TFTU:Lilith campaign launched!

Rowinda is the granddaughter of the Rowinda from Seasons of the Wolf!

I’m happy to announce that the Kickstarter for the third and last game in the Tales From The Under-Realm series, Lilith, has launched!

For more info about the game, you can check the official campaign page here. And here’s the official trailer:

As I already mentioned before, this game will be very dark, probably more than the two previous titles of the series. I’ll put trigger warnings of course, but be warned!

For those into adult stuff, it will also have very hot stuff, things never seen before in any of my games (and if you think I’m exaggerating, just wait until you play certain scenes! haha).

Also, the game will be way bigger than the two previous titles, with a longer story, more character interactions, and of course different endings.

Speaking of the two love interests:

Evelyn needs no introductions if you played After Midnight, but for those who didn’t (what are you waiting for?! hehe) she’ll be the classic “can I fix her” romance plot. She’s not a monster, but because of what happened to her life, she seems unable to feel emphaty for others. Also, she starts the story as straight character, since this is a setup that a lot of players asked for in the past, so I think it will be interesting to interact with her also because of this.

With Odette instead, I wanted both a strong, determined character, who had a troubled past of sins and submission to the order (and a specific character, which I won’t spoil for now). She has a lot of regrets for what she did in the past, and her mind is still trying to get out of the manipulations she was victim in the past.

Differently from Evelyn, she’s openly lesbian although she thinks she can’t love (or be loved) anymore because of her past.

New social media strategy

After the Kickstarter ends, I’ll also change my social media strategy to… no social media haha. For real, I’ll probably post a sort of weekly update, but no more posting every day a different screenshot. I did that for my previous two games, House of Chavez and ToA: An Elven Marriage, and the results were bad (to use an euphemism!). I won’t go too much in details but basically posting every day, with a different screenshot, make videos, reddit posts, cross-posting on mastodon/bluesky, etc etc. I tried literally everything, and it produced MINIMUM results. Totally irrelevant!

My situation at home has changed so I have less free time, but even if it hadn’t, I don’t want to waste so much time to post in socials, only to feed the big tech with free content so they can make money with ads and I get nothing in exchange. In recent times I spoke with some indies who basically have minimum social presence and they’re all doing fine focusing on the games themselves and promoting their own site, Kickstarter, Patreon and so on.

Of course, I’ll reply to questions and I’ll be present in my Discord and forums, but apart that, I’ll focus on the games and not post stuff in socials! So, a weekly post update, some posts when there are sales, but that’s it, nothing else.

My first 50 years (20 as indie)

Time flies! Seems yesterday as I wrote this other post when I celebrated my 40th birthday: https://www.winterwolves.net/blog/2014/04/my-first-40-years-10-as-indie/

And here we’re again, 10 years later, but still going!

In retrospect, looking back at how the market was when I wrote that post, things were going rather well. My games finally were on Steam, Loren The Amazon Princess had a great reception. I had just released Roommates, my second most successful game after Loren. Mobile games were still very profitable, and I was still selling direct rather well!

For comparison, the gross revenues of that year (2014) of my direct sales (I was using BMT at the times) is higher than my past year Steam revenues!!! As I’m writing this, I can’t believe it myself, but it’s true.

An overview of all the games I’ve released so far…!

So things changed a lot during those 10 years (for the worse, lol) business wise. I had my Google account banned by the “modern inquisition”. Of course, it’s not all negative! I had some more successes (like Cursed Lands, my second most popular RPG!) or the recent Tales From The Under-Realm series which albeit shorter games, have a very good ROI.

In summary I made several more games, some successful, others not. I started making some yuri games only (just recently though, first one was Volleyball Heaven in 2020!). I had my games ported on console. I did my first crowdfunding campaign. And so on.

As I’m writing this, I just got my next game, House of Chavez, approved by Steam, and I’m happy to announce that it will be out the 22nd of this month. You can wishlist the game here.

Mid-life crisis ?

Haha no, I’m not having a mid-life crisis! However, I must say that while going from 30 to 40 years wasn’t a big step, somehow I feel reaching 50 as something “different”. Even if I’m good health, I probably have lived more than half of my time on Earth. I am very grateful for my life so far. Being able to be my own boss, live with my wife far away from the polluted and chaotic cities in middle of nature has been a real blessing. I wouldn’t exchange this with all money and success in the world!

However, I’m also a competitive person (even if maybe it doesn’t look like from the outside). So I want to explore new opportunities in future. Which ones? I have no clue yet! For sure, trying new games genres or mix VN with new gameplay like the House of Chavez (point and click adventure). Perhaps also trying to do something different from games, like comics (of course with a crowdfunding campaign). Or still make story-based games but with more animation and interaction (I’m preparing an animated intro for Tales From The Under-Realm: Lilith game and it’s turning out well!). Or maybe, still do narrative games but with a different focus. I admit I really liked doing the scary part of House of Chavez, and I think I’d like to do a “real horror game”, Bloodborne-inspired. I have already a lot of ideas in mind.

But if I don’t manage to do all those things, it will be fine. I like the kind of games I do, enough people like them to let me survive, and sometimes you just need to be happy with what you have, without eternally chasing what you think will be more successful!

Conclusions

When you reach my age, you’ve seen things… ROFL OK, seriously. When you reach certain milestones, like being 50, you start to appreciate other things in life beside career and money. I have talked about my business, but right now I’m mainly thinking about how I want to live the rest of my life. I lost many pets, and several people, some were friends or other indies, and younger than me. So all those events really make you stop and think about life in general.

Indeed, I also want to start enjoying life a bit. Because of all the pets, I really didn’t take a break in 20 years, a proper holiday away from home. It was a personal choice, but I’m starting to feel the need to travel and explore the world, maybe to get inspiration for future projects.

If you’ve read until this, thanks for your patience. I hope your life is going well for you too. I hope you don’t have too many regrets (I really don’t have many!) and that the future will be full of positivity for you and your beloved ones.

Change of plans!

As the saying goes, “The foolish and the dead alone never change their opinion.”

In this case, it was a sort of forced change. I won’t go in details (I posted on social media) but because of recent events, I’ll need to help my parents more than usual, and this of course will take away time. But it’s not just that, I feel also stressed because of it, and so embarking on a big journey like making a new gameplay (town sim) it’s really too much. Lastly, my dog Skipper passed away early past month, which didn’t help either to make me feel better.

I was hoping to announce the final release of House of Chavez, but it’s still in beta on itchio, albeit at very good point. You can already buy/play it if you want, the only thing left is a placeholder CG in Dolores’ path (there’s the WIP image below):

even if it’s only a WIP, looks already cute and hot!

This of course also delayed/changed my plans for the next games. In short: Thieves of Dingirra Kickstarter, which was supposed to be my next game, will be postponed later this year. Meanwhile, I’ll do another Kickstarter for TFTU: Lilith, the third and last game in the series.

Tales From The Under-realm: Lilith is a simple visual novel, albeit much longer than previous two, but as you can imagine it’s much less stressful to make. I have also written a good amount of the draft, and done the base characters, choices, etc.

I think for me this is the best decision, this way I can keep doing experiments with ToD gameplay and when I do the KS later this year I’ll have a clearer idea of what I want to do.

Yes, because doing a game like that has two main elements:

  • deciding the gameplay type, design, code and test it several times to make sure it works and it’s fun
  • once that’s done, fill all the game content (which requires less mental efforts but more time)

For a game like ToA: An Elven Marriage, I had to do the second part, design the classes, skills, etc but the first part (the core game framework) was already 90% done – I added a few things here and there, but most of it was ready and well tested already.

With a completely new gameplay genre? A town sim, which I have never attempted before (and which I think no one has done before in Ren’Py, but I might be wrong)? And the plan is also to have a sort of simplified RPG combat as well… so as you can see this is definitely a BIG game, one I can’t tackle right now with my mind too busy and with so much stress.

TFTU: Lilith

I’ll probably make another post about the game later, but for those curious about this story, I can tell you a few things about it to pique your interest:

  • it will take place a few years after the events of TFTU: Hazel. So, there’ll still be the witch hunt on
  • Odette, the other love interest, is a fallen paladin, and she’s Hazel and romance adoptive daughter
  • it will feature Evelyn as love interest, and so there’ll be references to that game as well. But you don’t need to have played the two previous games to enjoy the story
  • it will assume two canon endings from both games. I won’t say which ones to not spoil things
  • you’ll be finally able to see the evil wizards, also called “The Seven”. In particular, two of them will be some of the most bastard characters I wrote in my games!
  • it will be very dark, with many deaths and horrible things happening. But of course, with romance and potential happy endings as well
  • the first scene of the game will probably leave you with open mouth
  • Evelyn’s personality will be … a bit of a psychopath, but one you can learn to love (sorry ahah) and maybe “fix her”!
  • there’ll be a cameo of Amber from Amber’s Magic Shop, and Rowinda’s niece, who’s called Rowinda herself (but she’s not crazy as her mother)
  • a planned scene involves a masked dance and maid costumes!!! /nosebleed mode on

If all those things aren’t enough to pique your interest, I don’t know what else to add to the game! haha. Ah wait, maybe a potential threesome ending… that could be a good stretch goal for the Kickstarter!

See you later this month, hopefully with House of Chavez full release !

Burn-out… again?

First of all: House of Chavez is making good progress. I got new scenes for Dolores, which turned out very nice. You can see it for yourself:

Nice sunset. Really, look close, there’s a sunset in the image above! 😉

So for that project, everything is going smoothly. I’ve just finished the whole story with Silke’s romance and sent it to editor, but of course I need to test it and fix typos and minor bugs. Then, I need to wait for a few Dolores CGs and complete her path too. Each love interest has a sort of “escape the room” final scene which takes a while to design and code.

Differently from my other games, the love interests interact a lot thorough the whole story, so “adding Dolores” means to actually re-check a lot of main plot events to make sure they work fine, there are no plotholes and all that.

In addition to this, being a psychological horror game, if you make bad choices, the love interest might die… so I need also to test the last few days of the main story as if she wasn’t present!

Are you sure there isn’t no one here at night, Silke ?

In short: while the content is all there, I need to test this game much more carefully than if it was a simple visual novel.

I really think I should have the game beta out this month though, mid-March or maybe end of the month. I’ve spent a lot of time and money on it, polishing a lot, and I hope it will be apparent when you get to play it.

And if you haven’t backed the game but you’re interested in it, you can wishlist it now on Steam!

What is the burn-out I’m talking about in the blog post title then? Well, my next project will be “Thieves Of Dingirra”. I will talk about that game more in details next month, but the burn-out is linked to some preliminary tests I was doing for that game.

What are “preliminary tests”?

Whenever I start a new project, especially one that I’ll crowdfund, if it involves some form of gameplay, I always make some preliminary tests. I mean, for a simple VN, there isn’t much to test, just the ability to write the story (and I think I can do that!).

But already for a more complex game like House of Chavez, several months before the Kickstarter launched, I made some tests for the new adventure gameplay elements. Why? Because I want to know beforehand if I can fullfill the promises made with a crowdfunding campaign. Too many times, I see projects that promise the moon and then deliver (when and if they actually deliver!) something that it’s not even remotely close to those promises!

That’s not how I do things. Of course, unexpected things can happen. That’s normal. But I want to be reasonably sure that I can deliver something that’s very close to what I have promised.

What caused the burn-out?

This is always hard to explain, especially to those who haven’t experienced real burn-out. I myself, whenever I heard someone talking about it, quickly dismissed the whole thing as “bah, lazy people”. Until I got it myself and realized how bad it can be.

You can’t romance the NPCs, sorry

Anyway, all was good, I managed to code a NPC class, generate random NPCs, etc. and display it nicely (see picture above). The trouble started when I wanted to code the map, and each building should have variables, generate money, etc etc.

Then my brain refused to collaborate lol Burn out works like this: you know perfectly how to do it, you’re not doing something outside your skills, and yet, you get clouded vision, can’t concentrate, etc. In short, brain refuses to work! It’s really strange, and until I experienced it myself I thought wasn’t possible.

What happens now?

The Dingirra arena! So many memories…

Well, I made more tests after I started writing this blog post and I actually managed to get the map loading and working in Ren’Py. Victory? Wait, it’s still a bit too early!

Because displaying the scrolling map, adding zoom, making some houses clickable it’s just the beginning… I need to check that the game doesn’t slow down too much, that the gameplay loop works, and so on.

Anyways, worse case I think I could simply split the map in “sectors” and load them separately, without a big scrolling map. This way it should speed up things considerably. In short, I’m still making tests, in my spare time while I finish my current project.

Of course when I made my mind, I’ll write clearly what kind of gameplay to expect for this game in the crowdfunding page. The story/visual novel mode will obviously always be available no matter what.

See you next month, where I hope to have more news about this game and maybe even launch the Kickstarter (but at this point I think might be May). Meanwhile if you want to bookmark it, this is the KS page: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/winterwolves/thieves-of-dingirra

House of Chavez update

In this first month of 2024 I’ve been working hard on House of Chavez, obviously. Some good news: I’m at very good point. I am also really enjoying working on the game, since it’s refreshing coding all the new mechanics and coming up, once again, with new ways to use Ren’Py! By the way I made a vlog about the devlopment of the game if you’re interested in the game design / technical side:

And now, a little bad news: I’ve already gone over the budget by a good amount lol

As I think I’ve already explained in the past, the amount I ask on Kickstarter it’s just the amount I need to (hopefully) break even on launch day. In reality, in the vast majority of the cases, I go over that amount (and I don’t even count my own time…!). Then I hope that the regular sales will cover the rest, and in the following months/years will bring me some earnings.

Problem is that this time I’m doing a game that’s very different from everything I’ve done in the past so it’s all new to me. I honestly didn’t think it would take so long, but in an adventure game, you can’t “describe a puzzle”. You have to have icons for the items, design the mechanics, test them, adjust difficulty, and so on.

Many things that in a visual novel can be described by words, in a more visual game like a point’n’click adventure, need to have a visual counterpart. And all of those things takes time and money.

A possible solution

In any case, don’t worry: the project will be finished in time as promised. The only compromise I might have to make, is this: in one of the stretch goals, there was the possibility to have a naked version of all CG in the game, even the one not regarding the love scenes. Like this one below for example:

To keep things realistic, the naked version of those pictures would be unlockable in the gallery, by playing a simple puzzle game.

Now I might not make a naked version of just two images: one where Dolores and Adriana eat an ice cream together which I posted a while ago, and the other one is a scene where Silke and Adriana watch an horror movie, which you can see below:

I haven’t made my mind yet but to avoid going too much over budget I could do this. I need to see what happens at the end of the month, when I should have all the remaining art finished! In any case I don’t think it will be a big deal, since there is still a lot of other content in this game – there’ll be over 22 CGs, many of them with many variations, so even with just two love interests this game has as similar amount of scenes as, for example An Elven Marriage, which is crazy!

Conclusions

Regarding the game, as I’m testing it, you can of course replay it both romancing Dolores and Silke, so that should already give some good replayability. As I already posted, the minigames will be skippable the second time you play, or if you fail them too many times, so even replaying a game like this full of gameplay shouldn’t be an issue for those used to visual novels only.

There are also some optional things to discover, that won’t prevent you to reach the ending, but can shed some light on the characters of the story, and will be tied to specific achievements.

In summary, considering this is my first attempt at something like this, I am moderately satisfied with the result. If money and time wasn’t a problem, I’d probably also have liked to voice the entire game, since I think it’s common in adventure games to have the voiceovers.

If you’re interested in the game, please wishlist it here!