Dead Girl’s Notebook

10 small stories.


Game Description

The above web version is experimental! Chrome (on desktop) is recommended, though there are occasional audio issues and it can be a little laggy. Firefox has serious audio & lag issues in my experience and should be avoided. The game loads on mobile Chrome but seems to crash after a short time. I haven’t tested other browsers. The downloadable version at the bottom of the page should run more smoothly!

All of the stories are fiction, but everything written is the truth.

This game contains adult themes and sexual content.

If you wish, you can read content warnings for the game either as a brief summary (less spoilers) or including a detailed chapter-by-chapter breakdown (more spoilers).

Dead Girl’s Notebook is a visual novel about love, personal growth, self-acceptance, masochism, etc. haphazardly assembled across 15 days for Variety Megajam 2021.

It has 10 chapters, and a little over 20,000 words of narration and dialogue. It is probably around 1 to 2 hours long, depending on how quickly you read. (If you use “auto mode”, which advances text automatically at a relaxed pace, it is about 2 hours and 15 minutes long.)

This is a picture of it:

It’s a strange story, but a few people in this world might be able to relate to it.

Since this game was made under unusual circumstances, I want to talk about the development process here.

The annual Variety Megajam asks participants to develop 10 games in 10 days. Usually the jam is about developing 10 games in 10 different genres, but this year, it was about developing 10 games in the same genre that deliver different emotional experiences. I chose to develop “10 visual novels”, though I used a common set of characters, so it turned out more like “10 chapters of a visual novel”.

The jam provided the following 10 themes for each day:

You can see from the Chapter Select menu in the game that I stuck to these pretty closely, but with a bit of rearrangement of the order towards the end, and a different final theme (though it was inspired by the original #10).

The jam also provided the following optional colour palette, which I used. So if you’re wondering why it “looks like that”, there’s your answer.

So, did I finish in 10 days? No. I realized on Day 1 that doing one complete chapter per day was not feasible for me. So I lowered my goal to one “text script” for a chapter per day. I actually reached this goal; I wrote the whole first draft of the story in 10 days. But despite a big push during the last few days, I’d only finished the visuals for 7 of the chapters, and I had barely made any progress on aspects like music, sounds, and menus.

So, on December 10, I decided to take a break, and take a second 10-day period, December 15 to December 24, to finish the game for a Christmas release.

However, on the 17th, I found out it was the VMJ organizer’s birthday on the 19th. The game was getting pretty close to done, so I decided to try to finish it for the 19th. So that’s why it took 10+5 days to create.

By the way, the game was made in RenPy, which I had never used before, so I had to learn it while making the game. It is pretty nice and easy to use, but customizing the fine details can be tricky. If you don’t like mixed-size pixels, I’m sorry.

The story, characters, sprites, and backgrounds were created by me.

The font, the music and the sounds are mostly from royalty free or public domain sources. A list of sources can be found in the “credits.txt” file in the “game” directory of the download. The list is also available here: http://aria.garden/credits/dgn.html

There are many people I’m thankful for, who helped shape this game in various ways, whether they intended to or not. But I already thanked them in the end credits of the game, where it’s more thematically resonant, so I won’t thank them again here.

The web version at the top of the page seems to work okay on Chrome, but it has some minor issues, so I recommend downloading the game if you have the energy to spare.

RenPy can build for Windows, Mac and Linux. One download is for Windows + Linux and should work on both operating systems, but I’ve only tested on Windows. The other is on Mac, and I haven’t tested it at all.

Gameplay

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