Ebon Light developer, Ahnna, started out her journey in Video Game Land a little differently, but still managed to put together one of the most acclaimed indie titles in her niche. With her “teeny tiny studio” of one, her visual novel saw immediate success and built a hefty following in a very short amount of time. The playthroughs and reviews still get a lot of traffic on YouTube, and the genre still continues to grow, with new visual novels appearing regularly for hungry fans.
If you have ever wondered why visual novels were so popular, you just have to take a look at the fanbase they accrue. We are talking loyal, dedicated fans and communities who love to discuss the inner workings of the deftly created characters and worlds. Ebon Light’s fanbase is no different.
We were keen to find out more about the game’s success, and the developer herself, Ahnna…
“Ebon Light is a dark fantasy visual novel with romantic subplots, lots of choices, a customizable protagonist, and multiple ways to die.”Ebon Light, Underbliss
Hey Ahnna! You started out in game development a little different than most – artwork as a teenager?
Hi! Oh yes, it’s true! The broody elves I used in my visual novel were initially a product of my teenage mind, which I’m sure is very, or not at all, shocking. Art was initially a means to an end, as I had characters and stories I wanted to show my friends and that was the best way for me to do it. I certainly had no idea at the time that I’d eventually make a visual novel with some of those characters back then, but here we are!
Your “teenie tiny little game studio” consists of just you, which is an incredible achievement! Did you also animate the scenes yourself?
Thank you! Yes, I did! In Ebon Light, that was mostly fiddling with rotations and transparency values.
We enjoyed the depth of the story, but most notably, the characters come alive quite effortlessly. Were there any you liked/disliked writing more than others?
Duliae, something of a driving force for the whole story, arguably one of the antagonists and a potential love interest of the main character, was always fun to write. I also loved to write Laceaga, who is just very rude. Writing treachery is very fun. What may be a little interesting is that Vadeyn, one of my oldest characters, was one of the more tedious to write. I wouldn’t say it was difficult, perhaps even the opposite, too easy because he was an idea cemented long ago.
The artwork in the game is sublime; absolutely a requirement for the genre. Can you tell us a bit more about your methods/medium?
Oh, thank you! Originally, it was all drawn in Photoshop with a drawing tablet, but toward the end of development I began to use my iPad with the Procreate app. With digital art, you can hack things up and blend them together again and again until they start to look good, and I think if I were to describe my process, that’d be it.
Since 2019, have you worked on any more games?
I’ve been working on a few ideas, but nothing beyond that, nothing concrete yet!
The game has seen great longevity and had amazing feedback since the beginning. VN fans usually also enjoy the community/discussion around the games. Did you receive any feedback early on in release that made you realize how popular it had become?
I have, yes, and it’s surreal to see so many people enjoying a game I wasn’t sure anyone would play! I’m not sure I had any idea, no, though in retrospect that so many people were willing to wait so long for the final release should’ve clued me in.
One of your fans’ favorite features is the custom character design. Was this difficult to implement from a technical perspective?
It was not difficult, but certainly tedious and time consuming. I think it goes a long way toward immersion, often helping players connect with the main character right off the bat.
Developing such a rich story that weaves between so many moving parts must be extremely difficult?
There were definitely times where I’d get lost (and frustrated) trying to find loose threads, backtracking to connect the dots again and again, certainly a fair bit of chaos. Sometimes I’d get stuck trying to figure out how to write a bridge from one section to another so that it seemed cohesive and smooth, but that was usually a matter of brainstorming for a while and then going with whatever the best idea had been.
What are you most proud of with Ebon Light?
How immersive some say it is for them! If you’d asked me what I wanted Ebon Light to be before it was released, I’d have said an immersive story.
What advice would you give to any aspiring visual novel designers?
I hope this does not seem very obnoxious, but start small, and do what you must to finish it. It doesn’t matter if it’s exactly what you wanted, just finish it. I could’ve saved myself a lot of time and effort if I’d started with a smaller project, and learning to let go of what I wanted Ebon Light to be is probably the only reason I managed to finish it.
Do you have any future visual novel (or other game dev) plans?
I do, yes! I haven’t written off visual novels completely, but I definitely want to try my hand at other sorts of simple story-centric games. Nothing official yet, though.
Available now from Itch.io
|Windows, macOS, Linux
|Nov 9th 2019
|Dark Fantasy, Visual Novel, Romance, Drama