One project is getting towards completion, while another is beginning the development! It’s the cycle of life, applied to indie videogames.
Yes, because you can play the Tales From The Under-Realm: After Midnight beta right now on itchio! I’ve already sent the Steam keys to everyone who backed the game on Kickstarter, as well as itchio beta links for those who signed for it.
In any case, the final release is planned for next month, so there shouldn’t be much to wait in any case if you prefer to play directly the final version.
I’ll write a proper post-mortem later but for now I just want to say: thank to everyone who supported this game, and wow, it’s really hard to have a customizable character and many different CG! The game final size is over 300mb, of which probably there’s an extra 100mb due to all the different hair/skin color customization options!
The Beastmaster Princess Kickstarter
I’m also really happy to announce this new game! It’s a game that started development several years ago but then for various reason I had to pause it, but now I’ve finally time to finish it.
The setting is rather original vs my other fantasy games, since takes you on the role of Kunya, the daughter of chief Goro, of the Desert Snakes tribe. So for the first time you’ll be playing as a Nomad.
First of all, a quick update about TFTU: After Midnight. Development is at very good point, I’m basically just waiting for the last remaning CG scenes (the various endings) but apart that, everything else is finished.
I hope to start the game beta sometimes this month (mid/end of it)! If you missed the previous one is currently on sale together with a couple of other indie games from friends, check it out: https://itch.io/b/1524/cute-gothic-yuri
What it means to create a brand?
Today I want to talk about something that has been on my mind since a while. What do I mean exactly by creating a brand? Specifically in visual novels (or story-based games)?
Sometimes I check reviews on Steam and itchio (on itchio they’re hidden to public, so only devs can see them). In one of them, I don’t remember which game it was but it was very negative, said something like “I don’t recommend buying any game from this dev”.
They drew this conclusion by simply playing a game. One game out of 40+ I’ve made in my indie career. It’s a bit like saying that you won’t watch a TV channel because you didn’t like one TV show out of the 100 they’re currently airing.
But when I think about it, it’s something that many people do, it’s not completely uncommon. Why? Because people assume that game A is representative of that dev way of work, writing style, their ideas, the way they make the game.
This, in my case, is completely wrong, for a simple reason: I wrote several games myself, but I also used a LOT of external writers, always leaving them a LOT of freedom. In many cases I just gave them a generic plot but then left them total freedom on how to develop the story, the characters and so on.
But was it a good idea?
Maybe not always? Wait, I’m not saying that I didn’t like the results. Of course, I had my own preferences but it’s also a matter of tastes. But it’s normal to say that in my opinion some games turned out better than others. That’s not the point though: the point is that is normal to have a specific style or ideas. For example I’d never describe explicitly torture or rape, or I like to always have a bit of humor and romance in all the stories. Other writers could have different priorities or ideas.
But even the same writer can do different kind of stories. I wrote Heileen, Hazel, Planet Stronghold 1-2, Bionic Heart. They’re all very different settings, some more funny, some more mature, and so on.
I can understand why some companies seems to develop mostly the same kind of games (cute otomes, dark / horror stuff, sexy yuri games, etc). For me is a bit hard because I like to always experiment, indeed I’ve done a bit of everything in my indie career. Probably the only genre I haven’t done yet is cyberpunk (though Bionic Heart is close).
Is there really a solution?
It’s complicated, to be honest. In my more recent games, with only a few exceptions, I’ve resumed writing them on my own, with the help of an editor of course. And for the ones I outsourced I wrote a detailed storyboard, so that the writer followed it closely.
The games done with this system so far have amongst the highest review rating on Steam for my games. It makes me proud, sure, but on the other hand as I’ve explained in last month’s blog post, the review rating is not really representative of a game’s success (well unless is totally negative of course!).
Anyway, for the games done this way there’s more uniformity I think. On the other hand, I’m not so cocky to think that I can write better than anyone else, or that I’m the only one to have good ideas, so I think I’ll still want have stories fully developed by external writers sometimes.
There are other VN authors that always write their own games themselves, and I am a bit envy of them to be honest. This way they’re sure that if a player likes one game, their style, their brand, they’re likely to like/try other games as well.
In conclusion, I think I’ll still do what I’m doing now, trying new ideas, new genres, not producing games in series with always same topics, style, etc. And if someone picks one of my 40 games and thinks that because they don’t like that single one, they won’t like even all the others, well… I can’t do much about that.
I’m curious to know how they decide what to watch on TV though. Because if you try a series on Netflix and you don’t like it, for sure you won’t like even all the other 99, right? I’m being sarcastic obviously!