Dec 25

Weekly Update #384: 2021 Retrospect

As has become customary by now, today, I would like to take the time to look back on this past year and summarize what we have accomplished and how much these accomplishments diverge from the goals we originally set all the way back in January, so…

Without further ado, let’s get right into it!

At the start of the year, my main focus laid on overcoming the writing struggles I had been facing all throughout 2020, which had severely slowed down progress on our current project GENBA no Kizuna. I was actually pretty successful in doing so and made quite some leaps ahead. One of my favorite memories from earlier this year is when I managed to write about 7000 words in just two days. Letting myself go in the flow and writing from morning to evening with barely a break was exhausting and might not have been the best idea for my body’s well-being, but dang! You have no idea how satisfying it felt to write so much in such a short amount of time! It had been quite a while since I had been that productive!

Naturally, I would have wanted things to continue that way and was planning on fully finishing the first half of GENBA (at least script-wise) by the end of August, just in time for SHINRAI‘s anniversary celebration. However, aside from the fact that it probably wouldn’t have been good for my physical health anyway, there were a couple of reasons as to why I wasn’t able to meet that goal.

First of all, despite some incredible high points, my self-doubt and perfectionism continued giving me a pretty hard time, so there were still periods of rather slow progress. In particular, finishing up the investigation of Ryuunosuke‘s room as well as the wrap up scene for the first chapter gave me quite a bit of a headache. It was only around the start of June that I really managed to overcome it all and finally returned to the mindset of 2013 – 2016. The same one that had allowed me to finish SHINRAI in just three years.

I had been aware of the solution to my problems long before, but June was when I managed to actually internalize it and finally stopped caring about people’s expectations and certain, recurring criticisms we receive.

Keep in mind that, when I originally wrote SHINRAI in 2011, it was never supposed to be publicly released. It was just a little story I had written for fun to entertain my best friend and because I felt like giving a murder mystery a shot at the time. As such, I never worried about pleasing anyone but her and myself. And somehow, that resulted in something that a lot of other people ended up enjoying as well. Not all of them to the same degree, of course, with some people having way more criticisms than others…

However, the reception has been overall very positive.

Nevertheless, although I really appreciate the feedback and suggestions, I obviously let the criticisms affect me way more than I should have. It got to a point where I began to question every little thing and where my perfectionist nature became much worse than it had ever been before. I ended up spending way more time “fixing” and “perfecting” things rather than actually moving ahead.

I just didn’t want anyone to feel disappointed with the next project, I wanted it to be much better than the first, address all of the criticisms and flaws and, overall, make it the perfect game. Which is a ridiculous standard and a very silly mindset to have.

It probably sounds like a no-brainer to you, but I should have just continued to focus on creating something that I myself enjoy, rather than try to please everyone else all at once. Not only is it an impossible endeavor, it also sucked the fun out of writing for me. Sometimes, I would write something that highly amused me, but then I’d think about how easily offended people are nowadays by the most innocent of things and I would end up toning it down to the point where it not even caused me to chuckle anymore.

A really good example is the optional dialogue scene with Himatsu at the end of GENBA‘s demo. Originally, she was quite a bit more harsh and foul-mouthed there, but I severely toned it down out of fear of people being offended by her choice of words.

Whenever I read the released scene I thought it was okay. But back in June, I dug up the original again and I couldn’t contain my laughter. I just found it so funny, so… I decided to put it back in there after talking it over with Natsu. And ever since then, I’ve started to care a little less about what others might think or may end up getting offended by. That is not to say that I go out of my way to be explicitly offensive just for the sake of it, or that I don’t want to avoid things that do go too far, but there is definitely a balance that can be struck here and it does not need to be a choice between one extreme or the other.

Anyway, that’s just one example. It’s not like being scared of writing something offensive was the only thing that held me back. Outside of my sense of humor, there were a lot of other things I did in SHINRAI, which I personally enjoyed, while a lot of people apparently didn’t do so at all. But you know… fuck it! It’s unfortunate if not everyone likes my stuff as much as I do myself, but that’s something that’s out of my control. What I can control, however, is if I enjoy it along with the people I care about most.

And if we do, that’s good enough, I guess. Somehow, that seems to have worked out pretty well the last time, too.

So yeah, while I do definitely still consider criticisms and feedback, as I certainly do want to improve my stories, I can now better separate in which areas this is advisable and in which ones it’s kinda silly. I mean, if people say the pacing is super slow and makes them feel bored, or if there are logical gaps in the very mystery presented, than that is a real issue. If they tell me they were offended by teenagers using the word “fuck” so much, or for making pervy jokes as teenagers do, then that honestly is not my problem but theirs alone. Same if they found a particular character too annoying to bear, or couldn’t stand the writing style and such.

I’m finally more focused on pleasing myself again first and foremost and, as a result, I’m not only having much more fun writing again, I’ve also become a lot quicker at making progress! During the last six months, I have made significantly more than throughout the entirety of 2020, and I really feel like I’m back to the version of myself from the time of SHINRAI‘s VN development…

Not as unshackled by worries as I was in 2011 when I first wrote it, but also not nearly as petrified as I’ve been these past few years.

Now, even though all of this started in June, that very same month is also when something else occurred that, in a multitude of ways, deeply affected me on a personal level and still continues to do so. I will not get into any specifics here, but it unexpectedly changed the course of not only the remaining six months of 2021 in a drastic way, but my whole life in general. And naturally, it had quite an impact on GENBA‘s development as well.

It led to quite a few ups and downs. Throughout July and August, it caused me to mostly bury myself in work, which actually resulted in us being able to at least make the entire first chapter of GENBA playable for patrons and finally update the public demo around the time of SHINRAI‘s anniversary! So that certainly was a big achievement and I’m still a bit stunned at how much we actually managed to get done in just two months, Natsu also being distracted by other things at the time.

Afterwards, throughout September and a big chunk of October, I hit another slump, however. Again, I won’t get into the exact reasons why, but they made it difficult for me to write, so instead, I mainly dedicated myself to art-related things, such as asset work.
It’s only been since November that I managed to get back into the groove and made a lot of writing progress again, with GENBA‘s second chapter slowly nearing completion now, too!

But yeah, a big part of this year I have spent in emotional turmoil that, at times, truly crippled me. So that’s the main reason I didn’t make as much progress as I could have otherwise. That said… given the circumstances, I’m still very happy and proud with what I did get done this year and how, for the first time in a long time, it feels like I’m not just walking but dashing forward again.

So, at least in terms of productivity, 2021 has been a vast improvement over the previous year!

Now, there was one more thing that happened this year, which took away a bit of development time on GENBA, but which also was a personal highlight for me. A literal childhood dream come true. Naturally, I’m talking about the console release of SHINRAI.

I’ve already shared my thoughts on the matter in the post linked above, so I’m not going to repeat myself here, but suffice to say…
It’s another milestone for me and was very well worth the time investment, just for the sake of personal satisfaction, haha.

Now, that more or less wraps things up. Back in August, I was still planning to finish GENBA‘s first half by the end of this year, but due to the aforementioned reasons, that sadly didn’t happen. We have gotten very close to that goal, however. As I said, the second chapter is almost done and, compared to that one, the third will be a breeze. The forth and fifth will be a bit of a different story again, but for now, I will continue to worry about the first half of the game. I will elaborate on my goals for 2022 in next week’s blog post, so if you want to find out more, be sure to check it out!

Also, if you’re a patron, I’m once again sharing a few more personal thoughts on this year over there. The post will be up soon!

With all of that said, thank you very much for reading as well as your interest and support! We hope that you are enjoying the Holidays and that you will stay safe, given all that’s going on in the world. Have an awesome last week of the year, guys!

We’ll see you in 2022! :3