Sad Panda Studios is a Canadian game company that launched in 2016. They’ve released their first game that has earned itself a small legion of fans who love flirty dating games that sometimes get a little naughty.

1. Why did you start Sad Panda Studios and how many people are on your team?

Artist Panda: We’ve always had a desire to make our own game, no managers or producers or approval processes to hold us back. There are 3 of us, and 2 of which have worked in the gaming industry for the past 8 years.

Oji Panda: Artist Panda and I have been working casually on cool stuff for years, and we felt that Crush Crush had “break out” potential. Thus our little studio was born.

2. There are a lot of anime about making games like Saekano or Welcome to the NHK. Do you feel these shows convey what goes into creating games?

Artist Panda: I think those series romanticize the ideas of making your own game or comic, but gloss over all the hard work part. I recently watched New Game! which was a cute take on starting out in the games industry, mainly in the art department. That series also made it seem like you could learn or accomplish SO MUCH in the span of 22 minutes 😛 In reality it takes years.

Oji Panda: I think something that those series do well is convey the “feeling” of creating games. There are LOTS of hours spent working and refining and re-working stuff, but when you love what you do the hours fly by.

3. So your first game is a mature dating game called Crush Crush. Why did you decide to launch with that?

Artist Panda: Hehe, well it actually started as a totally innocent Idle/Dating game on Kongregate. Then the natural progression lead to us releasing a Hentai version on Nutaku. It’s such a natural part of that game genre, fans were expecting it. I also love drawing flirty cute girls so it was an easy decision.

Oji Panda: Dating sims are pretty scarce out of English-Speaking studios. There’s a funny taboo against them in North America and other places, but they’re considered mainstream in many Asian countries. I’ve always enjoyed them myself however, and Crush Crush is sort of a love letter to fans of the genre.

  

4. You’ve launched CrushCrush on a few platforms and now have an uncensored version. Why the different distribution channels?

Artist Panda: We started on Kongregate with a web build of our game when it was in beta, which was awesome for testing/finding bugs/gathering feedback and suggestions from players. Then it became a natural step up to launch on Steam, since we would no longer be restricted to small file sizes that run on web. That was a great learning experience, and the fans there were so welcoming and helpful.

When they kept asking us about an Adult version of our game we turned to Nutaku, who helped us lay the path for ‘Moist and Uncensored’ to deliver the adult content they had been asking for. I think it’s important to have a healthy view that games can have adult content or a saucier version, and Nutaku is doing an awesome job of bringing more of that culture to English-speaking audiences. We’re really stoked to be working with them and helping progress the ‘dating’ genre in games over here.

Oji Panda: It followed a pretty natural progression. Kong lets anyone launch their games, and gives you great tools to support it. You have to prove yourself before you can launch on Steam, but the audience is bigger and more willing to spend money. Fans on both platforms wanted a mature version of the game, but both Kong and Steam aren’t super stoked to provide access to that kind of material. Nutaku approached us and gave us a wicked platform for it.

5. Have there been any embarrassing stories like awkward family dinners or getting caught in public looking at drafts?

Artist Panda: DEFINITELY. Oh my gosh, I had family staying with me for a few weeks when I was in a crunch to make this hentai content, so it was mega awkward when they would sneak up to check out what I was working on. My hand was perpetually hovering over the ESC key that whole time.

Oji Panda: *I* make things awkward. I tell strangers that I play sexy dating games. I play Crush Crush in public. Deal with it, haters.

6. What’s the hardest part of the development process? Was it the idea phase or execution of releasing the product?

Artist Panda: Both have had their tricky parts. Launching on new platforms always comes with its own bag of problems. That’s more technical issues though, and for me I think the hardest part of developing a game has been pivoting on ideas. You get married to one idea sometimes and find it hard to change when feedback tells you otherwise; but in the end, it’s feedback from the players that helps us decide the right way to go. We just gotta remember that 🙂

Oji Panda: It’s definitely getting used to negative feedback. Here’s the thing – if someone says something they hate about your game, that feedback is super valuable. It means you made a connection. Maybe if you change or fix that thing, they or someone else will like it more. But reading tons of negative feedback is super hard on your heart and morale. When I was a younger designer, I would basically cry myself to sleep every night. Now I say, “Hmm. Good point.”

7. Where did the bear come from?

Artist Panda: Bearverly!? Our big ‘n beautiful grizzly girl sprung about as part of our April Fools’ Day update, and we wound up with so much positive feedback for her that we decided to keep her in the game as a permanent character. We’ve never looked back since.

Oji Panda: Bearverly is my spirit animal. I’m planning on voicing her in the game, eventually.

8. I see there’s a lot of fan participation like voting on characters and their personality. How much fan input are you integrating into the game?

Artist Panda: I try to toss polls and concepts on our Twitter and Patreon so we can get as much fan input as possible. Ultimately we have to make the decisions that follow our vision, but there have been several times when fan decisions have impacted the direction of our game features 🙂 The Bearverly example is a great anecdote for that.

Oji Panda: Start with your idea, finish with the fans. Unless you’re making art, or work that makes some kind of statement, don’t have an ego. Fan input can give you guidance on stuff you might be blind to. Listen, Respond, Act upon. Do it.

9. How did Sad Panda manage to support itself as making this game and how important has Patreon been moving things forward?

Artist Panda: We all have day jobs, so that does allow us to have food on the table but any expenses we’ve had (like licensing Music, Software/Hardware etc) came out of pocket. The nice thing is that we’re all passionate about making our own games so we make time to work on it, which usually ends up being a few hours every night and longer on weekends. Patreon has been instrumental for funding extra things like equipment and contracting animators. The dream of course would be to work on our own games full time, but you need to have a steady revenue to make something that wild and crazy happen.

Oji Panda: There has been no time in history where the tools for making cool stuff are so accessible and powerful. Think of how difficult it is to make a great film – independent, short or long; it’s hard. But game-making can be learned by almost anyone. If you’re passionate to try, set a goal and go for it. Grab Unity, or Game Maker software, watch some YouTube videos and make something cool. Half of this industry started by someone “making something cool”.

10. Has working on this changed how you see the gaming industry?

Artist Panda: I used to think it would be a lot easier, like ‘motivation go go!’ that’s all you need and if you pour your heart into it other people will surely love it too. Comic Party, Saekano, all those industry anime follow that message. The reality is more “get ready to fail, but learn why things failed. Then you can improve them and find the fun stuff faster”.

Oji Panda: Something I’ve realized more and more is that creating great games really is a “personal” experience. Crush Crush is good because I’m making it with friends, infusing it with my passions, basing it on people I know. As silly as something like Saekano is, in framing all of its story on Tomoya’s “personal stakes” and how it connects to the game he’s making, game development really can be a drama llama rollercoaster.

11. Do you have any advice for people looking to go into gaming, animation, or other creative fields?

Artist Panda: Yes! Watch lots of anime 🙂 Or consume tons of games, and try dissecting them so you’re not just ‘enjoying them in the backseat’ but you’re analyzing what makes them fun or addicting. If you can deconstruct the games you’re interested in it will help you understand a lot about your own game project. Or if you’re an artist I’d say practice drawing something different, every day, no excuses!!

Oji Panda: If you find it difficult to stop what you’re doing and go to bed, even at 2 am, you might just have the fire to make it in this biz. Just do it.

You can play the dating game Crush Crush or go a little deeper in Crush Crush Moist & Uncensored!

 

SHARE
Alex Jaxon
I've been hooked on sci-fi, gaming, and anime ever since watching Trigun, Outlaw Star, and playing Final Fantasy. I love exploring shows and subjects that have been passed over. Pro-VR, pro-lewd, pro-indie gaming, and anti-censorship. I take about 4 major trips a year to other countries and love to visit the local fan conventions (sci-fi, anime, games, VR) when I can.
Loading Disqus Comments ...
Loading Facebook Comments ...

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here