Monday, December 13, 2010

Wario Ware DIY Video

Domesticus Bonus: WarioWare D.I.Y.!

Thanks to everyone who showed up for our presentation today! Here's a bonus I whipped up a few months ago while we were working on Domesticus with "Wario Ware D.I.Y." for the Nintendo DS. The software lets you make "micro-games" that are meant to played in short bursts or in longer sequences of multiple micro-game sessions. It's quite addicting. Like the title suggests, I did the graphics, music and in-game programming myself.

The game itself is somewhat of a conceptual take on Domesticus which I adapted to attempt to convey the general theme of the story in the split-seconds Wario Ware allows the user to attempt to wrap their heads on just what it is that the game is asking one to do. It kind of lends itself to non-sequiturs, but anyway it will probably be easier just to watch than to have me explain... as soon as this video finishes uploading. :(

God of War II




I am not much of a Gamer, but one other investigation I made over the semester was to inquire on the plot and structure of Sony Playstation's God of War. I went to visit my older sister in Columbus, Ohio and her husband and my little brother were on the beginning levels of God of War II. The graphics for the game are AMAZING and the images drew anyone in the living room into the story. What I found out from asking some questions is that essentially, the player must make certain discoveries to advance in the game. Although much of the game is pre-scripted and parts run like a movie, you are able to run about and explore the world/fight people until you stumble upon the level's secrets. (My little brother had to pull the eye out of the Cyclops to get past the level I was watching! He also admitted to having to go online to find the secrets for certain levels in order to pass them.)

This means that the level of user authorship is fairly low, and a player would most likely not want to play the game twice. Nonetheless, these interactive stories provide somewhere in the ballpark of twenty hours of entertainment as opposed to two for watching a movie. God of War II is the first game I've seen that made me consider purchasing a video game system since I used to play Yoshi, Sonic the Hedgehog and Mortal Combat when I was in middle school. The way that a video game is structured was also a mystery to me with these first person player/scripted games, so my inquiries were helpful in understanding some of the interactive questions we were pondering/tackling during the semester!

Blade Runner


When we were assigned to watch Blade Runner at the beginning of the semester, I was tickled pink! It is one of my all-time favorite movies. As I had already seen both Blade Runner and Run Lola Run, I decided to go back and watch the special features on the new Director's Cut that I bought for my sister two years ago. What struck me about the back story of getting the movie made was the length of time and all of the iterations/road blocks that came up during the writing of the film. The screenplay was begun by David Hampton, based on the book, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? The director, Ridley Scott and Hampton bickered back and forth until finally, the director kicked Hampton off of the project and hired David Peoples to finish the story as Scott saw fit. At the beginning of the semester, watching this documentary on the project and getting the perspective that perfection takes time to cultivate, helped lay my mind to rest about the stories we were attempting to tell. Perhaps with a budget of several million dollars, several hundreds of employees and a few years to grind away, my project might start to resemble the epic tale told in Blade Runner!

The Facebook Effect

I have experienced the "Facebook Effect" first hand.  As I've mentioned before in the blog, I am starting a magazine, and in the past I played a game called Warbook.  How are these connected, you might ask?  Well here's the deal... So I played this facebook game that essentially allows you to play with other people, not just across the country, but also other countries around the world... Anyone else on facebook who happens to play the game.  Through the game I met interesting people, both in-game and on the forums.  We had a lot of fun talking, fighting, etc., and to make a long story short, we became facebook friends.  I was a little weary to do so at first, but I eventually came around (what's the harm, right?).  Anyway, it turned out that some of these friends are actually very talented writers, and some of them are even published.  When I mentioned the idea of my magazine they got about as excited as I was, and ended up helping me find MORE people to contribute.  So through facebook, my magazine expanded beyond the size I would have been able to achieve had I just made some calls and posted fliers.  Basically, I believe in the facebook effect.  It's present in every way shape and form.  There was a guy that got to dress up as a storm trooper at his wedding because he got over 10,000 people to join his facebook group.  My friends, I am not even a huge Star Wars person, and I am glad to say that I was one of those 10,000 members.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Lola is Still Running

I guess the movie Run Lola Run was pretty epic, especially after becoming overly aware of the techniques and plot structures we've been discussing in class. It has a non-linear plot where the story is repeated several times as the main character choses alternate paths which eventually lead her to success. Much like reseting a video game. Anyways, there were also several techniques that made this movie dynamic. There was the implementation of animation and black and white scenes. Also, there were split screens, jump scenes, and fast and slow motion effects. All these techniques contributed to emphasizing certain aspects of the film and creating a mood as well as setting the tone for the story.

Blade runner

So a lot of people thought that Blade Runner was waaaaay too long. Quite frankly, it was right up my alley. I really enjoyed it. Ive always been a movie buff, and I'm a fan of suspense, plot twists and slow building action. Now, this was pretty darn slow to build, but it wasn't unbearable. Anyway, just figured I'd make this late post... Until next time.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The book

So I just figured I'd give a little review of the book.  You know, the one we read for class.  It was okay.  For me it was a bit of a dry read.  I learned a lot of things from it, though.  In that regard, I felt that this book was much more useful than most textbooks I have to read for classes.  I did, however, forget the majority of what I read, so I guess you could say it is and isn't better in that regard...  The first chapter was more dry than the others for me.  It really kind of set the basis for my expectations, though, so perhaps I was reading the rest in a way that I would be naturally and pleasantly surprised because I had built the book down in my own mind.  Anyway, I just thought I'd mention that.  Let me know what you all thought.

Time to compare and contrast

So I figured I'd go for extra credit here because I am soooooo far behind on posting about Run Lola Run... I figured, why not, I'll compare and contrast Run Lola Run with... you guessed it... Run!  Bitch Run!

Let's start with the first spoken lines of the movies:
Run Lola Run:  Man... probably the most interesting species on our planet.
Run!  Bitch Run!:  "Watch the teeth."

So first thing's first... Everyone seems to be running these days, whether their name is Lola or Bitch.  Run!  Bitch Run! didn't have too much running, though, regardless the title.  What it did have was about the worst acting I've ever seen in a movie.  Sure, there were somewhat humorous one-liners and stuff, but it was still offal... and yes, I mean offal, not awful.  If you don't know the difference, look up offal in the dictionary and you soon will.  Seriously, there's a guy trying to put on a stutter, and he forgets to "stutter" several times in the movie and they left it in there anyway.  Talk about low budget.  

Then there's the music.  It all sounded like it was probably rejected porno tracks.  It was filled with bass and poorly used wah effects.  Even the "scary" music was sampled from horror flicks and added had a few bad guitar licks added in.

So one of the most mind-boggling things I can think of about this movie is the fact that the main character is so nonchalant following her rape, and is just wandering naked around the woods immediately after.  I don't quite get how she can be so calm about it, but oh well... it's a movie, right?

I have to admit that the movie got much more entertaining when the timid, shy little bible-selling girl finds a gun and magically knows how to use it as if she'd been shooting for years.  She finds a pistol and hits a guy dead between the eyes from the other side of the room on a quick draw, and this, for all we know is the second time she's even seen a gun.  Then she gets a shotgun and knows immediately how to load it.  Of course, it lost its luster when they couldn't even put in the sound to match a shotgun blast when she was supposedly firing the shotgun.  But they redeemed themselves when she killed the last guy... I won't spoil it.  The only thing is, I do not recommend you watch this film, because it is just terrible... If ever there were a low-budget soft-core action porno, I'd say this is it, and it was not worth it.

Now... On to Lola.  It started with some running almost right off the bat.  In fact, just that little cartoon in the beginning had the whole of Run!  Bitch Run! beat.  The music was better, the graphics were better (and it was a cartoon... think about it) and everything about it was better.

So about the movie.  I really loved how it switched between the live action and the cartoon.  It made it more innovative, more fun.

There were a couple of things that really got to me a bit about this movie.  So I was enjoying it at the beginning, and then I thought to myself, "I wonder if this is going to be the whole movie... Lola running to some intense, suspenseful music..."  I also got to wondering at this time how she managed to do that running in less than 20 minutes, particularly considering the fact that there were montage-esque scenes with her running, and 20 minutes were supposed to take place in what I knew was more than an hour long movie.  It was at this point that Lola said her boyfriend would die in five minutes and I realized that, while it had been more than 15 minutes in movie time, they were not going to cover only 20 minutes in the whole movie, and I decided to stop thinking and just watch.  Then I got really f***ing disappointed, because the FINAL SECTION OF IT had no audio because it was flagged by WMG for having an "unauthorized audio track."  Granted, I was simply reading the subtitles anyway, but still.

Anyway, I liked Run Lola Run, but I wasn't completely satisfied by it.  The three different possibilities was cool, and it really reminded me of some of the games we've made in class, in how even the slightest screwup or different decision can completely change the outcome, even if it's the same story being told more than once.  All in all, it was good... much better than Run!  Bitch Run!

You just need to see this...

I don't know if you've ever seen it, but this is some random set of Super Mario levels that were made to be beatable, but only after more than likely thousands of attempts.  The guy's commentary is pretty funny.  I mean, it gets old after a while, but it is pretty funny.  Go ahead and check out the impossible levels at the following link:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=in6RZzdGki8

Thursday, December 9, 2010

FINAL EXAM TIME!

according to the University of FLorida

DIG 2931C – Section 7163 – Interactive Storytelling – (undergrad) – Exam 13B

DIG 6027C – Section 1820- Interactive Storytelling – (Grad) – Exam 13B

Exam Group 13 B meets 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon, Monday, Dec. 13

FINAL EXAM TIME!

according to the Univeristy of FLorida

DIG 2931C – Section 7163 – Interactive Storytelling – (undergrad) – Exam 13B

DIG 6027C – Section 1820- Interactive Storytelling – (Grad) – Exam 13B

Exam Group 13 B meets 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon, Monday, Dec. 13

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Interactive advertising

I saw this QR code while shopping at Sephora in Oaks Mall. It was the first one I've ever seen in public. I specifically came in to buy this product, but did not know much about it. I was able to take a picture of the QR code with the app and it directed me to a website. The website wasn't functional, which defeated the purpose of the whole thing. However, it does offer an interesting artifact in terms of marketing. Bringing the user into the experience with a kinesthetic interaction allows the user to respond to and recall the information more readily.

PART_1291274831645

A Comic for every day

After reading the interview with Scott McCloud, it reminded me of how I have never really been into comics until recently. McCloud spoke of expanding the comic off the 2D page and make it more of a user-centered experience. While overseas in Korea, you really are a foreigner and feel
out of place at times. I stumbled upon this guy, Luke Martin, who created a Comic Strip ROKetship (Republic of Korea). All of his comics specifically relate to me as an individual living abroad in Seoul. They all touch on the everyday issues people have living there dealing with the language barriers, the food, the customs, the old people!! One thing I really enjoyed about Luke, it that he made the experience user-created. He asked for feedback from his viewers and chose the top few and created comics specifically around their input. This helped to localize the strip and get the reader involved. Eventually, you would see waygook's (foreigners) walking around with shirts and hats and even purses with the most popular strips on them. How's that for 3D?!?



Monday, December 6, 2010

In the Mind of the Player - Silent Hill: Shattered Memories

So, I spend a decent amount of time chilling on the couch watching my roommate play whatever video game she happens to have in. I started doing a lot more of it when this course started, but she reminded me of a game I sat through last year and I recalled how intriguing it was.

Silent Hill: Shattered Memories is a re-imagining of the original Silent Hill game. As the name suggests, the story is largely told via flashbacks to old memories. In the meanwhile though, your character is hanging around in a psychiatrist's office as he tries to help you figure things out.

This should raise a flag right away that this game is going to start playing with your head. The interesting thing is that it changes aspects of the story based on what it gleans from your poor, little mind. Shattered Memories is for the Wii, meaning the motion sensitivity of the wiimote is involved. It controls your camera angle so that wherever you point it, your character looks.

The game utilizes this in some interesting ways. When you're sitting in the psychiatrist's office, you often have free reign to look around while he speaks to you. Maybe you notice some bottles of alcohol on a shelf and you eye them for a little bit.

+1 to alcoholism.

Wait, what?

You don't actually see it happen, but the game notices you eying that alcohol and makes a note of it. Since your character clearly has some issues and you apparently like the drink, the game starts portraying your character with drinking issues. When out in the larger world, your character will see more advertisements for booze and comment on them when you pass by.

This is just one of a number of extrapolations the game will make. When you were following that cop as she escorted you back home, did you happen to linger on her well-shaped posterior? +1 to sexualism. Expect that the next time she shows up, you'll remember her wearing something a bit more revealing. Did you tell the psychiatrist that you had a terrible time in school? When you eventually visit the local high school, you'll remember it in shambles.

The locales, the other characters, and even the player's character will change as the game maps the player's trends and make a profile of them. Playthroughs from person to person will be different. Some people will get the cop who's strict on the rules, some will only find family friendly signs hanging around town, some will get a good ending and some won't.

The extent to which Shattered Memories changes based on your personality profile isn't terribly massive. The core story itself still remains the same. You still go from point A to point B, whether the cop is wearing fatigues or daisy dukes. The interesting possibility here is obviously expanding this to change the story in a game. Playthroughs by different people would actually result in completely different paths and outcomes. A player might be none the wiser that they unconsciously made it happen this way until they see that someone else's experience was completely different. That would generate a lot of replay value to find all the unique stories you could have possibly made.

Changing the Unchangeable - World of WarCraft

I used to think that it was patently impossible to tell a changing story within an MMO, or more specifically, and MMORPG. I thought that world needed to remain static on account of the fact that you have thousands of people all playing the same game, and at different points. If Joe the farmer wants you to kill 10 boars so he can cook dinner that night, the boars can't very well stay dead. They need to respawn so a thousand other people can also kill them for Joe the farmer's dinner.

This seems like a nuance, an effect on the story you can just hand-wave away as a necessary game mechanic. But it becomes more pronounced as the game brings you to do more prominent and amazing things. The tons of unnamed thieves are fine to keep bringing back, but what about when the game asks you to kill their leader? 'Bandit Bob' actually has a name. He has a purpose. He's not some nameless recruit on his band of thieves. He IS the band of thieves. So you fight your way in, defeat Bandit Bob in potentially dishonorable combat, and inform the local townspeople that they are safe once again! Huzzah! As you leave the town for your next adventure, you notice Bandit Bob has respawned.

Bandit Bob can never die, because a thousand other people have to kill him too. Kinda breaks the immersion of the story, doesn't it? You just finished saving this town from the bandit menace and yet they still exist. What do you do about that little hiccup in the story there?

I haven't really played any other MMORPG's, but I'm nothing if not a World of WarCraft fan. Blizzard took a look at this problem and created a storytelling technique to deal with it. They call it "phasing". Under the phasing system, each character sees as far as they've progressed in any particular story. If your character has never been to Little Town By The Bay, you'll see Bandit Bob and his no good cronies harassing the citizenry. So you ready your trusty Melt Some Faces spell and lay waste to the bandit horde. Bandit Bob falls before your incredible might!

And he stays dead. By doing this, you've just entered the next part of the story and a new "phase". For your character, the citizens of Little Town By The Bay will forevermore be safe. The thousands of other characters who have never been here will still see a town being attack by thieves.

This phasing technique offers a very interesting capacity to tell a changing story in an unchangeable world. Any given character's actions will now have a lasting impact that they can see. Did you just help your army take a forward position from the enemy? They'll hold it. Did you just assist in blowing up an enemy camp using enough explosives to terraform a mountain? There will always be a huge crater where solid ground once stood.

Now, this is nothing new for a single-player experience. The story progresses and things change, because the only person the game world has to worry about is you. Something a bit more interesting, doing even more to change the unchangeable, is how the community can actually help shape an evolving game world and the story it tells.

For its latest expansion, World of WarCraft re-did almost the entirety of their old content. Things that have normally been around since the game was first released are now gone, replaced with new material to reflect developments within the story. Among these are some changes that reflect the community.

As prime example is in the city of Orgrimmar, capital to one of the game's factions. When the game was released, the local inn contained a hapless cow-man (Tauren) named "Gamon". NPC members of your faction are friendly to you, they will not attack you and you cannot attack them. But poor Gamon, due to a series of necessary game mechanics, was required to be neutral. Neutral NPCs will not attack you until you attack them.

So, here we have this neutral, low level NPC that's supposed to be part of the player's faction. This obviously wasn't going to end well. Just about any player that walked in to the city would find Gamon and kick him around for fun. It became part of everyday life in that city. Some players said they enjoyed it, it made Orgrimmar feel like a rough place to live.

Now, flash forward to this newest expansion, where everything has been remade. Gamon still spends his time in the local inn. Except now he carries a battle axe, he's maximum level, and he's elite (meaning he's much tougher than a normal NPC of that level). The community made a sport out of beating up this poor NPC for years, so Blizzard saw fit to evolve the story around them. All those beatings tempered him into a tough fighter. He's still neutral, except now he'll kick around any players that dare still attack him.

An even bigger example is the town of Southshore. Years ago the player base used to involve themselves in titanic player vs. player battles between two little towns in the middle of nowhere, called "Southshore" and "Tarren Mill". Each was controlled by a different faction. Little fights in these areas would quickly escalate into huge battles as people called in their friends to assist. It became the stuff of legend.

With the advent of the new expansion, this too was acted upon. Control of Southshore changed hands and it's now manned by NPCs of the opposite faction. The player base started the war over these two towns and the game eventually changed to accommodate that. It declared a victor, and to the victor went the spoils.

So, now we have the players influencing the story of the game beyond the scope of what they play. Blizzard decided that Bandit Bob would have to die as part of the story, but the players decided that two innocuous towns would be the focal point for the war they were supposed to be fighting. A very interesting notion for a game that seems so unchangeable, and for any game in general. How often does the player tell the story, instead of the game?

(Disclaimer: Gamon, Southshore, and Tarren Mill all exist in the game. Farmer Joe and Bandit Bob are both fictitious entities that I made up just as throwaway examples.)

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Improv 2.0




So a few nights ago I went to Improv 2.0 at the Digitial Worlds Institute (where we have class). Theatre Strike Force was there and as you may have guessed, there was plenty of improv to be had. The troupe enhanced their performance by using the many screens in the room to display the names of characters they would have to perform as. Another member would have to guess who they were portraying. Interestingly, the performance allowed audience members to vote on sets and subject matter using their iPhones and even live-streamed the performance so people could watch it even if they weren't physically present. Interactive storytelling indeed.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

360 Degree Video

360 Degree video... believe it. Talking about interactive storytelling, this is as interactive as it gets. The feeling of actually being part of the story, seeing it from a true first person perspective as the video plays. So you may be wondering just what exactly is a 360 degree video, but it's exactly what it says. It's a full-motion video in which you can pan left, right, up, and down for different views.
You haven't done this before: You're watching a movie, and you want to see what's happening behind the camera, outside the view of the lens. So you turn around and look for yourself. A new technology called 360-degree Internet video lets you change what you're looking at and decide what you want to see. The actual camera looks something like this:
It's quite mind-blowing when you actually try it out. Here's the link to an example:

http://www.dump.com/2010/11/22/360-degree-video-click-and-drag-your-mouse-in-the-video-to-look-at-all-directions-video/

Enjoy!

Robots and Love: All is Full of Love



Prof Pat brought up an interesting music video about technology and social life. In this case, its about: Do replicants love? There is a suggestive tone of sexuality. In the video, according to Prof Pat, we get fed into the main character's creations. We observe the perspective of having a possibility of having a human to technology symbiosis, or in other words, love and robots.

Found one that works

Ride of the Valkyries and Classic Songs

So, our class listened to the Ride of the Valkyries in class and it reminds me of classic sci fi movies I've watched when I was a kid. This song was performed in the opera known as Die Walkure, performed in 1870. Classic music like this one are very important in culture, because, according to prof Pat, the United States has built up its culture from other countries customs. This ability of having this "mixed" culture creates an important historical context of our society as a whole. These classic albums, songs, and movies provide us the important instruments in creating newer innovations.

Tommy

So I remember when I first saw Tommy.  It was waaaaaay back in middle school.  Anyway, it was quite an experience.  I didn't fully understand what was going on when I first watched it, but hey, I was in middle school.  Anyway, the thing that I remember the most is not so much the movie/rock opera/whatever.  What I remember most is telling my friends about it.  I told them how I just saw this really interesting movie that was made entirely by a band, and when I told them about it, they were just laughing their asses off.  For some reason I just couldn't get across what was going on, probably because, again, I didn't quite know myself.  It was kind of frustrating, but I was also laughing at myself about it, because it really did not sound like an appealing movie when I described it.  So I just thought I'd share that... not sure why, but oh well.

The Key to Super Science

The talk about Pink Floyd and other psychedelic rock groups made me think of this clip from the Venture Bros. According to the show the secret to Super Science is psychedelic progressive rock. I wonder if anyone here has had the same experience?

Concept Albums


In our class discussion, we defined a concept album as an album that is unified by theme, which can be instrumental, compositional, narrative, or lyrical. This unique piece of music architecture started around the 1960s, starting off with a rock band called The Ventures. Concept albums have vibrant colors, pictures, and other things that convey a number one hit of a certain band. Let's take a look at one of my favorite bands brought up in class: Pink Floyd. Pink Floyd is an English rock band that achieved worldwide success with their psychedelic and progressive rock music, according to Wikipedia. One of their albums, The Wall, portrays a white wall with a title and band name written in graffiti. As prof Pat stated, the band is trying to portray the idea of being "down in the dumps." This shows a replication of complete desperation because the wall was supposed to separate the band from the audience.

As we can see, concept albums have been the classic root of number one hits both back in the day and today. They show us perspectives that we don't see just by listening to a certain song once. From carnival acts to a visual realm, concept albums will continue to translate the amazing stories of these bands for everyday challenges that we don't notice.

Playing a Movie - Indigo Prophecy

In a fit of boredom today, my roommate introduced me to a very interesting game called "Indigo Prophecy". The title of the post is very fitting and very descriptive of the game. At the main menu you're not prompted to start a 'new game', but rather a 'new movie'.

The game so far appears to be made up largely of cut scenes, small interactions, and quick-time events (for those of you unfamiliar with the term, a quick-time event is basically a cut scene that requires you to push buttons when prompted to proceed). It's very much story driven and just about everything you do affects the story in some manner. As an example, in one very early part of the game a character (Lucas) has to quickly clean up any potentially suspicious materials in his apartment before a police officer kicks the door in. The less you find, the higher the officer's suspicion and the greater the chance you have of Lucas getting arrested.

Dialogue occurs in a similar manner, offering you a variety of options to continue any given discourse, but only a small amount of time to select one. It makes you quickly attempt to analyze your situation and your choices, because what you do pick will have an effect on the story.

The really interesting part comes shortly after the start of the game. Not to spoil anything, but you start out playing as Lucas, who murders an innocent man in what appears to be a fit of possession. When you play as him, you want to try your best to keep a low profile and find out what in the world is happening to you. Soon after you're provided with control of a pair of detectives, Carla and Tyler, who are investigating this same murder.

So there's the conflict. The more successful you are on one end of the game, the more difficult it becomes on the other. The better Lucas does at keeping his head down, the tougher it is for Carla and Tyler to do their job. The better the detectives do at tracking him down, the tougher it is for him to find out what's happening to him. The player is really making the story at this point.

So far the game is shaping up to be something VERY interesting. There's also a meter that monitors your character's emotions, making certain choices or taking certain actions will either heighten their anxiety or alleviate it (so far I've seen depressed, nervous, tense, and neutral). It also plays with the idea of multiple camera angles, often showing you a view of your locale and the window in which you control your character. I'm looking forward to seeing what else this game has to offer, as it appears to be a story telling experience unlike any other I've seen.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Arcane Erudition Production Blog - Ren'Py: The Other Program


Another program I was considering using is called Ren'Py. This program fulfills much the same functions as Novelty. I considered using this program as it does appear to be more powerful overall, allowing greater flexibility in development. It is also compatible with Mac and Linux platforms, increasing our userbase and the number of computers we would be able to share our work on.

I decided not to pursue it further as the user interface when creating a game is entirely text-based. Though the programming language is very simple and there are a lot of helpful tutorials, sharing a text-based game among multiple people would probably be a bit too obtuse for all the programmers involved. Having the instantaneous visual feedback that Novelty provides is a big plus when deadlines are an issue to consider.

That said, if I make another game of the same type after Domesticus, I'll definitely consider putting Ren'Py to good use. The flexibility showcased by the tutorial suggests that this program has a lot to offer.

Arcane Erudition Production Blog - Novelty: Visual Novel Maker

* Screenshot artwork is a temporary placeholder

This is the program we're using to develop our game "Domesticus".

If you take a look around Novelty's website, you should get a pretty clear idea of what sorts of games this program was originally intended for. Our game is far from a Japanese dating simulation experience, but all of the example games, tutorials, included character art (which we're using as placeholder art until we get our photographs imported) and voice samples included with Novelty are tailored to towards people who want to create their own games in this genre.

It's important to note though, that Novelty is a "visual novel" maker and not a "dating sim" simulator, the latter of which is often a subgenre of the former. So even though the program is not usually used for people working on projects like ours, all of the essential functionality that we needed in the game is very easy to use with Novelty's interface. We can have branching paths, multiple conversation threads, import our own media, insert video and overall just put together a package that is very close to our vision of what we want "Domesticus" to be.

The flexibility of the software mixed with it's streamlined focus on telling a story was a major reason we decided to switch to it after working with Multimedia Fusion 2 for the early development of the game. Multimedia Fusion 2 is certainly more powerful and one could conceivably put together a Novelty-esque interface given enough raw programming time, but Novelty took care of so much of the work for us that we were able to save tons of time and focus on just getting the game done.

Novelty is also distributed as freeware, which is a huge plus. We don't have to worry about obtaining copies for all of the people in our group. Anyone can download it and get to work.

If you're interested, you can check out Novelty's website here.