When The Night Comes remains one of my favorite visual
novels. The game has a
solid story, good romance options, but above all it is inclusive in all
the best ways: queerness doesn’t feel like it’s something thrown in, but
organically built into the world.
To learn more about how developer Lunaris Games developed an inclusive
story, I spoke with UK-based writer Kris Wise. Wise co-founded Lunaris
Games alongside their Art Director, Anna, and serves as their Director,
Narrative Designer, and Lead Writer.
How was Lunaris Games founded?
Myself and two friends met through playing another visual novel, The
Arcana, and we loved the inclusivity in that game and started talking
about how we thought there should be more queer VNs. We kind of just
took the leap as a hobby, to begin with, and started making When The
Night Comes. It quickly got popular to the point where I was able to
quit my full-time job as a marketing and merchandise manager to commit
all of my time to the studio.
What games is the studio currently working on?
We’re currently working full-time on two titles: Errant Kingdom,
which is out now and updates episodically every one to two months, and
our new title Call Me Under, which we plan to Kickstart in November
We are also actively ‘revamping’ When The Night Comes for a re-release
that will hopefully happen in late 2020 or early 2021.
Of the three games, do you have a favorite?
I think When The Night Comes will always be the favorite child
because it was our very first, but we love all of our games! We’re very
excited for Call Me Under, though, as it’s taking us in a more
‘grown-up’ and dark direction, which is what we as a team are super
What lead to the decision to revisit When The Night Comes?
We started making When The Night Comes for free, and with little to
no knowledge on how to make a VN. As the game is so well-loved we really
wanted to revisit it and see where we could improve it using the
knowledge we now.
We’re not making any huge changes to the story at all, just polishing it
and also replacing some artwork. There will also be new features like a
codex and a new platform release that we’re excited to talk about but
are keeping secret until we have a date!
How is the is the studio working on the three different projects at
once – are artists working on one, while writers are on another, while
coders are on another?
Our team has expanded exponentially since When The Night Comes first
released, so we have a few people who are solely dedicated to working on
just one project. Some of our artists work on two games, but we have
hired people just to focus on Call Me Under.
One of thing I loved about When the Night Comes was how queer
accessible the game is – as a gay man, I’m used to my romance options in
games, if they exist, being limited. I struggled with who to romance in
When the Night Comes because all my options felt compelling. I wanted
to spend time to discuss this – specifically what goes into making a
diverse, queer friendly game.
To begin, was this a goal for When the Night Comes to make an LGBTQ+
friendly game from the start of its development?
We absolutely started with the intention of making the game LGBTQ+
friendly, specifically with the main character able to go by any
pronouns, and for there to be no gender-restricted romances. We then
added the polyamorous relationships.
Our most popular love interest is also our non-binary character, August.
That means the world to us and goes to show that people want that
representation in these kinds of games. We get a lot of feedback from
players about their inclusion and route meaning a lot to them, and the
same with Roux and Lucien in Errant Kingdom.
When creating a queer-friendly game, what are some of the critical
things to get right? And did you use tools like sensitivity readers to
check that your ideas were landing as expected?
For us the critical thing was that the queerness of our characters
wasn’t a gimmick or a talking point, it’s just who they are and built
into the fabric of our whole universe.
We also have a diverse team, which was integral to ensuring that we were
getting things right. But we also consulted friends who could give us
further insight into the representation we offer in our games and will
continue to do so.
When The Night Comes (WTNC) also features two polyamorous romance
options - could you talk about those options, and what were some of the
goals and key takeaways you wanted for the player when writing those
Polyamory is notoriously badly represented in media. Relationships are
often depicted in a jealous manner or include petty love triangles,
which completely misses the point of what it means to be polyamorous.
It’s all about trust and respect and having an understanding of your
partners, so we made sure that those relationships were very lovingly
crafted and even if the player chose to pursue those characters as solo
romances, the other character would be supportive of that relationship
in a very special way.
Are there any lessons you learned when writing WTNC, with respect to
diversity, then were then applied to the next games (or the remake)?
We had a majority male cast for WTNC and we definitely wanted to do
better on that front for Errant Kingdom. We did that in splitting the
cast equally, having two male, two female, and two non-binary
characters. We think this worked really well and gave a better variety
and obviously better representation.
As the writer for Lunaris games, you have also written novels for the
studio as Patreon rewards for supporters – can you talk a little bit
We write short-stories for our Patrons just to explore backstories or
certain situations that we maybe wanted to put in the games, but were
unable to for whatever reason. I’d say they’re the same as the kinds of
stories you’d find in compendium books like Dragon Age’s World of
Thedas series, just little additional snippets that give some extra
insight into the characters.
You’ve also written WTNC fanfiction on Ao3. Is it strange writing
fanfic if your own characters?
It is a little strange sometimes, and I’ve definitely cut down on
doing so thanks to my schedule being a little nuts these days. But I
think if you can’t have fun with your own characters then what’s the
I mostly write for fandoms that aren’t my own now and it’s just a really
nice break where I don’t have to think too hard about things. Getting
lost in others works is always something fun that helps clear my head or
refresh my love of writing if I’m feeling burnt out!
As a data nerd, I wanted to ask, do you get any telemetry about the
choices people make in game?
Unfortunately, we don’t have anything implemented that tells us any
data from people’s choices, but we do have a discord server for our
Patrons where we have release day discussions, so we do tend to get
feedback from those conversations, which is nice. Maybe in the future,
if we release on mobile or console, that’ll be something we look into!
While you don’t have hard numbers, I’m curious: just from your own
conversations, do more people side with [spoiler] in the end of WTNC
then you expected?
The general consensus on that is that most players are too scared to
go for the ‘bad’ ending, but there are definitely a lot who did play it
and loved it! I personally had the most fun writing that ending.
What are you most excited for players to experience in the upcoming
chapters in Errant Kingdom, if you can share? And for WTNC, what are
you most excited for fans to revisit?
We’re incredibly excited to start getting into the meat of the plot
for Errant Kingdom as we head towards the middle of the overall arc of
the game. I think it’s going to go in a direction that people might not
expect but hopefully like!
We are also finding it incredibly difficult not to scream about Call Me
Under but we’re trying really hard to keep it all under wraps until we
get closer to the launch of the Kickstarter. It’s really different from
the other two titles and I hope people love it just as much as we do.
It’s been nearly nine months in the making now, so it’ll be a relief to
finally have it out in the world!
When the Night Comes and Errant Kingdom are both available for
purchase from itch.io