Great Gretuski is a female-founded and female-run indie game development studio that has brought us Love Spell: Written In The Stars and its DLC story Love Spell: Aslan’s Story. They’re currently working on Peachleaf Valley: Seeds of Love, an otome game inspired by farming titles. Today, we sat down with the founder and creative director of Great Gretuski Studio, Grettel, to learn more about her, the studio, what it’s like to run a female-led studio, and more!
Can you tell our readers a bit about yourself and how you got into game development?
Hello, everyone! My name is Grettel, and I am the founder and creative director of Great Gretuski Studios, a newly-established indie game development studio based in the US with a focus on bringing cute, inspiring and romantic stories to life!
Before I founded the studios, I was working full-time in another industry. It was a pretty regular 9 to 5 job in a higher-up position at a stable company that I had worked extremely hard to land.
On paper, I really had nothing to complain about. I knew for a fact that I was grateful to even be where I was so soon after graduating college… however, it’s ironic to say I actually hit my lowest mental point at this job when I expected it to lead me in the exact opposite direction. I thought I was going to be at my happiest, at my best. But I was absolutely miserable.
That being said, I’m absolutely certain that I had to reach that critical point within myself to even consider the option of turning my life a complete 180 degrees, and to choose to pursue game development and start my own company.
I think the decision to pull the plug, leave, and branch off on my own ultimately stemmed from a place where I was just so unhappy. But I took a hard look at what gave me the most joy in those moments and I asked myself, “what is making you look forward to tomorrow?”, “if I could change my life altogether, what it would look like right now?”
In those answers, I found game development.
As the director of Great Gretuski Studios, can you tell us a bit about what you do?
Apart from sitting in the main seat as a producer and director who steers the creative vision behind our studio’s games, I’m also a lead screenwriter on the writing team, one of two in-house graphic designers, one of the managers that oversees and collaborates with our freelancers and employees on a daily basis, a lead programmer, an editor, a beta tester, a product specialist, a motion graphics artist, a web designer, and
,of course, a business owner overseeing the logistics and semantics of the financial side of running a startup.
Great Gretuski is a female-run studio. In an industry that’s dominated by men, have you or the team faced any challenges being female-run and if so, how did you overcome them?
One of the biggest challenges that I feel my team and I have faced as a female-run studio in this industry is simply being taken seriously… which I also feel is a general challenge both in the indie sphere and in owning and operating a business as a woman, period. Although I think the world is actively progressing towards a much more open-minded space and mentality, in this sphere especially, you will definitely still encounter individuals in the industry who still think women have no place in games. Or that the entire industry is run for one audience and the games you make
,as a woman, seemingly targeted towards anything other than the majority, will not be successful. I’ve heard it all: “there’s no audience for it”, “women don’t even really play video games”—and the ones that do, well… “those aren’t real games.”
At the end of the day, my team and I have a lot of faith, pride and love for the products we make and the people we make them for. We’re going to continue to be here as long as we can and we’re going to strive to go as far as our games, and our fans, let us go.
What do you have to say to women or young girls who want to get into the industry but are afraid to?
I am a woman who grew up loving video games her whole life. But when I was young, I had never once heard of a story of a female game development or director. Perhaps that was also partly due to own naivety, but I know for a fact if I had, or if the idea ever dawned on me that there were girls making games, it would’ve had a very big impact on my life, very early on.
My first advice would be to sit down and give it some serious thought. Just like any endeavor, you need to be able to commit yourself to seeing it through to the end. Whether it’s making your own game or deciding to get into a brand new industry, you need to make sure aligns with your goals and what you really want to do. If you’ve already come to the conclusion that it is, then go for it. With everything you’ve got.
Even if you don’t feel you have the skillset initially, we live in a time where with enough patience and the proper resources, anything can be learned online. Start somewhere, build slowly, and take the time to set a proper foundation.
If this is something you want to last forever or pursue long-term, know it’s going to take time to build those fundamentals, to learn those inner-workings, to overcome new challenges and that all of that is just part of the process. But eventually, you’re going to start seeing what you dreamed of start coming to life. And that, in and of itself, is one of the most beautiful, fulfilling feelings in the world.
I think everyone has a story that they want to tell. More often than not, I’m always encouraging those around me to find avenues to do that. Whether it’s through art, through writing, through game development, find your medium, find your craft and tell your story.
What are some of your favorite romantic visual novels?
Code: Realize is one of my favorite romantic visual novels of all-time with Birushana coming in as a close second. These are followed by My Vow To My Liege, Café Enchante and most recently, Blooming Panic.
I feel something that all these titles have in common is that the writing is so incredibly organic and meaningful. Apart from being a blast to play, they all feel like they boast stories that you take a little piece of with you everywhere you go.
The studio’s first game was Love Spell: Written In The Stars, a romcom about a girl wanting to find true love and it going horribly wrong. How was it developing that game? What sort of challenges did you and the team face during the game’s development?
It was our very first title and the studio’s debut, so it was definitely a road that was filled with a lot of learning curves. There were unforeseen challenges and obstacles at every turn, including a global pandemic hitting the entire world in the midst of it all. It was an incredibly huge learning experience, but also one of the most gratifying endeavors I’ve undertaken to date.
Some of the bigger challenges of note were just getting our feet wet in the world of crowdfunding, adhering to fulfillment and schedules, building a community, building trust in our supporters, showing everyone that we commit to what we set out to do and then of course, doing it, haha.
Development is a multi-faceted endeavor with never-ending complex layers. But like everything, with a good team, solid support system, steady efforts, and thorough planning, it’s a mountain that can be climbed. And the view from up top is certainly incredible.
By the time this interview goes live, the DLC for Aslan’s story will have been released! For players who haven’t tried it out yet, what can they expect from this new bit of content?
I think players can expect to see the new standard of quality for the studio, haha! Naturally, we are still in our infancy stages, not just a business, but also as creators. We’re always learning as we’re going, every single day, along with juggling all the different parts of production.
But, Aslan is our pride and joy right now. I really feel he’s a product of love because we made him with a lot of love in all aspects. He was funded out of our own pockets as a promise we made to our community back when Love Spell first released, and we really pulled out all the stops to uphold that.
The storytelling has an upgraded level of immersion even from Love Spell or Peachleaf Valley’s public demo and we’re so excited to see how it resonates with new and old players of the series. You can expect to see cute penguins, nonsensical shenanigans, lots of fantasy references & easter eggs, a very soft boi wizard and lots of ~magic~, haha!
Who is your favorite character from Love Spell and why?
Don’t do this to me, lol. Pleeeeease. It huuuuuurts.
But, well… it’s probably Luna, the protagonist. She’s what really represents Love Spell to me personally because, in a way, it all started and it all comes back to her.
Great Gretuski Studios upcoming game is Peachleaf Valley: Seeds of Love, an otome game inspired by the farming-sim genre. Can you go a bit into how you and the team came up with the idea for the game?
I recall I was sharing a discussion with another team member after a long day of adulting. We were remembering the nostalgia of our childhoods and how times were simpler back then. Eventually, we got on the topic of childhood games that hold special places in our hearts. Ironically enough, both of us were big Harvest Moon fans and that stemmed into a huge, passionate conversation.
Farming-sims as a whole are one of my all-time favorite game genres; one of the biggest reasons I even decided to become a game developer was after experiencing the magic that is Stardew Valley and reading about its creator, Eric Barone, and his extremely inspirational advice and development journey.
While we didn’t have the resources to start our own full-fledged farming sim, we thought, what if we could capture that nostalgia and those main aspects and ideas behind those types of games and give it a focus of romance, which is a big factor of what attracted me and many others to the genre.
And thus, Peachleaf Valley was born soon after.
Peachleaf Valley is releasing some time next year. What can our readers expect to see from the game?
They can expect to see a lot of passion, from so many people, manifested in the form of a story, a game. Peachleaf Valley has not only been a huge breakthrough for the studio, but it’s also the game we’ve worked on the most until this moment. I don’t think I’ve ever worked so hard on and poured so much of myself into anything in my life as much as I, and all of my team, have into Peachleaf Valley.
Regardless how it does on release, I know we all personally have such a strong emotional connection to the game, the world, the lore, and the characters that it’s going to be something we talk about for a very long time.
Peachleaf Valley has gone through so many iterations, each better than the last, and we’re finally reaching a place where we can see the horizon. We can see it taking shape, and at least I, personally, am very proud with what it’s shaping out to be. It took a lot of work to get to where we are now and there’s still so much left to do, but I hope it can bring a lot of smiles to people’s faces when it’s time to welcome everyone into the valley.
If you would like to purchase Love Spell: Written In The Stars (and Aslan’s Story DLC) or check out the demo for Peachleaf Valley: Seeds of Love, you can find them both on itch.io and Steam! Peachleaf Valley: Seeds of Love demo can be found here on Steam, while Aslan’s DLC story can be found here.
If you would like to follow the development of Peachleaf Valley and Great Gretuski’s upcoming releases, be sure to follow them on Twitter here! They also have a Patreon, so if you love their games, we strongly recommend going over and supporting them there.