Behind the Scenes with Cryoslight

Here’s our Behind the Scenes interview with visual novel developer Cryoslight! Learn about her solo indie VN dev journey, and participation in the Spooktober 2021 game jam!

Cryoslight, also known as Cryos to most online, is an solo indie visual novel developer and sci-fi enthusiast. She’s worked on several games, including: Her Sign, I’ll Come See You, Lavender Link, and The Sixth Prison. Most recently she’s released The Life We’ve Chosen for the Spooktober 2021 game jam!

We had the pleasure of sitting down with Cryos to talk about her start in visual novels, why her games are free to play, future projects, and more!

How did you find your start in developing visual novels?

Developing visual novels is something I’d been interested in for about a decade before I finally felt brave enough to give it a try. I don’t recommend waiting that long! The thing that got me to start was the O2A2 jam in 2020. The goal was to make an absolutely tiny little visual novel of one thousand words and one piece of character art, and that small scope is what gave me the courage to try. Making a visual novel? Really scary, can’t do it. Writing 1000 words and drawing one dude? Okay, I can do that.

What was the inspiration for your name?

Simple – I just think ice is neat. The full name came from me desperately combining the word Cryo with different things until it felt right. Some people are confused about whether it’s cryo + slight or cryos + light, and I love telling them I don’t know which way it’s supposed to be read, either.

All of your games are non-commercial. What made you decide to keep your games free to play?

There was a stretch of years in my life when I couldn’t justify spending money on anything fun. If a game wasn’t free, I didn’t play it. Free to play games were a huge source of comfort to me during those years, and that’s why I want my games to be available for those who are in a similar situation.

You have three games released as all part of the same series. How is continuing a story different than creating an entirely new universe for players?

The serial format makes things both easier and harder at the same time. On one hand, it allows you to reuse art assets, and you get to hear player feedback between releases! …On the other hand, it’s still a lot of work. Making a series of games takes just as much tenacity as any other large project, and it’s discouraging sometimes. After each chapter release I get this feeling like “ah, it’s done, I’m free to focus on new ideas forever now!” and I need to remind myself over and over again that no, it’s not done yet. I also worry about my art style changing over time. What keeps me motivated is that I’ve written this wonderfully satisfying epilogue and I really, really want people to see it someday!

You’ve released a few different games. Do you have a favorite that you’ve worked on? If so, why?

The easy answer would be Her Sign, as I’m really happy with the atmosphere and visuals in that one. It’s got that grungy, industrial winter town vibe, and I just love the two terribly unlikeable characters I introduced in it. They’re so much fun to write. The more complex answer is The Life We’ve Chosen, which has a story so personal it’s almost too personal, you know? The project left me feeling all raw and melancholy, and it took weeks for me to fully get out of that mood. It’s still a favorite of mine because it allowed me to express something very important to me, and it resonated with others more than I thought it would. The comments people left on that game made me feel understood in a way I’d never experienced before. I hope I never forget that feeling.

Your newest game, The Life We’ve Chosen, is an entry to the Spooktober 2021 Jam. Can you tell us what the game is about?

It’s about a depressed 30-something who has found themselves not fitting into society’s expectations and unable to connect with the few people they still interact with. They’ve been talking to an equally reclusive demon who’s been sitting in the same spot by a lake for years, maybe centuries, and this secret friendship between them has grown so much the protagonist doesn’t want to hide it anymore. The story is about the protagonist accepting the fact that their path in life doesn’t line up with what others want from them, and although it’s scary, maybe it’s… okay?

What was the inspiration for the game’s plot?

The central struggle of the protagonist is loosely based on my own experiences, although I obviously dramatized it quite a bit. There are a lot of things people expect you to have by a certain age, and those expectations can make you feel like a failure even if you never wanted those things for yourself in the first place. The Life We’ve Chosen is me telling myself and others that it’s all right to choose your own path.

What is it like trying to create a game in only a month? Is there anything you had to cut out, or any other hurdles you had to face?

It was more challenging than I thought even though I was fully expecting a challenge! I’d made a weekly plan for myself so that everything essential would get done in the first three weeks and I’d still have a whole week to apply some extra polish. It turned out I had time for none of the polish, haha. Script writing is the part that always takes me longer than I’ve anticipated. I had to cut several relationship-building scenes out of The Life We’ve Chosen, which was sad but necessary. I wrote more about that in a post-mortem developer log.

Do you have any advice for people wanting to join game jams in the future who may be on the fence about it?

You’ve most likely heard this piece of advice already but keep the scope of your project small. It’s tempting to try and do something groundbreaking, but that often leads to a lot of stress and/or an unfinished project. Especially if you are new to making games, it’s a good idea to build confidence by making a small game and getting that scary first release done and out of the way. And if your project crashes and burns, well, you still come out with new skills you can apply elsewhere!

Oh, and please don’t twist yourself into knots thinking about what other people might want to play. Think about what you want to show the world.

Do you have a specific genre you like to work on more than others? Is there a genre you haven’t tried yet and would love to?

Out of the genres I’ve explored so far, I can’t say I have a favorite – they’ve all been great experiences in different ways. I’d like to do a dating sim someday! It would be a ton of work, though, so I’m thinking of alternatives to scratch that itch. In a way, The Life We’ve Chosen is a very simplified dating sim.

Do you have any dream projects (genres, types of games, other forms of media, etc) you’d like to work on in the future if you’re able to?

Comics and especially web comics have interested me since forever, but I never had the guts to try and start making them. When I realized I could tell stories with visual novels instead, I immediately forgot about my comic dreams, haha. So I guess I’m here to stay? I like it here.

Are you working on anything future projects you can share with VN Game Den readers?

I always have multiple ideas swimming around in my head, and I’m not sure which one of them will surface next. What is safe to say is that I’ve been quietly working on chapter 4 of my sci-fi series, and the goal is to release it sometime in 2022!


If you’d like to find out more about Cryoslight, you can follow her on Twitter and download her games for free on itch.io!

Anna Mirabella

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