Even with the glut of Japanese visual novels now hitting the English video game market, some homegrown teams still have their noses to the grindstone everyday to bring us original visual novels in the vein of such classics as Katawa Shojo. Today we had the good fortune to sit down with such a creator: M.B. Saunders, the main developer behind Dragon Dating Sim, an upcoming visual novel in which you… date dragons. You also save the world along the way, but for the most part we’re here to talk about some dragons.
Before we get to the interview, let’s talk a bit of background on the DDS project. As per the summary found on the game’s crowdfunding page, you play as a human sent to the world of dragons as part of a sort of cultural exchange program. From there you must carefully navigate your surroundings in traditional visual novel fashion, complete with dialogue options and other typical trappings of the medium, making new friends and discovering secrets about a conspiracy that lies just beneath the world’s surface. You can find more about the game and download a free demo via the IndieGOGO page.
Now onto the interview!
APGNation: First, thank you for taking the time to sit down with us for this interview, we really appreciate it. To begin, why don’t you tell us a bit about yourself and how you first got the idea to write and produce Dragon Dating Simulator?
M.B. Saunders: I’m M. B. Saunders and I’m the creator of Dragon Dating Simulator. It would be hard to pinpoint a single moment of how I first got the idea, but it started with the desire of making a visual novel, a genre that I enjoy, but doesn’t get much attention here, even though that slowly seems to be changing lately.
APGNation: What sort of audience are you hoping to capture with this particular game?
MBS: Mostly what I wanted to do with Dragon Dating Simulator is to create the type of game I personally would love to play myself. I understand this is a rather small niche, moreso with being a visual novel, but nevertheless I hope to create something that other people will enjoy as well who may find this type of story and genre interesting.
APGNation: The art for DDS is rather interesting. Did you do it all yourself or do you have a team working on the game?
MBS: We do have a (very) small team working on the game, which means we had to work with some constraints so far. Moving forward, we plan to expand the team and improve where we can.
APGNation: What sort of story can fans expect when the final version of the game is released?
MBS: Besides the romance, there is the central plot of the main characters attempting to solve a murder mystery and conspiracy. There are also other certain aspects of the story we have already hinted at in the videos we have released so far. Without going into spoiler territory, there is a lot going on in Dragon Dating Simulator that may surprise the players in the end.
APGNation: What sort of programming tools did you use when creating DDS?
MBS: We are using Ren’Py, a visual novel engine based on the programming language Python.
APGNation: Visual novels and dating sims have become more popular in the West as of late, with such major titles as Clannad, Steins;Gate and more getting major releases on both the PC and home consoles. Can you tell us a bit about your experience with the medium?
MBS: Visual Novels were always something I was intrigued with, but only a few years ago did I manage to get around to actually start playing them. The concept of the player to influence the story with choices is something that I’m fascinated with and something that I’ve also always liked about roleplaying games and Choose Your Own Adventure gamebooks as well. With visual novels I particularly enjoy the focus on telling a story while also being able to influence the same story.
APGNation: What were some of your inspirations when it came to writing DDS?
MBS: Most of the visual novels I have played probably have influenced me one way or another and some of these influences are probably easy to tell, but besides those, I’d say a lot of fantasy and a lot of sci-fi.
APGNation: What do you think of the media coverage that DDS has spawned thus far?
MBS: I knew there would be some due to the concept of DDS alone, but I certainly did not expect to find articles about it in as many languages as I did, especially since so far we have not announced any plans to release it in any other language than English. We have gotten an especially high amount of attention from Japanese news sources as well, which really surprised me. Some might say this was to be expected, but Japan also has its own very active indie gaming scene, so it was surprising to see them feature something like our project so prominently, when usually, we don’t hear much about Japanese indie games and vice versa.
APGNation: Do you have a favorite visual novel besides your own?
MBS: I am a very big fan of the Zero Escape series. It was one of the very few times a video game has impressed me this much by the sheer quality of how well written the story is. Also the way gameplay mechanics are integrated with the story in Virtue’s Last Reward was just mind-blowing.
APGNation: Do you have any advice for any in our audience seeking to create visual novels of their own?
MBS: There are always teams looking for additional help in all kinds of areas like writing, art or coding, so if you want to help create one, you can find a way to apply your skills. And if you don’t think you have what it takes, there are plenty of resources available to learn.
APGNation: Again, thank you for your time and answering our questions. But before we go, do you have any parting words to our audience about DDS?
MBS: Not really.