Development Log #5: Towards a new design

Introduction

This week’s development log will be a little less explicit than the previous ones, since a great deal of the work done this week was largely behind-the-scenes, conceptual stuff that’s either spoiler-heavy, or otherwise not really worth discussing in a dedicated log. That being said, a great amount of progress was made this week – both in coming to a unified and clear understanding of the overall direction I want to take the game in narratively and design-wise; and in terms of fleshing out some character arcs and ideas I had regarding the story.

Now, let’s get to the details.

So, what’ve you done this week?

Administrative stuff

First things first, let’s get through some general administrative stuff. The two most significant updates include changes in the description of my Patreon page, and the creation of a dedicated Tumblr site for my projects.

Tumblr

If you have a Tumblr account and you’re interested in following the project in a different avenue, I have created a page where my projects in general will be hosted, under the name Sutemi Productions. The point of this site is to serve as a one-stop venue for all information and assets relevant to the game. It will feature active consolidation of all the development logs, artwork, conceptual designs and any other content I post publicly relevant to the game, and will be updated frequently.

Patreon

After several concerns were brought up about the supposedly devious nature of my Patreon (claims which, might I add, are entirely unfounded, and convoluted in their logic, to say the least) accusing me of somehow having ‘stolen’ money from my backers due to the current state of the game being different from the state of the game during the Greenlight campaign; I felt that it would be in everyone’s best interest if my views on donations in general were set down firmly and explicitly, once and for all, so as to eliminate the possibility of any potential disambiguations or intentional misreadings in the future. As such, I’ve significantly expanded the page description to better address misunderstandings some people were having about the nature of the system, and to clarify my own views on how donations should work.

Although this is most applicable for those who are currently donating or are considering donating in the near future via Patreon, if you plan on spending ANY kind of money related to the game at any point in the future, whether that be through donations, or through purchasing stuff like the development book or the design documents following the game’s release, I highly recommend you read this so you can get a full understanding of how I feel about these kinds of matters, and where your money will be going.

Now that we’ve gotten that stuff out of the way, let’s move on to other more interesting topics.

Improvements in visual design

A good amount of progress has been made over the past two weeks in terms of honing the look and feel of the game’s visual identity.

First, though, before I get into any specific details about what exactly has changed, I’d like to announce that I’ve now found an official model! Her name is Danielle Vedovelli, and you may already recognise her as a very skilled and highly successful cosplayer, who’s become pretty famous across the Internet in recent years for her absolutely incredible and faithful cosplays.

You can follow her on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter; and if you have even just a couple of dollars to spare every month, I highly recommend supporting her via Patreon as well. She’s not only incredibly beautiful and genuinely dedicated to her craft, but is also one of the sweetest and nicest people I’ve ever spoken to. She’s been a long-time personal muse of mine, and it’s an absolute honour and pleasure to have her permission to feature her likeness in my game.

Here are some photos of her, both in and out of costume:

Towards a more unified design

For the past several months, I’ve been unsatisfied with the direction of the game’s overall visual design. While my sources of inspiration had become clear to me, I felt personally unsatisfied with the fact that my designs were being eclipsed by them, and that like before, with Hotline Miami, not enough of my own creative impulse was being channeled through.

Recently, my concerns were reinforced by some public controversy which arose regarding the sources of inspiration for my images. Although I very firmly do not agree with either the allegations I was being accused of, or the tone and general lack of respect by which they were made; I do however believe that overall, the experience proved to be a necessary, and positive reminder of my own dissatisfaction with my work, and succeeded in giving me the necessary impetus to take the next step towards a fairly radical redesign of the themes and motifs I was working with before.

The first step I needed to take was to wipe clean the slate of previous influences as much as possible, so I would have a clearer idea of what I wanted myself. Previously, much of the character artwork especially was heavily influenced by, and created as an imitation of, the style of Shigenori Soejima; and particularly his work on Persona 5. The end result was a cast of characters that ultimately felt too overshadowed by the visual templates that served as their bases, consequently weakening their designs overall.

In order to remedy this issue, I’ve decided to completely discard the former designs, and work from the ground up, building my characters not as imitative homages to other works, but as entirely visually independent figures existing only within this specific canon. In order to ensure that this fidelity remains consistent across the rest of the design, I’ve elected to use as base and reference images either specific models (as was the case with Danielle), or for more general purposes such as posing, stock photos licensed and modified to serve my needs.

NOTE: Although I personally feel no need to link and cite every source image I use as a visual aid or base without provocation, due to the recent controversy in which some people have claimed that I’m being intentionally deceptive or plagiaristic with my reference images, all images can and will be provided readily with sources if for whatever reason you request to see them.

 

As always, note that your requests will only be respected if you respect me; please refrain from speaking or acting on assumptions, misinformation, or outright lack of information. I want to make it very clear that I am in no way attempting to deceive anyone, or steal anything (nor have I, nor will I ever): I will always be transparent and honest with my processes, both by necessity and principle. If you want to abuse my trust in you, and twist my words and actions to deliberately paint a picture of me that is intentionally deceptive or dishonest, the onus of villainy lies not on me, but you.

The second step I needed to take was to establish a clear and unified principle of design. Previously, I felt that there existed some pretty glaring inconsistencies between various interface elements, which were in no small part exacerbated by the disparity in influences I was drawing from. What I’ve spent the past several weeks doing is running deep analyses on each source of influence I’ve drawn from, and figuring out:

  1. The visual core of the element, or basically the structural framework and components the element is composed of
  2. The UX (user experience) core of the element, or basically how the element creates a certain kind of ‘feel’
  3. How those two cores work together and create in tandem a singular cohesive experience which stood out to me particularly
  4. What about the element appealed to me, and more importantly, how and why it created that appeal

I’m not going to go into significant details about how exactly this process works, but it covered everything from the timing of the cursor animations, to the scaling of the in-game HUD, to the way colours interacted on a more primal and symbolic level in the overall design.

The end result of all this analysis means that I’ve now developed a very clear and precise understanding of the various influences which must be cohesed and integrated together in order to form the core of my experience, which itself must transcend the sum of its influences.

Some new images

Below are some images created recently in abidance of the new design principles. Although these have obviously been reconfigured and redesigned as ‘promotional’ material, the overall tone, motifs and assets used in their creation are taken directly from the game itself, and fully represent what the game now looks like.

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Note that these images are also available on the project’s official Tumblr site, where they are released on a fairly frequent basis along with relevant information regarding the images, and can be downloaded at full resolution.

Conclusion

Thanks for reading. I’m not yet sure what the next development log will cover, but it’ll most likely be focused more on gameplay. Have a nice day.

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10 thoughts on “Development Log #5: Towards a new design

  1. Hello Spncryn!

    I’ve been a very big fan of the project ever since the announcement of Midnight Animal. Just wanted to say that the work is absolutely fantastic and that the evolution of this project is nothing short of astonishing regarding the amount of effort and work put into it. Best of Luck!

    JB

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    1. I’m no longer developing Midnight Animal, no; I reached a point where I got so frustrated with the experience of working on it and dealing with people’s negativity that I decided it just wasn’t worth it. I felt I was working on it solely just to appease other people, many of whom had already committed themselves to hating on it for literally no reason than to hate on something that I produced; I actively dreaded on working on it and every time I got excited by some semblance of progress which I tried to show to others, I would be maligned and ‘criticised’ for my choices (no matter what they were).

      So, I cancelled the project.

      That being said, though, I definitely have not abandoned the spirit of what I was trying to achieve with it, but never could before. There’s a new project that I’m currently working on, which I’ve been privately working on for some months now, called The Exegesis of John the Martyr, which is in many ways what I personally wanted to see out of Midnight Animal, but couldn’t because of its troubled developmental history. The thematic and narrative cores of the game remain similar, although Exegesis is far more fleshed out, complex and (at least in my opinion) more interesting than Midnight Animal ever was. It’s also a far darker game as a whole, and deals with themes which I feel are either not dealt with enough by other works, or which are not dealt with in a manner that I find agreeable. In many ways, it’s a sort of very abstracted autobiography in a way, although it functions more as a psychic history rather than a literal one. Either way, though, now I’m working on something which genuinely brings meaning and fulfillment to my life; I love working on this, and I will continue working on it no matter what anyone tells me.

      All this being said, it’s a much different work than Midnight Animal in other ways. Although it shares many assets with Midnight Animal (something that eventually, I hope I can address; but at the moment, I don’t have the time or money to), the gameplay is much different, to the point where I don’t even really identify it as a game anymore, at least not in any conventional sense of the word. In many ways, it’s more of a literary event than a ludic one; which necessarily, just by the nature of its core, will almost certainly isolate many former fans of Midnight Animal. It’s a work that’s meant to be deliberately confrontational, and which is meant to in a sense deliberately alienate a significant portion of its prospective audience through a combination of attrition, erudition and sometimes even just plain obfuscation; when I say I’m no longer developing for anybody but myself, I quite literally mean that, in that even if this project never was released, so long as I finished it in a way that satisfied me, I would be satisfied.

      That combined with the previous history of Midnight Animal has led me to significantly cut down on my public presence. I don’t feel I can responsibly handle dealing with a mass public audience again, nor do I have any desire to after what happened last time. I know now what kinds of projects I’d like to produce, and I know as well that they oftentimes will stand fundamentally at odds with those desired by others. With that being said, I feel it’s irresponsible of me to release updates on something which many people will either misinterpret or quote out of context out of both ignorance and sometimes even malice.

      Hopefully I’ve answered your questions (albeit in a roundabout and very drawn-out manner – apologies!). If you have any more, or want to talk about anything in specific, feel free to leave another comment, or email me.

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      1. This is very, very sad. I only knew about your game a few days ago. I was very excited to see something like this being made, everything about it seemed to be just about perfect and everything I’d want to play right now. I hope you understand that even you received a lot of hate for it (that I can’t understand) it won’t die without people missing it. Your problems are understandable, though, and I hope I’m not being disrespectful for saying this much.

        I know I’m being selfish for hoping that you may still finish this project in some unknown future or even publishing it unfinished, if you’re not feeling as bad about it as you are today, but by all means do what’s best for you and your health. Good luck with your new project. I know I’ll be waiting for your next game.

        Thank you and good luck.

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        1. You’re definitely not being disrespectful! Trust me, compared to other messages I’ve received, yours actually falls somewhere near the top of the lot in terms of respect and decency, funnily enough. I appreciate that you took the time to reach out to me about how you feel, and while I can understand it and ame even a bit sympathetic to it, I unfortunately can’t do what you’re asking me – at least not at this point in time.

          I”ve seen a lot of people parroting partial truths regarding why I cancelled the project, with many of them saying it was primarily out of frustration with the way people were treating me; but in reality, the cancellation of the project wasn’t just because I no longer wanted to deal with its sordid ‘community’ (although, granted, that was a significant aspect of it) – it was because I was just frustrated by the entire project as a whole, and had very little interest anymore in the project itself and the way it was going to turn out to be.

          Although things were definitely different when I started working on it back in high school, many things have changed in my life, for better or worse; and I’ve changed, too. Midnight Animal just isn’t the kind of game that I’m interested either in making or playing anymore, and since I wasn’t going to get paid for it, I couldn’t justify continuing to sacrifice my time and effort over something so fundamentally meaningless to me in a practical sense. Meanwhile, Exegesis is also something I’m not getting paid for, but I don’t mind – and in fact enjoy – working on it because it’s something inherently meaningful to me; the reward is intrinsic, which helps justify the lack of any extrinsic return.

          Hopefully this clarifies some things, and offers a bit more context into the cancellation itself.

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      2. Hey, thank you for the detailed answer. Very sad indeed. It was an interesting and unusual concept, I really wanted to see how Midnight Animal will look like on release. It’s always frustrating when your work goes to waste, but I see the reasons, maybe now you can work on your new project more freely.

        Speaking of your new project, I’m intrigued, although right now it’s really hard (nearly impossible) to imagine what exactly The Exegesis of John the Martyr will be like. Pathologic by Ice-Pick Lodge comes to mind, probably not the best comparison.

        I’m looking forward to see your new project. And it would be great if you could find time to share with us some information about the development progress. I wish you good luck.

        Like

        1. I personally don’t see my work on it as a waste on the better days; the two plus years I spent working on Midnight Animal were inarguably some of the most influential years of my life, both in terms of the things I learned while working on the game and the things I learned outside of it – and to call it a waste of time would be disingenuous and insincere on my part. The only time I would regard it as a ‘waste’ is when people try to guilt-trip me into convincing me that I had somehow ‘wasted their time’ by ‘hyping’ them for something that ostensibly no longer exists; even if I take them at face value and grant credence to the claim that it’s not entirely their fault that they feel their time is wasted (which it is), if their time was wasted, then my time especially was ‘wasted’ – as well as my energy, my physical and psychic health, my money and my standards of living.

          I’m very interested in your comparison to Pathologic, especially with the utter lack of information on my end; Pathologic is one of my favourite games of all time, and it’s been tremendously influential on how I approach games in general. Although I agree that it’s not the best comparison, it’s by far also not the worst, and definitely one of the better and more interesting comparisons I’ve heard. Why Pathologic?

          I’m going to make some effort to keep the Sutemi site updated with fairly regular, although spaced-out updates regarding things; there’s not much I can objectively state in terms of what I’m doing since a lot of it isn’t really something I can write up posts about, but I will be posting screenshots and posts analysing certain subjects and works related to the development of the project.

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          1. Dear Spencer Yan,
            Although I am disappointed that Midnight Animal is cancelled, I understand the situation that you were in. Even though I’ve never developed a game before I can only imagine how ambitious your project was (and I’m pretty sure it really was), so I respect your decision to cancel Midnight Animal to develop a more open project for the better. However one question I ask is, are you going to release a second demo to show us what was left of the scrapped project for us to play, or is it all over?

            Keep doing what you love,
            Ephraim Fitta.

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          2. I’m sorry this time it took me too long to answer.
            I see. Experience that you got developing Midnight Animal will affect your new projects, it was wrong to call it “waste of time”. It’s just sad that you spent so much time on Midnight Animal and we will never see it.

            That is great, I didn’t expect that since I know how bad was translated original Pathologic 2005, but Classic HD version should be fine as far as I know. Honestly, I didn’t put too much thought into that comparison, when I read the description of your new game some parts of it reminded me of Pathologic, especially “it’s more of a literary event than a ludic one,” back in the day, many people compared Pathologic to literature and theater, and I just can’t recall any other similar games, not sure if there are any.

            I know that many developers probably don’t like that sort of questions, but is there a game that you could compare to your new project? What games had a strong influence on The Exegesis of John the Martyr?

            Like

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