Pixel Business

In this blog I documented the journey of finishing a game I started 7 years ago with a friend.

Read this first

Almost a month later: Some stats!!

The Great Voyage just released on Steam, but it has soon been almost a month out on itch.io and the traffic is slowing down. Time to bring out the charts!


Itch has a nifty feature that shows where people who visited your game page found it. Here’s the breakdown. (Sadly no such thing for downloads, unless people paid.)

As you can see over 50% of our traffic came from Reddit, where a thread on r/visualnovels reached thousands of people in span of couple days. I think my post was good and humble enough that the audience forgave my self-promotion. As a niche product, it was expected that r/visualnovels would reach the audience we were looking for. Targeted marketing is powerful and even scary!

Depending of the time of the day and hashtags, Tweets can snowball into a big wave of exposure. Most of the traffic on the first day came from twitter as gamedev, indiedev, pixelart, visualnovel...

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The Great Voyage now out on Steam!

You can purchase it here!

That’s right: “purchase.” There is no way to make the payment optional in steam, but we need to recuperate the fee from uploading to Steam.
The game is still free on other sites, but we would appreciate if you paid the low price we set on Steam.

It’s -10% off too during the first week! We hope many people find enjoyment in our work.

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Thoughts from the writer - A trip to the past

(This post was written by Elmo Mustonen, the author of The Great Voyage, after I asked him to contribute his feelings about the project)

I started writing this VN seven years ago, working together with Hanna, who was my class mate at the time. I liked writing (and still do) and she liked artwork and computers (and still does). Back then I finished a version of the text and soon after life got in the way and we never finished the VN. Eventually I moved to a different school and then we both graduated and went to do different things as we tumbled our way into adulthood.

Then, last spring, as I was wrestling with my bachelors essay in history at the University of Helsinki, Hanna sent me a surprise: shed finished the VN, and asked if I wanted to finish my bit and edit and translate the text. I of course agreed and what followed was an eerie journey into my past.

When I started writing...

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We have released on itch.io!


The Great Voyage has finally released! For now it’s only available at itch.io as it was the fastest platform for the game to come out in.

You can find the game here!

I made a small mistake by publishing the game page before the game was ready which meant that upon release the game hasn’t gotten much visibility from itch.io itself. In one month I will post stats how the game sold and all kinds of fun stuff :)

I’m looking into getting TGV to Game Jolt and Steam aswell.

Here are some final screenshots:

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Memnon, The Secretive Ambassador


This is the last character progress profile. FInally we have Memnon. Personally he is my favorite of the three. He is richer than Vassan so I could design him fancier clothes! His personality is sarcastic yet charming and that’s the kind of character I like best. Most of the funniest lines in the script are his.

Gen 1 - earliest version of Memnon was the hardest thing I had drawn until that point. I think I tried to learn how to draw folds in cloth for this, but my skills were very entry level

Gen 2 - This has aged better than I remember. I’m scared how thin he is. If he was real, he would collapse.

Memnon 3.png
Gen 3 - At this point I had just learned what otome games were. I fell in love with otoge art and tried to imitate the art of Amnesia for this version. http://michibiku.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/ikki-amnesia-memories1-800x445.jpg I still like this version, but sadly it doesn’t...

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How we monetize this thing

At the game design course I attended, the teacher was a very avid supporter of free to play games. He said that releasing a game (on the mobile market) was a financial suicide these days. And he might be right.
The Great Voyage will not be released on mobile, however it is very hard to stand out with no marketing budget. Even if we put the price very low, the chances are the VN will be lost to the masses of indie games coming out every day.

They say making your game free will 1000x your audience. We discussed this with the author and decided in the end that knowing more people were reading the VN was more important to us than getting 50€ for our hard work. Instead we decided to put a voluntary donation page inside the game (Nothing predatory, just an option in the menu) for people who want to support the creators with a coin or two. The page has a link to a PayPal page and a bitcoin QR...

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Eugenie, The Two-faced Lady

Eugenie is a somewhat spoiled young lady and her future husband would inherit her father’s magnificent post in king’s court. Since she was very you Eugenie has been drilled with manners and etiquette, but deep down she wants nothing more than to just be able to be her honest self. Apparently she is based on a girl the author knew as a child.

1st version - circa 2011
My niece commented when she saw her: “That is too sweet! There is no way you made that!” Ah, how my family believes in me.

2nd version - circa 2012
I had recently become a fan of Steins:Gate and tried to emulate the sprite art with this. Author’s comments at the time: “May I have her number?”

3rd version - circa ????
I have no memory of drawing this, however I commend myself for trying to experiment with colors

4th version - circa 2014-2015?
I somehow had an idea to make the art more fantasy-esque, so I added elf...

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Ren'py and Challenges

Ren'py is the most widely used visual novel engine. (A tool you make this kind of text-based games with) Ren'py is based on Python coding language. You can use Python to program your own features inside Ren'py but that is not even necessary. Many famous visual novels were made with it. Last year a smash hit vn called “Doki Doki Literature Club” came out. That was made with Ren'py.
I am an ICT student so I have some programming skills, but when I started developing this game I knew nothing about coding. I chose Re'npy because even the 15 year old me could understand the interface and most of the coding is done for you, if you are okay with not changing the default GUI.
(It also helps that Ren'py is free to use and there are no licencing fees)
(The Great Voyage was made with an ancient version of Ren'py so many new options weren’t available to me)

After fishing the old project from my...

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Vassan, The Gloomy Poet

Vassan is one of the three main characters of The Great Voyage. He’s an awkward person with little to no social skills and is hopelessly in love with another main character. He’s probably most sympathetic of the three and I think he’s a bit more “main” than the other two main characters.
Here’s how his art has evolved as I have drawn the characters many times during the years because I was never satisfied with what I made :/ Thankfully I have improved during the years :P

1st Generation
2nd Generation
3rd Generation (Was never finished)
vassan 4.png
4th Generation (Now)

Vassan went through biggest design changes, mainly because he is lower in class than the other two characters and therefore his clothes had to relflect his “ordinariness”, but the character still needed to look distinct.

Here’s another version of him that got scrapped, because the style was too much work and the colors didn’t...

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Long time no see!

Well, this was on hold for quite some time. Studying is hard work, but I’m doing fine now. And guess what? The Great Voyage is ready!
Well, almost. All the art assets are done, programming is done and so on. In the end I showed the game to my childhood friend who originally wrote the script. (And he was very impressed that I completed the project after 7 years.)
He was 14 years old when he wrote it and you might guess that he cringed pretty hard, so he decided to rewrite it and transform all the problematic parts of the story. (“Clearly I was not a feminist at 14!” he said. “This subtle misogyny is unbearable! It has to go!”)
He also took to himself to translate the script to English after fixing it. He should be ready in two to three more months.

The to-be-fixed parts of the story include things like:
-Women being completely useless
-Women fainting at every scene
-The main...

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