Where does a nightmare go on vacation when they aren’t busy haunting dreams? Why to Kumo city of course! A place of both dreams and reality, where anything is possible, and where you’re never sure who you might meet.
Today on Digital Diversity we’re talking to the entire team responsible for bringing A NIGHTMARE’S TRIP into the world and find out just what goes in to taking a creature of nightmares on holiday…
Kaiju: Welcome to the SKY HOUR WORKS team, welcome to the Digital Diversity project! It’s wonderful to have y’all on to talk about A NIGHTMARE’S TRIP with me today.
This is the first whole-team interview on the project and I’m super excited to hear from all of you as I’ve fallen in love with the game and want to know all about the folx who made it.
So first up please can you all tell us a little about yourselves as well as someone tell us what A NIGHTMARE’S TRIP is all about for those who don’t know. I’ve never had so many people in an interview at one time so you make have to elect a leader for this one, haha.
Jeff: Hi! I’m Jeff, people online call me Chi sometimes, and I’m a game developer! I’m the director at SKY HOUR WORKS which is more of like a nice umbrella for all sorts of fun, queer multimedia projects between my friends, and am also doing production/level design work at D-Cell Games.
A NIGHTMARE’S TRIP is a short visual novel we made back in the Summer of 2019, largely inspired by a trip I took to Taiwan and Tokyo! It is the first core game in the PROJECT NATURA series and stars a anxious “nightmare” creature going on a summer vacation of his own to Kumo City, meeting friends and a special someone along the way~
Moxie: Hey! I’m Moxie. I was the co-producer and one of the character artists for A NIGHTMARE’S TRIP; I drew Adrien’s portraits and cgs. I also made some of the more esoteric parts of the game like the voice clips for the characters and the UI.
So A NIGHTMARE’S TRIP is sort of important to a lot of us because it’s the first game we’ve released! We figured a visual novel would be a quick and easy project since we could reuse a lot of the assets, and there weren’t any in-depth mechanics or animations. we wanted to establish a solid workflow among our members while we worked on some longer-term projects on the back-end.
Jeff: It’s worth noting that the project basically started cuz I wanted to work on a project with Bass and Christina and neither had strong experience in games before – so we decided to do something that’d best suit their strengths (which is character design!)
Christina: Hello!! I’m Christina and I worked as a character artist along with Moxie on A NIGHTMARE’S TRIP. I drew the portraits for K, Orange, Bartholomew, and Jude. Worked with Moxie to make the portraits for Gangle and Flight Attendant. As well helped with backgrounds and put together the artbook.
Bass: Hey! I’m Bass! I did character design for A NIGHTMARE’S TRIP! I designed Bartholomew, Jude, Gangle, and, regrettably, Segwayne! aside from that I just did some art on the side, such as the items you collect along your journey, and the steam achievements! and I did some moral support.
Arachnibot: Hey-o! I’m Arachnibot. I’m musician #1 for A NIGHTMARE’S TRIP! I think it’s a fair assessment to say that any music from the OST with a dangerous amount of electric piano and organ playing is my work. I also helped the team figure out some ren’py things (like the game’s UI)
Ruky: Hiyya! I’m Ruky. I’m musician #2 for A Nightmare’s Trip. I’ve made the trailer music and some other cool tunes inside the game! (This is also the first game I’ve done music for!)
Kaiju: This team has so much talent in one place! What’s the origin story of how the y’all got together?
Jeff: We’ve all known each other one way or another or if that wasn’t in the case just me only – I think before then Bass/Christina never really got to talk too much together and same with Ruky who I believe I talked to a lot more during the development of the game!
Around April I was pitching an idea of a project more of us could work on together in hopefully a short amount of time while we were working on RE: DECEIVED VOICE (we had just launched our patreon around that time for SKY HOUR WORKS as well)
Moxie: Jeff and I make a lot of stuff together, and I know some of the membersfrom a shared discord server called Sky Hour, from which our studio name spawned. I don’t think I met Ruky or Arachni until we started working on A NIGHTMARE’S TRIP so Jeff probably knew them and asked em if they wanted to do music. Arachni was originally the sole composer but once school started we asked Ruky to make the rest of the tracks since life got busy.
Bass: I knew Jeff for a long while prior to meeting everybody, but we didn’t talk much. me and Arachni have been buds for a long while now, though.
Christina: I knew Jeff first then met Moxie and after met Bass, Arachni, and Ruky when we started making the game. Jeff basically brought us all together
Moxie: Yeah Jeff is the one among us who’s good at networking, so everyone working with us was brought in by them.
Jeff: i-i try
Ruky: Jeff grabbed me by my toes, and dragged me in to all of this
Kaiju: You all worked on different elements that make up A NIGHTMARE’S TRIP, from writing to music to art, so do you all have favourite parts of the bits you made as well as favourite parts of the game as a whole?
Jeff: My favorite thing was for sure getting to write out funny bits in the game that’d play out, writing got surprisingly stressful but I would somehow get in the groove for particular stuff, such as the chapter with Bartholomew and the Airplane sequence!
Bartholomew ended up being my favorite character to write, while getting to work with a few people to produce what is probably the most invisible joke in the entire game was a lot of fun. I’m really happy with the art/music from the project that everyone did, everyone’s work really complemented with each other really well and like it feels a like a complete, whole thing now looking at it! It didn’t seem that way maybe up until the last few days.
Moxie: hmmm.. I really like how Adrien’s expressions ended up looking, but some of the more fun things were finding fonts and making voices for all the characters. We initially only had like 1 or 2 sounds, one for Adrien and one for everyone else. After making a voice for a couple of them I found I couldn’t stop, and I just really loved doing it? All the noises the character make are audio clips of my voice put through Audacity effects so I got to make some interesting sounds. We also just had 1 font for everyone initially, but I wanted to it to be really easy to tell who was speaking, even if you couldn’t see their portrait. We tested out a lot of fonts and there was an early stage where Gangle was a more fancy boy (his font was a calligraphy).
Christina: Hmmm for me art wise I liked drawing Barth and Jude the most. They have fun designs and I’m glad I got a chance to draw em for the project. A favorite thing from the overall game was probably the music and the Mall scene. It was fun to just listen to some chill tunes will hanging out with wacky characters. Oh, and while this wasn’t in the game I had a lot of fun making the artbook and going through all the art we did to make the game.
Ruky: Being so new to the situation of gaming, the whole experience has been my favorite thing. From collaborating with Arachni on the soundtrack to seeing it all come to life, it has just sent a child like wonder into me. Hearing your own music while playing a game is kind of surreal to me.
Arachnibot: I think the biggest joy for me in the process was getting to re-harmonize the songs I’d written. There’s only a few main melodies in my end of the soundtrack, and a lot of them use similar instruments. It was really fun to tinker with underlying modes and scales of those few melodies, though I do worry that my tracks lack variety as a result.
Bass: Probably the achievements, they were all fun little challenges to make and I had a good time with ’em!
Kaiju: I love hearing these sorts of happy stories from the folx making games so seeing so many at once is wonderful.
Around here we love talking about the sort of representation that makes us feel good, so I want to know if there are any games out there that really make you feel seen, or that inspired you to work on games that you felt included in?
Moxie: There’s a few for me-Hustle Cat, Pyre, Butterfly Soup, probably more?
Jeff: In terms of LGBTQ+ representation? Honestly not too much really comes to mind in terms of inspiration or games that made me feel seen – which is pretty weird to say! I’ve played quite a lot and know a lot of people who make queer games (wink wink you should be hyped for NOISZ STARLIVHT) but with A NIGHTMARE’S TRIP, having a LGBTQ+ cast turned out to not be entirely deliberate – it just happened because of us being queer and thus injecting a lot of that into our characters and narratives.
And I don’t think there was too much of a correlation between discovering my identity and the video games I played, but rather the community I got to be around with the games I enjoyed! I can definitely say that OneShot not only inspired me to start making games, but the people I shared my love of that game with is how I got to this point and got comfortable with how I identify myself.
Christina: Night in the wood, Butterfly soup, and Va-11 Hall-A are the ones I can think of currently.
Arachnibot: Representation wise I can’t say I know for sure. I’m straight and cis, so it’s not hard to come by. But putting that aside. I think undertale was a massive inspiration to me. The goofball optimism in that game was infectious! I also really feel inspired by the rad people at vlambeer. I remember that the talk “the art of screenshake” was pretty much what solidified my decision to become a gamedev
Ruky: I haven’t really divulged into a lot of games for the LGBTQ+ representation, but have always admired it when I find out that it has such. For games that have inspired me, Undertales music is a big inspiration for me. I have always admired it and believe it to be astounding and ever wonderful!
Bass: I cant say I’ve actually played many games for the representation, but its always a really nice bonus! especially when its just handled like its nothing out of the ordinary, that’s probably my favourite.
Kaiju: Plenty of games there I recognise as well as it seems a lot of love for queer games in general.
You’ve all come into this from different walks of life and you all did something different and special for A NIGHTMARE’S TRIP. Did you all end up learning new things by working together, or develop your skills more in certain ways from creating something like this? Were there any obstacles you had to overcome in the specific areas of the game you worked on?
Jeff: I learnt a lot about releasing a project commercially for one as well as having more xp managing schedules/coordination with teams. Working on the game definitely helped me better figure out my writing style (although technically less of my future projects will be very slice-of-life tonally speaking) and how I best get in the groove for writing characters and scenarios. I def came into my next projects feeling like I got a better grasp on how to write structured narratives!
Two major obstacles I can think of was suffering like, two different writer blocks (i went through 3-4 revisions of A NIGHTMARE’S TRIP, the first two being completely different from the final version) and just the fact it was my first commercial release! Having our game page / game build rejected because Steam doesn’t like patreon links was stressful, constantly catching really bad bugs before and after launch was a trip, and never really knowing when we were “done” – I felt like the game wasn’t ready a day before release and we were lacking too much polish to price the game at $7.99 (which is absurdly low for a lot of games nowadays if you ask me). I was just stressed as fuck over everything during that rush to launch sigh
Ruky: I definitely honed in on my skills of patience and reworking pieces that aren’t quite ready to be released. I’ve gone through songs that I was really “meh” about, and with the help of a second ear, made the music so much better. Sometimes glueing your brain to something you’re trying to make progress on is a really bad decision. Taking breaks and coming back to it later are more important than I previously thought.
Christina: Since this was the first game I worked on, I learned a lot. Not about art but programming and music, what it takes to make things work and get a certain song were interesting considering I’ve never been present for such things before. I also learned what it’s like to use Steam through the eyes of a game dev. There’s a lot of stuff I’ve over looked before this experience!
Moxie: Definitely learned a lot about properly implementing art assets since we had a lot of back and forth (especially on UI, which underwent around a dozen iterations before we thought it was good enough).
Arachnibot: hmm…. I think my biggest struggle was the volume of music. I tend to be very quality-over-quantity. Most of my songs don’t usually go over 3 minutes long, so having to just write a whole soundtrack was a big struggle (that’s one of the reasons we got Ruky on actually, and I’m really grateful we did! I never could have finished on my own).
Moxie: I actually have some stuff we put together for the artbook that shows the different stages of the UI throughout development.
The amount of concept art we had by the end was really surprising to me. I think the artbook was like, nearly a hundred pages long though I might be mis-remembering, since I haven’t looked at it since the day we released it.
Christina: I just checked, it’s 81 pages long
Moxie: Yeah if anything being small in scope meant a lot of our ideas kept getting reeled in, because we really didn’t want to keep giving ourselves more things to do. every time we wanted to add a cut-scene or a new format for assets (like how items are displayed in boxes in the center of the screen) there were hours of just trying to get the code accommodating that in all the places where we’d need it.
Also in terms of things we’ve learned, we originally tried making ANT in a program called Tyrannobuilder. It’s, this lightweight VN program, sort of like an RPGmaker thing where you just slot things in where you want them. The problem with using it was when we put assets in they just didn’t work right. The dialogue box would fade out and not sync with adrien’s fadeout whenever a scene changed, because despite seeming like part of the UI Adrien’s entire portion of the textbox is its own separate thing. We spent a few weeks with Tyrannobuilder before we switched to Ren’py (which while better, wasn’t that much better). The main problem was that in trying to be lightweight and accessable TB and Ren’py lack versatility. I think in retrospect I would’ve tried to get us using Unity 3d since you can use actual code there.
Jeff: I’d say Ren’py was fine but we def had no idea how to get the most out of it
Kaiju: Ren’Py is a great tool to work with, but it does have a steep learning curve for doing more than the basics. One of my favourite parts of streaming all the visual novels I have is that each developer has their own little tricks they have learned along the way that makes their games different.
After all the work you have all put in to making ANT have you got plans to make more games together? Are you already working on something new or are you all doing your own things?
Jeff: Ren’Py is pretty neat! But also I don’t really like python so I found working with it to be a little painful (haha). We definitely did some weird hacky stuff to do the things we did, such as a playable video in the title screen and the like.
Not including both me and Moxie’s work at D-CELL GAMES with UNBEATABLE, SKY HOUR WORKS is doing more stuff although everyone in specific is going in different directions – we’re focused on RE: DECEIVED VOICE as our core project for the year (me, Moxie, Ruky, and newcomer Audrey are working on that) and we have a few more projects lined up in the coming months-years that involves some of us one way or another! I know Arachni is still busy with school (as I am haha), Christina’s working on cool stuff regarding her webcomic Blissful Madness, and Bass is doing his own stuff + doing a little thing for RE: DECEIVED VOICE 😉
Arachnibot: tbh I think I’m proably the most qualified to make ren’py games since I learned python as my first coding language, like, I really dug how the engine was structured, and I honestly think it was really useful tbh
Jeff: Probably so haha, I’m learning python in class and I don’t like the syntax vs. java/C# at all
Moxie: We’re working on the things Jeff said and I’ve been working on some games on the side for a while now; none of them have gone further than tech demos tho so they probably won’t see light at all, and if they do it’ll be a while.
As Jeff stated, I’m continuing work on my webcomic and making my own little game to try out game design and what not.
Ruky: I’ve already started working on music for new video games that are in the works with Jeff, but that’s as much as I feel needs to be revealed from me
Kaiju: This feels like a great time to wrap things up. Thank you all for being part of a very different Digital Diversity interview; I love A NIGHTMARE’S TRIP and I can’t wait to see what y’all come together on next!
So before we go I’ve got three rapid-fire questions for you each to answer. Ready? Here we go!
1. Who is your favourite character in A NIGHTMARE’S TRIP?
2. Where can folx find more of your work?
3. Do you have any advice for folx who want to get into making games? Be it in your particular area of expertise or in general?
Moxie: 1. Adrien
2. Follow me on twitter.com/faangzzz ! We originally had a section of the options screen that listed our social media, but steam asked us to remove it since we had our patreon listed there. Speaking of….www.patreon.com/teamskyhour
3. It’s really difficult to make something polished and good looking-polish comes with experience. Focus on making whatever it is you’re making and seeing it to completion, even if it’s not what you envisioned!
Jeff: 1. Bartholomew
2. My twitter’s twitter.com/comet_melting ! And as Moxie has already linked we have our exciting patreon at patreon.com/teamskyhour! Aside from our patreon and social media @SKY HOUR WORKS, you should also check out D-CELL GAMES’ UNBEATABLE, which I’m the producer and level designer of! unbeatablegame.com/
3. Just do it! There’s a lot of different skills and lessons to be had as you make stuff, don’t undershoot yourself but don’t try immediately daunting things on your first go – work and learn at a comfortable pace. Everyone also learns differently and you gotta figure out what makes you tick – for me, it was just getting into it and making games in-engine.
Ruky: 1.) I can’t choose favorites ahhhh!
2.) You can find me at twitter.com/Ruky_Chan ! As well as all tunes at rukyyy.bandcamp.com/
3.) It’s gonna take time. It’s not gonna happen immediately; progress and patience go hand in hand. Know your limits, know when you’ve taken on too much, but never stop. As I’ve always said, walking is better than nothing. Always move forward!
Arachnibot: 1) it’s a secret to everyone!
2) currently I have my website at arachnibot.surge.sh/, but really I’m nearly guaranteed to be “arachnibot” anywhere you look! So twitter tumblr, etc
3) Stat miniscule, be a voracious learner. Making games comes down to a whole a whole lot of atomic pieces, from font choices to the length of hitstun, good games have a lot of invisible subtleties. Start now and pick up more as you go though!(edited)
Christina: 1. Jude (cause I drew her the best imo)
2. You can find me at twitter.com/KrispyKremebits its the most active social media site i got currently. And if your looking for my portfolio you can find it here www.artstation.com/krispykremebits
3. Organization and motivation are key! Don’t over work yourself with trying to make things perfect cause you’ll never finish. Be satisfied with a project, learn from it, and move on to the next thing with your new found experience! And as for artists, please remember to take breaks and do your stretches!
Bass: 1. Gangle, I know I’m the one who made him but he’s my long dork baby.
2. Honestly I don’t put my work on social media basically at all, so that’s a nonexistent locale for me! sorry!
3. Start overblown and huge, even if its just in scope. It’s easier to cut fat than it is to build onto a small foundation. (and then, if you have the time to keep some of that fat, you just get a bigger product overall!)