DarkCookie’s visual novel, Summertime Saga, has become one of the genre’s most popular in the West in mere months. We sat down to talk to him about how it all happened.
Summertime Saga is a game whose defining characteristic is the artwork. Partially, this is the scale. For example, the game has tons of locations, each with it’s own hand drawn background. But, it’s also the uniqueness of the artwork, being made in a “Cartoon network-esque” style that is uncharacteristic of a genre so heavily influenced by Japanese Media. It is no wonder then that the lead creator of the game, DarkCookie, is first and foremost an artist. He livestreams his artistic work on the game near daily too. We sat down with him to talk about his experience creating Summertime Saga.
LewdGamer: Hello, we’re here today with Dark Cookie, the carbohydrate-infused lead developer of the game Summertime Saga. Nice to meet you, DC.
DarkCookie: Nice to meet you, too!
LewdGamer: Is there a reason you decided on Dark Cookie? Did you consider Dark Macaroon at any point?
DarkCookie: Macaroons over cookies? Never. The name comes from an old inside joke between my friends and I, a long time ago. I’m also not going to delve into details about that. Let’s leave it at I just enjoy eating cookies.
LewdGamer: Sure, we can leave it there. You’re not exactly being interviewed by the food network. What kind of background do you have with hentai/erotic games?
DarkCookie: I really don’t have any. I’ve worked in the video game industry as a concept artist mostly, and none of it really included adult content. This project was the first time I touched any sort of sexual themed content. The project was also not meant to be anything overly sexual to begin with. It was originally just a test project to learn some Python scripting with the Renpy engine. It got popular and people obviously wanted H-content, so I made it fit with the story.
LewdGamer: Did you even play erotic games before you started Summertime Saga?
DarkCookie: Not too many, no. It might sound cliché, and I will most likely be repeating this in the next questions, but I really don’t have much time outside of working [laughs].
LewdGamer: What is it that made you decide to start working on video games in general? An artist of your talent could find work in a number of other fields?
DarkCookie: I also worked in the feature film and animated feature film field. Although, I do prefer working with the video game medium because of its dynamic nature. Being able to interact with something is obviously more immersive than watching something you have no control over. I suppose I like the limitless nature of video games, while retaining the story telling potential of a movie for example.
LewdGamer: How does working on an erotic game of your own compare in terms of experience to working on mainstream games and animated films for other people?
DarkCookie: Working on anything that is your own is always going to be like a breath of fresh air. Not having to follow guidelines, corporate decision making and producing schedules is just amazing. If you had asked me a year ago, I probably would have said the erotic part of it made no difference. But having worked with erotic content up to now, I think it actually adds something unique to the experience that most games can’t really touch. There’s a lot of emotions, stories and aspects of human interactions that you can’t easily approach when making a casual game. Once you remove that barrier, there’s a surprising amount of possibilities that open up even in terms of gameplay.
LewdGamer: We’ve been dancing around the topic for a while now, so let’s get right to it. Can you describe Summertime Saga for our readers who may not have tried it?
DarkCookie: Summertime Saga is the story of a young man graduating high school, plagued by the demise of his father and struggling to deal with hurdles surrounding his personal life. The player has to make the right choices in order to overcome these obstacles and become a better, stronger person! Oh, and there’s a lot of dating, lewd happenings and mixed sex throughout all of that.
LewdGamer: How is the game played?
DarkCookie: The game itself is a mix of visual novel and dating simulation. You live in a small town, go to school, talk to anyone and are free to go anywhere you like. While doing all that, you encounter characters and events that will impact the story and outcome of your game! The gameplay mechanics themselves are relatively simple. It’s a point and click game with a lot of character interactions and a turn-based day cycle.
There are also multiple mini-games that will help you get stats and monetary income all through the game. Ultimately you will go on dates, win the hearts of multiple characters and experience animated H-scenes!
LewdGamer: Are there any dating sims or adventure games you drew from for inspiration in terms of how the game is played?
DarkCookie: When I first started making the game, I had made the main character as an homage to the manga Noritaka, with strong similarities to its main character. I used to read it when I was a kid and loved everything about the story. Otherwise, the game is mostly just a common visual novel that isn’t drawn from any specific game.
LewdGamer: It certainly seems you drew a lot from other sources. It’s been remarked that Summertime Saga draws explicitly from several famous 80s movies. What movies did you use as an inspiration for segments of the game’s story?
DarkCookie: Ah, right! There are a few instances during the story that are drawn from movies, other games or TV shows. A lot of it comes from fans giving suggestions while I stream of fun references that should make it into the game. If a good idea comes up in the chat during streams that I think are worth adding to the game, I usually add it in. For example, if you go on the main character’s computer and open his recycling bin, you will find some rather humorous apps suggested by fans!
LewdGamer: Can you tell us a bit about the development team for the game? Who is on the team and how they ended up on it?
DarkCookie: Sure. NhKPaNdA started spamming me on Steam with code I should implement in the game to get rid of bugs, so why not just hire him to help directly making the game. Hurfy was shit posting on my stream channel for a while and wanted to help with posing and some code so he’s doing that now. AoiichiNiiSan’s friend sent me his portfolio saying I should get in touch with him to get some dank music for the game and that he worked on Katawa Shoujo. FL22 and Sam9 both have been supporting the project by helping with server related features, streaming and website things. They’re all great lads, I must say.
LewdGamer: Does much of your game’s Patreon funding go to paying them for their work?
DarkCookie: Yes, part of the Patreon income goes to paying devs who create content for the game.
LewdGamer: In the game, there are a number of girls that the main character can romance. Do you have a personal favorite?
DarkCookie: I would be obliged to say that my top three favorites are Anna, Captain Terry and Harold!
LewdGamer: Why are those three your favorites? What about them makes them a favorite for you?
DarkCookie: Anna and Captain Terry are both characters based off actual fans. I have to give props to my fans, ha ha. As for Harold, he’s a character with a little more depth to him as opposed to most characters in the game. I also think we can all relate to Harold, in some way.
LewdGamer: Fair enough. We’ve talked a bit about your decision to introduce sexual content in the game already. What kinks and sexual elements have you added to your game so far? What types of sexual content are you planning on adding later?
DarkCookie: There’s so many at this point that I’m going to say the game revolves primarily around milfs, school girls and incest. A large portion of fetishes also comes from polls I make during or after streams. The fans dictate a lot of the content and types of fetishes that end up in the game. Two notorious kinks that are planned for Summertime Saga and not currently in-game, are the trap and the monster girl!
LewdGamer: The trap? Is it a currently a character in the game or is it a character yet to be introduced?
DarkCookie: She is currently in the game, yes. But her identity is secret, until revealed in a future update!
LewdGamer: Do you find your own game erotic?
DarkCookie: You know what, people ask me all the time if I find my game to be arousing. The truth is, I have a really hard time finding my own art erotic. It’s something I can’t explain, but I can’t be turned on by my own art for some inexplicable reason. So, I let others do the enjoying!
LewdGamer: Your art style has something of a cartoonish quality to it. What are the major influences you draw from for your art?
DarkCookie: I can’t say it’s a specific inspiration. It’s a mix of many, indirect, influences over the years of working in the game industry and reading countless comics. A mix of my own style, and everything that exist, I suppose?
LewdGamer: Do you think it’s notable that a game with such an American art style has had so much success in the heavily Japanese-inspired English H-game scene?
DarkCookie: I guess people don’t care so much about art style. They probably just want good stories, good gameplay and ultimately, good games.
LewdGamer: How long do you think it will take you to complete Summertime Saga at the current pace?
DarkCookie: Back in October of 2016, when the scope of the game was a fraction of what it is now, I had envisioned to be done with Summertime Saga in June 2017. Needless to say, that mark is extremely off, now. The game has expanded a lot since then. I would say we’ve done about 10% of the game so far, but I’ve had a lot more help lately also.
At this new rate, maybe Summertime Saga will be done in 2018? In a way, though, this game sort of has an open-ended nature to it. There’s always going to be more stories, locations and characters explore in such an open-ended game. The focus is to complete the main quests and dating scenarios of all the main characters. After that, we’ll see if the game needs more content!
LewdGamer: How much of the decision to expand the scope had to do with unexpected fan response to the project?
DarkCookie: Some of it, I’m sure. But overall the decision came because I felt the game needed it. There’s a lot of backing and support being received, which allows me to spend most of my time working on it. If I didn’t have any support, then this project would be more of a casual hobby, which would require a smaller scope. But if the potential is there to turn this into an actual, great, game. Then why not?
LewdGamer: Has getting so much success, more than $11,000 on Patreon in under nine months, had an impact on your day-to-day life?
DarkCookie: I can’t really say it does, other than now I work on this project full time. Instead of having a full-time job and squeezing only a few hours each night. I basically work on my own game for a living, which I’m grateful and excited for!
LewdGamer: It is also notable how much of a fan role you’ve allowed for in the creation of your game. You are not the only developer with a Discord, but your Discord has hundreds of people at any point in time. Furthermore, you livestream content creation incredibly frequently, while taking in player commentary. What effect do you believe that so much engagement has for your game?
DarkCookie: It makes for a better game! As much as I try and keep control of a big picture and vision for the game. There’s often a lot of good suggestions and criticism coming from the community and I really don’t mind listening to it and implementing what makes sense.
LewdGamer: Would you recommend a similar approach for other developers?
DarkCookie: I would recommend it, definitely. But not everyone takes criticism the same way. We all work differently.
LewdGamer: Since becoming an H-game developer, have you taken time to look around and try any of the competition?
DarkCookie: I wish!! There’s nothing I’d love more than to spend a week trying all sorts of games and see what’s new out there. I don’t even have time to reply to the ever-increasing list of unread emails I have [laughs]. Let me get through this next update, take a day off and see if I can spend 30 minutes searching the net for an H-game to try out.
LewdGamer: What’s your favorite part of game development?
DarkCookie: There’s two parts I love making. The first is the initial burst of inspiration when you put together the story pieces for a character and think to yourself that you got something quite great and unique to work for. It’s a short-lived process and quite exciting. Then you have the second, which is when I can spend extra time making an animated H-scene and give it some quality. This a tedious, hard and exhausting process that is also quite exciting!
I also love working with the other devs also. Giving and receiving their feedback and watching the game come together is great!
LewdGamer: Thank you for taking the time to speak with us today, Dark Cookie. One last question. Do you have any funny stories from the development process of the game worth sharing?
DarkCookie: Yeah! I was once streaming drunk and promised my fans I would cam-stream naked if the project reached 30K backing on Patreon. So now that deal is cemented forever and I have a bittersweet outlook to it.
LewdGamer: Considering your current rate of Patreon growth, you’ve got about a year and a half.
DarkCookie: That would appear to be correct.
LewdGamer: You better get started on working out then.
DarkCookie: I live on the edge and have no shame.
LewdGamer: Don’t we all. Thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to speak with us.
DarkCookie: Thanks for having me!
DarkCookie has a variety of websites. The latest versions of all of his games can be picked up from his Patreon page, which also has a link to his popular Discord channel. If you’re looking for more specific information, you can head on down to his website , which also features a fairly robust wiki . DarkCookie is also a fairly frequent streamer, and his art streams can be caught on Picarto.tv.