Interview: Still Joking Developers Are Working On A Major Sound Overhaul

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Still Joking - via Purple Brick Games

Still Joking is a simple yet beautiful Visual Novel 2D game developed by Purple Brick Games. The game heavily focuses on telling the story of a character, “Iris”, who was murdered during her career as a famous actress. Players are required to solve the murder mystery by engaging with different puzzles and paying notable attention to the detailed world. Throughout the gameplay, you will encounter different quests and puzzles, aiding in the progression of the storyline. 

Not only that, but you will meet new characters whose decisions and lives have much more impact on the overall storyline. Ever since the game’s initial release, developers have focused on improving the performance and a photo mode to capture the details of the world. To discuss more about these updates and what the future holds for Still Joking, we reached out to Purple Brick Games, over an email. 

Still Joking - via Purple Brick Games
Still Joking – via Purple Brick Games

Please introduce yourself and tell us about your work on <i>Still Joking</i>.

Purple Brick Games: We are Purple Brick Games: a small team of enthusiasts that released its first game three weeks ago. While working on Still Joking, we made a lot of mistakes, rewrote a ton of text multiple times, drew a huge amount of art, and developed an engine that was capable of supporting our degree of variability. Oh, and we wrote a song and mastered the process of recording a cat’s meows and purrs.

What inspired the unique concept of reflections living their own lives once their prototypes are gone?

Purple Brick Games: Once, our lead writer looked into the mirror, and her reflection winked at her…
For real, though, it is all rather prosaic: we had been looking for a setting for quite some time.

At one point, we became convinced that making our story about reflections was the way to go. It’s like reflections are just one step away from reality, which lets you explore real-life problems but from a different angle – and yet face them very closely.

Still Joking - via Purple Brick Games
Still Joking – via Purple Brick Games

How does the mix of visual novel, interactive fiction, and adventure genres contribute to the overall experience of the game?

Purple Brick Games: Why have we chosen these very pieces of the puzzle?
Well, we like them. ))

All the text is seamlessly interconnected, and whatever your playthrough choices are, they will not have any major impact on the logic and the ways of the world around you. They will, however, affect the main character’s behavior, as well as her relationships with others.
At the same time, it doesn’t matter which choice options hit closest to home in your case: we have made sure they are all beautifully drawn and delivered.

Meanwhile, adventure elements add diversity and are a fun way to affect the logic of behavior when the game itself starts playing with the player.

There are mixed opinions on the voice acting and minimal sound effects. What was the reasoning behind this decision?

Purple Brick Games: Regarding voice acting, the game has around 400,000 words, which would have been insanely expensive to voice and was nowhere near our budget.

Now, with sound effects, it’s our bad, really. For one thing, we believed that an excessive amount of audio would prevent the player from fully immersing themselves in the game and its world; for another, we’ve approached sound production “motion picture-style” – delivering a very wide dynamic range, meaning a very big decibel difference between the quietest and the loudest of sounds.

This solution caused some of the pre-release players to assume there was even less sound than there had been produced. Upon official release, the game already contained a fix for the dynamic range, making it more balanced; however, we’re currently working on a major sound overhaul altogether.

Still Joking - via Purple Brick Games
Still Joking – via Purple Brick Games

How do you think the quiet nature of the game affects the player’s immersion and experience?

Purple Brick Games: Since we realized we were not going to have any voice acting, we made a point of sometimes using ambiguous wording and phrasing on purpose, thus allowing the player to read those in their mind with just the tone and subtext that they felt appropriate. For example, one player may read a phrase sarcastically, while another will assume it is spoken explicitly – and both will be absolutely right.

As far as we can tell from the streams we’ve seen, different players do indeed read the characters’ exchanges differently, bringing their own meaning and personal attitude into play. Which is awesome! )

What was your approach to ensure that the visual design complements the narrative and interactive elements of the game?

Purple Brick Games: We’re not as much about visual design complementing the narrative as we are about having everything work smoothly with everything else. The design of the interactive elements and the art all refer to the story.

The text takes into account the content of each visual frame, including any changes the artists may have made in the process. There were quite a few instances when we rewrote the seemingly finalized text to reflect a change in the “even more finalized” art; after all, if there were a change in the character’s surroundings, they sure would have reacted to that!

Speaking of the sounds again, many of them were recorded with a finished visual already available as a reference, e.g., most of the sounds of the void, the cracks appearing, and the items being created. That is, everything related to the specifics of the reflections world. All in all, our goal was to produce a game that worked as a sum of parts rather than as any one part complementing or complemented by another.

Still Joking - via Purple Brick Games
Still Joking – via Purple Brick Games

What unique challenges did you encounter in developing characters that are reflections rather than original entities?

Purple Brick Games: They spend a considerable amount of time in front of the mirror (well, in front of the other side of the mirror, if you like), and they cannot avoid repeating after their prototypes, which is what the original entities are called. They have no choice whether or not to reflect after the prototype.

Just imagine: someone gets wasted in front of the mirror, someone talks on the phone for hours, someone practices their vocals… and someone murders. Well, and then there will always be those doing daily face yoga or trying on outfits for hours on end before going out for the night. ))

All the reflections have a certain experience of traumatic circumstances, longer or shorter, more or less expressed.
And, regardless of the specifics of life on the other side of the mirror that makes them unique, we find it is the very experience of living through trauma that makes them so humanlike at the same time.

What are your plans for addressing the player feedback in your development process, and what changes have you made based on it?

Purple Brick Games: We have already added color coding for character names, and we have built in an auto-skip option for the text you’ve already read, which many find handy during replays. And, as was mentioned above, we’re currently working on a major sound overhaul.

The most challenging player request is to localize Still Joking into more languages.

Still Joking - via Purple Brick Games
Still Joking – via Purple Brick Games

How many people actively worked on the game, and how long has it been under development?

Purple Brick Games: Depends on how you count, to be fair. We have two writers/game designers, four artists, one editor, one developer, and one producer, which makes it nine. However, we outsourced the UI and the entire music gig with its composers and musicians. Oh, and don’t forget the cat!

The development’s active stage with an established team took about three years.

Is there anything else you would like to share with the readers?

Purple Brick Games: If you’d like to try the game and get a feel first, you should totally check out our demo version. It features about four hours of possible gameplay, and all your saves are compatible with the full version of the game.
Thanks a lot for your time!

Still Joking is a 2D visual novel video game developed and published by Purple Brick Games. The game was released on May 16, 2024 for PC. 

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