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 GB Patch team—the developers behind several visual novels, including the slice-of-life visual novel, Our Life: Beginnings and Always. This time around I had the chance to chat with members of Great Gretuski Studios, the folks behind Love Spell: Written in the Stars.
Great Gretuski Studios is a female founded and run indie game studio. They’re still new to the indie development scene, but they’ve already hit the ground running with the release of their first title–the fantasy romance, Love Spell: Written in the Stars. In the short time since their debut, Great Gretuski has also been hard at work on a new DLC for Love Spell and their next project, Peachleaf Valley: Seeds of Love.
But, that’s not all—the team also hosts a blog series called #CreativeQueens, where they interview up and coming female content creators in the video game and animation industries. Great Gretuski Studios is definitely making a name for themselves and I am super excited to have gotten the opportunity to sit down and chat with the studio’s founder Grettel!
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?
Grettel: Hi Naja, thank you for the invite! It’s an absolute pleasure to be able to participate in an interview with you and I’m excited for the questions. To start, my name is Grettel (aka Gretuski), I was born and raised in Miami and I am the founder and creative director of Great Gretuski Studios.
Before I dive into your work with Great Gretuski Games tell me a bit about when your love of games developed. What were the titles that sparked your love of games?
Grettel: Oh boy! That’s a big question and it goes reeeally far back for me, haha. Honestly, I’ve loved video games since I was a child and as far back as I can remember, there’s always been a controller in my hand. There’s a lot of titles that I feel have really had an impact on me over the years, but there is one video game, in specific, that is just my absolute favorite and it’s a game that is so incredibly special because of the immense impact it’s had on me, not just as a person, but on my career as well and that game is the original ‘Paper Mario’ for the Nintendo 64. I think that’s really where it all started for me.
The gaming industry has largely been a male-dominated space, so to see a female founded and run studio like Great Gretuski Games is AMAZING. What are some things that your team hopes to accomplish as a studio?
Grettel: As a studio, I think some of the things we hope to accomplish most is first of all, just be able to provide for ourselves. Be able to continue to create our stories and to create new products and support ourselves doing so.
Another big thing for us is also to make an experience that someone takes with them in life. I’m sure everyone has a title or titles that are really dear to them and have pulled them out of a dark time and I definitely have plenty of those in my life, so I guess my dream is to be able to create a story, an experience– a game that someone can say, “Yeah, my favorite game is” or “One of my favorite games is made by GG studios” Just create a product that really makes someone happy and really means something special to them. I think that’s definitely one of my biggest wishes for the studio.
Your team is fresh off the release of your first game, Love Spell: Written in the Stars. How was that experience for you and your team? What were some things you learned? What were some of the challenges you faced?
Grettel: The overall experience of creating ‘Love Spell’ can be summed up in many ways. In one hand, I would say it was the most amazing and fulfilling endeavors I’ve ever undertaken and on the other hand, it was legitimately the hardest and most challenging experience of my life.
There were so many moments that I doubted what I was doing and if the decisions that I had taken leading up to this were the right ones, but pushing through all of that and just really embracing the process of creating something that didn’t exist before was one of the most magical and gratifying things I have ever done. I learned so much along the way (from how to start a business to communicating with artists and how to approach programming, design, game marketing with barely any prior real-world experience in any of these topics, etc) and I continue to learn even now because I feel that’s what game development really is– it’s just this constantly ongoing learning process that really challenges you, in almost every aspect.
I mean, for specific challenges we faced, there was an ocean’s worth. Our studios were founded exactly a month before a global pandemic hit. I went from seeing my friends and going out every weekend to being stuck in the four walls of my house every day, alongside my younger brother who is severely autistic and was not coping well with the situation. It was a really tough time for me and for my family as well.
My mental health declined so much at one point that I had to put everything down for a few weeks to just recover and rest and keep pushing forward and obviously, it wasn’t just me being affected, but lots of people on the development team too which at one point… I didn’t know if the game was going to get made at all. But, we pushed through that and I had others who also helped me push through that and now Love Spell exists and it’s out there and while it may not be the best, most perfect game in the world, but it’s my game– it’s our game– and what it represents to me and my team is that– despite the uncertainty that surrounded us throughout it’s development– ultimately, we still were able to create something beautiful and something we think is magical and something that a lot of people have also told us they feel the same way about and… there’s really no words to describe how incredible that feeling is.
In Love Spell, you play as Luna, a young woman who is gifted a magical book capable of making anyone whose name she writes in it fall head over heels in love with her! It’s such an interesting concept, what was your inspiration for the story?
Grettel: “Love Spell” was actually an assignment for a screenwriting class I took in college. I was a film major at the time and our final assignment was to create a pitch for a TV series and I took inspiration from some of my favorite childhood shows and created the premise of “Love Spell” with it. The game’s story itself actually ended up bring a bit different as the original took place in high school and followed more of a “Sabrina, The Teenage Witch” vibe to it.
In otome games it’s through the heroine that we the player experience the events of the games and in most cases these characters tend to be pretty bland. When creating Luna, what were some qualities that you wanted to make sure she had to set her apart from the typical blank slate protagonist?
Grettel: I wanted Luna to feel relatable to players. I wanted to give her struggles and problems that many people face or are currently facing. When players took on Luna’s role, I wanted there to be a connection there that could emotionally bridge players to the MC. I wanted to make it easier for players to really feel that they could understand and relate to Luna’s journey in the story and even take from it and apply to their own.
Your team just announced new DLC for Love Spell, which gives players a chance to romance the mysterious bartender, Aslan. What are some things we can expect from the DLC? Anything new that wasn’t in the main game?
Grettel: The DLC is going to be featuring brand new locations, as the “world” that MC ventures into is not her own nor the setting of the previous main cast routes. It also showcase brand new route-exclusive characters, magic, spells, and even monsters. Aslan’s route will be a much more “Fantasy” inclined genre with new and old faces alike appearing, but players will get a much deeper look at not only the lore of the Love Spell, but the backgrounds of characters like Agatha, Philia and Aslan and a new villain.
Your team also announced a second project, Peachleaf Valley. Could you please tell my readers more about the new project? What are some things we can expect from this new release?
Grettel: Haha, well, we can’t reveal too much yet, but… Peachleaf Valley is our newest romance visual novel/otome game currently in the works that was inspired by the premises of farming-sim classics such as “Harvest Moon/Story of Seasons”, “Stardew Valley” and “Rune Factory” games alike. We really hope to capture the essence of these style games as we bring players into a world that is much more in tune with nature and whilst also still having it’s fair share of magic and mishaps. Our Kickstarter for the project is expected to launch next Spring along with our demo, revealing the game’s main premise and the romance-able bachelors, whom are all inspired off of different seasons.
There has been a bit of controversy within the otome games fandom concerning certain publishers choosing localization titles that they feel will appeal to players outside of the otome games community. How do you feel about this trend? Also, when creating games, do you typically target the typical otome games fan, or do you try to create games that will appeal to everyone?
Grettel: I think that this trend doesn’t just apply to the otome games fandom, I really think this can even apply to a lot of genres even outside just otome. From a business perspective, of course the idea of being able to “appeal to everyone” is a lucrative disposition for what it really entails, however, I personally don’t think it’s a mindset that is realistically feasible in a sense.
I mean “appealing to everyone” is just such a counterintuitive concept because ultimately, nothing in this world, for better or worse, appeals to truly “everyone” and I think it’s more about finding the fine line between as a creator, being happy with what you create and finding a community that also supports you in these decisions. Even for triple A game companies, it’s a struggle to find that equilibrium of bringing in new audiences, but also appealing to your original fanbase with upcoming projects.
Personally, I think it’s important to understand your intended audience thoroughly. It’s important to understand what it is they like, what is it that they perhaps feel that the genre lacks or even what aspects, if added, might make it flourish. After you understand this, it’s also taking it upon yourself as a creator and seeing how you can add in these elements to your projects while still remaining original to your creative vision. It’s definitely a hard task and a difficult question overall I think for anyone to answer. As for me and my work, I really strive to find that balance between the two dispositions that I mentioned above.
Bonus Question: If you had your own magic spell book, would you use it? If so which fictional character’s name would you write in the book?
Grettel: Haha, having a magic spell book sounds like fun so… maybe!
As for the fictional character- aaah! Probably Sylvain Jose Gautier from FE3H or Leon from Pokemon Sword/Shield. I have a huge crush on both of them right now, lol!
I want to give a huge THANK YOU to the Great Gretuski Studio team for taking the time to do this Q&A with me!
Below are some links to the Great Gretuski 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.
- Official Website: gretuskigames.com
- Facebook: @gretuskigames
- Instagram: @gretuskigames
- itch.io Game Page: gretuskigames.itch.io
- Steam: store.steampowered.com/developer/gretuskigames