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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