Recently we did an interview with BachelorSoft, an indie game developer exploring the open road and the fraught realities of bath towels. Contact them at @bachelorsoft or check out http://www.bachelorsoft.com. See below for the full interview. Hope you enjoy it!
Etg: Hey there, how’s it going?
Bachelor: Hey! I am doing fabulous. It is cool out and I am sipping a martini. I am not wearing a velvet smoking jacket or slippers but let’s pretend I am. How are you doing?
Etg: Pretty good. I currently wish I was as chill as you. Am staring outside at the nice weather from my apartment, feeling too ugly to go outside.
Bachelor: OK I lied I’m not chill at all. I just chewed out someone online cuz they had a bad opinion about an old timey anime, then ate my shame by slurping down three huge helpings of spaghetti. So I feel like an ugly, bloated mess. Probably gonna be wearing my fall jacket whenever I leave the house over the next few days even though it’s been so damn hot. Probably gonna be kinda puffy for awhile. Not gonna be comfortable with all that bloat. So I might look a bit odd but I like to think my cool green shades will distract from my lumpiness. I know no matter what’s wrong with me… I got those shades.
Etg: Those sound like some awesome shades
(I feel like I should ask for a picture, but also that it would be inappropriate, heh)
Bachelor: A cashier once said they were “very Minecraft” and I was like “I thought they were more Gumby.” She didn’t know who Gumby was. I’m not someone to say “I felt old” because I am very young and saying such a thing would be silly but at that moment I did feel like maybe there was a generation gap there. I can’t help getting older but I can get mad at TV, public schools, and on-line for not teaching the kids about Gumby.
Etg: Mm… I dunno, even when I was younger I think a lot of people didn’t know who Gumby was
Or they were like… tangentially aware of Gumby
Bachelor: I am usually very shy about things but here, this is a photo of me wearing sunglasses. Also there is a cat. I did not consume half my bodyweight in pasta that day so I looked pretty clean and felt rather good.
Etg: Nice – and you’re right, those are pretty Gumby – Minecraft’s too pastel for a color like that I think
Anyway – interviews and such
So, I have some questions about the game, but we can also just chat about whatever as well, depending on what you’re feeling based on the question – I’ll try to be natural (I know I’m not, I apologize ahead of time)
Etg: Alrighty – so when did you first start working on games?
(I know that’s kind of a staid question, but I’m always curious about history)
Bachelor: I’ve been into games my whole life but making one seemed like an awful lotta work. Like, you probably had to do math and shit, and I didn’t wanna bother with that. But around the start of 2012 I read Angie Gallant’s Hatoful Boyfriend Let’s Play and played a teeny bit of that game where you’re a high school student who bangs amputees. I loved the former, hated the latter, but both made me realize making a really dumb game might be really damn easy. You just needed words and pictures and maybe some music. So I started messing around with game development and whaddaya know, it was way easier than I thought. Thanks, Ren’py.
Etg: What was the first game you released?
Also, I know it’s kinda jumping back a bit – but was there anything about those particular games, the amputee game or Hatoful Boyfriend, that moved you towards development (wanting to improve on the story or explore a different or similar idea, the art, the sound, etc.)?
Bachelor: I haven’t released a damn thing. Occasionally I’d just set aside a weekend and make a game. Then I’d just throw it in a virtual drawer and forget about it. Sometimes I’d let friends play them but for the most part they were just something fun to toy with, and I’m selfish. I don’t like to share my toys.
The first game I made was about two closeted gay schoolboys. They were on a class trip, right? Real fancy one, where they’re on a plane. But the plane nosedives, and before it plummets into the ocean these kids finally confess their love. They kiss, and if they kiss really good — with tongues and everything — maybe they save the day and the plane doesn’t crash. It got pretty lewd and rude but it was also cute. Which may be why I never shared it. I have a bad boy rep to uphold, y’know?
As for what I saw in Hatoful Boyfriend and the teenage sex sim…well, I am often inspired by shit I really hate. Like I will see something that gets me so mad I just wanna make my own, better version of it. So that’s what Katawa Shoujo did, and nearly every visual novel I’ve played has aroused similar feelings. Nearly all Japanese VNs are way too long, and to me that negates whatever merits they may have. Hatoful Boyfriend is one exception, but even though it’s relatively short it’s more fun to read about than to actually play.
So I saw some potential in the genre but I still didn’t think it was worth putting serious effort into making a game. I had a lot of other art to make that excited me way more, cuz back then…games were kinda crummy for awhile there, right? I probably dumped tens of thousands of hours into fighting games over the last decade, but between 2007 and 2015 the number of non-fighters that enriched my life can be counted on two, maybe three hands. And none of them were story heavy games. None were artsy fartsy stuff. They were almost all action games. Shit for the “diehard gamer”, y’know? Even though I’m not a gamer. I will never apply that label to myself. Not even at gunpoint. I’m that strong, and not fearful of guns.
Etg: Yeah, I’ve never been a fan of the term gamer… I kinda hate having to be associated with it at the academic institution I’m currently at (and I just hate the usage/term in general… it just sounds bad).
(just a personal opinion, but just about all Japanese RPGs or VNs I’ve played have felt too damn long – too much padding, not a lot of content) I guess the difference is that never really made me think I could do better (apologies for interrupting)
Yeah, it’s become this weird assumption that somehow a videogame is more relevant because it’s 80 hours… I dunno who those people are who think an 80 hour game is something people want to play, especially when the majority of the play is literally doing the same thing for most of those 80 hours (with an occasional FMV cutscene of characters in ridiculous costumes)
Bachelor: I tend to be a real wordy dude but I tried to keep all my story games short, cuz books exist. You can read an awful lotta books in the time it takes to play your average visual novel. I respected the player’s time. And mine, cuz the longer the game the longer it takes to make and boy, I wanted to spend time on other things, like playing with my dogs. Last year I made a game called Dog Time that was about forging a psychic link with a dog. I put more effort into it than my previous games, but I felt guilty the entire time I was working on it, cuz my real dogs were usually at my feet whining because I was ignoring them in favor of a virtual mutt.
Etg: These are pretty rad
Bachelor: Thanks. Again, I was very big on doing things cheap and fast, so all the backgrounds are just stuff I googled and the drawings are all sketches drawn on paper, using a Sharpie, photographed with my phone, and cropped in Gimp (yes, I’m that cheap).
Etg: Assuming you had the time, what would you change about [it]?
Bachelor: I probably would have taken background photos myself. I’d also change the GUI or whatever. This was when I was making a real effort to learn how computers work, and what you should type into them to make things look pretty. Trying to level up my skills so I could work on my first real big project, which was a dating sim titled May December.
Bachelor: I saw some people on twitter talking about a dating game jam back in…2013, I think? And I thought “I’ll try that.” So, I spent the weekend working on a game about escorting your ailing grandmother to her 60th high school reunion.
Again, tried to do it as quick and cheap as I could, so I just traced some photos of old timey celebs, added enough flair that that they weren’t immediately recognizable, and used a bunch of stock photos and music.
Etg: That’s one of the most human story ideas I’ve heard for a videogame
Bachelor: Yeah, it was a game all about hard times. The player character’s unemployed, ill, and living with their grandma. She goes to this reunion, and all these old folks offer her something that can help her get out of that predicament. But there’s always a catch. All the endings are bad in some way. You kill the guys, or end up in a loveless, sexless relationship, or get busted by the feds for plotting to overthrow the government. It was all very unhappy! And, I hoped, funny. But mostly unhappy.
I was making really good progress on that dating game jam. I was sure I was gonna hit that deadline. But on the final day, I was feeling kinda groggy so I swiped some pep pills from my sister and ended up spending 12 straight hours editing Photoshop palettes and exfoliating my feet instead of finishing the game. I didn’t realize how much time I’d lost until I looked out the window and saw it was pitch black outside. I didn’t realize how drugs worked! I blew it! I was so ashamed.
So, I was so ashamed of myself for breaking the law and blowing the deadline I shelved the game. It remained at the back of my mind, and I’d still occasionally come up with ideas and jot down notes, but I felt no pressing need to actually make it.
But then I played the Ladykiller in a Bind demo. I loved that so much. I’d spent years hesitant to make a text heavy game cuz every time I played one I’d quit after 5 minutes to go play Guilty Gear. But Ladykiller was different; it was funny, cool, slick, and done in Ren’py, which I was somewhat familiar with. It was something to aspire to, which is maybe a better reason to make a game than spite. So I revived May December. Spent a few months working on it. Was making okay progress. But shit kinda took a dark turn at the end of the last year, y’know? I had troubles at home, and of course the world outside went totally coocoo, so I was just like “yep, okay, not comfortable doing a cynical downer project right now.” Thankfully around this time DDD: THE NATURAL PLAYBOYS popped into my head. So I just transitioned to that.
Etg: Huh. Like, gotta ask – why’d you feel ashamed about [blowing the deadline]?
Bachelor: I always feel ashamed if I blow a deadline, self-imposed or not. I try to be as punctual as possible! I also had a lotta other stuff on my plate, and it seemed foolish to invest anymore time in game development. I really liked the May December concept and wasn’t hot on the idea of leaving it as some small thing, but I lacked the confidence/technical knowledge do it justice. Also that gamejam build had a ton of bugs that I didn’t know how to fix and I was too lazy to learn. I’ve learned a lot since then though. I’m very competent and no longer lazy and I promise: it’s not because I’m addicted to amphetamines.
Etg: Ah, I see
Etg: I can see why you wouldn’t want to make a downer game given all the current political shit – it’s been pretty rough for everyone (am currently worried about healthcare)
Bachelor: (Also, if I could change shit about May December it would be a huge overhaul where it would look and sound like a friggin’ PC-98 game, with overhauled character designs, completely original backgrounds and music, and I’d do everything myself and I’d probably die from it.)
Yeah, incredibly worried about healthcare myself. The only reason I’ve been able to work on DDD so much is cuz I’ve had healthcare. Without it I’d be fucked.
Etg: heh, PC-98 is a nice aesthetic but yeah, that’d probably be pretty killer
Etg: So how did DDD morph into the project it is, and what made (or makes) you decide to make something new?
Bachelor: One night back in October of 2016 I was chatting on-line about odd, old games, and how so many of them had “D” in the title. Yet there was no game titled D3. So I jokingly said, “I am going to make a game called D3: THE NATURAL PLAYBOYS”. I often threaten to make things, and people usually roll their eyes or just ignore me, but this time two beautiful people dared me to do it.
So, I said OK. I’ll make this game, starting now, at 1AM on a weekday.
I figured I’d do another quick and dirty job, so I went and found some ancient dirty magazines and scoured their pages for good character faces. I intended to cut them out and use them in the game. But God, pornography is really embarrassing. None of the faces are good. They all look real rude and like they’re not even enjoying themselves!
Then I noticed I had this Hypercard-style framework in Ren’py. I’d downloaded it way earlier, made a half-finished game in it, forgot all about it.
But I saw it and I was like “well, let’s try doing pixel art for the first time”. So, I did, and I posted it online, and said “If anyone replies to this I will make the game.” And I got replies. So I kept going with it, and the more I worked on it the more I loved it. Now I’ve been working on it for almost a year. It’s been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I’ve learned that everyone should make games. It’s a lot of fun.
At first, I was heavily referencing 90’s CD-ROM games, even though that doesn’t really match the HyperCard aesthetic…. this is because I’m a true bad boy, and do not follow the rules. But the more I worked the less interested I was in doing callbacks to old junk. It’s gradually evolved into its own thing, though I don’t think the overall premise — a gal in a towel goes on an unplanned, absolutely miserable road trip — has changed much.
Etg: What pointed you to that premise? Inspiration from the D games (also, which is your favorite D game/why)?
Bachelor: To me the #1 D game is Dodonpachi. But the runner up would be D2. It strikes a sweet balance between being totally batshit and pleasantly playable. Though I do appreciate D4’s emphasis on eating food and reading magazines. I wish more games were just about eating and reading.
As for what inspired DDD…I came of age during that CD-ROM boom. I remember the hype for VIRTUAL SEX. I didn’t get to experience any of that virtual sex firsthand but from the outside it seemed to mostly be super compressed full-motion-video shower scenes. So, a few days after starting the project I woke up and thought, “What if the lead character takes a shower? And then she gets locked out of her apartment while wearing nothing but a towel.” Cuz that’s pretty much my worst nightmare. And my sweetest dream is the great American road trip. I haven’t really been on one since I was a kid, but I spent most of my life fantasizing about going coast to coast in the USA. I wanted my own Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure. My Sam & Max Hit the Road. To take in this totally chintzy, oddball America that doesn’t exist anymore. Shit, that probably never existed. I wanted to go to all the rest stops and tourist traps and dive bars and terrible chain restaurants and national monuments and bad scenes. It never happened, so now I’m making a game about it.
Etg: I feel like all of that is still there – but the veneer is scraped away. And yeah, I know that feeling really intimately, given my parents often took us on roadtrips as kids.
Bachelor: I figured I’d set the game in Florida, after California fell into the ocean, as that was a hyped up doomsday scenario when I was growing up. And I figured Florida is definitely the Weirdest State of the Union. I can put anything down there and no one will bat an eye.
Etg: Like, the tourist trap isn’t just there for itself, it’s part of some bigger, odder plan – and it wasn’t as obvious before I guess (probably because I was a kid).
Bachelor: Have you ever been to a Stuckey’s? God, I wish I’d been to a Stuckey’s. Even though I know it would disappoint me. It’s probably no different from your average Mobil station but Sam & Max really hyped that place up for me.
Etg: Can’t say I have – we went to Philadelphia, and also climbed the Statue of Liberty (back when you could do that)
Went to Wisconsin, to the Grand Canyon, to the Redwood forest… all of which were great, but yeah, having gone back to some of those places when I was older it felt… I dunno. I genuinely don’t know how I felt about those places going back to them.
Bachelor: Oh yeah I did that once too! I didn’t realize they never lifted that ban on climbing the Statue of Liberty. That’s so silly. Those are all great places. I haven’t been to any of them! Except for Wisconsin. I used to go to Wisconsin a lot when I lived in Chicago. Just to go eat at truck stops. Then I’d come home. I… I love the road…
Etg: I do too, but I haven’t been able to drive for a long time (health issue)
I miss it – but I think I miss the time with the people in those cars more.
I’ve kinda gotten used to it – but it’s also pretty tough being in America and having to tell people you can’t drive. Though maybe that’s helped me retain some of my wanderlust for the mythology of the road, rather than the practical realities of it, heh
Bachelor: Ah man I’m sorry. I only recently started driving again. Had to stop cuz of health issues too. Earlier this year I went on my first long trip by my lonesome in many years, and it was fun at first, but by the end I was going kinda crazy. Definitely made me realize that the real draw of a road trip is sharing it with other people.
I used to live in the suburbs and couldn’t drive anywhere and it was just brutal. Mostly cuz just doing anything is nightmare, but just talking about it with other people is stressful as hell. One question leads to another, y’know? And none of the answers are pleasant.
Etg: I live pretty close to a city but still, until I’m actually in a city it’s definitely rough – America is vast, and still mostly empty (I’d say even more empty today but that’s more like spiritually than physically)
Bachelor: Until recently I lived across the street from a train station so I could easily go into NYC but boy, that stuff cost an arm and a leg so I rarely went. But it was nice.
Etg: I lived in NY for a while – was simultaneously the most free I’ve ever felt and at the same time, the most caged. Still, would love to go back there if I had the opportunity
Bachelor: It’s nice! I’m still in New York but upstate a bit. Everyone in this town seems very weird. It is kinda freaking me out.
Etg: I think a weird town is good – normal’s overrated
Bachelor: Yup! I’m just trying to grow accustomed to it. I’ve spent quite some time in extreme isolation so it’s a bit of a shock to be in a place where people, like, try and interact with other people.
Etg: I’ve always found that I tended to need to go to find the other weird people… like just find that right group, and things tended to work pretty ok from there
Bachelor: I am definitely going to try and get in with some people here. And then start a cult. Or a hockey team. It would finally give me an excuse to learn how to ice skate.
Etg: A cult hockey team
Bachelor: Well there’s the next DDD character right there.
Well – I think this got a little tangential, but if it’s ok with you, I think we should finish up
You’re the boss, daddeh. Whatever you want…I will deliver…even The End.
Etg: Anything else about the game or other stuff before we wrap up?
Bachelor: My goal with DDD: THE NATURAL PLAYBOYS is to make the best possible game about a famous lady wandering around Future Florida (AKA Miami South: The NEW Hollywood) in a damp towel. She will be barefoot and bitchy and probably not learn any lessons but hopefully you, the player, will. You will learn how to laugh, and love, and maybe how to clean and treat wounded feet cuz holy moly it’s gotta be rough hitting the road with bare soles.
My secondary goal is to dupe at least 5 other people into making the best, dumbest, most human game they possibly can. Cuz games are way easier to make than I ever thought, and more cool people should be making them.
My third goal is to make a billion dollars. If anyone reading this is rich please ring me up. If you give money I promise I won’t spend it on anything silly. It would 100% go to funding the perverted arts. Maybe then we could get 10 really dumb, really human games made. Thank you.
Etg: hah, nice. Thanks so much for your time!