Coding a Visual Novel

Right after I graduated from Purchase College, I took to learning HTML 5 and CSS 3. I’d already been blogging for a year at that point, and knew I’d spend many more years interacting with online friends on my own sites, so I gave it a shot. Back then, Codecademy was free, and W3 Schools was already a wealth of information. Today, I find myself learning a new coding language for this visual novel.

A cute demo in the Ren’py program.

Ren’py is an old–but free!–VN maker built on the Python language. It was my first consideration for this project, as I’d learned about it through playing Katawa Shoujo. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been reading through Matt Harrison’s Illustrated Guide to Python 3 to get a grasp of what Ren’py is doing. Like most things worth learning, the initial phase consists of unfamiliar terms and mimicking examples I kind of understand, but not really. Coding is an exercise in logical outcomes: if I define “X,” I should be able to apply various functions to X in order to yield “Y.” Whereas people can understand the gist of a linguistic faux-pas, computers are unforgiving of syntax errors. And don’t get me started on booleans…

Coding is fun stuff if you like arguing with a Mac Terminal and realizing that the computer never makes mistakes (it’s always human error, trust me). Fortunately, our small creative team will be contributing the visual and audio assets to make the game possible; means less headaches for me in the end. Honestly speaking, getting this project done at all will mean a lot to me.

I’ve been hammering away at this visual novel, but I’ve also been working at sequels for my novelette, “Saudade.” I need to finish these projects to feel I’m on the right track, you know? Going to work sucks, and COVID-19 makes it worse. Pandemics put things in an urgent perspective. I want to spend my time doing work I value and derive joy from. Maybe those are unrealistic expectations, but I’m going to try. I have to.