How I managed to develop a visual novel game within a month during quarantine

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During the month of March, I decided to take upon the challenge in coding up a new visual novel game for #NaNoRenO2020.

Two days before the COVID-19 pandemic officially started, I was laid off from my day job. It was a blessing in disguise as I've indicated in my earlier posts that I wanted to focus my time in coding. So what a better way to get back into the groove of things by challenging myself to create another game using Ren'Py.

Throwing the pandemic into the mix was a bit of a curve ball as I was tasked with the responsibility in homeschooling my kid while maintaining a bit of sanity in trying to keep myself afloat financially. Still, I was pretty determined in creating the game from start to finish before the #NaNoRenO2020 deadline.

There were two challenges that I faced while developing my second visual novel game - creating the story line with different choice branches and developing the assets for the game. Here's how I managed to tackle this without feeling overwhelmed:

For the first week of March 2020, I dedicated that time in writing out the story line, which includes breaks in the dialogue and where the choice branches should be indicated. This was the hardest part of the challenge because I was mindful of not making the story too long to the point where I'll lose track of the plot. I wrote a quick synopsis of the game and decided to expand it further, while being mindful of how the plot ties in with the character's choices.

Once I had the story developed, I dedicated two weeks in designing the assets. As this was based on my webcomics series, I soloed the design portion. Working on backgrounds has been a struggle for me, so I decided to do some heavy photo manipulation using free stock photos from Pexels. Creating the sprites wasn't too bad, except keeping track on the different mood expressions and maintaining the resolution sizes.

For the remaining weeks of the month, I started coding the game using Ren'Py on my MacBook. This part of the phase was a breeze as I had structured the story into a script format where I've indicated who is speaking and who wasn't. It was also a fun opportunity to learn that I can split up the game into separate script files and indicate them as chapters. Helpful when you need to create branches and let the game know if the choice ends up providing a good or bad ending.

Once the script was finished, I added the assets and tested out the transitions. Exported the project for the Windows and Mac platforms and checked to make sure that it was running well before uploading them to my itch.io profile.

But really, how did I manage to do all of this while in quarantine?

Despite the constant news updates on the pandemic, I realized that while the situation is beyond my control and the influx of noise from news outlets - for the sake of my mental health, I minimized the distractions by turning off social media updates and use the night time to work on my illustrations and coding. Sometimes, I end up staying up late since I find that I'm mostly productive in the night. Time management has been the major key in staying productive and I kept a schedule on what needs to be done, aside from life responsibilities.

The result?

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I had a lot of fun creating my second game, which I felt was a major improvement from my first one that was released back in 2019. Additionally, it helped me cope with what's happening with the COVID-19 pandemic by dedicating my creative energy on my visual novel game.

You can check out my latest game "Moo Times Of Betsy: Episode 2" on my itch.io profile .

Comments (2)

Victoria Lo's photo

Hello, I have used Ren'Py too, really good engine for making VNs. Thanks for sharing, will check out your visual novel soon!

P.S. I love cows and tea too, and that's how I found your blog haha ;)

Diana Chin's photo

Aww thanks, Victoria! So glad that you love my post :) I also checked out your blog and it's really awesome <3 I love Ren'Py as well. I tried out other options in the past, but I always come back to Ren'Py for its ease of use.