Category Archives: otome games

Amber’s update


Ehm, maybe I won’t keep the messagebox above in the final game, however…

As you know well if you follow me on twitter or read my forums, I’m currently working at fullspeed to get my next game, Amber’s Magic Shop, out.

Unfortunately, it turned out to be a much bigger game than I originally thought. But on the other hand I think will be worth the wait! The plot is almost entirely scripted (it was already written long time ago, but I needed to script it), and the gameplay coding is progressing well too, but it’s really much more detailed/complex than I originally planned. Hopefully means it’s also more fun to play 🙂

For example, above you see one of the various screens I coded this week, the “Unfinished Tasks”. Tasks will be like quests for the RPGs: you’ll have a limited amount of time to craft amount X of item Y, and of a minimum quality Z (in the game depending on the ingredients you mix, you’ll obtain different item quality). Rewards will be variable, money (obviously) but also “Reputation points” or new items/recipes.

I am also planning to leave a lot of freedom, especially during the “adult age”. In the young age, since Amber is an apprentice in Haros’ shop, she won’t be able to take many decisions, but once she gets to run her own shop (in the adult age indeed) she will have a much bigger variety of available actions in each game location, and will also be able to build her own magic shop.

I honestly hoped to have the beta out by the time I wrote this post: however, the last thing I want to do is hurry the game now, after all the efforts that have been put in it. Hmm, the next blog post will be the 31st March… maybe that will be a good day to announce the game in beta! 😉

While you wait, listen to a preview of one of the tracks from the game, “Gothic Doll”. Talk to you soon!

Never Forget Me official release

Let’s get straight to the point: Never Forget Me is now officially out! You can download the demo, find more info and purchase it from here: http://www.winterwolves.com/neverforgetme.htm

And now a short “postmortem” about the game and a few considerations.

The game idea

The game basic idea came to me last year, I thought that could have been fun to explore the married couple life, something very different from what the usual dating sim do. In practice, start the game where most other dating sim end! And then I thought that the perfect game to do this was a sequel to Always Remember Me.

For this game, I wrote the storyboards myself, since I am quite attached to those characters and this story. The first game was quite popular, also thanks to a series of videos by the famous youtuber Dodger. Will she cover also this game? who knows, I hope so! 🙂

Of course, being about the married life there was a basic problem: you couldn’t pursue several romances! (well, at least in theory…)

So I had to think how it would work, and I opted to let the player choose at the beginning of the story which romance route they wanted to play:

The other characters might appear on each route, but only as secondary/minor characters. The main focus would be the one you picked.

The gameplay

Then I had a big problem: what kind of gameplay? Originally I wrote the game as a pure visual novel, with the endings determined only by the choices. Each character has 10 scenes, with a choice in each and two options.

Based on your choices, you’d get 5 endings: 2 happy, 2 sad and 1 neutral.

Please note that while obviously people will want to get the happy endings, I think that even the sad ones are somewhat meaningful or interesting to play. In one sad ending for Eddy for example you learn how to stay away from men interested only in their career, while in a Hugh’s one you could learn that you need to fight to get your hard work recognized, even if the boss is your husband, etc.

Every path has a specific theme, as described in the game page.

I decided during the last month of development, to try adding also a scheduler/stat-raising gameplay. By completing the game in this mode, you would unlock two extra bonus epilogues: a happy epilogue and a normal epilogue.

Even for the stat raising, I wanted to try something different from the usual: the big difference in this case is that beside raising the character’s associated stat (like in most other games) to get the 100% relationship you also need to complete “goals”. The goals are randomized a bit, based on each love interest, and they are based on raising the OTHER stats.

For example, Aaron main stat is Romance. But to complete the goals, you’ll need to raise the other 3: Diligence, Culture and Creativity. Each goal will have different requirements. Some are also influenced by the Social/Energy values at the end of each week. This way, there’s more variety of gameplay and also a bit of strategy I think. Time will tell if people liked this idea or not 🙂

Conclusions

The game is just out so of course I cannot know how it will do, etc. During the beta it was doing “OK”. However, this game also took me only 2 months of storyboarding (done last year in February/March) while I was waiting for other games to be done. And another 2 months to script/code.

In summary this could well represent one of the infamous “smaller games” (for my standards: it’s still bigger than many other games! about 90k words and 8 CGs is not bad!) that I want to make, to ease the wait for the bigger ones.

Never Forget Me beta + Future romance games

luis

First of all Public Service Announcement: my upcoming otome game “Never Forget Me” is now in beta. The only thing missing is the official game main menu and the theme song. Everything else is there and should be working!

For more info, check the forums: http://www.winterwolves.net/viewtopic.php?f=29&t=3937

Expected final release should be end of month or November at the latest, depending how testing goes (however being a visual novel/dating sim, most of the mistakes could be typos or other minor stuff!).

And now I wanted to talk about a topic I find interesting to me:

Romance in future games

After Heirs & Graces release on Steam, there was an interesting discussion in the community forums. To be honest, I expected a much worse reaction, considering the game topic (yaoi/gay only dating sim). I just deleted a couple of obvious stupid threads but not much.

Anyway, here’s what I’m going to do in future games, regarding the romances.

Finding an audience

The most important thing for an indie dev, is finding the audience, the niche. Either you try to make a game in a popular genre (platformer?) but in that case you have to compete against many top indies (and the chances of succeeding are small) or you can try to cater to a smaller but loyal audience. That’s what I’ve always tried to do.

The question is: there’s a gay/yaoi audience on Steam? probably, but it’s very small. It’s not just Steam though: I sell the games directly, but also on mobile. The result though, is that  Heirs & Graces did much worse than, for example, C14 Dating, on all platforms.

So if I had to make games for an audience, I would stop making BxB games completely. BUT! There’s a big but 🙂 What is my goal? I think everyone should ask themselves what is their goal in life. I did it when I went indie. Originally, I wanted to make simulations and RPGs. Recently, I still want to make RPGs but also make experiments and story-based games. And regarding the stories, my goal is:

“I want as much people as possible to read my stories”

Yes, as simple as it is, that is my goal. Not because I’m arrogant and I think my stories (and those of my writers) are good or better than anyone else (they’re good though!). But simply because I want everyone to read them.

Now in the case of Heirs & Graces, I think it has one of the most beautiful stories of all my games. The father/son relationship, the fun and sad moments, etc. Not just my opinion, but basically of everyone who played the game. And here’s the problem: many people didn’t play the game because is yaoi only. And they missed a great story. This is bad, but honestly I knew it, it was inevitable, as much as some people wouldn’t play a yuri only game, etc.

What is the solution then? Well, the most obvious solution is to make games in which you can play as male/female, and have all kind of romances! On the other hand, doing such games takes a lot more time, as you can imagine. Also, usually you can’t offer 8+ romances (since you need to write them from the male/female point of view! it’s a LOT of work) and then you have complaints like with SOTW, in which people say that the game could have been better than Loren, but because of the few romances, it isn’t 🙁

Are they to blame either? No. I can understand that as male straight player, perhaps Krimm is not my kind of romance. Or as female player, I could find Jariel just too “nice” (the DLC changes things quite a lot though!). There’s no one to blame, really.

Finding a compromise

So as author I need to ask myself what is the best thing to do. As you can imagine it’s not like I can do all games with male/female main character AND 4+ romances each gender. Then we have situations like Loren 2, Roger Steel or Undead Lily where the game isn’t ready yet after 3+ years! Doh, insanely huge games takes a lot more time to make! Who would have guessed! haha

However, I think perhaps the best way is to try, whenever possible, to have a male/female main character and at least 2 romances for each gender. Sure, there won’t be as many romances as if the game was otome or yaoi or yuri only, but at least this way there are more  chances that everyone can read my stories. My main goal.

If someone thinks that having maybe only 2 romanceable characters/combos is too few for a full price game, well they can always wait and buy the game discounted later. But at least they will read the story, as long as there’s at least one romance they’re interested in 🙂

Of course, I have a lot of games I started years ago (some even in 2011… ahem) so for those, they could still be yuri only, no straight male romance, etc. Nothing can be done about this, except finish them as they were originally planned.

But for future games, especially bigger ones, that’s what I’ll try to do 🙂

Love Bites – Introducing Tyrone

intro_tyrone

Time to introduce the second male love interest of Love Bites, Tyrone! I like his unique design, which makes him different from the other males of this game.

Now, let’s see what the writer has to say about him…

Tyrone Marshall
Age 19

Almost everyone on campus knows Tyrone for he is considered one of the best athletes the basketball team has ever had. What might be more surprising, however, is that Tyrone is also one of the top students trying to earn a business degree. Unlike many other athletes, Tyrone wants to take full advantage of his athletic scholarship since the odds are against any student making it into professional sports.

Despite his athletic prowess, Tyrone is a bit aloof, keeping himself at arm’s length from a serious relationship…which makes him that much more desirable to people who want to break through his tough outer shell.

This isn’t to say Tyrone is shy, but there is a reason he keeps himself apart…and that’s because he’s found himself in a bit of a predicament, one he doesn’t feel he can share with anyone else. Since entering college, every night of the full moon, a change overcomes him.

At first, Tyrone thought he was suffering strange dreams, one where he wasn’t human, but something else…he would have chalked this up to something he ate, but he almost always woke in the nude, clothes nowhere to be seen.

Figuring this was simply fatigue, Tyrone went about his day until he overheard fellow students talking about a phantom cat which started to frequent the campus…a feline which started to appear at the time of his dreams.

So, on the night of the next full moon, Tyrone set up a camera to record his actions during the night, though he felt a little foolish doing so. The next morning, he suffered the same dreams…and lack of clothing…as ever. When he played the camera, he was shocked to see that there was more to his dreams…that he changed into a lion.

Tyrone didn’t know what to do with this knowledge, and he went through the next few days in a daze. This might have continued when an older student tapped him on the shoulder, and asked him out to coffee.

Tyrone replied that while he was flattered by the attention, he wasn’t interested in a date…to which the woman chuckled. Introducing herself as Ashley, the woman said she wasn’t looking to get into a relationship, but just that if Tyrone didn’t stop his feline antics, he could get them all in trouble.

Tyrone realized this woman seemed to know what he was, and agreed to coffee…whereupon he saw he wasn’t the only person to go through such things. However, this knowledge isn’t all good since it also means there are malevolent forces in the shadows…shadows which aren’t afraid to strike back.

C14 Dating officially out!

This week I’ve also officially released C14 Dating! Below you can see the beautiful game trailer:

You can try the demo and purchase the game here: http://winterwolves.com/c14dating.htm

For those stuck or needing help, there’s a nice tip/walkthrough thread in my forums: http://www.winterwolves.net/viewtopic.php?f=41&t=3824

As always you’ll be able to redeem Steam codes for the game once it’s live there (probably end of April or May).

The wind of change

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Need to give credit to my wife for the nice photo above!

And now after writing this title, I have the good old Scorpions’ song stuck in my mind!

“Listening to the wind of change” or better listening to the critiques, to suggestions by other more experienced indie, and listening to my heart 😉

Between this and last year I have learned a lot, and I’ve decided that (after the current “batch” of games is done) it’s time to change:

  • no more “insanely huge epic games”. I know, I know. Everyone would like very big, long games (even if honestly I haven’t finished yet some AAA titles because… they were too long!). Anyway, I’ve realized it’s not possible anymore, with the exception of a few titles like could be Loren 2 and Roger Steel (big RPGs) to make games too big. I’m talking from the story point of view. I want to have a good story, but also add more gameplay. When I talk with more successful indies doing the same kind of games, I’m often surprised to see that their wordcount is always not even half of my most recent titles!
  • story based on the gameplay, and not vice versa. When I will make more “hybrid games”, apart of course the usual VN/Dating sims/RPGs, I will first decide the gameplay and then craft the story around it, or at least design them at same time. This is even more important for “experimental games” like PSCD was. In that case it was a mess (because of first coder quitting) but in general for my own games it’s not wise to have a story written and then have to code the gameplay around it. The result can’t be good. So, first design the gameplay, and then have a story to complement it.
  • much clear separation of genres. One of the strong points of my games (based on what OTHER people say, so it’s not my opinion) has always been the mix with visual novel and other gameplay genres. Well, there will still be this. But if the two genres don’t work well together (like visual novel and card games) doesn’t make sense to mix them, better have two separate games. Or if I still want to have story and gameplay, the story cannot be 200k word long, 10+ romances, etc. It’s just not possible to do that in the current climate, to have a huge story AND good gameplay. I should price the games over $30, and that’s honestly not going to work anymore right now, so it’s not really my choice! So instead of that, a card game for $9.99 and a story-based game for $19.99 for example (just a simple example of what I mean).
  • less grinding, more fun. For the dating/raising sim, one of the major complaints of my past games was the grinding. I’m definitely going to address that. For the record, I don’t consider grinding using a scheduler like Roommates. More like the various activities in Nicole to reach the required stats. Love Bites should be a good example of a dating sim with stat raising but not grinding. For the RPGs instead, I’m going to leave it. Since many RPG players like to grind! 😉
  • gameplay-only games. I had already announced this, and it’s also related to future card games. I’ll make more (not just card games, even other genres) games like this to be sold at cheaper price, since I think is good to have a bit of variety over the dating sims/RPGs/VNs.
  • shorter but full of branching story-games. As you know I want to make a CYOA/old gamebook style game in future, illustrated with pictures. Well, that one won’t be 100k words, but even if it’s only 50k words will have a lot of branching. After all Bionic Heart has one of the highest review rating on Steam of all my games, and it’s just a little more than 50k words! Of course, I won’t write the games myself, only the storyboards.

OK I think I’ve explained enough! For many games that will be out (even next year) the things above won’t apply since I started them time ago, so they will still have maybe some grinding or be really “too big” (but of course since the text has been already written, it’s not like I’ll cut it down!).

But in future, doing the things above, I should be able to release games more regularly, and some of them cheaper than usual (which in the current climate seems very important) and even if the word count might be lower, the overall fun (and critic/players reception) will probably be higher. At least that’s what I hope, we’ll see!

For those wondering about the progress on games, I made a sort of estimate release schedule in my forums, which I copy paste here:

END OF MARCH
– launch C14 Dating on my site “soft release”. Probably on Steam towards end of April or early May
– finish all the QoT romance coding (not much left)

APRIL
– Forsaken and artist should finish the last scenes/CG for QoT
– I will take a look on Heirs & Graces and probably code the gameplay and start the beta maybe (though could be delayed to May)
– decide what to do with Undead Lily gameplay, possibly a RPG. Make a detailed storyboard this time :)
– probably do the PSCD extra romances free add-on (though could slip into May)

MAY
– Heirs & Graces beta
– Queen Of Thieves beta

JUNE
– hopefully release of both Heirs & Graces and Queen Of Thieves, but this last one could be delayed to July

JULY-AUGUST
– it’s likely that will be too hot to work as usual, plus I might want to take a break considering the insane amount of releases this year! I might do a few prototypes for new games though

SEPTEMBER
– Love Bites beta (though it’s just too early to say it now)

That’s all for now! Happy Easter by the way 🙂