Deepus Donkus - Goose Wizard February 16, 2022 An Interview with NaughtyRoad


An Interview with NaughtyRoad

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with the developer of Light of my Life recently, Naughty Road, and got to peer into both his beginning in the industry and his development process

Q: It’s always good to start with a foundation. Without giving away too many details, where were you before you started your journey in being a creative?

A: I’m not sure if there was a single moment where that just “turned on” so to say. As a kid I was always busy drawing and painting or assembling or crafting something, and making up little stories to go with what I created. That kinda slowed down when I grew older and found myself drawn to computers and a career in engineering and IT, and my hobbies shifted towards gaming. But it never really went away, and when I stumbled upon the indie adult VN scene and was captivated by it (and ultimately, also a little disappointed for how much of it was proof for Sturgeon’s Law), I got the itch to step up and take a swing.

Q: When did you first get into adult games, and what attracted you to them?

A: Adult games in one form or another have been around for a while, and so have I, and I think some of the first ones I played might have been all the way back when I got my first IBM XT clone and a copy of Strip Poker on a 5.25” floppy. But for the most part, adult gaming didn’t amount to much those days (at least not much that was interesting) and I’d be lying if I said I considered them be anything but a cheap laugh or a gimmick that soon lost my interest.

At some point in the naughties I stumbled upon Hentai games, and while I was quick (maybe too quick) to discard Japan’s VNs (I felt they usually amounted to little more than badly translated walls of texts over sparse static images harping on tropes I didn’t care much about), some of the other game types were interesting for a bit, until the hollow game play, lack of interesting character interaction and boring mechanics made me lose interest again. Those games tended not to last too long after I was done fiddling with the character creators, and perhaps that’s telling.

It wasn’t until I ran across the indie VN community surrounding what some describe as Western VNs that I found myself drawn into adult gaming for real. I think it was the fact that here was something packaged as a game that provided the potential for compelling story telling. It was a wonderful mix of erotic stories, visuals, and interaction, and I think the promise of those three ingredients is what drew me in.

Q: After your first Adult Game, where did you go from there?

A: Heh. To a second game, and a third, and so on. I started playing whatever I could get my hands on. I worked my way through the A list, then the B list, then down to the C list, until finally I was sifting through the dregs for that next fix. In some ways it was like starting out on a wonderful roller coaster ride that somehow, slowly, turned into a slog through a wasteland filled with garbage and creeps

Q: The jump between playing a game to developing a game can be the difference between living in a house vs. building a house. What was the impetus that made you take the leap into creating your own game?

A: I think it was that feeling of “is that all there is?”, that slog through the garbage filled wastes I ended up with. That somehow, apart from these precious few wonderful titles, most of what was being produced was low grade drivel being put together by well intentioned amateurs and grifters alike. So I decided to join in on the side of well intentioned amateurs to see if I could add something that someone like me would enjoy playing. That ended up becoming Light of my Life.

Q: What feeling are you trying to give to the players of your game?

A: Enjoyment first of all. I want players to enjoy their experience and I don’t want to stress them out with ”challenges” that will just get in the way of that.
I don’t want players to sweat over the right response to a character asking ”what is your favorite color?” because a “wrong” answer limits their options down the road. Or for them to find out that an interaction with love interest A three chapters back locked them out of love interest B, whom they actually liked more.

So that kind of stuff isn’t in Light of my Life. Instead, if (hypothetically) someone were to ask you ”what is your favorite color?” in Light of my Life, somewhere down the line that character might end up buying you a blue pair of socks ”because that’s your favorite color, right?”

I feel the challenge shouldn’t be the player figuring out what the right response is for the game to give them something they like, the challenge is for the developer to figure out how to make the game react to a response the player made in a way that gives the player something they like. So the puzzle isn’t actually the player’s to solve, it’s for the developer.

After that, the second feeling I want to give players is, well, feeling anything at all, I guess. I think that’s something that is lacking from a lot of stuff that is produced. It ends up being a mirthless ritual going through the proscribed moves because that’s how a succesful VN is supposed to go, and at the end there’s a lewd for your trouble. I feel that’s a lost opportunity. So I’d like them to get to know the characters and feel for them and with them.

And if, somewhere in that process, I got the player all hot and bothered over some sexy shenanigans, I’ll consider that mission accomplished.

Q: What do you want them to walk away with after playing?

A: Hopefully, feeling satisfied, and perhaps a little closer to the characters in the game.

Q: The characters in your game certainly get a mixed response, because of their unique physical features. Can you tell us about your thought process in their creation, and how you felt about the community’s mixed reactions?

A: As anyone that’s played any number of VNs that use DAZ3d to render out the graphics can attest, there’s a definite tendency for developers to reuse the same stock DAZ-store models every other VN.

Intentional or not, from a business perspective it makes sense, since it requires little to no investment of effort on the design side, and you might attract a supporter over to your game just because you have that model they liked so much from that other, highly successful game. But some players, like me, get heartily tired of seeing those same overused models, and that’s why, when I set out, I decided I wouldn’t use stock characters.

Q: What was the hardest thing for you to do in regards to game development?

A: Making a game like Light of my Life takes up an incredible amount of time for a single person, and that means giving up a great many things you simply don’t have time for anymore. For instance, I used to spend a lot of time gaming, but I hardly do anymore. Normal gaming time is scrapped almost entirely, and I just make time for the occasional adult VN now. But if I’m honest, that’s not really the hardest part, because I do love making games just as much as I loved playing them. Perhaps the hardest part is not losing myself in it completely and making sure I spend time on the other important things in my life on occasion, like my wife and family.

For their design, I looked to the people I see every day; friends and family, people at work or just walking down the street of this modern Western European city I live in. That’s also one of the reasons there’s quite a bit more variation in body types in Light of my Life than in many other games. Real people come in all shapes and sizes, and I wanted that in Light of my Life.

My intention wasn’t to make a perfect body or a perfect face for the characters in the game, because ultimately those are boring. I wanted to instill a sense of personality into the characters, and from the fan feedback I get, it seems that worked pretty much as intended.

Coming back to the part about the mixed reaction, such as it is: since I modeled the characters after people I see around me everywhere, most of the time I don’t really get that. Or, let me try to nuance that a bit:

I get when someone says “they’re not the type I’m attracted to”. Tastes vary, and there’s nothing wrong with passing on something or someone that just isn’t your thing.

Then there’s that tendency of devs to reuse the same models I mentioned. To some people, using models that don’t fit that look just feels “off”, like that’s not how VNs are supposed to look, and they need a moment to adjust to it before they’re ready get on board. I get that too.

Then there’s that guy that just posts some LOL sprinkled message about big nosed goblins, gypsies and monkeys. To me, it’s like seeing someone looking like Jenkins the Griefer run up to a perfectly ordinary looking girl in the street to yell “god ur so ugly, wouldn’t fuck you if you paid me!” at her as she flinches from the fine spray of spittle launched into her startled face. It just immediately identifies them as sad, angry incels while the codewords often used in their messages tell you everything else you need to know about them.
You can’t please everyone, and God knows I’m not even trying, but I’m quite content to be self-selecting against that particular type of douche, and I’d happily see them take their business, such as it is, down the road.

Q: How much planning goes into each chapter?

A: I usually take a week or two to take the broad outline I made when I started on Light of my Life and translate that into a sort of day-by-day agenda of what happens in the chapter. That can be anything from a single line that says something like “sit on couch and discuss event X” to a couple of paragraphs with notes and ideas and fragments of dialog I jotted down at some point. From that, I just start creating scenes, beginning at the top of the list and working my way down.

Q: What does your creative process look like?

A: There’s a few of those processes, and they all sort of blend into each other.

First, there’s the writing process. I don’t really want to hammer down too much in my outline for the chapter to leave room for improvisation (I tend to ad-lib quite a bit, and let the characters do the talking and take the scene where they feel).

Next I usually plan out what visuals I need to create once I have the dialog done, although sometimes it’s reversed and I sort of build the scene around a visual I have in my mind and work from there.
The actual creating and setting up the visuals is done using DAZ3d. That part takes the longest time by far, and more often than not ideas will come to me during the creation of the visuals, making me go back to the dialog and change it.

Then the final part is actually putting the dialog and visuals together, and at that point I tend to fine tune the timing and rhythm of a scene and change the wording so the dialog flows well. And it’s not uncommon here to go back once more to the visuals and tweak them because they don’t quite work, or create some extra emote or transition image to make a scene run more smoothly.

So there’s really quite a bit of going back and forth before a scene is done.

Q: How big is the game going to be once it’s finished?

A: Right now, there’s at least two, maybe three more chapters in the works. But there might well be more, I’m not quite sure myself yet to be honest. Some things only reveal themselves while I’m writing, so I’ll have to see what the characters have to say about it, and there’s definitely quite a few threads that need resolving and provide plenty of options for one adventure or another. Bottom line though is that it has to be interesting. I’m not a fan of just dragging things out to keep things running a little while longer, either as a consumer or a creator.

Q: Where did you get the inspiration for your characters and story?

A: The characters are definitely inspired by the women around me, who are strong and vulnerable, beautiful and flawed. For me, it’s very easy to love these characters, and I hope that sort of shines through in the game.

The story inspiration is a bit more complex. I’d actually planned for my “big thing” to be some fantasy romp, and I created First Contact (my first game) as a training project where I could just proof-of-concept the whole VN making process, and work out how to put up a solid basis while getting all the inevitable rookie mistakes out of my system.

The second, bigger training project was going to be Light of my Life. I figured using a contemporary setting would make it easier to get started with limited assets and funding, and it would allow me to grow into making that more complex fantasy romp.

In all honesty, I had no idea Light of my Life was going to grow into what it became. I knew that I didn’t want to do a “yay ur landlady’s ded lets smash” kind of approach you see too often as part of that mirthless ritual of “doing stuff because that’s what happens in these types of VNs”, but I found the characters actually had a lot more to say to me about that aspect than I thought they would, and they kinda took it from there and turned Light of my Life into what it became. And I haven’t regretted letting them for a moment.

Q: Were there any events or people that you credit as being major influences?

A: Quite a lot really. I love reading English literature, and even though I’m not a native speaker (nor do I live in an English speaking nation), there’s a lot of great writers that instilled a love of the language in me to a point where I feel quite at ease expressing myself in it. If I had to name just two it’d be Iain (M.) Banks and Terry Pratchett, but there’s a ton of other fantastic writers out there.
More specifically about adult games, there’s all the fantastic adult VN developers putting out content at the time I got started, that showcased what VNs could be (and perhaps in some ways, made me think about what I felt was missing too). An adult VN like Light of my Life doesn’t exist in a vacuum and it wouldn’t have been made without them paving the way.

Q: What is the #1 thing that you think matters most when going through this personal dev journey?

A: I think staying close to yourself, if that makes sense. A lot of people will come to you with opinions about what you’re creating, and while some of that is very useful input, it’s important to keep in mind what you want to do with the game in the first place and follow through on that vision. Which means having a vision in the first place of course, but that’s another matter entirely.

Q: What is one piece of advice you wish you could go back in time and give to yourself?

A: Don’t worry about the people who absolutely hate, hate, hate what you are doing. You never set out to make something that pleases everyone, don’t be surprised if it turns out it doesn’t.

Q: What are you passionate about? What gets you up in the morning bright-eyed and bushy tailed and ready to move forward?

A: I really love what I’m doing and I don’t find it hard to be motivated about it. But one of my favorite things is the monthly-ish wallpaper I do for patrons/supporters. Those are a way for me to break away from the demands of production and just focus on having fun with a visual and set myself a few technical challenges that I wouldn’t be able to explore normally. That really allows me to do a little reset in my head and get back to production work refreshed and perhaps with a few new ideas.

Q: For every one person who is doing it, whatever it is, there are twenty people thinking and dreaming, but not taking action. What would you say to them?

A: Oh, I’d definitely say: go for it! It’s the most fun a person could have with their clothes on. But start out with something small, manageable and finite, and save your “big idea“ for the second or the third project. There’s plenty of pitfalls on the way and you want to pace yourself until you’ve built the skills you need to do your best ideas justice. Oh, and the learning never stops.

Q: Do your friends and family know that you’re a dev? If so, what do they think?

A: Some friends do, and my wife recently came out to a few of our family members about it too, and they didn’t seem too phased by it. I’m really interested to see where that goes.

I’m not quite sure if I’m ready to have them discuss details about the latest update over dinner at some family get-together. But I’m happy that these types of games are slowly becoming something you don’t need to hide or feel ashamed about. Erotica and sex are wonderful things and I feel it should be okay to acknowledge that we enjoy playing these games that deal with those subjects.

Q: Your Patreon says you have no idea what you are doing, which honestly hits pretty close to home for most of us. Has that ever gotten better?

A: Heh, no, not at all. I think there’s sort of two parts to that statement though.

First of all, I really do have no idea what I’m doing. I’m just having fun, and I think it’s wonderful and amazing that quite a few people enjoy the weird stuff I put out.

But there’s also a cautionary element to it, too, as a message to myself. Like, don’t get cocky and feel you have it all under control, or that you have any idea where this is going. No one can tell. Just enjoy the ride, that way if it all goes belly-up at some point, at least you had a great time doing it.

Q: What are you most looking forward to next?

A: Right now, a nice Sunday lunch with the missus, and then getting stuck in on some new visuals for the game. Speaking long term, it’s getting another chapter wrapped up and in the hands of the fans (although that’s still a bit off) and getting the game out on Steam as well at some point, probably around the same time as the next chapter comes out (shameless plug: please wishlist Light of my Life on Steam, it’ll help with the visibility of the game a lot). And for the bit in between, just spending some more time exploring these characters and what they’ll be doing next.

Thanks to Naughty Road for agreeing to this interview. If you would like to support them, you can do so here or here.

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Anders Svensson
Anders Svensson
1 year ago

Thank you both for a great interview!

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