ebi-hime is a visual novel developer who has released several games including, Blackberry Honey, The Language of Love, The Sweetest Monster, Embraced by Autumn, and The Fairy’s Song which VN Game Den has reviewed.
We sat down with her to talk about her inspirations, advice she has for people looking to create their own visual novels, and future projects players can look forward to.
Can you tell our readers a bit about yourself and how you got into making visual novels?
My name is ebi, and I live in the UK. I’ve been a fan of visual novels for over a decade, ever since I read Umineko (which is still my favourite VN, in fact). I liked Umineko so much, I wanted to write something in the same medium, though it took me several years before I attempted it.
I wrote my first VN back in university, as a gift for a friend on their birthday. It was a pretty silly story, full of references to random anime series, with a lot of branching, and a huge amount of bad endings.
I never released this VN publicly (which was probably a wise move, haha), but I enjoyed creating it so much, I decided to pursue it semi-seriously, and here I am now!
You’ve released quite a few games. Are there any you like more than the others. If so, why?
My favourite VN I’ve written to date is All Ashes and Illusions by quite a large margin. Since Ashes hasn’t been released yet, I can’t say too much about why I like it so much (I don’t want to spoil it!), but I do think the main character, Yuel, is very cute compelling…
Even if all my proofreaders seem to despise him, haha ;;;
Do you have a favorite genre to create?
I tend to prefer writing stories with female main characters, as I find female characters easier to write than male ones (plus, I do most of the character designs for my VNs, and I vastly prefer designing female characters). Since I also like writing romance, my stories often end up centring around lesbian relationships.
I also like writing sad/gloomy stories that feature characters with mental health issues. Sweetest Monster and The Mermaid of Zennor are good examples of this, as is the unreleased All Ashes and Illusions, whose main character is exceedingly unbalanced! (Kyaa, how dreamy…)
Is there any genre you particularly dislike working with?
I don’t particularly like writing fantasy stories. Stories set in the ‘real world’ with some mild fantasy elements (fairies, knights, magic, etc), like The Fairy’s Song, are fine, but I found working on This World Unknown, which is set in a fantasy universe of my own devising, to be pretty difficult.
I’ve discovered, over the years, I don’t really like writing world-building. I find it tedious, and I take significantly more enjoyment in writing about characters’ emotions and their relationships. This is why I’ve a lot of insular stories which deal with issues like unrequited love, depression, and obsession (see The Mermaid of Zennor and Asphyxia; they’re very internally-focused). I get more enjoyment out of writing my characters than I do the worlds they inhabit; these ‘worlds’ are always window dressing, and I skimp on the details as much as possible because I don’t take any personal pleasure in thinking about this sort of thing.
This is also why most of my stories take place in real world locations: I don’t need to ‘waste time’ thinking of place names, or trying to map out fictional geography in my head. So, yes, I don’t like any genre which involves too much world-building, which would encompass high fantasy, and probably sci-fi.
Are there any genres you haven’t tried working on yet, but would like to?
I don’t think I’ve written a proper ‘horror’ story before. Sweetest Monster and Lynne both have horror elements, but they’re more psychological (they deal more with internal emotions, rather than external threats). Salome’s Kiss has some gothic horror elements, meanwhile, but it’s also more about character drama than anything genuinely spooky.
I think it might be nice to write a more creepy, eerie, properly ‘horrific’ horror story, which isn’t so internally/emotionally-driven, which features palpable ‘monsters’ – or maybe something with ghosts? I also kind of want to try writing something with more physical horror (read: gore), which would be potentially interesting, given Takeshi Miike’s Audition is one of my favourite movies…
I’ll have to give it some thought!
Do you have any advice for people who want to start creating their own games?
Start small, and don’t bite off more than you can chew. Take your time to puzzle out what it is you like to create, and why, and maybe try to build up a bit of a name for yourself through short and free/cheap releases, before tackling larger projects which will demand more time and/or money to complete. Oh, and above all, try to enjoy yourself! Creating should be fun!
You’re working on two games at the moment, Salome’s Kiss and All Ashes and Illusions. Can you tell our readers about these projects and what players can expect?
Ashes is a BxG story (though I would hesitate to call it ‘romantic’, haha) set in a vaguely Persian-inspired world, which focuses on a young king’s unhealthy obsession with his childhood nursemaid, and his increasingly aggressive attempts to win over her heart. It’s a dark, unpleasant kind of story, which devotes a lot of time delving into the main character’s (Yuel’s) psyche, to explore how and why his obsession began. Ashes features sexual content (it has more sexual content than any of my other stories, in fact), and absolutely would not be appropriate for younger audiences.
Salome is a GxG story (which I would also hesitate to call ‘romantic’) set in Victorian England, which focuses on a demure governess’s mounting feelings towards her eighteen-year-old pupil. It’s quite claustrophobic in tone, and is set in an isolated manor house in the moors à la The Secret Garden. It’s quite ‘gothic’ in terms of the setting, the time period, and the themes, given the main character (Letitia) is embarrassed and ashamed of her feelings towards another woman, and agonises over them. Salome also includes sexual content, and would not be appropriate for younger audiences!
Ashes and Salome have different settings and explore slightly different themes, but they’re both quite dour and serious in tone. I’m sorry if anybody was hoping for something cute and light and happy; you won’t find that in either Ashes or Salome!
What’s it like working on multiple games at once?
While I work on multiple projects at once (I actually have even more projects on the back burner I’ve not officially announced anywhere, haha ;;), I don’t tend to write a lot of different stories at once. When I get an idea I like enough to write down, I will focus on this exclusively. I’ve found jumping around between writing projects can be confusing, and I often get the writing style/character voices muddled, so it’s best to keep everything separate.
I don’t commission assets for any of my projects until I’ve written the first pass of the base script, which makes it more likely that my projects get finished. Writing the base script is generally the most time-consuming part of making a VN (from my perspective, at least), so if I’ve already gone to the time and effort of writing the whole story out, I feel more inclined to see said project through to completion. While I might commission assets for five or six projects at once, these will always be projects which are more or less ‘finished’ (on my end), so it’s not too stressful – most of the time, at least!
From your first VN to your most current, what are some things you’ve learned?
I am absolutely awful at proofreading my own stories, and my editing attempts (I try to give each of my stories at least 2-3 editing passes) invariably seem to end up introducing even more typos into my stories, owing to how much rewriting I do. That being the case, having dedicated proofreaders is extremely helpful!
Do you have any news on upcoming/current projects that you’d like to let VN Game Den readers know about?
All Ashes and Illusions is my favourite VN I’ve ever written, like, ever (maybe I’ve mentioned this before? Haha…), so I’d be very happy if people read it when it comes out! It’s the only project I’ve created thus far that I can look at and think, “Alright, I’m happy with how this turned out,” which is a pretty big deal, as I tend to be very critical of my stories.
…That being said, Ashes is a discomforting story that deals with a lot of unpleasant topics, so I understand entirely if people want to give it a miss. It’s definitely not for everyone.