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

Saturday, July 07, 2018

Say Hello to XGASOFT 2.0!


It's hard to believe almost a year has passed since XGASOFT's main site first went live, and along with it, the unveiling of Yugure no Kagami to the world. Since then, however, my development efforts have been laser-focused on completing VNgen, the engine designed to make it possible. It might've looked like nothing was happening, but the planets are aligning and it's time for that to change.

And change it has: xgasoft.com has been completely revamped from backend to frontend, and is about to see a lot more activity very soon. As described in a previous devblog post, future development updates will be featured by XGASOFT, leaving ThinkBoxly for more personal content instead. What's more, you can now subscribe to receive XGASOFT updates by email and receive 10% your next purchase of any XGASOFT product (like VNgen)!

And speaking of VNgen, keep your eyes peeled for a new update hitting the Marketplace and Itch.io this weekend! Feedback and development have both continued post-1.0, and the new version contains multiple fixes to text and vox actions, plus adds easier NVL-style presentation with auto text positioning.

And... that's about it for now! A bit of an abbreviated post this weekend, I know, but for good reason. What reason? Stay tuned to find out soon at XGASOFT!

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.