What time is it? AdventureX Time!

No, not a typo, just a note that AdventureX 2014 is coming up!

AdventureX is the point-and-click-adventure expo, hosted in the University of East Anglia, London, UK, usually in early December. This year, it's December 7th / 8th - and I'm going to be there! Together with the guys who were Skybound Studios and are now Everture Studios, Ltd. And we're going to bring a whole lotta monkeys with us. No, seriously!

So if you're in or near London on the upcoming weekend, why not visit us?


My readers aren't dead, either

If you're following this blog, you already know that I'm terrible at updating regularly. That's mostly because I think anything that's not really news doesn't deserve a blog entry. However, something unusual has happened: Someone has written a review for Romance is Dead, my most recent title. And I'd like to share the thoughts of the one who calls him/herself "Pir8Heart". Avast, matey!

Not necessarily in any sort of format, but here I go~!

Maddie - Nnn, I didn't really feel that there was too much going on with her, and I also feel the bit about her damaged sense of smell plays into Adam's path a bit too cleanly, but I felt her personality was in the right place. Leaning a bit towards being a static heroine who simply reacts, but her overall demeanor and love for science earns her points in my book. ^3^

Ordering the guys from most favourite to not-so-most favourite; Maurice, Adam, Don. Does not mean I hated any of them. Also MaddiexAdam was my favourite couple, despite the thing about Maddie owning Adam's physical heart.

Maurice - My second path choice. I got two of his ends, the one with the text error (I still haven't downloaded the update.) and Voodoo Queen. I was already curious about him during my initial run, but the latter end's path definitely sealed him as my favourite character. His entire backstory was colourful enough to keep me hooked, and I felt I could really relate to his distinct pursuit of something he was passionate about (Well, minus the vampire immortality). Plus I found his entire personality and get-up really fun. x3
Adam - My third path choice. I've only gotten his Wanderer end. I found his out-of-place style and rhyming tendency real endearing throughout my entire readthrough thus far. I suppose my main problem is that I felt his final scene was too short. Mind you, it got across a great message, and adding needless drama would ruin the feel of the Maddie/Adam dynamic, but it still feels subjectively short to me, and there's not really much I can do about that. Despite this, deep down I feel that I enjoyed Wanderer more than Voodoo Queen since it was less of a stretch. But I did enjoy their overall relationship, especially the church scene. The thing about him being LSU's anatomical dummy was pretty depressing, but but it also feels a bit outlandish that LSU would use a corpse as an anatomical dummy. Do none of the students know about that? ^_^ Oh, and I totally picked up on the 1950's foreshadowing for Adam's path about 10 minutes in. x3
Don - My first readthrough was mainly me going by my gut feelings. When that landed me Maurice's bad end, I immediately undid the appropriate choice and found that I could only achieve Don's [best?] end. Overall, he came off as quite adorkable for some reason, and his way of helping out Maddie others struck a chord in me. Overall, his good end felt somewhat... anti-climactic. Like, at first I didn't really believe the resolution would be that simple. And although I wanted more of dem sappy feelz I really wouldn't have expected that sorta' thing from you. :< But either way, it made the brief afterstory feel like a bit of a stretch. 
Bernard - lolwut

As for the story itself, the subject matter and the setting at hand made for an interesting and unusual take on paranormal-type stories, and the use of rich history really earns some points with me. Now, the last (and 3rd) work I've read from you is ADRIFT, and in contrast the actual variety between the routes. Apart from not being too elaborate, I don't really have any major problems.

Aesthetics. The sprites themselves really fit the atmosphere; if I had to name one in particular, Maddie's sprite when she's really startled is hilarious, probably because of its lack of major shading. xD The font clashed very nicely with the textbox, though I'm a bit iffy about the name-header. The menu is also pretty stylish, and it sorta' reminds me of a film strip for some odd reason. x3

Err, rating this... ... maybe... 7.5/10 for a Ren'Py project. I can't say there's anything that particularly reached out to me. Reading back on what I've typed, perhaps Maurice and Don's good ends could be considered a bit of a stretch; Don's relationship with Maddie and the entire premise of Voodoo Queen's afterstory (though it was so hilarious I just had to let it slide XD). Despite this, all of the elements above sync really well for Romance is Dead, making it a stylish and memorable read.


I'm not dead. But Romance is.

Has it really been over half a year since I last updated this blog? Holy procrastination, Batman! People must have been thinking I was dead - which I fortunately am not. However, my latest project is... well, very much alive, but its name is

Romance is Dead is a short, slightly macabre and very cute story about... well, life, death and everything in between these two. It takes place in the city of New Orleans, one late October, disturbingly close to Halloween, when, as everybody knows, things tend to happen that somehow breach the boundary between this world and the next. Thus, the title screen displays a graveyard.

Protagonist of the tale is Madelaine "Maddie" Washington, student of biology at UNO (that's University of New Orleans, not United Nations). Biology is the science of all living things, and Maddie's life currently strongly focuses on studying that subject. Unfortunately, her love life isn't exactly up to snuff, so to speak, and Maddie has been going through quite a few unsatisfying relationships in the past, with her most recent breaking up only a few weeks ago. Because of that, her opinion of such relationships can be summed up quite handily:

Of course, there wouldn't be much of a story if Maddie's views on that didn't get shaken over the course of it, and responsible for these tremors are a few very unusual people. The first of them is Adam:

Adam looks a little like James Dean in his prime, and his behavior and speech only add to that picture. He claims to feel inexplicably attracted to Maddie, which is one of the stranger pickup lines she has heard - especially since Adam doesn't seem to really want to pick her up. Or... does he want to, and it's just a very clever act?

Then there's Maurice:

Maurice has all the glamour and poise of a French aristocrat, including the natural charm. He seems to believe that Maddie has a secret she doesn't wish to share but that he is very interested in unraveling. And aside from that, he may also have another interest in Maddie...

Finally, there's Don:

Don is one of Maddie's fellow students, a genuinely nice young gentleman who treats her with the utmost respect. He studies engineering and would be the most normal, unassuming of the three people Maddie meets if he didn't have... well, a lack of physical presence in general and a lack of lower body in particular. And an interesting history to go with that.

All characters were designed and drawn by the incredibly talented and fast Card-Queen of the Lemmasoft Forums.

I usually don't make a lot of fuss about the user interface, but this time, my UI artist Luce Jumble really outdid herself. I mean, even our settings screen looks amazing! Have you ever seen a so tastefully macabre settings screen such as this?

With such beauty for the eyes and a wonderfully morbid dark jazz soundtrack, Romance is Dead may not be my longest or my best work yet but certainly my most stylish. Download it here - as with most of my works, it's free!


A Long-Expected... well, not-exactly-journey...

WAA-HOOO!: Bionic Heart 2 is finally out!

I know what you're saying: "Bionic Heart 2"? But you never posted anything about "Bionic Heart 1" in this blog! You're right - I never did. The reason is that I didn't have anything to do with the original Bionic Heart. However, Winter Wolves hired me for the sequel - or rather, the sequel to the canon ending of Bionic Heart. So if you played Bionic Heart before, you will now finally know which of the many many endings of that story really happened.

To all others, a short introduction: Bionic Heart 2 is a cyberpunk science fiction VN that takes place in the year 2100. Due to climate change, Earth now only knows one sort of weather: rain. People, however, have adapted to the new circumstances and are basically living their lives much as before, and the last few locations where the sun shines at least for a few days a year are hot tourism spots.

Technology has greatly improved; humanoid robots are widely used, and while full AIs are still a long way to go, computer systems now easily understand voice input, though for most purposes, keyboards are still being used (there was a short trend in the early 2080s to entirely do away with them, but a sharp drop in literacy among children resulted from that, and governments worldwide quickly acted to keep them in use, requiring official forms to be submitted in "certified typed form" and not converted from a speech input).

Of course, some people are never content with what they have and want more:

This "more" is the world's first cybernetic organism, a human brain in a robotic body known by the name of Tanya Vanic. The two gentlemen you see here are Nanotech's CEO and Head of RnD, both responsible for her creation. They lost her in the course of part one of Bionic Heart. Now they want her back, and as they are powerful, not only is this a danger to Tanya but also the people who helped her escape - Luke Black, the protagonist of  Bionic Heart, his girlfriend Helen and his friend Tom. Here's all four of them together:

Bionic Heart 2 begins right after the events of the first game. Tanya helped Luke, Helen and Tom escape from Nanotech by putting them on a shuttle to a secret base on Mars. She herself is planning to stay on Earth and find a way of foiling Nanotech's plans, which seem to be much larger than just the creation of a single cyborg. Hopefully, she can uncover their machinations.

Unfortunately, the events of part 1 have attracted the attention of the police, though not exactly the top brass of the police...

Tina and Rob are two ordinary London policemen dragged into the scenario by sheer circumstance who only in time realize they have found a situation that may very well be over their heads. But who can they trust? Because of the events of Bionic Heart, Tanya is a wanted criminal. Surely there must be something about the accusations against her - they can't all be false, or can they?

Bionic Heart 2 does something very unusual for a VN: it splits the plot in two, allowing you to follow what's happening on Earth and on Mars separately. There are four different POVs (Luke, Tom, Tanya, Tina), and decisions you make in each influcence what's happening in the others. The most unusual thing, however, is that you may spectacularly fail either the Mars or the Earth part - and the rest of the VN will continue! That's right, you may lose three of the game's protagonists and you still have a story to complete. And doing so will even unlock endings you couldn't unlock any other way!

I'm quite proud of this story, even though I had to work within the restrictions of a pre-existing game. It's one of the most multi-faceted VNs I have ever written. There's really no reason why you shouldn't buy it right now, from WinterWolves. If you're uncertain if it's your cup of tea, here's a free demo version, and for a measly €15, you get a full-length sci-fi VN with tons of replay value.

Go get it today!


Spoiler alert!

Hey, everybody,

while I still can't tell you all much about the project I'm currently making with Skybound Studios, I think I can at least drop a little spoiler about what this game will be about. The best way to do that would be to just show you my main inspiration:
Yeah, that's it. If you know where this picture comes from, you have a pretty good idea where the game will be set, at least if you combine it with what I already told you earlier about it.

On a totally unrelated note, it won't be long until Winter Wolves releases Bionic Heart 2, to which I wrote the script. The second part is a definite step up from the first, both in length and in story complexity, so if you're into SciFi (and especially into the Cyberpunk subgenre), this may be a game you want to buy.

I'll keep you posted on any news on both Bionic Heart and my current project-in-work.


I've seen the future, brother - it is... mountainous?

If I have been a little quiet during these last few days, then for good reason: I've been in the final stages of negotiating my next paid job. And what can I say: yesterday, I signed it. The guys who hire me are some absolutely lovely chaps from the United Kingdom known as Skybound Studios Ltd. Skybound are a group of amazingly talented people, each of them with their own credit. Now they've decided to make games, and their next project is together with me.

At this point, I cannot say much, only that the project involves mountains of some importance, and that it's set in the year 1628. And - it's not a visual novel. It's going to be a classic graphic adventure game, my first step into that new world. VNs and adventures have a lot in common, as I detailed in these two presentations I held in London for the AdventureX convention last winter, and I hope to make this game a fine example of how both genres can profit from one another.

Another example of a multi-genre game, by the way, would be DaFool's Elspeth's Garden, which I incidentally also wrote the script for. Elspeth's Garden is a round-based tactical game / visual novel hybrid, one where you fight a war not only on the military but also on the diplomatic front, so your words are just as important as your deeds. (Actually, only nearly as important, because you cannot, well, get a "game over" in the diplomacy parts, but you certainly can make your military work a lot harder if you fail to gain allies with good diplomacy.)

Right now, Elspeth's Garden is still in production, but I have high hopes that DaFool will be able to finish and release it somewhere this year, so you might want to bookmark his website along with mine.


Five commercial OELVNs you should have played

In the spirit of last week's list, here I give you another short collection of very, very good original English visual novels - only that this time, you won't be getting them for free. Each of these is a commercial production by indie developers, and I assure you, each of them is worth every penny (or cent, or whatever currency you're using) of your money. There's quality work out there, and their creators deserve the reward.

Like the last time, this list is in no particular order at all.

1. Cinders (MoaCube)

Dat Art! Cinders is probably one of the most beautiful games out there, simply in terms of art, and it has a story behind it you all know: Cinderella. Only that this Cinderella isn't like the one you know. This one, called "Cinders" by her abusive sisters, actually has a head of her own. How she uses it, however, is up to you. Is she a cunning and devious weaver of intrigues who secretly plots to steal ownership of the house back from her stepmother? Does she just want to get away from her family? Does she have the ambitions to become the princess from the fairytale, and if so, what lengths is she willing to go for that? And does she employ the help of her fairy godmother or her voodoo godmother? You decide!

2. Date Warp (Hanako Games)

This sadly underappreciated gem is something for you if you're into classic visual novels - classic meaning "combining the quest for different romantic interests with solving a mystery plot in classic Japanese anime/manga style". The game takes an unusual approach for a few social situations by making you solve minigame puzzles in order to be successful in your attempts. Surprisingly, it works as the puzzles serve their metaphorical function more than sufficiently. For your money, you'll get more than enough hours of playtime - and a quite engaging story as well.

3. Analogue: A Hate Story (Christine Love)

Yeah, I know, even I couldn't overlook this one. Christine Love has already given us quite a few engaging pieces of writing, but with this sci-fi drama/tragedy, she's really outdone herself. There are enough fundamental issues of human life and human existence crammed into this plot to give Kurt Vonnegut himself a headache - and at the same time, the presentation and sheer quality of writing make it almost impossible to stop playing/reading this game. It doesn't help that I have a soft side for sci-fi, but even if you're not like me, you oughtn't miss this experience.

4. Heileen series (Winter Wolves)

Swashbucklers! Pirates! High seas high adventure in the 17th century! And in the middle of honorable buccaneers and proud sailships, a quite heroic female protagonist, out to explore the world, find treasure, chase love and eventually become... well, that remains to be seens, for it is your choice in the Heileen series. While the first two parts are classic VNs with some minor RPG elements, the third goes for a stat-building mechanic behind everything. Still, all three parts are well worth their money. Rarely has a game captured the spirit of swashbuckler romance as well as this one. Think of it as Sid Meier's "Pirates!" - the version for the ladies.

5. Jisei / Kansei / Yousei (sakevisual)

Want mystery? Don't care about romance? Got a penchant for stories involving the supernatural? Then this series of games is just what you're looking for. In the role of a teenager who has the ability to relive the last few moments of anybody by touching his or her dead body, you get to solve murder cases - classic detective work, combined with learning some very disturbing facts about the people around you. Eventually, you'll stand before a magnificently crafted whodunit worthy of getting its own TV show. I've got to be honest here, though: I actually haven't played "Yousei" yet. However, judging from the first two titles in this series, it's probably going to be awesome as well.


Five free OELVNs you should have played

Hey everybody,

while this is by no means a comprehensive list, I believe you'll find this helpful when deciding on what visual novel to read next. Many people are prejudiced against original English language VNs, but really, many are quality writing, not in the least inferior to their Japanese counterparts. This is what I think represents the cream of the crop. Note that these are not ranked, so number one on this list is in no way better or worse than number five. Note that all of these are non-commercial works, so don't hesitate to download them today!

1. Ori, Ochi, Onoe (ATP Projects)

 In my opinion, mikey's finest piece of writing yet.  What originally appears to be a rather standard story about a troubled marriage slowly turning into a menage-a-trois turns into a beautiful tale of submission for the sake of love, dealing with hurt feelings and how far people are willing to go for a relationship. The twist ending is a little difficult to find, but more than worth it. Even the music of this game plays a part in the resolution of the mystery!

2. The Elevator (Cyanide Tea)

While a little on the short side, The Elevator is probably the finest piece of non-traditional VN out there - both in style and in content. The art is distinctly non-manga, the writing follows classic detective stories more than it follows classic romance, there's a typical noir-SF element in the plot, and all of that together creates one of the most powerful experiences that visual novels can provide. Do not miss this!

3. [text] - A Summer Story (sakevisual)

Another shorter piece of writing, but this time, one of the most chilling experiences VNs have to offer. Using an unusual interface, this VN tells the story of a seemingly normal summer vacation through text messages the protagonist is exchanging with other people on her mobile phone. This unique presentation lulls you into a false sense of security replaying the game for its different endings, until you find out that sometimes the true endings aren't necessarily those that work out well for the protagonist...

4. Locked-In (saguaro)

The screenshot for this one alone should show you that it's going to be a very special experience: Locked-In is an almost classic tale of trust and betrayal, with the twist that it's told from the perspective of a person suffering from locked-in syndrome - that is, she cannot move her body but is conscious to everything that happens around her. Who of the people around her are her allies? Who are her enemies? You'd better find out, or being locked-in may not be the worst thing to happen to you...

5. That Cheap And Sacred Thing (carosene)

Well, and after muddling with your minds so much and sending you through all these mystery VNs, here's finally a straightforward romantic story. So straightforward that it's even a kinetic novel - a VN without any branches. Read this as you would watch a movie - the best thing you can do is set the text to auto-advance at a place you can leisurely read it and then just enjoy. This sci-fi story about the measure of humanity and the true meaning of love is sure to you get your eyes teary. Get someone you really like in front of the screen with you - you're going to need to cuddle a lot afterwards.


(A)drifting into 2013

Happy new year, everybody! I hope you all had a good start - I hope to make it even better with this here:

What you see here is the "box art" of Adrift, my longest visual novel so far. Breaking the 100,000 word threshold meant a lot to me, because this here can stand as probably my most "traditional" VN so far. What do I mean by traditional? Well, traditionally, VNs were about developing relationships with beautiful young women. And Adrift has these four ladies:

Yup, this time, I finally did what everybody asked of me and made this a game with several different girls whose story paths you can unlock and follow. But then again, it wouldn't be a Taleweaver game if this were another shallow romance, or would it? Naaah, of course not. Actually, Adrift is a sci-fi adventure/drama taking place at the bottom of the sea, or rather, in an underwater city named Bluetide.

The player takes the role of the Supervisor, a man locked inside a suspended animation tank inside the city who is usually kept in a state of trance where his subconscious controls several of the city's functions. There are also several artificial intelligences taking care of the city's residents, but everybody knows that you cannot trust the safety of people on computers alone, so the Supervisor functions as a safeguard in case the AIs make mistakes. This, of course, requires him to be connected to the systems of the city of all times. And one day, all of a sudden, this connection fails.

Having no reliable way of controlling the city any longer, the Supervisor has to rely on four robots, the only systems he can still communicate with, to determine what happened that broke his connection. While exploring Bluetide, not only does he need to find a way to restore his access to the systems, but he must also gain the trust of above four women in order to help him with tasks his robots are unsuited for. And while interacting with them, he gets to know them a lot better than he was planning to...

Adrift is a massive game - sixteen endings, many, many paths to explore, and difficult enough that I wrote a guide for it. Again, though, it's one of my non-commercial productions, with background art by my good buddy DaFool and all-original character and CG art by mangakaluna. Get it here, and if you like it, I wouldn't mind if you dropped me a line.