ex scenes in video games are often unbearably awkward. Whether it's the dead-eyed gaze from a pair of 3D models of chracters fumbling aboard a spacechip to times when it turns sex into a quick time event where reaching for a bra is as easy as holding R1, then L1, and jamming the analog stick upward before rotating it half-circle to the left. On top of that, there’s an overemphasis on sex scenes as the culmination of relationships in video games. There’s hardly a scene where the two characters get tested, or try to figure out if this was a one time adventure. The way sex is shown in games often gives no space to begin the more honest discussions that come with the deed. Lucy Blundell’s One Night Stand (ONS) refreshingly eschews the whole courting sequence altogether and focuses on what happens in the morning after. And, it's all the more sobering for it.
You begin the game with no knowledge of the naked woman beside you. Last night is presented as something less to be celebrated and more of a mystery to be solved. This visual novel game involves searching the room for clues that include panties, a used condom, a guitar, and even an easter egg to Blundell’s next game. You can also talk to the lady too upon extracting information from the clues you select. It’s a rather brisk affair with each playthrough under coming under 30 minutes. In this case, the quick playtime certainly makes it more enticing to reboot the game and attempt to find all 12 endings. Overall, the game’s main objective never feels like romancing the mysterious lady, but instead is more like figuring out what happened and what happens next between the two characters.
I got to do a quick email interview with the game's creator, Lucy Blundell who also goes by the moniker, Kinmoku. She shares some information about the overnight sensation of the game jam version, and developing the full game too.
The game is focused on the fallout of a one night stand, turning the idea of the typical video game romantic encounter on its head by focusing on the realistic and sometimes awkward morning after experience as opposed to the courting scenes. Can you elaborate on that?
I think you’ve hit the nail on the head here! A realistic encounter was definitely what I was going for, but my reasoning for this was because you don’t often see women in games being portrayed very realistically, and in a morning after situation like this, where you’ve already slept with the woman, how exactly should you go about treating her? Do you leave as soon as you can, or do you actually try and get to know her beyond her appearances? One Night Stand is certainly not a romance simulator.
I think it’s great that you’re advocating for games to explore life’s smaller moments. Can you explain where the game's idea came from?
Thank you! It’s funny, One Night Stand is not related to a personal experience of my own, but it does contain a few awkward conversations and behaviours which I’ve certainly felt before! It certainly contains private and personal content… When people see it, it gives them a distinct impression. Some people are intrigued, wanting to know more about this real-life experience, where as others wonder “Why is there a game about this?!” I think, because there hasn’t been a game about an awkward One Night Stand yet, that there should be. Little things in life, pleasant or unpleasant, should be shared and talked about… that’s something I believe, anyway.
One Night Stand was inspired by my imagination running away with me when I saw a hungover guy on the tram. I wondered what his story was and wanted to tell the tale of a very real encounter many of us have experienced one way or another.
How did you get into the game industry?
I started at Chillingo as a Graphic Designer. At the time, Angry Birds had just come out so it was exciting to see it take off from the small iPhone game I saw to the huge franchise of today. Months later, Chillingo then published Cut the Rope, and soon after they were acquired by Electronic Arts. As the only Graphic Designer on the team, I worked on many different things for the games we published… Sometimes creating adverts, icons and screenshots, other times creating artwork and designs for the games and company itself. I really enjoyed working on the games and thought I could do this in future, when I have more experience. After expanding and leading the creative team, working there for nearly 5 years and seeing hundreds of games get published, I felt confident enough to finally make my own game, something I’d always dreamed of doing one way or another.
One Night Stand’s game jam version was an overnight sensation. What was it like back then for you see all this coverage? And, how are you coping with it now?
Yes, it was very weird! As it was made in a few weeks for NaNoRenO game jam, it was rushed and unfinished. It was also my first ever release, so I just uploaded it to itch.io and left it be. A few weeks later, Let’s Players would pick it up, and then more would pick it up, and it just kept growing and growing. At the time, I wanted it to stop. I kept thinking “Please wait for the full version to come out! There’s so many inconsistencies and things missing!”. I wasn’t proud of it, which made it difficult for me to watch it gaining popularity. That’s the thing; once something is out there on the internet, you can’t assume it will go unnoticed, even if you know it still needs work.
Now, the full, Steam version has released, One Night Stand feels more like how I expected a game launch to go. It needs a lot of PR and marketing for it to get noticed. The game jam version had the free price tag on its side, but now that I’m trying to make money, it’s almost an entirely different ball-game.
The game has a distinct look with the rotoscape animations and hand-drawn art style. Did you always intend for the game be animated? Or was it more like the traditional still character portraits in other visual novel games?
I’m really not a fan of the still characters you typically see in visual novels, and being an animation graduate, I like to use animation wherever I can. I practiced rotoscoping in university but never really used it since. As One Night Stand was planned for a game jam, it gave me an opportunity to try the technique out for a project. Rotoscoping brings so much life to an animation, let alone a game. This life makes One Night Stand feel even more real, whilst refraining from using live action footage and keeping the sense of style. So yes, it was always intended!
You’ve cited Hotel Dusk and Firewatch as influences for developing the game, what are other influences that shaped this game?
I played Gone Home a few years ago, completely forgot about it, then, when developing the full version of One Night Stand, I remembered it again, and how well it tells its story through exploration. It helped me tweak the game jam version and tell a better overall story.
Really though, there wasn’t too much that inspired me with this game. Some players have said it reminds them of the Stanley Parable (for replay-ability) and Life is Strange (for the connection to female characters), and I’ve played both of these recently, so perhaps their influence subconsciously rubbed off on me!
Is it difficult writing a main character that is largely different from your own perspective?
One Night Stand’s game jam version was actually written by a man, a friend of mine: Dan Clements. He was unable to commit more time to the full game’s development, but it certainly helped to have a man initially write the male character’s point-of-view. With this foundation, I felt comfortable writing the rest of the story myself as the characters and behaviours were already established. I also did a lot of research on how men react to one night stands, which is very mixed and individual, and heard stories of what current university students are up to and the lad culture which comes with it.
As a solo dev, what non-creative aspect of video game development have you enjoyed/hated the most?
I enjoy all the creative aspects, haha! I guess programming could be seen as “non-creative”, so I enjoy that quite a lot. My heart still lies with art, animation and story-writing, but I’m surprised at just how much I've enjoyed coding. It’s less subjective than art.
I’ve disliked QAing the game. It’s a very important but lengthy task, and I still find bits I’ve missed later on, which can be frustrating. Also, promoting the game has been tricky in parts. It’s not something that comes naturally to me, but I’ve enjoyed it when it’s gone well.
Can you share some details about your upcoming game, LoveIRL? It sounds like it’s more of a personal project this time around?
Yes, it’s a much more personal project to One Night Stand. LoveIRL (working title) is about Zoe, a lonely university student who is surprised to find love in an MMORPG. However, when she meets them in-real-life, will they be everything she dreamed of?
It’s inspired by the relationships I had whilst I was playing World of Warcraft. I was crushed when I was developing this game and first heard about Cibele... I thought I was onto a unique, untold story, but the two games are actually completely different. LoveIRL is not autobiographical, and is more of an otome (maiden), romance visual novel. Unlike One Night Stand, it will have much happier endings, but there will also be darker outcomes depending on how things are played. Stay tuned!
What has developing One Night Stand taught you most in growing as a game dev?
Short is best! LoveIRL is a very big, ambitious project and One Night Stand showed me that creating something smaller, for a first game, is really important. It can tell you if players like your ideas, style, approach etc. Generally, the feedback for One Night Stand has been fantastic and some players have told me that the game’s helped them emotionally, so making this game before releasing LoveIRL has told me some people really like a more realistic story, which is what I’m also gunning for with LoveIRL.
Perhaps most importantly, however, is nailing an aesthetic. One Night Stand did this immediately and its concept is quickly understood. Both of these, I believe, are key to getting noticed as an indie developer. It’s something I’ll ensure my next project also does.
All photo credits belong to Lucy Blundell.
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and brevity.
One Night Stand is out now on Steam. You can follow more of Blundell's work as a game dev on her own site.