Monthly Archives: September 2019

Lessons learned and ideas for Loren 2

I know that Planet Stronghold 2 is not out yet, and it’s definitely too early to do a postmortem. But as I am coding Planet Stronghold 2 I am learning a lot, and it was really a good thing that I did it before embarking on the odyssey that will be making Loren 2.

Too many romances!

Planet Stronghold 2 romance graph. Notice how foolishly hoped to have it done by Q1 2013! lol

If you ask a player, there’s no thing as too many romances! But if you ask me, or any other developer who cares to bring good characters and realistic romance routes to life, they’ll shake their head and say “yes”.

While writing Planet Stronghold 2, I realized how complex is a game that offers a lot of romance options AND also the possibility to continue a previous romance. I will explain better with some examples, because I understand that for players some details aren’t immediately noticeable, but for people like me who are behind the planning and coding, it’s a nightmare!

Let’s not talk about the fact that for each single romance combo (male/female and straight/homosexual) I had a different starting scene in PS2, in that case even if you were loyal or rebel there were different variations (for example, Michelle moved away if you were Rebel).

So that aside, for each scene in PS2, I had text variants depending if the character was in a romance or not. For example, if Rebecca saw Joshua looking at other girls and you were in a starting romance with her, a jealousy scene would follow. Which of course would make no sense if you were NOT in a starting romance with her! And so on. There are a lot of those variants thorough the whole game, and they take time and effort since they must merge with the story well.

A small parenthesis: this is one of the main reasons why I didn’t use an external writer for this game, because either that writer knew very well how Ren’Py / branching games work, or would have been a mess to explain what to do.

But that’s not even the worst – the worst is, that since I offered the option to “change your mind” and break the current romance to pursue a new character, for each starting love interest I had a “break up scene”. Then, for each character I also had an “engagement scene” which would “set” your love interest in chapter 3 and until the end of the story. Phew!

Even for Cursed Lands there was a lot of effort but at least there, all the romances except Leena and Jasper were bisex, removing several problems. And you had no starting romances. Here there are all the previous romances: Rebecca, Tom, Michelle, Rumi, Cliff and Damien, plus the new entries: Milo, Lakadema, Shiler and Avae!

To use a technical term, this amount of work behind the game romances is fucking insane. Lol, jokes apart, at least for the new entries I had “only” to write the engagement scenes since you couldn’t start in a romance with them.

Talking about Loren 2

As I was saying, this experience with Planet Stronghold 2 made me realize once more that all the romances of Loren 2 was a totally reckless decision and I don’t think I can possibly do a good job as it’s currently planned.

My idea (which is not set in stone of course) is to have a full experience with the new romances, I mean like the first game, so that each character has a long, satisfying romance arc. And then, maybe a sort of smaller story or something for the existing romances. It could still be done in form of a DLC, but what I want people to understand is that I simply cannot have both games of same length, also because it’s hard to find new ideas for the existing romances (there’s already 240-250,000 words of texts of the first game after all!).

But beside length consideration, even for Loren 2 I simply cannot have all the combo of Planet Stronghold 2, so probably I will have either a starting romance that will be the same for the whole story (with no possibility to change) or starting with no romance, and then you could romance the new characters only.

Already the change described above would cut a lot of work, making the story much easier to write and I wouldn’t need to have 500 variants of the same scene depending on the starting romances!

In summary right now my idea is that at beginning of the game, the choices would be two: 1) start as “new”, with no pre-exisiting relationship and possibility to engage with the new characters only 2) start with an existing relationship from Loren 1 and keep it until end of the story (this probably would be done as DLC to be released later)

Anyway, there’s time, since after Planet Stronghold 2 I plan to “take a break” and work on Undead Lily since that’s also another game delayed for too long (and that has too many romances problem as well! haha). I’ll also be releasing other “regular” VN/dating sim games along the way since taking 1 year between each release is really too much time and bad for business.

Your feedback is welcome

PSCD is probably one of the games where I listened more to the feedback

Haha sorry for the odd blog post title! Anyway, the basic concept is this one: any feedback from you is welcome. You, who bought and played my games. You who never bought any of my games and pirated them all. You who have somehow played my games and think they’re awesome and the very likely few of you (really, just a minority, I’m sure of it!) who think they are bad ! 😛

Jokes apart, I always welcomed feedback, even when it was made in a somewhat arrogant/presumptuous way, like “why have you done XYZ when clearly nobody likes that?” and often I laughed looking at the statistics in my possession saying exactly the opposite.

Tastes are tastes, but stats don’t lie

Doesn’t matter if what you think is “right” or “wrong” (also because we can’t really say that, it’s all about personal tastes), I am interested in hearing it. If you follow me I know that I always try to reply whenever I can, explaining why I do what I do, even if ultimately the main reason of all my choices is that I run a business and I need to make money.

For example, I already said a while ago that I won’t make any more yaoi only games, but this doesn’t mean that there won’t be anymore yaoi romances in my games, especially RPGs. It means simply that there won’t be another Heirs & Graces game, with 4 love interests, all gay. This is not about personal tastes (even if I personally like more yuri) but based on the statistics in my possession. It’s better for me to do a game with two romance combos or even all romances, maybe with fewer love interests or with all characters bisex (like Love Bites) instead.

Anyway, sorry for derailing! But if you have any comment/suggestion to make, feel free to do it, here in the blog, in my forums, on my discord server (even if I sadly I don’t check it often) or in the social networks. Even if I mostly base my decisions on my data/stats, many times suggestion also helped me come up with new game ideas, gameplay or other thing. Small details, big changes.

Indeed, several times I made choices based on people’s suggestions! For example I have:

  • named a main character (Nicole)
  • tried making a game in a new genre (PSCD, Amber)
  • changed an ending/epilogue (Cursed Lands)
  • made a game more “hot/explicit” (PSCD, Roommates)
  • named a game (Heirs & Graces, Amber)

and the list goes on. So as you can see, I take them seriously into consideration! Then maybe of 10 suggestions only 1 gets implemented, but doesn’t mean I don’t care about them or that I don’t read them.

Some examples

PSCD is a good example of features implemented based on suggestions. The manga art update, which increased sales by 300% and showed me to never make again a game with non manga art. Or for the same game, the “quick match” option in the main menu. At first I was reluctant but in the end was probably a week of work more to implement it, and people definitely liked it.

Or for those who beta-tested Cursed Lands and participated in my forums, I changed the epilogue of the game after talking with people and Loren’s original writer to remain faithful to a certain character (I won’t go in more details since is a spoiler).

The only case in which I definitely don’t implement something, is if the idea itself requires an insane amount of extra money or work and I simply cannot afford to do it. If you haven’t, check a post I made a while ago about feature creep and vocal minority.

Keep the suggestions coming and even if I don’t have time to reply to all of them, I swear I read them all!