Hello folks! Welcome to another in-depth and exciting conversation with one of the most inventive minds in the visual novel space. Today, we are diving deep into the creative process of the developer behind Harlevin, a unique studio carving its niche with the focus on customization, romance, and intriguing gameplay. It’s an absolute delight to present an intimate dialogue with a developer who’s not only challenging the status quo but also crafting narrative-rich games that they personally want to play. Buckle up as we explore their journey, their experiences, and their vision for the future of visual novels!

Can you tell us more about your visual novel studio, Harlevin, and its focus on customization, romance, and interesting gameplay?

I got into game dev because there was a lack of games that I personally wanted to play. I wanted to play more VNs where I could change my characters gender, I wanted to play more games where the choices varied more than just the standard two or three-type pattern. Every game I make is a game that I want to play myself. I think it’s important for developers to make something they’re passionate about. So even if I don’t think someone else might necessarily be interested in it, if it stirs inspiration in me, I go for it. Most of my games are free, so as I venture more into the commercial world I might have to think more about marketability, but ultimately I don’t see much point if I’m not making a game that I’d love to play personally.

How did you come up with the concept for your visual novel set in a world where people worship the stars?

The original concept was for celestial bodies all attending a sort of celestial boarding school, but I couldn’t quite get the worldbuilding right and things weren’t coming together. I introduced a monarchy angle, thinking about different abilities they could have, and eventually landed at Celestial Crowns.

What inspired you to create a story centered around the kingdom of Lauté and its Royals with elemental powers?

I was very space-focused for a while and wanted to combine that interest with VN dev, so I thought about creating a world that was essentially the universe laid out on Earth.

How do you approach the complex themes of politics, power, and love in your visual novel?

I try to keep it simple. I know very little about politics, especially politics back in the medieval/Victorian era that Celestial Crowns was inspired by, so I focus on strong motivations and go from there. I do research to make sure things ring close enough to reality so people can suspend their disbelief, but my ultimate focus is on the relationships between the characters. 

Can you give us some insights into the main characters of the story and their motivations?

I can’t get too into it without giving spoilers, so I’ll focus on the main character. The MC, Terra (renameable), has just recently become Monarch of the kingdom due to their father’s assassination. I wanted to make a royal character who decidedly wanted to be a royal, in contrast with the trope of royals who hate their lives and wish for something different. Nothing wrong with that trope, in fact I enjoy it, I just wanted to do something different for this story. So Terra’s whole motivation is learning how to be the best monarch for Lauté they can be. At the beginning of the game, they are not perfect, and have a lot to learn. The story focuses on, in addition to their budding relationships with the characters, their growth as a monarch as they learn and face difficult decisions.

How does the visual novel’s gameplay allow players to make choices that impact the story and its outcome?

There are 9 personality options that the choices are based on. The choices alternate between allowing you to pick anything, and locking choices based on stats. Each choice impacts the story in that it affects how the scenes play out, what information you learn about the characters, and how the relationships grow. There are also some choices that branch the story and change things about down the road. Generally, these choices are not linked to personality stats so they don’t end up locked.

What challenges did you face during the development process of the visual novel, and how did you overcome them?

I am still in the development process, and my current challenge is funding. My Kickstarter is ongoing, and depending on the outcome, the game’s scope will change.

How has the reception of your visual novel been so far, and what feedback have you received from players?

I have received both positive and negative feedback, but more positive. I think a lot of the negative feedback stems from people who want the game to be something different–they don’t like the characters, or they prefer to choose the route, or don’t like that some choices get locked out. But I had a very specific vision for the game, and I’ve seen more people enjoying the game for what it is, so I don’t have any intentions to change these things at this time.

Are there any plans to expand the world of your visual novel with sequels or additional content?

I would like to add additional routes, but this will also depend on the success of the Kickstarter.

Can you share your thoughts on the launch of Boys Love Universe (BLU) from All Ages of Geek and its potential impact on the Boys Love community?

I am looking forward for something that focuses on BL, as I currently know of very few communities that specifically share or talk about BL content. I’m really looking forward to seeing more projects highlighted and hopefully spark more devs to make more BL games.

In what ways do you think the BLU project can support Boys Love creators and promote their works?

I think you could feature individual projects and creators.

How do you see your visual novel studio, Harlevin, fitting into the broader visual novel community and contributing to its growth?

I hope to see more games offer options for gender and pronouns. My games are not the first or the only games to do this, but I hope to contribute to sparking interest in this as a feature.

What are your future plans and aspirations for Harlevin, both within the Boys Love genre and beyond?

Celestial Crowns will be my largest commercial release, so I hope that with it I can spark more attention to my brand and interest in my other projects, both free and commercial. I want to expand my community and potentially bring on more people to the Harlevin team.

Can you discuss your approach to creating inclusive and diverse stories for visual novels?

If you can call it an approach, I just try to have characters that are as different from one another as possible, so that each route can be unique from one another.

How do you stay up-to-date with industry trends and ensure that your visual novels remain relevant and appealing to players?

I’m not good at this. As stated earlier I make games that I want to play, so rather than finding what’s currently trending, I’ll think ‘ooh I’m really into detective stories lately, let’s make a detective game!’ It helps me stay passionate about my projects. If I really wanted to aim for fame and fortune I should probably do more market resaearch and focus on trends, but I don’t ever see game dev becoming my only source of income, as it would require more time and money devoted to marketing than I as one person have. So I just focus on doing things I enjoy and if I can earn some additonal income from it, all the better.

How do you engage with your audience and build a community around your visual novels?

I am also bad with this, but I’ve been trying recently to build a community by posting daily/weekly on social media. I’ve also made a discord server for my current game in development where I share updates, and I livestream myself drawing characters from my games weekly.

What advice would you give to aspiring visual novel creators, especially within the Boys Love genre?

Just start, even if you don’t think you can do it. It doesn’t matter if you finish, it doesn’t matter if it’s successful. If it brings you joy, just take that first step.

Are there any other projects or collaborations you are currently working on or considering for the future?

I am also working on Arena Circus, which has been a ten-year work in the making. It has 4 out of 6 chapters released and I’ll be doing chapter 5 once Celestial Crowns is finished.

How do you balance your work as a visual novel creator with your personal life and interests?

Visual novels combine a lot of my interests–writing, drawing, programming. I pick a few tasks I want to accomplish for the day–write one scene, sketch one character, etc., and the once that’s accomplished, I let myself do something else. Sometimes that’s play games or something totally unrelated to vn dev, but sometimes that’s starting on the next scene or character. If I have plans, I schedule my vn dev work around them, but I rarely have plans as I’m a bit of a homebody. That’s something else I need to work on, aha.

Can you share any lessons or experiences from creating this visual novel that have had a lasting impact on your work and your approach to storytelling?

I don’t know about my approach to storytelling, but I have learned from this process that there are more people watching what you’re doing than you think. As a solo developer it can feel very lonely and a little hopeless sometimes, like you’re just throwing your things out into the void with no one looking at it. But I have gotten so many people tell me in feedback for my current project that they’ve played my old games and are so excited for this one. Seeing that made me realize that just because your project might not be as popular as others, doesn’t mean that it hasn’t had an impact on people. If I can bring people joy with my visual novels, then I feel that I’ve been successful. 

That’s a wrap! What an enriching ride into the creative universe of Harlevin and the fascinating mind behind it. Their innovative approach, dedication to diversity, and focus on creating games they want to play, truly highlight their unique position in the visual novel community. As we look forward to their future endeavors, let’s remember their advice to aspiring creators – just start, and enjoy the process. We hope this conversation sparks your own inspiration and keeps you excited about the ever-evolving world of visual novels. Until next time, keep exploring and keep creating!


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