Behind the Scenes with First Bite Games

Today, we sat down with the team over at First Bite Games to learn more them!

First Bite is a NSFW, LGBTQ+ dark comedy visual novel released by the talented team over at First Bite Games. The passionate team is compromised of talented individuals from across the industry. Today, we sat down with the team’s four writers—Kris, Souha, Aenne, and Dee— to learn more about them, what it was like to make First Bite, their advice on creating NSFW games, and more.

Hello! Can you all please tell our readers who you are and how you got into visual novel development?

KW: I’m Kris (they/them) and I first got into developing games back in 2019 when I established my studio,  Lunaris Games. I started out with a hobby project with some artist friends, just wanting to see more queer characters in VNs that we could relate to.

SA: I’m Souha and I got into VN development around 2015 or so (my first one was published in 2019). I had run out of otome to play at the time (English releases were few and far between back then) so I thought well… why not make my own? Ironically we have so many english otome to choose from but due to game development I don’t have any time…

AS: I’m Aenne (they/she), and I started developing visual novels in 2017, when and friend and I formed Fiction Factory Games to work on Arcade Spirits. I’ve been a huge VN fan since I played my first one, Trace Memory on the DS. From then I played as many as I could get, including dating VNs.  I wanted to make romance games that felt accurate to queer people and where people could see themselves in the protag’s role. 

DD: I’m Dee (she/they) and I first became interested in visual novel development around 2015 or so, but I didn’t start working on my own in earnest until roughly 2020. I fell in love with the boom in western indie visual novels around then and fell in with a small but scrappy crew of VN devs who helped me feel confident enough to dabble with my first couple of supernatural projects.

In First Bite, you play as Noe who absolutely loves the paranormal. They enter a strange house and stumble into three incredibly hot vampires. Tell us, where did the concept of First Bite come from?

SA: As far as I remember the general concept was developed sort of organically from wanting to make a small-scope thirsty vampire game. Limiting it to one night and giving everyone one character to be in charge of just made the most sense, and the concept developed logically as a result of that. Survive the night, romance a vampire, or die trying… Noe’s vampire fan personality came about in the same way. We wanted to write characters we wanted to see or identified with, and you see the result.

KW: I approached the others because we’d all become really close over the course of the pandemic and when you have friends this talented it seemed like a no-brainer to propose we make something. We all have the same interests when it comes to making games, and starting with murderous, thirsty vampires really worked out.

During the development of First Bite, did you all face any challenges? If so, what and how did you overcome them as a team?

SA: Biggest challenge for me, and I think all of us was time and scope. We were constantly coming up with good ideas during brainstorming and having to rein them in, and even despite my commitment to not doing too much I ended up writing far too much and editing and testing it down to the wire. I promised myself I would never do that again–and we’re taking a different approach to the development of Killing Boys to ensure that we keep development relaxed, and we continue to keep scope in mind even as we go a bit more ambitious for KB.

KW: Same as Souha! We intended the game to be smaller in size than it ended up being, despite it still being quite compact in comparison to what I’m personally used to making. But we really connected with the characters and the words (and the creative ways to kill the player) kind of poured out. We still made the game within a 12 month timeframe but, like Souha said, we’re taking our time with Killing Boys and keeping the release close to our chests for the time being. We all have projects outside of FB too, so that is also an obstacle that can be restricting when it comes to finding time, but we’ve found a good balance.

First Bite: Bad Blood

What was your favorite part about working on First Bite? This can be something that happened during development or after!

AS: My favorite part was, honestly, working with people who I’ve looked up to for a long while. This is one of the best teams I’ve ever worked with and we all mesh together perfectly, with writing, tasks, problem solving. It’s just so much fun to make these games with such amazing and talented people and I can’t wait to make more games! 

SA: I say this every time, but voiceover (VO) is always one of my favorite parts of any projects, and getting to direct these phenomenal actors and working with this goofy, sexy, ridiculous script was a joy from start to finish. That aside, our brainstorming sessions are tied for me with the VO experience–when we start bullshitting these vampires tend to just write themselves, and the chemistry we have at First Bite is truly like nothing else I’ve ever experienced creatively. I love this project and I love my team.

KW: As someone who owns and runs another studio, working with other experienced studio owners was a huge weight off my shoulders. There’s a lot of camaraderie and understanding between us in that sense when it comes to sharing tasks to keep the studio running smoothly, so it was nice to not feel quite so alone with that and share the burdens a little. It actually really invigorated me for my personal projects too after feeling quite burned out. Also just getting to work with people who are such close friends and incredible writers was the biggest honour. 

DD: To echo Kris, working with other studio owners makes for an incredible experience because we all intuitively understand our respective responsibilities, project timelines, and the reasons we’ve come together to form this particular studio. We’re able to explore stories, themes, and character dynamics under the First Bite Games brand that wouldn’t make for a right fit under our respective studio brands, which means that when we come together on production calls we’re able to maintain a strong focus on how to collectively achieve First Bite’s goals. And we have a ton of fun doing so! Every meeting we have inspires me, be it an extended planning session or a quick progress check-in. We know what we’re about, and that’s my absolute favorite part of working alongside these powerhouses: our clarity of vision.

Out of all three characters: Valeria Andrei, Laurel Portman, and Ilyas Al-Rai, which one(s) were the most interesting to design and write the script for?

KW: Dee, Souha, and myself created one vampire each and wrote their scenes so we didn’t really dabble in writing all of them. I personally adored writing Valeria but my favorite scenes were the ones where all the vampires are together, specifically the first portion of the game when they’re debating whether they want to kill Noe. Their dynamic was so easy to establish it was actually kind of shocking, and that’s something that was really enjoyable when we were bouncing ideas or dialogue off of each other. They all have such interesting backstories and personalities. 

SA: Like Kris said, we didn’t write each other’s vampires, but I will say Laurel for me is always the most interesting to see where Dee will take them, because Laurel is so unpredictable and clever. Laurel is both capable of dorking out over Yu-Gi-Oh cards and starting a revolution… and you never fully know what he’ll say or do. I love Ilyas and Val for their predictability, but when we write group scenes I am always so interested to see what Laurel will say.

DD: Meanwhile, I’m a little obsessed with Ilyas myself because he brings such a great flavor to the dynamic of the terrible trio. Val wouldn’t have someone to roll her eyes at and Laurel wouldn’t have someone to move around like a pawn if Ilyas wasn’t there to so hilariously play into their conniving little schemes. Val and Laurel are both extremely hot in their own rights, but they’re really able to shine specifically because Souha’s managed to capture his murderous himbo appeal in a way that feels flexible for any given situation and shockingly rich when you get a peek into his back story.

While we’re on the topic, who is everyone’s favorite character?

SA: The predictable answer would be my boy Ilyas, but in all honesty, I think that most of the team’s favorite character is Nasty Dennis. We just love that mean little man so much. 

DD: Definitely Nasty Dennis, no question.

KW: Also Dennis but I have to give Noe their props for living out all of our dreams.

Back in September, your team faced an issue with Steam when trying to submit First Bite into their Halloween Sale with them claiming it wasn’t scary enough to qualify for the sale. As the days progressed, we saw many devs come out and say that their game was rejected, some of them being LGBTQIA+ titles. This isn’t the first time queer games have been discriminated against by Steam. Can you get into how tiring this backforth was with Steam and what other obstacles you’ve faced being a team who created a queer game?

KW: Steam just seems to like to bend its own criteria and rules when it comes to indie games, specifically queer ones. I’ve personally had multiple experiences now, with both First Bite and my own studio, Lunaris Games, where we’ve had to work extra hard to get our games approved and get included in sales. This recent incident with the Halloween festival felt even more sinister when I started to see other VN developers talking about experiencing the same gatekeeping. It took us a good two weeks of back-and-forth dialogue with the Steam Team and it felt like they really only let us in because we wouldn’t back down. 

Steam doesn’t get to tell developers what they think their games are or aren’t. Indie devs have enough to deal with without wasting their time bartering with Steam, but being included in these big events is essential to studios like ours because the boost in visibility and sales is something we wouldn’t get otherwise. Steam is historically bad at helping indie studios, apart from when it comes to happily putting us in the Season of Pride sale when it’s convenient for them to use our games to make themselves look nice and inclusive. They also implied that they don’t think romance and horror go together, which was pretty hilarious to us.

First Bite

What is your advice for developers who want to make queer games but are afraid to, let that be because of Steam’s discrimination against queer titles or just the general homophobia we see from some gamers?

SA: It’s very important to remember that while those voices are very loud they are not universal. It’s deeply unfair that developers have to fight to get queer content seen/published, but when that content gets through there is an audience, and they are deeply grateful for considered, sincere content that represents them. If you have it in you to make a queer game and only fear is holding you back please know that there is a community of developers who will stand beside you, and that there are players who are absolutely dying to play YOUR game. General gamer homophobia is ever-present on all platforms, but there are places like itch.io that are generally friendlier to marginalized developers, and generally speaking as long as you are speaking to your specific audience that audience will find you and continue to find you and the bigots will, over time, drop off. I won’t say you’ll never deal with it or that it’s easy, but when you are upfront about who your audience is usually your players will spread the word.

AS: Like Souha was saying, there will always be those people who will hate your game for various reasons. My advice would be to understand that (unfortunately) this will happen, and to prepare yourself with a wonderful support system to be there when you need to talk about it or need someone to cheer you up. If that is too overwhelming, you can always make games just for yourself! You don’t need to share them with anyone until you are ready too.

First Bite is an entertaining and well-done NSFW game loved by players. Do you have any advice for people who want to make their own NSFW game?

SA: When making NSFW games there’s a lot of struggle in interpreting platform guidelines, especially with queer content or titles, because platforms unfairly tend to interpret NSFW content involving queer characters as inherently more hardcore. Regardless, I would say do what makes you happy and simply try to be well aware of what’s accepted on some platforms vs others so you don’t end up with a lovely game that you can’t publish. For example, if you know what you want to go for more mature content, consider itch.io. If you want to publish on consoles, research what’s generally accepted for M+ games and then just try to keep yourself within those bounds. 

In terms of non-technical advice, I can only ever say make content you yourself enjoy–players can tell when you’re in love with your own characters too, and they respond well to it. The world is constantly on fire these days so sincerity is welcome and much-needed. And above all, please don’t hide romance and sexual content behind silly gimmicks. Have the courage to stand in your horniness without making it a big wacky joke (this does not mean don’t make your game funny–just be proud of what you do and don’t feel you need to make a joke out of the sex or romance itself).

AS: We actually did a panel for Gayming Live online event on writing queer romance (including NSFW) you can check out for more detailed information.

What can our readers expect to see from the team in the future?

KW: We’re currently hard at work on the sequel to First Bite, Bad Blood, which introduces a ghost (or vampire) from the main trio’s past to act as an antagonist. It’s been really fun to write so far as we obviously have the player character as part of the undead clan now, so those dynamics have shifted a little. 

We’re also in the pre-production and concept stages for our second IP, Killing Boys, which is a very different story from First Bite but still has that sexy, dangerous, dark comedy vibe. We’re working with a strong, incredibly morally grey female protagonist so I’m really excited for people to get to know her and the world we’re creating. 

If you wish to purchase Bad Blood, you can get it for $9.99 on itch.io and Steam. The team also has a Patreon currently open, so if you wish to support them monthly, you can visit their page here. As a Patron, you can get early sneak peeks at art, writing previews, lore, and art previews of their upcoming expansion First Blood: Bad Blood. The team also has a Twitter, so be sure to follow them there if you wish to get updates on their projects!

Kristi Jimenez

Click me and browse some beloved visual novel soundtracks (and others) on vinyl at Very Ok Vinyl!

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