Hey Hey Heroes, Travelers, and Wandering NPCs, I’m back with another Behind the Games post!
For those of you just joining the party, Behind the Games is a segment where I interview the folks ‘behind the games’ I review. The series is meant to act as a complement to the reviews, giving you guys a chance to get to know the developers that spend so much time carefully crafting the games you enjoy. For each interview I send the Devs five questions (and one random bonus question), to kind of flesh out who they are, while also getting a bit of insight into their inspirations for their games. It’s completely voluntary and meant to be a fun way to get you guys acquainted with content creators.
Last time around I spoke with Jaime Scribbles, the creator of the post apocalyptic visual novel As We Know It, so if you missed that, I definitely recommend checking that post out too! This time around, I had the chance to chat with Esh and Sprocket, the dynamic duo behind Steamberry Studios!
Steamberry Studios is the name of a brand new indie game developer, founded by two very special individuals, Esh and Sprocket. I have had the opportunity to get to know these two pretty well over the past couple of years and I am absolutely in love with their debut visual novel, Changeling. If you’re in the mood for a supernatural romance game, I highly recommend giving Changeling a try, you won’t be disappointed. This is only the beginning for this dynamic duo and given the success of Changeling I am excited to see where these two end up in the future! But, enough of my yammering, let’s turn things over to Esh and Sprocket…
Could you tell me a bit about yourself? What do you do when you aren’t making games? (Interests, hobbies, etc)
Esh: I do feel like there was a time in my life when I did things besides make games…LoL
Seriously, though. I honestly am usually just spending time with my family. Sometimes I’m helping other dev-friends with their projects as well. But before I started doing games, writing and art were what I did in my spare time. Now that’s just kind of what I do *all* the time.
Sprocket: I work as a content writer and SEO manager full time. I work on the games after work, as well as working on my first Young Adult novel. Outside of that, I customise dolls
What sparked your interest in developing visual novels? Is this something you’d like to do for a living or is it mostly a hobby?
Esh: Well, the story is that I was researching for something unrelated and played a few free VNS to see how they work. And I just remember thinking two things. The first, was that visual novels were a really cool way to tell stories. They combined two things that I love (art and writing) in a really interesting and unique way. And my second thought was…”I could do this. I could make one these.” And we were off.
Sprocket: Esh/Lisa introduced me to VNs. I have always liked that “choose your own adventure” style, so I really enjoyed the genre. I would love to do this full time. I enjoy my current job because they are amazing to me, but the dream is always to make your hobby into your job, so you can immerse yourself entirely in something you love, all day, every day!
How would you describe your style? Do you typically create games with a specific audience in mind or do you try and create works that appeal to a more general audience?
Esh: I definitely write with a particular audience in mind. It helps give me direction story-wise to limit my scope, and I also think it’s a bit better for marketing. Sometimes when you try to appeal to too wide an audience, you end up actually narrowing your scope without realising it. So I think it’s always wise to choose an audience for your projects and know who you’re writing to.
Sprocket: We are more a stylised, watercolour style, which is quite different to a lot of the market. Writing-wise, we really try to focus on creating a whole, immersive, story experience that doesn’t solely focus on the romance. It was important to us that we show the characters have lives outside their romance; to many VNs show life as nothing but “getting the guy”, or that the love interest is solely focused on the MC. We find this presents a problematic idea of relationships. Our characters focus not just on the romance, but also their friends, family, and helping each other. You have to ensure you work on your relationship with other characters in the game to survive
What was your inspiration for Changeling? Did you draw inspiration from your own experiences or was this a wholly original concept?
Esh: For the story and world, I don’t think I had any *specific* inspiration. I remember at the time I came with the idea (back before it was revamped into a visual novel) I had just been reading a lot of self published YA fiction – and I found myself frustrated at certain aspects of the story telling. Like how the main character’s life shifted to entirely revolve around this guy she met. And I really wanted to tell a story about a main character who had more than a guy going on for her. So that’s where this idea of Nora having to reconcile with her brother came from.
As far as writing the story, I think I did draw a lot from my own high school experiences as far as how the characters interact with each other. I had a really goofy friend group and they provided a lot of silly memories to work with. No one in the game is based off any one person, but I definitely tried to remember what it was like back then and use that to craft the atmosphere at Stone Circle.
I absolutely loved Changeling, and I’m excited to see more games from your team in the future. Are there any current projects that your working on that you’d like to share with my readers?
Esh: We’re still trying to wrap up the final Kickstarter rewards for Changeling, but we are starting to poke at our next project as a sort of side gig at the moment. As soon as we finish up the last two rewards owed, we’ll start working on it full time.
We haven’t done a public announcement yet but I will say the title is “Where Sun Meets Shadow.” It is another six love interest game that revolves around a female protag. The game is set in the far future on an earth colony quite far from the homeworld. And from there, it’s all psychics, space-ninjas, robots, and more attractive people than any reasonable person needs in a game.
We’re really looking forward to when we can do a proper announcement and introduce everyone to the characters.
Sprocket: Thank you so much! It is always incredible to hear from people who like your work. It’s uplifting and exciting. We are currently working on the script for our next game, which is a little Cyberpunk-y and, once I wrap up my novel project, we will also work on a Steampunk script too! We have at least 4-5 ideas for future games, and we can’t wait to reveal them!
Bonus: If you could be one of the Cryptics from Changeling which would you choose and why?
*Cryptic is the name given to the supernatural community in Steamberry’s game Changeling*
Esh: I always joke I would a zombie because that’s kind of my on-going gag. But I feel that given my absolute power for that world, I really ought to be an Ancient. Not the one sleeping in the mine since he was kind a brat. But definitely the sort that hangs out at coffee houses, reads a lot of books, and occasionally remembers she has the ability to smite people who are jerks.
Sprocket: We’ve actually joked about this! I think a kelpie. They are eerie, pretty, a little creepy, and they can be a touch evil if provoked. Perfect for me!
I can’t thank Esh and Sprocket enough for letting me pick their brains a bit, they are both super awesome and I always enjoy our chats (despite the time difference). They are seriously a delight, and always open to talking about almost anything, so definitely drop them a line if you can. Also, I can’t stress this enough, if you haven’t played Changeling I recommend giving it a try, it is one of the most well thought out games I’ve played in a long time, the attention to detail and the references to mythology and lore are top notch!
Below are some links to Steamberry Studio’s social media pages and game related pages/sites. I strongly suggest subscribing to their pages and checking out their content!!