Fable Novel is a small indie team who made their debut back in March 2022 with the comedy mystery visual novel Gidget & The Mysterious Thievery of Hoppity Town. Since then, the team has continued to release stellar mystery titles, with their most recent being Panacea: Rebirth. Today, we've sat down with the team to talk about how they got into game development, how their development with their three titles differed, the writing process behind writing a romance game with asexual love interests, and more.
Hello! Can you tell us a bit about who you all are and how you got into game development?
Yuuki: I’m YuukiPudding, nice to meet you, everyone!
It’s a funny coincidence or might be fate that got me into the game dev. I accidentally played the visual novel RE: Alistair++ by sakevisual. I think someone downloaded it onto our school PC. Starting from that, I was introduced to Ren’Py when I saw the credit page, and also the Lemmasoft forum around 2010.
I met a ton of wonderful people, from kind strangers to people who became my long time friends. Then, I joined various projects, which gave me a lot of precious experiences which built up not just my portfolio but also knowledge in game development. I keep doing game dev purely for passion. I want to make people feel what I felt when I first found out about visual novels and engines to make games in general.
Pri: Heyo, I’m Pri! It’s nice to meet you all! (Disclaimer: I’m sorry in advance about my super lengthy answers 💦 it must be the curse of being a writer 😂)
While I’ve loved video games ever since childhood, I came to know about visual novels when I started college, around 17 years old. This is when I played Ace Attorney for the first time. I loved the game so much that I started looking for more similar games! At the time, visual novels weren’t very well known, only a few were officially translated to English and others were fan translated, like Danganronpa. It was also around this time that I found out about the existence of Dating Sims through Pacthesis, which later made me find out about the world of Otome games! My first one was Hakuouki!
I got more and more curious about VNs, and, eventually, came to know about Renpy. I tried my hand at making my first VN in 2018: a short otome game called Tail Me. I have it hidden on my itch io because, to be honest, the art is really bad and the story is veeeery cheesy, but it’s thanks to that first step that I took that I started to get really passionate about game development. Long story short, I’m a sucker for storytelling, and visual novels opened a whole new world for me because of their unique way of telling stories. With time, I also came to know that writing scripts for games is what I love doing the most ❤️. One day, I hope to be a full-time indiedev and write the script for lots and lots of games!
Mochi: Hello, I’m Mochi.
To make a long story short, one day I decided that helping VN teams as a programmer would be a great idea. The stars aligned and the otome jam came! My life was never the same again 😂
To be honest I don't remember why I started gamedev as a whole. I think it just came to mind while I was doing computer science in uni.
March: Hello, I'm Marcherin or mostly March! I'm a duck, err, I mean, artist!
I actually got into game development by accident and curiosity, but I've been playing games a lot since I was little, so it's not a surprising path for me to take. I’ve always loved games that had a strong storyline and thought it'd be nice to make something that people could enjoy while thinking and feeling inside the world I drew. That's why I consider myself lucky to be a part of the Fable Novel team.
Yui: Hi, I’m Yui, I have been a full time Background Artist for 3 years already. I’m also the newest member of the team.
It all began when I started developing my own game, Milcham: from the ashes of hearts, which I’m still working on to this day. I got into gamedev because I love gaming and games that have a strong story line, which is why RPGs and VNs are my favorite types of games.
I started writing at first, but I also tried my hand at drawing my own backgrounds (I can't draw any humanoids, sadly). From making backgrounds for my own game to actually accepting commissions as well as joining gamedev forums, that is what led me to join Fable Novel in Spooktober 2022.
How was Fable Novel formed?
Yuuki: I had the idea to create a group or a studio which hopefully could be a way for people who were just starting in gamedev to fulfill their dreams to make games, especially for visual novels. I found out that there were a lot of people with great talent and passion, but who didn’t know where to start or even how to join a project.
Sadly, there are also many times when people never get their games completed or go on long hiatuses due to team members or the team lead ghosting them (which I have experienced myself), or even because they feel overwhelmed by the process of making games, which makes them quit the projects they’re part of.
During 2022’s NaNoRenO, I finally realized my dream based on the progress and result of Gidget & The Mysterious Thievery of Hoppity Town. I built up the confidence to create the group, and then recruited our first member, Pri, the writer of all of our three completed games!
Afterwards, we recruited more people who we thought might be interested in joining us and want to continue creating games together.
Pri: The year 2021 was a very difficult one for me because I moved out by myself and was adapting to a new job (which I quit around December of 2022). Having to adapt to so many new things at once barely gave me time to do creative stuff that I wanted to do. I did have a drawing teacher who helped me a lot throughout the years, but, at that point in time, I was just not enjoying our classes anymore and, although he meant well, I felt really pressured about having to draw all the time and improve on a lot of my skills… which ended up backfiring, because I haven’t drawn much of anything ever since I quit taking his private lessons.
My true passion honestly lies in writing, it took me around 3 career changes, a bunch of writing courses and a lot of tears to finally realize that, but it made me grow a lot as a person. Solo dev didn’t go quite well for me the first time I tried it, since I still lacked a lot of experience, but I was determined to write something. In 2022, I finally decided to get out of my comfort zone and join a team for NaNoRenO.
I’m so grateful to Yuuki for inviting me to join her team and even trusting me to be the writer for her dear project Gidget & The Mysterious Thievery of Hoppity Town as well as being the vice director for Fable Novel. She’s an excellent team lead and an amazing friend, I don’t know where I’d be in my indiedev journey if it wasn’t for her.
Mochi came to join us in Otome Jam 2022. She’s so friendly, we had such good chemistry as a team (and still do!) with all the brainstorming, idea bouncing and whatnot, that it felt right to ask her to be a part of Fable Novel. March is a really sweet person too, and her art and animations contributed a lot to our games, so we naturally wanted to invite her as well.
Yui was our latest addition to the team once Spooktober Jam 2022 ended. She makes such beautiful backgrounds and is so kind that it felt right to ask her to join us too. It also warms my heart that she likes the team dynamics we have in Fable Novel.
Something that I really like about Fable Novel is that members are free to join any projects they want/are interested in/are available to join (because life sometimes gets busy). And, of course, just because they’re not a part of a certain project doesn’t make them any less members of the team 😊
The studio’s first release was Gidget & The Mysterious Thievery of Hoppity Town. In this comedy-mystery visual novel, you play Detective Gidget, who has to solve a string of robberies in the town. What inspired this game’s creation?
Yuuki: I had the initial idea of making Gidget & The Mysterious Thievery of Hoppity Town based on the art of my friend, Gunyu (Bibi), who is the artist for this game. I’ve always loved his art and wanted to recruit him to make a game together one day.
Based on his art style, I wrote all the ideas I had in mind for the project. It was a bit tricky because I needed to plan the game in a way that was eye-catching, enjoyable to play and read, but also simple enough for it to be completed in less than a month due to NaNoRenO’s time limit.
In the end, I used some of my favorite games, such as Professor Layton and Ace Attorney, as inspiration. What is interesting about Ace Attorney is that it caught my interest just from the short first chapter of the story. I thought this type of format would be a great thing to implement to our own game since it needed to be short because of the time limit.
Pri: The game’s idea was all from Yuuki. I mainly helped bring the characters to life by giving them fun personalities as well as cute and quirky dialogue that I thought would fit her vision and Gunyu’s artstyle.
The only character I helped to come up with during the idea phase was Croak; I thought it’d be really cute to add a policeman frog from her initial outline and, since I’m a hopeless romantic, I couldn’t resist to make him have a crush on Gidget. I have no idea why I made Gidget a lazy detective with a sweet tooth (I swear to god, why does every game I write have something with food, I feel like a glutton) and Crest a short tempered neat-freak, though 😂 (it was too funny)
Also, since Yuuki and I love Ace Attorney a whole lot, we came up with the idea to add the “typewriter effect” together with the location and time, which is something that is very familiar to all who love the Ace Attorney franchise. So if the game reminded you of Ace Attorney, know that it’s 100% intentional 😂
With this being your first game together, what were some challenges you’ve come across as a team and how did you overcome them?
Yuuki: I think the most challenging thing during that time was my own nervousness about leading my first team on my own. I wanted to make this work because the progress and result would also be a way to judge myself, to see if I could take the responsibility to create the Fable Novel indie group.
I could overcome it all because the members worked hard and gave their best for this project. It’s why we could finally create our first game together. The result was beyond my expectations, I’m really proud of our team!
Pri: This was actually my first time working on an online game jam with people from countries all over the world. I did work on game jams before, but they were always near where I lived (Buenos Aires, Argentina), they weren’t story focused, and I usually worked as an artist, which I wasn’t as passionate about.
NaNoRenO 2022 was the first time I joined solely as a writer and also the first time I got recruited, so I was super nervous not only about getting along well with the team, but also about whether my writing was going to be good enough and if people were going to like it 💦
I’m honestly overjoyed at how well this experience went. I met wonderful people, made friends, joined Yuuki’s team and was super touched by all the sweet comments we received about this game.
March: Personally, while I have several experiences in game development as a freelance artist, Gidget was the first time I ever handled backgrounds by myself. So I am actually not confident at all with my background skill, haha.
It was also the first time I ever joined a game jam, as well as being part of a visual novel game, so I was pretty clueless. But everyone was so nice, hardworking, and supportive! I think that's the main thing that made me able to finish the backgrounds and enjoy the process.
Your next release was Hummingbird’s Crown, a mystery romance where the main character is stuck in a loop. What did you learn from your other mystery title, Gidget, that you implemented into Hummingbird’s Crown?
Yuuki: We learned how to do brainstorming, planning and definitely outlining stories more efficiently! This helped a lot, especially since Hummingbird’s Crown was a more ambitious project and more complicated compared to Gidget’s. It was also for the Otome Jam, which is 2 months long, so we needed to put our thoughts into it more deeply so that the story would fit with the game jam’s theme.
I think what we found from creating Gidget is that it’s fun to make visual novels that have mystery elements in them!
Pri: Are you ready for a plot twist? Gidget was actually the first time I ever heard that outlines were a thing. I saw Yuuki’s outline then and was amazed. “What… What is this magic?! People… People use these to help them with their stories? What the hell have I been doing all this time, I’m such a foolish fool!”. Jokes aside, while I don’t follow the outlines 100%, detail by detail, they help me a lot in the process of summarizing the most important points of story planning when making a story, especially one as ambitious as Hummingbird’s Crown. It also made me really happy that we continued using mystery and animal themes.
You could say it kind of became a sort of brand! Hehe, even all of our members have one animal that represents them. Yuuki is a frog, I’m an owl, Mochi is a pigeon, March is a duck and Yui is a bunny.
Something that I also learned from Gidget is that I don’t like writing stories set in the real world or in real countries. While I’m bilingual, I’m from South America (Argentina), so English still isn’t my first language and I’m not confident in writing about countries I have never lived in. Not to mention the Fable Novel team members are all from different parts of the world, so I prefer to write about things that people can relate to no matter where in the world they’re from. It’s also why, even if I joke around with references (like saying Beastendo instead of Nintendo), every story that I write is set either in a fantasy world or in a fictional country.
Hummingbird’s Crown features multiple characters that are acespec (on the asexual spectrum). There are a lot of misconceptions about asexual people, like that they aren’t capable of having romantic relationships or they’re all sex-repulsed. Can you tell us a bit about the writing process when it came to writing the individual character routes?
(Disclaimer, this answer is super long and contains some spoilers for Hummingbird’s Crown, but no spoilers for the time loop, don’t worry)
Pri: First of all, I want to thank Yuuki and Mochi for being super kind and understanding and not minding at all when I asked them if they’d be okay with me adding so many aspec characters to Hummingbird’s Crown.
Asexuality is a deeply personal subject to me since I consider myself to be a demi gray ace (I find that I have aspects of both so I prefer to use this term instead of saying I’m solely demisexual or graysexual). Just like with other sexual orientations, asexuality is something that has always existed, it just wasn’t “the norm” and, for a long time, people didn’t know there was a word for it. I imagine this is why so many aces (myself included) have felt broken before learning that asexuality existed.
Unfortunately, to this day, there are still a lot of misconceptions about asexuality, even inside the ace community itself. But, just like with other sexual orientations, asexuality has a spectrum. Some aces enjoy sex, some are repulsed by it, some fall in love, some don’t… it doesn’t make you any less asexual. Asexual just means that you don’t experience sexual attraction. So, if you consider yourself to be inside the ace spectrum and someone tells you “you aren’t ace enough”, don’t listen to that asshole, you are valid.
Although I enjoy a lot of different types of stories, including those with NSFW content, I’ve always struggled to find ace characters that actually represented me. Of course, there’s certainly been an increase in ace representation in the last few years, but the ace characters I usually tend to find are either always aromantic, sex-repulsed or just not very important to the plot.
Please, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying this type of representation is bad, not at all!! It’s hugely appreciated and valid!! It’s just that I wanted to see ace characters who actually WANTED romance and struggled to find it. I wanted some more variation in the ace representation. I wanted to help people understand that being asexual doesn’t mean that you can’t fall in love. And I especially wanted to see ace characters in an otome game.
Okay, okay, sorry, Gordon 😂
When it comes to Hummingbird’s Crown’s ace characters (Wren, Galvin and Lonan), something I want to clarify from the get go is that, although them being ace is part of their identity, it’s not all that defines them, which is something I find vital when creating a character. You don’t want your character to be remembered JUST because of their sexual orientation. Sexual orientation is important to the identity of a person, but it is not their whole personality. That’s why, when creating the outlines for the routes, I focused first and foremost on the general idea of the story I wanted to tell, and on what type of characters were going to be a part of it and how their dynamics were going to be.
When it comes to Galvin, the internal conflict for his route was focused on his inability to trust others based on a bad experience in his past. On how he’s too much of a perfectionist and workaholic to actually seek help from others. This is why he barely thinks about romance (and he’s just not the type of person who’s interested in one night stands either), he’s not in a mental state to pursue a romantic relationship. After Galvin meets Wren, he learns to relax more, to see that it’s okay to make mistakes and that relying on others isn’t bad, he just has to learn not to put the same INSANELY high expectations that he puts on himself on others and to not be so hard on himself. It’s only after getting to know Wren and growing as a person himself that he finds her attractive and wants to be in a relationship with her. Then it’ll be a matter of growing together. The reason why Galvin is graysexual and not demisexual, though, is because not even he is sure of what exactly is it that makes him find a person attractive, especially as it rarely happens to him. With Wren, it just clicked.
As for Wren herself, I wanted to put her in situations that showed how uncomfortable it is for someone on the ace spectrum (or anyone, really) to be forced into something romantic with people they barely know or don’t know at all, which is something I’ve experienced myself and I’m sure many others have as well. Even just the act of nagging someone (especially after a certain age) that they should be in a relationship. As a demisexual and demiromantic, Wren needs to form a bond, a connection with another person to even consider them as a possible romantic and sexual partner. This is why she’s so fed up when her Mom insists on introducing her to ”a potential partner”. It’s also why she’s a bit scared when Kana tells her she wants to introduce her to Galvin, because, for a moment, she thinks Kana may be wanting to do the same thing her mom does. Wren doesn’t like to force things nor take things too fast, she’s the type of person who falls in love/finds someone attractive after establishing a friendship or at least some sort of camaraderie. And, even then, establishing a friendship is NOT a guarantee that she’ll fall in love (a common misconception that demisexuals sometimes get), it’s just the prerequisite. Added to that, she suffers from social anxiety, so you can imagine why she gets shortness of breath when put into scenarios involving “potential partners” that she doesn’t even know.
Finally, Lonan. Lonan’s route internal conflict deals with toxic relationships; in this case, a toxic friendship. I wanted to show that, unfortunately, acephobia can sometimes come from people we love or used to love. I wanted to show that there can be times when we just don’t know any better because we’re used to that situation or that person, and we begin to think that maybe it’s us that are wrong, that maybe that person is right for saying we’re not “normal”. Lonan is not just a victim of acephobia, he’s a victim of emotional abuse. His supposed friend takes advantage of his kindness, takes the friendship for granted, makes fun of him and dismisses his feelings. And this is someone that Lonan was friends with for more than 10 years. What I wanted to convey is that just because you know someone for a long time doesn’t mean you’re obligated to stay in the relationship. If they don’t respect you nor your boundaries, they don’t deserve you. Then, I’m not sure if this is a misconception or not, but I wanted to show that extroverts can be ace too. Sexual orientation isn’t exclusive to being an introvert, ambivert or extrovert. Being ace also doesn’t mean you can’t be flirty or that you don’t like physical affection. Lonan, for instance, can be flirty and looooves kissing and hugging Wren.
You’ve teased about releasing an Invar route for Hummingbird’s Crown, featuring the mythical being that Wren interacts with. Although it might be too early to ask, what might be in store for players in his route? How do you all plan to handle his route compared to the human love interests?
Pri: Since the main incident (as well as the reason for the time loop) that took place in Hummingbird’s Crown was something that we thought mainly for the other two love interests, my idea was to set Invar’s story in a “parallel world”. Something similar to what happens with Amnesia: Memories, mainly so that it doesn’t have the same exact (or very similar) mystery as the other two routes.
Basically, a world in which that incident would have already happened or not happened at all, which would mean that Wren will meet Invar in a different way altogether. Will it involve another time loop? I guess you’ll just have to wait and see! 🤭
Moving on from Hummingbird’s Crown, your latest release was Panacea: Rebirth, a mystery horror story about a sick girl who travels to the woods where dangerous creatures lurk. This is based on the game Panacea, which Pri made as a solo dev years ago. What made you all adapt this story and remake it?
Yuuki: I created Fable Novel to be a way for other game devs to fulfill their dreams in creating games and motivate them to learn more about visual novels. Naturally, that includes our members, I always strive for them to realize their goals. One of them was Pri, who wanted to continue working on Panacea, the story that she wants to share with the world! This is why we planned to make a prequel of sorts for Panacea and, starting from there, we’ll be able to see if the story that Pri always dreamed about can be finally realized in its full form.
Mochi: It’s great when there’s a project to be passionate about and Panacea was that for Pri, so I wanted to help make it happen!
Pri: Panacea: Rebirth, or simply Panacea, is a story that I started creating in 2018 and released a demo for in 2020 as an RPG horror-mystery game. It’s a story I deeply care about, probably the story I care about the most since I’m very attached to the characters and all the memories it brought me.
Unfortunately, making Panacea a reality came with a number of problems.
The first problem was that the story was too ambitious to pursue by myself. To begin with, RPG Maker is not as intuitive as Renpy and, even when I decided to turn it into a visual novel, I struggled to come up with ways in which to make the story move further. I had a huge writer’s block. Not to mention I didn’t have much experience with making games at the time. All of this made me shelf the project into an indefinite hiatus.
The second problem was that I’m not a very good artist and, for a number of reasons, I mostly lost the motivation to draw. While it’s true that art isn’t all there is to a game, it’s undeniable that art is what draws players into wanting to check your game at all. It honestly helps a whole lot with promoting it! You first have to draw potential players with their eyes, then make them stay for the story.
The third problem, naturally, was that I needed a team to make this project a reality. NaNoRenO 2022 was my first experience with a team from all over the world, but, in order to be more confident in myself, I first wanted to get experience on other projects before even considering unshelving Panacea from the hiatus.
The last problem was that the team needed to be interested in the project. There’s nothing more disheartening for a gamedev, in my opinion, than working on something you have no interest in. I didn’t want to force anyone into it if they didn’t like it so I’m truly grateful to the team for being so kind, supportive and excited to help me make this project a reality.
Since the initial 2020 demo was something I had made a few years ago, I wanted Panacea to have a fresh start. That’s why I changed a few things about the characters and the story itself but in a way that was still recognizable enough from their initial concepts. I wanted to draw players into the world I’ve built throughout the years to show them that Lacrima’s story is one of many in the world of Essentia. And that her story could connect with that of other characters in ways that one might not expect.
Hopefully we can keep making this story until it’s fully completed. All the sweet comments we received for this game warmed my heart and it makes me truly happy that there are people who are looking forward to the continuation.
You went from mystery comedy to mystery romance and then to mystery horror. While each game is a mystery, said mystery is handled differently, not to mention the tone of each game is different. Can you all talk to us about your processes for each game and how their development differed from one another?
Yuuki: For Gidget & The Mysterious Thievery of Hoppity Town, since it was our first project, most of the mystery aspect actually had been decided from the first outline and ideas that I wrote. From her portfolio at that time, I realized that Pri's strength lay in making the characters alive with the dialogues and that influenced me to write an outline that could complement Pri’s strengths and Gunyu’s art style. Mystery with Comedy is the perfect combination to do that!
Hummingbird’s Crown was quite different because it was the first time where we could do a proper brainstorming and plan together. At that time, Pri, Mochi (our programmer), and I pitched in all of our ideas and discussed them together. We found out that we had more interest in creating games that had a mystery aspect to them, so we decided to make a mystery romance visual novel for the Otome Jam.
As for Panacea: Rebirth, most of the story planning was left to Pri because it’s based on her solo game!
Mochi: Hummingbird’s Crown was technically my first Renpy game, so I was more focused on really pushing and seeing what I could do with it. I’m also a big fan of otome games and time traveling tropes in general, so it was truly an explosive experience brainstorming with Pri about what the story would look like.
In hindsight, that was probably why the game ended up being as crazy as it was, somewhat of a scoping bomb, but it ended well because we were all really passionate about making it work. To me, at least, it was 3 months (1 for planning) of going beyond one’s limits to make something worthwhile. This was why on top of the boom boom plot and romance, Hummingbird also came with a lot of features and gameplay, because there were so many things we wanted to do! No regrets, though.
In contrast, Panacea was a more well-planned experience, as we took several lessons from the previous jam. We had a proper scope for a one-month jam and picked a focus to start with (the narrative experience) so that there was less sprawling brainstorming (unfortunately, in a way, haha). We also improved our scripting progress learning from Hummingbird, so we were a lot more efficient and it was easier to meet the deadline (would have had time to spare if life didn’t decide to throw a wrench as usual per jam tradition). For me, it was more relaxing (thanks to Pri and Yuuki for handling the management stress) and was also good fun. For one, I had more time for getting into scripting in Renpy (unlike Hummingbird, because of all the minigames 😂 ). Although, if i have to be honest, getting the zooming chase scene in Panacea to work was arguably harder than even the investigation game in Hummingbird…
Pri: Mystery is my favorite genre in the world, so it’s something that I always strive to include in the stories I write. I’m really lucky that Yuuki and Mochi happen to be big fans of mystery as well, so including this genre in all our games is always a blast!
For Gidget’s game, I mainly followed the outline that Yuuki came up with and tried to combine comedy, mystery and even heartwarming moments. It’s the most family-friendly game we have and the only one where no one curses (although Gidget came dangerously close 😂).
For Hummingbird I almost regret suggesting the time loop idea. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE stories revolving around time loops and/or time traveling but, let me tell you, they’re complicated for a reason. Making one is no easy fit AT ALL 😂 I’m really thankful to Mochi for helping me figure out the actual timelines of what happened when and such, cause there were times when even I didn’t know where the hell we were going.
Eventually, though, we managed to figure it out! What made the process of thinking the mystery slightly easier was the fact that the plot’s main conflict was one and the same for both routes, so we didn’t have to come up with 100 different things. There is more than one antagonist but, ultimately, everything connects together. The difference is that the antagonist you focus on depends on the route you’re playing (Invar is a bit of an antagonist as well, but he could also be described as an antihero). This probably made the game a bit repetitive to some players, but since we only had 2 months (and 1 of planning) to release such an ambitious project, we couldn’t be picky. We did our best with what we planned.
If I had to mention the main problem about Hummingbird’s Crown’s development, though, it’s that the scope was way too big. That’s also the reason why we couldn’t add a feature we were planning to add and why we didn’t have as much time to test bugs as we did for the other games. The silver lining is that we all had a lot of fun with the project and came to really love the characters.
In Panacea’s case, the main focus was on the narrative, so we didn’t have to rack our brains thinking about a lot of features for it. We mainly added the chasing scenes to give it a bit more gameplay, though it might have worked against us since a lot of people weren’t fans of them 😂 We received a great suggestion about adding difficulty levels, though, and Mochi did an amazing job with that, so ultimately I’m satisfied with what we got. I think the issues with Panacea came more with a number of unfortunate events that happened more or less at the same time, and also me being nervous as hell about leading a project for the first time. I don’t want to make meme Gordon mad again, so you can read more about the process in the post mortem I wrote a few months ago, hehe
As for Panacea’s mystery aspect, the main question that I wanted the players to ask themselves was “what went wrong?”. This is because, from the beginning of the story, we can assume that Lacrima was turned into a vampire (it’s the reason why it’s a prequel, after all, we see the origins of her vampirism), we just don’t know why, how nor what events led to this situation. And, even then, Panacea has lots of mysteries inside its story that don’t revolve solely around Lacrima. Mysteries about the world of Essentia, mysteries about the non-human creatures like Nox and Angis, mysteries about why humans and non-humans don’t get along, and, of course, the mystery about the panacea itself.
After releasing three games, what are some of the things you’ve all learned as either individuals or as a team about game development?
Yuuki: I found out that with enough encouragement and chance people can definitely create their own game. Sometimes we just need to have the courage to start and not hesitate to rely on the team when we are facing hardships.
Being the team lead also taught me a lot because I always learned something new everyday. I was never sure about how long I’ll be a game developer for or if I’d even continue doing it in the future, but with Fable Novel I can be assured that my passion in doing game development will never burn out and that I have trusted team members who I can come back to and even share things with about being a game developer.
Pri: As a team, I think it’s important to be considerate of others and make them feel included; everyone has a voice. No one likes a ruler who gives orders, but everyone likes a leader who helps their teammates and is as much a part of the process as the others. As a team, you’re not making a game alone, so it’s important to communicate well and be prepared for the unexpected. It’s inevitable that ghosting and other issues may happen, sometimes, but working together and coming up with solutions is ultimately what also makes it a joy to work with a team. Another thing I feel that many may overlook in teamwork is to have the members be excited for the project. When only some of the members are excited, this may bring complications in the long run.
As for game development as a whole: TESTING. Test your game. No, really. A lot of people overlook this part because it’s tedious and doesn’t involve anything creative. But I can assure you that it makes a looooot of difference when you go the extra mile to make sure your game looks polished. It’s always hard to receive criticism, but it’s even harder when your game isn’t even given a chance because it has bugs or doesn’t work.
Mochi: One thing I’ve learned is that visual novel development is a very unique experience and I wouldn't trade it for anything else. Even if teamwork is hard, even if people can be unpredictable and even if I just want to cocoon in the dark, sometimes, vndev makes it worth it with this beautiful juncture of game interactivity, human narrative and sensory experience, the crafting of something that is more than the sum of its parts. It’s great to be making visual novels. On a more practical note, communication is always key and, of course, when a problem arises, it’s important to always be prepared for the worst.
March: As someone who likes playing games, I actually didn't expect making games was this hard 😂. But thanks to everyone's help, I began to see a new perspective: a game is developed with the thoughts and teamwork of each member.
In game development, everyone is important and each element is what makes the game itself enjoyable to play. I think being a part of Fable Novel contributed made a big impact on my way of thinking too; it always makes me happy that everyone here is considerate and appreciative; even during times when there are errors or problems, they're always doing their best, which makes me want to do my best as well. Not to mention that playing our own games and knowing that people enjoy them feels great!
Yui: The first thing I learned from making games is that it’s not easy work. As a team, if members (who all share the same goal: to create a game) form a good and strong bond, the process can be more enjoyable instead of just stressful. I obviously can't make my own game by myself, with the limit of skills I have. I am glad I joined Fable Novel, I am hoping to be able to contribute in the future works as well.
The second thing I learn from game dev is trying not to be too ambitious, especially if it is your first game 😂 My own game, Micham, is too ambitious for a first project, but I will not give up! I will finish it somehow, someday. Fingers crossed! 🤞
All your games thus far have been for game jams. Sometimes with jams, developers have to cut out content. Tell us, was there any content from any of your games that had to be cut out to due time?
Yuuki: Of course! Most of them have things that we decided to cut out from the initial planning. It’s easy to be over excited when planning new projects, so it’s important to be able to hold ourselves back and put the ideas that are a bit harder to make possible into a separate list. I personally called it “List of things that would be good to have in the game but let’s do it if we have extra time”.
Hummingbird’s Crown was the one that suffered the most from this. This is because, during the development of the game, one of the main artists couldn’t continue working on the project, so we couldn’t make time to add the extra things that we wanted. Thankfully all or most of the main things that we planned ended up being in the finished product and we made it in time!
As for Panacea: Rebirth, we planned that one perfectly and everything was done within the time limit. Pri and Mochi contributed a lot for this one and I’m proud to see how much they’ve grown. This was the first project that had a lot of team members compared to the other games, so it definitely helped to have more people working on a smaller scope project.
Mochi: Yeah, we had like one extra feature we wanted for Hummingbird, but it was non-essential and we were already pushing ourselves too much at the end, so it was scrapped. We made sure to mention the missing feature in the game, though, because it was too good of a 4th wall breaking opportunity to not use 😂 Well, at least for the first version since Pri edited the tutorial for a later update.
I don’t think we cut anything out for Panacea, not that I know of. We planned that game really well 😊.
Pri: I don’t think we cut out anything for Gidget, that I know of 🤔 Honestly, I think we wrapped that one up nicely, hehe 💕
For Hummingbird’s Crown…
Just kidding, 😂 We did cut out a few things but it wasn’t anything major. We mostly cut out the extra feature that Mochi mentioned, a CG that we wanted to add and a few more things that we thought would be nice to include into the Hourglass space, but there was just no time. All of these things basically went into the “list of things that would be good to have” that Yuuki mentioned. Story-wise, I don’t think we cut out anything 🤔 I just ended up writing the endings a bit more “summary-like” so that we could put everything into the script. Making actual scenes for everything would have taken a lot of time and we probably wouldn’t have made it.
In Panacea’s case, we didn’t cut any content in itself, but I would have liked to have a bit more time to make the ending longer. This, however, would have taken more time out of testing, and I didn’t want to make the same mistake we did in Hummingbird’s Crown, so I sacrificed a bit of time to make the game feel more polished. Making sure the sounds, music and graphics were all in harmony and that there were no major bugs nor typos.
What was everyone’s favorite game to work on so far? How about your favorite character?
Yuuki: Hummingbird’s Crown is my favorite project to work on, so far. It was the most tiring out of them all but it was also the project that gave me tons of precious memories: working together with Pri to plan the story for the first time, recruiting Mochi and March as Fable Novel members, seeing that a lot of people enjoyed playing Hummingbird’s Crown (which always made my day)... I honestly can’t believe how we’re almost at 5000 downloads for Hummingbird’s Crown alone!
As for my favorite character, if I had to pick only one then it would be Gidget! If I’m having a bad day, I can just think about them and it’ll cheer me up. At this point, Gidget is like an unofficial mascot for me.
Mochi: My favorite game to work on, so far, is Hummingbird simply because I had a lot of fun brainstorming and making extra features. I think I love trying to push Renpy in what it can do 😉
My favorite character is Lonan because it’s Lonan omg he’s cute and I adore his bad ending.
Pri: My favorite game to work on, so far, is Hummingbird’s Crown! Like Yuuki and Mochi mentioned, I have a lot of great memories from working together with them on that project; from the brainstorming process to the actual execution gamedev-wise. Funnily enough, it’s a project that ruined our sleep schedule for weeks 😂, but we were so on board with the whole idea and loved the characters so much that we didn’t care. Even when the deadline was just around the corner, Yuuki and Mochi liked the bad endings so much that they wanted to add CGs!! I was like “YOU’RE BOTH CRAZY!!” and they were like “BUT WE HAVE TO ADD THEM, IT’S A MUST”. In the end we added them 😂
But honestly speaking, don’t follow our example and avoid crunch time, be sure to rest!!
As for the other question… wait, what do you mean I have to choose a favorite character? I… But…
Askdjbgksdbjg, to be honest it’s really hard for me to choose a favorite character because they’re all my pweciouss widdle cutieees 😭
But if I had to choose one… probably Lacrima because she’s the character I have the most memories with and love her with every fiber of my being.
March: My favorite game to work on, so far, is Gidget’s! I’ve always had a soft spot for animals and it's whole vibe fitted with me and my art style as well.
As for my favorite character, it's Kana from Hummingbird! I like her character and interactions with Wren and the others! But, to be honest, it's hard to pick only one! Pri is doing a really great job at writing each characters in such a lovable way ❤️
Yui: I only worked on Panacea so can’t really answer the first question xD
But as for characters, I like Angis from Panacea ☺️. I also like Nox as well, umm, hard choice, I like both of them!
What is next for Fable Novel? Are there any projects that you all are working on as individuals that you’d tell our readers about?
Yui: I think the others will know to answer better about the next projects for Fable Novel.
As for projects I’m working on individually, I have my game Milcham: from the ashes of hearts.
Thank you for interviewing us!
March: Ooh we'll see for Fable Novel! I think the others might have a better answer for it 😂
Personal wise, I have been developing my own RPG. Hopefully, it'll be available to play by next year, please do check my itch when the time comes! (this turns into a shameless self-promotion haha 😂 )
Thank you for the opportunity by the way! I also hope that you enjoy Fable Novel games!
Mochi: For Fable Novel, Yuuki and Pri are better suited to answer, haha.
As for my other projects, I’m working on Staccato, a VN game about befriending a ball of sunshine, a suspected immortal, a child caffeine addict, the friendliest punk on the street and a cat. It will have cool music!
Yuuki: We have a lot of projects that we already planned to make, but for now we’d like to focus on doing the Invar’s route for Hummingbird’s Crown and a sequel for Gidget.
For games outside of Fable Novel, there’s a project which is a sequel for Cerulean (which is the very first visual novel I ever made) that hopefully will be released in the near future! It’s a VN about friendship and found family.
As for me personally, I’ll be focusing a lot on Fable Novel in 2023, especially in porting the games we made so far so they can be ported to other platforms and translated to other languages!
Definitely keep an eye out for other Fable Novel team members because they have many great projects ongoing! Thank you for interviewing us!
Pri: Like Yuuki mentioned, we have a few projects that we want to make, but for 2023 we’ll probably focus on Invar’s route and Gidget’s sequel. We’re still not sure about the jams we’ll be putting these projects in, maybe NaNoRenO and Sunofes? Sunofes would be ideal for Invar’s route since it doesn’t have a rule that prevents game devs from completing projects that were already started.
Regarding Panacea, I think it’s a project that will be a bit difficult to make for a game jam, so we’ll probably work on it outside of them. My plan was to divide it in parts, similar to what Carrot did for their game Our Wonderland. Perhaps 2024 would be a better year to work on Panacea so as to not burn out. We’ll see how it goes!
As for personal projects, I’ve actually returned from the ashes of my solo dev indefinite hiatus and released a game for the Winter VN Jam! It’s called Where Winter Crows Go (though I’m debating if I should change it to Winter Crows) and it has a yandere man as a love interest. So far, only the demo has been released, but I want to see if I can finish the whole game for the upcoming Yandere Jam in 2023 (if it’s not finished, at least a bigger update). I wanted to experiment making something by myself after so long and I’m honestly AMAZED at the amount of nice comments I’ve received for it, thank you so much!
There’s also another solo project that I’m planning to work on that will probably include a yandere as well. Stay tuned for more news 👀
Anywho, be sure to check the other members’ projects as well and, of course, our games at Fable Novel! Thank you so much for this opportunity, it was a really fun interview! ☺️