Pseudomé Studios' visual novel, Errant Heart, is an effort to break away from compromise.
The project of two-man team Ron Kaulfersch and Mike Schwark, Errant Heart stars a young painter named Lira Moretti. The game is set in an alternate Europe, circa 1940s, where Hitler never existed. A Kickstarter campaign for the interactive fiction game was launched in March, and along with it, Schwark and Kaulfersch's chance to break into a niche genre.
Kaulfersch and Schwark are best known for their Tokyopop-published graphic novel series, Van Von Hunter. It's a medium that operates on a principle of compromise, Kaulfersch said, as artwork and story are too often pushed to the back in favor of speed and efficiency.
"When I started working on the first Van Von Hunter volume for Tokyopop, my editor informed me that the average manga reader spends only about three to five seconds on each page," Schwark said. "I was advised to keep the panel count low, in order to stay on schedule, and not worry too much if the drawings weren't perfect."
Errant Heart allowse their abilities to the fullest with as much time as they "could reasonably stand to craft something that is as devoid of compromises as possible," Kaulfersch said.
"The average manga reader spends only about three to five seconds on each page."
"Instead of being rushed to produce something that appeals to a specific demographic, we just want to produce something that we enjoy — something of which we can be proud," Kaulfersch continued.
Errant Heart began as a 3D animated title, but later transformed into a visual novel format in order to tell more than just a short story. At more than 100,000 words, the visual novel currently clocks in around 6-8 hours. Still but that only represents a quarter of its content — that is, one path of four players may chose to take. Pseudomé never planned a specific length for the game. With the basic framework in mind, character interactions were generated "on the fly," Kaulfersch said.
"If I work out all the details to a particular story in my head, then, I'm pretty much done," Kaulfersch said. "I'm satisfied. There's no reason to put pen to paper. So, I have to be careful to create the story a little bit at a time."
The game's setting is part homage to Hayao Miyazaki's film Kiki's Delivery Service, which Kaulfersch is particularly fond of. Additionally, Pseudomé wanted to avoid using real-life locations.
"If we did that, and inadvertently got some details wrong and readers identified the location, surely it would break them out of the suspension of disbelief," Kaulfersch said.
Should the project miss its Kickstarter goal, Pseudomé will try again. It could mean scaling back to include creative commons music or filtered photographs, Kaulfersch said, or possibly another year or two of the team's free time.
"After all the time and effort that we've already put into the project, it would be unconscionable to not release it," Kaulfersch said.
Schwark added that their hope is to improve the overall quality of the experience.
"Our current stretch goals include not only more backgrounds and music, but additional story and voice acting, something that's much less likely to happen without the aid of the community," Schawrk said.
Errant Heart's Kickstarter campaign ends May 10. With over 200 backers, the campaign has currently achieved more than $6,000 of its $8,500 goal.