Let’s talk customization.
Many visual novels don’t allow much customization of your protagonist, if any. Typically you either define nothing, or you’re defining name only, or MAYBE name and two gender options. Since Arcade Spirits is leaning harder on the RPG side of the spectrum (emphasis on roleplaying, not dice throwing) I wanted a more ambitious character creator than that.
The target I was aiming for was the character creator from Hustle Cat, an adorable VN about working in a cat cafe. There, you’d pick from three skin tones, and two hair styles (long and short) as well as your pronoun (he/she/they). Pretty robust by VN standards, and not too hard to implement, since you just need six variants of the protagonist every time you want to show them.
Nice variety, plenty of representation, all good, let’s call it a day and go home. Right?
Nah. We can do better.
Behold the glory of the latest version of the protagonist creator, coming in the August build of the game!
…okay, bear with me here while I explain exactly why that’s super impressive.
What you see there was a rough developer test of whether or not my crazy new idea would work. It had the same attributes as the last one — hair color, hair length, skin tone, pronoun — but instead of having six variants and needing six images on disk, I stored distinct LAYERS and then recolored them dynamically through code. Now, you could pick not only hair length, but hair COLOR. Oh, and clothing color, because why not?
Here we see the default Ari Cader (top) and a customized protagaonist (bottom). The artwork’s still temporary, I found a creative commons character sprite, but it’s good for proof of concept.
So I went to the renpy discord to show off my work, all proud of it, and my fellow creators gave me this terrific piece of feedback:
“That UI is terrible.”
…thanks buddy, that’s definitely the thing I was actually looking for feedback on, not the hours of work I’d just done on the character system. But hey! While I was going hog wild on customization… why not customize THAT, too?
The default is still our retro neon, but you can also (from the Preferences menu) pick a cool blue pixel motif, or a plain ‘ol grey box if it really sticks in your craw. Play the game how you want, AS who you want to play.
Arcade Spirits is aiming for something a wee bit too ambitious for my first VN project, but I don’t care. I want to do this RIGHT. Do it with all my capability, all my effort, holding nothing back. And that means going the distance for features that will help players get into the game and snuggle in, cozy-like. Hope you enjoy it!