Today’s post is an interview with Scalemail about their visual novel, “Walkerman.” The project has 37 hours left in its Kickstarter campaign and still needs ~$1200 to hit its goal, so please check out the game and leave a pledge if you like what you see! Also be sure to check out its demo. A big thank you to the team for taking my questions, and best of luck!
Synopsis: Jorgen, a nineteen-year-old boy from the countryside, has just embarked upon a certain career in the city-state of Midgard. As a walkerman (sometimes called a ‘poucher’), he will tour the streets and alleyways at night, combating the supernatural beings that emerge when the sun goes down. In order to survive Midgard’s dire nights, Jorgen will need to think on his feet. His battles with the supernatural revolve around abstract problem solving and attention-to-detail, not fancy swordplay. But between Midgard’s perilous politics and shady personalities, he’ll soon discover that the night isn’t the only thing to be wary of.
1. Tell us a little about Scalemail. Who are you and how did you come together?
Scalemail is an indie company I founded in order to make commercial releases. Previously, I had only released mods and freeware games under a different name. As for who we are, Scalemail has had a couple of members come and go over the years. I would consider my musician, Walker Peterson, and I to be the main team, along with a couple of freelance artists that have stuck around since the conceptual phase for Walkerman.
2. Where did the game’s plot come from? While drafting the game, did the characters ever ‘surprise’ you and change the plot as it was originally planned?
The game’s plot originated first from the desire to make an adventure game about monster hunting. I wanted something where knowledge and expertise was the focus instead of combat skill. But I also didn’t want to send werewolves and vampires after the player, because players would already know those monsters’ weaknesses. So I decided to go the Lovecraft/Arthur Machen route with the creatures. This choice also had an effect on the game’s setting, turning it from High Fantasy into something more low or middling. And while the monsters’ inspirations should be apparent, I’d like to think they’re their own little genre of weird.
As for the plot itself, I think it’s normal when writing to have ‘Ah-ha!’ moments where you go back and change things, and it happened to me a couple of times. I certainly had a strong notion for where I was going from the start of development though. There is a clear, consistent plot progression from the Prologue to Act 5. Although individual characters tend to steal the story, especially during the girls’ routes where the focus of the story is shared with another character instead of just Jorgen the walkerman.
3. Who is your favorite character? Why them?
I think my favorite character would be either Jorgen or Gregor. Their banter and interactions were much more natural, and played out smoothly even during the first draft. Aside from them, it would be difficult to pick a favorite from the romantic interests.
4. A big sell of this game is that you’re marrying Visual Novel elements with Adventure gameplay. The demo is great and provides some insight, but for those who haven’t played it: what is this marriage going to look like? What kind of gameplay will be incorporated into the story?
The gameplay is going to look like something similar to Phoenix Wright but non-linear, and it plays out in isometric battle arenas. Players are armed with a pouch full of odd items and knowledge of the monster’s rules, and must employ them to trap and kill the creature. But there will be surprises, things will go wrong, plans won’t work out, etc etc and players will have to reorganize themselves on the fly. Battles don’t have just one route through them either, often times you have the opportunity to recover from a mistake. During investigations, there will be some subtle hints at extra rules for observant players. These come into play similar to You Don’t Know Jack’s wrong answer of the game mechanic, where a seemingly random and idiotic answer might actually provide a great advantage.
5. The first comment I always seem to get after showing somebody “Walkerman”
is, “Wow. I love that artwork.” Personally, I especially like that the artwork is more Western than traditional anime. Was this a difficult choice to make? Has it been difficult to stick with the current style (I know that you polled backers at one point for input)?
We’re still shaky on backer feedback for the art direction. I think I got a very strong, negative reaction to the word ‘anime’ but it seemed to imply backers thought we would go the ~dere route. That was never an option. If I were to switch to a more anime-ish aesthetic it would be similar to Berserk or JoJo:BA, not something cutesy. As for the final art direction, it might change during development but I won’t sacrifice the aesthetics of the VN.
6. The music is really fun. What’s it like to commission work from an artist like Walker Peterson?
Walker is a bro, and puts effort into things that I don’t think a lot of people would. He’s also a really talented and creative artist. I’ve seen a little of what other tracks he’s toying with for the other acts, and they’re really promising.
Bonus Question. This is niche and nerdy, but did you use Campaign Cartographer to make the world map?
No, it was a small commission from an artist I was getting a feel for. I think it turned out well.
Walkerman is an Adventure Game/Visual Novel about hunting supernatural creatures.The game is planned for five episodic releases on Windows, Mac, and Linux. It will be available (tentatively) through Steam, Itch.io, and Humble Bundle. DRM-free versions will be available. Walkerman may feature themes and imagery unsuitable for small children, including those of a violent, disturbing, or sexual nature.