I am back with a new interview! We’ve already featured the excellent Videoverse in a previous review: go check that out down below! I was able to get hold of the developer Lucy for a quick chat about game development and crop rotations, so I hope you enjoy! I’m still battling some sickness but I have several reviews in the works. In the meantime, have fun reading, grab some snacks and stay cosy.
Let’s start off with an introduction! Please tell me who you are, and what do you do?
Hello! I’m Lucy Blundell aka Kinmoku – a solo, disabled independent game developer from the UK, currently located in Germany. My first game was the visual novel One Night Stand, and have just released VIDEOVERSE.
What game/studio are you currently involved with? And what position?
Kinmoku is my official game developer handle, so I’d say I’m a jack-of-all-trades independent game developer. For VIDEOVERSE, I was able to outsource some of the music, sound, voice acting and programming.
What advice would you give those who wish to enter the industry?
The video game industry is a tough industry to work in as you’re expected to work long hours for little pay. Being passionate helps but it can still wear you down, especially if you’re disabled or chronically ill. This is a large reason why I work for myself, as I can go at my own pace and rest when needed. I also try to avoid crunching on my games.
Whilst there are loads of different ways to enter the industry, I think the best thing to do if you want to enter is to build a portfolio. Try making some prototypes, concept art, scripts, reels…whatever will help you practice your chosen field. Game jams can be a great place to start!
If you still have time to play video games, what are some of your favorite ones to play?
I think it’s important for game developers to keep up with games and play them to understand the latest trends in game design. That said, recently I haven’t had much time to check new games out! Since completing VIDEOVERSE, I find myself wanting to go outside more and touch grass…
When I do get time to play, I tend to gravitate towards games with strong narrative: 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim, the Zero Escape Trilogy, A Space for the Unbound, Danganronpa and Venba are some that I’ve enjoyed recently. However, I love dipping in to Mario Kart and Splatoon from time to time as well.
How did you get into your chosen field in the industry?
I previously worked as a Graphic Designer for EA Chillingo: designing App Store icons, event displays, adverts etc. We published mobile indie games and, during my five years there, I learnt a lot about small indie games, from game design to visual appeal to publishing, and why some games did better than others.
I felt confident to try making my own game and, once I was able, I quit. Making a game was something I’d always wanted to do but believed I couldn’t. I had very little programming experience and I owe a lot to the people on the Lemma Soft forums, who support Ren’Py developers and helped me grow.
After a year of working as an indie developer, I made One Night Stand, which became a small hit and allowed me to continue making games.
What is the hardest part of your job?
I’d say bug-testing. It’s very difficult to test on your own as, even if you try your best to play differently, you just cannot predict how others will play. I bring in friends, family and other game developers to help, but it’s not the same as releasing the game into the wild where suddenly hundreds of people are playing it all at once.
Sometimes, it can be difficult to understand why a bug has happened, too. For VIDEOVERSE, I spent a lot of time simply trying to recreate bugs, where I’d have preferred to add more animations or artwork instead.
What lessons have you learned during your time in the industry?
No matter how well-planned a project may be, it will take longer than expected to finish. Aim small, and then even smaller, and you’ll be able to finish. I actively try to keep this in mind as it’s very easy to get carried away.
What are your future project(s)?
I have a couple of unfinished projects I’d like to return to, but also ideas for new games. I plan to try a new game engine (perhaps one that supports 3D) and make some prototypes to see what works.
If you couldn’t be a game developer, what ideal job would you like to do?
I’d like to be a comic artist, which I guess is quite similar! If I had to pick a less creative job, it would be something involving driving.
What were your greatest challenges during the development of Videoverse?
Building the world was the biggest challenge, specifically populating it with a wide variety of characters who each felt distinctive and real. But, outside of writing and drawing styles, how should the characters interact with one another? What should happen if they are a troll and they get reported…or ignored? What about the person getting bullied? What if you help them, ignore them or, worse, bully them too? There are a lot of variables within the VIDEOVERSE world… Even the timing of messages arriving and checking if the player has read them yet was a challenge. For all this to work successfully, I needed to outsource a programmer (Dipesh Aggarwal) to help me build it.
What are your plans for during 2023 and beyond for Videoverse?
Right now, I’m still working on VIDEOVERSE, adding controller and Steam Deck support. After that, I will be taking a break to go travelling. Next year, I hope to bring VIDEOVERSE to more platforms, but there is no official statement regarding this yet!
What games were your greatest inspirations in designing Videoverse?
Not exactly a game, but the initial inspiration started with Miiverse. When Miiverse closed in 2017, I felt so sorry for the community that loved it so dearly. Although I only used it casually myself, I really liked what it had to offer, with the drawings, memes and funny posts. I also knew the pain of online communities shutting down back from my message board days, so I wanted to tell a story about something similar.
Meanwhile, I loved how the codec conversations in Metal Gear Solid and visual novel segments in Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes both looked. The front facing, simple character illustrations were stylish and effective, but also within the scope of a solo developer. Somehow, blending these portraits with a Miiverse-like community became the goal.
What is your ideal video game if money and time was no object?
I’d love to make an emotional RPG adventure with an epic soundtrack and pre-rendered backgrounds, much like Final Fantasy 7, 8 and 9, but with a modern day twist!
More about You
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Besides gaming, I love reading manga. Some of my favourite mangas are Blank Canvas, Tokyo Tarareba Girls, Solanin and The Rose of Versailles. I think my manga collection is probably more impressive than my gaming collection…though, I love to collect retro video games too! I also enjoy watching anime and K-dramas whilst cuddling my dog.
Coffee or Tea? Or (exult deep breath) what other drink do you prefer, if you like neither?
I enjoy coffee a lot more these days, though I think I’ll still choose tea, since there are so many varieties and I don’t handle caffeine well, haha!
You can travel to anywhere in the universe. Where would you go, and why?
Kinmoku star (one for the Sailor Moon fans out there).
Pick any three fiction characters. These are now your roadtrip crew. Where do you go and what do you do?
King Boo (from Mario), Liara (from Mass Effect) and Emmett (from VIDEOVERSE). We’d drive down to the German alps, Emmett would advise us on where to go and what to eat, Liara would be lovely to chat to, and King Boo would haunt the many German castles we’d visit.