Visual novels bring people together. Such is the case with married couple Ze and Nim, who describe themselves as “partners in life, art, and game development.” Together they form Square Weasel Studios and have been developing The Remainder, a dark-fantasy VN with bold, striking visuals. Containing rich lore, puzzles, and an inclusive romance system, The Remainder: Act 1 and the separate side story Tea and Story With Ilar have already been making waves.
We caught up with Ze and Nim to chat about their creative process, their inspirations for the world of The Remainder, and what we can expect in the upcoming launch of The Remainder: Act 2.
Could you each talk to us a little about your creative backgrounds?
Ze started his career as a 3D artist shortly after college, he made hair for football players at EA, later he also worked in 3D for film before he got more interested in illustration and went to school for it. He ended up making 2D art for games and books for the last few years before he met Nim and began making The Remainder.
Nim started freelancing as an illustrator, drawing dragons and other fantasy creatures for games and books as early as college. They also crafted objects like jewelry, wands, potions, and other fantasy trinkets which they sold at fantasy and sci-fi cons up until cons stopped happening.
What inspired you to create The Remainder?
We wanted to make the perfect story/game for ourselves, which didn’t exist. We took the various aspects of things we loved and mashed them together, like the gloomy atmosphere of Souls games, the surreal horrorscapes of Lovecraft, the mystique and charm of Ghibli’s Howl, the detective mysteries of Agatha Christie, Sergio Toppi’s illustrations, and rituals, music and meditations of real world occult and spiritual traditions.
How do you split the work in co-creating The Remainder?
We talk a lot and come up with the mood, game design, plot and characters together. Ze does most of the actual writing and editing, a bit of art, and all the business and financial aspects of the project. Nim does most of the art, graphic design, and programming. We each made some music and did some marketing.
We only have formal training in art, everything else we learned by reading articles, watching GDC (Game Developers’ Conference) videos, and making it up as we go along.
The character design in The Remainder is especially striking. Can you tell us a bit about your creative process?
We talk about and imagine the world a lot so that we know how a character, object or place feels to us. With that feeling and mood in our heads, we do a lot of free sketching, bouncing ideas back and forth, massaging them until we find the form that embodies the feelings. Nim then takes the sketches and does their magic, cleaning them up, giving them a natural polish, and creating all the various expressions and poses needed for the in-game sprites.
What achievements or milestones in the creation process of The Remainder are you most proud of?
We consider the fact this project even exists as an achievement. Having done nothing like this before, we taught ourselves programming, music production, design, writing, and marketing to make it happen. We’re very pleased to have made a rather unique thing people can play and experience.
What advice would you like to offer people who are interested in creating visual novels?
We do everything in life following two principles: don’t harm anyone on purpose, and do what makes us happy. We treat making a visual novel, or any other creative project the same way, make it with the best intention, and let joy, health and happiness be an integral, everyday part of it from start to finish.
This means being kind and patient to each other, working with care and attention, taking care of our health, and having fun and laughs every day.
Can you tell us about what’s next in the world of The Remainder?
We’re actively developing the second act of The Remainder. If the first act is the trunk of the story, then the second act is where the branches take center stage. There will be many more routes for the story to develop, leading to quite divergent experiences.
We’ll introduce more characters, more locales, and dive deeper into the truth behind the mystery. We’re also working on more professional music production.
It should be out in Summer 2021.