The only thing set in stone about creativity is that nothing is set in stone. We at the Four Leaf Studios know that as well as anyone. Throughout the development of Katawa Shoujo, we changed our minds countless of times about grand visions of the project, and about minute details as well. After KS was released, we felt like we were done, finished both emotionally and creatively. We didn't want to stay with KS anymore, but where to go from there?
After about a year of soul-searching we realized that we hadn't done anything of relevance for about a year and panicked a little. Katawa Shoujo 2 was brought up again. Maybe we should just accept our fate and go for it? Do we have motivation? Could we get inspired by returning to that uninspiring setting and having to write about teenager drama once again? After some unfruitful discussions and a lot of hemming and hawing we decided to use the most powerful development tool known to man: voting. Everyone would simply vote for or against making KS2 and we'd abide by the democratic decision no matter what anyone actually said about the issue.
I think just about everyone's mind was blown when it turned out that every single vote was for “yes”! I couldn't believe it myself. Just like that, we had changed our minds on the biggest rule for ourselves, the one we thought was truly set in stone. So, that was it. Half excited, half scared, we set out to make KS2, but how? What would it be like? What should it be like?
It would be a failure, as we found out.
Finding an unified vision between a great number of people is difficult. The proverb about chefs and soup goes for devs and visual novels just as well. The overall approach for KS2 was the first point of conflict. I argued that there was no point in making a sequel unless it's essentially the same thing again, which made delta threaten to quit on the spot because he'd rather cosplay Misha at the next Oktoberfest than make KS all over again. Suriko thought he was being clever by suggesting a compromise with a female protagonist and a girl love theme, but everyone was wise to his self-serving agenda and shut it down immediately. Not that anyone was really that attached to Hisao as the protagonist. Five people, individually from each other, suggested a plot revolving around killing Hisao in the most unfortunate ways. Too bad the only thing everyone hated more than Hisao were the proposed plot concepts.
With an immediate bad end in the direction of going the high-concept route (which Silentcook pointed out was utterly ridiculous given the topic we're talking about), we thought maybe we could let the story write itself if we could come up with a sufficiently strong cast. That's what some creators are able to do, I've heard. As for us, the sheer amount of moe characteristics, fetishes and thinly veiled dream girlfriends fast became impossible to deal with, and since everyone is very adamant about their tastes being supreme, compromise was hard to reach. The discussions soon became very much like actual office politics, with people colluding to support each other's inane ideas, backstabbing, threats to quit and even blackmail.
Visual concept design wasn't going any better. We had a bunch of unused character designs left over from KS 1 (half of which various devs wanted to cram into the sequel for no good reason) and the artists jumped at the chance to create worthy spiritual successors to classic designs like Hideaki and Jigoro. Delta threatened to quit once he heard that moekki would get to do character design, but we made sure she would only be working under strict supervision of kamifish which calmed him down a bit. The character design process overall caused quite a bit of anger and resentment, eventually resulting in every single completed design being rejected. Things were not looking good for us.
As a final desperation move we turned to our resident expert in lowest common denominator, climatic. He suggested we should do a fandisk for KS that amends the lack of certain "fundamentals" in the original game. This would be appealing to the widest audience. The concept involved things like a beach event, a pool event, a hot springs event, Shanghai turned into a maid cafe, catgirls, doggirls, foxgirls, bunnygirls, sheepgirls, a cute but a bit tsundere little sister character, a perverted otaku best friend character, a stalker character, a harem ending, a harem ending, a harem ending, a haunted house, inexplicable superpowers, alternate dimensions, mecha battles, magical girls, zombies, fantasy MMORPGs and a clown.
This titanic project didn't even need a metaphorical iceberg, it sunk because of its own impossibility. All that remains are dozens, maybe hundreds of concepts, all rejected for one reason or another, many ruined friendships and the memory of the worst month of my life. We truly tried our best to find a vision worthy of a sequel of Katawa Shoujo, but regrettably it just was not to be. We're sorry.
So where do we go from here? We decided that what we're going to do now is to skip KS 2 entirely and go straight for creating Katawa Shoujo 3. From how our planning is going, it's looking to be absolutely magnificent, with so many amazing features and stories. We're really excited and confident about this project and hope you're too. Look forward to hearing more about that in about a year.
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