MintGlow is a visual novel developer who is no stranger to game jams! They have participated in numerous jams such as O2A2, Winter VN Jam, and NaNoRenO to name a few. Most recently, they’ve entered Spooktober Jam 2022 with their game All That (Probably) Glitters, which ended up taking the third place prize. Today, we sat down with MintGlow to talk more about how they got into game development, their game All That (Probably) Glitters, what it was like to enter and make a game for Spooktober Jam, and more!
Note: This interview contains spoilers for All That (Probably) Glitters! If you haven’t played the game yet, we strongly recommend that you do! You can download it here.
Hello Mint! Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself and how you got into game development?
Hey hey hey, I’m MintGlow (obviously), the best person in the world (obviously), and a game developer who enjoys the cute, comedic, and dark genres of media! I enjoy communicating messages to anyone who plays my games, from society as a whole to close people in my life, and other times to myself from the past and present. I’m a huge, gigantic, ginormous fan of psychological thrillers and works like Undertale, Coraline, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, Don’t Hug Me, I’m Scared, the Danganronpa series, Super Paper Mario, and a million more things that I can’t remember right now!
… But back then, I didn’t see or consider myself in game development at all. I was instead considering animation and comics to get my stories out there for a really long time… Like, an entire-decade-long-time.
And before stories, it started with characters! I LOVE characters, so I’ve always happened to make the characters before the stories. Afterward, when I throw them into certain situations, they start to have a mind of their own and act for me, so I just record what they do on pen and paper! I’m still learning how to write from not paying attention during writing class, but I’m (probably) getting better.
So that’s how I got into characters and storytelling, but how did that transition into games? Why the playable medium? Well, I already adored story-based games and cutscenes, then when I saw a playthrough of Doki Doki Literature Club… I think it was my first exposure to visual novels. 😅
I was also impressed with what they did in the game! “How were they able to do all of that awesome stuff???” I looked it up and saw that DDLC was made with an engine called Ren’Py.
I used to also randomly search the Google Play store for free apps which is where I discovered NomnomNami, another visual novel developer. When I became sentient, in the credits of her games, I noticed that they too were made with Ren’Py.
“I have to try this. It’s a free engine too, so why not? I’ll just make ONE game. There can’t be any harm in that!”
Haha, that’s really funny.
I finally gave it a whirl during the summer of 2021, and Pippy’s Ultimate Quest for Friendship (and Lessons!!!) (PUQFFAL) was born. I was really proud of it! I still look back at it from time to time to see how far I’ve come. However…
You could say I got addicted to game development from that point on.
You’ve participated in a few game jams before (O2A2, Yuri Jam, Winter Jam, Finish Your Game Jam, etc). Can you tell us what you learned from your previous game jam experiences that you put into use when entering Spooktober?
Oh geeZ, first of all, entering Spooktober was incredibly daunting. It personally felt like the biggest visual novel jam of the year right next to or even above NaNoRenO, especially since it was a contest. I even considered not joining! But to complete my year of game jams and my Halloween-themed idea of a story clawing at my brain, I told myself I had to at least try.
… Of course, I ended up getting sucked into the work, but this time, I had a bunch of jam experiences under my belt!
Jams from the past taught me a lot about time management (all jams), taking healthy breaks (Winter VN Jam), marketing (which does not apply to Spooktober) (NaNoRenO), and rules and restrictions (O2A2 Jam). There are a few jams I entered that I was never able to make a game for actually, and from those, I learned that some ideas don’t always have to come to life.
If you’re considering participating in a jam or event like this, check out what your peers are up to! This is something I wish I could do more of…
Psst… I’m going to come clean about something I haven’t said anywhere else yet, something TERRIBLE, absolutely HORRIBLE I did as a new game developer last year. My first game was admittedly not meant for a game jam at first. However, when I learned that jams were a thing, I was NOT using them the way they were intended.
“Hmm… Does my game already fit into this game jam? Cool!”
Coming into game development, of COURSE you want people to see your games, but spamming is not jamming! I wasn’t aware I was spamming since no one told me until I saw other devs getting criticized for it. It really is a nice perk to get your work seen, but that’s usually not why the hosts host them; learning, teamwork, and raising awareness are the three main reasons jams exist as I can recall off the top of my head. Oh, and fun!!!
Game jam experience is super useful and I suggest that every developer does them at some point!
Can you talk to us a bit about how you came up with the concept of All That (Probably) Glitters?
Again, I always start with the characters! I already had a bit of a universe going with PUQFFAL, where humans went extinct and certain animals evolved a million years into the future to have humanistic traits, so I wanted to make another story within that world. The original story concept of All That (Probably) Glitters (ATPG) initially had two characters back in spring: Kyandi, an adventurous, mischievous rat, and Apple, a shy A.I. The two would meet at a Halloween party and some event ensues. That’s it.
Also, my favorite dessert is a sugary, crisp candy apple. Boom. Character inspiration. I have to throw that in there.
Frolicking back to O2A2, the main character I was going to use was actually Apple! But while working on the idea, I watched a video about the grading system. I was so moved by the video that I decided to change my entire game, but what character would fit that role now? Apple was a robot, computer, artificial intelligence thing. She doesn’t need school, right? (Hmm, that sounds familiar…)
Then I recalled that I had a background character who already went to school… A rock-throwing jerk to one of the characters from my main series.
Fritz (Fritter), a magnificent bird, and my game for O2A2 (Excello) were born.
Fast forward to Spooktober, and you could find me in my room hammering away at the game. It was originally going to be called “Candy Apple Fritter”, and that’s how it stayed in my projects folder for the majority of the working month. But as I made the game, I wanted to stray away from that title because, for one, it gave Apple’s name away, and two, I didn’t feel like it captured the essence of the story. Then I remembered a phrase.
“All that glitters is not gold.” -Shakespeare
Oh, snap. Spoiler, but… It *probably* glitters, right?
“IT’S THE PERFECT TITLE. I’M A GENIUS.” -MintGlow fueling her ego
Now for the mechanics and juicy content of the game… I really liked how I utilized the pocket system in my RPGMaker game, Cake Mix, so I also wanted to try coding a similar pocket system in Ren’Py to have the player make some choices! It also fits Kyandi’s personality as a bonus, a thief who collects an unusual number of items. I didn’t have enough time within a month to make it feel like an actual pocket-management simulation, but I hope to reuse my code at some point, hehe.
The SETTING. I’ve always noticed a plethora of Halloween-themed visual novels covering house parties for the holiday. The main character was usually invited to these parties, resulting in a dating simulator or a spooky scary supernatural event. But what if the main character wasn’t invited? What if… What if the story took place OUTSIDE of the party?
The story! 99% of my stories’ theme inspirations come from real life, whether spoken or experienced. This time it was a combination of the two and they came during the middle of development:
– Don’t judge a book by its cover (obviously)
– But even first, second, third, etc. impressions are not truly telling until a varying amount of time
– Why people judge books by their cover in the first place
– How to give space and be a good listener (which is not as obvious, but I gave a lot of thought to it)
I made it apparent that there’s some kind of bias-wall between everyone throughout the entire story as well, hehe. Kyandi hates robots, and she spreads her assumptions to Fritz, who now also hates robots (thanks Kyandi). Fritz thinks the poor have it simpler, and Kyandi thinks the rich have it easy. Apple, well…
Thus, everyone at the beginning hates each other because of it. 😀
You as well as one of the other winners were a solo dev. Considering you’re also a student, how in the world did you manage to do everything on your own?
Ahaha… Well, I was really lucky that the work period of Spooktober fell the month before the fall quarter at my university, which started in late September, the end of the work period and the beginning of the judging month.
I worked full-time on this thing, averaging around eight hours a weekday (but not necessarily ON weekdays), while I ate, while I talked to people, while brushing, while showering, while I practiced for my driving exam, while I slept. I literally had dreams about ATPG.
This seems to be a common thing for me during game jams, but it gets all the work done! I knew ATPG would be next to games that had some incredibly talented people working on them, some even in teams, so I had quite a fire– no– a scorching BLAZE lit under me. I wanted to make something someone would enjoy, whether it be a long-time fan or someone completely new to the series.
I’m currently studying computer science, so this was also really great practice for my attention span staring for long periods at code (because I’m totally not convincing myself I didn’t spend too much time on it)… But in my prior game jams that occurred when I did have a programming assignment due at 11:59 p.m.?
No. Please, no.
To sum it up, noble, but reasonable, sacrifices were made for Spooktober and ATPG.
While on the topic of managing your project and its development, did anything take longer than expected? Why?
YES. Everything took longer than expected because I didn’t have a plan on how to divide the work up, so I thought to myself…
“It will either end up complete or incomplete.”
Ha– I have a planner actually, but as much as I try, I never manage to use it properly, even for school. That’s how chaotically “organized” I am, I guess? I find it more refreshing to jump around, from writing to composing, to drawing, to programming, to drawing, etc. So in a way, I could also answer “no” to this question.
If I had to say, then the sprites took the longest time out of anything. I didn’t run out of time making them per se, but combining coding to animation to illustration, I would say it took me ~70 hours in total? Maybe more? Probably more.
Character expressions are part of those 70+ hours and are really important to me! Like, I very much enjoy the emotional range of characters from the Danganronpa games. I want to feel like I’m watching a show, so I personally don’t like it when there’s only one sprite of a character that only moves once every twenty lines, even if they have different facial expressions. This is especially if they are significant to the story, like Kyandi and Fritz. Apple has one sprite because she only appears in two scenes out of the ten in ATPG, which thankfully also saved some time.
Writing the story itself? I mention I cut out double the dialogue the player reads in the actual game. In total, there are around 6k words right now, but at some point, there were probably around 8-9k. So while it is an over-exaggeration, it really felt that way. Removing unnecessary dialogue is always hard to do since, as the writer, you already took the time to write it out! It felt like erasing half of a beautifully drawn sketch… But that’s the only way you make the sketch even better.
Making sure all the audio was balanced was a challenge! Well, not a challenge, but a figurative time DEVOURER. Every single sound effect had to be chopped up and tweaked on Audacity as I went since I gathered them from different sources. Amplify. Change pitch. Fade in. Fade out. Left channel. Right channel. Normalize– you get the point. And music… Music is always fun to find since I can draw or clean my room while jamming to the tunes, and if I feel bold enough, I put aside time to try and compose my own pieces for the game! I thought about making all of the soundtrack originals to be considered for the prize in Spooktober, but I knew that music always takes time to come to me and would’ve taken too long. So in the musical regard, maybe I could have had more time for that!
Since I can’t draw backgrounds, the backgrounds were taken from real pictures online and edited and drawn over with the drawing app I use. I wanted to make them look more enchanted and fit the Halloween aesthetic I was going for!
Testing also took… Yeah. I don’t want to think about that. I guess that one had me running up against the clock for the last few days since you can never have enough testing. (*Whispers to self* “striked” is not a word, Mint…)
Finally, there were also some… Distractions.
Mom: “You should sleep! Feed your hamster!”
Me: *already having fed hamster and just had a 3-hour nap, cries*
Dad: “Let’s go bike! Let’s go somewhere!”
Me: *doesn’t know where we’re going and even though is excited to go somewhere, already knows we aren’t going anywhere, cries*
Sister (Ate): “Let’s have a party for [insert literally any reason here]! You’ve gotta LeetCode to land internships!”
Me: *in general, cries*
It all worked out.
At the end of All That (Probably) Glitters, you teased a game starring Apple, Fritz, and Kyandi. Can you give our readers a hint on what kind of adventure the trio will be going on?
Guess it’s a bit of a spoiler to those who haven’t played ATPG yet! But if I must, the trio has to settle down together in the city somehow, right? So, where will they go exactly? What is all of their relationship with each other? Will they be successful at conquering capitalism? What will they do? How? Does the creator even know?
Well, heh, I do know it’s going to either be an RPG and/or something that contributes to the main series I’m working on… *Wink wink*
I do plan to make an extra scene in ATPG with Kyandi, Apple, And Fritz making it to the city. This (or these) scene(s) would consist of all those questions and events up above. 🤭
However, as I am in school right now taking 2-3 hours to commute without a license and still needing to land an internship, I can’t confirm when this extra treat will happen.
Congratulations on winning one of the top prizes! What was your reaction to your win? Has winning impacted you in any way?
My– My reaction??? *Laughs maniacally*
Oh. My. Goodness. You have NO idea. No one has ANY idea.
Except for my family.
If you know me in real life, I’m quite calm 95% of the time. I don’t express much emotion, that’s why…
I freaked out a bit TOO much, resulting in me scaring them and nearly waking someone up. But once I told them what was going on, their support was immense!!! My mom even posted it on her social media AND my dad’s, hahaha… My sister called too! We celebrated by going out to eat some burritos the next day.
Ahhh…~ So fun.
I tried conveying my thoughts on Twitter and Itch.io, but I still feel that it’s not enough. I want to make a YouTube video about it to try to understand WHY my little game got a placement at all. Those on the shortlist, and those that weren’t on the shortlist, when watching people play through them, 100% I believe a LOT of them could have placed too. So why mine?
Like, I remember looking at Spooktober when I barely made a game yet and thinking, “Man… I want to do that someday”.
But all in all, I’m very honored and very grateful. Winning one of the top prizes motivates the heck out of me to keep making games and to keep trying things I’ve never done before.
Outside of continuing the series with Fritz, Apple, and Kyandi, what else do you have in store that you can tell us about?
Oh, future me… Doth thou hath time yet? Hath thou graduated yet? Kindly tell me.
But to YOU, check out my other games! If you don’t know where to start, Excello was a really short prequel to ATPG!
I plan to have a Steam release within the next decade, but for what, I don’t know! Probably the PUQFFAL series!
Speaking of PUQFFAL, the third game I’m currently working on in the series, Acquiesce, is going to have some things I normally wouldn’t be comfortable talking about in real life! I’m still not! I’m scared to release it!
Finally, I someday hope to someday still create comics someday with bite-sized stories of the cast someday!