Hey Hey Blerdy Tribe, 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. Giving you guys a chance to get to know the developers that spend so much time carefully crafting the games you enjoy.
Last time, I spoke with members of the Meyaoi Games team—the developers behind the Voice Acting BL game Seiyuu Danshi & the upcoming BL ranch management/dating sim Banana Ranch. This time around, I had the chance to chat with members of GB Patch Games.
Founded in 2015, GB Patch is an indie game studio who has made a name for themselves creating one of a kind experiences with each of their releases. From horror to steampunk to high school romance, you’re guaranteed to find a game that will appeal to your tastes. I have been following the studio for awhile and I have never been disappointed by one of their games, which is why I am especially excited for their newest title, Our Life: Beginnings and Always—set to release in just a few days! So with their next release on the horizon, I wanted to sit down and chat with the team about their experiences as an indie developer.
Thank you for taking the time to sit down with me. I want to give my readers a better feel of who you are as a team. Could you tell me a bit about yourselves?
Kab: Hello! I go by Kab or Katelyn. I do script and programming work while also managing projects to hopefully keep everything on track. I had planned on being an accountant and working on visuals novels/simulation games just when I could. But the game stuff ended up going well somehow, now I do it full-time. We like to have pretty varied projects with different styles and ideas at GB Patch, so each game has its own team consisting of talented people who only work on that one game before moving on to start their own projects or join in with other groups. There are a few of us who are always around, though.
David: Salutations. My name is David, and I am Katelyn’s older brother. Initially, I merely observed her work on visual novels as a supportive sibling might, doing work in various different areas. I have always had a great interest in writing and wordsmithing, and as Katelyn’s work became more and more serious, I wanted to help in what ways I could. Eventually that turned into working on basically every project, and it’s been quite thrilling!
Fae: Hello! I’m Fae. I do proofreading, idea bouncing and a smidge of editing for GB Patch. I’ve been working for the company since it was formed in…um, I honestly can’t remember what year it was. In my spare time I am a fibre arts-attempting, cat cuddling housebound girl.
Before I dive into your work with GB Patch, tell me a bit about when your love of games developed. What were the titles that sparked your love of games?
Kab: My older brother was gifted with a system and some games when I was a few years old. My brother liked them, and so did everyone else. From then on, our parents just kept getting us more random games as we grew up until we were old enough to choose our own. Playing video games was a standard thing to do to have fun in my house. Myself and four siblings all played. It was really great. The nickname “Kab” is the shortened form of “Katelyn And Ben”. With five of us kids and certain games having a limit on save files, my younger brother and I sometimes had to share a file. I got pretty attached to the nickname and still use it. One specific series I became really obsessed with was Harvest Moon, now called Story of Seasons. The very first visual novel I made, one that’s not a part of GB Patch, featured my Harvest Moon fan characters, haha.
David: I can’t really pinpoint the exact moment I started playing games; it’s become such an intrinsic part of my interests, it’s more like I’ve always loved them. Incidentally, I am the older brother who was gifted that console: a Nintendo 64 with Super Mario 64 and Ocarina of Time. An auspicious start indeed! If you want the titles that truly cemented my abiding love for video games, I can give no better example than Final Fantasy 7, perhaps a familiar one, but no less important. That game solidified in my mind not only the joy games could produce, but their essential place in the canon of art and expression.
Fae: Ugh, this is going to be so embarrassing. As a kid I didn’t have access to gaming systems or good PC games that didn’t result in me crying underneath a table because I couldn’t hit buttons fast enough. So free flash online turn-based RPGs were all I was stuck with; but I was always playing for the cutscenes. I started playing dating sims online (which I am sure many early 2000s now-otome fans have cringey nostalgia for). Then I discovered the English VN community and fell in love. I played so, so many early English VNs, but Re:Alistair, Scheherazade and Cinders really inspired me and I’ve never looked back.
I have played quite a few of your team’s games over the years and I always blown away by how unique each story is from high school romance to horror to steampunk fantasy—there is just so much variety! How does your team come up with such unique stories and concepts for your games? Where do you get your inspiration?
Kab: We always start with genre and setting before story or characters. What we tend to go with is generally just what we feel like doing at the time. And usually, it turns out to be something totally different from what we were working on before. There’s so many cool and fun possibilities out there. It’s refreshing to try something new and inspiration can come from a lot of different places.
David: As a long time writer, it has occurred to me that you can never be sure where new ideas will come from. My policy for coming up with ideas is to take in as much information as you possibly can! I thoroughly enjoy podcasts, historical ones in particular, as well as narrative ones. I remember workshopping ideas with Katelyn when coming up with new story ideas, and I can tell you the process of initial inspiration to finished product is a wild and fascinating one. It is akin to clear cutting a path through a wild jungle, with the knowledge you have as the tools you use to cleave a path of your own.
I have been following your team’s upcoming title Our Life: Beginnings and Always and I LOVE the concept of the game. In the game you follow your player character through the different phases of their life from childhood to adulthood, with a specific focus on their relationship with their neighbor Cove. Could you tell my readers more about the game and what inspired you to create it?
Kab: On the silly side, the visual novel community sometimes likes to have a bit of fun giving flack to my friend, the childhood friend romance trope. If people weren’t enjoying routes with that premise so far, I guess I’d have to make them see its good qualities by having an entire game about that type of route only. On the more serious side, creating an experience that feels genuinely nostalgic and sentimental and sincere seemed very hard. It would always be cheesy or forced or boring, I thought. But being able to give that kind of experience to players was still something we wanted to do. It felt worthwhile, so we kept trying. Our Life was initially conceptualized years ago, 2016 or maybe earlier. It’s only coming out now in 2020 because it took us this long to feel like we had enough grasp on the emotions to make them work. We’ll see how it goes when it actually comes out, though.
David: My input amounted to general brainstorming, along with some of the real life anecdotes which inspired many of the scenes in the game. I will leave you guessing which ones…
Fae: A big part of its appeal I remember was making a seemingly simple, understated slice-of-life game but with All The Customization. Of. Everything. ALL of it.
GB Patch was founded in 2014 and since then your team has created some truly remarkable works. As a game development studio, what is the message that you most want to convey with your games?
Kab: At the end of the day, we’d like our games to have been worth the players’ time. Either because it was memorable, thought-provoking, or an emotional experience in some way or simply because we were able to give them some fun/laughs. We want to provide the actual people out there who find the projects we create and give them a chance to experience something that makes them feel glad that it existed.
David: Seconded! All of the projects we’ve worked on focus on giving unique experiences, but also giving the players interesting choices to make. After finishing the game, it’s hoped that they were able to make a path that they enjoyed following.
As a Black female gamer I am a strong proponent of developers that take great care to not only insert characters of color into their games, but who strive to provide quality representation. Over the years your team has been consistent in creating games that include characters from a wide range of backgrounds and identities. How important is representation in the games that your team creates? What are some things that you do to ensure that your characters aren’t inherently trope-y or stereotypical?
Kab: Diversity in our projects is extremely important to us. A homogenous world isn’t one we want to live in and it’s not one we want to create. We don’t want players to feel unwelcomed or ignored. People are great, and people being different from each other is wonderful and normal. Along with the few members who are always around for each project, we always bring on new people for each project. We make sure to have people on board who can bring a perspective different from us alone and provide their experience to the game. And when we start sharing demos, betas, and full games, we listen to the feedback people give. If there’s something specific someone points out as being wrong, we’ll get rid of it and try again to make it right.
David: One of the things that I love about our games is that each character gets to be a fascinating, contributing individual. For dealing with potential “trope-y-ness”, this seems a good route! Making each character just feel like a person with their own goals, desires, and role to play in the world the game is creating. And of course, having a diverse cast can only make things more interesting, since the wider range of perspectives can only introduce new and novel ways to look at the game world, and the real one as well.
Fae: Representation is supremely important to me. As a neurodivergent, mentally and physically disabled female who went without diagnoses or representation for most of my life, I know how seeing someone like you, who’s portrayed well, in media can honestly bring you to tears. It’s the equivalent of a creator looking straight at you from their platform, in a crowd full of people that should have made you impossible to see, staring at you like you are the only person in the room and them mouthing: “You. I see you.” I’m always nudging for more characters with neurological and medical conditions portrayed well (especially as MCs or LIs) since I feel like that representation can be a bit hard to come by. Thanks for supporting creators who feature ethnic diversity as a basic necessity of their world—just like the real one!
I first discovered your team through your indie otome game, XOXO Droplets and I remember it really standing out from other romance games out at the time. Instead of romancing a “too good to be true” fantasy boyfriend, the love interests in XOXO Droplets were all kind of jerks. What prompted your team to take this approach? Were you worried that the jerk boyfriend premise would turn off gamers looking for a bit more fluff with their romance?
Kab: Originally, the boys of XOXO Droplets were nice. The more they developed, though, the more negative qualities they ended up with. Having the characters clash and be snarky just felt like the most enjoyable part to work on when having a big group of teenagers forced together. Ultimately, we decided to go all in with terrible personalities. We definitely guessed that it being a dating game that didn’t get especially romantic and had options with perpetually bad attitudes would put off some players, but we could only accept that. We preferred having the guys be that way, the gameplay features were neat, and we imagined there’d be at least some people out there who were up for pursuing unusual LIs. It was nice to see people enjoying and becoming attached to the cast of ridiculous characters in the end.
Fae: I was super worried about what otome players would think in full disclosure but it worked out in the end. Plus as consolation I got to slip in one side character’s personality, so my heart flutter-dies every time someone talks about him. I am super pleased we have dedicated XOXO:D fans and interest in spin-offs of it. Thanks for playing it!
To date, what has been your favorite game project to work on?
Kab: It’s a little hard for me to remember what it’s like. After a game has been out for a while, the many months of development end up feeling like a blur or dream. They’ve all had highlights that stuck with me, but all past projects tend to feel pretty equal. Usually I’d say the main project I’m currently working on is my favorite to be working on. And honestly Our Life has been special to develop. We’ve been able to include players a lot more during the development; including suggestions, releasing way more demo builds since there’s not really any plot to potentially spoil, etc. And way back before everything needed to close down for safety, we got to feature the demo at PAX East with very cool people. That was unbelievable.
David: I concur that Our Life has been a dramatic and delightful experience, but for sake of diversity, I’ll throw in that I had a good time working on A Foretold Affair. I was the primary script writer on that game, and as such became really attached to the characters and premise. It was also the first major project I actually helped GB Patch games with, so I can also credit it with being the primary impetus for me coming on to work on these projects the way I do now.
Fae: There are good parts and bad parts of each game’s dev process so I’ll love and dread working on each in turn, but I think Lake of Voices is my baby. I helped with sort of an edit-writing hybrid to give it a literary feel as an unplanned back up when we couldn’t find anyone who could manage that sort of thing easily. As someone with a learning disability that impacts my writing capabilities a lot, I thought I would only ever dream of doing something like that, so it’s very special to me.
The release date for Our Life: Beginnings and Always is fast approaching and I am super excited to get my hands on it! But, what’s next for the GB Patch team? Do you have any projects in the works that you’d like to share with my readers?
Kab: After the initial release of Our Life we’ll be getting right to work on finishing the DLCs for it that we promised would exist. Two DLCs will be available on launch and we have plans for six in total, plus a bonus Patreon-Only expansion. And we’ll also be putting Our Life: Now & Forever into full production! OL: N&F is a fall-themed visual novel set in a forested mountain town. It has the same basic premise as Our Life: Beginnings & Always, with a fully customizable MC and growing from childhood to adulthood with the cast of characters. The most important difference is with the love interests. There will be two main leads rather than one, a female LI and a non-binary LI. This way those who don’t like romancing men can still experience the fun of the Our Life series. Besides Our Life, we want to release a sequel to XOXO Droplets that takes place when the jerks are adults and it’d be great to do another fantasy story sometime. Here’s hoping we can keep making more projects.
David: I will say that there are some ideas still in the planning stages that I am particularly interested in seeing come alive. Rest assured, GB Patch has many an arrow in the quiver, so to speak, but of them I say no more!
Bonus Question: Since the premise of Our Life revolves around nostalgia. Would you be open to sharing one of your favorite childhood memories?
Kab: I’m really grateful to have a lot of good times growing up. It’s hard to pick. One of my very earliest good memories is from when I was four or five. We were moving into a new house on a cul-de-sac. While my parents were unpacking boxes, I was spinning around in the middle of the circular end of the street singing twinkle twinkle little star very loudly. The noise got the attention of a dachshund dog that lived in one of the houses. He somehow slipped out of their backyard and came running to me. It was very funny to see. I got to play with him until the neighbor heard his barking out front and also came out running to come get him. I imagine my parents were really sorry to the neighbor though, haha.
Thank you so much for taking an interest in our group!
David: Since we’re focusing on video games, I’ll share one of my proudest gaming experiences. We had a neighbor in the cul-de-sac mentioned above who was a good friend and fellow lover of games. He had recently reached Ganon’s Castle in Ocarina of Time, but was struggling to defeat the final boss. So, he asked me to help him. At this time, I myself had never actually beaten the game! But I had seen my cousin do it, and felt reasonably confident I could deliver. Glad I was that I did just that, and was able to defeat Ganondorf on my first try! Feels good to succeed in front of an enraptured audience, even if it was only one person.
Thank you for the opportunity! People like you are what make the effort worthwhile!
Fae: Since OL takes place at certain ages, I am going to go with the MC’s first Step age for my memory. When I was 8, my class had a pet spider who oddly enough lived in a modified water bottle, and we weren’t sure what to feed it since we were waiting on mealworms to come in for it. While we were working in quiet, I noticed a fly buzzing around and lots of students trying to smack it. I waited until it landed nearby, then crept out of my chair in a crouch towards it, cupped my hands around it tight and managed to catch it alive and keep hold of it. My teacher was super impressed and we fed it to the spider with all the class watching. She declared I was the excellent little spider chef, everyone stared at me in wonder, and the spider survived to the first shipment of meal worms and for the rest of the year. I was known as the spider chef by some people in my grade for a few weeks after.
I want to give a huge THANK YOU to the GB Patch team for taking the time to do this Q&A with me!
Below are some links to the GB Patch social media pages and game related sites. I highly recommend subscribing to their pages for the most up to date news on their current and future projects.