Friday, March 6, 2009

If there's a hole, you must thrust into it

NaNoWriMo, as you might or might not know, is short for National Novel Writing Month, a yearly challenge of sorts for all the amateur writers to write a full novel from scratch in the period of one month. It's thought that this kind of friendly contest will motivate the notoriously lazy writers to actually finish something instead of tailspinning into having three chapters and a half-thought outline of THE BEST NOVEL EVER that will never amount to anything. Results, as I have understood, are mixed but mostly positive. Lemmasoft Forums, the de facto nexus of OELVN scene, has adopted this idea into NaNoRenO, (Inter)National Ren'ai Game Writing Month (yes the abbreviation doesn't make much sense), a similar event in which people take the month of March to create a game from scratch... except if they don't (we'll get back to this later). Anyway, as March 2009 slowly rolled in, people were preparing for their NaNoReNo projects. In the discussion thread, someone lamented the difficulty of obtaining the non-writing assets for their game within the one-month timeframe. It was pointed out that various free resources available in the depths of the internet can very well be used to fill the gaping hole in his assets, and the following creed was given to guide and encourage the would-be visual novelist:

"Don't let the lack of original material prevent you from making a game!"

Wow. This idea, this concept, presented in the most innocent and well-meaning manner really caught the eye of someone (can't remember who) in 4LS and stirred up quite a polemic on the IRC channel. The philosophic connotations of this single sentence blew our minds. Does it or doesn't it go against the spirit of the event? I mean, you are supposed to make a VN from scratch in a month, after all. But if using stock material is a-ok, how far can this idea be taken? What if you want to make a VN, but you have absolutely no talent in any of the fields required to make one? And what if you also don't have any contacts to people who do have talent? While it's no news that people use free resources when it's convenient for them, we hadn't thought before that an entire game could be done with stock material. This notion just raised more and more questions. If you were to do something like that, would you actually have created anything at all? What would be the worth of such a piece of art? There was something pure, something primal in the way this poster expressed the idea, we all were awestruck with its prophetic beauty and unintentional comedic value. It was too beautiful, too strong to resist. We wanted to believe. We wanted to make a NaNoRenO game. We wanted to take it to the limit. And God be my witness, the lack of original material wasn't going to stop us.

And that's the story of how delta talked himself into producing a visual novel without any original content whatsoever.

As for the actual production, the biggest (only) hurdles were deciding what public domain piece to adapt, and to find free resources to do it. For the first problem, delta had a fling with a few longer classic plays before finally ending up with Pyramus and Thisbe, the play-within-a-play from Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. While he was wrestling with the adaptation, I scrounged the web for sprites that would be of sufficient quality, quantity and style (originally, delta intended to go with Romeo and Juliet, but its gigantic cast and length proved to be too prohibitive). Backgrounds and music were considerably easier to find, and thusly, after the required scripting in Ren'py, we present the second Four Leaf Studios visual novel:

Download it from the pXt minisite


P.S. A superior presentation: The Beatles performing Pyramus and Thisbe