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Interview: VIDEOVERSE — A Talk With Kinmoku About Her Nostalgic Game

On the 27th of August, VIDEOVERSE was released by creator Kinmoku, also known as Lucy Blundell (Twitter). Since its release, VIDEOVERSE has received a lot of great reviews on Steam. In our review, you can read my opinions on this nostalgic visual novel reminiscent of old social media platforms. Let’s take a seat and ask developer Kinmoku a few questions about her game.

Introduction

Hi! I’m a disabled indie developer from the UK, currently located in Germany. I previously made a visual novel called One Night Stand and have just released VIDEOVERSE.

Interview


MahouGao:
How and why did you come up with the idea of making a visual novel set in such nostalgic times?

Kinmoku aka Lucy Blundell:
It was an accumulation of things: I’m a retro game fan and often go back to play old games, but I’m also very nostalgic for the early internet. On a previous project, with the help of people on the LemmaSoft Forums, I implemented a drawing feature using Ren’Py, and it looked a lot like a drawing you’d find in Miiverse. Miiverse was another delightful part of the internet for gamers, which was sadly cut short… so I wanted to tell a story about online spaces coming to an end as I thought it would resonate with a lot of people…only make it a bit more generic with an element of love!


MG:
Do you have any franchises that inspired or influenced you on the making of VIDEOVERSE?

Kinmoku:
I think the initial inspirations were the codec conversations in Metal Gear Solid and the visual novel segments in Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes. I believed this style of storytelling, with text in the centre and portraits at either side, was within my scope as an independent developer.

As for the art style, I’ve always wanted to make a pixel art game. I’m particularly inspired by 1-bit pixel art, like in World of Horror, Travis Strikes Again, and Minit, and appreciate just how much can be achieved without relying on colour. I think they look really striking in a sea of games chasing realism, plus it matched the nostalgic feeling I wanted to capture, even if, in our timeline, these graphics were more 80’s/early 90’s.


MG:
Speaking of the setting: Have you ever participated in a forum and experienced some of the situations presented yourself?

Kinmoku:
When I was younger, I joined forums for all kinds of things: horse-riding, Sailor Moon, Final Fantasy… I enjoyed spending time in other online communities, too, such as Habbo Hotel, RPG Chat (does anyone else remember this??) and Neopets. I also loved chatting to my real life friends over MSN Messenger, which is another big inspiration for VIDEOVERSE.

DeviantArt was a big site that I stuck with for many years, too… I absolutely loved it! It was inspiring, helped me improve my artwork, and I could meet other like-minded artists who eventually became friends. In the end, I actually think VIDEOVERSE ended up more like DeviantArt than Miiverse… but many people slowly began to leave DeviantArt for other options, such as Tumblr and ArtStation. Then, in 2017, they were bought by Wix, where even more users dropped off. Sometimes online communities don’t get taken offline immediately, but suffer a slow exodus, like what’s happening with Twitter at the moment.

MG:
Without spoiling Vivi’s story for the readers in detail, did her story have any basis in real events, or was it purely fiction?

Kinmoku:
Yes, Vivi’s story is very similar to what happened to myself, and writing her part was very emotional and cathartic. The conversations she has with Emmett are like two sides of myself fighting my grief… then eventually accepting what’s happened. Making VIDEOVERSE certainly helped me with my own healing process!


MG:
Is Emmett, as the main character, based on you in any way? There seem to be some similarities, such as your nationality and interests.

Kinmoku:
I see Emmett as the better side of myself, though he reminds me of a younger version of my husband, too. We’re both English immigrants living in Germany, so I wanted to write about our experiences living in another country, where we often use the internet to connect with people we’ve left behind.

Whilst Vivi’s experiences are similar to my own, she is generally sincere and steady. Emmett, on the other hand, has a level of anxiety and worry that is very much myself! I feel they compliment each other’s strengths and weaknesses very well. However, Emmett is a person who’s loved, supported and privileged, so I wanted to tell a story of a boy using that privilege to help others.


MG:
The idea to do all the drawings and sketches is great. You really did a wonderful job here. Was it always intended to do them all by yourself or were there times you thought about letting other artists participate?

Kinmoku:
Thank you! Most of the drawings were done by myself, though there are a few guest artists (who have their games listed in the VIDEOVERSE credits).

I really wanted to have more artists participate, to create a greater sense of community, but due to budget and direction reasons, it made sense for me to draw them. I found myself deleting a lot of previous drawings as the story changed and developed over time, and it’s much harder to delete work when you’ve brought someone in to help.

MG:
I like how slow-paced VIDEOVERSE is – like an older game console would be back in the day. A few things are missing, like the typical skip function; it’s just like what you tell the player: “Now sit down and just play through and take your time.” The collection of achievements on Steam is also very wide, and they’re mostly reliant on the answer Emmett chooses. How did you come up with these features and decisions for the game?

Kinmoku:
It was very important for me to emulate the slowness of receiving messages; telling the story not only with text but with how it’s displayed, even erased and replaced. If it was instant, it would lose this and its immersion, plus the player wouldn’t focus on the character animations either. I felt I could forgive the slowness, even clunkiness, of VIDEOVERSE, because it’s meant to be a platform from the early 00s.

As for Steam achievements, I’d like to add even more! There are a lot of twists and turns in VIDEOVERSE which most people will not experience on their first, or even second, playthrough, and I want to highlight what’s offered. However, I never wanted to have a “Game Over” or “Bad Ending” if you didn’t help out the community or your friends enough. Instead, I wanted to show how toxic VIDEOVERSE, and Emmett, could get, and why being kind online may be the better option, since you never really know what other people are going through. Plus, even with a cocky attitude, it’s not impossible to help people and look out for them.


MG:
The setting of “Shark” (and later “Dolphin”) as the hub of the community is a nice idea and worked out very well. Do you have any plans for a sequel in the future, or maybe side stories? This set universe has a lot of potential to explore further.

Kinmoku:
I have so many ideas for sequels, DLC and side stories, haha! But it’s too early to decide on them at the moment. I think I surprised myself at the potential this “alternate gaming timeline” has to offer!


MG:
Your first game, One Night Stand, was very creative in terms of art style. When you start brainstorming about a new project or game, do you think about how creative the in-game result will look or was it a coincidence that both of your games turned out as new and fresh as they did?

Kinmoku:
I come from an art and animation background, so I think my approach is maybe slightly different from other game developers… I tend to design the look of my games very early on and believe that nailing a visual aesthetic is crucial as an indie game developer, so you know, at the very least, it’ll be visually appealing to players. I like to have that aesthetic bleed into everything… the characters, the UI, the fonts, etc.


MG:
A sentence for you to finish: “If I had the chance to live in the VIDEOVERSE world, I would…?”

Kinmoku:
Meet up with Emmett and Markus at the Kinmoku Games Expo, give them a big hug, and take a selfie with them!


Kinmoku:
Thanks to Fuwanovel for inviting me for this interview! Please check out VIDEOVERSE on Steam and keep supporting indie developers. 🙂

Thanks to Kinmoku for her time and a detailed look into and behind her game.
If you want to make your own VIDEOVERSE-inspired avatar outside of the game, you can find a creator on Picrew created by Kinmoku.

VIDEOVERSE is available at a price of $12.99 USD on Steam and Itch.io.


If you enjoy our work, please follow us on Twitter for more visual novel content and join the community in our forums and discord server: we’re pretty active there!

In addition, you can also support us on Patreon or by buying us a Ko-fi.

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