Visual novels have never been on my radar as thrilling experiences in gaming. Picking my preferred waifu that may or may not also be my insectoid daughter from transdimensional Russia would be a great time if the game was presented with a bit more flair. Unfortunately, most visuals novels are stuck in that static image-text-image-text loop, but the genre is far from irredeemable. There’s room to move, and Necrobarista is a game that looks like it understands this. To find out why Melburnian vampires were suddenly running coffee shops, I had a chat with the game’s lead artist, Ngoc Vu.
What is Necrobarista?
Necrobarista is a visual novel game all about gangsters, hipsters and necromancer baristas. The game is set in a supernatural café in Melbourne where the dead and the living have one last night to co-exist.
How did you even think of this concept!?
We started off as massive fans of visual novels, like dating sims as well as Clannad, all those really old Japanese visual novels. We were just thinking as game designers that the genre is very static. It hasn’t been developed in a way that other indie games have been, so it deserves a revamp.
What’s interesting is that you don’t have just static images as compared to most visual novels, but what made you decide to pursue this way of storytelling?
We started off overloading on visuals and had to scale back because people were getting vertigo and dizziness with all the animation going on. Then we thought, “You know what? We’re a visual novel, we should really focus on text.” So, we experimented with what kinds of animations we can do, how to direct our shots so they highlight the text, and keeping interest at the same time for the player to go through a large amount of text. At the start of development, we were all inspired by Bakemonogatari. The way that Shaft do their shots and are able to tell their story with a minimal amount of animation. Posing the characters, but they do it in a way that highlights objects, and that also tells a story of what they want to convey. So, that was a lot of out visual flavour.
From what I played, you had something like a traditional visual novel, but there was also bits where you walk around a room. Will there be other mechanics, or is it more of a chill visual novel thing?
Our narrative is fairly linear in terms of vignettes, but depending on your interests, you can pick which type of story you want to go next. Like any good visual novel! Not really thinking about other mechanics right now, but in future we’ll see.
How are you handling the writing, because you don’t just want to be another visual novel?
Well, because we’re all Aussie kids, we all wanted to write a bit more vibrantly. We’re not treating the player as a player and geting them to be introduced to everyone. You’re part of the crew, man. The player’s just another person there as opposed to getting talked to.
The look reminds of a Suda51 game with all this intense lighting and cel-shading. Was that the kind of look you were going for?
Basically! Like, all the anime we were influenced by all have those super sharp shadows and colours. It was our goal not to have something realistic, but something really distinctive.
So, what other influences are here?
Bakemonogatari, Shaft anime as well as Kill La Kill – Oh my god, I love Kill La Kill. So good.
So, are you going for… I don’t wanna say a Western vibe, but kind of a less Western vibe appropriated for a Western audience?
Well… I grew up with all these great anime, so to do anything else… It would be wrong. It feels wrong in my soul. It’s more of an intuitive design, and if I was to do anything else, I’d probably have freakouts about it.
Was there any reason you decided to go with Unity over anything else? Stuff like Gamemaker or RPG Maker?
Unity’s just really friendly to use for us. I was a game design student before, and that’s what we used. I’ve also tried using Rimpie(!?) and Unreal, but I find the drag-and-drop feature really quick to integrate.
What is platform/release time frame you’re aiming for, and how can we support the game?
Hoping some time 2018! Go check out our website and social medias for more updates there!
Here are some other places where you can show your support for Necrobarista: