Aside from being the mastermind behind the creative and unique game After-Party Chemistry: Let’s Study Together, Ari is a game developer, comic artist, and illustrator. She’s released several games including Devious, Froot Basket Valentine, and Fleeting. You may have also seen Ari’s name as a collaborator on other studios’ projects such as Celestia, Heroine for Hire, and What Grows in the Night.
We got to sit down with Ari to talk about how she found her start creating visual novels, the future of After-Party Chemistry: Let’s Study Together, and more!
Can you tell us a little bit about who you are and what inspired your visual novel development journey?
Hello! I’m Ari! I’m a self-taught hobby artist, comic creator, and visual novel developer! I grew up playing flash dating sims on DeviantART and NewGrounds and I thought, “Wow! These are so cool! I wanna try making stuff like this too!” So, I played around with free trials of Adobe Flash and eventually stumbled upon Ren’Py!
You mentioned some early games that you played which sparked your interest in VNs. Can you speak about any in particular that you think were instrumental in leading you towards creating VNs?
Yeah! I really loved Star Days and Number Days Sim Dates from Pacthesis! Actually, any game Pacthesis made. I consumed them all. They were filled with such adventure and wonder.
You’re a game developer and comic artist. How do the two differ and which do you prefer more?
I think comic creation involves a lotof drawing, like, a lot. Don’t get me wrong, I love drawing and consider myself an artist above all else. But when I first wanted to create original stories, I didn’t think I’d have a lot of time to draw, so I started making visual novels instead. However, I’ve come to realize that game development is much more than just writing a story, drawing that story, and then slapping it together in a game engine. Games have music, game mechanics, user interfaces, sound effects, and sometimes even voice acting! That’s a lot to think about when you consider the audience’s experience, especially if you’re putting it all together yourself. There’s also a lot of room for collaboration in game projects! You get to work with a lot of different creators in different aspects of creativity. It’s really neat!
I’ve really come to love game development, but I can’t say I prefer one over the other. I enjoy both, but find game development more manageable with my current lifestyle. Game development also gives my hands a break so I’m not spending too much time drawing.
You’re currently working on a game called After-Party Chemistry. What is the game about and what inspired the premise?
After-Party Chemistry follows student athlete Marina after she’s suspended from her athletic activities. With the one thing she’s good at taken away from her, she’s left to figure out what she really wants to do with her life. So, she has to learn to balance studying along with her social life.
I thought of this story and characters during my senior year of high school. I was studying for the AP Chemistry exam myself and wanted to find a way to make studying more fun because, wow. Not fun at all. So I personified acid-base chemistry. Sidney is the acid (H3O+), Basil is the base (OH-), and Marina is water (H2O).
You’ve done the writing, coding, and art on your own for After-Party Chemistry. Which is the most difficult to do?
Writing is probably the most difficult part. Words don’t come easily to me and crafting an engaging story is still an achievement waiting to be unlocked.
Of the development process, which part do you like the most?
The concept art! That’s where I can just go wild with ideas! More new characters means more concept art and doodles! Plus, I really like spending time on how things look visually, so oftentimes, I draft the user interface and feel of the game before I even get into writing or outlining. That’s probably a mistake, but it’s what I’m best at, I think.
You’ve added interactive elements like quizzes to your demo. Can you tell us a bit about that?
Yes! So I’d been working on this project on and off while I was in university, and originally, this game was meant to be a study aid for me. So I put quizzes and stuff in there to force myself to study. Well, I’ve long since finished all my chemistry courses and find myself having to study chemistry again to implement these quizzes and make sure what Mr. Kagaku says is correct. I’d still like to keep this aspect of the game in there because I think it’s unique! Do people want to suffer through chemistry while taking a break and playing a game? Probably not. But that’s why all those parts are skippable! A good chunk of points toward Mr. Kagaku’s route, however, will be attributed to completing quizzes and lessons. He is, afterall, “Mr. Chemistry”. By the way, I’m no chemistry major, so if you find something wrong, let me know!
How difficult was implementing a stat raising dynamic in After-Party Chemistry?
When I first thought, “Yeah! You should get this many points in order to interact with Mr. K!” I had no idea what I was getting into. Introducing a stat-raising mechanic opens up so many more possibilities, but also creates a lot of work. What if you exceed the points needed to “win”? What about if you don’t get any points at all? What if you get an equal amount of points for both these stats? Now what? That’s a lot of events and character interactions to think about. But it’s fun because you’ll get to spend more time with characters and get to know them better!
Why choose a visual novel as your medium for After Party Chemistry instead of something like a comic?
I think the premise sets itself up better as a game rather than a comic, and I never really had a major love interest in mind for Marina. Most comics about teenage romances usually have the protagonist end up with one love interest. If I chose a comic as a medium for After-Party Chemistry, I’d have to choose one love interest for her to end up with. That’s hard to do! I like them all! As a visual novel, the player can have fun and participate in the story! They can really get into Marina’s character and suffer with her through lectures and quizzes. Plus, they can choose which love interest to pursue and feel rewarded for their hard work (hopefully).
I’m sure we’re all dying to know this, after everything did you end up passing your AP Chemistry exam?
I did! Hahahaha… c’:
Do you have advice for anyone who may want to try and make their own visual novels?
I cannot stress enough the importance of writing/outlining your story before gathering all the other assets. I know all the visuals and graphics look cool and it’s exciting to put everything together to see, but you can’t really put a visual novel together without a story. The story gives you a plan so you’re not wasting time working on assets or other elements you may not need.
Do you have anything new you’re working on that VN Game Den readers can look forward to?
Oh! I’m always working on something haha. But if you’re into Boys’ Love, when I finish this project, I’ll be working on Fleeting! It’s scifi horror, so it’s much darker than After-Party Chemistry, but I think it’ll be fun because I get to show off the world and universe I’ve built for my original characters! I’m planning for it to have some RPG elements and dungeon crawling because you’ll be navigating MC’s mind and fighting giant robots! Other than that, I’ve got another otome game in the works. There will be superheroes, demons, and magical girls and boys! The working title is Moon in Bloom! Please look forward to it!
If you’d like to play any of Ari’s games, including the demo for After-Party Chemistry, you can do so on itch.io. You can also keep up to date on Ari’s projects by visiting her Twitter, Instagram, and Carrd site!