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ThinkBoxly is the personal developer blog of Lucas Chasteen, author, programmer, artist, and always learning. Read more

Friday, June 22, 2018

Finding Success in Failing Health - A VNgen Post Mortem


VNgen is a visual novel and animation engine for GameMaker Studio. Using a custom scripting syntax, it is designed to produce premium content quickly and easily on a wide variety of platforms. It is currently being used to create both first-party and third-party indie games of multiple genres. If you value my work, please consider supporting me on Patreon. Your support will play a critical role in the ongoing development of these and future projects. Stay tuned to the end of this post for details!

I'll be honest: VNgen had a rough launch. Days turned into weeks, things came up, and I had my head down trying to get through it all without breaking something in haste.

But it did launch, and you can now download VNgen 1.0.2 for both GameMaker Studio 1 and 2 RIGHT NOW! GMS 2 users can even try VNgen for FREE with the trial version, so what are you waiting for?

Reception so far has been extremely positive, and I appreciate everyone's patience as 1.0 and post-launch fixes rolled out a bit slower than I had planned.

Indeed, "slower than planned" has been a theme throughout VNgen's entire development, but not without justifiable cause. Today, I feel it's appropriate to stop a moment, look back on the road behind us, and talk about that development from the start, as well as what it means for the future. I'm not here to share excuses. In fact, VNgen's development is a far more personal story than anything I've shared here before. But it is one I feel is worth sharing, and one which might inspire or at least offer solidarity to other developers who've been through similar trials. So buckle up!

Friday, June 08, 2018

On Steam, Valve, and Indie Developers


For the past year-and-a-half, ThinkBoxly has been exclusively a devblog of my progress on developing original commercial content like VNgen. If you've followed me during that time, you've probably gotten used to the absence of editorial and feature-style posts (if you were ever aware they existed around here at all). But this is my blog, dang it, and I get to write what I want*. And as you can probably guess from the title, today's topic is hardly unrelated.

Valve, it's time we developers had a little talk about Steam.

(*Also, VNgen is out now and I don't have anything newsworthy related to post about its development at the moment—because it's done! If you're a developer, you should totally check it out.)

Friday, May 18, 2018

Update 34 - I Hate Delays


I hate delays.

I hate my delays. If something else is delayed, I can wait. There's plenty to do in the meantime. But when I'm the one that has to make the call, it's a different issue.

If you know me very well, you'll know I'm terrible at giving ETAs, which is why I hesitated to give one for VNgen until the very last. And to be fair, based on what I anticipated VNgen 1.0 to be at the time, it was a reasonable estimate. But the more I thought about it, the more I became convinced VNgen was missing something critical to the 1.0 experience, and so I'm going to have to ask everyone to wait just a bit longer.

The good news? The wait will now be even more worth it.

Friday, May 04, 2018

Update 33 - The End of the Beginning


Way back in the summer of 2014 I began writing my first visual novel engine. Not VNgen, mind you, and not even Edge VN. This was a third, unreleased engine—and for good reason: it was a horrible, broken mess. You see, not only was this my first visual novel engine, but the first program I had ever written from scratch.

I've come a long way in four years, leading my work to be praised by developers even with many more years of experience than I have. But while my coding practices may have changed, the goal of creating an engine with an emphasis on high presentation quality coupled with flexibility and ease of use has remained a constant.

VNgen's journey is both a story of three engines and one continuous effort to achieve a single goal. And although it's hard to believe, that journey is finally coming to an end.

That's right: strap on your seatbelts, because our next stop is VNgen 1.0.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Update 32 - Shader Business Revisited


I've spoken before about the importance of standardization in VNgen. It's so important, in fact, that multiple times I've discarded working solutions purely because they didn't conform well enough to established guidelines. A while back, one of these solutions involved using a shader to dim characters while they're not speaking—a method that was quickly replaced by blending in a transparent black rectangle instead. And yet, at the time, I said the effort to incorporate shaders into VNgen wasn't wasted, but that it served as a proof of concept for shaders possibly finding their way back into VNgen in the future.

Well, my friends, the future is now. That's right: as of version 0.9.8, shaders are now implemented into VNgen as first-class citizens alongside transitions, animations, deformations—the whole lot.

Friday, April 06, 2018

Update 31 - Log and Let Log


VNgen's backlog was one of the first things written for the engine well over a year-and-a-half ago. While it might seem like putting the cart before the horse, the backlog was actually a convenient testing ground for some of the new concepts necessary to make VNgen a reality. But then that reality materialized, and the backlog was left the oldest feature, requiring more than one overhaul to keep it up to date.

Nowadays, standardization is the name of the game. VNgen's codebase has been cut in half despite more features being added since the first Early Access release. For the past two weeks, it was the backlog's turn yet again—and this time, other problems were also solved in the process.