Art, Blog

2021 Year in Review

As 2021 fades away from calendars and is replaced with 2022, it’s time to look back on it one more time before moving on. As my annual tradition, I want to recap what I’ve done this year and reflect on it.

I’ll be honest, this was the worst year of my life. I struggled to find a fulltime job for over half the year despite having a bachelors in software engineering. We moved (leaving my childhood home of 23 years) to get better cancer treatment for my father, whose cancer worsened earlier in 2021. Just 3 months later, he passed away. We moved again back to my hometown.

There were good things that happened in 2021. I don’t want to diminish the bad that happened by saying “but look on the bright side!”, but I have to acknowledge the good with the bad.

For one, I finally got a fulltime, good paying job. I was offered it the week my father passed, actually. I was finally able to release Asterism, a project I’ve been working on for the past 4 1/2 years. The 4th quarter of 2021 marked my 2 year anniversary at Studio ร‰lan, and I’m still so grateful to be able to work with such talented and cool people.

I usually do a bulleted list of cool things I accomplished in the year, but I don’t feel like it’s needed this year. For now, I want to talk about the projects and artwork I was able to work on.

Full Releases

Drawn by Violora

True to form, I directed another large volunteer project for NaNoRenO. This year we decided on a dating sim with 2 routes and a customizable MC called A Pinch of Magic. With 30~ something volunteers, we were able to publish it in time (although I had to rush to finish Kiana’s route during the last weekend of March due to some last minute drop outs)!

I declared this before March started, but this was my last large group project for NaNoRenO. It’s been fun, but it’s a lot of stress and frankly, I want to publish more solo projects for now.

While I won’t be directing any volunteer projects for 2022’s NaNoRenO, I can’t say that I’m out for the count just yet. I don’t have any plans for March either, though!

It finally released! It’s here! It’s actually here!!

After 4 1/2 years of development and delay after delay, I finally released Asterism in July. I had to gut out the RPG system to make it releaseable, but it’s finally out.

Every game I’ve released on Steam aside from The Witch in the Forest was started and finished during Asterism’s development. My first commercial game, That Which Binds Us, was started and released after Asterism was started. I graduated college before Asterism was released. As I talked about in the devlog I linked above, there were numerous reasons for its big delays and the removal of the RPG system.

I learned a lot during Asterism’s development and I changed a lot as a person. Working on a supposed-to-be-2-year-solo-project-but-becomes-a-4-year-project as your first commercial game will teach you a lot about project management, time allocating, and a lot more. I don’t recommend it at all.

One day I hope I’ll be able to do the characters more justice.

Finally, as my last release of the year, I released Crimson Waves on the Emerald Sea (CWES), a solo project I started in August. I had had an inkling of an idea for this project for months prior but sat down to turn it into something in August.

After releasing Asterism, I really wanted to make something small before returning to Drops of Death (though I did end up finishing Edwin’s route in DoD in August). I went with CWES because of its small cast of 4 characters which keeps the scope very small.

CWES is the direction I want to go moving forward. Small projects where I can focus on nicer visuals and making the project more polished rather than longer word counts and dating mechanics. I still have some dating sim ideas I want to make, but after Drops of Death I want to make some more linear projects for a while.


I’m tired of social media algorithms! Down with trying to game the system!! Make it easier for indie creator’s posts to be viewed, dammit!!

This year I talked more about fundamentals and building blocks for developers. Things developers should reflect on before posting and picking hashtags and what not.

As a general guide, I talked about how new and old VN devs can market VNs. This is more of a guidebook for reference rather than a rule book. It’s something to mold into your strategy- figure out what works for you and go from there.

In a similar vein, I talked about the fundamentals of marketing and how they apply to indie games. Often we overlook the basics in a rush to post on Twitter, but posting and making copy becomes a lot easier when we take the time to consider what we’re making.


Similarly to last year, I did a fair amount of artwork this year due to fanart and some art for myself. I caught up to the D.Gray-man manga this year which was most of the fanart…

One thing I’m proud of is I started drawing traditionally more! I was away from my regular drawing set up for days to weeks at a time while moving and such, so I got out an old sketchbook and went at it. The last week of the year I even started doing watercolor drawings. Since then I’ve bought a couple more drawing pads, watercolor palettes, and some canvases… well, that’ll give me something to do next year.

Anyway, here’s a few of my favorites this year!

My 2 favorite boys from DGM, the Walkers!

Not much extra I can say about this that I didn’t say here that’s not a spoiler. I love Mana โ™ฅ

It’s been a couple years since I last did a Halloween drawing with Rimia and Sorinne, so I was quick to start on one this year. You can see my improvement drawing these two from my last drawing of them in 2019.

This CG of Lucie has become the key art for CWES because of how striking it is. It was one of the first drawings I did for CWES, before I even sketched all of the main character sprites, because I knew exactly how I wanted it to look. She looks so intimidating for being a tiny gremlin…


Surprisingly, I managed to do all my goals from last year (and some I wasn’t able to finish from the year prior).

  • Release Asterism & get mostly done with Drops of Death: “Mostly done” done is a speculative term… haha… but I was able to release Asterism and finish writing one of the routes in DoD.
  • Release our next NaNoRenO entry: Yep, that was a success.
  • Find a full-time job: Yep!

As for some goals for 2022…

  • Publish another small VN: I want to release something else like CWES. Not necessarily Victorian or linear, but something short and focusing on overall aesthetics.
  • Finish Natasha’s route in Drops of Death: While I’d love to publish DoD this year, I don’t want to make any promises just yet. For now, I want to focus on finishing writing Natasha’s route.
  • Start writing a light novel: I’ve had an idea for a light novel (and possibly visual novel) for a few months for now. I’m not sure if I’ll ever finish it, much less publish it, but I’d like to at least write some of it!

That’s about all I can think of for now. My next “project” is my VNconf talk on January 22nd, where I’ll be comparing the development of Asterism and CWES. I should probably start on the presentation, huh…

All I have left to say now is to do what you love. Don’t wait for better times, treat yourself well every day. I hope 2022 is a kinder year to all of us and that we can all be a bit kinder to ourselves & others.

Most of all, keep moving forward.

โ€” Arimia

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