Thursday, January 19, 2017

Updates and the H-space MGB in 2017

My original plan was to hit 2017 running, and that happened... if you count tripping on your shoelaces and faceplanting on the ground so hard you knock the Earth out of orbit.


I was going to go back to logging word counts on Twitter.  As you haven't seen any word count tweets on Twitter you can assume January has not been a productive writing month for poor Hydra.

There are reasons for this - a bad medical diagnosis for a family member (it was expected), other work on the side eating up time, a bout of winter flu striking just when I thought I'd cleared it all - but I won't bore people with the details as they're irrelevant.

I have been considering what to do with the H-space Monster Girl Bestiary.  On the one hand, I really like how the background stuff is shaping up and how it slots into the wider universe I've hinted at in other stories.  On the other, the short stories have been gradually creeping up in length to the point I find it hard to keep to the weekly schedule and get other things written.

The and is the important thing here.  I enjoy writing the short H-space stories, but I can't for the life of me think of how to properly monetise them, and as vulgar as it is to talk about money, it is essential if I want to continue doing this.  Maybe Patreon?  It is something I've been considering, but I don't want it taking too much focus away from the novels and short story collections, which is what does pay the bills.  (And I definitely don't want to make readers wait as long for Succubus Summoning 301 as they had to wait for 201!)

January is pretty much a bust at this point, so I'll use what's left of it to work on putting a stockpile of new stories together.  My plan is to start posting new Bestiary stories from the beginning of February onwards.  The one change is I'll post new ones every two weeks rather than every week.  I have a strange relationship with self-imposed deadlines.  They're a great productivity aid for me up until the point when I get too close to the end of the treadmill and then everything locks up.  A fortnightly schedule might avoid that problem as well as giving me adequate time to sink my teeth into longer projects (like Succubus Summoning 301 and mystery Nicole novel).

So, the H-space Monster Girl Bestiary isn't going away.  You don't need to worry about it suddenly going on hiatus (like some other projects I'm also eager to rescue this year).  I have too many monster girl ideas for starters!

The other thoughts I'm having is how to give the setting a little more depth.  As you might have gathered, I love writing me some death-by-snu-snu, but it does have limitations if the humans are killed on sight in every new region they enter.  I think it's time to give the poor beleaguered soldiers some "friends".

No, this probably won't turn out too well for them.  ðŸ˜ˆ

Anyway.  I'm still alive, but expect January to be quiet with some kind of normal service resuming in February.

Monday, January 02, 2017

Horror Movie Review: SiREN

I don't normally review movies, but I saw this one a couple of nights ago and thought it might be of interest to succubus/monster girl fans.

Four dudes on a hedonistic stag night get redirected to Ye Mysterious Strip Club Out In The Middle Of Nowhere, do some ill-advised and foolish things, horror hijinks ensue...  Okay, so it's not the most original of setups - think Vamp or From Dusk Till Dawn - but this trope has always been a good starting point for liberal splatterings of blood and tits.  Groom-to-be Jonah's (Chase Williamson) act of foolishness is to bust what he thinks is a sex-trafficked girl out of the basement.  However, Lily (Hannah Fierman) is a little more exotic than she first appears and what follows is a whole heap o' sex 'n' carnage (but mostly carnage).

The film can be seen as a prequel/sequel to the "Amateur Night" segment of anthology horror film V/H/S with Fierman reprising the succubus/demon character of Lily.  Although, given what we learn about Lily's race in this film and what happens, I suspect it's more likely we're seeing a different 'Lily' here.

I was pleasantly surprised with how the film played out.  The quartet of stags were refreshingly normal rather than teeth-grindingly douchey and there was a noticeable lack of characters being evil just for the sake of being evil.  Lily wants her chosen "mate" (an unwilling Jonah) and the mysterious club proprietor, Mr. Nyx (Justin Welborn having a lot of fun in the role), wants his property back.  It's a sign of good storytelling when the writer sets up a bunch of characters, lets them go, and the story plays out naturally as a consequence of the characters' competing goals bouncing off each other.

I also liked some of the other horror fantasy touches, such as the memory-extracting leeches, that hinted of more weirdness going on in the world than just a demon in the basement.  Everything seemed to fit together for a reason rather than things happening for the sake of having cool fx on screen.

On the negative side, this type of film is best when playing to the baser emotions and SiREN is maybe lacking in power here.  It has the sex and strippers you'd expect of an erotic horror, but it doesn't quite have the raw heat of something like Basic Instinct.  The same is true for the horror - not enough gore and shocks for your hardened gorehound.  And as much as I like seeing main characters not be the usual one-dimensional jerks, it does mean you lose that vicarious pleasure of watching jerks meet horrible ends that other films of this type rely on.

Overall I enjoyed the film mostly for how the plot played out.  I didn't find it massively erotic, but Lily is adorable for a blood-splattered, bollock-ripping waif from hell.

Isn't she just adorable...

"I like you."

Sunday, December 25, 2016

H-space MGB Profile: Crynolie

Name: Crynolie
Type:  Demon
Habitat:  Fertile plains and valleys.  Artificial gardens.

Outwardly looks like a pretty young lady in a gaily coloured and extravagantly large crinoline dress.  An eyewitness described them as looking like a group of actresses on the set of a period drama.  One thing most observers notice is that the proportions of the crynolies seem off.  They are deceptively tall, as if their legs are longer than they should be.

Underneath their 'dresses' the crynolies have four long and spindly legs, with each pair arranged perpendicularly to the other—like the legs of a small table.  The legs look insectoid in shape, but resemble human flesh and skin, and terminate in what looks like human feet.  Their most alien part is a bulbous sac or abdomen hanging down from the centre of their body.  This too is covered in what looks like human skin, but otherwise resembles no part of the human body aside from the vulva-like orifice at the tip.  The 'vulva' is surrounded by clusters of short tubules.  These emit the fumes the crynolie uses for defence and to overpower her prey.

Attack Strategy:
The crynolie is capable of emitting fumes that put anyone breathing them into a highly suggestible state where they blindly follow any instruction give to them by the crynolie.  While in this state the victim is unable to take any actions of their own volition.

Once she has her prey under her control, the crynolie will then ingest them into her fleshy abdomen through her 'vulva'.  Initially it was thought they simply ate their victims, but—as with most HSIOs—the reality is far more complex.

The crynolie's abdomen contains a stretchy bag organ—a kind of stomach or womb—large enough to contain an adult human.  This organ has thick padded walls and is surrounded by a net of muscular fibres that give the crynolie fine control of internal movements.  At the top of the containment organ is an air bladder.  The crynolie places her prey's head within this bladder and supplies them with oxygen so they do not suffocate inside her.

The next stage is to overload her captive with sexual excitement.  The air the crynolie gives to her prey is laced with various sedatives and aphrodisiacs.  Stronger aphrodisiac juices are secreted inside the containment bag and sensually massaged into the flesh of her captive.  The containment organ also contains various structures analogous to human sex organs and the crynolie selects and uses them depending on the sex and sexual preferences of her captive.

The big question is why?

I don't believe the crynolies are feeding off our sexual arousal.  I believe, like other HSIOs, the crynolies are after something else from us, and massive sexual overstimulation is just a tool to expose or loosen it.

(As to what this 'something else' is—I think it is what various religions throughout history have referred to as the human soul.  As to what this infers about the nature of H-space and the HSIOs...  No, I'm not ready to believe this.  Not yet.)

The mind control fumes of the crynolie must not be inhaled.  Fortunately they have a relatively short range of effect and require concentrated amounts.  Likely the reason why crynolies are encountered in groups.

Unfortunately, tackling them from a distance is also difficult.  The 'dress' of the crynolie is part of their body and composed of a flexible, durable material that is resistant to both small arms and bladed weapons.  If threatened the crynolie retracts her upper half down into her dress and emits a dense fog to cover her escape.

Threat Level:
Medium to High.

As devastatingly effective as their paralysing fumes are at close range and as awkward as they are to engage at distance, I suspect the crynolies are actually low down in the 'demon'-type hierarchy.  I fear there is worse out there.  Far worse...

Saturday, December 24, 2016

H-space MGB Story: Crynolie

SGT Stewart Peter Bate knew those dresses weren't right.  The proportions didn't fit.  The dresses were too big—like the women wearing them were standing on cut-off stilts, or really tall platform boots.

Or weren't human.

Bate tried to tell Cox, the leader of their explo squad, but he wouldn't have it.

"We don't know for certain.  They could be innocent humans transported here through a displacement effect.  We can't go in guns blazing."

'Guns Blazing.'  Goddamned civvies.  Bate thought each explo unit was supposed to be led by a military officer.

"Mendez.  Bain.  Stay back and provide cover as we go in," Cox ordered.

In was an immaculately tended garden in the middle of nowhere.  The squad had come upon it in a sheltered valley—a splash of green standing out against the scraggly, blood-red grass covering the hillsides on either side of them.  It was clearly an artificial garden with a lush green lawn and neat rows of flowerbeds.  There was an open structure constructed from wooden beams—a pergola the size of a church.  Climbing plants ran up the support beams and across the top.  It looked pretty, but where were the other buildings?

"No hostile moves," Cox said to the rest of the squad as they approached the central structure.  "We want to show them we mean no harm."

Standing under the pergola were the women in the odd dresses.  The dresses were big and bright and resembled the extravagant crinoline dresses and ball gowns from the middle of the 1800s.  They were so absurdly large it looked like each woman was poking out of the top of a giant lampshade.  Bate wouldn't expect any modern woman to wear anything like that unless they were actresses playing aristocratic ladies in a historical drama.  That's what they looked like—a group of fine old Southern Belles taking afternoon tea on a lovely summer day.  As if a god had chopped a square out of the old Deep South and randomly left it here.

Those dresses, though, they weren't right.  The closer Bate got the more it nagged at him.  They were too tall—as if the top halves and bottom halves of the women wearing them didn't match up.

The women spotted the squad and buzzed amongst themselves in excitement.  One of them, a woman with a sunflower-yellow dress and platinum-blonde hair tied up in an elaborate beehive, approached the men.

"What a delightful surprise," she said.  "A group of young men, and such handsome ones as well.  Welcome.  I am Galulpia."

Galulpia looked surprisingly attractive in spite of her archaic attire and hairdo.  As did the other women.  They stood behind her and whispered and tittered to each other behind brightly painted fans.  If he had to guess, Bate would have placed them all in their early to mid-twenties with Galulpia the eldest.

"A pleasure ma'am.  I am Dr. Theodore Cox and my men and I are here as representatives of the great country of The United States of America.  May I ask the name of this place?"

"This is the garden," Galulpia replied.  "My ladies and I came out here to enjoy this lovely afternoon.  Would you and your handsome young men like to join us?"

Galulpia was smiling like one of those wholesome Southern Belles in an old TV drama.  The smile was too sunny to be natural.  Bate couldn't shake the feeling something was off.  Something about the women that creeped him out.  They all looked about a foot taller than they should be.

And there was the garden.  It was also too nice... too neat.  It looked like a perfect film set, constructed only to last for as long as it took to make the shot.  Bate noticed the plants climbing up the corner supports of the pergola.  Some of the flowers looked like dicks.  Some of the flowers looked like pussies.  Some of the dick flowers were in the pussy flowers.  Everything felt off.

They shouldn't be here.

And that motherfucker Cox.  Now he'd got the formal introductions out of the way he was actually flirting with her.

"...that does sound a mighty tempting offer," he said.  "We have been on our feet all day."

Galulpia glanced over Cox's shoulder to where Mendez and Bain had taken up covering fire positions.

"Are those your men?" she asked.  "They look so lonely all the way out there.  Why don't you ask them to come and join us."

When you saw her standing next to Cox, the height thing really jumped out, Bate thought.  Cox had to be over six foot tall and Galulpia had an inch or two on him.  It didn't match her otherwise petite and dainty features at all.  Nothing matched.

"Sure thing," Cox said.  He turned around.  "Mendez.  Bain.  You can come in.  Everything's fine."

What!  Wait!  No, Bate thought.  He went to raise his voice in objection... and nothing came out.  He just stood there.  What the fuck?  He wanted to say something.  Why wouldn't it come out?

He glanced down and saw his boots had vanished beneath a thick ground fog.  Where had that come from?  It looked like early morning mist, but it wasn't morning.  Then he looked up and saw the source.  It was the women.  The mist billowed out from beneath their dresses in little puffs of fluffy white smoke.

You fucking ass, Cox, Bate thought.  How many times had they been told about the HSIOs?  How many times had they been warned?  Their stupid fucking idiot civvie CO had led them right into a trap.

Mendez and Bain would be no help either.  They'd already rejoined the squad.  Mendez's nostril wrinkled, then a certain slackness entered his features.

"It's so warm," Galulpia said.  "I'm sure you'd be far more comfortable out of those heavy uniforms."

"You know, that's a really good idea," Cox said.  He dropped his kit and started to take his clothes off.

"How about the rest of you boys?" Galulpia said.  "Wouldn't you like to be naked as well?"

Yes, that was a really good idea, Bate thought.  He put down his kit and rifle and started to climb out of his uniform.

What was he doing?

It didn't matter.  He couldn't stop it.  It was like he was a passenger in his own body.  All he could do was watch as his hands unbuckled his pants and let them drop into the thick mist swirling around his feet.

He stood naked along with the other men.  A warm breeze whipped up wisps of white mist.  The women in the too-big dresses watched them with naked lust in their eyes.

"Mmm, such lovely young men," Galulpia said.  "I'm positively salivating."

She reached down.  Her dress opened at the front and she swished it aside like opening a pair of curtains.  Bate knew now why her proportions seemed off.  Revealed behind was her true monstrous form.  Her legs were long and spindly, and she had four of them.  They were reminiscent of the legs of an insect despite being covered in pink flesh and terminating in dainty pink human feet.  To Bate the juxtaposition of the familiar with the alien looked far worse than had they actually been the legs of a giant insect.

Worst of all was what was hanging down between them.  Bate saw a bloated pink sac like the bulbous abdomen of a grub or insect.  As with the legs it was covered in soft pink human skin.   Puffs of white mist emerged from tubular openings clustered at the end.

Galulpia reached over to caress the side of Cox's face.  "Shall we—as they say—get down and dirty?" she said.

Cox was smiling, but his eyes trembled and water collected around his lower eyelids.  Good, Bate thought, he wanted the fucker to be fully aware of how he'd doomed them.

Galulpia sat down with her bloated abdomen laid out before her.  She had a fleshy slit at the end.  It looked uncomfortably similar to a human vulva.  Bate watched as the labia peeled aside and revealed a lurid interior slick with lubricating juices.  It stretched open wider and wider, a widening pink tunnel.  Four large tentacles, fleshy and muscular like tongues, slithered out and wrapped around Cox's upper body.  They lingered lasciviously over his exposed flesh before pulling him headfirst into the gaping orifice.  Waves of contraction shuddered through the bulbous pink abdomen as she gulped Cox into her.  The science officer's feet wiggled out of the end before they too were drawn inside.  Galulpia let out an orgasmic sigh as her labia folded back behind them.

"Ooh, a wriggler," she said.  "They make me so wet."

Her bloated pink abdomen churned and convulsed.  Galulpia moaned in orgasmic pleasure.  It didn't take long for the violent motion to settle down to slow regular throbs, like the beats of heart.  Galulpia sighed and cooed as her bulbous abdomen swelled and contracted.  Every so often it would give a little shake and white juices would ooze out of the tip.

It was perverse.  Sexual in a way that should not be sexual.

All around him Bate watched helplessly as the other members of his squad were engulfed.  He couldn't move, could only wait his inevitable fate.

It came with a sweet voice.  "Aww, are you feeling left out?  Turn around."

Bate did as he was told.  He saw a pretty young woman with platinum-blonde hair lying on her back with her upper body propped up on her elbows.  Her lower body...

The vagina-like opening at the end of her abdomen opened up and livid red tongues shot out to coil around Bate's upper body.  Her vagina gaped wider, revealing a long pink tunnel that contracted and dilated with muscular throbs.  The tentacles tugged and Bate was pitched face-first into an orifice that opened wider to admit him.  His head went inside and he breathed in humid air thick with the stench of sex.  His shoulders followed and the fleshy walls of her sex pressed around him.  Muscular peristaltic motion took over and Bate was inexorably drawn into her.

Only then did the queer hypnosis that had prevented Bate from resisting wear off.  With his body back under his control he started to struggle.  It was like being inside a giant elastic bag.  The walls were too slick for his scrabbling fingers to gain any kind of purchase.  The walls pressed in around his body with muscular contraction and hauled him in deeper.  Soft spongy flesh contracted around his ankles and then wrapped around his feet as her vaginal opening closed behind him.

Bate kept pushing against the fleshy walls as he tried, desperately, to find any kind of weak spot.  He was running out of air.  He was going to suffocate... suffocate and be digested.

Another wave of peristaltic force gripped his body.  His head was pushed up through some kind of muscular sphincter and into a space mercifully filled with breathable air.

Breathable, but not fresh.  The breaths Bate took were tainted with sweet perfume and the organic stink of sex.  The sphincter closed around his neck—tight like a collar, but not tight enough to stop him from breathing.  His head was also not alone within the air bladder.  Things slender and moist wormed into his ears.

Bate heard the voice of the hindig that had swallowed him.  It came through as clear as if he was wearing headphones.

"Are you okay there?  I couldn't let you suffocate inside me.  That would be such a waste."

Bate heard air sacs working like bellows on either side of his head, keeping the tainted air circulating.  And it was tainted... corrupted.  Bate could feel the same taint spreading through him with every breath he took, awakening immoral thoughts and causing his loins to throb with unnatural need.  He had no choice.  It was that or suffocate to death inside her.

"What do you want?" he called out within his little bubble of air.

Glands within the main cavity's walls squirted hot fluids all over Bate's naked body.  Bate panicked at the thought of her digestive acids eating into his flesh and started to kick out again.  It did nothing more than provoke a series of ecstatic sighs and moans from her, as if his desperate struggling was getting her off sexually.

"Ooh yes," she moaned.

"You're not melting me to mush," Bate raged.

He drove elbows into the soft fleshy wall.  He tried to gouge it with his fingers.  All it did was trigger more orgasmic moans and induce her glands to squirt more juices over him until Bate was covered all over in warm oily secretions.  They made him feel hot... and prickly in a weird way, like he hadn't had sex or masturbated in days and was getting antsy.

"Silly boy," the hindig giggled.  "I'm not going to melt your body to mush.  That's not how we consume."

The central cavity contracted and the space for Bate to struggle in shrank and shrank until his legs were squeezed together and his arms were pinned to his sides.  It felt like someone had wrapped a wet air mattress around him and held it in place with rolls and rolls of thick tape.  Bate couldn't move, but she could.

The meat walls quivered with low throbs and crawled all over his exposed flesh.  To his aphrodisiac-drenched senses it felt like hands, naked butts, or even voluptuous breasts rubbing all over his body.  Like he was playing sardines and jammed in a closet with a team of naked Vegas strippers.  His cock, already bloated with blood, swelled out in a full erection and pressed up against the cushion-soft walls of flesh.  He couldn't control it.

How could he be turned on, here of all places?

The hindig laughed.  Her walls contracted and squeezed him.  Bulges of soft flesh rubbed against his rock-hard erection.

"We let desire consume you."  Her voice was a husky whisper in his ear.

A wet hole opened in the fleshy wall and Bate's erection was drawn into a tight muscular tunnel.  Waves of peristaltic contraction rippled up his shaft. It felt like she was gently tugging him off.  The hot itchy feeling in his balls intensified until it was hard to think about anything else.

"And we feed off what you're only too eager to give us... in the end."

The cushioned walls moved against him with slow sensual throbs.  His cock slipped back and forth inside a warm muscular sheath that stoked his pleasure with rhythmic squeezes.

What was she doing to him?

The throbbing pulses grew stronger.  The grip on his cock grew tighter.

No, she couldn't.

The hot itchiness in his balls bubbled up until he could no longer hold it in.  He let out a surprised groan as her cushioned walls of flesh stroked him all the way to ejaculation.  The hindig climaxed with him.  She moaned ecstatically in his ear and her body shivered all around him.  Her glands squirted and bathed Bate in frothy warm juices.

As he came Bate felt her tug at something inside him, something precious.  He realized then what she was and what she wanted.  Her hunger was an ancient one and it craved something more than flesh.  Bate knew he mustn't give it her.  Must hold onto it at all costs.

It was a battle he couldn't win.  He was inside her.  She had as much time as she needed.  She filled his lungs with clouds of perfumed poison that drove his mind mad with lust.  She soaked him in powerful aphrodisiac secretions and massaged them into him with her fleshy walls until he burned hot all over with need.  She took his cock and sucked the resistance out of him one nerve-jangling orgasm after another.

Bate relaxed within her.  If felt so comfortable—warm... soft... safe.  And all she wanted from him was one little thing.

And—after a while, a long sweet while—he gave it to her.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Hentai Game Preview: Rooted in the Succubus Prison ~Imma House~

Now this is a game I'm excited about.

It's called Rooted in the Succubus Prison ~Imma House~ and it's from the same people that did the Momusu Delicious meal series.  It also features a trio of succubi conforming to the usual types of the loli, the big-boobed middle one, and the even bigger-boobed MILF.

It's another Wolf RPG game, but the same fix I used for Drain Dungeon seems to work here as well.

You sure you want to run away...?

The plot puts the player in the role of a thief burgling a mysterious house with two accomplices.  The owners reveal themselves to be succubi, the accomplices get sexually slurped to withered husks and the player is imprisoned in the house.  I'm assuming the goal of the game is to escape without being 'eaten' by the succubi.  There also seems to be some weirdness with an artefact found in a library that seems to bring the player back to life.

What made the game stand out for me were the H-scenes I saw in the demo.  They're as hot as fuck and the best succubus Bad End scenes I've seen in a while.  The screenshot I've put below doesn't really do the scene justice.

Okay. maybe we should have run away.

Yes it's a Shiki'bus and that artist is well known for their luscious pictures of succubi (they also did the artwork for the new succubus characters in Monmusu Quest: Paradox).

You know what's better than a Shiki picture of hawt succubus draining... an animated Shiki picture of hawt succubus draining.

The scene is really awesome and I highly recommend giving it a look.

The game isn't out yet, but you can download the demo from here.  (Click the big yellow button to the right of the artwork)

I think it's due to come out near the end of December and I can't wait.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Hentai Game Review: Drain Dungeon

I checked the demo of this out a week or so ago and it looked interesting.  The main sticking point was it was made using the Wolf RPG system and that doesn't usually play very nice with the AGTH + TranslationAggregator system I use for automated Japanese -> English translation.  What normally happens is a lot of characters get dropped from the text, making it impossible to translate.  After searching around I managed to find a fix.

If half of that paragraph was gobbledegook I recommend checking out this hongfire subforum.  There are plenty of helpful guides here to help you setup text hooking and machine translation for Japanese games.  It is fiddly and the results are highly variable, but in most cases you will be able to get the gist of what's going on.

Generally, after putting the relevant programs on your machine (and changing locale to Japanese), you create a shortcut to the game and in the top shortcut path add a link to AGTH before the address of the game.  (Some IT knowledge is required - I'd follow the guides I linked to rather than asking me.)

The fix for the Wolf RPG games is to use this path to AGTH in the shortcut path to the game (paste it into the dialogue box before the address of the game):

[your local path to AGTH]\agth.exe /c /v /x3 /kf /ks2

Then select the thread that hooks the right text from the AGTH dropdown box while the game is running.  The only problem is it tends to go berserk on menu/item screens and the game becomes a little unresponsive.

Right, now the fiddly stuff is out of the way, let's take a look at the game.

Drain Dungeon is a basic dungeon crawler RPG where the dungeon is abstracted into a series of left or right choices.  The choices lead to either no encounter, a fight, a chest, an event, or a kitsune shopkeeper, with all visible before taking that choice.  In this respect it's similar to the continuous corridor of Desire Dungeon.

(Game Design Tip: Abstraction like this is your friend if you are a small indie developer with limited resources.)

In this case, it doesn't matter whether you go left or right - a boss fight is imminent.

The central quirk of the game is that all adventurers have their levels mysteriously set back to 1 on leaving the dungeon.  With this in mind, a trio of enterprising succubus sisters offer to drain those levels out of you, sexily, before you return to the surface and lose them anyway.  A splendid deal for all concerned.

That's not the only quirk of the game.  For some reason the player is restricted in the number of items they can take back into the dungeon, although this number can be increased using the game's alternate levelling system.  Rather than XP and levels, which are fed to the hungry mouths and pussies of the succubi, the player gains another value (which I never managed to translate the name of correctly) which can be spent to change their class, improve their starting stats, and provide other benefits.  This is the key to beating the game as the player goes in as slightly stronger level 1 each time, enabling each run to go deeper than the last one.

The monster girl boss sprites are actually rather nice.

The fights are typical generic RPG affairs against what I'm guessing are stock monster sprites.  However, there are monster girl bosses at regular (every 80 paces) intervals and these provide additional hentai content.  Losing to a boss will see the player getting their levels sucked out by the monster girl in a sexy loss scene.  There are four bosses in total - a slime girl, a harpy, a dragon girl and a succubus.

The player can exit the dungeon at any time, which will take them to the boudoir of the succubus sisters for a spot of sexy draining.  Each sister has four scenes, each unlocked after experiencing the previous, and requiring the player to hand over 5, 10, 15, or 20 levels respectively.

Bad Ends aren't so bad when you know you're going to be reset to level 1 anyway...

The H-scenes are varied and there are plenty of them - 5 with each succubus sister, 4 from the bosses, 2 bonus ones (a random mimic encounter and an occasional offer of sex from the kitsune merchant), plus a big ole orgy at the end.  I thought the scenes were okay, but felt the H-scene art was weaker than the normal character art.

There are multiple ways to complete the game.  Defeating the last succubus boss unlocks a harem scene where all four get to have fun with the player.  The other way involves feeding a total of 200 levels to one of the succubi, at which point she'll be powerful enough to defeat the last succubus boss on her own.  It's a little fiddly to spot as it doesn't come up in the list of options - you have to keep selecting the top option to talk to her until the option to end the game that way comes up.  This also unlocks her final H-scene, which ended up being a disappointment to me.  I did it for the big-titted eldest sister and while the story was sweet, the H-scene was a re-run of her first scene with slightly tweaked artwork.

How would you like to be drained today, brave adventurer...?

While I loved the idea from a thematic perspective, it is flawed from a mechanical perspective.  Grinding through the same goblins and wolves over and over at the start does get tedious, although at least the player does level up quickly.  The grind is real, but at least the game is relatively merciful about it.  Once you figure out what's going on, it doesn't take many missions to reach the end and unlock everything.

I wonder if the drain-back-to-level-1 theme might work better with rogue-lite mechanics.  There is a hint of them in the item restrictions and constantly being reset to level 1, but the game could definitely do with a bit more RNG madness in the dungeons to liven things up a little.

A mutually beneficial transaction, I think!

Overall I liked the concept and wanted to like the game more, but it's a little too generic and the one sister's ending scene I unlocked was a bit of a disappointment considering the grind to unlock it.  If I gave out scores this would be the 5'est 5/10 ever (very very medium).

Thursday, December 15, 2016

How not to make your print cover

As promised, here is the whole sorry saga of why it took so long to make the print version of Succubus Summoning 201 available.

First off I should go through the process I follow to make print versions of my books available for readers to buy.  My publisher, eXcessica, uses Amazon's CreateSpace to produce Print On Demand paperback versions of their books.  The files they need from me, the author, are a correctly formatted manuscript and a high resolution pdf of the coverflat.

The coverflat is the full cover of the book - back, spine, front - laid out flat.  In order to create this CreateSpace asks the author to fill in a bit of data on how big they want the finished paperback to be and how many pages the manuscript is.  The number of pages value is needed to determine the thickness of the spine.  Once CreateSpace has all the info it spits out a template that looks like this:

I'll go over what the dotted lines and other stuff means in a mo.  First there's the obvious dependency - CreateSpace can't give you this template until you know the total number of pages in your book, and you won't know this until you've finished and correctly formatted the manuscript.  This is a problem for people like me who have an unfortunate tendency to push our deadlines rather fine.

When I get caught in a time crunch, my usual approach is to focus on making sure the ebook version is ready in time and then try to get the print version done as soon after as possible (the manuscripts are formatted a little different - nothing major, but it does take a little fiddling around).

As a result the cover art is done backwards.  Rather than getting my artist to create the full cover art and then cutting out the front cover part to serve as the ebook front cover, I have them create the front cover first and then give them the full template to do the rest as soon as I have it.

The ebook front cover is relatively straightforward.  What you see is what you get and the artist has control of where the boundaries occur.  For Succubus Summoning 201, that gives us this front cover:

My art direction was to follow on the theme of Succubus Summoning 101 and make the cover look like one of those old leather-bound tomes with clasps and bits of metal around the edges.  Sort of like this:

For the ebook cover this is relatively straightforward as the artist knows the exact margins and where the exact edge of the cover is.

For the print coverflat is becomes a little more complex.  If you look at the template above you'll see there are dotted lines and a salmon-pink border.  The dotted line indicates where the cover will be cut out, but this is not 100% precise, hence the salmon-pink border.  This represents the bleed area and everything in it is a sort of Schrödinger's artwork - it might get cut off and not appear on the final cover, but you have to have something there in case it doesn't.  So this something should look okay enough that you don't mind it being on the front cover, but also shouldn't be important enough that it has to be on the front cover.

For most book covers (and the case with all my short story collections) this isn't a problem.  The edge is background stuff that can be chopped off at any point.  Then we have the Succubus Summoning 201 cover and those little corner pieces...

Oh boy.

Somewhere in the (sort of) commissioning process I managed to totally confuse my artist on what the bleed area was and what it meant.  Many mistakes were made, over and over...

I should also mention at this point that my cover artist is also my brother and he volunteers his time for nothing more than thanks and beer.  As he has a family and full-time job, he only has the spare time to work on things at his own pace.  This means that turnaround times are going to be, by necessity, slow and inconsistent.

The first mix-up was with the dimensions.  The correct dimensions for the coverflat should be 3468 x 2475, 600 ppi.  The coverflat template comes with a resolution of 300 ppi.  In between our respective art programs we managed to get stuck between the right resolution but four times the size, or the right size but the wrong resolution.

I found this out after sending a ridiculously huge file to Stacey, the assistant at eXcessica, that took some finangling to even send it through email before she realised it was way too big for CreateSpace.

We managed to get that sorted and then the bleed area problems hit.

The next submission was rejected by CreateSpace for having text too close to the edge.  This was where I managed to confuse my brother.  He misunderstood what I meant by having a bleed area around the edges and his first fix was to increase the size of canvas to add a bit around the edges.  This doesn't work as the cover is still going to be cut out at the same dotted lines.  The next attempt had the right-sized canvas and the blurb on the back moved away from the margins.  It also positioned the corner ornamentation right in the bleed area.  When I overlaid the template I saw straightaway that virtually all of the corner pieces would be cut off, and sent it back.

My proposed fix was to position the whole coverflat inside the salmon-pink border and then fill the edges with background cover.  I wanted to extend the pseudo-metal ornamentation to the edges, so I told my brother to widen them to fill out to the edges.

This didn't work either as Stacey came back to say the coverflat had been bounced again for having essential art bits within the bleed area.

I asked her if we could just overrule it as I didn't mind if some of it was cut-off.

Unfortunately this was something she didn't have any control over.  My guess is CreateSpace has some automated checks on the cover art.

So, back to the drawing board for the umpteenth time.  As my brother's time is limited, these back and forths took place over the course of a couple of months.  Rather than bother him again I repositioned an old version of the coverflat inside the safe area and filled the borders with a flat colour taken from the background to blend it in.  This left me with this:

...which was thankfully good enough to pass as well as turning out okay when displayed on the Amazon site:

So there you have it - less of an excuse and more an acknowledgement of me and my brother being giant idiots.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this little peek behind the scenes of the publishing process.  Thankfully, there is a happy ending.  As I posted on Monday, the print version of Succubus Summoning 201 is now available to buy on either Amazon, or directly from CreateSpace.  Sorry for making you all wait so long!