This month, I had a conversation with the one they call Chief to see how everything started, where IDHAS stands now and what the future looks like.
Chief: Hey! I didn’t enter visual novels; visual novels entered… uhhhh… But seriously, there was never a moment when I said “I like visual novels, I want to make one.” I was a writer for several years before a random idea hit me in one of my programming classes. Why don’t I use java to make a little dating sim game? As I sat there staring at my beautiful program (that nobody will ever see), I had an even better idea. What if I added a story to this? Nobody has ever thought of this before! I can have an interactive text adventure, but have pictures with it as well! Brilliant! I went two whole years (2006-2008) before I actually discovered that someone had already beaten me to the punch. Whoops. I sometimes wonder if I’m at odds with the rest of the VN community because I’ve never played a JVN, but came from a pure video gamer background.
VNs Now: One of the major philosophies behind your work, which you have made clear from the beginning, is that all of your VNs would be freeware. What went into that choice and would you make the same choice knowing what you know now?
Chief: The most controversial and questioned decision I’ve ever made. There are several reasons, but the one that most prevalent when I made that decision can be shown here; http://cristgaming.com/pirate.swf Let it be known that I’m just a simple writer, not a competent business manager. I don’t want to waste my time trying to combat piracy or managing a sales page. It was just easier to say that it will be free and just cut out any of the middle steps. A second runner-up is that I don’t want to undercut some of the poorer fans who might not be able to afford any of my games. I grew up in a rather poor family, so I understand how much it stinks seeing something that you really, really, really want but can’t get your hands on. Will I keep this up forever? Most likely. Well… except if I ever release an eroge. You pay for your hentai!
VNs Now: I really enjoyed playing through Anton’s Vacation as I’m sure many did. It seems to be a series close to you, as you’re now planning other works in the same universe. How did Anton come about and how is the novel coming?
Chief: One thing I think people forget is that Anton’s Vacation IS NOT the first piece in the series. It is the very last, which is why I’m consistently at odds with trying to make the story understandable, but trying to not be info-dumping. I know that maybe 0.01% of the people who downloaded Anton’s Vacation were fans when I originally released Katajion’s Dream, Morterous Theorem, or Luck and Chance. If I were a smart or sane man, I’d fix them up and do a rerun of those novels. References to Yoi’s attempted murder, Name’s hiding on Morterous, or Syl’s general badassery would make a lot more sense.
The novel is slowly moving forward. I work on it when Rising Angels drives me crazy. I guess this is as good of time as any to announce the third episode of Anton’s Vacation. Before anyone gets super excited, it is another filler episode! YAY! FILLER! For the folks who have followed my recent axing of side projects, this one is a bit of a merger with the old Kestrels project. We are going through a more traditional high school otome setting with our dear Syl at the MC helm this time. I know everyone is tired of filler and wants the story to continue, but I’m having fun putting them into these alternate universe plots right now. I ask humbly for everyone’s forgiveness.
Chief: This is an easy one. If you look through my computer, you’ll find all of the sprites and most of the scripts for the missing four projects. “But wait,” you cry. “If you have all of that, why haven’t you finished all of that and make awesomeness fall from the sky?” Quite simple! Have you ever attempted to commission 5 games worth of backgrounds and CG on a single person’s budget? Have you ever attempted to code 5 games worth in a single month? I’m sorry to admit it, but I got overambitious. For a while there, I was in a magic dreamland where I could handle anything. Then I realized that if any of these stories were to actually succeed, I need to start focusing and devoting energy. I still think it was a great idea, but without the manpower behind it, I was doomed to fail from the start. You can expect to see those resources used and completed, just not right at this time…
VNs Now: Of the five planned titles for KKM, the one that remains is an EVN called Rising Angels. You have sworn that you will finish it, so what can you tell us about where it is now?
Chief: On a flash drive next to my computer…oh, wait. You mean figuratively! Right now, the existing plan is to release a “demo” in late July/early August. When I say demo, I mean more of a proof of concept. It is the introduction and first acts for Lenna, Jade, and Kika. The length is roughly 80-100k, so expect to take about 2-4 hours per route. That is going to be a taste of the full release later in the year of everyone’s Act 1 (similar to how Katawa Shoujo did it). It’ll probably take me another full year or so to finish the whole game. The plan right now is that every character will be roughly 80-100k for each route with a total of 10 characters. One of the running jokes between the IDHAS team is that we are writing the first serious punch at those who claim that EVNs are a joke compared to the JVN powerhouse with their epic sized games. Between the highly talented art team (special shout out to our returning artist, Tetiel. I cannot promote her work enough!) and the CG number that is aiming to break several hundred, the wonderful and witty writing from me, and the unique twists we are making to the otome genre… I think this game is going to blow the audience away. Or be the largest crater in EVN history. Either way, we are aiming to make EVN history.
The plot itself does draw from the roots of otome. We have our cute catgirl protagonist entering her brand-new school! Of course, it is a military academy with the usual allotment of Katajion characters aka nut jobs. Every route is different, though a few of them have some similar events. Lenna’s is a more traditional otome/yuri story with the romance between them as they fight to overcome personal differences. On the flip, we have Jade’s story, which is a lot darker and more… dangerous as you face the constant threat of his yandere sister attempting to end our fluffy protagonist. Kika’s more of a mystery as you join up the ranks of the confident, heroic princess and her pursuits of… being the best? Either way, I’m writing something for everyone. I’m here to write a story (or several), not the traditional choose your own little girl adventure. And our men have muscles. We are light on the whole bishie department.
Chief: Anyone who has followed me for a long time has seen a bazillion depressing rants about how much I suck and how this is the last time I release a game/story to be ignored. I know I’ve said it so many times that I don’t even believe it anymore. This time is different. Those free games are costly to produce. This time isn’t me wanting to quit because I stink, but because unless I find some way to raise funding, I’m not going to keep going in visual novels. I can’t. Good art costs a lot of money, and I lack the art talents to go on just by myself. If I can find a way to turn a penny without charging for the games will I stay in the game? Maybe. Does it matter right now because it is going to take me a year and a half to finish Rising Angels? Nope. I wouldn’t worry about seeing my retirement orders quite yet.
VNs Now: For anyone looking to create their own EVN what advice, if any, would you give them?
Chief: Don’t eat the yellow snow. It’s not lemon. Another good piece of advice that is more pertinent to visual novel making is this. Things are constantly changing. For better or for worse, things are constantly changing and you need to be able to change with them. I dug this one out of my reserves. (http://www.idhasstudios.com/images/komiarray.png) One of these was done when I first started visual novels. The other two are for Anton’s Vacation: EP: 3 and for a secret project done by other artists (credit to Chief, Auro-Cyanide, and Shadilyn respectively). All of them are the same character. Different people, different times, different games, same character. In this trade, you have to be able to adapt to new ideas, techniques, and people. Otherwise, you can expect to miss a wonderful idea that you’d have missed in your fixed position.
VNs Now: Thank you for your time Chief and best of luck to you!
Chief: And good luck to you as well!
See more of Chief’s work and I Don’t Have A Studio Studios here!