INTERVIEW: Starlight Shores

Monday, July 27th, 2020

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Starlight Shores | Erika

Today, we’re taking a step back and acknowledging a smaller title. Welcome Starlight Shores. This small romantic tale is not known by many, but that’s about to change. I want to introduce you to something different. A romance story with a different approach, a story that portrays the real side of summer love. Think of a story based on real events with a little extra flair for the dramatic. In addition, I want to show you a story that from beginning to end will warm your heart more than the summer heat. This is a truly special story and one person leads the charge. After playing through Starlight Shore’s demo, I felt a compelling urge to learn and share about this story. The result is in the text that follows, enjoy!

It’s always fun to meet a new developer. Tell us about yourself. Who is this magnificent person leading the team behind Starlight Shores and how did you get to this point?

Magnificent? You’re too kind! I guess to start, my name is Sam Kerr and I’m 25 years old. I’m Canadian, addicted to coffee, and I play Apex Legends in my spare time. I’ve been working in the game development industry as a Narrative Designer for just over six years at Creazn Studio (Toronto). My educational background is in creative writing and I’ve been a gamer my entire life. Last September I decided to download Ren’Py so I could make Visual Novels alongside my full-time work, and I’ve been in love with them ever since.

Tell me about this colorful romance story you’re making. Which stories inspired the creation of it and why’d you choose Seaside as your main setting?

The town of Seaside is actually inspired by my hometown! I grew up in a tourist town where summer meant freedom. The beaches are stunning, and there’s also lush nature trails in the surrounding area. I spent time exploring with my friends as a teenager and had some great adventures. I took that charming setting, made it a bit more tropical, and created Seaside.

On the story side of things, my inspiration comes from personal experiences and also witnessing “summer” romances. When you’re out at a bonfire and meeting new people, there’s electricity in the air when you make a great connection. I think that summer romances have a sense of urgency about them. There’s a dependence on that immediate chemistry, and you often see that when couples meet in Visual Novels.

I used to think it was ridiculous when characters would fall in love after a handful of days together, but I remember how I felt about my partner on day three… so, that kind of connection does exist.

Starlight Shores | Main Girls

Many people find ways to get creative with their romance stories. After playing your demo, while the concept of childhood friends and mysterious heroines are common, the way you introduce your girls is unique. Both the main character and reader barely know what’s going on with Theo and Lena. It’s a fresh start for everyone, so how did you come up with this dynamic?

I’ve never been a fan of filling out character sheets with a list of traits and hobbies. It feels disingenuous and doesn’t allow the player to get to know characters naturally. Not trying to bash anyone that makes those sheets, they’re great advertising assets, it’s just not for me!

I’m trying to emulate what it feels like to meet someone spontaneously at a party and maybe even fall in love. People don’t show up with a list of traits, a mini-biography, and their height/weight/blood type. That’s not natural. Of course, dating apps can be like that, but this isn’t a game about dating apps. This is about making a deeper connection with dynamic characters.

Let’s talk art. Theo and Lena are one of the cutest pairs of heroines I’ve laid my eyes on. What inspired their designs and personality? In addition, what was it like to work with your artist, Liah, to bring them to life?

Theo was one of those rare characters that walked into my head fully formed, and essentially introduced herself. I feel like I’ve known her for years, but she’s not quite like anyone I know. When I first pictured the bonfire and who was sitting on those logs, Theo was roasting marshmallows with a grin on her face. On a side note, I feel like her body type is underrepresented in Visual Novels. Small breasts shouldn’t automatically equal a flat/childish-looking character design, and I’ve emphasized that Theo is a young woman with big hips, not a kid.

Lena, on the other hand, is inspired by a combination of people I know. Her strong personality, educated background, and deep love for her friends are all thanks to my best-friend Kaleigh. Don’t get me wrong, there are definitive differences between her and Lena, but she reminds me of her when I’m writing dialogue. Blue hair also looked great on Kaleigh.

Liah is an absolute dream to work with! We met through LemmaSoft last year, and I commissioned her artwork the first day I saw her portfolio. Her style is distinct and stunningly beautiful. When I approach Liah with a new character design, we work together to create vibrant characters and showcase their personal styles. I try to always write more about the character’s personality when describing them, and less about physical traits. That’s where Liah’s talents truly shine. She takes those incoherent rambles, a handful of reference images, and creates adorable heroines! Getting to know her during the development of this game has been fun and I’m lucky to call her a good friend.

Starlight Shores | Art

Of course, I can’t forget about the music and the background art. Both wonderfully compliment the writing and maximize immersion. Including Liah, what was it like finding the staff for the game? As a young developer, do you feel it’s an overwhelming process?

Thank you so much for the lovely compliment! We have an incredible team of artists and I feel so lucky to work with them. As far as finding staff goes, the only thing that was an obstacle was my own pickiness. I was not willing to compromise and searched out artists that fit my vision for the project. That involved a lot of emailing back and forth and digging through the LemmaSoft recruitment forums, but it was well worth the effort.

To keep a consistent style, Starlight Shores has the same artists as our bigger project Tidal Blossoms, which will restart production after Starlight Shores launches.

A demo has been out now for almost a month and it’s on the shorter side. It’s very lovely and the length makes readers want more. What can fans expect from a full version of Starlight Shores? Furthermore, are there plans to add content not featured in the demo? Perhaps any mystery characters or 18+ content?

The full version of Starlight Shores will be on the shorter side. It’s meant to tell the story of one night, so its length is fitted accordingly. At the end of the day, it should take casual players a few hours to reach the end of their chosen route. However, to maximize replay value there is a randomizer set to the earlier party games, with a 50/50 chance of getting certain questions and answers during “Never have I ever”. There are many variables at play during the game, with plenty of different conversations, choices, and endings available depending on how players interact with the characters. Each experience will be unique, and I hope that players will enjoy their time in Starlight Shores.

Additional content for post-launch is already in the early development stages! I’d love to speak more on that, but for now it’s probably best not to comment further. We’d like to keep it a surprise!

Starlight Shores | Lena

A lot of developers really like testing the waters early when it comes to their first few games. Will you be attempting to crowdfund any of your games, not just Starlight Shores, in the near future?

Crowdfunding is something we’d like to explore after we’ve established ourselves as a reputable development team. Starlight Shores will remain entirely self-funded. In the future, we’ll be considering Kickstarter as an option for bigger titles!

As we wind down this interview, I’d like to know more about what’s going on behind the scenes. What do you perceive as the most difficult part about making Starlight Shores?

At this moment, my struggle is with my own expectations. As a writer, I put a huge emphasis on the quality of the narrative I’m building. Unrealistic expectations for expanding playtime/word count can put a damper on things. I would love to give players a 10+ hour gameplay experience, but that’s not realistic for this story.

Ultimately, a good story doesn’t have to be lengthened if players enjoy their adventure. Quality over quantity is my goal, but I have a personal struggle where I want to write more than I’m capable of constantly.

Starlight Shores | CG

This one is more for the fans of the demo, myself included. What’s the latest update you can offer about the project as we are just over halfway done with the year?

Earlier this week I announced a 2-3-week development delay, due to the fact that I’m buying my first home. It was an unexpected change, as I was hoping to launch during Summer 2020. At this time, a Fall 2020 release seems more likely. Luckily, I’ll have my own office space which will hopefully provide me with the quiet and clarity I’ll need as I finish developing Starlight Shores!

Thank you for all your time and effort thus far. One final question remains. Is there anything you’d like to say to curious onlookers and fans alike about your games after reading all of this?

I am one facet of a collaborative effort to create this game. If you’ve enjoyed the Starlight Shores Demo and want to see more, each of the artists/devs on this team have varying amounts of social media and other projects on YouTube, Patreon, DeviantArt, etc.

Please don’t hesitate to look them up when you see their names in the credits! They’re all active members of the game development community and they could use your support.

That wraps up the interview process, we hope you enjoyed it. This is all a part of an initiative to bring awareness to developers of all types. Whether they seek funding for yet another game, or simply starting out. Great stories need to be spread to the world. Today, I hope you check out Sam’s work and follow along her development journey. It’s sure to be a fruitful one. Thank you readers.

About Diego Hernandez

Diego is an incredibly passionate visual novel enthusiast from an island within the Caribbean. He intends on working alongside Operation Rainfall to inform the masses about the vast library of breathtaking visual literature. As well as spreading awareness of the amazingly talented individuals hard at work on said breathtaking projects.