game, the next big arc after the Stone Door. A lot of that was actually struggling, stopping, and brainstorming a lot, as I found I wasn't quite happy with the attitude certain parts of the planned content had, and it took a while to figure out how I would be happy with it. It's still not perfect, I think, but I'll be feeling it out for the best solution as I go. Past that, I've written up a fair chunk of new content for that coming chapter and put it in the game-- but, like the Stone Door (worse, actually), there's a ton to be written before you can actually go all the way through it to a decent stopping point. So I'm still working on that, and that content will remain disabled until it's ready.

If you're just burning to see what's coming, though, you can always drop by the Patreon and pick up a cheat-enabled copy. That lets you see what I've got written up so far, although it cuts off right in the middle of things, so that may make something of a tantalizing cliffhanger for you. In case you haven't seen, the Patreon also gives you previews of new art as it's commissioned, access to a monthly copy of Lith's Diary and, at higher tiers, more rapid early access to get every bit of writing on the game, including stuff that may never actually see publishing, as soon as humanly possible. I try to keep an appealing blend of rewards going!

Speaking of art, v0.23 was crushed into a shorter time period, and I could only get one new piece of art into it in time. I'm happy to say I'm much more on top of the art situation now, and to make up for last time, v0.24 has three new pieces of art! Sure, two of them are pretty closely paired, but I think you'll find all three pretty pleasing. And I've already got the art for v0.25 lined up and ready to go! I'm so glad to finally be ahead on that, although for a while there it was pretty hectic working with so many different artists at once. Fun, but super stressful trying to get the art just right for the game without being a jerk! It breaks my heart a little sometimes.

In any case, those are the big changes for this version. Lots of new sex that just so happens to open the door for people of a certain persuasion to get access to all of the story like they should have, lots of new art, and a chunk of work done on the big, upcoming story arc. I still feel like I could have gotten more done with this update, but it's true I've been a little distracted.

If you haven't been following, things have been heating up some over at The Cathouse Tale. We're working on a big new character customizer that we think is going to be absolutely awesome once it's online, but we've had a lot of big delays with it and it's been really frustrating. And while all that was going on, I've also been trying to engage with the fans to get feedback on what characters we need, and then turn all those wishes and desires into a small handful of characters to round out our cast so I can finally get started on actually building the game's plot from the ground up. It's a really exciting time in the process, but at the same time there's too much freedom and too many restrictions, all around. It's been quite a challenge to try and tackle! I really want to try and develop these characters to the point that each one might feel just about as real and relatable as Lith, albeit each in a very different way, and this is the first time I've tried to engage with something like that on such a large scale, with so many characters at once. It's definitely going to be intense.

But I don't want that to pull too much of my energy away from MVOL! The fact that they're so dramatically different gives me a lot of hope, actually. These two projects are using very different parts of my brain right now, so I'm hoping that they'll complement each other well, in that I can plug away at one project and, when I get tired of it, switch right over to the other one for a nice break. I've often done this by switching to free writing stories for my own entertainment, but I'm gonna see how much of that I can transfer to developing this cast.

I don't want you guys to be worried that I might leave MVOL behind, or let it come to a standstill or anything like that. I'm absolutely determined to finish this game, and to do it right. If anything, I'm hoping to give you guys reason to be just as interested in CHT, even if it is a pretty dramatically different game. I don't expect it to be nearly as text heavy, but I want to experiment with ways to make what text remains still super engaging, to make the characters feel as real as I can. If anything, aiming to keep the word count low might give me a lot of freedom to try radical ideas I couldn't go for otherwise.

So! Hopefully you'll find plenty to enjoy in v0.24! And if you're curious, feel free to check out The Cathouse Tale, we're hoping to release a new version in less than a week, if we can conquer a few last technical challenges. More early- to mid-game content should be coming with v0.25, but hopefully I'll be getting close to ready with the next arc to finally put the first chunk of it in the public's hands! Thanks for reading, everyone!

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Breaks 'n' Balls

I told myself I needed to update this blog more, and I finally had a reason to remind myself to hop on here! I've published a new story on SoFurry and Inkbunny: To Hold On To Pt 4. This is another in the series of sketch stories I pummel out now and then to blow off some steam and get a change of pace after cramming on work for MVOL, and explore some of my other weird fetishes. You may want to check the tags before reading, but if you're on the fence, I'd encourage you to at least give it a try. Start from Part 1, if you haven't seen this series already!

That's the proper announcement out of the way. In other news, I've been a bad writer. I finally got my release schedule for MVOL swung around so I'm releasing at (or around) the beginning of the month, which is good, but it also feels really weird and has kind of thrown me off my usual rhythm for handling writing on MVOL. I've been releasing in the middle of the month, every other month for about a year now, I think, so I've gotten a little set in my ways, and that's created some complications.

Add on top of that, I was feeling rushed and super busy for several months, and only at the beginning of this month did I finally have the chance to take a deep breath, get a little time to myself... and play some video games relatively guilt-free. And now... well, the month is just about gone, and I've found I've gotten very little done! I've been working with the team over at The Cathouse Tale a lot, of course, there's always a lot going on, it's always rush hour over yonder. But I let myself go days, even weeks without writing, to let myself recharge. And I let that become a habit, which is the worst thing I can do to myself.

So now I'm fighting the habit, and trying to get back into my routine of finding as many times as I can to write throughout the day. I don't even have enough content for the Monthly Mini-Update right now, so I'm gonna be crunching on that and apparently trying to send something out at the very last minute. And that feels shitty, but it's where I am right now. I thought I'd finally gotten away from the last minute thing, but rotating my schedule forward one way puts me behind another, apparently.

I know some of you will be disappointed with me. Just know that I'm more disappointed with myself. I'm putting this up half as a sort of penance, to remind myself that even if I have time for a break, I always need to make sure I can set and follow a schedule for getting back to work well ahead of the next crisis. We're all good at proctastinating and working just under the deadline, but I still like to believe I can get myself into a more steady workflow. Someday! Haha.

That's all for now. Thanks for reading my self-admonitory rambling, folks. More game content will be coming up soon! You can always keep an eye on my Twitter for rather more regular, if tiny updates on what's going on!

Saturday, July 9, 2016

v0.23 is Live!

Go to the Play the Game tab to play the new version right now!

This version is a bit of a strange one. I've been running on fumes for a while now after the big rush the last few months, but I wanted to get this version out there early in the month for a variety of reasons, not least of which is that I hate that feeling of coming in just under the very last deadline. But I haven't been able to get much writing done in this state, so this update is less text-heavy and more a grab bag of new features that, hopefully, will make the game more interesting and less frustrating for a variety of players!

First off, I've added a new "Game Mode" you can turn on in the options menu. This lets you see how many options are unavailable in each menu and why, so you can get a rough idea of how much remains to be discovered and where. This does spoil the feel of the game a little, making it less of a simulation and more of a "game," but I think some folks may find it helpful, whether they just want to access all the content and want any clues they can get, or want to make sure there aren't any big features they've missed after playing a while.

Next, a small convenience for everyone: the bulk of the menus now have loose descriptions for each action you're considering taking, so you can get a slightly better idea of what you're getting into before you accidentally do something more unsavory than you'd intended. These descriptions can change a little in some cases to reflect your current morals and highlight what you might want to think twice about.

There's also new art in this version, but I'm afraid I could only get one new piece of art in time. I've got a lot more art coming up, but for now, I guess this reinforces the idea that v0.23 is something of a "half-update." Sorry to disappoint! I might be able to manage three pieces of art in a future version to make up for it, but I'm not certain right now.

Maybe the biggest addition with this version of the game is the new Flirt command! This should help make the pink collar path a bit easier and more interesting to play through, and offer a little bit of fresh communication for every path to explore. There's not a ton of content here yet, but I did pack in a fair little variety of potential outcomes.

To go along with that, I've made a series of small adjustments to content in the first half of the game to fix little issues I've heard about and try to make a few things make more sense. My thanks to everyone that's taken the time to let me know when there were parts of the game missing that polish I try to maintain, in which your choices matter and your past actions influence your future!

Lastly, I've added a very convenient exclamation point for you to make use of. I've gotten several requests for functionality along these lines, so I hope that this will prove a decent way to meet your needs in this regard.

I think that wraps up the additions for v0.23. I was hoping to have more written content done for this one, but hopefully these additions and adjustments to the gameplay will be an interesting diversion for you guys while I finally recharge my creative batteries! I'll be trying to make more blog posts in the future, also. I meant for this to be a much more active news feed, but it has, along with several other things, fallen by the wayside as my days have gotten more and more packed and my focus more frayed. Should be better once I've regrouped!

Thank you for your support, everyone, and for reading all this! I hope you enjoy the new content!

Saturday, May 28, 2016

v0.22 is Live!

Click Play the Game above to check it out!

With this release, the Stone Door is finally complete! It's been a hell of a journey, and I've gotten some really promising feedback so far from people that were really emotionally impacted by the game in one way or another as they took the next step after figuring out the nature of their relationship with Lith. Looking back, I do wish I'd eased back a little more on the length with some of the later portions, but my instincts kept wanting to go epic with the big finale for this miniature adventure novel, even though there were about twelve different finales to write. So it was a pretty huge challenge! But it's finally done with, and I feel both fantastic and fantastically weary to close off this chapter of your adventure with Lith.

I'll get into what this means for the game and its future in a moment, but first, just to be clear: v0.22 adds the last path needed for the Black Collar Stone Door. You should now be able to safely choose any path you wish with any collar and play through to an ending or to your chance to return to the Void and stay there. Also, I've added two new pieces of art, as usual: one to give you a better look at a couple of the creatures you encounter in the Stone Door, and one to illustrate Lith's thought processes if you're especially persistent in discussing a certain topic. Now that I've got a few nice porn shots in the game, I've been opening up to getting art that's a little less directly pornographic, just to enhance the reader experience in a variety of ways. There's still plenty more sex stuff coming down the pipe, of course, but these pieces are rather less lewd than previous additions.

Lastly, I've added one new feature that I saw a couple requests for and rather liked. There are now ten pieces of art in the game, not counting the loading animation, the various chibis for character creation, Lith's face in the upper left, or over a hundred bits and pieces that are assembled to make the aforementioned pieces of art in the correct configurations. Finding all of them can be a bit tricky, and a little hard to remember if you just want to see the art again. So I've added a gallery feature!

The gallery doesn't let you see everything for free, of course. When you first open the game, it'll check your old files, and any events it's sure you've already opened will have their associated art unlocked. For everything else, you'll have to find those scenes in-game to unlock them in the gallery. This will also help serve as sort of a checklist, so you can know if there's more art to be found somewhere else in the game. Plus, the art will always configure it to your current save file, so if you play the game one way, then start a new file, you can see how that art would look with that version of, say, your and Lith's anatomy, quickly and easily. Of course, some pieces of art assume certain things, so they might show things not quite how they are in your file.

That covers the new material in this release! Now, a lot of you may be wondering what's next, if we're finishing up this huge chunk of the game. The answer is, lots! I've got tons of things I've been waiting to do until I had the Stone Door finished, so it's more a question of, what do I do first? The Big Thing on the horizon is the next Door. Supporters can get a sneak peek at what this will involve in the cheat-enabled version of the game, but for now, suffice to say that it'll be Very Different. One problem with it, though, is that it will be, even more so than the Stone Door, something that's hard to release in smaller parts. So at this point, I'm thinking that I'll actually be working on it over the next few versions (letting supporters see the partway content in the meantime) while releasing lots of smaller things I've been wanting to do on the side, until it's finally ready to go out all at once.

And there's lots of little things I've had waiting for me to come back and work on them! I don't want to make any promises, as I intend to mostly work on whatever feels most interesting at the time, but I've been wanting to expand the wooden door sexy/fun content, as well as add more content to the first half of the game and generally work on refining the experience. A lot of my old writing is looking sort of shoddy compared to my newer work, some of the gameplay is still confusing and unbalanced, a lot of gender-related content still needs to be filled out, and it wouldn't hurt to add a little more variety in available actions here and there, I think. I probably won't be able to hit all of this, but I've got lots to take a shot at for smaller updates and additions while I'm working on the content for the new Door!

Now, this update did come out later than I'd like. I'm really unhappy with how my progress has gone here, because while I'm technically still inside the schedule (release sometime in May), I'd much rather be releasing at the beginning of the month than at the end. So for v0.23, I'm going to try and focus in on the project and pack in new content quickly, to try and get a new version ready as soon as possible! I don't know if I'll be able to make the first week of July, but it's what I'm tentatively aiming for as an ideal. I just hope I can pack in enough little things for it to feel like a worthwhile release! Also, the art @_@ Art has been a huge headache for me lately. We'll see!

And on a final note, once again, if you haven't seen the other project I'm working on, I'd encourage you guys to check it out! The Cathouse Tale is a fully 3D-rendered furry porn game, so other people are actually doing the bulk of the work, but I'm handling the writing as well as acting as sort of a coordinator and public relations guy for the team. It's been really challenging the last month or two since we're finally getting things going again, but I'm hoping that I'll have more time to come back to my own work this month now that we're hopefully all set up to start plugging away at it!

Thanks for reading, guys! I hope you enjoy the new content, and that you'll like all the new stuff coming up in both projects!