A few weeks ago, we had a brief chat with Alfe Clemencio, from Sakura River Interactive. His game, Fading Hearts, was a welcome surprise to us and we thought we would ask him a few questions. We held onto this interview until we posted a review of the game to give our readers some context.
TT: What prompted you to create this game? Are you a big fan of the genre?
AC: During my co-op job in Japan, I went to Akihabara because I am a major fan of anime. There I saw a lot of independent games being sold in physical boxes. Then I realized that these games get released at a convention called Comic Market and usually get 2 hour lines there. Imagine something like that for an independent game.
I thought that was amazing and that I could do that, too. So I did.
I like visual novels more than dating-sims because they usually have stronger stories that sometimes left many a man in tears in the tragedy in the story. One Visual novel was so sad that I could not listen to the music of a particular scene anymore because it would be too much for me.
The distinction is that visual novels are kinda like digital choose-your-own-adventure books with music, visuals and special effects while dating-sims are more game-play and stats focused. Gamers like some sort of game-play while usually don’t expect a strong enough story from games. That’s why I tried to merge both.
What is your planning process? Do you start at outcomes and work your way backwards? Or do you have a general idea from the start and hammer them out based on how the story forms in your mind?
I almost approach story planning from a programmer’s perspective sometimes. I usually look at a common story trope and think about what could happen if I could simulate that world a bit and allow the player to do whatever they want. If I come up with some awesome-sounding ideas then I decide to make it.
I usually have a general idea of the story structure as well as some general outcomes. I would try to figure out what happens in the middle as write it out. Usually along the way I figure out some crazy possibility that follows naturally from the story’s rules and try to include that as one of the possibilities.
I also do a lot of math and statistical probability analysis to determine how difficult it is to reach a particular ending and tune.
What do you think is the appeal of these dating-style sims? There is obviously a market for them.
For Fading Hearts at least, it’s more close to what people expect when they hear “interactive story”. They like to see the possibilities of what they could do in the story and how much they can make a difference. I think sometimes they feel betrayed when they experience other games that promise something like “interactive story” because they can’t really change the main storyline.
I usually have to go out of my way to give specific examples and not vague statements so that I can convince people because they believe that it can’t be done.
For pure dating-Sims in general, I think it satisfies a need to be nice and doting on someone. Usually they are very character-driven so you also get to know the characters better.
What plans do you have for the future?
After this we do have a few other projects in mind. Fading Hearts was a sort of a small market and proof-of-concept test. There are plans to take our next games further with much more severe story disruption that the player can do. Something like being able to say “no” to the quest to save the world and still have the game continue afterwards. We are also in “talks” with some people and hopefully that would turn out well.