2015 review & 2016 plans

Happy holidays to all of our readers! To end 2015 on a high note, here’s a review of everything that happened this year, as well as our plans for the upcoming year.


One of the drawings Orties made for our artbook :3

If you remember correctly, 2014 was a crazy year: we released no less than four games, made goodies, including remakes of our oldest games, ran a booth at Japan Expo and completely renewed the devblog (by adding a website). I promised myself to slow down a bit to avoid exploding. Was 2015 calmer?

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What visual novel development taught me

Today, I want to come back to the differents projects the team made in order to comment our progression.

Indeed, even if things are slowly changing with the increase of early access games, one often only get a hold of a game through its finale version, in other words, it’s most complete and most accomplished version. An average player may get under the impression that the differents pieces are coming together thanks to some kind of evolution stone to change into a piece of art. Reality is less glamorous but way more reassuring : creating is something you have to learn. The bad news is that it involves a lot of work, the good news is that anyone can try it out. And the Träumendes Mädchen team is no exception, especially me who has the job of being the “leader”. It’s been almost three years now and I’ve learned so much thanks to my teammates, particularly with programming. So I want to draw up some kind of report.


June 2012 : Being Beauteous

Some of the first drafts by Morsy. She improved a lot since then!

Back then, the team had already gathered around Milk and we floundered so hard. I was aware we were jumping the gun when we started with a project this big and I really wanted to make up for that with something short. The first version of Being Beauteous was born like that and we planned to make it during some French contest that happened in a small convention. Even if it didn’t looked much, BB hold a special place in my heart because it was our first completed project. It was really simple (text and some CGs) but we did have troubles during the competition because of the GUI. So it’s only with the 2nd version (the first available one actually) that we managed to fix those bugs. Also, we slowly realized that having a translation was really important to share our works to folks around the world.

What I learned : to finish a project, to make a bug-less GUI, to understand the importance of an English translation.


February 2013 : 1st Episode of Milk

Another draft by Morsy. In the end, those variations never got into the game.

The deliivery of Milk’s 1st Espidode was a real ordeal because it took us like a whole year to see the end of the tunnel. It must be said that there was a lot of content to deal with for such a young team and I immediately understood that we couldn’t go on like that. After all, we were supposed to release the whole game in a row after that! I realized it was impossible and change the plan to an episodic publication. Hence why the demo became “1st episode”. It was also a chance to get to know Renpy a bit better (choosing a custom font, juggle with all the numerous sprites and numerous expressions). Milk’s presentation was really simple and we made a lot of mistakes but I think it was a prerequisite for what came after. Most of the mistakes were corrected (the GUI) or are pending for correction since then (*cough* the scenario). It should be noted that we released the visual novel both in French and English at that time, not without pain.

What I learned : to write a visual novel, to finish a bigger project (without dying), to draw a GUI, to make a siultaneous translation, to manage sprites and expressions.


April 2013 : Ambre

I think we all understand why Melow did the game illustrations and not me 8)

Once Milk’s Episode was behind us, I had to tackle Nanoreno! It wasn’t a technical challenge (because the story was linear)  but it sure was a litterary one. Granted the deadline was a pretty difficult thing to handle too but I planned the game not to need too much assets. But really, my personal challenge was to write a short story that would inlude some kind of memorable ending, something striking. Even thought the result wasn’t perfect, I’m relatively proud of the outcome, I think the intended result is here. Ambre was also a good chance to make progress on GUI and animation. We included some light animation for the first time with the petals on the main scene and we tried something with the leafs on the city background. Some elements you would find again in the next release.

What I learned : to write a visual novel while paying attention to the assets needed, to finish a project quickly, to write a story with a memorable ending, to join an event.


March 2014 : 2nd Episode of Milk

A pretty sketch by Elairin

We took almost a year on this one again but it was mostly because of the turn-over inside the team. This second episode was mostly a validation of what we made with the first one. Indeed, many project don’t get past the demo stade, so releasing a new part of the story was a symbolic move. We wanted to show we were still game and that we wouldn’t give up so easily. We took that opportunity to change the GUI (and it was way more difficult than you would imagine!) and include animated backgrounds for the first time. Well, there are only 2 or 3 of them but it was a way to slowly get accustomed to the process.

What I learned : to carry on an under way project, to include animated backgrounds, to renew a team.


April 2014 : HVNCML

First GUI tests by Xian

Once again, I wanted to tackle Nanoreno, and once again Milk’s production was late. In 2013 we managed to finish two weeks before the beginning of the contest, this time we finished in the middle of it! Under these circumstances, it was rather difficult to deliver. HVNCML was born a whole week after the deadline. I didn’t write any postmortem because the whole game can be considered one (with a comic point of view). Back then, it was our first technical challenge because I only wanted to try my hand at a IRC-line GUI and didn’t have much planned to use it afterwards. Well, you can consider that making some part of your life public was also a challenge. In a way…it is. This little visual novel was supposed to be a funny extra to the fans that were wondering what we were doing everyday and how our meetings looked like. Yet several people who didn’t know us played it too. It was kind of embarrasing, a bit like getting naked in front of strangers. The whole approach does suppose some trust with the audience.

What I learned : to juggle between several projects at the same time, to try an IRC-like GUI, to reveal my stupidity to the world.


July 2014/September 2014 : 3rd Episode of Milk

Orties trademark: writing nonsense on her drawings :p

Milk’s third episode is really seen as an exception among our works because it’s the only damn game that went “easily”. Meaning that we didn’t enconter any particular issue (except a small false note with the translation that wasn’t immediately ready). If anything could happen like that, visual novel dev would be so easy XD. It’s all the more surprising considering we had a lot of pressure due to the fact we promised this part would be ready for Japan Expo, a French convention. The third episode also marked the spread of backgrounds animation.

What I learned : to meet a non-negotiable deadline, to spread backgrounds animation, to release a game in a relaxed way.


August 2014 : Garden of Oblivion

A relatively accurate Ludum Dare metaphor…

In the same vein as HVNCML, Garden of Oblivion was planned as a technical challenge: I wanted to put tradionnal visual novel aside to include some point & click elements instead. With an incredibly stressful deadline (Nanoreno is a stroll in a park in omparison). If the graphic part was irreproachable, the coding part was rather…wild. The first version we returned didn’t match my expectations at all and we had to add a whole week of work to get to the result with the second version. The other challenge was for me to write directly in English with the bare minimum of preparation to fit the gamejam spirit. And I’m reserved about the final result, I could have done better. At least, I managed to include more diversity among the characters. The fact remains that the community experience was on par! Ludum Dare really is a big gathering of people and that forms bonds. If you wanna know more, read the postmortem I made right after the competition.

What I learned : to write directly in English, to jon a bigger event, to learn programming in the field, to make an hybrid VN/P&C, to discover the joy of polishing, to include a bit more diversity in a cast.


Spring 2015 (?) : 4th Episode of Milk

Orties really likes to write on her drawings…

Milk’s forth episode isn’t out yet but I feel I learned so much already. I think it’s starting from this point that I really felt confortable with RenPy. To the point that I now like to rummage through the script to improve what I can improve. It wouldn’t have happened without slowly getting familiar with the engine, project after project, and the help of Keul. The direct consequence is that this episode is full of small alterations: adjusting the brightness of sprites during night scenes, adjusting the height of non-human sprites, adjusting the font to be more readable, adjusting some transitions to be more dynamic, adjusting sound effect to fit the mood better, light animations on the illustrations. Currently, that’s the work I’m the most proud about and I hope those little things will make the read more interesting, even if they’re not that useful. I also started asking the artists to try different presentation styles (object on top of the background, insert chibi, CG cut in half, CG with many variations).

What I learned : to have a good command of RenPy, to use all my time doing alterations nobody will ever notice, to use sound effects effectively, to experiment different presentations.


April 2015 (?) : Ludum Dare 2

Since the game’s production hasn’t started, for logic reason, here’s a scene from Milk Episode 4.

Since we’re planning to enter Ludum Dare again, this part will mostly be anticipation considering we didn’t even begin the project! My main goal is to break the linearity of all our projects so far. Making choices is quite a complex thing to incorporate into a story and as a litterary person, I have trouble with that and I need to learn to write differently. It’s pretty ambitious considering the short deadline but I’ll try to stick to that goal, even if it means releasing a polished version later on. The other goal is to go out of my comfort zone with writing and talk about what I want to talk in a more…frontal manner. Indeed, many of my works address our relation to the norm and try to challenge that notion but it’s mostly told in a tacit fashion. I want to go further and stop censoring myself so much. In this perspective, I want to stage characters different from usual, under-represented ones. Like disable people. Furthermore, I plan to rest on what I learned with all the projects we made up until this point to make a game that’ll make me proud. We’ll see if we’ll manage.

What I want to learn : to make th most of what I learned so far, to write an actual interactive visual novel with branching, to make diversity an essential component of the cast, to prevent myself from self-censorship, to master Renpy enough to not have a hard time…to make a good game?



I just wanted to share another scene from Milk Episode 4.

This little overview shows that an individual (just like a team) need time to gain self-confidence and skills. Time to make mistakes, time to correct the mistakes, time to get numerous habits, time to be able to experiment and choose what one wants to do and how. I couldn’t imagine planning the Ludum Dare project years ago, I wouldn’t have felt able to! With this approach in mind (though iterations), the advices from the pros take on their full meaning: always try to make short projects before even tackling the “game of your dreams”.

Everyone need its own pace to learn but nobody can make miracles without any experience whatsoever. The issues of some visual novel Kickstarter are really enlightening in this respect: almost all the projects made by beginners (such as the ones who bragged about the campaign being their first visual novel) are currently running into difficulties and are having troubles keeping their promises. Likewise, the Katawa Shoujo spiritual heirs have disappeared and the few survivors are stuck on demo phase.

Moral : Don’t jump the gun, start small. Wait until you feel ready before shifting up a gear, it can only do you good ;).

2014 was a challenging year

Let’s bring 2014 to a close with a little report of everything that happened this year (like what we did last January).

To begin with, we released Episode 2 from Milk ~La légende des étoiles during mid-March. It was a bit hasty to my taste since we were late in relation to my estimations, and we had to rush through the release to tackle the next task. Which is a shame and I really don’t want the same mistake to recur.


The good news is that with Episode 2, Milk was officially heading towards Khzi’s part that I loved to write and that contrasts a lot with what I wrote for Episode 1. The cows and Tarô aren’t the main characters anymore and just accompany the long story narrated by our nutty alien. I think Khzi has everything to be popular and the various feedbacks I got confirm that impression. Freyja seems to have fans too, I find that amusing XD.

The key element with this release is essentially our transition to the current team (who gained experience during the journey). We still have a big gap between the art assets but we’ll solve the issue in due course. The current style should stay at least for a while even if we’re not immune to something unexpected.
March was also the month of Nanoreno, and I went from Milk to How visual novel changed my life, released in April, without transition. The artists’s work was precisely limited to avoid burnout so the gain was mostly based on text and programmation. Which turned out to be a nightmare… Overwhelmed, I had to infringe upon my on-the-job training schedule in order to finish the script (and integrate the translation, while I’m at it). The whole thing with an even moreunpredictable  Keul. I copped it, which may explain why the game was a bit delayed. And I thought it would only be a little gift to please our fans. That’ll teach me to do too many things at the same time =’D.


Since HVNCML was just a small thing without pretention, I didn’t expect much. So, many month later, I’m really surprised to see people discovering us like that, I sure hope they won’t take fright because of what I wrote XD.


Two visual novel in a year is quite decent, except that we never stop. Never. The big project of the year was of course the team going to the Japan Expo convention. I won’t hide hide, it’s tottaly because of the Endless Seasons guys, they have a catching enthusiasm and were looking for people to share their booth with anyway :p. In the end, Projet Saya offered to supervise and we managed to convince Atelier Dreamnoid to join us in this crazy ride. The preparation was huge, no organiser wanted to leave things to chance, so we ask every participant for thei opinion many times in oder to be in the same wavelength. The Träumendes Mädchen team had to finish many things, with the weight of the crowdfunding campaing on our shoulders, like Episode 3 and some goodies. The remakes got added really fast with the success of the first strechgoal. Thanks to our artists, including Orties and Melow who produces most of the drawings between the two of them, everything turned up alright.

In the end, it was an enriching experience. For a first time in the convention world, I think the team did a good enough job and it was a pleasure to meet everyone IRL and spend time with fellow developpers.


Once again, it should have been enough but we had to give ourselves more work =’D. The summer end was a good opportunity to put webdesign under construction. The old devblog wasn’t suitable anymore, we wanted a real “shop front” and not a messy page. If posisble, the site had to be both in English and French for pratical reasons. The result still isn’t perfect but we’re working on it!

title screenIcing on the cake, we tried a new game jam : the Ludum Dare. With an even more challenging goal than Nanoreno and a different community, we were assured we need a lot of coffee and wouldn’t get much sleep. Many difficulties made the experience a bit painful on my side (I must be a masochist XD), the team did finish a game in time. Of course, it couldn’t be a big complex one (don’t forget it was done in a weekend) but Garden of Oblivion, published betwee August and September, was the perfect opportunity to male a real game from scratch. We did rely on what we knew well (visual novel) and the result has the same vibed but we learned a lot.

The rest of the year (not much left) was used to progress on Milk Episode 4 and some various little things : like the dematerialised version of the games we sold at Japan Expo, the arranged OST of Being Beauteous by Roganis, a big giveaway, etc.

To conclude,the planning I had in mind for 2014 was loaded and the team used a lot of energy to make it possible. It’s an achievement I’m very proud of and I shouldn’t try to do as much this year if I don’t want my lovely teammates to die of weariness…

I’ll make another post early January to reveal what we’re gonna do in 2015 (a year as surprising as the last one, I hope), so meanwhile I wish you a merry Christmas. Also, here’s a cute Christmas Miruku by Melow ;).

Nanoreno project release : HVNCML !


It hasn’t even been a month after the release of Milk Episode 2 (go read it if you haven’t by the way), and the team is already back with a new visual novel made for Nanoreno 2014 !

Well, I should warn you right away it isn’t a real game with a strong plot or anything like that, it’s really not the same as we did for Ambre last year. Instead, you’ll get adventures inspired by the life of the Traumendes Madchen members (we won’t say what’s made-up). With a common thread, of course. Our goal wasn’t to make a very serious visual novel, but to show you what our work looks like on the other side.

It was also a good opportunity to experiment a new presentation. Since we’re actually quite happy with how it turned out, we might use a similar system in the future. If the story needs so.


You can now enjoy this mountain of non-sense via its download page. A little surprise could be hinted through the story…

Now that half of our 2014 projects are done, it’s time to work on the other half. And it’s the right time because a big announcement is going to show up real soon ~