We had the pleasure of interviewing the team behind Intersection the BL detective Visual Novel!
1.Tell us about your visual novel Intersection.
Our game Intersection is a detective BL visual novel. Yoon SeungHyun, who, upon arriving at a new police station, immediately encounters a case involving the mysterious death of a young girl. The visual novel explores not only the character of our protagonist, a guy with a complicated past and his own unique views on honor and goodness, but also his new environment - from a superior who has secrets from the past and character quirks, to a young hacker who got caught by the police for an innocent prank. The plot unfolds in different directions, and the player influences not only the course of the investigation through their decisions but also the development of the main character as an individual. The player is also given the opportunity to form different types of relationships with the game's characters, either accepting their personalities or rejecting them. By making decisions and unraveling the criminal web, SeungHyun, hand in hand with the player, will traverse a dangerous and challenging path as both a police officer and a young man trying to discover himself in the complex conditions of an alternative near-future world.
2.What are the key elements and themes that make a successful boys love visual novel?
Many might think that the key factor of successful BL visual novel is adult content or explicit textual descriptions. But it's not. However, when we started creating our visual novel, we drew inspiration from the classics that have gained a good reputation in the community and, most importantly, have left an impression with their stories. Based on our experience, we have identified several important factors that can help create a compelling and impactful visual novel. - The game's character should not be a lifeless entity; they should be alive, with emotions, a personality, and a past. Their appearance should resonate with the player, their habits should be relatable, and their traumas should be realistic. - The visuals should not overshadow the plot. They should catch the player's eye, reveal details gradually, and complement the text. For example, if the dialogue mentions trash in the corner of a room, the player should instinctively look at the picture and find it. If that happens, the game is working successfully. - Strike a balance between action and deep dialogues. The storytelling and visuals should guide the player and evoke questions. Too frequent deep ponderings, as well as excessive dynamism, can become tiresome and detract from the player's sense of immersion. - The themes should be understandable and relatable to the player. It's important for the player to grasp something significant in what the character is discussing and how they reason. Themes of loneliness, finding one's place in the world, and interacting with others are universal concerns that should not be forgotten regardless of the setting. It's also important that the characters speak a language that is understandable to the player, regardless of the topics they discuss. - Practical aspect: the world, even in a game, is filled with sounds. Therefore, don't be afraid to add the ticking of a clock or the creaking of a door; it will only help the player immerse themselves in the atmosphere. It's not necessary to have constant music playing; in the real world, sounds shape our perception, even if it's just the noise from the street.
3.What are some common challenges faced by developers when producing boys love visual novels, and how can they be overcome?
There are indeed quite a few challenges. Firstly, due to the international composition of our team and audience, censorship became a significant barrier. As you know, in some countries, any relationships that do not conform to heteronormativity can face condemnation not only from society but also at a legislative level. This became our first and important challenge. In this case, the challenge is overcome by crafting a storyline that is based not only on personal relationships within couples but also on other aspects. As creators of the visual novel, developers should consider the novel in the context of interesting thematic content. Romance alone should not be the sole driving force behind the plot. One example that inspired us is the various interpretations of Mo Xiang Tong Xiu's novel "'Demonic Path Ancestral Master," which underwent different levels of censorship but did not lose their appeal. The second challenge is avoiding the clichés commonly associated with the genre. Our entire team consists of consumers of diverse boys love content, and as such, we are familiar with the stereotypes prevalent in the genre. The most important aspect here is not to attempt to copy something you have already seen but to draw from your own experiences and desires, particularly in terms of representation. This way, we strive to provide players with a new and possibly more realistic experience. The third barrier we encountered is adapting the storyline. A visual novel encompasses more than just dialogues and characters; it includes locations, cultural peculiarities, and social themes. To create a sense of immersion for the player, it is necessary to carefully create a concept that is accessible to players from different countries and social groups. Additionally, it is important to avoid overwhelming the game. Always maintain a balance between text and visuals. This is not fanfiction or a movie =) The solution is to play and study products from other developers across different countries and genres. Exposure allows you to understand how to create an accessible setting and strike a balance between an engaging game and an overloaded project.
4.How do you strike a balance between romance and other plot elements in a boys love visual novel to create an engaging story?
We do not prioritize romance above all else. For us, the established "couple" is not a single entity. Therefore, the characters are separate individuals with their own interests, work, and lives. They are not dependent on their relationship, and this is where the balance lies. Even if we were to remove the romantic elements from the game, players would still derive enjoyment from the plot and the interaction between the characters.
5.What are the ethical considerations that developers should keep in mind when portraying LGBTQ+ relationships in boys love visual novels?
Do not romanticize everything indiscriminately. Abuse, manipulation, cruelty, internal and external homophobia, and coercion are not romantic or acceptable. As players ourselves, we often come across the portrayal of light-hearted hate and abuse. As individuals who have experienced unhealthy relationships, it makes us uncomfortable when these behaviors are normalized.
Therefore, in our game, we strive to address the theme of active consent, realistic relationship models (you are not obligated to fall in love with another character without reason just because the plot demands it), communication and discussion of backgrounds, and setting boundaries.
Additionally, it is important to consider the societal attitudes toward LGBTQ+ individuals. We do not explicitly address homophobia in the game, not because it is not important, but because as a team, some of us belong to the LGBTQ+ community, and we want to show that it is just as normal as heterosexuality. It does not define a person's identity; it is simply a part of who they are.
These are the considerations that any developer who wants to create boys love content should keep in mind. You are creating a game for people, and it is in your hands to portray healthy relationships with others and with oneself. This includes both romantic relationships and social connections.
6.How do you approach designing and illustrating appealing character artwork for boys love visual novels?
As our project manager says, "If I'm obsessed with a character, then they're good!" But in reality, we often have extensive discussions as a team when designing character artwork. First and foremost, we ask ourselves, what feeling should this character evoke? After that, we gather references from real life and popular culture, and piece together the character's image. We refine it, change the color palette and emotions, and observe whether it captures the desired essence. Since we strive for realism in our characters, they should primarily resemble themselves rather than each other, and that should be noticeable. This approach extends to the design of locations as well. We search for references that evoke the emotions we want to convey to the player, representing the culture in which the characters exist and their daily lives. This is how we arrive at the visual style that our artist then brings to life through sprites and other artwork.
7.What are some effective methods for creating branching storylines and multiple endings in boys love visual novels?
Theoretically, there are two methods for creating a storyline. The "Gardener" method focuses more on character development, shaping the plot based on their personalities. The "Architect" method prioritizes the structure of the plot, with characters serving as functional heroes.
We strive to balance these two approaches. Since most of our characters are based on real individuals, we can have a good understanding of how they would behave in different situations. This helps us build an engaging narrative, developing character relationships with other heroes or circumstances. Variability allows us to maintain a list of predetermined conditions.
Great luck for our team to have very open-minded game designers. We don't try to fit the plot around the characters or vice versa, and that's where variability comes into play. It's somewhat similar to reality shows - we provide conditions and let the characters navigate them independently.
It's also important for developers to understand that players will perceive the game differently, which means the characters should behave in ways that align with how the player would act in a given situation. Putting ourselves in the player's shoes helps us not limit the variations of endings based solely on the initial plan.
8.How important is it to include diverse representation within the boys love genre, and what steps can developers take to ensure inclusivity?
Representation is important. Demonstration of a specific societal group is often associated with stereotypes, including age, appearance, and personality traits. All of this hinders people from having a more inclusive attitude toward others. Therefore, in our game, we have tried to explore as many realistic stories and characters as possible, avoiding reliance on clichés.
How can developers make their game more inclusive? They need to look at the people around them. We are surrounded by individuals with their own stories, pasts, traumas, desires and dreams. If you want your game to be inclusive, include the surrounding characters. They should be diverse, representing different layers of society. They should feel alive.
The best way to make your game accessible and truly meaningful to players is to populate its world with living people, preserving their unique characteristics and experiences so that players can see themselves in them. Of course, this should be done with the permission and collaboration of the individuals being represented.
9.What does pride mean to you?
Pride means a lot to our inclusive and diverse female team. For us, pride is primarily about internal freedom. It's the freedom to practice any religion, express our sexual and romantic preferences, embrace internationality, and express ourselves freely. It's also about the freedom to perceive others as individuals, regardless of their profession or their interactions with us.
Pride is the ability to be ourselves, outside of societal norms and regardless of who surrounds us. It's about self-love, embracing our own paths and personalities.
10.Where can people support your work?
People can support our work by checking out our visual novel on platforms like Itch.io (https://hisysgames.itch.io/) and following us on Twitter (@HisysGames). These are the main ways we connect with our future players.
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