An interview with the creator of Last Minute Gift

  • Cap_H
  • 01/03/2020 09:58 PM
Hello and Welcome!
This was supposed to be the last regular entry in a series of interviews on rpgmaker.net. The goal of the series is to further promote RMN's featured games and creative minds behind them!
Unity is the heart of RMN. Her supportive presence and active interest in the community makes this site a better place. Also, she's a brilliant designer and I learned a lot about dungeon design from playing her games. Last Minute Gift combines her great design and her dedication to this community in a challenging romp. The game is full of friendly references as you enter a dungeon to collect gifts for your friends. Last Minute Gift features hand-drawn graphics, which has become a standard fair in her later games. You can adore screenshots, read Cash's superlative review or download the game here.

Hello! Thank you for agreeing on an interview. Who are you?
Hi! My name's unity and I've been on RMN for six or seven years now. People might know me for Luxaren Allure or the upcoming Weird and Unfortunate Things Are Happening, and I've also made several smaller games. I've been making games off and on since I was a teenager. I played around with RPG Maker 95, but my first completed game was made in RPG Maker 2000, though it ended up just getting shared among friends rather than published on the internet anywhere.

You had several games of yours featured before. What does make Last Minute Gift special among your other games?
Last Minute Gift had multiple purposes. First, I wanted to take a break from the traditional RPGs and try something different with the RPG Maker engine. Also, I wanted to play with hand-drawn parallax maps instead of the usual standard RPG Maker mapping I did. Lastly, I really wanted to give RMN as a whole a nice Christmas present and I hadn't made a Christmas-themed game before, ^_^.
Funny enough, Last Minute Gift is one of my least popular games ever, getting 256 downloads on RMN at the time of this writing and a total of 12 downloads on itch.io in the last year. That's probably due to the fact that RPG Maker isn't exactly built for action-type games and the very experimental nature of Last Minute Gift as a whole. "I have to avoid enemy sprites with these finicky controls" isn't a very good selling-point, but out of the few people who have played it, some have really taking a like to it. Even though its a short game, it has collecting and exploration elements that add a bit of spice to its weird action formula.

I guess it feels pretty good to get an overlooked gem of yours featured, doesn't it? Or is getting games featured a routine for you by now?
It certainly does! I don't think it'll ever feel routine. It's still a surprise and a delight to get a game featured, especially one that could use a little more love. I hope people enjoy it despite its weird and unconventional nature.

How did the decision to make a game for the community influenced Last Minute Gift?
I used several references to users in some of the gifts and some of the characters who show up at the end of the game (depending on how many gifts you found). Honestly in hindsight I wish I had included a lot more references to the community. That's something I'll definitely do if I ever get around to a sequel to this game. There are definitely a lot better games when it comes to nods to the community, including those fun games by Liberty and Frogge, not to mention Fomar's recent Hu'mon game.
I wanted this to be a thank-you Christmas gift to the RMN community, as I've learned so much from everyone, and it's just so nice to have a place like this where you can share your passions and your games and hang out with like-minded people, ^_^.

While working on Last Minute Gift, you managed to keep the scope small. Was that a lesson you took from Wyrm Warriors?
Haha, I guess you could say that. My continued apologies to anyone who is sad Wyrm Warriors never got finished, that's still not something I'm especially proud of, as I didn't realize everything that making a community game would entail when I took the reigns of that project.
The biggest restriction was time, as I had the idea in mid to late November of that year, if memory serves. This was one of those rare times when I was able to keep the scope in check. The game didn't require a lot of dialog aside from the beginning and end, so most of it ended up being spent making the drawings for the parallax maps and tweaking the gameplay and enemy placement.

Talking about scope, what is your creative process how do you come up with ideas for new games?
Generally, first I come up with an idea that sparks the beginning of everything. For Luxaren Allure, it was "What if a Dragon Quest or Final Fantasy game had the hero in love with the evil overlord villain?" For Weird and Unfortunate, I already had the urge to make a modern day urban exploration game in an abandoned city, and then I thought of a giant creature towering over the hero, offering them their aid.
From there, I get out a sketchpad and write down the "skeleton" of the game. It's basically an outline of what I want to happen as the game progresses. Plot points and locations I want to hit. I flesh it out with ideas and as I make the game, I come back to that skeleton and add more meat on it. From there, I write plans, ideas, and story beats, which then becomes cutscene dialog.
That's for bigger games. For smaller ones or jam games, I do a much smaller outline (sometimes just in my head XD) and just run with that.

Last Minute Gift

Which game of yours do you think gets the most severely overlooked? Is it Last Minute Gift or any other game?
Yeah, it's probably Last Minute Gift, XD. The only other ones that come to mind are the recent Date Knights demo that didn't create much in the way of buzz and Ascent, a jam game demo I made with Joseph Seraph and Ziegfried McBacon, but that one's a little a little lacking in content so I guess I can't blame anyone, XD.
Honestly though, I'm very thankful to any attention my games get, and a big thanks to all the enthusiasm and feedback everyone has provided over the years!

What are Date Knights and Ascent - The Story of the World - Binding Tower about? Do you have any further plans with either of the demos? I haven't played Ascent, but I would love to see a full version of Date Knights released.
Date Knights is about two lady knights who used to be sweethearts years ago but were separated who now have to come together with a mage and rogue on a mission on the edge of their reality, which opens up old wounds.
Ascent is about three travelers from different worlds who end up transported to a strange new place.
I don't have any plans to continue Ascent, but I'm absolutely going to go back and finish Date Knights after I complete Weird and Unfortunate, including redrawing all the monster battlers myself now that I'm not on a game jam deadline.

That's great news! Now, let's talk about your big upcoming game. Everyone loves Weird and Unfortunate Things are Happening. What's the progress on that one? Can we expect a full release in 2020?
Oh thanks! :DDD, I'm really excited about W&U too! Yes, unless something really major happens, I expect to have a full release of the game ready very soon, probably Spring of 2020. I'm about to get started on the final dungeon, and there's still lots of work to do, but I'm getting very close!
Really hyped to get the game finished and in people's hands, so to speak.

That's sooner than I expected it to be! I really enjoy art direction on that game. Who have contributed to its look so far?
I've had a lot of help with art direction in Weird and Unfortunate Things are Happening! Roden was a big influence, especially on Vedim Space areas. He and Cash had a cancelled game that had amazing surreal graphics and a particularly lovely eyeball tree that caught my eye. Roden graciously allowed me to purchase that tileset and I also commissioned him for three other for the game! Even surreal areas that I made myself are at least somewhat inspired by his style and his awesome visual expression!
Several of the hero's special move animations were done by Joseph Seraph, including Alicia's Horror Absorb and Miriam's Scourge Rot. I eventually took to completing the rest of the animations on my own, but Jo's awesome animating definitely was an inspiration. And the look and feel of the characters were brought to life by MakioKuta, who really captured exactly the feeling I wanted for the game and really defines a lot of the game's style.

Weird and Unfortunate Things are Happening are one of your many collaborations with Sooz. How big is her influence on the game?
Sooz is my best friend and frequent collaborator. We often help each other on creative projects and toss ideas at each other. Sooz is also the reason my dialog is at all decent. She serves as both an editor to most of the dialog as well as rewriting a lot of it to be more natural and more in-line with a character's voice. She is a huge help to me and I can't overstate her contributions to the overall feel and personality of the game, especially in the writing department!

Is there any other thing you would like to highlight on Weird and Unfortunate Things are Happening? Is there something you don't get talk about as much as you would like it to?
Not that I can think of. It's a weird (no pun intended) game for me, very experimental and kind of all over the place in terms of what its trying to accomplish both in story and gameplay. I'm using it to explore a lot of strange ideas and weird quirks that may or may not end up being homeruns in the gameplay department, but having a goal of "make this game pretty strange" is kind of freeing in a way. That said, I am also looking forward to going back to a fantasy setting more similar to what I usually make.

Last Minute Gift was a love letter to the community. Are there any projects from you collaborators you would recommend to others? I used to read Sooz's webcomic.
Yeah, Sooz's webcomic, Patchwork and Lace, is a favorite of mine, but I'm a bit biased, XD. As for games, if you haven't played Jimmy and the Pulsating Mass, that's my first recommendation. It's pretty much a masterpiece. I'm also really looking forward to Red Nova's Prayer of the Faithless, which I'm guessing will be completed sometime around the same time as W&U. MakioKuta has an awesome murder mystery demo out called Rainfall: Final Messages, JosephSeraph's Records in Blue is looking amazing, and I've been looking forward to Roden's Songs from Aelsea for years now. Sooz is also working on a Yume Nikki fangame staring a guinea pig called Yume Wheeky. Wheeking is a sound that guinea pigs make, XD.

Weird and Unfortunate Things are Happening

Are there other games you would recommend?
If you want to see a game that uses its systems to play against you to deliver an oppressive experience, give calunio's Depression a play. If you want a short science fiction gay romance between a dorky captain and an alien with puzzle elements, give Whiona's Four Eyes a play. zDS' Cope Island is an amazing game about self-reflection and altering how you play. I could keep going but those are a few off of the top of my head, XD.

You mentioned Cope Island: Adrift and Jimmy and The Pulsating Mass. More and more extraordinary RM games are going commercial these days. What's your position on going commercial? Would you repeat the experience after Remnants of Isolation?
It's a fact of reality that you need money to live, and a lot of people put so much work into their games and create such unique experiences that I really wish they could get paid for their work. I'm all for people going commercial, as long as they understand the risks going in and know that it's a really cutthroat market for indie titles right now. As for me, I don't want to go into too many details about what happened with Remnants of Isolation, but it was a very bad experience and not a good foray into the commercial market, even with a bigger publisher handling it. Also there's the fact that its harder to get resources for commercial projects, and I use a lot of creative commons music and sound effects that are free to use as long as the product you create is also free. I used to be excited to try to release another commercial game, but the truth of the matter is that I have no skills in marketing and I'd rather spend my time making stuff rather than promoting it, so I don't think I have what it takes to release commercial games anymore.

The Misaos are in their voting phase. Have you voted already? Are there any other games from the last year, you would like to mention as well?
I've been bad about keeping up with new games on RMN this year. I've really wanted to play a lot of the new stuff like Villnoire, Where the Moon Goes at Night, Final Fantasy: Sky Warriors, Shooty and the Catfish: Reloaded (I loved the original) and the newly released Exile's Journey. I've really got to go back and play them all when I finish W&U, >.<. I have voted but I feel like I would have given much better votes if I'd played more of these.

Is there anything else you would like to say? Or a message for our readers?
Just a big thank you to everyone making games and everyone playing those games! The world we live in can be a pretty crappy place sometimes, but it always brings me a smile to see all the effort and positivity that this community brings! Also, it's a little late for a Merry Christmas but just in time for a Happy New Year! Let's hope 2020 will be better for all of us!

Excellent 2020 to you too! Thank you for your time and answers. It was a pleasure talking to you and I wish you best luck both in your life and with your projects. They're always something I'm looking forward to myself!