It’s been a long time, but we finally have an exciting interview for Graveyard Girls. To clarify, this is a small visual novel from the amazing Delphinium Interactive, whom you may recognize for their memorable work on the release of Starlight Shores. Their unique approach to romance was a novelty and I fell in love with their characters as first sight. Starlight Shores will definitely go down as one of my favorites reads from last year. However, today we’re taking a look at a new title from the developer. Graveyard Girls is a Halloween special from the young developer that explores romance through grief. With my curiosity at its peak, I invited friend of the website and director of the studio, Sam, to talk with us about her upcoming game. Please enjoy and, if you like what you see, check out Graveyard Girls.
First of all, welcome back! It’s been such a long time since our first interview. Safe to say a lot has happened including, the release of Starlight Shores and the reviews coming in, including my own. How have you been since then and what did you learn?
Thank you for having me back! I’m super excited to sit down and chat with you again. For starters, I spent the past year focusing on updating Starlight Shores and bringing it to Steam.
The experience of re-launching Starlight Shores on Steam was eye-opening. I worked hard to refine our assets and art direction between those launches and I think it showed.
Even though the project had already been released on itch.io, the Steam launch “butterflies” were just as overwhelming. Even though it went smoothly, I was crazy nervous during those first few hours. I’m also extremely excited to share that we’ll be bringing Starlight Shores to consoles with the help of Penguin Pop Games! The official release date is still TBD, but we’re aiming for around Thanksgiving.
Here we are, nearly a year afterwards, Graveyard Girls is a thing. A marvelous thing. You’ve been sharing bits and pieces over the course of your Spooktober posts and, frankly, I’m obsessing over everything it has. How did it all come to fruition?
Well, around this time last year I was finishing my work on Starlight Shores’ original launch. The crunch was real, but I’d noticed the Spooktober Game Jam and desperately wanted to participate. Unfortunately, my schedule just wouldn’t allow for it. I ended up sponsoring last Spooktober by donating my leftover funds from Starlight Shores. It wasn’t a lot, but I wanted to feel part of the jam however I could. Ever since then, I knew I’d be participating in Spooktober, but the actual concept and story for Graveyard Girls didn’t come to me until July 2021.
As soon as it hit me, I was constantly imagining the story progression and characters in my head (as I often do). I quite literally couldn’t stop thinking about them, so at the end of July, I started recruitment. Initially, I was terrified that I wouldn’t find a team. I had a lot of self-doubts because Graveyard Girls probably isn’t what people would expect from the creator of Starlight Shores. It’s darker, to say the least.
Luckily, I found an incredibly dedicated team of artists. I can’t imagine this project without them, I wouldn’t change a thing. Now we’re days out from the Spooktober deadline and I’m constantly in awe of their work ethic.
One thing that I found to be astonishing about Starlight Shores was the attention to detail within the characters. In particular, Theo and Lena grew into the most amazing pair of characters that I’ve seen in just a couple hours’ time. Now here comes Elle and Lucia with more mature vibes than them. What has been the approach to creating these two?
When I was drafting Elle, her story came more naturally to me than past heroines. The loss of her father is particularly close to my heart, so I can empathize deeply with her character. Elle’s story is about self-destruction and complicated grief. She’s trying to claw her way out of a hole that a lack of emotional support dug for her. At first, I spent time curating a list of her characteristics and mannerisms, I wanted to emphasize the way she carries herself through life when I envisioned her. That eventually led to coming up with her sense of style, vocabulary, and physical appearance. It was a bit like a domino effect. Once I found my method, I repeated it with Lucia.
Lucia’s story is of innocence and curiosity. She’s described as teetering on a precipice she can’t even see. Her sister’s death has turned her life upside down and Elle recognizes the path she’s on. It’s a reflective experience and Elle’s torn between wanting to help Lucia and worrying that she’ll make things worse.
I think the defining factor that shifts Lucia and Elle away from our Starlight duo is their history. Theo and Lena had a strong bond coming into Starlight Shores, they were friends and college roommates. Their connection was much more established. Elle and Lucia are under a similar time constraint story-wise but have just met. It’s a much more difficult dynamic to tackle and the romantic aspect will be incredibly subtle in comparison.
Honestly, I’m not sure if I’ll manage to pull it off. Time and reviews will tell! Random aside, but I’ve spent a lot of time curating playlists. Music has really been carrying me through developing these characters.
On the subject of mature vibes, I must point out the contrast between the two stories. Whereas one feels like an uplifting romance in tropical paradise, Graveyard Girls goes a bit sadder. Could you describe the difference in terms of writing between these two types of stories?
Writing Graveyard Girls has required me to be in a completely different headspace.
Ultimately, Starlight Shores tackled the fading out of friendships and kindling hope that things can get better as we grow older. It also had a group dynamic with supporting characters that I needed to put energy towards. Graveyard Girls focuses on vulnerability and grief, so I felt stronger emotions while writing it. However, the process of creating the story and particularly their conversations was simpler, given that it’s just the two of them. One thing that I have repeated in my storytelling is avoiding perfect solutions to character’s problems because that’s rarely realistic.
Telling a story with grief behind it isn’t easy. There’s a lot of emotions involved and memories, whether good or bad, can derail the process. Has mental health played a role in the writing of your tale?
I’d be lying if I said that it didn’t. It’s not something I’ve been forthcoming with online, but I feel it’s important to address that this is a story written by someone who has endured grief. I made sure to reach out for support when I felt overwhelmed during the development process and focused on self-care. I got the support that Elle and Lucia are lacking. Thus I wanted to write this as authentically as possible without diving completely into self-insertion, but I’m writing depression, anxiety, and complicated grief from experience. I’m not looking to glamourize or trivialize this topic.
Players should know that these characters don’t always do or say the appropriate thing when experiencing their pain, they’re simply not equipped to cope. They push boundaries, manipulate, and act without thinking. Lucia and Elle are human, they’re not perfect. I think anyone that’s truly struggled with grief also carries a type of shame surrounding how they handled it because we often hold ourselves to an impossible standard.
I hope that readers can agree that these characters are struggling and messy, not bad people.