Burnout

Gate-example

Well, it’s my turn to write a blog post. In fact, it’s past my turn >_> I had been wondering what to talk about and someone suggested that I should just write what I wanted, because the important thing was writing it. So since I didn’t feel like writing about something specific to visual novels and I won’t subject anyone to my musings on space and the eccentricities of Cavendish, I am going to write about something a bit more personal. Who knows, it might help.

What I want to talk about is burnout. Now, I’m trained in graphic design, and as a commercial form of a creative job, I’m trained to get stuff done, regardless of if I want to or not. A big part of my degree was learning how to basically force creativity. Things like art block or not feeling like doing something are just not acceptable, it won’t get you paid. And so you learn how to get around the feeling of not being able to think about something. Things like getting all the stupid ideas out, doing stuff traditionally, doing plenty of research. It kind of helps turn the creative process into a logical one. You still run into problems with not being able to get stuff right or being held back by your own skill level, but when push comes to shove, you can get things finished.

But then there is burnout and we are talking a whole other bucket of fish.

It’s something I find frustrating to deal with. I know both my mind and body needs rest and when I start feeling a lack of motivation or feeling angry about working on something, it’s a good sign I need to step back. The problem with that is I might not actually have time to do that if I want to get done what I want to get done. This is where you start wishing for more than 24 hours in a day.

I work full-time so my days can be quite long. Usually I try to come home and get work done as well. When I’m feeling good I work most nights and then all weekend. I’m the sole artist on a commercial project and there is a lot of stuff to get done. And generally I WANT to get it done. But doing it for months on end does slowly take its toll and I start to feel a lack of motivation and a sense of exhaustion.

Though I have been more exhausted before. I haven’t fallen into a puddle of tears because of visual novel work just yet. You know you are tired when you emotionally break like that. In my third year of university I did a lot of all nighters getting stuff done, waking up early to attend lectures, working part-time. It sometimes got to be way too much. But generally it was over shorter time spans, at most 10 weeks in a row, usually with breaks in the middle.

Visual novel work is much slower, and much longer. It’s a really, really long marathon. I’m working on backgrounds now and I was pretty excited to start them for the change. I have 20 done now and even though I only have 7 left, the mountain still seems very high. But I have a deadline I am pretty determined to stick to, no matter what happens. I simply don’t have time to do otherwise.

So, what have a learnt from this? If anything, I’ve figured out I need to plan my time a lot better. BCM started off as one thing and ended up as another and while what we are aiming for is super exciting, it also means I’ve been a bit all over the place with how I did things. Even just working on the projects we have done I have figured out a lot about the way I work, and the way Camille works. Next time I plan to actually do some time management so I don’t force myself into some stupid crunch time. If I do it properly I can make time to give myself rest and occasionally do my own thing instead of being in a mad rush.

One of the other things I think I need to do is figure out a good flow of work. Some way to space out the work and interchange different pieces so I don’t end up doing one thing for months. Everyone works better if there is variety, it keeps you interested. That is something I will have to think on a bit more, since there are also issues of consistency to think about. I think doing some more design work, like GUI and that, could help to since I enjoy design and it’s a different style of thinking.

Apart from that… I don’t think there is much else I can do. I have a day job, visual novels take a certain amount of work, there are only so many hours in a day. I just have to deal with that. It will all be worth it in the end.

I’m 75% the way through my backgrounds and I have until the end of the month to get them done. Let’s do this!

BCM update

Long time no update! Auro and I took some time off to recover from finishing two VNs back-to-back, but we’ve recently started working full steam ahead on Break Chance Memento again. I had some computer trouble—well, that’s a bit of an understatement. My iMac flat-out went kaput and I had to buy another one… I lost everything on my hard drive, but luckily I backed up most everything VN-related, so I just lost my music and some other miscellaneous things. We had a bit of a scare because I had also lost the PSDs for our games’ GUIs, but luckily Lazcht and Auro had kept those saved, so everything ended up being okay and we didn’t lose anything work-related.

As you can see from the image to your left, Auro’s been busily working on the BGs after basically finishing the sprites. She intends to touch up the sprites a bit—particularly the main cast since their sprites were done so long ago—but the hardest work has already been done. She’s also got a couple more BGs to do before she’s done with those, as well. Auro should be completely finished with the sprites and BGs by August, which is when we’re doing our second round of beta testing. Then it’s time for CGs and promotional art!

Writing-wise, I’d been suffering from massive writers’ block that really wasn’t helped by my computer issues, but I’ve been getting back to work steadily over the last couple of days. I finished doing revisions on the earlier chapters and fleshing out Masaharu’s character arc so that he gets more chances to shine. I do want to do a bit more revising still, but I think that finishing new chapters is more important than fixing up my old ones for now. I will eventually have to stop editing this script and release the game to the general public… I have to learn to let go. ;_; Anyway, I’m now back to working on Yukinari’s character arc, which is chapter four out of six for Shuuki’s story. I will finish Shuuki’s half of the game script by the time beta testing starts and hopefully get some more of Natsume’s done, too. I haven’t looked at Natsume’s chapter one in months, so it might also need some heavy revisions before I start on the rest of his script. @_@

The game is pretty set code and GUI-wise. There’s one more GUI that we need to commission from Lazcht later (we’ve already discussed it, but put it off until we get to that part of the story) for Natsume’s half of the game, but every other feature in BCM has basically already been coded. It’d be nice if I could tidy up the time travel coding a bit, but it works well the way it is now, so that’s not really a top priority.

One of the things we’ve done recently is add in cultural notes! Golden text, when clicked, will lead to a page that quickly explains the term used. While a lot of people who play visual novels are also anime/manga fans and might already know a lot of these terms, VNs are getting to be more popular recently. These new fans, coming from more of a general videogame background, might not know as much about Japanese culture or understand words that the rest of us often throw around. I’ve tried not to make this feature too intrusive, so hopefully the notes are more helpful than not. :3

We’ve also cleaned up the GUI! We had some comments about how the textbox was too fancy and made it hard to see the art, so we scaled back on the ornamentation and I moved the click-to-continue icon to a fixed location. The textbox is a lot less intrusive now and the side sprites went in pretty easily! Had a bit of trouble with where to put the side sprite name box, but we think this works pretty well. Oh, we’ve also changed the font from PT Sans to Calibri. Not a huge transformation, but we think it looks nicer this way… We used PT Sans in our other games, so it’ll be a nice change from the norm.

That’s about it for now! Now that Auro and I are both back with our noses to the grindstone, we’ll try to update this blog more often with our progress. The BCM website is overdue for a huge update… I’ve got a friend working on making a spiffy new design and hopefully the website will be a lot more user-friendly and nice to look at once the redesign is complete. ♥ Thanks for reading!

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