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#IWOCon Dev Talk: CHROMATOSE



CHROMATOSE is a visual novel & roleplaying hybrid PC game where your decisions matter. You've fallen into a collective nightmare along with nine other comatose strangers, and have 12 hours to recover your memories and undo the mistake that put you in a coma, or you will never wake up. Wishlist on Steam today.



Q: Looking back, how has your project changed/evolved since the idea was first conceived?


CHROMATOSE was originally a D&D-like campaign that I ran for my friends! Except instead of stats and dice rolls, it was purely making decisions and facing the consequences. The campaign ran for about 5 years, and by the end of it, I'd put so much effort into the characters and the story that I was disappointed that my immediate friends were the only people who'd get to see them. I toyed with a couple different mediums to retell the story to everyone (since I wouldn't be able to run the campaign individually for everyone interested), and eventually settled on a decision-driven Visual Novel-RPG hybrid as being the closest thing to a DM-player relationship I could have with the player. The characters were reworked, though retained their personality and some components of their backstory, and the story was rebuilt to accommodate a game that doesn't take 5 years to beat. From that point on, very little has changed about the project.

Q: How many times have you reworked the art of the game?

Constantly. Non-stop. I started drawing specifically to make this game, so I'm still learning, and every now and then I'll learn a new trick or technique and end up redrawing all the characters or levels. Some characters have had their entire spritesheet redrawn 5 times. There's a running joke in the playerbase that every time the main character, Leroy, is re-drawn, he gets progressively hotter.



Q: How do you make gamers engaged in your game?

CHROMATOSE is a little different from how most games hold attention since it's so story-driven, but I have three rules of thumb:


1) Every character must be entertaining. This includes the main character, the antagonists, side-characters, shopkeepers; everyone. If the player isn't excited when the character is on-screen, why should they be in the game at all? Remembering that your characters are there solely for the player's enjoyment, and not for you to flex on everybody about how cool or badass your OC is, goes a long way in making people care about the story and its characters.


2) Every ending must be satisfying. This includes bad endings. I don't necessarily mean that bad endings have to be happy or 'feelgood', but I mean that non-true endings shouldn't be an afterthought. Assume that whenever a player reaches an ending, that they will put the game down and not try for every ending. Are you ok with Ending X being the only one that the player sees? If not, change it.


3) Everyone should be able to complete the game. This one is a personal opinion, and clearly doesn't apply to plenty of successful games like Dark Souls or most roguelikes, but I believe that a story-driven game that you can't beat is like a book with the back half torn off. I am still working on balancing and optimizing CHROMATOSE to make this possible, but I applied this to Sucker for Love, an eldritch horror dating simulator I made a few months ago, and between 80%-100% of its players made it to a true ending, which is one reason I think it did really well.

Q: What are some of the fondest gaming moments from your childhood? Where did this all start for you?

I guess I was always the guy behind the curtain as opposed to the player -- I used to buy Bionicles and toys as a kid so that I could give them to my brother so he could play through the adventures and stories I'd come up with. The inspiration from the adventures usually came from whatever anime or cartoon I was into at the time -- this was the early 2000s, so I was pretty into Naruto, Samurai Jack, and whatever was on Funimation before I went to school. So interestingly, I'd say that my career in game development stemmed from anime, not gaming.



Q: When was the defining moment that made you decide to become a developer?


Haha, this one may come as a surprise to some, but I used to be in research (I have a B.S. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and a M.S. in Bioengineering), and I thought from a very young age, about fourth grade, that I was going to be a doctor. Until I failed the PhD qualifying exam. Twice. That's a long story, but it pretty much boils down to the fact the Bioengineering is such a broad field that it's possible to be an expert in your field but also know absolutely nothing about the subject that the qualifying exam tests you on. I chalked it up as destiny knocking and decided maybe being a doctor wasn't for me. The thing is, I spent my entire life preparing to be a doctor -- my resume only contained scientific accomplishments, and I'd forgone opportunities to expand my horizons or broaden my skillset, so if I wasn't doing something in the sciences anymore, I was back to square one with a resume that's as good as blank. So if I was going to be unqualified for anything I do, I might as well do something that I enjoy-- something I'd been doing all along, for free, on the side, since I was a kid: Storytelling. At the time that I left grad school, I had a prototype for the game that would become CHROMATOSE, and decided then and there to go all-in on being a game developer.

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Wishlist IWOCon 2020 here.

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