Indieview #9: Slip, Developer

Welcome to the ninth week of Indieview! Indieview is an interview series where I speak with a special guest who works on personal or business projects related to games, whether they’re an artist, a composer, a streamer, a writer, or otherwise.

Sugar Slip is a one-man development team working on visual novel-dating sim-rhythm game Serial Lover, which has been successfully funded on Kickstarter! Inspired to create lasting experiences, Serial Lover is a game with several routes, difficulties, and a lot of replayability.

Mitch: I’ve got to know — what inspired Serial Lover as an idea? I’ve serialsly got to know! (Please don’t send Jenny after me for that one…)

Slip: A pun?! She’s already on her way. Honestly though, the idea originally stemmed from wanting to make a game about anime girls. I’m big on gameplay, so I knew I wanted to introduce a mini-game mechanic, similar to Huniepop’s implementation — as I found that to be handled very well. As for the serial killers, I knew that creating my own original characters wouldn’t be very marketable, at least not without some kind of familiar theme. After noticing the current popularity of serial killers in the media — with at least four serial killer-related shows, movies, and documentaries being on the frontpage of Netflix at the time — I figured that would be an entertaining concept to work with. Admittedly, I didn’t want the characters to be too accurate, as I don’t care for the killers themselves, more so just the concept of them.

Mitch: Inspiration can strike in the oddest of places! I love that you went with rhythm gameplay. Generally, in a game about winning the affections of someone, the mechanic is generally match-3 or gifting. Why did you go with rhythm?

Slip: I definitely didn’t want to do something that’s already been done before — I’ve tried working on less original games and I just couldn’t bring myself to be passionate about it. However, I did want something familiar, and not too labour intensive to work on. Due to the massive popularity of rhythm games, and their intersection with anime culture, I knew for sure that was what I wanted it to be. I know a lot of people want the game to be 4-key, and honestly, I wouldn’t mind that, but I find it more interesting to have people learn to play 5-key… It’s like they’re unlocking a part of their brain… or playing a typing game — at least that’s how I used to think about it before I became a one-handed 5-key master.

Mitch: It is difficult, but it’s very satisfying when you get a good combo, so I’m happy you’ve stuck with it! You’re a one-man development team. That’s insane considering the quality of the gameplay, art, dialogue, and music. Can you tell me more about working solo?

Slip: Well, I definitely wouldn’t be able to do it if I wasn’t driven! I essentially act as the project manager, except that all the tasks I would assign to a team, I assign to myself. Over the years I’ve learned ways to pace myself to be more efficient, but I’ve still lost a lot of sleep to meet self-assigned deadlines. Thankfully, I love to do art, programming, writing, music, etc. A lot of my skills are built upon past experience, but I’ve also had to learn a lot of new things specifically for this project. It’s hard for me to trust others with my creative visions, so most of the time I’d rather handle them myself. I should add that I’m pretty new to the marketing side of game dev, but I think it’s going alright so far.

Mitch: I can understand that, and I think you’re doing a good job — it got to me, after all! Can you tell me more about Serial Lover’s story? It’s very mysterious, from what I’ve played…

Slip: Unfortunately I can’t say too much, as discovering what the plot is, is part of the plot itself. I can say that you’re all stuck in a house and trying to figure out how you got there. And also that it’s pitch black outside with no visible details. You can also expect the unexpected; there’s a lot more to the game’s story than what’s shown in the demo. Those are probably the only clues I can give at the moment.

Mitch: You’re working with a bunch of talented voice-actors and actresses. Can you tell me more about hiring the right voice for your characters? Also, thanks for implementing voice-acting!

Slip: No problem! Truthfully, I think I got really lucky to have the voice actors I have now. I’ve never worked with voice actors before — I’ve never even interacted with the community until I started on Serial Lover. I’ve learned that most games do casting calls, but I didn’t want to make some sort of mistake and end up with that being my very first engagement with the community. However, I had planned to create the animation “Serial Killers Build a Castle”, which required voice acting. At the time I had a few voice actors reach out to me, some of which are part of the cast now, but I also had to seek out a few of the others to find the right voices. Maybe for another project I’ll try something like a casting call, but at the moment my primary focus is making sure I complete the game with as few complications as possible. I will say, I’m glad to be able to gain this experience. I think the addition of voice acting will make a big difference, and I’m glad to have the ones I have.

Mitch: Who’s your favourite serial lover? In-game, of course. I’m torn as I quite like all of them from my brief time with the demo, but I like both Jenny and Edwina.

Slip: It’s hard to say, especially when I know all of their pros and cons! I try to keep them all pretty balanced in some ways though. For example, most people find Andria to be the most attractive, but she has no interest in having deep conversations. Harmony on the other hand, is much more reserved, but is only interested in deep conversation. I like to give players short doses of all the killers’ strengths and weaknesses, hopefully making it hard for them to decide as well — at least by the end of it all. Also, Jenny and Edwina combo is rare! Interesting diversity in taste.

Mitch: It’s definitely a hard pick. I like all of them, from what I’ve seen. But where’s my Jack the Ripper dating option, huh? DLC?!

Slip: Maybe! The plan is to release a DLC sometime following release, which will include three new killers in their own separate side-story. Our highest Kickstarter reward tier actually lets backers decide which killer they want to be included in the DLC. We’ve sold one already. If the other two don’t sell, maybe one of them could be Jack the Ripper!?

Mitch: Oooh, don’t tease me! I’d love to see what you’d do with Jack, hahaha! They each have names based on real life serial killers. Is this as far as the similarities go?

Slip: Not quite! While the characters certainly aren’t meant to be 100% accurate, there are certain key details that have been warped into the characters’ backstories. In the demo for example, Edwina has a bit of dialogue referring to her family and past. If you know about Ed Gein, you may be able to fill in a few of the pieces. But again, a lot of liberty was taken with the characters and their backstories.

Mitch: Very interesting. I’m not very familiar with each of the inspirations, but I’d like to see what similarities there are in the full game. What role will Ben play in the game? He seems to be in the same boat as the player character!

Slip: Don’t be deceived, it may seem like you two are in the same boat, but that is not the case. You’re pretty much alone in your boat, against their ship of murderous pirates. Ben was originally meant to be treated the same as all the other characters, but because of the chemistry and personalities of the others, I felt that Ben’s friendly, outgoing personality would be best paired with helping the player. It also ties in well with his backstory, which I can’t get into just yet.

Mitch: Oooh, mysterious. I’m excited to see what Ben gets up to! How long had you been working on Serial Lover for before taking it to Kickstarter? Is this a game you’ve wanted to make for a long time?

Slip: I first started on the game… probably around late November of 2019. But that was just brainstorming and coming up with designs — I actually came up with the idea for the game the same day that I started designing it, and I’ve been working on it nearly every day since. Honestly, I didn’t expect to invest this much time into it, but because of how much I enjoy working on it, I decided to turn it into a full-fledged project.

Mitch: Oh wow, that’s quite recent! It’s insane to think you’ve made so much progress already. What’s next for Serial Lover, now that you’ve hit your base funding goal?

Slip: We’ve still got a few weeks left to raise money, but I’m very relieved to know that funding is a go! I’m super appreciative of that. As for what’s next, the next few months will be dedicated to fulfilling or sorting out backer rewards, followed by optimizing and planning out the rest of project. Once 2021 starts, it’s full-on, heads-down development time to ensure a release date sometime in the third quarter of the year.

Mitch: I love the character designs and how varied they are. How did you come up with designing each character? I feel like the design is part of why I like Edwina so much. She’s after my anime-loving heart.

Slip: The process was quite fun and I learned a lot from doing it! While I’ve always enjoyed character design, I have never designed characters quite like the ones in Serial Lover. Starting with the basics, I first decided which archetypes I wanted interacting within the story. Rather than starting with which serial killers to include, I wanted to decide on which serial killers may fit into the characters I wanted to create. Once that was done, I started researching different hair styles, fashions, and clothing until I was able to create concept boards using the various references. I created a few different concepts for each of the characters — focusing on outfits and hairstyles that not only match, but enhance their personality. I put a special focus on silhouettes, which is why their poses are so dramatic as well. Teddy’s outfit is loose and free, much like her personality — while Andria’s outfit is tight with restrictive bands, which is both alluring, and reflective of how she traps her victims like a spider.

Mitch: Tell me more about creating music for each character if you could, please! They’re very intense!

Slip: Oh man, creating the music is arguably my favourite part of the project. It really lets me experiment and express different ideas and emotions in different ways. I first do research based on the character’s personality and what kind of music genre I could associate with them. I gather as many relevant songs as I can and analyse what it is that makes them so immersive and appealing. I always try to have an original twist on everything I make, but some of the tracks are heavily inspired by songs I personally like. For example, Edwina’s track is inspired by Loneliest Girl from the anime Carole and Tuesday. Andria’s track on the other hand has some inspiration from Theme for Scanty & Kneesocks from the anime Panty and Stocking — but if it were made for some kind of hard EDM, BDSM nightclub.

Mitch: I love Carole & Tuesday, and Panty & Stocking has such a great OST. Certainly great inspirations, and now I want to play the demo again to check out these tracks specifically! What can fans of CG images look forward to in Serial Lover? You’ve teased quite a few, but I’ve read that there will be more.

Slip: There will be quite a few pinup-like CGs, with the killers in various suggestive poses. The base game won’t include any nudity, but an R-18 patch is planned to release alongside the base game, which will include nudity. There will also be some story-oriented CGs that are less suggestive, and more intense, or action-filled. These CGs will only appear during key points in the game, but I’d like to have a good amount of them.

Mitch: What advice do you have for those who haven’t quite taken the plunge into making their own dream game yet? Or maybe those who need the extra push to go live on Kickstarter?

Slip: I think there are two main pieces of advice I can give. First of all, it’s not easy and you will fail in some way; otherwise everyone would be doing it, and everyone would be successful. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. You have to fail to learn, but you have to try before you can fail. You may have competition, but there’s also millions who will never try. Second of all, your dream will never happen unless you do it. That can be a hard concept for some to understand, but I think it’s quite simple. There are a lot of people that say “I want to make blank,” but never even look into how to do it. There is so much information available for free on the internet, all you have to do is search “How to make blank,” and you’ve already started on reaching your dream. But of course, there’s more to it; you have to commit. Just remember, it will not happen unless you do it. This is why passion, drive, and planning are so important. Figure out what you need to do, make a plan to do it, the rest is just a matter of following the plan you’ve created. However, I’d like to add that I got kind of lucky; I’ve had a passion for creating since my youth, so it’s much easier for me to dedicate myself to my work, and in some ways, I’ve been practicing my skills all my life. Just try to get more sleep than I do, because I know I’m going to regret it later in life. There’s a lot more I could add, but I’ll save the rest for another time.

Mitch: Where are the best places that people can follow you and your work?

Slip: The best places are Twitter and YouTube! @SerialLoverDev on Twitter, and if you search “Serial Lover Game” on YouTube, it should be the first result. I post all my updates on Twitter, and release special promo and progress videos on YouTube. We also recently started the r/SerialLover subreddit, so people can feel free to post there if they’d like.

Mitch: Is there anyone or anything that you’d like to give a shout out to? Go ahead!

Slip: I’d definitely like to give a shout out to my friends and supporters, they make it all worth it. I’d also like to give a shout out to the LoveVN and DevTalk+ communities, as they’ve shown me the ropes and given me tons of helpful advice. They’re also just great people. Lastly, I’d like to give a shout out to Mitchell Lineham for Indieview-ing me!

Mitch: Mitchell Lineham?! That’s me!! It’s been my pleasure having you here, so thanks so much for agreeing to be a guest on Indieview!

I hope you’ve enjoyed Indieview #9 with Slip. I’ll be back with another Indieview in the near future, so thanks for reading, and I hope to see you all again soon!

Writing a novel | Communications Assistant at Funimation UK | Hang around for #Indieview, Otome, and maybe a little more!

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