Witch Hearts - The (Technically Finished) Game Demo

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Witch Hearts - The (Technically Finished) Game Demo

#1 Post by bradleygareth »

Hey there all! Very happy (even if not very proud!) to share with you all our visual novel demo for Witch Hearts!


https://drive.google.com/file/d/1DzQPD5 ... za4yX/view

In lieu of a traditional explanation, I've written a theoretical Q&A to help describe what this is below!

Q & A


1. What is this?

a. Witch Hearts is a visual novel idea that my friends and I came up with about a decade ago, and it started as the dumbest idea imaginable. You see, a couple friends were making light fun of me and the otome games I had begun to book as a voice actor at that time, when they stumbled onto the idea of making a joke otome game themselves, where all the love interests were fictionalized versions of our friend group. In case it isn’t clear, mine was, of course, Bunko. My one friend [Redacted] decided that he wanted to make the game for real, and given that our other friends didn’t feel up to the task (since it was a dumb joke), [Redacted] asked me if I wanted to write for it. I said yes and took it WAY too seriously—I wanted this to be a whole meta-otome game, in kind of the style that I would later associate with Doki Doki Literature Club or Everlasting Summer (both of which did this WAY better).

As you may notice from those two points of reference, I didn’t play and still don’t really PLAY otome games, I just voiced in them and played standard “you’re a guy looking to date ladies” dating sims, so my actual knowledge of it was limited from the start. Plus, at that time, I was a freshman in college and [Redacted] was a senior in high school, so all our ideas were kind of juvenile and half-baked. That said, if there was one thing I was determined to do, it was to see this to its conclusion, if only for this demo. Think of it as kind of like a crappy freshman student film in game form – part passion, part ignorance, part major compromise.

2. Is this a parody of the real otome game WizardessHeart?

a. No! It’s actually a very funny coincidence that game came out over the course of development time. At one point, we thought we’d be able to get the demo out before WizardessHeart’s release, or sometime around it, and sort of cruise by on some sort of synergy with it. Neither I nor [Redacted] have played WizardessHeart, but it looked exactly like the kind of thing we kind of wanted to parody. In retrospect, that’s almost certainly a much better, more earnest attempt that you should probably check out if you enjoyed this demo or idea at all.

3. Why does this end like that?

a. Well, originally the demo was going to end with the revelation that Headmaster Bumblesnore had been murdered, and the rest of the game had soft whodunnit elements. Aki was ultimately going to be the one we implied to do it, only for the true ending (and yes, we did plan for a true ending where Prota does not get with anyone and she discovers inner peace) to reveal that Bumblesnore was a victim to his own depression and had died tragically by accident in a manic episode. This was to tie into the game’s themes of depression and mental illness, where at the end it also would’ve been revealed that the wings, tail, and rainbow hair that Prota has are all ALSO a product of her own mind, and that she is (for the most part) an ordinary girl with neglectful parents who was slowly driving herself insane with loneliness. “Witches” in the game were to eventually be revealed to just be people with magic with severe depression/mental illness, which was going to be this whole metaphor about how society treats people who struggle with that.

It was all way too ambitious and really messy, SO, when we finally closed out this demo that isn’t going to continue on, I thought it best to re-write it to just be a couple fun little jokes. Bumblesnore doesn’t die, he’s just paranoid in the middle of the night. Prota isn’t having a nervous breakdown after finding his body, she’s just getting way too into otome games. Didn’t want to end this whole messy joke with a bummer!

4. Why doesn’t Chiho have a route?

a. It was going to be the first incentive stretch goal on the Kickstarter we had planned. I had a whole stupid marketing campaign planned around it, all of it much too elaborate and in retrospect far too optimistic for the amount of popularity this type of story would’ve garnered, and probably not even enough money to justify the time of all the people we were going to have working on it (me, [Redacted], our several voice actor friends who were the basis for the game, the singers on the theoretical soundtrack release). I thought about writing it into this version, but I didn’t think it fair to go back and write it in after all these years, given that the pretty cringe-y writing has only been very lightly edited to be a little more tasteful.

My fiancé (girlfriend at the time I originally wrote it), the basis for Chiho, still angrily complains to me that she was a stretch goal, but the logic of the time was that the “lesbian route” would’ve been the best incentive to put in front of people, since that’s the most dynamically different and interesting. Sorry to her and everyone else who may be interested, I definitely would’ve enjoyed writing it (even though it would’ve been the same questionable level of quality as the rest)!


1. Why do the characters look so different?

a. This was one of the ideas of the artist, [Redacted], when he pitched the idea. All the characters are roughly based on some specific genre that seemed relevant to the person the character was based on. Prota, having always been conceptualized as just being a parody of otome protagonists instead of being totally based on a specific friend, and Bumblesnore, being an obvious parody we made up way before JK Rowling got outed as a TERF, are the only exceptions to this rule. [Redacted] wants no part in this process, so going off of memory, I think the characters are inspired by the following:

i. Wataru - Disgaea
ii. Bunko – Black Butler (I like the series, though I think this was a joke about the types of characters I voice.)
iii. Chishou – Free!
iv. Aki – Medaka Box
v. Ares – Street Fighter (specifically Akuma, as the basis for Ares loves voicing monsters and was often joked to be one)
vi. Jurou – Kaiji
vii. TRWN – Summer Wars (since TRWN’s real identity was Jurou, this was also a joke about the types of jokes Jurou’s real-life counterpart would play with us online)
viii. Chiho – Fruits Basket

As a special note, Drakashi, a character who occupies an odd spot in the game, was actually drawn by [Redacted]’s roommate at the time. This was to signify that the person who Drakashi was based on was sort of separate from our friends, and we haven’t kept in touch with them in a long time (they were also notorious for disappearing from conversations, thus the joke that they disappear in game all the time).

2. Why are some backgrounds drawn, some unfinished, some blurred stock images?

a. Development for this game was, as you may imagine, hell. I sort of forced myself through a soft crunch period in 2014-2015 to write it, program it, and compose my portion of the music (more on that later). [Redacted] was the only artist for the game (aside from Drakashi, which I just discussed), and so he was forced to deal with all the character sprites and all the backgrounds.

The problems stacked up quickly. [Redacted] started college during development, and over the course of the years after, both of our respective fathers passed away. If you haven’t done art before, I’m not too far off from you, but I can tell you right now that it’s grueling, especially if you’re a perfectionist like [Redacted], who was trying to balance it along with school-work, money troubles, and the aforementioned familial tragedy and fallout. It became clear to both of us that our hearts weren’t really in the project, but I, in my usual bullheaded way, wouldn’t let the project die, so after years of on-and-off work, [Redacted] turned in the last of their work and said that I could just figure out the rest.

We had decided by then that this demo would be all we would make of this, so I was fine with that. I then went through the terrible trouble of having to change over computers and backing stuff up, losing at least one of the backgrounds in the process. Thus, I made do with what we had. I’m just grateful [Redacted] even gave me the art you see here given his skill has improved, he doesn’t like the art he did for this anymore, and I was a real asshole about the whole thing from the start.

3. Why aren’t there fade transitions?

a. Well, when I exported it, the fade transitions just stopped working, so I couldn’t tell you. I’ll get more into other export problems later when we talk about a Mac version, so just you wait.


1. Why are some songs MIDI and others aren’t?

a. When conceiving of the project, [Redacted] and I both knew that we wanted to write music for it. I had more of a classical music training background, and [Redacted] was the real music lover with a bunch of different programs to make music that sounded good. Where I wrote sheet music, [Redacted] mostly worked in FL Studio and similar programs.

The plan, as I remember it, was that we would do the music about half and half in terms of writing it, and [Redacted] would master most of it. I wrote all of the MIDI tracks in Noteflight (the logical successor to the program I used in school, Finale), and [Redacted] would work on arranging it to sound good while submitting his own tracks.

Much like with the art, music takes a lot of time, and at a certain point, given that we wrote so much music, [Redacted] got exhausted with the work in conjunction with everything else, so we decided to let some of the original MIDI tracks go un-arranged.

2. Why weren’t some songs in the file used?

a. I don’t really anticipate anyone digging through the source files, but I figured I’d put this here just in case. We wrote way more music than we figured we’d need for the demo, in part because we wanted to have music ready to go for the full game for all these scenarios we had planned out.

I still think we should be proud of the music we made (I’m a particular fan of the Witch Hearts March, Chill by the Pool, and White Lullaby tracks, I think those came out really well), and we may try to put it on like Spotify or Bandcamp or whatever website you can do that on now that doesn’t suck. Neither of us really has experience in doing so, so if anyone has suggestions, I’m sure we’d be open to it.

3. Why are sound effects inconsistent?

a. Ah, now you see, this is where I got exhausted in my part of the project. I’ve technically been holding onto all the visuals and music that I could have for a couple years now, and it was just up to me to actually code them all in. Well, I got them during the start of the COVID pandemic, and I’ve been focusing on my voice acting career when I haven’t been dealing with all of life’s other stresses, so all of this just got put on the back burner.

The process of putting in SFX seemed all the more time consuming and draining when I was adding in the sprites into Ren’py, so I figured it was good enough to ship out. This is already a largely taped-together product I’ve labelled “good enough” to show people, so I didn’t want to stress about fine tuning the sounds.


1. Why is only one part voice acted?

a. The cutscene animation at the beginning of the game was conceived of by [Redacted], and I put it together accordingly into the file. Prota’s planned voice actor, Hayden Daviau, had recorded lines some 10 or so odd years ago (apologies to Hayden for that), so we put them in. I think there may be a few mutterings from myself and [Redacted] in that same scene, but I can’t remember anymore.

2. Will this ever be fully voice acted?

Originally that was the plan, but no. I was going to voice Bunko and all our friends would voice the characters based on them, BUT I decided that if I wasn’t going to mess with SFX anymore, it wasn’t fair to either use more lines from a decade ago or have our friends waste their precious time recording for this dead-end project. When we started, we were all in school or preparing for whatever came after—nowadays, we’re all working to make rent and pursue other things, so I figured it’s best to just let this be where it is.

The only time we really may actually voice this thing is in my living room, for free, privately, just to annoy [Redacted].


1. Can this run on Mac?

a. No! And the reason for that is simple—look at the answer to the next question.

2. Will you ever continue working on this?

a. Well, first of all, no, because neither I nor [Redacted] have anything more than a passing relationship to otome games and want to work on other projects closer to our core interests. It’s not meant to be offensive to otome games—on the contrary, our position is that this sort of parody, or even an earnest otome game, should be made by someone that really loves the genre and enjoys playing it. Even if I voice in them, I don’t PLAY them in my free time—how could I ever truly appreciate them and make something other people would appreciate? Performing it is one thing, but writing it is another.

Second of all, no, because I can’t. I actually logistically can’t, because I messed up the source file.

Earlier this week, I made a test build to show my friends (including [Redacted]), and I made small corrections that they informed me of (typos, wrong files, etc.).

As one final adjustment, I really wanted there to be a sound for when you clicked a choice in the game, but I couldn’t get the sound to work. I looked at forum posts and reddit posts and everywhere I could try, but I quickly realized they were likely talking about coding in a more updated version of Ren’py than the one I downloaded in 2014. “Alright,” I said, foolishly, “I’ll just update Ren’py.”

And then it wouldn’t load. At all. I panicked. Did this game WANT to die? I wondered. Finally, I discovered the only thing I could do is redo the minor updates I could on the finished test build by using NOTEPAD for programming (probably a sin, I don’t know enough about coding to say). Thus, the version I edited there is the version you have in front of you now.

As far as I can tell, I can literally never come back to Witch Hearts. Perhaps it is better this way. If you squint at it the right way, it’s almost poetic.

3. Why did you still release this?

a. Stubbornness? Neurodivergence? A sense of obligation? All of the above? Hard to say.

One thing I can say for sure is that I love all my friends depicted here (and the one who requested their portion be removed from the game entirely, which I also fully understand). This game represents a time where we held so much hope for the future, so much raw ambition, when we would cook up all kinds of schemes for stories, games, videos, you name it. And even though I see those friends, our schedules make it so it can’t be as often.

There were times in college when I was on Skype calls in this group of friends for almost 24 hours, finally passing out way too late after spending way too much time playing video games or watching anime.

Those were some of the best times of my life.

Even if this project was dumb, even if I handled it stupidly, even if [Redacted] thinks it sucks and wants nothing to do with it, I still feel some of the stupid, naïve love we put into it, and I remember it fondly.

We learned from Witch Hearts. I’d like to think I’m a better writer now, and [Redacted] has certainly honed his skills as an artist.

But we made Witch Hearts. I want to remember it, and when, someday, we hopefully make works that are much better with a lot less stress involved, I want to be able to point at Witch Hearts and go “that’s where we started.”

It’s our crappy freshman student film, in otome game demo format.

If nothing else, I hope it makes you laugh as much as it makes me.

Thank you, both to all of you who play this and to all the people who had to hear about it all these years.

We’re done with Witch Hearts.

On to the next adventure!

Bradley Gareth


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