Being on a Visual Novel Team
Last year (2015) I finally decided to join a team that was developing a Visual Novel, I'm a fan of VNs and have always wanted to create my own, in fact that's how Monogatari came along, from trying to create my own after Ren'py wasn't enough for me but sadly enough, I may be good with the coding but in the writing part I'm just not that good. And yes, that means I built a VN engine without actually having done one myself.
I had been wanting to join a VN team for a long time but I never did, one of the reasons for it was because I just didn't feel ready. I have my own standards when it comes to my job, really high ones and under those standards I knew I still needed time to be able to build an awesome VN just like the ones I love.
Enter Vampires The New Birth
On July of that year I found my perfect oportunity, a team was recruiting people for a Visual Novel: Vampires The New Birth. There was a crowd founding campaign for the game with some information and the vision of it. I decided to send them a mail asking if they needed a programmer and luckily enough they didn't have any. My thoughts of what I would be doing in a VN team as a programmer at that moment where just about translating things to Ren'py format, adding some choices here, changing the UI there... anyway, simple things like, and yeah, I wanted to start with a simple job like that, as I said before I felt not quite ready for anything big at the moment.
That illusion lasted just a day since the next day I was told what they actually needed, a stat system and event system as well since the game was RPG-ish. My first thought was a simple but straight forward "Well... fuck" I immediately felt that what I thought was right, I just wasn't ready. I had never built a something like that and it was definitely a lot bigger than the initial thought of just translating some things to Ren'py... I was about to call it off.
When I say I have high standards I also mean that if I know I'll do a job that will not reach them I prefer not doing it.Not because I can't have it done, but because I won't do any job I won't feel proud about when I'm done. I thought it for a while and ended up deciding to do it, I would never be able to know if I was truly able to do it unless I tried and thus, I lied... yeah, probably not the best thing to do, I replied saying that I was able to do it but I was absolutely not sure about that.
Just like that I quickly started working with the team.
The only tech savvy in the room
Working on a VN team was a completely new experience for me and it took me right outside of my comfort zone. There where a bunch of things that where really different to what I'm used and that gave me a glance of what happens in some teams.
No Git at all
The first thing I really felt was the absence of git or any other VCS, I use git for all my projects, personal or school ones, collaborative or not git is always there but in the VTNB team there was not even a mention of it. All the work is done through email and a cloud storage service (one I had never heard before), the artists or composers finish something, email it to the writer, the writer puts it in the game and then emails me the updated version, I then add my code and send it over again... and yeah, that is still happening. That as you may think if you've ever used a VCS is pure chaos, it's very easy to loose something in the process, everyone changes something and you never know what, where or why, everyone has their own version and trying to merge yours with other one is not that simple.
I do have my own repository for the game but of course not everyone knows git exists and even if they did, I don't think some people would actually use it. This may change in the future but for now, it has really been a challenge to go back to those days where I didn't knew a thing about VCSs.
A different work flow
I'm used to learning everything on my own, learn and create fast, really fast so when I was assigned a list of tasks and was given two weeks for doing them I finished them in just a day, I think two weeks for any programmer is a lifetime... ok, that's probably an exaggeration but I must admit, the work flow is a lot more slower than what I'm used to, not that that's something bad but at first it was kind of weird, I initially thought the project would be done by august last year but when they told me it would probably be done on December, and not the whole game but just the demo it really blew off my mind, that's the longest time I've been working for a single project.
As I said before, it is all done by email, and actually I haven't talked to anyone but the writer, I know there's a whole team but we actually never talk, that was something weird for me at first but then, I actually noticed that the communication was not necessary in reality but being used to the Slack world email still is an old challenge.
This is more of a personal thing but I just love minimalist themes, flat and clean... that's why you'll notice a huge difference between the game icon (which I did) and the rest of the art. I'm not saying I don't like the art we have, I love it! I'm just stating that I'm not used to creating things like our UI or the webpage style (I'm still trying to create a website for it).
Yes, I'm probably the most tech savvy in the team but lets not forget I'm also the less savvy on creating a Visual Novel
You learn something new everyday
Being in a team like that has really been an amazing experience and I hope it'll last a lot more, I've learned a lot of things, in the coding, art, administration of a team and even on the whole VN world side. In fact I was able to create the stat and events system so my lie was completely harmless, they are not perfect yet but they're just fine for now. I've loved the whole experience, and what's more, I love the game I'm helping to create, I've met amazing people and even though I'm not that into vampires this VN is there to probe me and probably many others that vampires are actually awesome, it just depends on the story you tell.
It's been a hell of a ride and there's still a long way to go but recently the latest demo got released! So please, go ahead and play it I assure you'll have a great time and the demo will leave you craving for more, a lot more. You can download the demo here: https://vtnb.itch.io/vampires-the-new-birth