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Best songs from my games

I often liked to put a theme song on my games, but I never made what I’m about to do now: a sort of ranking. Of course it’s my personal tastes and yours will be different!

I want to divide them in two groups, songs from games released before 2020 and songs of the games released in the last two years, since they all have a song (while in the past I didn’t always have it).

This is not a ranking of successful games or anything else – just my PERSONAL tastes on the theme songs of my games! And there might be some surprises…

Older games songs ranking

Third place: Always Remember Me

It was the first theme song to appear in my games and maybe already because of this I have special memories attached to it. But anyway I also like how the song turned out in general!

Second Place: Roommates

I was really undecided if to put this first or second, but maybe because I’ve heard it so many times I’m starting to get sick of it 😛 Jokes aside, it was the perfect song to accompany this game!

First Place: C14 Dating & Cursed Lands

You weren’t expecting this, right? Well, I don’t know why but I think this song is catchy and I like this singer’s voice.

This one instead is a classic, I think probably the most romantic theme song of my games (though I also liked a lot Planet Stronghold 2 theme song).

Newer games songs ranking

Third Place: The Curse Of Mantras

I’m starting to see a pattern in my choices – songs with a sexy, low voice ! Jokes aside (well not even much) this could have been in the older songs since it was YEARS since the song was ready, but the game came out this year, so…

Second Place: Summer In Trigue & At Your Feet

This game came out in a particular moment of my life, and thanks to its art, writing and music was like taking a virtual trip to a tropical island and life the relaxing holiday life. In practice I have only good memories of this game and I always will, for personal reasons 🙂

This is the craziest song I’ll ever do for a game (which is also crazy too). The lyrics are hilarious and yet the melody is very catchy and I love this singer’s voice. Indeed she also did several other songs, like…

First Place: The Hardest Thing (Hazel)

Hazel’s theme song is very simple, just piano and voice, but I think is beautiful, both in the lyrics and in the singing. The same singer also did After Midnight song albeit is a different genre (more rock/gothic).

So that’s it! If you want to, share in the comments your favorite theme songs from my games (or even from other VNs)!

Tales From The Under-Realm: After Midnight out now

one of the many kisses present in the game

I’m happy to announce that Tales From The Under-Realm: After Midnight is out both on my own website (through itchio) and on Steam:

https://winter-wolves.itch.io/tales-from-the-under-realm-after-midnight

https://store.steampowered.com/app/1816710/Tales_From_The_UnderRealm_After_Midnight/

So far reception has been very good, people seemed to appreciate the murder mystery and the unpredictable characters. And of course, Evelyn. Yes I’m already thinking about a new game with her as protagonist, playing such a character could be fun.

Adult content problem again

As you might have noticed, even this game ended up in Adult Only section on Steam. I’ve said it a thousand times, I have no issues with adult content in general: the only problem is that people that browse games in that category might look for… less plot and more sexual stuff.

erotism is a form of art

Which in my case is bad since this game like all my games has character growth, relationship, a complex story with many branching choices and so on. The erotic scenes naturally happen in the couse of the love story between the characters, and it’s not the main goal of the game. The main goal is to find out who is the murderer and how the protagonist died. But apparently, for Steam review team, “the game appears to be adult in nature, from the story and setting, to the goal of unlocking sexualized CGs.

Anyways, it could be worse! I just heard from the company porting my games to console that even Nintendo who seemed to be OK with adult stuff is now changing their mind, and they’ll have to censor all the games they ported on that console… so ending up in adult only category on Steam it’s not the end of the world.

People from Germany won’t be able to see the game, but if they buy it on itchio they can play it there and also redeem the free Steam key coming from the purchase. I think that by this point people from those banned countries have learned to not look for such content on Steam.

The kind of games I make

Last but not least, recently got some complaints from people about the kind of games I make, some even saying that there’s “too much LGBT”. First of all there isn’t a thing like “too much LGBT”, second in the end I can make the games I want (that’s why I became indie!) and last but not least, it’s not true.

If you like straight romances only, just looking at the last few years:

2020 – Planet Stronghold 2 which had all kind of romances (so, including straight ones)
2021 – Love Notes who had all kind of romances
2022 – The Curse of Mantras which, guess what? had all kind of romances
2023 – I’ll likely finally release ToA: An Elven Marriage with… ta-dah! all kind of romances (even more straight than LGBT romances in this case).

Consider that most other indies just release 1 game a year, and many just with one kind of romance, I don’t think I’m doing too badly! It is true, that I make more yuri games, but because on Steam they really do well (I made a blog post not long ago about this).

So the real question, if I had to analyze it from the business side of it (because I need to live with my job) would be: why I still make non-yuri games? lol. But if I can, I’ll always try to make one game a year with all possible romances.

Last days of the Beastmaster Princess Kickstarter!

Speaking of having more romance options, at the time of writing this blog post we’ve almost reached the base goal, but I would really like to have a male protagonist for my next fantasy Kickstarter. Below you see some sketches for the male CGs:

a very hot scene with Takara, reminding me of the one with Damien in Planet Stronghold
and this is a more gentle one with Manila

So if you haven’t already, consider backing up The Beastmaster Princess Kickstarter! Thanks

TFTU: After Midnight beta and The Beastmaster Princess Kickstarter

One project is getting towards completion, while another is beginning the development! It’s the cycle of life, applied to indie videogames.

A close up preview of one of the six endings

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

the game main menu image

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.

To know more about the game including the characters and the various stretch goals (there’s even one to add a male protagonist and a harem ending!!) I invite you to check the Kickstarter page here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/winterwolves/the-beastmaster-princess

As you can see, looks like this will be a busy month for me 🙂

Creating a brand

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.

One of Nadja’s bonus scenes

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.

Final conclusions

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!

The misleading Steam reviews

First of all, short update on Tales From The Under-Realm: After Midnight. I am at good point, I’m finishing to script the ending scenes and waiting for some art, but overall I believe I should have a beta out next month!

And now let’s get to the topic of this post.

Many people use Steam reviews to judge a game success. And up to a point, it’s a valid metric. If a game has an insane amount of reviews (in the order of hundred or thousands) in a short time, one thing it’s sure: has sold a lot of copies!

Elden Ring already had 353000 reviews after about 2 months from launch!

But what about us small indie devs? It’s really hard to say, when reviews are under 50-100, if a game was successful or not.

Of course it’s even harder to say now because every year, average income for each game drops noticeably. So games with same amount of reviews or review scores could have very different results.

Lately getting past 10 reviews for an average priced game ($10-15) it’s super hard, since very few players leave them. Anyway, to make this post, I compared the revenues of the games I released back in 2016-17. I picked those since I didn’t do any crowdfunding back then and it was a time where you could still get decent exposure on Steam.

For comparison, none of the recent games got such high amount of reviews and still some sold way better (see a previous blog post: https://www.winterwolves.net/blog/2022/04/market-changes/ )

The graph above shows the revenues in red, the review score (in percentage) in green, and the reviews amount in blue. Note that I wrote this blog a few weeks ago so maybe I got some new reviews in the meanwhile, but it shouldn’t change by much.

Generally, higher reviews=better sales, but it largely depends on the genre: both PSCD and Queen Of Thieves have fewer reviews than C14 Dating or Heirs & Graces, but revenues are similar or slightly higher.

I think from my experience (not just those games but considering also all my others) is that games with extra gameplay, especially RPG (not so much card games sadly) bring more revenues with same review amount and similar rating. It’s also true though that games with gameplay take on average 2-3 times the amount to make.

I also believe that if a game has a particularly well done story or that somehow remains impressed in people for various reasons, like Heirs & Graces, it can bring a lot of reviews, but sadly not much revenue (it’s probably the game with the highest disparity between reviews and revenues that I have made!).

For comparison, Queen Of Thieves has 1/3 of Heirs and Grace reviews, much lower rating, and still it sold slightly more. Because is a RPG, and also because it features female protagonists and/or lesbian/yuri romance which seems to be the single highest selling point for VN on Steam market (it’s not random that most of the recent games I’ve made all are yuri!).

Conclusions

This is just my experience but speaking privately with other indies they had same results. That’s why I believe that if a game has less than 100 reviews, trying to determine how successful it was based on review amount is difficult. If a game has over 100, then it did well, and if has over 1000 then it was definitely a small hit! Everything else are just theories.