Dec 30

Weekly Update #491: 2023 Retrospect

2023 is coming to a close, so as has become our tradition here, I want to use today’s blog post to look back at the year as a whole, summarize our achievements and talk about the things that didn’t quite go according to plan as well as about the positive developments that unfolded, which never even were part of our initial plans! So let’s get right into, shall we?

The first major thing that happened this year was, of course, the launch of the Steam store page for our upcoming dinosaur-themed murder mystery GENBA no Kizuna back at the end of January! It may sound like a simple thing, but it required a lot of work, especially when it came to sifting through the game and choosing what to show when we were faced with the task of whipping up a trailer.

The itch store page has existed for a while now, but Steam is a whole different beast with many rules and requirements to launch. Not to mention, Steam is where essentially 99% of our actual sales occur, so it made the launch feel all the more important and, in a sense, more official. Which is why we also, for the first time, announced a proper release window, although a pretty broad one with it simply stating “2023”. I had, of course, more specific dates in mind, but one thing I’ve learned in game development is to never throw anything more specific out there unless your project is, at the very least, in the polishing phase.

That said, we only have one more day of 2023 to go with GENBA still not available for sale and, as you can probably guess, it won’t be a sudden surprise release ten seconds to midnight on the 31st, haha.

At the start of the year, I was truly confident that we’d be able to release before the end of it and, looking back, I am still certain that it would have been possible. After all, we actually got pretty close with me having worked on the conclusion, credits and extra scenes during this final month. Unfortunately, there were once again some rather sad, serious and downright scary events unfolding in my private life this year, which took focus away from development and resulted in phases that honestly made it quite difficult to work, especially from August onward. I don’t want to go into any detail as to what happened, but in previous retrospects, I vaguely alluded to something major having happened in my life all the way back in June 2021 and it’s still a very much ongoing issue. Though things have finally gotten on a much better track in the last few weeks and the most recent developments have been a great relief!

Anyway, despite everything, I did do my best to keep working on GENBA and am still very proud of the progress made. There is still a lot to do, especially in terms of polish, which we will get into next week¬† when we’ll discuss our plans and goals for 2024. However, as I mentioned before, I have written the final lines of the script by now and, technically, you can read the whole thing from beginning to end. That obviously has me feeling quite elated and it’s honestly a bit surreal. All these parts and scenes of the game which I almost dreaded to get to twelve months ago, because I knew how important they would be and how important it would be for me to get them right… they’re now behind me! It’s almost like back in university, when you knew these important exams were lying ahead of you and you’ve been preparing for them for such a long time and then the day finally comes… and they’re written and done, haha.

It sure took a long time and I’m still baffled myself how a simple idea of a super short murder mystery about a detective arriving in a back alley with two dead bodies… turned into this. GENBA really has become a Dreadnoughtus-sized project and a very important and personal one at that. I will talk about all that stuff when it’s done in full, but just to give you an idea of the scope: the total word count now lies at approximately 290,000 words! There’s a lot that’ll still get subtracted from it, of course, but this count also doesn’t include all the case files, character profiles, reports and trivia I’ve written, so maybe it’ll balance out.

Anyway, one thing is pretty clear: GENBA really is twice as big of a VN as SHINRAI now!

All in all, we’ve really accomplished a lot this year. The final investigation phase alone is an Argentinosaurus of a chapter (I had to separate it into three individual Word documents) and not only did we manage to essentially wrap it up (it’s almost fully playable), at least script-wise, we got to the end of the last chapter as well! The soundtrack is fully composed by now and even though some art assets may still be missing, the major ones are all taken care of, too! So yeah, despite the road bumps, our pace wasn’t actually that bad this year!

Now, at the beginning of this post, I also mentioned something about unexpected developments of the positive kind, so let’s talk about those a little! At the start of the year, fellow gamedev Kinjo from Goldbar Games and I were having some private conversations about game development in general, particularly regarding our worries and struggles with marketing and player reach (he launched the Steam store page for his own murder mystery VN Detective Butler and the King of Hearts around the same time as we launched the GENBA one). At the same time, I was also talking about similar things with Nayru from NoBread Studio, who released her latest project (The Elevator Game with Catgirls) almost exactly a year ago. Now, although our projects are very different, they also have some things in common. Particularly the mystery element. So, given that there is at least a partial audience overlap, we began to wonder how we could potentially help and support each other to reach more people. These innocent little talks eventually culminated in the creation of the Mystery Gamedev Community. Which really the credit goes to Kinjo for, as he was the one to take the initiative and actually realize what I’ve only ever been dreaming about, haha.

Basically, this community is a place for both developers and fans of mystery games to come together. Fans can find out about indie mysteries they’ve never heard of before and enlarge their backlog, while developers can share their experiences and not only give help and advice, but also receive it. In a relatively short time, this thing honestly blew up way beyond my expectations and we’ve had some really cool and fun discussions over there. Writing advice, coding tricks, suggestions about pricing… everything’s being covered and in our latest developer call, we even had Joni Lappalainen join us, who shared some really intriguing and insightful tidbits about the creation of Inescapable: No Rules, No Rescue and his work with Aksys Games, which sparked some very productive conversations afterwards!

Not only that, some devs even got together for the Spooktober Visual Novel Jam and created Reaplaced, the community’s first group project! And their efforts even reaped third place in the jam for the game itself and first place for its soundtrack!

(It’s completely free by the way, so you should really check it out for yourself!)

So yeah, I think something very special was created there and, once again, all the thanks for it go to Kinjo. He’s done a lot for the community so far and he’s got great ambitions for 2024, so… if you feel like you want to be a part of that as well, why not simply hop on board? At least you could take a little peek and see how you like it! The Discord server awaits your arrival right here!

Now, another little thing that was very unexpected, but certainly extremely exciting for me on a personal level, was the fact that the people over at Fuwanovel asked me to give my first ever developer interview! I had never done anything like it before and it was kind of intimidating at first, but I ultimately had a lot of fun with it. It’s one of those things I’ve always kind of fantasized about since childhood. You know, little Gospel going like “I want to be a famous creator one day and give interviews and go to conventions and hold speeches and stuff”, but never truly believing that would actually ever happen. Well, at least the interview part did now, haha.

So yeah, that certainly was another cool thing! If you’re curious what I had to say about the creation of our first VN project SHINRAI – Broken Beyond Despair and about game development in general, you can read the full interview here!

But I guess this about wraps it up for our 2023 retrospect. Again, I will dive deeper into what’s still left to do on GENBA and how much longer it might take until its release in next week’s blog post, but until then, I wish all of you a great, safe and fun finale to the year and an amazing and successful start into the next! Take care, everyone :3