Recently I tweeted about the challenges of making pure visual novels and I want to share more insights on this topic. Let me be honest: pure visual novels are one of the easiest types of games to make, as long as you have access to a good artist (or you are one) and a good writer (or you can write well!).
At the time of writing this post, there are almost 9000 (yes you read it well) games with the “Visual Novel” tag on Steam…!
The art and the writing are the main components of a visual novel. Once you have them, you have done most of the work. Music is also important, but… unfortunately for musicians (this is not just my opinion) it is easier to find good music and it is not as crucial as art (which attracts people to your game page) and writing (which determines the quality of your story). Having good music is like a bonus, but I never heard “I’m going to buy that visual novels only because I like the music”.
Of course, there are some visual novels that sell well on Steam. But usually, they are made by people who already have a fanbase (either in the gaming industry or elsewhere), or they make adult games (which have a higher demand than normal visual novels) or they get lucky on Steam (but that’s very rare nowadays).
So what happens now?
As a full-time indie developer, I want to keep making games until I retire. So I’m planning to move to Bali and cut my living expenses by two-thirds… haha just joking (but I would love to go there someday!).
Seriously though, I’m going to experiment with different things. I’ll still make the usual visual novels because I still think that releasing only one big game a year is not a good strategy. But I’ll also try to mix some gameplay elements with the visual novel format. Not only RPGs, but other genres as well. A good example is the adventure gameplay and minigames I’m adding to House of Chavez.
In summary, my goal in the next years will be:
- every year: release a regular VN game (for example, I want to do the third and final game of the Tales From The Under-Realm series, though that might happen only in 2025)
- every year: release a VN/gameplay hybrid game. Not necessarily a big game. I could reuse the card-framework in a different way, or come up with something new. Town sim, management sim, raising sim, etc. some gameplay but still more in a “casual” way, nothing too complex
- every 2-3 years: release a VN/RPG, at least until I finish the 4 loren spin-offs. As posted already, some of those spin-offs might also be one of those gameplay hybrids so they’ll get done quicker. For sure the 2nd game, Reign of War, will be a RPG, though I might also want to do a mix between a map with armies and a RPG, could be interesting. But Reign of Peace (the 3rd spin-off) could well be just a simulation, running the Amazon empire, etc.
Visually representing the plan for the next 2 years could be:
Of course, the year I’ll release the big game (like Loren spin-offs) I will probably only have the strength to do a plain VN the same year; nothing is set in stone yet, since with gamedev there are always unexpected events / delays.
However I think that with such plan, I should avoid burn-out (doing a big game every 2-3 years) and also keep myself motivated by doing new gameplay experiments which could even be funny to design and code. For example, I’m having a lot of fun designing and coding the House of Chavez adventure part and minigames.
Remember that I’ll also do later this month my usual blog post reviewing the year that is ending, and to make you best wishes! So see you later this month in this blog.