Doing sequels is a good or bad idea?

First of all, a small announcement: like all years I’m doing a Summer Sale! Here are the links:

https://itch.io/s/11532/summer-sale-older-games 75% off for older games
https://itch.io/s/11536/summer-sale-newer-games 50% off for games released in last 2 years

Back to the post topic: as you know I’m working right now on Planet Stronghold 2, a sci-fi RPG sequel of my first RPG released back in 2011 (you can see a video showing some alpha gameplay above). I often asked myself if doing sequels is a good or bad thing, and this is my experience so far.

Why is a good thing

The most obvious thing is, if your first game did well and got a following, it’s worth doing it just because people who liked the first game, would probably like the second too, as long as the gameplay/story remains more or less the same.

I did this with Heileen (3 games) and Bionic Heart. For Heileen, it worked more or less well. The games are different (also because they were made over the course of several years and the last one wasn’t written by me directly) but the setting and main characters are the same.

For Bionic Heart instead, it didn’t work as well because while the setting is obviously the same (sci-fi) the general mood of the game is different. The first game had more humor and insisted more on the robotic-love fetish, while the second had more sci-fi elements and mature settings (murder, mass murder, grim/dark world, etc).

Of course it’s not a strict rule that you MUST make all games in a series using exactly the same mood/setting/characters/whatever but personally I believe it’s probably better.

Oh, and don’t make the mistake to plan a series without knowing before if your first title (basically the idea, a sort of equivalent of the “pilot” episode of tv series) will be liked by enough people. I did this back in 2010 with Vera Blanc:ย  I started working on the second episode even before the first was out, and the first sold terribly but I was already halfway through the second that I just had to finish it even if as you can imagine my motivations were zero…

Why is a bad thing

Apart the case above (doing a sequel without knowing how the first title does) there are also other problems. First of all, if you have a game with romances, or tough choices, what happens? do you let player choose at the beginning of the new game who they romanced and what choices they made? if you allow this, you already know that writing the story is going to be a pain. Both in Heileen and Bionic Heart I just picked a “canon ending” and no romance would continue. I was smart.

For Planet Stronghold 2 and Loren 2 instead the plan is to let the player decide the starting romance/events. For example in PS2 you can choose if you sided with Rebels or The Empire, and the story will be different based on this choice (not completely different but many scenes will change).

So this already increases production costs and potential headaches by a LOT!

But it’s not just that. There’s also players’ expectations. For PS2, I am confident enough I can do a good job since the first game is really old, done in times where my English was much worse than it is now (I will use an editor of course) and I didn’t know well what my players wanted. But in any case, when people play a game and they like it, they build a sort of fondess to its memory. You forget about all the problems a game had and you only remember the best things. I know this happened to me with the old games I played when was younger. Then recently I tried to replay some of those games (back to C64 and Amiga times) and… they were unplayable! I wouldn’t even bother playing them for more than 5 minutes now! Still, I remember about those times with great pleasure.

All this rambling to say that probably for Loren 2, no matter if I’ll do a good job with it (I don’t know yet, but I’ll try my best as always) it’s completely sure that a big amount of people who played the original won’t like it, saying various things like “it’s not bad, but the original…” or “I liked the first one better…” and so on. This is basically inevitable. It’s a no-win situation ๐Ÿ˜›

Conclusions

Even if in certain cases doing sequels is a good thing, personally I’m almost sure that I’ll never make a sequel to a game anymore. Especially reusing same characters, and especially RPGs.

Doing other games in the same world/setting/lore? Sure, why not! That’s what I already did with my various fantasy games set in Aravorn. Doing cameos is also fun. But full sequels to existing games… no, because the cons greatly outweight the pros.

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16 Responses to Doing sequels is a good or bad idea?

  1. Baldo says:

    “I didnโ€™t know well what my players wanted”…

    Wut?!? Make no mistake here: PS is GOOD even now!!!! It’s only because I’m using a 6-years-old computer with a bugged Windows 7 system if I’m not re-playing (or buying, sorry… ) your games.

    Keep up the good work, e grazie per la tua professionalitร !

  2. Erik says:

    When you have so many good ideas, I imagine we’ll always see new games and new IP’s from Winterwolves.

    Sequels are tricky! If a game did well, there will be demand for a sequel.
    Sequels have one problem, new games do not… Very high expectations and hype.

    I love Winterwolves games, but admit, that most the games I’ve liked were the first game in the series. Bionic Heart 2 didn’t have the voice acting ,the same simple (yet really good) artwork the first one did. Also it split the point of view between Mars and Earth….which I know wasn’t all that well received by everyone.

    I really enjoyed Always Remember Me, but same was true for the sequel. A+ For consistent good quality in both those games.

    I really enjoyed Planet Stronghold (the turned based combat was great too) and the artwork there was superb. The writing while simple, -did- it’s job. Also found it easy to like the characters.
    Planet Stronghold’s (sequel?/spinoff?) Colonial Defense, I really didn’t like much.
    The writing was different (not in a flattering way), there were too many characters fighting for screentime, often lame dialogue, and, several characters that were just annoying. The graphics was also different, also not in a flattering way. While the art wasn’t terrible, it lacked the charm of the original’s anime’ish bright drawn style.
    The card system was awesome though, and the redeeming quality of the game.
    I’d buy the game for it’s card-system alone. The rest however, to my opinion was not up to the standard I’ve come to expect from WW.

    If you consider the other games in the Aravorn setting sequel to Loren, I’ve enjoyed the other games, especially the rpgs. Queen of Thieves, though the artwork seemed “simple”, I enjoy the turn based combat a lot. Seasons of the Wolf is probably my second favourite WW game

    • admin says:

      Thanks for the feedback ๐Ÿ™‚
      Do you know that I did a manga update to PSCD right? (just asking in case)
      As for the other games in Aravorn setting no, of course those aren’t sequels. They just take place in the same world, but a sequel means has same main characters of the first game.

  3. IsTorres says:

    Now that the guy before me brought it up, I simply have to say: the dialogue in PSCD was really bad. There were a LOT of instances where characters talked about one topic than they strayed to another and, when they were done with the second topic, they just continued talking about the original one. More than once I had to scroll back just to remember what they were talking about. Don’t get me wrong, I liked the game, gameplay was great, story wasn’t bad, although, in my opinion quite a few of the characters were bland, but that’s probably because you tried to fit too many characters in there.

    I’m sorry for my rant, this probably wasn’t the place for it but I just had to get that off my chest. On the positive side, I simply love the majority of your games and you’re probably my favorite indie developer so keep it up.

    As for your sequel dillema, I agree with you, sequels in indie rpgs and vns are generally a really bad idea, although I’m mostly saying that because I simply hate when my canon romance doesn’t turn out to be THE canon romance, and I’m sure everyone else hates that as well (looking at you serafina’s crown) but you managed to bypass that particular problem by letting characters chose who they romanced. In that case though, you only make more work for yourself and I’m not sure if it’s worth it. Ultimatelly, the choice is yours, but logically you should steer away from doing sequels.

    Mind you, logical isn’t always the best and, even though you say now that you won’t make sequels anymore, life always finds a way to change your course, so I wouldn’t completelly disregard the posibility of another great story that will make you want to create a continuation to it if I were you.

    *deep breath* And done.

    • admin says:

      For PSCD the main issue was switching from a gameplay system to another and from a game that was supposed to have quick dialogues since the main gameplay was tower defense, to a full VN ๐Ÿ˜› all things considered the result wasn’t too bad, and the same writer did a good job with Love Bites since she could write without restrictions.

      As for RPG sequels yes, as I said. If I just picked a canon ending probably things would be easier… but it’s too late for that for PS2 and Loren2.

  4. Jack says:

    Honestly I can’t wait for PS2 and Loren 2. I don’t think its the no-win situation you think it is. Some might be unhappy, but others will love it. I think that’s true of all games really. I’m really glad you aren’t forcing a canon ending/romance on either. Nothing ruins a sequel of an rpg more than saying your choices were ignored.

    Really looking forward to PS2. Loved the gameplay of the first and really hated the gameplay of PSCD. (It bothered me on an RP level.) But conversely, the art didn’t bother me at all. Which leads back to my point that all players are different. Don’t stress yourself out trying to please everyone.

    • admin says:

      PS2 gameplay will be different from the first but I tried to keep the same armor resistances/damage idea. I should have a demo of the battle system out in the next weeks ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Troyen says:

    I think like with all media it depends on if you have more to say in the story or more ideas to explore.

    But if you’re going to do it, I don’t think you can just make the exact same RPG and slap a new story/pictures on top of it. I do enjoy PS1, but like you said, I had forgotten how tedious late-game combat was with the old hit/miss system, where my characters on hard have an average accuracy per turn of ~43% or so and the solution was to rapidly click burst on everything until stuff exploded. I think you can recapture a lot of the feel of the original while still improving upon it, and your track record in particular shows you aren’t shy about doing this. The Civilization series shows it’s possible to iterate on a concept and still come up with games people enjoy.

    It’s also fine to tweak the cast a little bit because people come and go and a large part of a story is discovering how characters respond to one another in the various situations. Of course, this is much more difficult if a character you want to swap out was a love interest in the previous game – something that happened to me in the Mass Effect series.

    Changing the tone/mood is a much bigger risk. If people associate the series with a comedy and you give them a tragedy, it probably won’t be as well received. At the same time, if the natural progression of the story/character arcs includes elements of a different mood, I think it’s okay to include them as long as the overall/majority tone/mood are in line with the rest of the series.

    TBH, it’s early but I don’t think PS2 will be a big problem. I’m far more worried about Loren 2A and Loren 2B just because the scope is so massive it feels like you crammed in too many elements for fans that it’ll take a lot of luck and duct-tape to hold everything together. Even if it wasn’t a sequel, developing 16 different romantic interests is already a huge undertaking, and as we saw with PSCD you can’t fit all those people into a single scene. Yes, you split the game in half, but storywise the two halves happen concurrently and I have no idea what gymnastics it’s going to take to both keep your first game’s choices meaningful while allowing the player enough agency to feel like they’re impacting the story on each half without throwing the timeline into chaos or having over-complicated branch conditions.

    • admin says:

      Yes as I posted in the blog I’m much more confident about PS2, for Loren 2 as you said just because of the crazy amount of romances it will be a real challenge. That was the perfect example of a developer listening TOO MUCH to fans without thinking how crazy the idea was. If you asked fans, they’d want a game with 500 full fleshed romance routes for $9.99 ๐Ÿ˜€

  6. Jaeger says:

    Assuming the original game was successful, sequels are usually safer than new IPs. The foundation has already been made, which means ideas and assets could be reused, while a new IP may mean starting from scratch. With the ridiculously large budgets in modern games, it’s publishers are not going be as willing to take risks. It’s one of the reasons why sequels are so prevalent in the video game industry.

    That being said, the fact you are trying to continue the story with the same characters and setting while giving the players a choice of prior events is making things harder. Series like Fallout and Elder Scrolls only retain the same universe, but the locations and characters change with each title.

    • admin says:

      Yes, after PS2 and Loren2 there won’t be any more RPGs with continuing characters/stories. Cameos at best like for Cursed Lands, but nothing more.

  7. qorl says:

    Damnit, I stop idly checking this website for two weeks and miss the sale :/

  8. Ni says:

    in really I think that you should leave the rpg thing. I love rpg, and your rpg don’t works very well.
    What I mean is that you should focus your efforts on what you do best.
    I’ve played several of your games, and in rare exceptions the rpg is balanced, I know this takes a lot of time to do, and it spends a lot of resources, it’s also a differential. But I think maybe you should replace this with a puzzle game, or a game of find the object, it would be better with the story, and even those puzzle-joining four equal balls could throw a skill that you could increase the strength in a workout in the game itself or some other condition. But I think you should give up Rpg until you have real test conditions.

    • admin says:

      RPGs take a long time but my games with RPG gameplay are my best selling games, even considering the time invested. While I cannot do too many of them at once, and even if you think they’re not balanced, I will still keep doing them because I like it and it’s worth it.
      The article is about doing sequels, and the difficulty in keeping existing romances, not about RPGs in general ๐Ÿ™‚

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