Monday, September 11, 2017

So I guess I should ask for help!

I mentioned in my last post that I've been having a lot of trouble making the transition to getting art from upper-tier artists. Often, it's a lot of work just finding their commission information and getting an idea of how they work, if they run on a certain schedule or what, or even if they're actually taking commissions. And if they are, many of them seem to only announce it in certain places all over the web, often for very short periods of time. It almost feels like just getting art from these people would be a full-time job!

It was really discouraging for me, and I have a lot of things I'd really rather be doing, but it needs to be done! So I realized: I get folks emailing me and the like now and then because they love MVOL and they want to do whatever they can to help. And besides becoming a Proofer, I usually don't have much to suggest, as much as I appreciate the sentiment. But maybe that's no longer true!

So I'd like to call out for anyone with spare time every day and a bit of patience that's willing to help me get awesome art for MVOL! There would be two major parts to this. First, I'd send you a list of artists that I think are promising, and you would research them. Look through their posts, journals, google them, find what blogs and such they might have, try to get all the info you can on how to commission them. Prices, procedures, terms of service, schedule, things like that.

Second, for any of these artists that still seem promising and are only open some of the time (which seems to be most of them) you would keep tabs on wherever they announce that sort of thing. In some cases, it might even be necessary for you to grab a spot for me before they close up, but that's something we'd have to figure out as we go along.

Having experience with commissioning big name artists would certainly help, but isn't necessary. If you think you have the time and patience to act as an Artist Hunter for me, please drop me a line! I would be happy to have more than one, as I have a lot of artists on my wishlist, and with how short some of these windows for comms can be, I think having multiple eyes out there could be a big help. This feels a little silly asking for this, but I think it might be the only way to get the real high-scale art I'm hoping for into MVOL!

Also, if you're interested in helping and you have a fine eye for detail and a strong grasp on English, I'm always in need of more Proofers! There are always more typos and bugs in MVOL, and I can use your help cleaning things up! Proofers also get early access to new versions of the game so they can help clean it up before the release. Take a look!

Thanks, guys! Hopefully together, we can get MVOL looking better than ever!

Friday, September 8, 2017

v0.30 is Live!

Get your copy now under the Play the Game tab above! Having trouble? Check the FAQ for a guide on making SWFs work and just lots of interesting stuff!

So this version comes with some good news and some bad news. First off, you might consider this both good and bad news: the second trip through the Glass Door is complete! That's right, it's all done in one version, start to finish, including every variation! The bad news there being, that's because it's not as involved a trip as most of the others, nor as varied. This marks the middle section of the middle chapter of the second and final Act of the game, and you might say it's something of a lull before we start the big... well. Before the end begins.

For more good news, if you've been keeping an eye on my Patreon you may have noticed we've passed (more or less, Patreon's numbers vary a lot over the course of the month because weird reporting) my second big stretch milestone! This means it's time to triple my art budget and start getting in touch with some of the big names in the art community to see about getting some really high-quality art into MVOL! I've been super excited and super nervous about this goal, but the time has finally come to reach out to artists I've hardly dared dream of working with. And...

And it's been a complete failure so far. I've sent PMs and emails to over a dozen artists I really admire and think could be a great for for MVOL, asking if they'd be open to drawing the variants necessary for a piece of art in MVOL. A couple were open to the idea, but not available for commissions right now. One or two declined. The rest flat out ignored me. Honestly, just trying to track down commission information for all of them (and the two dozen artists who, upon research, would obviously not be a match for one reason or another) was exhausting, and half the time I simply had to try a PM because I couldn't find any other indication of how to possibly approach them about commissions, even when they were obviously churning them out in great multitudes.

I think that top-tier artists tend to find themselves in a situation where they have more people approaching them than they could ever possibly draw for, and that if they simply make themselves virtually inaccessible, they can find more than enough work among repeat customers and the occasional network connection or new client gained by happenstance. That's the best, most optimistic explanation I have at this point for how artists can churn out so many commissions without ever giving any indication of how they accept them, or responding to inquiries.

Whatever the explanation, I have hit a wall rather unexpectedly. That's not to say I've given up-- there are many more artists of great talent I intend to reach out to in the days to come. It's just... you know, tough to throw yourself right back into that. If anyone has advice on how to approach high-level artists, or knowledge of what avenues are the best to use, or maybe if there's some "avoid these commissioners" page somewhere with me pasted on there because I got fidgety about getting Lith's look right one too many times... If you guys know anything that might help me with this great hunt for great artists, please do let me know. You can comment here or email me or what have you, I'm all ears. I want to get amazing artists working with Lith.

Well. That was another set of good and bad news. I did manage to get some art for this release, two pieces as usual, but they're more of the typical fare my usual budget would allow. One will be quite easy to find for one third of my players on a standard run through, and the other is pretty easy to have thrust on you if you're into that sort of thing, and Lith has what he needs. Getting the last piece of art for this release was its own little adventure, just concluding at the last possible moment with a desperate stream commission that turned out surprisingly well. To be honest, v0.30 has been full of ups and downs and has just been immensely wearying in many ways, but I've covered the big points. If you want a better timeline of what happened, and to keep up on how development is going in the future, you're welcome to check out my Twitter. I've been getting mostly better about using it to report as I get writing done, grumble about my problems, and generally ramble about nerdy and furry stuff.

Actually, you may notice on there that I've finished a few stories recently. In case you didn't know, besides writing MVOL, I also have a pretty hefty archive of stories on FurAffinity and SoFurry. I kinda went a year without adding more, but that's apparently partly because I left a lot of them not quiiite finished, and you can expect several new stories to be coming out in the weeks and months to come! My stories tend to be quite the grab bag, including canon stories featuring Lith outside the void, lots of interesting experimental pieces, and a great deal of weird, kinky stuff that's more fetishistic than I really dare to be with MVOL. Try a few! I often surprise people with what I can get them to enjoy reading about, and I love broadening folks' horizons a touch.

Anyway, that's all the news and self-promotion for now. This version was a pretty rough trip, but I'm hoping things will smooth out a little now we've learned from this. Again, if you guys have any advice or helpful information for commissioning high-tier artists, if you know anyone that might be able to put in a good word for me or what have you, I'd be grateful for any help. My amazing supporters have given me the money to maybe afford these amazing artists, but apparently it's not as simple as being ready to pay. But we can make it happen!

Thank you, everyone, for being part of this with me.

Monday, July 3, 2017

v0.29 is Live!

Play the new version right now by clicking the Play the Game tab above!

Finally, the first trip through the Glass Door is complete. The last scene has been added with this version, a few others have been polished up, and I'm ready to get started on the next section. That's only a small part of this release, though. It's turned into a real grab bag!

The first thing you may notice is that, thanks to the support of my Patreon, Lith's portrait in the upper left has finally been replaced with a proper artist's rendition! It's still just as functional as the old portrait, but about a hundred times nicer looking. We actually hit this milestone a while ago, but it's been a challenge finding the artist I really thought could make a Lith face I could be happy with. It's awesome to finally see my derpy old art put away and some professional work going up! Though yes, if some among you are nostalgic for old 3-face Lith, there is an option to switch back in the Options menu.

Other than that, a few scenes have been added here and there to deal with the fact that the Glass Door has opened. They fall into two main categories, and if you know the game well, you can probably guess what they are! Also, I've added one big, new sex scene that rather stands out from the rest, and is probably exactly what some people have been hoping for for some time, going by the comments I've seen. It's extremely easy to find under the right conditions, but to meet those conditions, you may have to get out of your comfort zone. Happy hunting!

Lastly, besides the portrait, one other piece of new art has been added, a cute one for every now and then. Also, while discussing the finer details of Lith's appearance with Mz Nite, one of my favorite artists for this game, she was so kind as to offer me corrected versions of a few pieces, so you may notice a slight adjustment to Lith's appearance in a couple pieces of art.

From here, I expect to start working on the second trip through the Glass Door, but due to the nature of this next segment, I don't think it'll be ready in time for the coming version. So I'll probably continue to work on some other side content for the game as well, and center v0.30 on that, with whatever I got done so far available to peek at in the cheat version next time.

I think that about wraps it up for now. Time for gratuitous linking! I mentioned my Patreon above, but did you know about my Twitter? I use it to report on the writing I'm getting done, and sometimes make jokes and complain. If you'd like another way to support me, you can find some of my writing on Amazon as well!

Thanks for reading, everyone, and thanks for playing my game! Hope you guys like the new content!

Friday, May 5, 2017

v0.28 is Live!

You can play the new version right now by going to the Play the Game tab above!

With this release, the first trip through the Glass Door is very nearly complete. I still need to add a few smaller scenes and make a few adjustments so everything hopefully works together more smoothly, but the bulk of the content is ready now. Last update saw a lot of a certain kind of scene with one character, and well, this release covers the other side of that coin. There's some new content that's pretty easy to find, and some that's rather more difficult, but you may have seen hints that it was coming if you've been paying attention while playing through the Glass Door.

Besides the new scenes, there are two new pieces of art, as always thanks to my kind supporters. This time they're actually paired pieces, to cover two rather different versions of the same scene. This particular scene is pretty easy to find just going through the game's content, so you shouldn't have too much trouble finding it in a normal playthrough, regardless of your collar.

For the next version, I think I'm going to take a short break from the glass door while I figure out just how to handle the next section. In the meantime, I'm considering adding some content that's been requested in one form or another for quite a while, so if I do go through with that and can execute it well, I think a certain section of my audience will be very happy with the result. I hope!

I have to admit, so far this Door hasn't been as heavy to write as the last. It's been very complicated in its own way, of course, but it feels like this section, at least, has passed quickly. Of course, it was probably the final section of the Stone Door that really seemed to drag on forever, and I've hopefully learned a thing or two about making this Door a little less ridiculous to follow through with. Maybe! We'll have to see how it comes together, of course. I have a lot of ideas and possibilities, but it really comes down to how it actually happens in the moment, and what feels like it needs to happen, what it feels like the characters would do. I'm hoping they'll have mercy on me.

To tell the truth, I'm kinda hoping we can work through this door pretty quickly all around. I've been getting positive feedback from some of my audience, and I'm really happy with that, since I've been pretty worried this section would just make everyone pretty uncomfortable and unhappy with me. It's necessary, but I'm not happy making people unhappy! But more than that, I'm really looking forward to what comes after the Glass Door. That will be the Final Chapter of MVOL, and I've been thinking on it and refining it in my head for literally years, obsessing over it since the days I first realized I could make this game bigger than just putting a collar on Lith. I'm almost scared to finally get to that stage, and at the same time I keep finding myself wishing I could jump straight to it rather than writing all this.

But the story's climax needs its setup. We are not yet ready for what will come. But if the characters cooperate, then maybe, not too much longer.

Flash itself has been having some troubles, apparently. I'm not sure what all would be involved in trying to import MVOL to another engine, but I'm not looking forward to making the attempt, and I'm kinda hoping I can just... finish the whole game before it gets to that point, and maybe find a way to encapsulate it in an executable I'll be comfortable with and call it a finished product, or something like that. I'm keeping an eye on the whole situation, and I'll do what I can to try and help Lith meet as many people as he can, but this is just one more reason to want to give this game its proper ending before too much longer. It still feels strange thinking that we're nearing the ending, even if it is only that we're making good progress through the chapter before the actual ending begins.

Anyway. For now, I hope you all enjoy the fresh content. Thank you all for playing, for reading, and for your support in every way you care to offer it! I don't know if this story will have exactly the ending you want, but I hope that sooner or later, you'll find the one that makes you happy!

Friday, March 10, 2017

v0.27 is Live!

Pop over to the Play the Game tab to download your copy!

The last version made a lot of implications about what was coming, and now we're seeing some of those coming to pass. v0.27 may be a high point or a low point for some players depending on their tastes, but we've finally jumped into a few sex scenes, for better or worse, as well as introduced a small secondary mechanic that will see more application down the line.

This new chapter in your story with Lith has been put together to meet several different goals, and accomplishing those along with providing a good experience for the player has been an interesting challenge. Where I've been able to play with ambiguity and the division of paths before, there are a lot of overlapping situations in this chapter that need to be addressed, and the avatar's attitude toward what's going on has a lot less room to leave open to interpretation with more intensive social situations going on. I've been worried about stepping on players' toes with scenes that will inevitably pull away from their intentions, but to a degree that's built into the nature of the game. All I can do is try to make everything accountable.

I know this isn't the sort of content folks were expecting behind the next door, and I think that's a good thing. I saw a lot of suggestions for more crazy fantasy locations and such that Lith and the avatar could visit, but it's important to the arc of the story and Lith's development that we don't just linger in fantasy worlds. This is what Lith needs right now. I do get nervous about how uncomfortable it may make some players, but it's an uncomfortable situation, and having that sort of reaction is an important part of being part of the story. I'm implementing things well when I'm getting that sort of reaction, even if I do wish I could just make players feel good 100% of the time, haha. The main consolation is that it's the downs that make the ups that much better, but that's going to be a pretty long-term payoff on that front.

But we're pushing through! I feel like with this update we're actually surprisingly close to completing the first big chunk of this chapter. I'm not sure if it'll be 100% complete with v0.28, but I think it should at least be close. I'm still putting together the details of how the rest of the chapter will work precisely, but I do know that I want this chapter to be less ridiculously complicated and not such a huge chunk of work compared to the Stone Door. It's certainly got its own kind of complication going for it already, but I'll be doing what I can to only keep things complicated where they need to be. One particular, very small segment of this update was a huuuuge headache just to get working properly, haha. I'm glad to have it done, but it makes me wary about how I lay out my complication in the future. Something to keep an eye on!

Anyway, other than the new storyline content, which features two new sex scenes, I've also added two new pieces of art I'm very happy with, both of which from returning artists. I've had a lot of fun (stressful though it may be) hunting down lots of different artists and seeing Lith rendered in lots of different styles, and I think that complements the sense that Lith can be different things to different people, that he can be a different kitty in a different situation. That said, I've been really happy with the work I got from these artists in the past, and while I do hope to continue commissioning a variety of artists, a couple repeating artists will make it a lot easier to sustain the pace of new art every month, I think.

Outside of art and new story content, I've added a touch of extra functionality to the cheats available for supporters to skip straight to the new content more easily. If you'd like access to cheats, make sure to check out my Patreon, there's a bunch of nice goodies available for interested fans.

That wraps it up for now. I hope you guys enjoy the new content!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

v0.26 is Live!

Play the latest version by going to the Play the Game tab above!

Alright! I've been working a long time on the content for this version, and I finally feel like it's ready to share. The next chapter of the storyline beyond the Stone Door has begun! It's far from complete, but there's enough content ready to at least go through a basic version of it. If you haven't already, I encourage you to go check it out yourself now before reading on!

While this new area has presented a lot of technical challenges I've had to work through, I've probably been most challenged by the question of exactly how to present it. It's something of a delicate situation for just about everyone involved, and it's absolutely meant to disturb the player to a degree. Especially toward the end of what's currently available, certain players will hit a scene that I've been anticipating with a lot of mixed feelings for a long, long time. So I've been looking forward to and also sort of dreading the reception of this version for quite some time!

I'd like to take a moment to clarify here, it's not that I have any spite toward players or just want them to feel bad. I'm anticipating some negative responses to this version because it will have a negative emotionaly impact on some, and I feel that's necessary. This is an important step in developing the storyline as a whole, both because it's important to developing the main theme and arc of the game, and because we're entering the final stages of the story. Up until now there have been lots of ups and downs, lots of charming moments and emotional sequences, but this is essentially the penultimate Chapter of the game.

I said before that the collar itself is, in a way, a halfway point in the game. If you look at the Table of Contents I made up (I'll be updating this soon) you can see that represented a little more clearly. Looking at this, you could say that MVOL is a story in six chapters or so, and we are just now beginning chapter five. If you're familiar with storycrafting, that generally means that this is where things are going to get more and more intense and conflicted, building up to the climax and resolution in the final chapter. We're really getting into it now!

So that's why the game is taking another emotional turn here. I've spent a long time kinda fine tuning this in my head to try and find the best way to present it to accomplish all my goals without making the player more uncomfortable than necessary. There are a lot of delicate topics being handled here, and I want to both give each player the chance to play how they want, but also to challenge them to make decisions they may not want to make, decisions they may not have ever thought they would have to make. Figuring all this out has been the biggest challenge for me in this new content, and I feel like there's not that much actually written down compared to how much time I've spent going over it in my head. But I feel like it's in a good place! I think it was worth the months, probably almost a year in advance I've been working on this on the side, trying to get just the right feel. I hope it comes across well for everyone.

This is another update with no sex scenes in it. Considering the content, I think some people may be relieved, haha. I used to feel like I really needed to include at least one sex scene with each update, and like maybe I needed to warp the story to make sure there was lots of sex, since that's something people expect. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized I don't think that's really what anyone wants. Sure, some people will always be here for the sex, and that's fine. But it's more important that it happens naturally. I've found that when I don't try to force sex to happen, it actually becomes a much more natural part of the flow of the story, and feels way better than if I just say "a sex scene needs to happen here, let's do it." And if you're this deep into the game, I think you'll appreciate a sex scene that comes a little later but feels appropriate over one that feels shoe-horned in.

So I've been trying to rely more on my own instincts in driving the story forward and just letting sexual content come naturally. I do plan to have sexual content in this chapter, and I think it's pretty obvious I'm building up to that, including a way to tempt/justify those that normally might not indulge. It's kinda bugged me how many people tell me they play the game solely for the story and don't even get sexual, and I'd like to see if I can give some of those players reason to think twice. Haha.

So there's a lot going on with this version, story-wise! It's still just the beginning, though, and there will be more options added in the future to really make this first sequence an interesting experience to explore and play through multiple times. Besides that, I've added two new pieces of art, of course, though I think this has finally burned through the very last reserves of my big art-commissioning spree a while back. Looks like it's time for another one!

Lastly, for anyone still concerned from my last post, yes, I did get my data fully restored. It was very expensive, but in the end I got lucky and they were able to restore 99% of my data. A huge load off my mind! If you'd ever like more up-to-the-minute updates on what I'm doing, including my restoration and the small delays we saw on the release of this version, you're welcome to follow me on Twitter! I make dorky jokes occasionally, but mostly I use it to talk about the latest developments with my work, good or bad.

That wraps it up for now. Thanks for reading, everyone, and I hope you enjoy the new content! Or at least... are intrigued by it?

Monday, November 21, 2016

Lost a hard drive...

I've hit a bit of a speed bump. A couple days ago, my biggest hard drive up and died for no apparent reason. Since then, I've found out that particular model actually had a shockingly high failure rate, and a ton of its reviews basically amount to "it's great, until it breaks, which was within two years/a few weeks/a couple days/before it got to me." So the fact it worked for a solid two years was pretty lucky for me, I guess.

Now, this drive had a lot of personal files and, as you may have guessed, the project file for MVOL. I do keep backups online, but I didn't update those as often as I should have. Fortunately, I do most of my writing on a separate computer, and between that and the archives from the daily updates I send out to my supporters, very little writing is actually lost. This will basically amount to maybe a week or two of work putting things back together, redoing the final polish, editing, and all the little bits. I also lost all of my files for the art I've commissioned, or more specifically, the edited versions polished up for the game. So it's basically going to be a huge pain, but hopefully I can recover everything from online copies or contact the artists.

Honestly, it's been demoralizing more than directly damaging. It's already been pretty rough around here for personal reasons, so throwing this on top has forced me to fall back on some old coping strategies. Right now, I've sent the hard drive to a recovery service and I'm waiting for word on how much it would cost. It would mean a lot to have all of that back, so I'm hoping I can afford it, but if it's a mechanical issue like my tech-savvy friends think it is, then the price may be pretty out there.

One way or another, I'll deal with it. The upshot is, v0.26 may end up a little lighter on content just to keep the schedule going, and this month's MMU will probably be a little odd, maybe compiled with an old version of the game or something.

Anyway, sorry if this seems like a lot of complaining for a relatively small crisis. I know I haven't been as active on the blog lately, and a setback like this is probably the most significant news I've had in a while. Hopefully I'll have better news soon. Thanks for your patience, guys!

And yes, I'll definitely be looking into more robust, automated options for backing up my work files, as well as any files I consider important to me. I'd encourage all of you to take the time to do the same.