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Mermaid Liaisons and Branches

I'm having fun writing my upcoming visual novel, Mermaid Liaisons, which I've mentioned once or twice before. I've got a hard deadline at some point in June when I'm expecting a drop in free time, so I'm wanting to get the game released by May. I have been making progress in January, but pretty slowly. I want to spend more time writing in February, and then I'm thinking I'll spend a large amount of March writing script in a pretty focused way, trying to have at least two routes through the game completely finished by then.

My current progress is something like (at a rough estimate):
Chapter 1: 99%+ completed. Available as a demo to download.
Chapter 2: 90% written.
Chapter 3: 90% written.
Chapter 4: 70% written.
Chapter 5: 25% written.
Chapter 6: 0% written.

The reason it's not simply "finish one chapter then move on to the next", of course, is because of the crazy amount of branches. There is a central plot running through all the routes, but many branches both large and small: a number of choices the player can make will lead to different scenes, while others just have a little bit of varying dialogue before rejoining the main plot (having of course taken note of which choice the player made: I don't have any choices which have no effect at all on the plot).

And of course, events later in the game, including the availability of later branches, may vary depending on earlier choices, which means I'll often need to write at least three versions of some bit of late-game script: if the player chooses A, if the player chooses B, or if the player's earlier choices mean they don't get the choice. So for Chapters 2 and 3, I've written about half the routes all the way through the chapter, but there are a couple of choices where I've only filled in what happens for, say, two of the four branches.

So, yeah, writing is ongoing. As well as writing the main script of Chapter 5, I've been doing things like reshuffling when the events on Tohko's path happen relative to the events on the main plot, trying to work on the pacing, which I feel was one of the weak points to Elven Relations. I did plan how the different threads would occur relative to each other back when I was planning out all the plot a year ago (wow, that long), but I think it's normal to have to adjust these things as you actually write them.

Tohko's scenes are a bit more complicated to write than some of the other characters, because (as I mentioned in the Lemmasoft post announcing the game) I'm allowing the player to choose which of the Elven Relations endings to continue from. In some of those endings Tohko's single, in some she's with Takuya, and in one she's with Kei. Those relationships are still together at the start of Mermaid Liaisons, which means that Tohko will react very differently to Kei flirting with her – or with other girls!

But although her scenes are more complicated to write, she's not any more a "main" character of the story than the other three. Meressa, Cerissa and Hirana all have their stories, with obstacles and twists and character development. I'm thoroughly hoping that for each girl there'll be people for whom she's their favourite character. I was rather pleased that that's the case on the development thread already, just based on the character preview images; I'm definitely aiming to have that be the case once people have been able to play through all the ways this story can go :)