Back in 2021, Blooming Panic, an entry to the 2021 otome jam, was released. Its popularity quickly skyrocketed, earning a soft spot in the heart of many otome players. We’ve had the opportunity to review the original jam version of the game ourselves which you can check out here if you’re interested!
The Blooming Panic team’s lead developer, Robobarbie, sat down with us to chat about the game’s production, what we can expect in the future from their team, and much more!
Can you tell us a bit about the team and how you found yourselves making VNs?\
During quarantine, I was forced back into online spaces — not that I had ever strayed too far, but I had definitely become more invested in my career and socializing at that point. So, trapped at home and in a bid to seek out a sense of community somewhere, I found myself playing more games with friends. One thing led to another and I played a VN, The House in Fata Morgana, that completely rejuvenated my love for storytelling and creation. Because of that game, I got into VN dev and bloomic was made. Everyone I pulled together for the team basically came from either my pool of friends who had no VN dev experience or a small selection of people from the devtalk community.
Blooming Panic is your first game together. How did you all find each other?
I’ve known several people on the team for years. They’ve always been supportive of my obsessions, so when I asked them if they’d like to join in on a silly, goofy discord game they accepted happily. Many others I met through fan spaces similar to the one in bloomic — they are all easily lifelong friends to me, and tend to be the creative types, so they were eager to assist when I mentioned the project. Another chunk of them I found in devtalk after tinkering around in a few VN game jams. I’m not sure why they all agreed to work with me in the first place, but I’m glad they did!
You originally submitted Blooming Panic to the 2021 Otome Game Jam. Why did you decide to enter a game jam in the first place?
I can only really force myself to work on something if I have a deadline. Endless dev with a deadline set by myself is near hell for me (LOL). So, I like entering game jams since they have clear bounds and promote simple, achievable games. It’s perfect for trying out weird things in RenPy or making a one-off game with friends. I also have a soft spot for otoges, and wanted to throw my hat in the ring with a chat sim (which is shockingly underrepresented in the genre for how many players really like those types of games).
Tell our readers who may be unfamiliar with Blooming Panic what it’s about and what inspired the idea behind the hit game.
Blooming Panic tells the story of a young, overworked corporate employee who finds escapism in a fanserver for their favorite webnovel. There are four romantic routes the player can choose to take, each with a unique love interest and a plot line with events also unique to the route. Each story explores themes of accepting change, growing from your mistakes, and learning to open up to those around you.
The concept of change and growing despite the pain is very close to my heart, and most of my little creative projects feature that prominently. The concept for the discord fanserver was, predictably, pulled from my own experiences in fanservers. Like I mentioned, I found a sense of community in those fanservers at the peak of quarantine in 2020, and wanted to embody that feeling in the game.
Some pieces of fiction that directly inspired the game are Mystic Messenger, The House in Fata Morgana, Bojack Horseman, and Love Unholyc.
Did you ever think the game would grow so popular? How has that impacted your life?
Never in a million years did I think it would take off. We made some just-in-case plans (like a press kit) when it was released, but we had never made it with the hopes that it would blow up. We just wanted to create something fun as a group of friends that embodied things we cared about. Our initial download goals were laughable at this point — our max goal was something like 500 downloads.
My life really has changed since it took off, and it’s hard to give a concise answer to describe all the different ways it’s changed. Online, being viewed now as a “creator” instead of a fan was really difficult to get used to — I can’t say I’m completely used to it yet. Offline, my life hasn’t changed much beyond the fact that I spend less of my time offline now, especially since we decided to try to maintain a fan community a bit.
I understand that the original version of Blooming Panic had to cut some content in order to make the jam’s deadline. With the Full Bloom edition, the team has added in a new love interest and expanded content. Why did you decide to continue the game, and release a new version for free?
I think when it comes down to it, we just wanted to put a little bit of polish on it. We were definitely happy with what we got done in the jam, but with just a bit more time we knew we could have made it even better. So, a few of us hunkered down to really spruce it up and give it some shine — nothing major like entire route rehauls, just some additions here and there. We decided to give Xyx a route specifically because we all just sort of loved him — dev team and fans included. We basically put everything we had learned from making the game into his route, which is part of the reason I think his route is so popular — on top of, of course, the banger job the voice actor and writers did with him.
As for why it’s free… I have a firm division for myself between work and fun (I have a separate full-time career) so I decided to publish all my projects for free. I don’t want to feel obligated to fulfill fan desires because they’re paying for a game of mine — which I know is exactly what I’d try to do. I just want to make whatever I want and feel no guilt for it. Of course, not all creators feel the same way I do or feel the same guilt I know I’d feel, so I don’t intend that as some sort of blanket view on what it means to release a paid game vs a free game. It’s just what works best for me and my hobby.
Do you guys have a favorite Blooming Panic guy?
We love all of them on the dev team, but I think the two most popular are Xyx and Toaster. There’s a lot of FFXIV players on this team, after all. My personal favorite is Toaster.
Who’s route was the most fun to work on?
Probably Toaster’s. Theirs was the first we completed 100% in the original game and is the one where we had the most fun with debugging and learning how to program the damn thing in RenPy. After we wrapped theirs up, it was pretty easy to add in the other two boys. Xyx was really fun to work on as well, but I’d mark it as slightly less fun because we were sort of weighed down during development by the pressure we felt from how popular the game jam version was. Still had a good time, all things considered!
Is there a chance at the team expanding Blooming Panic any further by including new love interests or new scenes?
Nah, we’re done. There is the potential for more stories in that universe, but I’m leaving it to the fans who’d like to mod the game. I’d like to personally move on, though, because I just want to work on more fun and diverse projects. I don’t want to be tied to bloomic for the rest of my hobby-career, or games that are offshoots of it. I’d like to go a little ~crazy~ with something new.
But, for those still craving bloomic content from the team, we do have an ask box on tumblr that fans are more than welcome to dump requests in at robobarbie.tumblr.com.
With a game as popular as Blooming Panic, do you fear that future games could be impacted in a negative way? On the other hand, do you think the positive reception for Blooming Panic will help in the production of future projects?
I think I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried. There’s thousands of eyes now on whatever we do next, and as much as I try to relieve that pressure, it’s hard to ignore. Worrying about how fans will receive future titles will probably always sit in the back of my mind now — especially since I’d like to go in directions completely opposite to bloomic.
BUT — there’s positives, too. We learned a lot because we had so many players and a lot of feedback, and it is encouraging to know that things we put our hearts into can be appreciated. It’s also given our team some name recognition in the community, which has already made it easier to try to get people to work on future projects with us. Overall, I’d say the popularity has been a good thing rather than bad. Just takes some getting used to.
What have you learned from Blooming Panic that you’ll take into future projects?
I’ve learned more ways to make RenPy do dumb things and I’ve learned how to properly manage a team. With those two things combined, I really wanna try some more engaging projects and level it all up a bit. I’ve also really learned the beauty of collaboration — everyone on the dev team put a little piece of themselves in bloomic. People really know better than me sometimes, and I love seeing fan reactions to dev team ideas. Probably the biggest example of this is Quest — the writer and myself had two very different visions for Quest’s personality, and I’m so glad we went with theirs.
Can we count on the team joining together again for another project?
Definitely. Everyone has already told me they’d love to come back to work on something again, and we’ll likely be back together very soon.
Are commercial releases on the horizon, or will you continue to make free to play experiences for players?
My games will be free-to-play for the foreseeable future. I don’t have any plans for any commercial releases, since I really do want to keep this as a hobby and all that. I will be joining in to assist on commercial projects that are not my own, however, and I’ll be sure to post about those when I can.
Can you talk about any upcoming projects that VN Game Den Readers can look forward to?
Several members on the dev team are involved in the upcoming mobile chatsim otoge, Infinite Blue. I’d highly recommend following that title. As for games from me, I’ll be back for otojam 2022 with the team and a new title. I’ll be sure to post more on my socials about it as we get closer to the actual jam!
If you’d like to play Blooming Panic for yourself, you can for free on itch.io! To find out more about Robobarbie and their work, follow them on Tumblr and Twitter.