Behind the Scenes with NotHack Europa

We sat down with the founders of NotHack Europa to talk about how they work under pressure during a game jam, how they’ve improved from their first game release, and what fans can look forward to in the future! 

NotHack Europa was founded by the trio of CrazyCowLady, WeeabooOverlord, and IIlumenos. The team has also worked with creative individuals like Sam B., Maatin, and UnhygenicChipmunk on various projects. You may have heard of their game Perfection – Paper Thin, which was an entry to the 2021 Spooktober Jam. NotHack Europa has also released games like No Meteors and Patchwork Ego.   

We sat down with the founders of NotHack Europa to talk about how they work under pressure during a game jam, how they’ve improved from their first game release, and what we can look forward to in the future! 

CG drawn by Cozmel1 on Twitter.

Can you tell us about who you are and how you found yourself making visual novels?

“NotHack Europa are a loose group of visual novel fans from all over the world. CrazyCowLady found herself stuck at home without much to do due to chronic pain for several years and started writing visual novels to have something to do.

After releasing a first fan visual novel, WeeabooOverlord and Illumenos took pity on her awful paint art and her using public domain music enjoyed her ideas enough that they wanted to help. Together, they formed their little hobby group and over time, more friends rallied around them to help out with whatever they’re good at.”

You worked on Perfection | Paper-thin for Spooktober. Can you tell us the premise of the game?

“After getting separated from her hunting partner during a supernatural investigation, Emma reluctantly teams up with a dangerous warlock to stop the spread of eldritch terrors while fighting her own anxiety.

We wanted to create a game with a main character who always fears that if others don’t see her as perfect, they won’t value her. Adding to that theme of perfection, we spun a story around a villain who tries to create a perfect world by slowly stripping away humanity’s perceived imperfections. But if you take away everything anyone could consider a flaw, what you end up with isn’t human anymore at all.”

What were some struggles you faced working on the game in only a month’s time?

CrazyCowLady: We had just finished our SuNoFes entry, so we didn’t have any time to plan ahead for Spooktober. Joining was a pretty spontaneous decision as well – before we had a look at the jam page, we thought it’d be during the month of October.

Illumenos: Unfortunate miscommunication led to ultimately scrapping some days worth of work. It was sad at the time but ultimately led to a better product.

WeeabooOverlord: I was planning on acquiring additional know-how in a dub processing course that was due to start early September, but then life happened: the course got delayed, which led to me having to wing it while also taking care of the rest of my editing and music workload. This messed up my already awful time management 😀

Full color sprites done by Cozmel1 on Twitter. Kitchen background drawn by Zoe Keidong.

Perfection | Paper-thin mentions topics of mental health issues and anxiety. Can you tell us why it was important to explore these topics?

“Members of our team struggle with different forms of anxiety to varying degrees, as well as some other mental health related issues. Thus, we only thought it fitting to share some of our experiences through a main character that lives with similar symptoms.

We think it’s important that other people see that it’s alright to struggle and to ask others for support, and that there are techniques out there that can help you manage day to day life.”

How do you think game developers can approach these topics in a respectable way? Do you have any advice for how you can approach heavy topics in shorter jams?

CrazyCowLady: Honestly, we just talk a lot about our various struggles. Through this, we have built a greater understanding of what it’s like to go through life with whatever currently plagues us, and then we’re just trying our best to put our experiences into a story.

As for the respectfulness aspect… We usually try to go by the motto of trying to be kind. You can’t always get everything 100% right and people make mistakes, and that’s okay. Keep an open mind, and an open heart. Learn from your mistakes, and just try to be kind.

Illumenos: Be aware of what you write about. If you are not personally affected, ask people who are. Even a little research is better than none. At the very least check your prejudices before writing about them as fact.

WeeabooOverlord: I try to live my life by what I call the Black Knight’s Maxim: late Italian comedian and actor Gigi Proietti used to tell a story about the White Knight dueling the Black Knight and dying in the process, with the White Knight’s heirs doing the same afterwards. The moral of the story was, if you’ll forgive my somewhat loose translation, “don’t be a pain in the ass to the Black Knight.” I think that’s also key to dealing with heavy topics in fiction: doing my (reasonable) best not to be a PITA to other humans.

Perfection | Paper-thin deals with the occult. What inspired the idea of doing something supernatural?

We find it easier to explore heavy topics through a fantastical lens, since we believe that it may make the issues more approachable and talk about them in a more interesting manner.  But the main reason is that we are working on a longer project set in a dark urban fantasy world, and decided to use that same setting for many of our other projects. CrazyCowLady is a huge Stephen King fan, so she’s most at home in horror-adjacent settings.

Full color sprites done by Cozmel1 on Twitter. Stick People sprites done by Zoe Keidong. Street Background drawn by Illumenos.

Your first VN, No Meteors, was released for Valentine’s VN Jam. What have you learned from then to now?

CrazyCowLady: I went into No Meteors without much formal education in the art of writing. Since then, I’ve been listening to lectures, reading up on the topic, and practicing a lot. Another valuable lesson I took away from that jam is: producing a visual novel within 72h is a pain 😀

Illumenos: Making art is hard, making art quickly is harder. I learned that I can’t produce quality portraits or backgrounds for a jam on my current level of skill, thus we give that task to more qualified artists. I also learned that I prefer animating rather than drawing static assets.

WeeabooOverlord: I do my best to learn as I go. It’s never enough, but after all, that’s why we made PPT! That being said, I learned nothing. I don’t do learning.

Do you have any advice for people who may want to join a game jam?

“Try to stay aware of the scope of your project and start small (we struggled with scope during our last jam, NaNoRenO, even though you’d think we’d know how to plan an appropriately sized project by now).

A lot of people struggle ever finishing their project at all, so while you may feel like you need to create something huge, even getting a small project done is a huge achievement to be proud of.”

What inspired a sequel for your Spooktober game? What were some challenges working on a sequel?

” We had some readers that told us they’d love to see our main character, Emma, get together with one of the other cast members, Artur. That’s all it took for us to decide to write a sequel, haha.

Our first plan was to write an Otome for… valentine’s jam? But then that jam never happened and CrazyCowLady has no experience writing (or reading) Otome to begin with, so we moved the project back to NaNoRenO and went with a dark fantasy theme again. You can still get closer to Artur, but now there’s also the choice of getting to know two new characters – Rose and Wyatt. There are romance elements in each of the three routes/endings.”

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

“As mentioned above, we have a huge passion project that we’re developing on the side (Why You Should Always Pull Out Of Magical Pacts, short WYSAPOOMP). Artur is one of the side characters, and we originally picked him to star in Perfection | Paper-thin, because the team really loved him. We’re hoping to release its first route this year.

WYSAPOOMP is about Julian, a warlock that was raised within a cult worshipping an eldritch creature. Julian has had the honorable task of watching over the future host of his cult’s patron, going as far as becoming his best friend. But now that the ritual to summon the creature into our world is close, he is beginning to doubt what he has been taught to believe all his life. Whether he’ll stick with the cult and sacrifice his friend, stand against them to save him, or find another way to solve his issues altogether, is up to the reader.

Also, we’re excited about our Spooktober ideas, even if it’s too early to make any concrete plans.”


 

If you’d like to download NotHack Europa’s games you can check them out on itch.io and follow the team on Twitter for updates!

Anna Mirabella

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