Interview: Sucker for Love Date to Die Combines Crafting Items And Lovecraftian Horror

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Sucker for Love Date to Die For - via Akabaka

Sucker for Love: Date to Die For combines Lovecraftian with Horror to bring out a fresh dating simulator that looks highly engaging and unique. Developed by Akabaka, the game tells a story in a hand-drawn 2D world, with perfect aesthetic anime that ensures players return to the game. 

The game suits both Lovecraftian and horror fans with different violent aspects in storytelling that hook the players from the start till the very end. The game’s story really is everything, and the overall concept of a horror and love novel fits perfectly. To learn more about how this visual novel style was inspired, we interviewed Joseph “Akabaka” Hunter, the Lead Developer of Sucker for Love: Date to Die For, over email. 

Sucker for Love Date to Die For - via Akabaka
Sucker for Love Date to Die For – via Akabaka

Please introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your role on Sucker for Love: Date to Die For.

Akabaka: I’m Akabaka, the lead developer for Sucker for Love: Date to Die For, so I did most of the code, art, story, and dialogue. I’ve been working on SFL: DTDF for two years, significantly longer than I had to work on Sucker for Love: First Date.

What inspired you to blend Lovecraftian horror with a 90's anime visual novel style in your game?

Akabaka: When I was invited to join DreadXP’s Dread X Collection 2, the theme of the jam was “Lovecrafting” – the game had to include elements of Love mechanics, Crafting mechanics, and Lovecraftian horror, and since I am a VN/RPG dev, and crafting would have been very hard to do in 10 days, I settled for “creating items and them using them” as close enough to crafting, and a genre of game that has both ‘using items and love mechanics’ is a dating sim. 

At that point, the only missing piece of the puzzle was Lovecraftian horror – so it became a dating sim about Lovecraftian horrors.

interactive world of Sucker for Love Date to Die For
Sucker for Love Date to Die For – via Akabaka

Despite the disclaimer, the game carried horror elements within its Lovecraftian theme. How did you balance maintaining a sense of dread and tension while also ensuring an enjoyable experience for players?

Akabaka: It’s very tricky, but the thing that makes SfL:FD and SfL: DTDF so effective at being funny and also scary is I let the funny parts be funny and the scary parts be scary. Trying to make scary things funny makes them neither, and so ensuring each section of the game has a particular tone and then playing the tone straight creates a unity of effect needed for horror games like this.

The incorporation of unnerving audio cues and visual details like blood spills and scorched silhouettes adds depth to the horror experience within the game. Can you elaborate on the process of creating these elements and how they contribute to building tension and fear for the player?

Akabaka: In studying horror, and Lovecraftian horror especially, fear of the unknown is one of the scariest things to inflict on the player – if you play an easily identifiable sound, it can only be as scary as the thing that would make that sound, but if you play a sound that can’t be easily identified, then the player’s mind starts to wander, and whenever you let players imagine what something unknown is, they will always come up with the scariest thing to them individually. So, leaving inexplicable sights and sounds is great for tension.

Sucker for Love Date to Die For - via Akabaka
Sucker for Love Date to Die For – via Akabaka

Rhok'zan, as a character, seems to offer a unique blend of charm and danger within the game. How did you develop her character to evoke sympathy from players while also maintaining her status as an eldritch deity?

Akabaka: I think she, along with most of the characters, at the very core, just have very strong motivations, whether they are moral or evil goals aside. 

Throughout the game, she and the Black Woods show themselves to be capable of terrible things, but she isn’t some pure evil force of nature – they have motives, even if we don’t understand them as humans.

The pursuit of unlocking every possible ending suggests a high level of replayability in the game. How did you design the branching narrative paths to encourage players to explore different choices and outcomes?

Akabaka: I designed the additional endings to differ from my experience playing classic VNs – I wanted the endings to be relatively easy to achieve and easy to find; I dislike rereading the same dialogue over and over to hunt for a different ending flag to get a marginally different ending or a dud downer one.

And so, the game is clear on what needs to be done to trigger the myriad endings, I also wrote each ending to be strong; I tried not to include any empty burner endings– I tried to write each as though they were the canon ending of the story.

Sucker for Love Date to Die For - via Akabaka
Sucker for Love Date to Die For – via Akabaka

The game appears to explore themes of devotion and obsession in the pursuit of love. How did you intend for players to reflect on these themes throughout their gameplay experience?

Akabaka: Well, the Lovecraftian moral of the story is that the road to evil deeds can start with good intentions – Rhok’zan wants a big happy family (and causes the world to be entombed in her Black Woods), Stardust wants to save Rhok’zan from her cult (and becomes the new leader of the cult in the process), etc.

Given the unique blend of genres and thematic elements in Sucker for Love: Date to Die For, can you share some of the most significant development challenges your team faced during the game's creation? How did you overcome these challenges, and were there any particular moments where you had to make tough decisions to ensure the game's cohesion and quality?

Akabaka: I think the hardest thing about SfL: DTDF was that it was much stronger on the horror this time than the first game. In the first game, the MC’s actions are what directly causes most of his problems, and he’s in control of the situation to some degree. 

This opens up a lot of opportunities for comedy, and for the player to make their own punchlines. In SfL: DTDF, the MC is being held hostage, so they are on the receiving end of the story instead, and don’t get to set the pace or tone of the horror anymore, causing the game to be more scary and less funny. 

Originally, the cultists in SFL: DTDF were going to be comic relief– a bunch of kissless virgins, but the problem was, they couldn’t be both scary and funny at the same time, and so many of the jokes around them had to be cut so they wouldn’t ruin the tension.

Sucker for Love Date to Die For - via Akabaka
Sucker for Love Date to Die For – via Akabaka

Could you share some insights into the development timeline of Sucker for Love: Date to Die For? How long has the game been in production, and approximately how many developers have been actively involved in bringing this unique concept to life?

Akabaka: The game took 2 years compared to the 4 months of the first game, and I was the only developer.

Anything else you would like to share with the readers?

Akabaka: Thanks for playing/reading about Sucker for Love!

Sucker for Love: Date to Die For is an anime Visual Novel video game developed by solo developer Joseph “Akabaka” Hunter and published by DreadXP. The game was released on April 23, 2024, for PC. 

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