Demons, Vampires & Werewolves, Oh My! But which one do I romance???
I’ve played a lot of visual novels this year as part of Digital Diversity, and honestly I’ve loved every single one of them, few have felt as huge story wise as When The Night Comes however. This is one of those games that makes you want to play again and again, following every possible course until you know everything about every character, and then come back and do it all over again.
A dark fantasy mystery & romance game with six individual romance routes, another two polyamourous routes, a diverse cast of characters including supernatural beings When The Night Comes is one of those VNs you will throw yourself into and never want to leave again…
….Which of course is why we had to bring the lead writer of When The Night Comes in for a chat…
Kaiju: Welcome to Digital Diversity, a project born to spotlight games made by the LGBTQIA+ community and give them the attention they deserve by talking to the folks who made them.
Today we have Kris, lead writer and co-creator of When The Night Comes. A magical fantasy visual novel full of occult goings on and romance.
Welcome to Digital Diversity, Kris, it’s fantastic to have you here to talk about When The Night Comes. Please tell us a bit about yourself and what WTNC is.
Kris: I’m Kris, a 30 year old former marketing and merchandise manager, and now a full-time indie dev based in the UK! I’ve had a serious passion for creative writing for as long as I can remember, and about a year ago I happened to rediscover my love for it thanks to another visual novel. Being part of and creating for that fandom really boosted my confidence and started to give me ideas, so when I found a few fellow creatives who I really connected with, we had the crazy idea to give making our own game a shot.
I was always frustrated to find that a lot of visual novels or ‘otome’ games all had a set female protagonist, and more often than not you could only romance male love interests. In reality, the world doesn’t look that way, and making something ‘unrestricted’ and inclusive to everyone, where there’s no preconception of gender roles and sexuality, seemed so obvious.
So, that’s exactly what WTNC is. We combined our shared appreciation of culty horror movies and video games, and created a weird and wonderful world that literally anyone can enjoy, and they can do so alongside a community that wants exactly the same thing that we do. We describe it as a ‘supernatural murder mystery but with romance,’ and I think that sums it up quite nicely. We’re also all about spreading love and being kind to one another, but also being extremely into Vampires and Demons…
Kaiju: And Werewolves too of course. I’m quite a fan of Alkar the puppy boy.
What started your team in the direction of making WTNC? Did one person have the idea that this is what you wanted to make together, or was it a group brainstorm that came up with the idea? It’s a big project, I can imagine it has taken a lot of work to put together, even as a studio.
Kris: We started off with four characters (Finn, Alkar, Ezra, and Omen) that we’d already been developing separately over the years, who we found worked so well together that it would be silly of us to not try and make something with them. It just very naturally happened one day, like, “What if we made something that people other than us could enjoy?” When it came to asking ourselves what kind of setting we wanted to explore, the supernatural/fantasy idea was an absolute no-brainer.
Having personally grown up being obsessed with Buffy and pretty much anything that had fangs, the concept of being in love with something that could potentially kill you has always been something that I’ve hyper-fixated on. There’s not a lot of material out there that really explores that marriage of dark fantasy and romance with grace, so it was something we collectively wanted to expand upon.
The process from concept to the release of our first chapter took about five months, and in that time we made sure we got as many assets ready as we could with a view to update monthly from there on out. This included drafting out our character and story arcs, our lead artist, Anna, drawing a crapload of sprites, and just generally building that base so we’d be well-prepared. We’ve grown from having two artists and one writer, to having two writers, an editor, and three artists! I’ve done all of our programming from the start and continue to do so, but we possibly have a new team member lined up to take that over. In the last six months we’ve very naturally become a well-oiled machine, and I couldn’t be happier with the team we’ve created.
Kaiju: It sounds like the whole process was incredibly well planned out and you took the time you needed to do WTNC justice. That’s great to see in an industry so often obsessed with getting games out quick as possible.
Obviously I have to ask, if you could have your ideal romance with any of the game’s characters who would it be with? Poly relationships are of course totally viable, of which I’m so happy they exist in the game too! I’ve not seen non-monogamy pop up very often in visual novels, or many games at all really.
Kris: We’re very big on schedules and making sure everyone has a break before we start work on each chapter, because with an episodic release there’s of course the risk of burning out, which we absolutely do not want!
When it comes to picking a romance I’d probably have said Finn before the game, and I personally have an inclination for Piper and August too, as the three of them are my characters. But, in all honesty, the traits that I enjoy the most are spread pretty evenly across all of the love interests. I really do feel that love and affection for every single one of them, especially where I started production by being responsible for writing every character. It’s not so much an ideal experience, but rather that each one of them brings something unique to the table. Plus, (I think) they’re all horribly attractive, which is an added bonus that makes it that much harder to pick…
Regarding the poly relationships, I was really passionate about including these in the game because, as you said, they are vastly underrepresented in pretty much every form of media. I feel like there’s a bit of a stigma around them, and I wanted to show that it’s really not something to shy away from or to hide, and I wanted to show two very different, but very loving potential pairings in a really positive way.
Kaiju: And suddenly this has become a harem game… August might want a lot of attention but there’s nothing stopping you from romancing everyone at the same time, that’s what the first chapter of the game is all about. I really enjoyed that the game didn’t try to shoehorn me into a relationship as soon as I made any kind of positive contact with a character.
I remember when I was streaming WTNC and the audience all had very strong connections to one or more of the characters, that was really good to see. Especially since none of the characters got left out, they all have their own fans.
Positive representation seems to be a high priority for your studio, have you found there are particularly under represented groups that you want to shine more spotlight on with your work?
Kris: Consent is sexy, and having all of our romance interactions very clearly labelled was top priority. Too many games include unprompted flirtations or put the player in a scenario that they had no choice but to be thrust into, and that’s personally made us uncomfortable before, so this was a huge deal to us. We also give people the option to play without romancing anyone, or to proceed with a romance, but have the choice to not take part in any physical experiences without invalidating the relationship.
With WTNC we had a set group of characters and a story to tell where we unfortunately couldn’t realistically accommodate a more gender-diverse cast without over-extending ourselves. This is something that’s become our top priority for our next game. We have a cast of two females, two males and two non-binary love interests, and two of these characters will be on the ace spectrum. Two of our writers; one current, and a new writer who will be joining us for the next project, are asexual, and its another part of the LGBTQA+ community that we feel is underrepresented in media. We’ll also of course still have poly relationships, and build a new universe that once again really reflects the diverse world that we live in.
Kaiju: I need “Consent is sexy” on a patch or something for my vest, it’s something a lot of folk need reminding of.
Sounds like the next project is going to be a big one. It’s fantastic that it’ll include ace characters too, that’s one kind of representation I’ve seen far too rarely, although there have been a few notable examples I’ve gotten to feature here in past interviews. Also super keen on having non-binary romance options; while it’s great getting to play a non-binary character, which is the only kind that really feels right for me, I rarely get to interact with other non-binary characters in the games themselves.
Something I’m always keen to talk to romance game devs about is the concept of “playersexual”, where you get to romance the characters no matter the gender just because you’re the protagonist, but the character’s sexuality is never actually discussed. How do you find that term fits into the characters of WTNC? Is this another case of playersexual romances, or are the characters themselves openly bi/pan and that’s something portrayed in the game?
Kris: For WTNC we’ve always pretty explicitly stated that all of our love interests are openly bi/pan, but it’s not necessarily discussed in-game, it’s just part of who they are. As a bisexual person myself, I remember how validated I felt when I first played Dragon Age 2 and discovered that I could romance anyone I wanted to, no matter which Hawke I wanted to play as.
Of course there’s always going to be people in real life that you can’t date because you might not have the same sexual preferences, but when you play a game you’re actively escaping reality for a little bit. So, when given the opportunity to make a game where it’s entirely possible for all of your characters to be bi/pan, and literally anyone who plays can romance whoever they fancy, then I’m sure as heck gonna make that game!
A way in which we try to avoid the ‘playersexual’ thing is to really give our LI’s their own identities, conflicts, and unique interactions with the player to avoid what we find prevalent in some otome games; where they all immediately concede to the player character and become ‘just right’ for them.
Kaiju: Sounds like a great way to handle sexuality and intimacy. It’s a refreshing change from a lot of RPGs out there that just go “You’re the player, come get me whoever you are”
On the subject of how things are done in the games world are there games out that you’ve drawn from for your own work? Maybe something has inspired you to do something similar, or take something they have done and do it in a way that feels more honest for you? Games that have positive queer representation even?
Kris: Everyone on the dev team are huge fans of Bioware games, and we definitely took inspiration from them and how they’ve made movements in the LGBTQA+ community. However, they are most definitely not without their faults, and there are things that we’d love to improve upon in that aspect.
Being in our own group with our own personal experiences means that we can speak directly to those subjects and hopefully handle them with more love and the care that they deserve. It’s very easy to have a well meaning idea but still execute it without the dedication it should automatically be given. Part of the beauty with making an indie game is that we don’t have to worry about making up for huge budgets or worrying if it’s a flop, which means that those things aren’t hanging over our heads and we can dedicate that time to the narrative.
Kaiju: Hard agree on that last part. The indie game world has giving voice to so many amazing folks who might never get to shine in the AAA scene. Hence the reason Digital Diversity exists 🙂
Okay, let’s have two questions to round things off today, the Magical Game World questions:
Firstly, if you could make any game, any game at all, with all the resources, time and your dream team what would you make? Does the WTNC team already have that big game in mind?
Secondly, because we’re talking about romance today, if you could romance any character from any video game ever made, who would you go for?
Kris: Oof… oh dear. Hard.
For the game, I would say that I would just love to turn WTNC or our next project (Errant Kingdom) into something bigger, or to be able to do it on a much bigger scale. Errant Kingdom specifically because, while we want to stick with our beloved visual novel format, we are actively trying to turn it into something this genre might not have seen before with it’s mechanics and additional little quirks. It’s something a little more epic in nature, and the world itself is much bigger, so having those resources would be incredible!
For the ultimate romance, it would be a toss up between Fenris or Isabela from DA2 (did I mention I like Dragon Age yet?). In an ideal world, I would be able to have both, so… a girl will dream.
Kaiju: Maybe you and your team will find a way of turning WTNC into something as big as a Dragon Age game one day. There’s a lot of story left to tell no doubt, I’d love to see more of it.
Well both Fenris and Isabela are bi (or at least playersexual in that specifically Bioware way) so that love triangle might be a possibility….
Thank you so much for being on Digital Diversity, Kris. I utterly love When The Night Comes, and I hope it receives all the attention it deserves. Your entire team should be incredibly proud of themselves for creating something with so much charm and character that positively reflects the queer community in this industry.
As we close off this interview are there any last words you’d like to share or shout-outs you’d like to make?
Kris: Thank YOU for both playing and enjoying, and for chatting with me. Your kind words mean everything to us.
I’d love to just give a shout-out to our beloved Lunaris Games team; Anna, Tara, Kevin, Shok, and Marina. They are all an absolute dream to work alongside and I couldn’t be prouder of them and what we’re creating together, and I’m consistently blown away by the content they produce. Also thank you to anyone who has ever downloaded the game, we hit 40,000 downloads today and that’s most definitely not a number we ever dreamed we’d reach! We really do just want to keep making things that make people feel happy, and loved, and included. So, as long as we can, we shall!