Blog

2014 out! 2015 in!

2014 out! 2015 in!

Posted:January 04, 2015

Sasuga Studios welcomes you to 2015! January 1st was our fourth birthday. Much has happened in the past year and much more will be happening in the coming year so let's break it down one step at a time, shall we?


Branding

Sasuga Studios went through a major rebranding early last year. We changed our name from flowchart media — which admittedly was hardly exciting — to Sasuga Studios, a much better and more representative moniker. Along with the new name came a new website, which is much easier to navigate and hosts a wealth of new information. Alongside our works, there are icons and wallpapers that can be downloaded and shared.


We witnessed the birth of not one, not two, but THREE mascots to guide you through the Sasuga Studios projects. Youko, Ameko, and Kumoko have been on the down low as of late — rumor has it that they raided a cake shop — but they'll be reappearing with renewed vigor before you know it!


Projects! We didn't participate in NaNoRenO last year and likely won't be doing so this year either. However, we did spend the end of 2014 developing and finally releasing The Residuals.


The Residuals

The Residuals is a short project that can be played in about two hours and was an opportunity for experimenting with elements that may be folded into our larger projects. The game contains five chapters, the first four of which can be played in any order with the finale unlocked upon their completion. The Residuals is a light-hearted and silly project and that is reflected in the visual language of its presentation. We utilized the design aesthetic of Superflat; backgrounds were constructed with layers of simple, flat, solid colors joined together in parallax. This was a chance to explore some of what ATL language can do aside from moving characters around and I have to say there is strong potential in using it in more subtle ways to construct rich background and foreground environments.


The Residuals also gave an opportunity to work with custom GUIs, which actually seem to be easier to manage than trying to fiddle with altering the defaults. I am proud of the GUI most of all, especially in getting scrolling textured backgrounds and custom animations to work as I designed them to. I am also proud of the 8-bit ED video, featuring music by the talented and generous JeffTheWorld.


Please give The Residuals a play. It's completely free, completely silly, and a whole load of fun. It's available on Windows, Macintosh, and Linux and can be downloaded through MediaFire or IndieDB. Help us out by filling out this survey after playing so we can make future projects ever better.


HERO

HERO is Sasuga Studios flagship project and what we've been working on for several years now. For those of you familiar with it, allow your eyes to wander downward while we fill in the uninitiated.


HERO is a mecha science fiction visual novel. Unlike our short projects, HERO is less experimental and more straightforward. There are twelve primary characters with a large supporting cast of secondary and tertiary characters. What unites HERO and all of our other projects is that the narrative is driven not primarily by plot or characters, but by setting. The setting is the catalyst for what happens, it's the place that brings character and plot together.


2012 and 2013 was spent doing all the preliminary design work; lots of design and research and preparation. 2013 and 2014 moved us into production mode, with much of the current focus on the environment. We've made multiple 3-dimensional models that are used as the base for backgrounds. Our illustration pipeline is still being finessed, but it goes something like the following; when a shot is decided on, the camera is placed in the model and several images are exported: linework, base color, shadows, etc. These images will be imported into Illustrator and Photoshop to add detailing that can't be easily done in 3D: organic material, texturing, lighting, etc. Depending on what layering can accomplish, we require nine variations to account for light and weather conditions.


The work that has been done so far can be seen in past blog posts. The whole city itself has been completed to a minimum level of detail. More detail has been added to regions that require it. We've designed the school, the shrine, and some living quarters, and are currently working on the downtown areas. This work will continue throughout 2015. We estimate that exterior environments are about 40% modeled and interior environments are about 30% modeled. For 2015, the target minimum is 60% for each, with an optimistic view of hitting 75%.


Sprites for the main characters had been completed in early 2014. However they need to be redone for two reasons. One, all the required poses/outfits/expressions hadn't been determined at that time. They are now. Two, more importantly, all the secondary characters still need to be drawn. My illustration skill has increased as I've gotten practice with smaller projects and the result is that secondary characters would end up represented with more skillful execution than the main characters. That isn't acceptable. All characters will be redrawn, starting with the least necessary and ending with the most important. This helps to make sure the main characters will be drawn with the most practice behind them. Part of the work here will be mitigated because many of the outfits have already been designed, they just need to be redrawn. The target minimum for 2015 is to have all characters poses and outfits designed, with 50% of the secondary characters illustrated and the base images of the main characters illustrated.


HERO's story is broken down into four acts. Act 1 is common route only, which splits into seven character arcs with the start of Act 2. Act 1 has been 100% outlined, with fragments of Acts 2-4 outlined, both the common route and the character arcs. The outline will be complete by July 2015 and then writing will commence. The target minimum is to have Act 1 written by the end of 2015.


Each of the HERO mecha has been loosely designed, but they have a long way to go. The target minimum for 2015 is to have all of their designs locked down so that they can be modeled later.


GUI and coding and other such design work will not be worked on yet. The original plan was to use Ren'Py like usual, but we want to experiment in Unity because there's a specific feature we want to implement. Depending on how feasible that feature is will change a lot.


Serialization

We have a number of projects in the queue that are well suited to being serialized works. They'd be all text with possible illustrations, so basically light novels. There are three. One of them may see a release by the end of 2015.


Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding. Everybody's doing it. I'm still hesitant. I've written about that before. I don't like the appearance given off that a project only has legitimacy when it has a crowdfunding campaign attached to it. I resist any system that demands following a singular path. That being said, I now render myself a hypocrite and admit that I may run some sort of campaign at some point during 2015, if only for the increase in attention it would bring.


That's the year in review and plans for the year ahead. Keep up to date with our progress here on the blog and also on Twitter, Twitter, and Tumblr. Thank you all for your past support. Now, let's go dashing off into our fifth year together!

Nick Green (Nii-chan-sensei)