2023 has come and gone—it feels like it was just a week ago that my grandma was complaining that Thanksgiving and Christmas were too close together, and now it’s January. I spent the last 2 weeks of 2023 sick (I still am), which made it go by like a blur.
2022 was a fresh slate for me, with a new job, a new home, and new projects. 2023 was a year of finding a new rhythm—figuring out how I work best and molding my work time around that rather than trying to make myself go against the flow.
Working from home is truly a blessing and a curse. I do think that it has more positives than negatives (especially right now as I’m able to work while being sick and don’t have to take time off), but navigating around the negatives is tricky. The main problem I’ve faced, aside from lack of interaction with non-family, is that it’s harder for me to focus on work when I end up spending almost all of my awake hours at my desk, either for my fulltime job or for VN development or for relaxing.
I’ve had to mix things up, usually taking my laptop to other parts of the house or even working outside of home some days. Even if it’s only for a few hours, it helps reset the fatigue of being at my desk all day every day. It doesn’t always work, and one problem I ran into for most of the year was being unable to focus on writing. Art and scripting are more “mindless” for me, I can do them with a video or voice call in the background, but writing is something I’ve always struggled to concentrate on.
This year was my first year attempting NaNoWriMo, though a more casual version of it. A few other devs were also entering NaNoWriMo to work on their projects so I hopped on too. I wanted to use the hype of the event to push myself to focus on writing, and it worked! My goal was to hit 30k total words in the month across multiple projects—which is about what I write in half a year—and I hit it.
Canvas Menagerie continued to be my main project in 2023. I was able to release several new demo builds for the project, mainly redoing and improving artwork for the game. My art has been improving a lot the past couple of years which is a good and a bad thing—it’s good because I’m improving and it’s bad because it means I have to redo or edit older game art!
I was also able to finish writing Act 2, meaning that Canvas Menagerie is 2/3rds written! A lot of good progress was made on it this year and I hope to continue (and maybe finish?) that this year.
I also got a trailer for it by Hatoge, a fellow BL developer! It came out so nice…
My other main project for 2023 was Lost Lune, a project I started in 2022. It was meant to be a small-ish project for Winter VN Jam 2022, but I ran into some issues with the story structure.
Lost Lune is a story I like but have had a hard time figuring out how to put the world and characters into words. I have an understanding on how the plot progresses, but due to a few different reasons it’s been hard to actually write it. One reason has been the unconventional format for the story, with it flipping between the past and present in a linear way. The other reason I’ve had a hard time with it is the character personalities—Weiss, the main character, is much more forward, blunt, and promiscuous than characters I’ve written before. It’s also the darkest setting I’ve ever written in as it’s set in a post apocalypse.
Thanks to NaNoWriMo I was able to get over 9k more written for the story, leading to about half of the story currently being written. I’d like for the project to be finished this year, but it’s hard to say when.
A small project I worked on for Ludum Dare & Otome Jam this year was a short game featuring some of my oldest OCs, where you play as a witch returning home and helping her father’s delivery service. I wanted to make something more experimental than what I usually make and something just for me.
I ended up adding some extra features to it but never released the updated build, so maybe sometime in the future…
My last project for this year was Asphodelium, my Winter VN Jam 2023 entry. I’ve had a hard time describing it, but basically it’s a dark slice of life romance about the members of a disbanded adventurer’s guild after stopping a doomsday cult at the cost of killing their former leader who betrayed them. Hazel, the one who dealt the final blow, has had the hardest time moving on—until one day he’s approached by a man with the same face as their dead leader.
This was a story I got the idea for sometime in September and began writing on a whim in the middle of October and ended up writing a majority of in November for NaNoWriMo. I didn’t expect the script to get far but here I am, 40k words later…
I finished the script and most of the art in December but was unable to completely finish the game because I got sick before Christmas. Just another WIP to finish this year….
This year I didn’t make as many articles as in years prior, a trend that will probably go forward. I do still want to write articles on marketing and visual novel dev, but I feel like it’s a waste of time to rehash old topics or talk about social media algorithms and such.
One thing I started this year for articles was interviews with fellow developers, starting with my friend ingthing. I don’t want my articles to be just my own opinions, so I want to get more voices out there. In 2024 I want to do more interviews with other devs to share their views on development.
With a record high amount of games we had to judge for Spooktober VN Jam this year, I wrote up a post about my takeaways from the jam with some commentary from my fellow judges. I was blown away by the response the article received, with it being one of my top 3 articles of all time now.
My last blog post—I hesitate to call it an article—that I wrote in one frantic day somehow was my favorite of the year. After months of radio silence from Aniplex US about Mahoyo, the first TYPE-MOON (pure) visual novel to be released officially in English on Steam, I did a deep dive into why they had forsaken such easy money by refusing to market it. The end result? Well, we’ll probably never know why, but it’s clear that someone at Aniplex made the decision to not give a budget to their marketing teams for Mahoyo and instead let the fans market it themselves.
This year was a bit sparse for full artworks, with a majority of them being for Canvas Menagerie. I got a lot more comfortable drawing his hair!
I also got more into Holostars EN this year with the introduction of the second half of Holostars Tempus, the Vanguard unit (but mainly Gavis Bettel). I was following Tempus from the beginning and was a big fan of Magni and Vesper, but Bettel won as my kamioshi. He’s also the only one in the snapshot above (for August) that’s fanart, as the rest are OCs.
- Fully write Act 2 of Canvas Menagerie: Canvas Menagerie is currently split up into 3 acts, around 50k words long for each act. I was able to finish the first draft for Act 2 in October! It ended up being much shorter than I estimated, but that’s how things go sometimes.
- Release demo for Lost Lune: …Well, this kinda happened but not really. I wanted to release a longer demo for Lost Lune as the current playable build is more like a teaser—it’s very short and only features 2 out of an estimated 20~ days. I did however end up reprogramming the playable build, changing the main character from a side sprite to being on screen with several other visual changes. I’m much happier with this direction for the game.
- Write more consistent devlogs: This also didn’t really happen as my intention was to write an article a month, but with our physicals Kickstarter earlier this year, other things took higher priority. I also realized pretty early on in the year that I’m tired of writing about social media algorithms and want to write about more interesting game dev and marketing topics, like case studies and such.
- Open a merch shop: This was the first goal I accomplished this year! It was also the easiest since it was already mostly set up. You can see the merch shop for my games here—I think it’s pretty cute.
- Fully write Act 3 of Canvas Menagerie: Self-explanatory. I want to get to a first draft state for all of CM. I doubt I’ll be able to finish the game next year unless I get a whirlwind of inspiration as it still needs around 40-50k words, 25+ CGs, 5+ character sprites and more, but we’ll see how far I get.
- Write more of Lost Lune: I was able to write over 10k this year for Lost Lune while working on other stuff and in 2024 I want to get close to finishing the script if not finishing it.
- Release the full version & an artbook for Asphodelium: Due to getting sick at the end of December, I wasn’t able to fully release Asphodelium. It’s pretty close to being done so it shouldn’t take long to finish it. I also want to release a (digital) artbook for it, as I have a lot of design notes for the LI. It’s also been quite a while since I released an artbook so I want to try making one again.
- Go to an out-of-town convention: All my life, I’ve only ever attended the anime conventions in the Memphis area. Despite Memphis being a big city, the conventions here…aren’t really ran by people who want to expand it or even really change anything, so for the past decade it’s been in stagnation. At Studio Élan we’re boothing at more conventions this year, and I want to help! I’m hoping to go to Offkai Expo this summer.
- Share more VNs I like: Thanks to rejoining Tumblr in late 2022, I’ve become more acquainted with visual novel players over there and I want to talk more about visual novels that I play. There’s a lot of great games out there that people just don’t hear about, so I want to talk about VNs more.
I feel like in 2023 I was starting to find my “thing”—I really like talking about VNs and I want to share unheard of and underrepresented developers to others! I’ve become bored of making generic marketing articles but I’ve found joy in making posts in collaboration with other devs or sharing other VNs.
2024 is a bit of a scary year and has me rather nervous, but I hope we’ll all make it through it. I want to finish some of the stuff I’ve began and I want to share more lesser known visual novels.
I hope this year will be better for us all. Until next time!