TyranoBuilder- Visual Novel creation made simple

I’ve always been interested in visual novels as an art form, to me they’re the idea of Choose Your Own Adventure stories taken to the next level. I also love the sheer democratic nature of them, not only in the choices you can make, but also the fact they’re so easy to make. At least, they are in theory, and software like Ren’py, Novelty, and now TyranoBuilder have been working to make that into a reality.

TyranoBuilder is a “new” (in English) piece of software for graphically building visual novels that’s just been released (on STEAM for $16.99). It lets you make visual novels that you can then sell royalty free as phone apps and on various online stores. It looks pretty cool, and after reading through the tutorial documentation (which I highly recommend reading before you try playing with it) I’d say it’s one of the slickest methods for making visual novels I’ve ever seen.

Scenes are built on a timeline based dragging and dropping various elements into play, which makes it dead simple to put a scene together. Graphics, music, dialogue and other elements can be easily assembled in any way you choose, and then you can branch those scenes off into other scenes which allow the reader to control the flow of the story in any way you see fit.


And while people think of visual novels as being linked to anime, remember that visual novels don’t have to be in an anime style. While it’s certainly the most popular style, I’ve seen them used with pencil sketches and even heard of people using pictures of themselves and their family as the characters in stories! You could also use free 3-D character software like DAZ Studio to generate characters of your own, or some other character building software like Heromachine and use them as part of a visual novel story.

If you’re interested, here is a page of story/planning resources for Ren’py (another visual novel maker, and the biggest player before Tyrano Builder’s release). That resource page, under software, includes a number of pieces of flow-charting software like Chatmapper which could be used to script/plan a branching visual novel story pretty well. And, here is a collection of free backgrounds and character (sprites) for use with Ren’py or Tyrannobuilder:

Visual novels seem to be having a bit of resurgence recently, likely because of services like STEAM and the Apple/Android app stores making them easy to actually sell and distribute as content. Heck, technically even stories like the critically acclaimed Walking Dead “game” are really just a form of visual novel, just with much more playability and advanced graphics. As a result, many different types have popped up, from Space Opera like Sunrider to deep Historical pieces like The Rainy Port Keelung.

If I had the time, I’d probably do a little visual novel making myself! Looks pretty fun and easy!





A while back, I blogged about WRITE or DIE!, which is a devilish little productivity tool designed to counter writer’s block by making noises, showing horrible images, or even erasing your text if you stop writing. I used it for a while, and I have to admit it works pretty well, but what if you’re someone who prefers to write at a slightly more leisurely pace or just needs a little freedom from distraction? Not everyone is suitable for the breakneck production speeds Write or Die! encourages.

Well, for you, there’s FORCEdraft– which as it says above is literally a program that won’t quit until you’ve reached your goals, and which will lockdown and block access to your entire PC until you reach those goals (or tell it to quit, if you wussed out and used that option). I actually stumbled across it a while ago and downloaded it, but it wasn’t until recently that I started to use it- and boy am I glad I did!

FORCEdraft lets you set a time goal or word-count goal, and keeps everything from distracting you until you reach that goal. Even if you change your mind- too bad! Once it’s running, nothing short of turning off your computer will stop it. I discovered this when I did a test run and realized that it doesn’t automatically stop when you reach your goal, and I didn’t know how to turn it off. I tried every single trick I could think of and the darn thing wouldn’t let me stop it! (In the end, I discovered by accident that you turn it off by clicking on the logo at the top of the screen and then it will save and exit. And it’s saving constantly, so if there was a crash your work would be fine.)

Since that first trying experience, I began using the program and came to like it so much that I added it to my startup programs so it comes on when it boot up my PC. (In menu mode, not writing mode- I’m not that hardcore! Having to write 500 or more words to get access to my PC would be good for productivity, though!) I’ve found I liked it so much I actually donated to the author, and am now using the PRO version which offers a few extra little bells and whistles. (You can change the screen colors, and it has a clock and word counter.)

It would also be great for writers using the Pomodoro Technique, or something similar, as you could set the timer for 25 minutes, do your block, and then set it for the next 25 minute block after you’ve had your break. However, whatever your schedule, I suggest you check it out if you’re looking for something to increase your writing productivity. I love it because I can craft my prose in a stress-free environment, but still know I have goals that I must meet before I can do anything else. (Including check my mail or Facebook!)


Random Dramatic Scene Generator

I’m feeling rather proud at the moment. I managed to code a simple webpage that generates a pair of naturally conflicting characters and an action verb which defines their relationship in that scene, in other words a Random Dramatic Scene Generator.

Of course, by “code” I mean I found an already existing webpage that did something similar, copied pieces of that code and modified it to suit my own purposes. ^_^ So, coding in the truly classic sense!

In any case, I made this page for use by my students in my scriptwriting class since they need to do short 5-minute dramatic scenes for one of their assignments, and I wanted a random way to give them a starting point in their scenes. Of course, it can be used by anyone who needs a quick dramatic situation for their stories as well.



(Mostly) Free Online Proofreading Software

Let’s face it, everyone makes mistakes.

Even the best writer misses things, and it’s hard to know what to improve when you’re editing your own work. Whether you’re a blogger, or an author, you’re going to need a little outside help, but the problem is that unless your friends are really good at editing, outside help can get a little expensive. There’s no excuse for not knowing the rules of grammar yourself, but even if you know then, sometimes you’ll miss mistakes in your own writing.

I wrote a year or so ago about how you can turn MS Word into a machine for hunting down passive sentences, and that’s a great trick, but sometimes people need more help than Word’s capable of offering. Luckily, for those of us who need proofreading help on the fly, or on the cheap, there are a few options out there.



Hemmingwayapp is a very simple proofreader which focusses on readability. It hunts for passive phrases, adverbs, and harder to understand sentences and then highlights them in colour so you can see the areas you need to work on. It also rates your writing on a grade readability scale, so you know what level of education would be needed to read what you’ve written. This could come in handy if you’re writing Young Adult works, or ones targeted towards a very general audience. It’s free online (although they’re working on a paid desktop version), but you need to erase the text which is there now and replace it with your own text. (Something they don’t tell you anywhere on the page.)



Editminion is a very simple free online proofreader that processes and highlights issues in the chunks of text you copy-paste into it. Editminion hunts for passive sentences, weak words, adverbs, and a lot of the more common traps that weigh down the writing of newer writers, and displays them in a report at the bottom of the page. It’s no frills, and expects the reader to know why those words might be an issue already, but if you’re just looking for something simple and quick, it’s not bad.



Slickwrite is a free proofreader similar to Editminion, but more fully featured. It not only goes over style issues, but allows you to see your sentence structure and word variety in color-coded text. You can also configure it in more detail than Editminion to look for exactly the areas you’re concerned about in your own writing like legalese, overwriting and weak descriptions. If you want more detail, but don’t have a credit card, this might be the site!



Proofreadbot is a paid site, but very economical, with the average cost being around one cent per proofread document. So, for the $5 minimum, you get 500 proofread documents, which is pretty economical, especially considering it checks your document against 3173 different rules of grammar and style. It also has a nice long page explaining every one of those rules that you’ll pretty much have to see to believe. According to the site, “The report groups results according to style, grammar, punctuation, statistics and plagiarism.” With each issue in your document highlighted, and then if you click on the highlighted text it will tell you what’s wrong and offer to explain why. (Check their sample report to see it in action.) I guess when you’re checking 3173 rules it’s hard to color code them, but I wouldn’t have minded them categorized by type in some way instead of a screen of red highlighted blocks. Still, other than being free, you can’t get more grammar help for the price they charge!



Grammarly is a professional grade online proofreader that goes through your documents and finds areas of concern for you to look at. It’s a pay site, but has a 7 day free trial, and options for monthly ($30/month), quarterly ($20/month) and yearly subscriptions ($12/month). It’s very highly rated, and gives you a lot of information about your writing, but requires you to give them your credit card information to start your “free trial”. If you feel you need a lot of detailed help, but can’t afford a human editor, this might be one way to go.

And that’s it! Online copyediting software will never replace a good human editor, but they can help you strengthen your writing and make reading it a much smoother experience.

P.S. If you need some material to test out some of these options on, you might consider using Write or Die to generate it.

P.P.S. If anyone knows of a great site I missed, please let me know in the comments!

CLANG! A Realistic Swordfighting Game Kickstarter Project

Author Neal Stevenson has put his name behind a new kickstarter project to produce Clang, a realistic swordfighting game for the PC. I’ll let him explain the details below.

Interesting. I’m not quite as excited about it as I was the space combat game, but it’s a neat idea and I hope he makes it happen. I do think a more realistic swordfighting game is needed, but I wonder how much detail you can pack into it before it becomes either a simulation or just a movie where you occasionally push buttons. Do they really expect gamers to pull off combos that take professionals years to master? I don’t think so. But, if you don’t, then it just turns into a movie of you initiating combos and letting the character/computer actually do them according to pre-scripted motion-captured patterns.

TorchShips – Real 3-D Space Combat by johncarlgillespie — Kickstarter

As anyone who knows me, or reads this blog knows, I’ve got this thing about Space Combat (as in, I’m fascinated by it) and have often wondered what a realistic space combat simulator would look like. Well, today I got a message from John Gillespie, who has a kickstarter project to create exactly that!

The Game

This isn’t your grandpa’s space fighter. You’re not looking out a grimy cockpit window using a joystick to kill an enemy a kilometer away who flies like they’re an airplane in an atmosphere.

You are the captain of a TorchShip – powered by a Gaseous core fission / nuclear thermal reaction drive and armed with nuclear missiles, laser cannons, and a kinetic lance. You will maneuver in 3-D space in a crowded gravity well and engage hostiles at ranges of up to 20,000 kilometers.

  • 3-D combat & UI – space is not flat, and neither is TorchShips.
  • Newtonian physics – your ship maneuvers in 3-D space using a reaction drive.
  • Damage & Systems control – detailed damage model and systems control – you’ll have to manage heat build up, fuel, and reaction mass levels.
  • Weapons include your own reaction drive, kinetic lance, missiles/mines, and laser cannons.
  • Procedurally generated single and multi-player campaigns against human and non-human opponents.
  • Fast set up skirmish modes.
  • Crew development
  • Customize your ship, name and weapon/system load-out.
  • FTL is used to link scenarios and battles. (yes… we know Faster Than Light travel is handwavium – but it allows us to add many more masspoint systems and environments to the combat scenarios without bogging down in multi-year transit times…)
  • A rich background with hundreds of human cultures and dozens of alien races.

via TorchShips – Real 3-D Space Combat by johncarlgillespie — Kickstarter.

GIMP – The FREE Open Source Photoshop

For those who might not be familiar with it, there is a free alternative to Photoshop called GIMP – The GNU Image Manipulation Program which is surprisingly powerful and useful, and has a tonne of plugins and tutorials out there. I’ve been using it in lieu of Photoshop recently (since I can’t afford the $600 for Photoshop at the moment just to do some minor photo editing) and so far I’ve found it quite easy to use and well documented.

Bad Photographers of the World Unite! New Adobe DeBlurring Software!

Damn, now I wish I hadn’t gotten rid of all those almost good but a little blurry images I’ve taken over the years! All I had to do was wait until they found a way to fix them!

CSI computer tech has just taken another step towards reality, now they just need to be able to deblurr reflections in human eyes to catch the bad guys!

Adobe MAX 2011 – Photoshop Image Deblurring sneak – YouTube.

Computer virus hits U.S. Drone Fleet

Everyone who didn’t see this coming, raise you hand?

When you computerize everything, you also make it all vulnerable to infection, especially a networked operation. The only question is who did it, and what other kinds of viruses have also been infecting the systems?

A computer virus has infected the cockpits of America’s Predator and Reaper drones, logging pilots’ every keystroke as they remotely fly missions over Afghanistan and other warzones.

The virus, first detected nearly two weeks ago by the military’s Host-Based Security System, has not prevented pilots at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada from flying their missions overseas. Nor have there been any confirmed incidents of classified information being lost or sent to an outside source. But the virus has resisted multiple efforts to remove it from Creech’s computers, network security specialists say. And the infection underscores the ongoing security risks in what has become the U.S. military’s most important weapons system.

via Computer virus hits U.S. Drone Fleet.


I’m sure this is one of those programs which everyone has been using except me, but today I checked out a program for writers called Scrivener. Apparently it’s been around for years for the Mac, and is quite popular among Mac users, but now they’re doing a free Beta for PC users as well before it becomes fully released.

It seems like a useful program, although I’ve just started playing with it, which is well designed to help writers organize their work and keep organized while writing it. It really combines a couple of the planning/organizing techniques that were mentioned yesterday in the article about plotting and planning your story into a single tool that works alongside the writer. Since a lot of writers seem to already use the Index Card method this would fit right in! Give it a look while it’s still free, it might work for you!

Literature and Latte – Scrivener for Windows.