The innovative visual novel gets you to really question what you should ACTUALLY be doing in this time loop horror love story
SLAY THE PRINCESS is a horror narrative visual novel where you've got one task. You're here to slay a princess, but if you do is actually up to you. This game brings branching narratives and a style of roguelite gameplay to the visual novel genre where all your choices can lead to an ending.
Developers Abby Howard and Tony Howard-Arias join Lightmap to share how their small side project SLAY THE PRINCESS was made while developing episodic game SCARLET HOLLOW and how it's found them a brand new audience.
You can support SIFTER's independent gaming journalism by
☕ Tipping us on KoFi https://www.ko-fi.com/sifterHQ
👕 Wearing our merch https://sifter.store/
💬 Talking to us on the SIFTER Discord https://www.sifter.com.au/discord
SIFTER is produced by Kyle Pauletto, Fiona Bartholomaeus, Daniel Ang, Adam Christou and Chris Button. Mitch Loh is Senior Producer and Gianni Di Giovanni is our Executive Producer. Thanks to Audio Technica Australia for their support of SIFTER.
GIANNI: Hello and welcome to Lightmap from SIFTER. On Lightmap we have conversations that explore the culture of games and interactive media and we meet game makers from all around the world. My name is Gianni, thank you so much for joining me. My guests on this episode of Lightmap are Abby Howard and Tony Howard-Arias, the creators of Slay the Princess, a game that's perfect for the spooky season and gets you to question, really question, what you're being told to do. Welcome to you both. Thank you for joining me on the podcast.
TONY & ABBY: Thank you so much for having us. It's great to be here.
GIANNI: Before we jump into the process of making this game, one that I think you should definitely check out, especially around Halloween, let's find out what you're making the news this week on Walkthrough, which is SIFTER's weekly news podcast.
PROMO: Articles to read, podcasts to listen to, and videos to watch on sifter.com.au.
GIANNI: What is Slay the Princess?
ABBY: You wake up on a path in the woods and a mysterious voice in your head tells you that if you do, not go to a cabin and slay a princess, she is going to end the world.
And what you do with that information from there is entirely up to you.
[GAMEPLAY CLIP STARTS]
THE NARRATOR: I'm talking about the end of everything as we know it.
No more birds, no more trees, and perhaps most problematically of all, no more people.
You have to put an end to her.
[GAMEPLAY CLIP ENDS]
GIANNI: When I was playing it, I was questioning what I'm being asked to do at all the times, and it made me think broader about what we do in games more generally.
Often, you're just jumping from checkpoint to checkpoint to checkpoint, hitting the markers as you go. Can you tell me a little bit about your design intentions behind telling this story?
TONY: Yeah, I think in general, one of the things that we care about the most for narrative design is doing things that really put the player in the moment.
I think one of my biggest inspirations growing up that eventually led to games writing were that 2000s era slew of smash hits from BioWare, which I absolutely love.
So Dragon Age Origins, the Mass Effect series, Nice to the Old Republic.
But something that always stuck with me with those games is oftentimes, like especially in Dragon Age Origins, like it would present you with fascinatingly complex, you know, moral scenarios that feel like they have no right answer.
And they ask you to choose, but then there's a button in there that's like the, everyone gets along and no one gets hurt button.
And knowing that that exists in a game like that, it changes how you play it.
Where suddenly it's less about figuring out who is my character and on another level, who am I, in terms of interacting with these scenarios and using them is like a...
Reflective process to gain a deeper understanding into yourself and character, and more about metagaming the optimal outcome.
What are the exact steps I take? What are the exact people I bring here?
What are the things I say 20 hours ago to get this dialogue option here that gets me the best ending?
Something that we always do in all of our games is we try and go out of our way to make it so that.
Bad things are probably going to happen regardless, And everything kind of feels equally difficult.
So it reframes the idea of choice that people are used to in narrative games to be about, okay, well, what am I doing between these two options, rather than pulling someone out and placing them on this more meta-narrative perspective of min-maxing their playthrough so they get the happiest ending possible.
That's the very esoteric eye level of it. What I find really interesting is the way that you've designed this game.
You really were able to pull me in directions that I really didn't want to do.
As a player, I feel like we do tend to travel down certain paths whenever we're playing choice-based games, and I'm curious, what were the tricks that you used to encourage that sort of play?
Because I imagine it's probably tricky, right, to get people to change behaviors that potentially they've been building up over 30 years or more.
Yeah, so part of it is we do have that splash screen at the beginning of the game that explicitly tells you, like, you're not going to mess up in a way that is irredeemable.
And like, all of these choices will.
Be fully explored and have full outcomes. I think there's also something in this one to be said about the way.
We're able to play with death as part of the storytelling, where in a lot of choice-based games it's like, death is very much an on or off switch or binary, where, okay, I died, I have to replay the scene.
But based on the nature of the game, And I assume at this point, it is widely known.
That there is like a little bit of a Groundhog Day type mechanism to it, but it means that we're able to explore what death means to the player and then continue on.
So a lot of options that people would get stressed about and might think, oh, this is just a dead end, instead just lead to more branches. So there's more of an openness for exploration there.
And that's very much woven into the themes of the game as well.
Yeah. Seeing death as a permutation. Right. And it's like, we have a similar challenge with our other game, Scarlet Hollow, which is a long-form, episodic, horror visual novel, kind of in that life is strange, telltale boat.
And in that one, player death is not something that we're able to narratively explore.
So one of our challenges has been consistently writing scenarios where there are extremely difficult outcomes, but then there is nothing that can lead to premature player death.
You make a decision, you live with the consequences, you move on.
So sometimes this is the player character permanently gets changed by a decision.
Sometimes it's someone else dies or is permanently changed by your decisions.
But we try to put a lot of balance into the two sides of it or multiple sides of it to make it cater to different people's idea of what they think would be a good idea for.
The least worst outcome. But at the same time, it leads to debate, which is what we wanted.
I think we're the only visual novel studio that puts out balance patches.
GIANNI: Well, interestingly, it felt like a visual novel roguelite, actually, as I was playing it.
It felt like playing something like Hades, for example, where you go on a run in a way and you're trying to carve out a path. And it's not exactly the same path you carve every single time, obviously.
Each of those ways through this build upon the last one. I'm really curious about talking about the characterization.
I've seen in interviews that you've done that a big part of this was inverting the archetypal stereotype of the princess sitting there, and actually that was the start of this idea.
Abby, can you tell me a little bit more about building out and characterizing really one of the only characters you actually interact with in this game?
ABBY: Well, she was based around a lot of ideas of princess or woman in video games, so there's some Disney princess elements in there and some anime influence as well, to kind of build out base princess. And then from there, it was all based around, I think we came up with like a, are we allowed to talk about that part of it?
TONY: The fact that she like changes?
ABBY: Yeah, she changes. So she changes from the base form. And a lot of those ideas came from us first coming up with a list of like.
Well, here are some fun design elements that would be good to incorporate in and other versions of her.
And then from there, for our second release of a demo, actually, we doubled the amount of changes that she's able to go through.
So we decided it was not, it didn't feel like your actions were actually leading to something that made sense.
It just felt like she was changing and it might not make sense to people why.
So we decided to kind of flesh it out and bring in different design elements and.
I think that's all I can say, really. Also, I just want to add a direct spoilers note for people who are listening.
I think where we'll sit on this is we will openly talk about spoilers for concepts that were introduced in the demo, and we will avoid talking at length about the endings of the game.
Yeah, and be assured, people who are worried about spoilers, knowing that the princess can change is not...
TONY: One of the most challenging things about marketing this game was a combination of like, we have so much stuff that we can't share.
But then also, it's like, we made a few trailers that were really just like, here's the first five minutes of the game summed up, here's the basic premise.
And then the amount of, comments that were just like, I can't believe you just spoiled the entire twist of the game in a trailer was interested, not going to get it now. I'm just like, no, we did not.
There's so much. And if I if I tell you that we did not spoil it, it sounds like I'm lying. So I'm just gonna have to let this comment sit here.
But it was fun with the second demo to come up with because it was, we would have a princess and say, well, the way you get here, it's very much kind of two different paths. So then we got to splitter into two and take like elements from the base design and split them and, and refine them. So yeah, so it's like a tower in adversity.
Right, that was the example I was going to use. So in the first demo, there's like a permutation, you take the knife down into the basement, you fight her, you die. And then this led to like this tall demon mommy called the fury. And what it was time to expand into the full game, there were a handful of routes like that, where it's like, we'd open up the script and be like, Oh, God, but like, you get here by like, so many different ways.
She's going to be different people based on that.
And the design doesn't quit one or the other. So the elegant solution then became like, all right, so there's actually...
You know, two main permutations if you fight her and you die, and one is you manage to, mutually kill each other, and then one is she just thoroughly kicks your ass and, you know, steps on your throne and that's it. So then that became, like, the adversary, where you mutually kill each other and, like, she's all about wanting to recapture, like, the spark of your initial meeting. So she just wants to fight you to death forever.
And then the tower, which is an even taller, an even taller woman, who just has like, complete control over you to the point where she doesn't even need to hit you. She just uses her voice to command you to do things.
Yeah, she's great. Love her. They're both very fun. And building out the worlds around them and the various theming kind of spreading. Oh, that was so much fun. I love categories of things and symbology and that sort of thing.
GIANNI: Tell me more about that. How many categories have you got? Tell me about what it takes to actually build a game like this.
TONY: We have so many, so many categories. More than you would think from playing the demo even.
Yeah, it's mostly just like drawing from kind of cultural touchstones, I suppose, and iconography.
To go for what would something themed around this action be? It was a really, really fun thought exercise.
There's a lot of playing with I mean, I don't know why I'm talking about the art, but I'll say something and you can finish it. But there's like a lot of playing with like, size and perspective and lighting for this stuff to an architecture. Yeah. I don't know how Abby does all the things that she does. She's amazing.
ABBY: Well, I worked in comics before, and comics sure teaches you to crank out a lot of art in a short amount of time, so that's what I am able to do.
GIANNI: Can you paint a bit of a picture for us, obviously without spoiling it, but tell me about how many variations of things that you have. So, you know, for example, you can see in the background, I've got a cabin behind me, and when you revisit that, there's many different variations of that particular one. Can you give us a bit of a picture of how many different cabins there are?
ABBY: There's a different cabin interior for each new princess in chapter two, which you can see in the demo. And then from there, there's more. There are more.
I don't think we're allowed to say yet. Yeah, I will say that there are around 3,300 illustrations in the game that include sprites.
And almost every action has to be accounted for and drawn in some way.
It's part of our design philosophy to make sure that what plays out on the screen feels like it's actually happening to you. In Scarlet Hollow, that plays out as characters actually interacting with backgrounds.
There are multiple characters in a room, they'll be spread out.
They'll look at each other when they talk, they'll react when someone else's someone else. Yeah, reacting as the character would react. So right, not just looking at them and smiling and being like, yeah, it's like, Oh, you said something that embarrassed me. My eyes are going to dark to the floor.
Yeah, thanks. Tony's puppet master there.
TONY: Well, one of the inspirations for Slay the Princess was there was the scene in episode three of Scarlet Hollow where there's like a ghost that can happen and the characters who can be present on the ghost hunt is it's just this massive list of, possibilities from people you've met over the previous episodes.
And there's like this scene that it takes 10 minutes for someone to play through like on a Twitch stream. But like everyone's there, and it's like 10 people. And it took me days to just be like, alright, this person's talking.
And here's all the logic for who can and can't be here. And for this line of dialogue, here's 10 people changing their sprites in this way and then it's the next line of dialogue and it's like what if we did it what if we did, something where there was only one character on the screen ever yeah and then of course we decided well what if she looks different all the time though yeah so she's effectively many more than one character but I don't have to make, I don't have to make 10 puppets all in a room at once, making eye contact with each other and reacting to lines, which is what matters.
GIANNI: I was reading an interview you did with Superjump not that long ago.
Talking about how the scale of this was a big consideration based on the work that you did with Scarlet Hollow, and this was a quicker turnaround from that. I'm curious, can you tell me a bit about some of those lessons of making that first game, that episodic game, and then And then, you know, what you did to make a quicker iteration about this.
Did you just, yeah, put your foot down and say, I'm not drawing that much.
ABBY: Yeah, Tony was like, oh, well.
So the way that Scarlet Hollow process works is I start the script, I hand the script off to Tony, and in the time that I'm working on the script, Tony is trying to do marketing work, what have you.
And then I start the art from there. So I'm like always working on it.
So I had to make sure that I minimized the amount of work that I was doing on Slaver Princess.
Which, you know, I still worked quite hard on it, because the art is pretty demanding, but not as demanding as Scarlet Hollow, which was on by design. So the paper for Scarlet Hollow is 18 by 24. It's huge. And it's all inked, which means that I have to do pencils and inks. Whereas with Scarlet Hollow, it's all pencil, so I don't have to do the inking stage. And it's on paper about half the size. So it just is much faster to draw, I can be a lot more fluid with it, because you also like see things from different angles, which is just really fun and natural for me to play around with versus like always head on and making sure everybody feels like they're on the right plane of existence.
TONY: Yeah. Like, uh, Slay the Princess before anything else was born as a project of out of like.
Scarlet Hollow is not selling quite well enough for us to make it to the finish line of what's going to be a five-year development process.
Marketing an early access horror visual novel is an exhausting task.
What if we just found a way to spend the bulk of my marketing time on making a second game and use that as a means to keep us going?
So like, yeah, so it's like Abby does the first go at all the new Scarlet Hollow scripts.
So I was able to write Slay the Princess while she was still working for months on episode five. So we didn't lose much dev time there at all. And then in terms of art, yeah, I like every decision we made was, okay, how do we substantially reduce the time it takes for Scarlet Hollow stuff so we can do more Scarlet Hollow? Which has worked very well.
I think you lost, it took you maybe like three months of full-time work for this game?
ABBY: I think so, yeah.
TONY: And it took me like seven or nine months of full-time for this, which is a pretty, pretty small amount of time for something of this scope.
And it's time that otherwise would have been spent on talking to publishers or all of this other marketing nonsense. So in the end, I don't even think it slowed down our game very much.
GIANNI: Well, do you feel like you're just better at making games having put episodes out now, to put something out?
ABBY: Oh yeah. Oh, I am so ready to go back. I feel like I've learned so much. Yeah, I really had to stretch myself with this one. There's a lot of art that I specifically was weak at that I feel I've gotten stronger at. The more metaphysical abstract stuff, that is a big weak point for me. I very much am a visceral artist. Definitely got to test yourself on this one for sure.
GIANNI: I think one of the most interesting things about this game and what grabbed me immediately when I first saw the trailer and started playing through the first part of this is this is a world that is fully voiced and there are some incredible voices that guide you through this world. First, can you tell me a little bit about how you found Nicole Goodnight? Because I know that is linked to your previous game. It's an interesting story about how you came across her work.
ABBY: Yeah, we were familiar with her podcast work and she's friends with our composer through that.
TONY: She is also a VTuber. She did a Scarlet Hollow stream and we were very impressed.
So it's just like, oftentimes, like, Scarlet Hollow isn't voiced.
So when someone streams it, they have to read 575,000 words out loud.
But it's like, sometimes there's readings where it's like, this is different than it sounded, in our heads when we were writing it.
And then sometimes there's readings where it's like, oh, you, you understand and the emotional content of these lines, and just like the cadence and rhythm of how they sound.
[GAMEPLAY CLIP STARTS]
THE NARRATOR: You walk down the stairs and lock eyes with the princess. There's a heavy chain around her wrist, binding her to the far wall of the basement.
THE PRINCESS: And there you are. Are you here to kill me or something? That isn't a good idea.
Just drop the knife and maybe the two of us can talk things out.
VOICE OF THE HERO: She's right, we shouldn't. We should just drop the blade.
THE NARRATOR: Don't you dare.
VOICE OF THE HERO: It's fine, we can decide what we want to do after we talk to her.
Maybe she really is a monster, but killing someone in cold blood isn't very becoming of us.
THE NARRATOR: You ignore the trembling in your hands and tighten your grip on the blade.
THE PRINCESS: You poor thing. Your hands are shaking. Are you scared of me? Because you should be.
[GAMEPLAY CLIP ENDS]
GIANNI: Definitely a good fit. And talk to me about Jonathan Sims as well, who plays a variety of different characters throughout this game and branching different things and talks to himself a lot, actually.
ABBY: So I, of course, was familiar with him through the Magnus Archives incredible podcast. Huge fan of that one. And we just reached out because apparently he already was aware of my comic work.
TONY: Twitter Mutuals?
ABBY: Twitter Mutuals.
TONY: Twitter Mutuals who had never interacted but were...
ABBY: Yeah, it was a big surprise.He said yes.
TONY: Yeah, he liked the pitch and said yes. And that was probably the cleanest casting process anyone has ever gone through for any game ever.
ABBY: Both he and Nicole were our first picks, so...
TONY: And we asked them and they said yes.
They both did an excellent job, so...
GIANNI: What did they bring to the characters that you didn't expect?
ABBY: I feel that Nicole has like, I mean, she needed an incredible range. And then she did have an incredible range, like the princess changes so thoroughly that you just have to be 10 different people. So she did it. She absolutely did. She understood what the characters wanted, because they're so driven by desire. So yeah,
TONY: I think with Johnny.
It should be clear from his other work, but he's got such a great sense for comedy.
He's very, very funny. I think something that also always stood out to me when we were doing recording sessions with him is like, and again, I suppose you would expect this from like the person who wrote the Magnus Archives, which is a 200 episode long, like multi season single plot line, but also an anthology horror podcast. So like a lot of details keep straight, like his ability to, for a given route, read three or four lines of dialogue out of context and then just immediately understand, okay, yeah, this chapter is about this, these are the situations you're in. And like, I don't know, it was like he was living in our heads on those recording calls, which was fantastic.
ABBY: Yeah, it's very much what you want out of somebody who has to read out the whole script itself.
TONY: Just an instant understanding of everything.
He hasn't played the game yet, because I would never be able to play something that I did voice work for.
And I think what he's told us is it takes four years for him to put his voice in a project to then be able to visit it.
And if he does it before that, he's just negging himself about his performance the whole time.
But it's like, so he only knows his side of dialogue from the game and yet has a very, without us telling him, a very thorough understanding of the entire story, which is, remarkable.
GIANNI: Can you tell me a little bit about what player experience has been like, that you've been observing, you've watched people, the game is out, people can play it, You've had it at a number of conventions and things, and the demo has been available.
Can you tell me what has surprised you about the people who play the game and what they've gotten out of it so far?
ABBY: I think I'm surprised we've seen so much fun variability in the first decisions that people make. I think a lot of people think that they're making the obvious choice that everyone must make, but our data suggests that that is not the case. And our anecdotal data as well suggests that people make a lot of choices, and they make a very wide range of decisions. It's really, really interesting to see what someone's baseline assumptions are about how someone would play a game like this.
TONY: Yeah, I think it's also just deeply, resonated with a lot more people than we thought it would.
We're very happy with the game we made, and it wound up being exactly the game we made.
I think this is the first project I've ever worked on where I'll watch a playthrough or I'll look at it and not, be stuck in editor brain of, I should change this, or we should change this, or we should do this differently.
But it's still a very nice and pleasant surprise that so many people are connecting with it.
GIANNI: You talked a little bit about some of that data and I'm curious, you know, are there choices that you thought would be more common, but aren't?
ABBY: I don't think so, Yeah, I think I didn't really go into this with any expectations myself It was fully a it is in your hands now, and I have no idea how people are going to react,
TONY: Yeah, there's some I'll just I'll just yell the word spoiler skip ahead by like a minute or something So, one thing that surprised me is like, all but one of the Chapter 2 princesses has at least one Chapter 3 that you can get to.
And there's been a surprisingly large number of people who do not see those.
ABBY: I thought that they would be kind of more commonly found. I'm happy with that breakdown, because I feel like these fun little secrets to find.
If people are still enjoying it, even without knowing that there are indeed further forms.
Yeah. But I feel very happy about that.
TONY: Yeah, no, it's just it's one of those things where it's like, when we were doing our alpha testing, some people.
A couple people mentioned chapter threes, and then there were a bunch of people who were like, what do you mean? I did not see any of them. And I was like, oh.
ABBY: Yeah, like there are so many ways to see this game and not see nearly as much as, I mean, it's designed around you not seeing everything.
ABBY: To kind of feel like this is a unique experience. And I feel it very much is.
I don't think I see a lot of people making the same choices as anyone else.
So that's interesting.
TONY: Yeah, the spread of achievements.
GIANNI: Where do you go from here? What has this taught you?
ABBY: I feel like I've learned a lot of lessons. I feel like it's just kind of a constant leveling up every time I finish a big project.
So I feel that pretty significantly here.
TONY: I've learned that I'm tired of crunch and self-imposed deadlines.
It only gets worse every time. We're getting older. I think we're done with it now.
There's a thing with being horror devs where there's an intense pressure to have something ready in time for Halloween.
ABBY: Yeah, so then you wind up saying, it would be great if we had another week, but we don't have another week because October's about to end.
TONY: So Steam gifted us another week by taking too long to certify our launch field, or you know, another three days.
ABBY: Hey, we added a lot of those three days.
TONY: It was a good three days. It's why I don't feel like there's space for more edits at this point, because we got that in. But yeah, there is also this other thing with games marketing, where I don't know I don't know how many people are aware of what this looks like from a developer's side.
But you have to pick release dates early, like far in advance.
So it's like for Slay the Princess's release date we had to pitch the announcement trailer for the release date to a bunch of events.
Summer Game Fest, alas, did not want it, but what are you going to do?
We wound up going with FearFest, which was great, but it's like they needed all of the information by like early to mid-July, and then they needed that trailer finalized by the start of August, because they have this whole show that they're putting together, and they need to verify everything. They have to figure out, oh, this person had to drop out, so we need more time to get someone else on board and give them time to do a trailer.
ABBY: Which also meant that the trailer had to be done before a lot of the routes that were referenced in the trailer were actually finished.
TONY: Yeah, so some of that art's inaccurate. But it means like for a game like, Slay The Princess, which had a remarkably short development cycle.
We started work on it in May of last year. And that was like playing around with a prototype on my end. And then it was like in early July, we spent a week in a self-imposed game jam getting the demo out. We launched that and then we spent four months finishing Scarlet Hollow episode four.
You know, recovered from that. And then we didn't start full time development for Slay the Princess until February of this year. So it's like twelve thirteen months of labor total, but then maybe seven months of full time work. So it's like, for something like that,
ABBY: okay, release date a few months out that means
TONY: Sure, we've said October 20. We can definitely do that. But But there's no other way to do it, aside from delaying far, far, far too long.
And of course, when you're anyone in games, but especially as an indie studio, it's like you have to also focus on doing things that keep the lights on and keep the studio going.
So I think we could have, worst came to worst, roughed it out until February of next year, If we had to bump the release dates, there's also the thing
ABBY: after October then it's the holiday season
TONY: where you do not want to release, a new game in November or December.
You miss the entire award cycle. You're flattened by big seasonal sales.
Sometimes AAA titles tend to dominate that space a little because they know they can kick ass during the winter sales.
So it's like, it's an indie
It's, all right, well, October is the last time you can do it.
You should probably release a game in August. And if you can't make October, sorry, you're bumping to February or no press is going to cover you.
So that's the other component too, because in November, December, everyone is doing their game of the year list. They're all doing their rankings and their wrap up.
So they don't have time to cover many things.
So somehow we pulled off that release date that we had to pick announced halfway into our dev cycle and it worked out great, but it is a...
Deadly space to navigate.
GIANNI: It's an interesting one, you know, when you started talking about this, you're saying you wanted to get in around October and I was thinking mostly it was because, yeah, we've got to line it up with Halloween, but obviously there's so much more that goes into it, in the background that Halloween's almost like a lucky coincidence in a way.
GIANNI: What will you be working on next? Will you be making more of these style of games in between the larger Scarlet Hollow project or do you just go into Scarlet Hollow and that's it?
ABBY: Just right back into Scarlet Hollow. I am so excited to get back on it.
Yeah. And then we're just going to do it until it's done.
TONY: So like, you know, there's there's a lot of people who have supported us for many years on Scarlet Hollow.
We are aware that we asked them for a great deal of patience to let us, without getting too mad, make an entire separate game in between releases there.
ABBY: And now they will be rewarded with just Scarlet Hollow, without been sold to a publisher
TONY: that we are just making on our own time.
And we can make all of our own decisions with it. And it will be better and it will be faster.
But that's what we're doing. And then Abby has a bunch of comics projects that she wants to do after that. I love comics.
ABBY: Yeah, I'm gonna finish my webcomic the last Halloween, which people have been waiting on for 10 years. So yeah, yeah, it's that webcomics are not very profitable. So if I want to survive, I had to do other things. And then this is the culmination of that.
TONY: Living in that day and age where if you want to be a surviving artist, you also have to be a business person. So yeah, like, she's gonna finish The Last Halloween after Scarlet Hollow is done.
I have another horror anthology planned after that.
Probably be workshopping ideas for a game three while she's doing The Last Halloween. But it's definitely going to be the case that nothing enters real production mode until those books are done.
ABBY: Yeah, so that's my next decade. Finish Scarlet Hollow. Finish Last Halloween. Maybe another book, which I have plans for. And then eventually other work.
ABBY: There are always projects on the horizon.
TONY: We have game three ideas bouncing around. But every one that we fall in love with, it's like a month later, we find a shiny new toy to think about as a future project. So We'll have to see exactly how we feel when it's time to work on it.
ABBY: Game three is still coalescing.
TONY: Yeah, but I think there will be a game three. We can't just make two games.
ABBY: Yeah, three is a much better number than two.
GIANNI: I feel like you're both very uniquely qualified to talk about this, but I feel like the webcomic community and the online horror community are sort of interesting, kind of cool, kind of weird places on the internet. And I'm wondering, do you think those communities will be able to transition across? Because obviously everything online feels like it's completely up in the air, you know? It's not as easy as being Twitter mutuals anymore because Twitter is basically, you know, we all know. But I'm just curious about that relationship with people that you talk to online.
ABBY: Well, they're all very scared of just kind of the tumultuous stuff going on right now.
Like it feels like it's hard to find a home for things if you don't already have a big fan base that you can just like send a newsletter to then it's hard to get in touch with people who are already fans of your work.
Like it seems I know that when people ask me for advice these days on how to do comics online, I have no idea. The space is so different from when I started, it felt like when I started, there was just a way that you did things, and then it worked out for you. And you became part of the community. And it was really nice.
That just kind of dissolved. So I suppose that there are now kind of conglomerates, but I just don't trust conglomerates.
TONY: Yeah, I think that, just like a while ago, there was this natural flow of comics artists into animation as this is like.
A more secure, more profitable space.
I think you're going to see, you're already seeing the beginning of the flow of comics artists into games, which is a more profitable, but not necessarily more secure space.
The median game on Steam makes $1,000 in its lifetime. But if you make it, you make it.
ABBY: And if you're a comics artist, at least, you already know how to write, how to draw.
TONY: You're already struggling too. So poverty isn't news.
But there have been a few other instances of comics people moving into games that have been fantastic stuff. I'm going to do a quick plug for Meredith Gran's Perfect Tides, which was one of my favourite games last year.
If you already own Scarlet Hollow, we have a bundle available with Perfect Tides where you can get it at a discount.
I feel like that one is criminally underrated.
I know Abby's publisher for the Last Halloween book one and her horror anthology, The Crossroads at Midnight, Iron Circus Comics, it started a games arm and they've started investigating that.
So that's like another area of comics people moving into the space.
ABBY: I suppose people with these skills are now seeing what other ways they can use these skills now that the webcomics space is so up in the air.
Digital goods like video games are just so much better than comics, where, you know, a book that sells for $20 in the store, it costs $3 to manufacture $2 to ship it to a to a bookstore, and then the bookstore buys it for you for $10. So it's like, for for every $20 that goes into the project, like the publisher gets five in their bank account, of which they'll maybe give you one, which is like the economics of it are totally understandable.
GIANNI: Yeah, well thank you so much to both of you for joining me. It's called Slay the Princess now, it's probably one of those games that I think you should definitely, definitely check out for something very different in a year of games which have been incredible. This is one that I'm going to be thinking about for a really long time. Tony and Abby, thank you so much for joining us on Lightmap.
ABBY: Thank you too thank so much for having us, thank you for enjoying the game
TONY: Thanks, This was very enjoyable.
PROMO: You're listening to Lightmap, interesting conversations with video game creators.
GIANNI: That's all for this show.
Thank you so much for checking out Slay the Princess.
You can find out more about what Sifter is covering, all of the great stuff that we talk about on our website, sifter.com.au, where you can find interviews, you can find reviews, you can find all sorts of great video game stuff from creators all around the world.
SIFTER Is produced by Fiona Bartholomaeus, Daniel Ang, Chris Button and Adam Christou. Mitch Loh is our senior producer who edited this episode and my name is Gianni Di Giovanni and I'm SIFTER's executive producer.
If you heard that conversation and thought, hey, I want to support some good creators like Tony and Abby, well, why not share this episode if you really enjoyed it?
Like it will make a big difference to not only us, but to them. Sharing the show for, people who create things that you like is really important. You would probably hear it a lot, but it does actually make a big difference. Your recommendation to a friend is worth gold.
So if you can share an episode you enjoy, put it up on your social media and say why you really like this episode, that'll make a big, big difference and we'll love you forever for it.
That's all for now. Until next time, have fun.