2nd Demo Public Postmortem
Now that the demo has been out for a couple days, I think it’s okay to publish a public-friendly post-mortem focused more on the narrative decisions than on the game as a whole (that’s a different ballpark that basically amounts to "wow my team is amazing and well rounded and very nice and smart.")
- Part of the reason I’m writing one is to shift from a post-release perspective to a middle-of-dev mindset again. There’s still a pretty solid roadmap to reach the end of the game, but there’s never any harm in some self-reflection. While I didn’t write every scene, I still had to decide which scenes we went with, as well as what tweaks we included into scenes already written by then.
- The other reason is because we’ve been holding writer auditions at a rate of once every six months or so, and this might help out some if we end up doing it again - I definitely know that some of the auditions for the last round would’ve been different if they’d had the opportunity to play this demo. I’m still going to try and avoid too many spoilers but honestly, subtlety isn’t my strong suit.
With our very first demo our goals were significantly different. We had no previous gameplay to show off, and we were asking people to contribute a lot of money in an era where kickstarters are rightfully treated with caution. We had to show how committed we were to this project when there was nothing else to our name, and I wanted a demo that - in the case that we weren’t funded - still gave us something with some semblance of closure and finality. That’s part of the reason why Everard and Charlotte’s “routes” had a happy ending for Diana, while we kept the cliffhangers for the main story to give an incentive to support the game.
There would be some dev regrets, of course, if we hadn’t been funded - in fact we had some immediately even though we were funded - but that’s just collateral to making a product in general. It’s a bittersweet thing to look back on your creations and go “oh god I can do so much better now” but it’s one I’d rather have than not.
Either way, making a 60k word demo that took an hour (or more, if you were streaming and reading aloud) to complete wouldn’t fly for PAX.
The original point of the PAX/2nd Halloween Demo, as advised by our extremely kind hosts, was to have it be quick and easy to consume, and on the more comedic and lighthearted side. This makes sense since that’s the best way to make a lasting impression in the shortest amount of time, but it was also surprisingly hard in some ways to try and fit that bill.
The main points that came up when picking the scenes for the 2nd demo were basically:
- What did the scene tell us about the characters, lore, and story?
- What was the tone of the scene? How cute/comedic could it be? If not a lot, would it still be justifiable?
- How much of the game did it spoil blatantly?
- How much of the game did it spoil if someone picked up on the more subtle allusions?
- Could this scene stand on its own? Many of the scenes of the game are pretty funny (not that I have a bias or anything) but much of their impact is lost if you aren’t able to read certain scenes leading up to it.
- One example of this is the holiday sale shopping scene alluded to in the intro to the 2nd demo. By far one of the most well received scenes by those who get to see things early, but it’d have required establishing new characters and a momentum we just didn’t have the time for.
It wasn’t particularly hard to decide which scene to feature for either her or Seb. Madi’s the closest in age to all of the writers, and her route is the most relatable and least-overtly-vampiric-reliant for her problems.
Madison was by far the most popular character of the demo so there was a little bit of pressure there, but ultimately less compared to the other scenes. It was also the first opportunity for Madi’s secondary (now a primary) writer to give her a spin, and I’m really proud of how it went! While there’s already a level of approachability for Madi due to her playing phone games, I think this scene this chipped away even further at her stoic demeanor while also showing the sincerity of it. It also probably helps that the “two shots of vodka” cooking video was one of the references I gave for the scene.
She also got lucky and was featured in the intro to Forrest’s scene as well, so there’s still some hints about some of the stuff she gets up to. In fact, we actually gated off the ability to chase after Madison because, well, it isn’t her scene for this demo.
While Seb intentionally had a bad first impression, 2nd demo was an opportunity to show something a bit more typical of the DiSeb dynamic, with a chill vibe and little pretense. While Yvonne’s scene has the most sentimentality, it has no chill. Madison’s is close in sentimentality but is way more lowkey, so in terms of vibe both she and Everard have that mildness to them, while Sebastian’s is lowkey but not too sentimental. However, that’s also a lot easier to make funny without being jarring during such a mood transition.
Seb’s scene has the most options (they were a bit of a pain to figure out the code for since we had very little time to learn this system) but I also think the SFX of the cat meowing really added to the cuteness of the scene. It doesn’t have too many spoilers one way or another, but it also has some minor hints to another character’s arc. I feel like it’s a pretty beginner-friendly scene, but it’s hard for me to say since being behind the scenes for so long tints your view.
When we were at PAX I remember seeing a couple players mouse over the cat in the background, which really tickled me. I’m not really a cat person, but Seb’s writer is really good at persuading me over to that side, haha.
Surprisingly the hardest to pick a scene for, for various reasons, most of them spoilers that can be boiled down to timing and not hitting all of the requirements listed above. The first demo was all about setting up the characters’ first impressions in a very specific way, from their in-game meeting with Diana, to how they acted in the car, to what was picked for their bonus scene, and for Forrest that absolutely meant being a cute, if basic, golden retriever bro.
2019’s demo was a way to start pulling back the curtain a little more, both for Forrest’s and Diana’s characters, but also to reinforce those impressions. It’s both in a shallow way (“oh hey Forrest smokes? That feels a little unexpected? Why so?”) and with dialogue choice and how we get from point A (Diana’s obviously tilted) to point B (bite scene), and what was hopefully a slightly-off vibe through the process for both of them. Forrest definitely said some demeaning things during the scene, but was ultimately able to provide what Diana needed in the moment, for both better and worse. Forrest’s original writers said that he’s always careful about what he says, as well, and that still sticks.
So, it’s less that the first impressions were Completely Wrong, because they’re not and also no one likes having a fast one pulled on them in a dating game, but the characters are still more than those first impressions. Hopefully much more! However, a lot of his scenes are dependent on other scenes, so it sort of limited our options and we had to re-evaluate some of the scenes already written to make them a bit more first-impression friendly. I think we’ll keep these changes in the final version, however, since they strengthen the traits that we want to present with Forrest.
Pretty sure his scene has the most references as well, so I hope someone points them out sometime!
Yvonne’s a little different from the other main love interests without being an entirely different spectacle, and I decided to go forward and make it one of her most important scenes because she’s not a very comedic person. It’s also by far the longest demo scene at ~4k, but the word count endurance is “reset” a few times through the scene through the use of 4 different special illustrations.
While the game is primarily slice-of-life and relatively cute, it’s still 17+ for a reason, and Yvonne is very much a vampire’s vampire. It’s a scene that’s fairly unapologetic, for an unapologetic character. It’s also one that I ended up manhandling more than usual writing-wise because it was a scene I cared a lot about (sorry Washi!!)
It’s a little mean-spirited but in a different way from Forrest’s - hers is more of a gentle chiding, and there was some care taken to make sure certain points about her were emphasized, since she was the most likely next to Forrest to have her traits misunderstood during applications. This is less of a jab at the applicants, and more at myself for not being able to communicate them more clearly.
The portraits were also meant to give a bit of an Umineko feel. I had to do some last minute adjusting to make sure they showed well during the game, since they were taller than they were wide, but that was more on my end than the artist’s. Picking the musical timing for this one was a little tough since I really wanted to capitalize on the crescendo into vacuum’s CG. (Forrest was hard musically too now that I think about it... I prefer ambience to music in more serious scenes, but I don’t think that’s a common opinion. Maybe?)
Isn’t the bird so cute??? It was originally going to be a scene about tending to plants, but in execution I ended up veering into a more “obvious” hook and mini-conflict, and Char’s writer had to put up with my last second request (sorry!!), but Dei handled it amazingly and hit all the character nuances I asked for. While Charlotte is one of the more intimidating love interests, I think there was a very cute side shown here. In return, Diana was... less cute, to put it lightly. Diana is fun. Diana with Charlotte is extra fun.
Charlotte’s scene was the first one I implemented and polished, so I’m a little sentimental about it, and I hope that my newness to scene setting wasn’t too apparent compared to the other scenes. Thanks to the new system I got to be way more nitpicky and test things out quicker so it was both a blessing and a curse when time was on the line...
Between PAX and the Halloween upload, more monologue was added to fit the amount of the other scenes. In hindsight, there’s a line near the end that got a little more meta than intended, so I’ll think about adjusting that one later. I also want to get a whistle SFX, it slipped my mind until it was too late to put more assets in. Her music feels really fitting, too.
He’s nerve wracking because I’m the one writing his route for the whole game haha. Thankfully, it was easy to pick out a cute scene for him and Diana, and his scene served as a reiteration of their dynamic from the 1st demo: the two just enjoying each other’s company with more of a focus on Diana’s issues than his. There’s also some pretty implicating statements in the scene! But it’s still less spoilerly than his usual scenes are, so that’s just an L I’m taking. ;0 The best way to win me over in a job application is to pick up the different bits of lore sprinkled in the scenes and thread them all together.
While Everard fills the stone faced megane niche in the character roster, I hope his demo scenes convey that there’s a bit more to him than the usual no-fun-guy archetype that these characters usually fulfill. It’s in the same way that Yvonne is the mom-friend, or Forrest is the golden retriever, or Madison is the tsundere(?), or Seb is the playboy. (Which, I mean, canonically they're all the latter. Comes with the species in this universe.)
One of the harder parts of the scene was deciding the best way to make the Hobby Lobby Challenge’s name more lawyer friendly...
The 2019/PAX demo is one that I’m really proud of from beginning to end, and now that it’s finally posted, I’m hoping others enjoy it as well! It feels like a nice way to showcase the halfway point of our dev without literally posting half the game, since it still fills you in on more of the characters and the story, and I’m really excited to see how the team moves forward and we move closer and closer to release.
Get Softly, With Teeth (2019 2nd Free Demo Up)
Leave a comment
Log in with itch.io to leave a comment.