• Add Review
  • Subscribe
  • Nominate
  • Submit Media
  • RSS

Announcement

Update

Against emmych’s wishes, I’ve uploaded an update for the game. A lot of unfinished content was cut, as the writing was not done, which makes this update mainly bugfixes, updated graphics, and a few new things. If you played the contest version it’s pretty much identical, just slightly more polished. There’s quite a lot that I did, but can’t re-use for any future projects, so I didn’t want it to go to waste. Plus, it's about the one-year anniversary.

The only other updates will be for game-breaking bugs anyone reports, or something egregiously bad but not necessarily game-breaking. Both versions are open projects, so feel free to crack them open and see how things work or use my art or whatever you want.

Edit: Since someone asked, I'd prefer if people didn't do let's plays or make videos of this game.

Announcement

Future Spirits: not in this incarnation, unfortunately!

Hey, folks! I have some bad news for you all today.

I'm quitting working on this! Which sucks, since I'm still pretty proud of it and wish things could continue. However, circumstances have changed as such that working at this game is no longer an option for me.

If you're interested in the future adventures of Kozmin and Lana, you can head on over to my art blog where I will (hopefully!) post some cool stuff, short stories, and all that cool stuff. I also have other projects on here that you can follow, so HEY we'll see how that goes in the future.

If you're interested in Penta's stuff, well, idk where you will find that but HEY you will probably see them bopping around here and there.

You will probably see unused ideas from this in both of our works, so don't worry! Most of the stuff we came up with for this won't rot on the cutting room floor.

I hope everyone who enjoyed the project as is continues to enjoy it, and I hope to share stuff with you in the future. Thank you so, so much for all the support over the past couple months with this! It's been a great learning experience and I'm so glad to have been able to make this.

See ya. <3

Miscellaneous

THANK <3

Holy moly, we got 1 1/2 Misaos! We got the one for Best Setting and tied for Best Atmosphere, so that was lovely.

Thanks a bunch for your votes and continued support! It really means a lot. <3

Um this was a lot shorter than I anticipated, so here's a dog video.



DOGS!!!

Progress Report

New Year New Looks

You like pointing your eyeballs at pictures, right? Good thing I have these pictures around!



This gif shows a lot! We have Enhanced the Aesthetic with screen tints, there’s some extra snazz to the whole “show people items” mechanic (thank TDS for continuing to be Amazing Ruby Codeman), and you can see the new look for dialogue display.

Most importantly, there’s been some A+ improvements to portraits, along with expressions.



Now Jason can become even more beautiful and femme. You probably wouldn’t know it from the contest version alone, but he is nonbinary!



A little-known fact about Kozmin is her relation to Claude Frollo.




Besides portraits and dialogue, I’ve also been working on sprites. Now Lana and Kozmin have a walk cycle instead of shuffling around like they’ve got socks on wood flooring.


Can you guess whose room this is?


Last but not least, there’s a few new maps! Besides the map itself, another addition is the ability to show a white outline that tells you which objects in a room you can interact with. If the colors are a little hard to distinguish, or you just want to know right away what you can examine, press S to show the overlay!

That’s the most exciting stuff for some new visuals. Happy New Year, everyone! Time for me to go back to Photoshop foreverially now

Announcement

Future Spirits Part Deux

Hey, folks! Just a quick note from your ol’ pal Em about the state of affairs over here at Free Spirits HQ.

We’re gonna enter into a (hopefully brief?) hiatus! My health has been p bad, so I need to take a bit of a break. Penta will still be working away at stuff, but me taking a break effectively stops us from moving forward with anything significant.

I'm gonna leave the game status as is, though! We have a complete download up and that's not changing, so EYYY it can stay as is.

Here’s hoping I’ll be back to it pretty soon! In the meantime, thanks for your patience, and I’ll see ya soon. <3

Game Design

How Spirits Work: Gabbing with Ghosts

Last time Em talked about flowcharts, so here’s the next part in how things work: actually turning those flowcharts into events!

The dialogue that appears in an encounter is a little split. Under the troops tab in the database, each troop has an event set to run on turn 0 (before command entry). This event has the dialogue for when you first encounter the ghost, as well as when you return to an encounter after leaving. However, that’s just an appetizer – the main course is in the common events.

Lana and Kozmin have separate talk skills, even though they look identical in the skill menu. They run a common event with the following code:



The only difference is that when Kozmin uses her talk skill, it sets the “who is speaking?” variable to 2.



This is the “sort convo” event that’s called from Lana/Kozmin’s talk skills. As you can see, it exists to figure out which ghost is being addressed. From there it calls a THIRD common event, which has the actual conversation in it.

Link because Big Image

This is a template I use when making those big conversation events. Because event code runs from the top to the bottom, I put situations where the ghost won’t talk first. This is usually because of a state that’s been applied. The label “End Convo” is like an escape clause – whenever the event runs into that label, it skips right to the bottom.

From there, each conversation is divided into topics.



In the flowcharts, you can see how the choices and responses are grouped in those two ovals. A new topic happens whenever it feels appropriate, and Lana/Kozmin either have a new set of things to say or you need to show the ghost an item.

After that, there’s the “who is speaking?” branch, and then it’s a matter of putting the dialogue in the right spot. For topics where you need to show an item, the first thing is checking whether or not you have the item in the first place (a check that’s a new addition!), and then whether or not you’ve shown the item yet. When you use an evidence type of item in battle, it runs its own common event.



They typically look like this. This event checks if you’re using t)he item at the right topic, shows the relevant dialogue/state changes, then removes the item from you inventory. And then back in the main talk event, the next time you use the talk skill, voila! Now the event proceeds because the relevant switch is turned on.

Another big picture of event code.

And this is a snippet of what the final product ends up looking like. This is topic 1 from Dahlia’s encounter, so you can see how things change from flowchart to event. (In-between, there’s an Actual Script where the dialogue is written, but Em handles that part.) You can also see how long these things get!

All those green comments? That’s how I keep things in order. It’s a helpful visual divider, as well as a way to note what the heck all the conditional branches mean, or what’s being discussed in the first place.

Also note the wait of 5 frames before each choice branch. This is done so that there’s a slight delay between advancing the text box and the choice box popping up. Without that delay, it’s easy to accidentally mash enter and choose the first option.

That about wraps it up! There’s some extra garnishes to encounters, like ghost skills and enemy AI, but I’ll save those for another post. For talks about mechanics and events I’m afraid I only have 1 serving per post.

Progress Report

IGMC Results + Updates

The IGMC results are in! Free Spirits won the engine prize for RPG Maker. Getting this announcement on Halloween was quite the spooktacular surprise!



We’ve been working on fresh new content for the game as a whole, but before an Expanded Version, we’ll be putting out a “director’s cut” of sorts for the contest version. The contest version was rushed, no doubt about it. Now that we’re un-rushed, we’ve gone back over and smoothed out some of the problems. We’re also adding some new things that’ll be present in the Expanded Version of the game as well.

So what kinds of changes are we talking here?

Squashed Bugs!

No more getting stun-locked while Beckett does nothing but spit booze at you. No more “Grady claims he gives you sugar but in reality keeps it to himself”. No more “why isn’t Sofya talking to me?” As of this writing, all the known issues have been fixed, and we’ll get a “known issues” type page up soon so this can be documented better.

Besides the outright bugs, there’s just some things several people complained about and we’ve since changed. One of those things is changing the instances of auto-scrolling text. Now you can read every line of Louis Callaghan’s in all its violet-hued glory.

MOOOORE DIALOGUE

That’s right, folks! This visual novel/RPG hybrid is getting even wordier. Those brave souls who play this game and voice-act all the text… now there’s even more! (And thanks to the magic of editing, in some spots there’s actually less)

Much of this dialogue is in the form of extra lines for skills like Dahlia’s Storytelling or more jokes for Rex’s Comedy Act. The skills you might see several times during an encounter and, y’know, it gets dull after a while. We can forgive Dahlia for not remembering if she’s told a story before, but Rex should know better. There’s also new dialogue in skills like Comfort and Nagant, just to try and keep things from feeling stale.

In addition to some fresh stuff for skills, we’ve fiddled with the actual writing in each encounter. Some spirits, like Rex, have been fairly unchanged since we got a lot of good feedback the first time around. Others, like Beckett, have gotten some extra love and rewrites.

We’re Ripping Off Phoenix Wright Even More

One of the new mechanics is the ability to show people items you’ve found. Just walk up to someone and press the S key, and voila!



You can get their opinion.



But do you really want that?


But Also Here’s Another New Thing

Another new thing is flavor text that displays at the start of a turn.



Those with a keen eye might notice this is similar to Undertale’s lines about things like “smells like angry sushi”... which yes! It’s where the inspiration comes from. We’re doing our best to lend our own style to the idea, since this can be a way to communicate fun character things, as well as provide subtle cues on what to do next in an encounter. The lines vary by all kinds of things -- Lana/Kozmin’s moods, the ghost’s moods, or the topic you’re currently discussing in the encounter.

Beckett Gets a Mini Level!



Not only does this provide some context to Lana and Kozmin’s first night on the job, it serves as a handy-dandy quick tutorial for the on-map exploration side of the game, too.

Graphical Updates Let You Tune In to Inner Feelings

There’ll be more portraits. Now people can express themselves in ways other than text. It’s a small thing, but we both feel it adds a lot.



That’s the gist of it. Happy Halloween!

Game Design

How Spirits Work: Flowcharts

Hey, folks! Em here. Remember that post Penta did about the documentation? This is a follow-up piece in which I share my process of plotting out encounters with the ghosts. My job was to take our plan -- the documentation -- and convert it into a flowchart that acted as the skeleton for our encounters. So I’m gonna teach ya how I made those flowcharts, just in case you, too, want to make a game about talking and have no idea how to get started.

The great thing about flowcharts is that they easily translate to branching events in VX Ace! This means that Penta had an easy -- if tedious -- time setting up everything for a ghost encounter, and I had a great guide for writing out dialogue while they did that. It took me a few tries to get the hang of making things, since, I mean…


This was the first flowchart I made, and as you can see, it is a total and complete mess. It’s hard to follow, and who is that good for? No one.


After I got a little better, things started looking more coherent.


Look at this beautiful rectangle. Rectangles are perfect.


I use draw.io, but you could use pretty much any flowchart maker you fancied. I lit picked this one because it was the first one I bumped into when I googled “how to make a flowchart online” or something similar.

Before I make a flowchart, Penta and I brainstorm what we want to cover in an encounter. We’ll figure out 1) what the ghost’s main point of conflict is, 2) how Kozmin and Lana feel about that conflict overall, and if there are any relevant things in their characters that should come up, and 3) how we want everything to be resolved. With that in mind, I start right at the beginning of the encounter and go from there sequentially until I reach the end.

No, really, that’s it. I improvise a conversation between the characters present and see how it goes. Sometimes it goes off on tangents or gets stuck somewhere. In those cases, I step away from the convo for a bit and either think it over or brainstorm it with Penta and other pals until I come up with a solution. Sometimes it’s a topic the characters can jump to, sometimes it means pruning off a branch and starting over. It’s a fairly organic process that’s fun and relaxing, surprisingly enough!

For the game design side of this, it’s super important to do the critical path first, and make sure all important information is in that path. If you keep important info in an optional branch, a player may miss it and be confused later on. This is why I tend to carve out the critical path before adding on the incorrect, optional paths, just so I stay clear and avoid becoming confused myself! Obviously, if I get a sudden jolt of inspiration, I’ll add something in…


Because look slapping on gags is WHAT I DO.


You can also note from that last screenshot that I don’t write these up with anything even approaching professionalism! I try to keep them coherent enough that I’ll be able to understand what I meant when I hop back to it for writing dialogue, but for the most part I jot them out like notes and try to get the whole thing done as fast as I can. This is not a process that will work for everyone! I personally work better when I do something all in one go, as fast as I can, and then go back to smooth out wrinkles later.

Really, if there’s anything to take away from this, it’s 1) improvise and have fun! If you keep your energy up, you may come up with inspired ideas, and 2) DO THE CRITICAL PATH FIRST AAAAHHHH. THAT’S SO IMPORTANT…

Lemme know if you have any questions about stuff I didn’t cover here! I tried my best to outline my process, but I may have missed stuff.

Thanks for reading!

Announcement

PSA: The Gender Stuff

This is less of an update post and more of a PSA! Yeah, we’re working on some stuff we’ll hopefully have done before the end of October, but that’ll be a nice surprise for later. That being said, this is a game with several trans characters, and while we don’t expect people who play this game to know everything ever about trans experiences, there’s just a few things we’d like to note.

  • The primary audience, i.e. the kinds of people this game was made for, are people who are trans and want to see more games with trans characters. We didn't approach the writing thinking about whether or not cisgender folks would understand this aspect of the characters. If you felt that someone’s appearance did not match your expectations, that was something we didn’t feel the need to explain or justify.

    This is a game with trans characters, but it’s not a game that’s about being trans. There is conflict related to characters like Lana's gender, it’s just not the focus of the game.
  • The exact details of how Kozmin views her gender aren't explicitly laid out. She is androgynous, in that she uses she/her pronouns but male forms of dress and address (Mr., sir, etc.). If this was modern day Kozmin, she might identify herself as nonbinary, but Kozmin doesn't express herself using that language and nonbinary is an intentionally broad label for her. There's a lot of ways you could talk about her gender. However, she does clearly specify that she's not a woman. She’s also not a man.



    Alright, full disclosure: the conditional branch that leads to this specific response is bugged in the IGMC release! But it’s in there and that bug has since been fixed.


    It's not uncommon to see people use the pronoun "he" when they mean to be gender-neutral. When using "she" in reference to Kozmin, this is a similar idea. Even though she may be referred to as "Lana's sister", it's important to note that how someone is labeled by others does not describe how someone views themself. (For what it’s worth, when writing about the game we refer to Kozmin as “Lana’s sibling” and talk about “the Kozmin siblings”.) Kozmin is a fictional character, and we the creators are telling you she’s not a woman even though it might "seem" that way. Kozmin's gender is a way to present someone who is pretty masculine, while trying to avoid thinking of “androgynous” as inherently meaning “masculine”.

    If all of this is confusing to you, that's okay! This may legit be the first time you've heard about nonbinary people. Nonbinary is simply "not binary", as in not a binary gender. This means not thinking of gender as "male or female" (which is like a binary yes/no) and instead considering gender as a spectrum with many different possibilities. Here’s a starting point if you’re interested in learning more.


  • Mortimer is a woman; try not to get hung up on her name or whether or not she looks “masculine”. Yes, she’s a trans woman, but whatever reasoning you may have for thinking she looks masculine, I guarantee there are cisgender women with similar physical features or styles of dress. Women in pretty much any type of media are often portrayed in exaggerated ways, with a very narrow idea of what it is that makes someone a woman.


  • It’s not historically inaccurate to have trans characters. This is also not unrealistic, and definitely isn’t as unrealistic or historically inaccurate as things like chatting up ghosts.


This game has received a very positive response and much more attention than either of us expected! That is cool and great and wonderful. And even with regards to the trans characters, for the most part people have been cool about it and that’s lovely. As far as we’ve seen, there’s only been a couple instances of someone saying something cringeworthy. This is just to clear up some misconceptions we’ve seen floating around, as well as clarify for anyone who felt confused about things like Kozmin’s gender.

No funny pictures to close out this post, but as usual thanks for all the support and feedback! It’s being used to make this game even better.

Announcement

Hot dog, we made it to the Top 10!

You can check out the list of all the other wonderful folks who made it in as well by clicking this link!

Speakin' for myself, I gotta say: wowie!! Honestly, I never expected the reception we got. I knew Penta and I had made a cool thing, but the fact so many other people have found it enjoyable is both humbling and wonderful. <3

Everyone, thank you so much for your continued support and encouragement. It's inspiring! It makes me tear up a little! I did a little happy dance on my bed this morning, even.

There's really not much else to say, so if you're feelin' like I skimped on Sweet Blog Content, you can imagine me screaming excitedly into the void for 40 hours, because that is what I am doing. Also, here is Penta's contribution:


Pictured here: Muriel after a few sessions at the gym.


I look forward to sharing more of this game with you all, regardless of the outcome of this contest.

And hey, someone's streamin' the game tonight!
In around two hours, there'll be a playthrough going on at this link. Penta and I will both be there, so feel free to drop on in and say hi~
Pages: first 12 next last