[3:19:58 PM] Duane: insects were huge because of higher oxygen in the atmosphere not 
                    because of the orbit of the moon
[3:20:09 PM] Duane: and that was another age before jurassic
[3:20:28 PM] Duane: therapods have runners' legs, sure
[3:21:07 PM] Duane: but this animal had to have incredible balance to avoid killing itself 
                    running at a clip
[3:21:30 PM] Duane: and inner ear balance is a gift that came to mammals

[3:21:43 PM] Papu: here's where the feathers come in

[3:21:52 PM] Duane: sensory arrays?

[3:21:57 PM] Papu: flight
[3:22:49 PM] Papu: big tail, feathered, spinning at supersonic speed
[3:23:11 PM] Papu: the legs weren't for running
[3:23:18 PM] Papu: but for liftoff
[3:23:32 PM] Papu: then they buzzed the ground at 10-14 inches
[3:23:39 PM] Papu: mouth opened
[3:24:11 PM] Papu: legs spread for drag
[3:24:18 PM] Papu: together for thrust

[3:25:03 PM] Duane: ...

[3:25:11 PM] Papu: but you can imagine a droning squadron of t rex gunships like the 7th 
                   armoured cav sweeping over the beaches of da nang
[3:25:21 PM] Papu: complete with Wagner

[3:25:29 PM] Duane: you were adopted, you know this right

Happy 4th of July

Posted by: DuaneMoody in Uncategorized No Comments »

Happy Birthday America from the American Jurassic dev team.

Mindin’ your language

Posted by: DuaneMoody in observations No Comments »

When writing a period piece, one of the more enticing traps for a writer is the misuse of dialect. Like any seasoning, what in small amounts adds a bit of character can become an annoying topnote if used without care. Use none, and the result is flavorless.

Film/tv scriptwriters frequently oversimplify 19th century frontier America’s manner of speech down to bumpkin dialect and/or pidgin grammar (e.g., the construction “all $ADJECTIVE-like” because ostensibly no one knew of adverbs). Like most cliché, this is borne of writers fed only on movies and television. The truth of the matter is more complex, and even ironic at times. Where you expect to come across differences, you find similarities instead, and vice versa:

  • The most common slang terms for genitals then were the same we use today, but of all the words and phrases used for “firearm,” “gun” was still reserved for its original meaning, “cannon.”
  • Many euphemisms were sarcastic jabs at Victorian speech and mores, but the comparative absence of derogatory terms for women makes it clear no matter how scuffed a Westerner’s boots got, he kept his respect for the fairer sex polished.
  • HBO had to modernize Al Swearingen’s vocabulary on “Deadwood” to the point of anachronism because what was actually shocking, taboo and coarse back then are what we mutter when we stub a toe, and even the fantastic Ian McShane can’t quite sell “Goddamnit” as though people should faint to hear it.

There’s a peculiar irony to pursuing historical accuracy in a story blending cowboys and prehistoric reptiles, but these days audiences seem to know when you’re phoning it in. We’re taking our share of artistic liberties, sure, but in a visual novel length work, there’s more talk to notice than in 84 pages of screenplay (double spaced, I might add).



Posted by: DuaneMoody in Progress reports No Comments »

A few updates to (hopefully) keep us current:

We missed the deadline to get a table at AX ’13 but there’s always next year. We’ll be easy to find, just look for the guys hovering around Dischan’s table (like last year).

Reference photographs broke the 1,000 mark last week (!) and we’ve begun to wonder whether they should be released as a fandisc (the sticking point being unable to find an open source slideshow engine).

prairie dog (1 year) Just a few days ago I was fortunate enough to interview a noted prairie dog researcher at a nearby university. These heart-melting diminutive desert rodents (seen at right) have evolved a complex enough language to warn one another about a predator’s size, color, speed and even species, so it’s a given that we’d want to know how they would communicate to each other the concept “therazinosaur.” How that plays out is of course, under wraps.

Regrettably we had to scrap the Barly’s Saloon Faro card minigame when we realized it takes more time to learn the rules than play a full hand. My “Western Trivia” interludes between scenes was voted down by every other dev team member; I have resolved to be civil about this.

In two weeks, it’ll have been three months since the last blog entry, so as exec producer it falls to me to periodically remind people we haven’t gone full tumbleweed. The obligatory update: Dev meetings have regained momentum despite a few pauses (including a dev’s recent relocation to the West—howdy, tenderfoot), but rather than bore you with writer fights over dibs on scenes, a project comment instead.

Over on a forum, people were discussing voiced versus unvoiced visual novels; it was again mentioned that a number of hardcore Japanese visual novel fans refuse to read unvoiced VNs, and one of the more well-known EVNs deliberately imitating JVNs did indeed catch some flak for its lack of voicework. It wouldn’t have been impossible to add it, but the risks outweighed the benefits (most importantly, the long-overdue project’s release date).

One of the allures of VN development is how accessible the tools are to the average person once you have a team able to provide the necessary assets, and how quickly those assets can be employed. Composers tend to have the proper musical software, artists already know their way around their weapons of choice, and the writers as usual have the unglamorous word processors. More importantly, most last-minute changes can be done on the fly, which is a marvel to those of us who used to work in print and remember the terror of opening a box and examining a print job for mistakes.

Voicework is a game-changer. Just as uncanny art can ruin a VN experience faster than bad writing will, or inappropriate musical direction breaks your immersion, mediocre voicework / bad audio engineering can end willing suspension of disbelief or even make good lines sound terrible. It’s telling that a company like JAST will convince a Japanese publisher to license a VN translation for a fraction of its original price, hire a TL team to get a good idiomatic translation and negotiate overseas with the publisher’s programmers to have the VN recompiled with the TL text, but they won’t invest in having those VNs revoiced.

While accounts vary, voicework is one of the most expensive aspects (in both literal costs and production time) of commercial visual novel development. In western video game development, a typical recording session is four hours long. A voice director in-studio requests multiple retakes with different moods and inflections so that editors down the line can choose the one they like best. Because of multiple retakes, the audio engineer’s going to end up actually only using a fraction of that session’s material (unless the actor is acing everything on their first take and convincing the director not to need retakes). It might well end up taking 3x the amount of spoken time to record the dialogue, if not more.

Say you have a best-case scenario: a great actor who can do multiple characters, has a solid home studio setup and delivers perfect takes the first time, every time, on schedule. You’re in the middle of beta testing, this close to release and a tester notes a glaring continuity mistake referenced in the dialogue; multiple times, as a matter of fact. The actor’s on vacation in the Bahamas. You can pinch hit a number of things when you have to, but most of us don’t have Jim Cummings or Billy West on speed dial to voicematch your actor.

There’s also a pragmatic consideration: people who read books (you know, the paper things) envision the characters in their mind, including forming a mental voice to match each of them, because that’s what our brains do when information’s missing. Conveniently, we never miscast that voice, either.

For the time being, most EVNs are unvoiced and the necessities of doujin production will likely keep it that way for a while.


Merry Christmas from Pier 7!


Posted by: DuaneMoody in observations, Progress reports No Comments »

[As you might have noticed, we came to the end of our character reveals a month ago with Sheriff Wilks. The actual business of production is taking priority here on AJ, so we'll be keeping you aware we're still alive but not necessarily on a weekly schedule.]


Making a VN not set in the usual eastern/fantasy settings isn’t as much of a challenge as some might think. Medium nor genre dictate content that strictly.

A more, let us say, energetic exercise is taking what’s arguably a crack premise (“Cowboys. Dinosaurs. Romance.”) and staying true to all of the constituent elements while keeping you engaged. In other words, we have to take the idea seriously if we expect you to.

In a sense, it’s “Iron Chef, VN edition”: take what you’re given, use what you know to make something exciting and new with it, and keep Chef Morimoto away from the ice cream machine lest he make trout sorbet.

Some might be asking if we’re not just taking the piss by adding yet another project combining a ludicrous premise with multiple heroines to the slush pile of VN projects in progress. To be honest, when I came up with the concept a few years back I wasn’t so sure myself, but research has a way of fleshing things out and telling you stories you didn’t expect.

Now it’s our turn to do the same. Adventure, romance, slice of life, humor, heartbreak, and suspense are the least we owe you; as you move through the lives of the frontier women in this story, perhaps you might find something else along the way.

Just perhaps.

Sheriff Euell Wilks

Posted by: DuaneMoody in character studies No Comments »

Jovial, rotund Sheriff Euell Wilks has been Fable’s lawman for eight years, and idly remembers when the town was younger and crime was kids stealing penny candy from Teagle’s General Store. Sheriff Wilks doesn’t let the limp he got in the War Between the States prevent him from keeping the peace when things get too rowdy. A local fixture at Barly’s, Wilks has an eye for the ladies but so far hasn’t had much luck with getting one.

Mattie Crosbie

Posted by: DuaneMoody in character studies No Comments »

Oil-smeared Mattie Crosbie is the town bicycle repairman and mechanic. Eccentric, perceptive of some things and utterly clueless on others, Mattie’s social skills aren’t always on par with a mind out of place in the late 19th century. A lab filled with mechanical creations and contraptions in various stages of completion is this inventor’s most regular company – except for frequent visitor Emily, convinced she can find the right girl for him. So far, the women who’ve gone along with Emily’s matchmaking have left in a huff, uninterested in discussing the stars, chemistry or physics with this odd duck. Most days, Mattie’d rather be off tweaking things than get in the fray.

Judd Markham

Posted by: DuaneMoody in character studies No Comments »

During Schuyler’s departure, the well-heeled Markham family has gradually acquired most of the surrounding ranchland in Fable. Up and coming scion Judd Markham has taken note of the troubles at the Bennett ranch and has made several visits to Emily in hopes she’ll find it in her heart to become his fiancée.

Groomed to the point of dandy but unctuous and frequently tripped up by grammar, Judd is a determined young man aiming to succeed his aging, reclusive patriarch and steward Fable – if not more. Unaccustomed to being told “no,” the locals have learned not to cross his path.

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