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.