Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Missing Stars UI and Gameplay Preview Video

While we try to be transparent about a lot of our development process, one thing that we haven't really ever shown is our UI, or any actual "gameplay." Time to change that, while also giving you guys a short tour down memory lane. In addition to a brief sample of what Missing Stars currently looks like, we also decided to show you guys some of our older iterations of the UI, so you can see how it evolved. We hope you enjoy this little preview. (Click the link to view it on Youtube, or watch it below.)

Love it, hate it, or feel indifferent about? Come tell us on the forums.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween!

Here's hoping that everyone has a safe and wonderful holiday this year. We have a few treats for you, but no tricks, on this spookiest of evenings. For one thing, Kosherbacon, Gloom, and Hamadyne all worked to put together a couple short stories to get into the spirit of things.

Hama's "Halloween Costumes" story is a much more cheerful piece that you might need after reading the others. Kosher's "St. Dymphna's Mystery Club" is dark and suspenseful, but at least it won't leave you hanging. Finally, Gloom's latest work, "The Little Death," is more on the intimate, emotional side of things.

Please feel free to leave some feedback either on the stories' respective threads, or of course come discuss everything on the forums.

And of course, it's not a Missing Stars blog post without some art, so we hope you enjoy this year's holiday pieces as much as we do.

thank mr sendo and morth

Friday, September 26, 2014

How to Destroy Angles (NSFW)

Note: This post contains nudity and shouldn't be viewed if you're in a place where nudity isn't appreciated, like work or a children's play park.

Hello again friends. Today's blog isn't a progress one, so much as it is showing you a little bit of the artistic process. Some people might not find this stuff all that engaging, but we've had a few requests for a sprite post, so here ya go. In order to actually have something interesting and factual to read, I've asked Morth to kinda walk through his process some. Enjoy.

Morthiasik here, artist responsible for Isolda artworks. Because I am the first one to have completed a basic set of main heroine linearts, I have the privilege of writing about how it's even made.

At the beginning, Raith handed me assignment document with list of all poses, expressions and outfits needed. Thankfully everything was nicely organised and no single change was made later, I could just do my work without worries that something might be thrown away later. At this stage I began figuring out each pose, making quick gesture sketches to establish posture and Isolda's body language. It looked practically like this:


Once Raith (and fellow artists) approved everything, I could transform stick figures to full bodies with faces and polish it a little. Here I could also do last corrections concerning anatomy, proportions and even head angles. To make things much easier in the future, I drew nude sketches of all the poses lined up, ready for further development:
I call it pose chart and it's super useful.

Now we'll focus on pose number 2:

Here's tiny sketch resized to enormous size of 2000x4000 pixels. On top of this I made sketch of school uniform (other outfits to be added later) and started slow, line by line process of inking. I use Paint tool SAI for my drawings, not only because I generally like this software, but also for one important function. That thing called Smoothing, here set to S-2 is a magical tool that actually allows me to draw long, clean lines like with traditional thin brush. Otherwise my lines would be extremely wobbly and simply ugly.

Along the way I had to redone hair and eyes, to match up MS style set by our Style Dictator AngryEvil. Unfortunately I haven't kept old files, so I'm not able to show it. Anyway, here's the result:


When I'm finished I add new layers with different face expressions (few times consulted with Raith again):

~You'll see what else Isolda has to offer in game~

This way I made all of six poses of Isolda in St.Dymphna's School uniform with total of 34 faces. Now it’s my job to draw her in different apparel and subsequently, color this all!

As a bonus, have some concepts of her casual outfit:

Well, that's all from me today, regards!

Personally, I'm a fan of outfits 2 and 3, but we haven't really settled on anything yet. Feel free to chime in if you've got some suggestions.

With the addition of a couple new artists, including a dedicated colorist, we've finally begun to start inking in some of our sprite lineart, rather than just the uncolored versions we've been sharing. The final coloring style still remains to be determined, but we're getting there. Have a sneak peek below, though.

I'm really running out of semi-witty things to end these blog posts with, so we'll leave it at that. Come post on the forums and tell us what you think.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Regularly-Promised-But-Not-Delivered-Upon Progress Report

A month ago, I swore I was going to do one of these every two weeks.

For the most part, there isn't a whole lot to say here, given that we're in a bit of a slow phase. Or at least a boring phase, because editing progress isn't exactly thrilling to read about.

I can, however, announce one of the artists I had mentioned a while back. She's recently begun working on some actual stuff for Missing Stars, so I'm comfortable saying who she is: Lian-ne will be a welcome addition to the Missing Stars art team, helping out with some of the side characters' art. Additionally, there are two other promising applicants to the team which are still pending, for various reasons. More on them later.

One bit of nice news is that we can finally, with 100% certainty, confirm that Mike Inel will be providing animations for Missing Stars. In the past, there's been some confusion among the audience, and even among ourselves, as to whether or not he's still on board. We recently touched base with him, though, and verified that he is. Animation production will begin in early 2015, when he has some more free time on his hand. At the moment, I couldn't say whether or not there will be any animations in the demo, though it's looking like "no."

Finally, simply to keep this blog post from being excessively short, I'm going to partially fulfill a promise from long ago, and introduce you to one of our side characters.

Ela is the first of many characters we'll likely receive flak for not making romanceable. A Saint Dymphna's student in the same grade as Erik, Ela is also largely responsible for showing him around the school - she's a bit of a teacher's pet. Although, with her popularity amongst the student body, you could argue that she's a bit of an everyone's pet. Ela makes her debut early into the game, being one of the first people that Erik meets at the new school, and she's got at least something of a presence across all of the routes. She wouldn't have it any other way.

Come yell at us about not giving her a route on the forums.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Here Is The News

Quick summary of progress:

-Our medical advisor recruitment went well and we've been joined by two talented individuals who will be giving feedback on the medical aspects of Missing Stars as well as helping out with the general editing. Armymond and TotallyGeekage are both very welcome additions to the Somnova team, especially now that art production is starting to pick up and demo release actually seems achievable. We'll be doing some rewriting of a few scenes to better define Erik as a character, but it's not expected to delay overall progress at all, since editing and rewriting should still be finished before art is.

-With regards to art, we've got a couple new members in that department as well. Honitsu, already a popular Katawa Shoujo fan-artist, has joined the team and will be lending his talents towards the creation of Annaliese's art. Below, you can see the piece he made as an application to the team before he actually joined. Clearly, he has good taste in heroines.

We have an additional member who has promised to join up in mid-August, following the busy convention season, though we're refraining from naming her right now just in case things don't work out.

-Music production, which has always been solid, might be kicking into high-gear again soon, as one of our busier musicians will be less busy here soon, and thus able to contribute more often again. Which is a good thing, since the world needs more Astartunes.

-Finally, though it's been out in the internet for a while in various other places, we're proud to "formally" show off the updated lineart for one of Natasha's sprites. It's still not final, and has yet to undergo some anatomical corrections, but we feel that it's a marked improvement from the version of the sprite that we've shown before.

That's about all that we have to share at the moment. Please discuss on the forums at your leisure, and look forward to the next update in a couple weeks or so.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Current State of Missing Stars, Pt. 3

The purpose of this post is to clear up a few long-standing misconceptions. If you feel that there are any issues that we as a team haven’t been clear enough with, within reason, feel free to ask after them.

One frequent criticism leveled at us is that we’re simply a bunch of concept art and that that’s all we spend our time making. While some aspect of this is fair, of course, a lot of it is inaccurate. Last Christmas, when we launched the art gallery, which is the bulk of our concept art, it was with an art team of approximately two members. For varying reasons, all of the past artists had left the team, and so we were left with their works in progress. Some were sketches, some were concept pieces, some were even now-defunct sprite-sets. We chose to release those to the public because we had them, and there was no reason not to. There was not a single piece in the gallery that hadn’t previously been for internal use only. In other words, not promo stuff.

Since then, we’ve obviously upped the ante on promotional material, which is entirely my fault. We’d received some complaints about being “too secretive,” and thus we resolved to make more frequent blog posts just providing info on the state of things. It was my opinion that text-only blog posts were boring to read, and so each time we wanted to make one, I would assign an artist to create an accompanying piece. Obviously, this would take away from their time working on in-game assets, a fault which I acknowledge. As stated, the blame for “too much” promo material falls solely with me. From here on out, we’ll be posting blogs less frequently, and possibly only with text. You can still expect a promo piece at most major holidays, though.

Another complaint is that, after nearly 2 years of development, we haven’t shown any in-game assets. The reason behind this, as I’ve stated before, is that we simply don’t have the backgrounds needed to make a full screenshot. Zip. Zero. Zilch. We have some renders done by an old artist who fell ill. The intention was to have them painted over, but we never got that far. Here, you can see one below:

As for BG’s of the quality that you can expect in-game, there aren’t any. Only recently were we joined by a dedicated background artist, and some of our character art team will also be moving to BG’s once the character stuff is all done. That’s a long way in the future, though.

Sprites have been shown in an earlier blog post. At least, an uncolored version of one was. That’s all we have at the moment, because I told the artists to focus on getting all the lineart done before we color anything.

We also just overhauled our UI last week, and so that’s not really presentable either. There are some old designs that we’ve moved away from, but I don’t really see the merit in posting those. And we’re not really comfortable sharing our current design until it’s no longer a work in progress.

Speaking of Work In Progress, I’d also like to clear up the engine issue.

Currently, everything we have, which isn’t much, is in default Ren’Py. As anyone who has used Ren’Py will tell you, it’s buggy and has a lot of issues that aren’t always easy to solve. WIP’s modified version of Ren’Py, which Shiz improved in a number of ways, fixed some of these issues that we’d had, or at least did things that we knew we would need to do at some point.

We knew that WIP had a somewhat open license, and so the idea was suggested that we maybe build using their engine. In the interview, it was misspoken that we were definitely going to be using it, and things spread from there. At no point would we ever dream of using someone else’s work without their explicit permission - we just hadn’t yet asked for it because we didn’t even know if we wanted to use their modified engine. We've explained the situation to SSS and they acknowledged the misunderstanding. Hopefully this clears up any misconceptions that our respective audiences might have on the issue, too.

The last common misconception concerns our most recent blog post about seeking medical advisors. A few readers took that to mean that at no point in development have we had medical consulting, and that now that our demo script is completed, we wanted to change that. In reality, there have been medical advisors from the project’s inception up until the last couple months, in which they both dropped off the face of the internet. The advisors we were searching for would be replacements, not the first of their kind. To that end, we’re happy to announce that we’ve accepted a couple qualified candidates to our team, thus bringing our search to an end.

Lastly, one more issue that I’d like to address is: demo when? Put simply, I don’t know. We’re on track for our internal deadlines, which are going to stay internal. What this means is that we’re making good progress, with no signs of slowing down. That said, unforeseen delays do occur, and I’ve also been wrong with my estimates before. Thus, we’re going to stop announcing demo release dates that we later have to rescind on, as it only creates undue hype that’s not fair to us nor to you guys. Until such point as the end is clearly in sight, we’re pretty much going to be saying “it’s done when it’s done.” We hope you understand.

So, to summarize: No in-game screenshots because we don’t have all the in-game assets needed. We’re not stealing WIP’s code, nor have we ever planned to. Once we had medbros, and now we have medbros again. No idea on when the demo will be out, but we’re going to stop making public guesses about it.

As stated at the start of this post, if there’s anything you’re still curious about or think that we forgot to mention, don’t hesitate to ask. You can also discuss this post on the forums, of course.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Seeking Medical Advisors

It's my favorite time: recruitment time! Currently, we're on the search for a medical advisor or two - a team member whose role we affectionately call "medbros." As a medbro, you'd serve as a second pair of eyes, reading over some crucial scenes in Missing Stars and checking them for medical accuracy, as far as symptoms and expression go. It's very much an editor position, just with a specialization.

If you do choose to apply, please understand that we will expect some actual credentials in the field of mental illness. While you don't have to be a PhD or leading researcher, you do need to be more than an armchair psychologist. I don't have any strict criteria for what counts as "valid" credentials, but basically if you can prove that you know what you're talking about, then you probably count.

Interested? Great! Please create a thread on the Developer Recruitment section of our forums, or shoot me a PM. We look forward to hearing from you!

Image by Sendo