Category Archives: general

posts about general topics, even not related to computer games

Plan for the next years

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!).

Indies! Explore the world like Dolores; don’t just churn out games continuously! 😉

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.

the “rotate tiles” minigame. A friend commented saying that looks like a complex Captcha LOL!

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.

Welcome to House of Chavez

Those following me on social media already know about the new game I’m working on, but for everyone else, I’m doing right now a Kickstarter for a new project called House of Chavez.

I’m not going to repeat here the info you can already find in the Kickstarter page. Instead I’ll explain better the kind of gameplay. It will be a visual novel mixed with adventure gameplay.

I already tried something like this back in 2009 with Bionic Heart, that mixed some old-school adventure sequences with the main story. In that case though, you had buttons at the bottom of the screen to move, another series of buttons with the actions and so on.

an example of point’n’click system and using the inventory

This time, we’re going for a modern point-and-click adventure system, complete with an inventory, a clue system, and a map for navigation. You can click directly on highlighted objects on the screen or use items from your inventory to interact with them.

But that’s not all – we’re spicing it up with various mini-games that unlock special scenes or lead to different endings. These mini-games will range from composing a song (see below) to cracking a safe or using a flashlight in a dark forest, and more.

What about romance?

I bet this will be the first question that comes to mind to my usual players! Initially, I planned to go with just Silke, the blonde girl from the trailer. However, thanks to the outstanding success of the crowdfunding campaign (one of the most impressive initial surges ever), I’ve decided to include Dolores, a wonderfully charming curvy Latina, as well.

Silke was the original only love interest

This complicates things slightly since the initial draft had only Silke as love interest. Anyway, I am already at work to change this. Which means that now you can finish the game in two different ways, depending who you romance (and who remains alive… remember it’s a horror game!).

Dolores for the fan of the more curvy girls

And in case isn’t obvious this is a yuri-only game (you can’t date Bruno, it’s your brother! lol). I decided to go with this since commercially is less risky. If the game does well I could do more adventure-like VN with different romance combos. Since it’s a new type of game I didn’t want to start with something too big (also because I have other projects I want to start / resume next year).

Here’s a short introduction for the main characters of the cast:

Adriana – She’s pretty open about her sexuality, however she often behaves like a shy person. Mostly because her brain stops working in presence of cute girls. She plays the guitar and sings, and she is a pretty independent girl, not afraid to speak her mind. She had problems with alcohol when her parents passed away, and her big brother Bruno worries a lot about her. They argue sometimes, but they support and motivate each other.

Silke – She comes from Germany and works as a waitress in a local pub. Not much is known about her background. What’s special to Adriana is that she was there for Adriana’s grandma, Maria, during her last days. She’s familiar with the House of Chavez. Silke keeps her true self hidden because of the close-minded people in Sombromar (the city’s name), but she’s been flirting with Adriana from their very first meeting. She appears extra careful and cautious, as if she’s concerned about something happening in town.

Dolores – A beautiful curvy Latina, Dolores is vacationing in Sombromar and enjoying the peaceful, off-peak beaches. She loves the beach and shopping. Beneath her seemingly surface-level persona, she’s a confident, independent woman who knows her mind and takes charge in everyday situations and relationships. She’s managed to accumulate significant wealth, allowing her to travel without working. But such a lifestyle can be lonely sometimes, so when she meets Adriana, she asks her out to have some company.

Bruno – Adriana’s older brother, albeit only for a couple of years, can sometimes come off as less mature than his younger sister. He was the first person Adriana came out to, and he values the trust she places in him. At times, he can be overly protective, and he occasionally feels a tad envious of how Adriana seems to get the attention of all the attractive ladies around them, as if it’s a sort of competition. Bruno is into amateur boxing and has a passion for motorbikes.

Adult content

Since this is not just a VN, I want to make sure anyone can play it, so it will have both a censored and an uncensored version. In practice the story will be the same, but in the uncensored version certain scenes will offer nudity:

And there’ll be some extra adult only CGs that won’t appear in the base censored game.

Estimate release

To relax after the effort of ToA: An Elven Marriage, I’ll be working mainly on this game in the next months. So it’s not unlikely that it might be ready around Q1 2024 ! Stay tuned for more news, and check the Kickstarter page if you haven’t already.

ToA: An Elven Marriage officially out and thoughts on wishlists

ToA: Official story trailer

I’m pleased to announce that my new VN/RPG “ToA: An Elven Marriage” is now officially out on my own site/itchio, and will be also out on Steam the 16th of current month. If you haven’t, you can wishlist it here.

I’m happy because the game didn’t end up in adult-only category, which means anyone will be able to buy and play it. There’ll be a separate free uncensor DLC for those who want to see the more spicy stuff.

What is ToA: An Elven Marriage?

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, this is the first of four spin-offs based on my first fantasy RPG “Loren The Amazon Princess”. It features Saren/Elenor and some new and old characters.

The other three spin-offs will come out gradually, maybe one every two years or so. It depends on how my other projects go, so I can’t give you an exact date. This game has about 200,000 words of text, which is similar to the original Loren without the DLC. I think it’s a good deal for the price, because of that.

I wanted to give a satisfying ending to the existing romances with Myrth and Rei, and I also introduced two new love interests, Lydia and Nathir, who are very different and appealing (Lydia is one of the most powerful female characters I ever created in my games) and I also tried to make the main story engaging and thought-provoking, with many moral and ethical dilemmas that affect Aravorn.

For the gameplay, I brought back the front/back row system in battles, making them more strategic (but maybe less flashy since there is no first person view anymore) and I also used some ideas from Planet Stronghold 2 like the crafting/upgrading system. Moreover, many legendary items have unique skills/spells (this was an idea I already used in Cursed Lands, but here I expanded it a lot) that allow you to create many different builds.

In summary, I am very happy of the final result, and I hope if you give it a chance that you’ll acknowledge all the efforts behind it and that you’ll enjoy it!

Wishlists are really so important?

And now time for some discussion about this recent obsession in getting the highest amount of wishlist for a game before its launch. Of course, I’m not saying that they’re not important! They obviously are.

But they’re not everything! I recently started digging some numbers of my past RPGs to see what happened regarding wishlists and sales, and this graph is interesting:

They’re the wishlists at launch, and units sold first week (usually the biggest week of sales) of my last 4 RPGs. Bear in mind that Seasons of The Wolf launched back in 2015, and Queen of Thieves in 2017 and Steam was a completely different world vs now, but in positive (it was way easier to make money) so those numbers have even a higher impact.

Very interesting is the comparison between Cursed Lands and Planet Stronghold 2: there’s “only” 2 years of difference between the two releases, and Cursed Lands sold almost 3 times Planet Stronghold 2, despite having a third of wishlist at launch!

Of course that’s not enough data to draw clear conclusions, but I really hope that high wishlists before launch aren’t the only way to have a moderate success on Steam nowadays!

What’s Next?

I have two projects in progress: one is a Kickstarter campaign for a psychological horror game set in modern times. It will be a VN with some adventure elements and mini-games (yes you heard it well, will talk about it in details next month).

The other is the final game of the Tales From The Under-Realm series, which will have a half-demoness protagonist and Evelyn from After Midnight as one of the two love interests (I will reveal the other one later). I have already written an initial draft of 100,000 words for this game, so it will be much bigger than the first two!

That’s all for now. Please go buy ToA: An Elven Marriage so I can keep making more fantasy VN/RPG!

ToA: An Elven Marriage update and other stuff

Hi everyone,

as I’m writing this blog post I’m waiting for the last backgrounds (I was using temporary/placeholders in some scenes) and edited texts of my upcoming VN/RPG ToA: An Elven Marriage.

One of the new backgrounds I recently added to the game

This month I also got the custom outfits for Elenor/Saren from the backers, and I like how they turned out!

I must admit that’s “fun” to be working on a RPG during the same months that Baldur’s Gate 3 and Starfield come out! But as I’ve said many times, it’s not really competition, more like the opposite – new players could be attracted to this genre after playing those two big games, and maybe they’ll decide to try some smaller indie games like mine!

Estimate beta date

So, what’s left? When the beta will be ready? that’s the question I often get asked in my socials and Discord. I don’t know how much time will take exactly, but I can tell you this: the beta will begin even if I don’t have all the final backgrounds. I will start it shortly after I have all the final edited texts.

After I get them, I will take probably 1 week to retest everything and then the beta (on itchio only) will start. Considering that there aren’t many texts left, I think that’s safe to say that the beta should really begin this month, maybe towards mid/end of it. Anyway, not much left to wait!

Other stuff

As you know, I work on many things at once. I’ve been experimenting with creating a sort of adventure framework for a future game. Not with walking characters on screen, more like “first person” adventure. I can’t talk much about it yet, but likely will be my next Kickstarter, once I figure out a few things.

It will be a slice-of-life psychological horror game set in Spain near the border with France, and will be one of my “shorter experimental games”. I call them like that when I want to try new ideas or new genres/combinations without investing too much time or money. Sort of “test the waters”. A bit like what I did with Save the World (a game that it seems was well received).

Will probably be able to talk about it later this year or early next year! That’s all for now.

Tofu

Tofu, together with Nina, was my favorite cat of mine. Her big round eyes and her funny expression will always remain stuck in my mind. She was pretty popular on social media as well, the picture below was shared on Tumblr almost 45,000 times!

Sadly, today I had to put Tofu to sleep, due to a tongue cancer for which there was no cure. She was only 12 years old, and I’m very sad that she didn’t live longer.

When I think about Tofu, I remember the first day she came home (first picture from top-left). She was very slim and hungry. She followed me to my car and jumped on it, waiting patiently to get to her new home. She trusted me immediately, it was like she knew we were meant to stay together.

She arrived the 28th August 2012, and her arrival concided with one of the luckiest period of my indie career. Tofu definitely was a lucky charm. And today, 11 years later, the exact same day, we had to put her to sleep.

During the years we spent together, I have a lot of memories of funny moments, because she had that natural “startled big eyes” expression that never failed to bring a smile to my face.

In her last days she would often pay a visit to me in bed before going to sleep, as if she wanted to comfort me and give me a final farewell. I really hope there’s something beyond this life, a place were we will reunite with everyone we loved in our life, people and pets, because just the thought of never seeing her again makes me cry every time.

Goodbye Tofu, I’ll never forget you.