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cryptid coffeehouse is a queer, slow burn, coffee shop themed dating simulator revolving around humanized nonbinary mothman. it was originally created for an independent game design study, and it was released on itch.io on january 14, 2022 and on steam on august 12, 2022. it's a direct spinoff of hot monsters (2021), which is a short cryptid dating simulator featuring mothman and bigfoot created for an introduction to game design class. it has undergone four versions so far: a beta pre-release version, version 1.2, version 2.0, and version 3.0.

shortly after hot monsters was completed, my game design professor at the time, katherine castiello jones, reached out to not only me but also my other group members, fiona harrell-duchaine and joey boudot, for the spring semester's class. she told us that she had loved our work in class over the course of the semester and wanted to offer us an opportunity to take an independent game design study with her either in the fall of 2021 or the spring of 2022. around this time, fiona, joey, and i had been talking about continuing hot monsters over the summer and fully developing it into something at a larger scale. this unfortunately never happened. we had also planned on taking the independent study during the same semester, but as i'm in a completely different program and college at the university than fiona and joey are, our schedules conflicted and we weren't able to do that either.

however, with more discussion with katherine, i decided that i was going to take the independent study with them, even if i was going to end up doing it on my own. now the dilemma was to figure out what on earth i was going to create in the duration of a semester. i had a couple ideas swimming around in my head,

a plan for the early development of the game. most of what is pictured here was scrapped

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but hot monsters kept coming back to me. i've always loved dating simulation games, as dorky as that sounds. i played them a bunch in middle school and high school, and they're one of my favorite kinds of casual games to play. i've always loved the narratives that could be spun in a dating sim, all the characters that a player could meet and potentially romance, all the hidden endings and events one could encounter.

during that summer in between semesters, i played many dating sims to pass the time: dream daddymonster prom, our life: beginnings and always, and witches x warlocks just to name a few. i really cannot describe just how much i love dating sims, especially ones that have diverse casts, and during that summer, i couldn't stop thinking about how i could turn hot monsters into the dating sim of my dreams.

sticky note plans and organizational notes from a meeting with a game design alum, delong du

growing up, i had always wanted to make my own dating sim game. i played a lot of those low quality mid-2010s web browser anime dating simulation games on my school laptop during classes in high school. i was on scratch.mit.edu around that time, and a user i had looked up to created a dating sim that i was absolutely obsessed with (i would be lying if i said i don't think about it even now. i honestly think it's what started my love for dating sims. the creator of the dating sim was just a kid like me, but i was riveted).

after daydreaming and contemplating over the summer (and after logging 61 hours in just under two months on blush blush), i finally decided that i was going to make my own dating sim and it was going to be the best damn thing i had ever created in my entire life.

wireframe plans for the prologue and mothman route events #1, #2, #4, #5, #6, and #7

and so began the process of creating cryptid coffeehouse.

katherine and i structured the independent study so that we met once a week on wednesdays to go over my progress and discuss any thoughts or questions i had about what i was doing. creating this game while also taking a full 18 credit hour courseload and being employed part-time forced me to address places where i drastically overestimated how much i could get done, as the goal was to have a finished prototype of the game for the university's game lab showcase on the second week of december. after many late nights and hundreds of hours of sitting at my desk, cryptid coffeehouse v1.0 was completed just in time for the game lab showcase on december 8, 2021.

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a speedpaint of the creation of odina davis' character sprite

cryptid coffeehouse had originally been a dating simulator with many different facets. it was supposed to have multiple love interests (this was scrapped very quickly), 24 individual side events to complement the main route, and also a completely functional coffee shop mechanism where the player could gain stats for other characters and unlock hidden events based off what drinks they picked. all of these plans were simply me overshooting what i could finish in a very short time period, so i've had to focus on what's most important: the mothman route.

this game focuses primarily on mothman, or artemis, as they're called in my game. the game takes place in an alternate version of an undisclosed midwestern state and in a world where humanoid hybrids of mythological and fantasy creatures run wild. just as an example, i have anthropomorphic versions of a jackalope, a gorgon, a goblin, and a thunderbird, among others, as characters in the game. despite all of these fantastical elements, the game is very casual and slice-of-life. it follows the player, who explores the town and gets to know artemis over the course of seven weeks.

the player has the opportunity to romance artemis during the game's timeframe. some other critical details and features of the first build are as follows:​

  • the mothman route is 7 events long. each event takes place on a separate game week.

  • there was originally going to be a function in which the player would be able to "go to work," but this was removed. instead, the work function is already built into the game. players will receive a fluctuating allowance every game week and the money earned can be used for certain choices later in the game. originally, this was a way to incentivize using the coffee shop mechanism, but now that that's been scrapped, this new function seems to flow more seamlessly.

some images of what the game looked like during the first build

i had initially planned to put the game together in unity, but after talking to an alum, we both thought it would be best to put everything together in ren'py. this proved to be a godsend, because i think that if i had tried to tackle learning unity and putting together a game in that engine simultaneously, i would probably lose my mind.

when the fall semester had ended, i was left with a complete game, but it wasn't exactly what i wanted. i wanted to release a prettier version of the game online sometime during or just after winter break, so i used my time out of school to completely re-envision the game user interface as well as change some other things such as music, backgrounds, and typos. i wanted to create something cute and fun, and i think i succeeded!

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some parts of the updated game user interface in version 1.2!

in the spring semester, i took up cryptid coffeehouse once again for an eep (experiential exploration program), which is an alternate option to a co-op at the university of cincinnati. the plan was to further develop cryptid coffeehouse, adding new story events, new visuals and cgs, and doing various bug testing. after about four months of hard work, cryptid coffeehouse v2.0 was released online on itch.io on april 30, 2022, just over three months after the original release date.

the new features for build v2.0 include:

  • three new story events that further develop the player's relationship with artemis

    • these events total just over 35,000 words, pushing the game's word count to over 88,000 words. this is about the length of the average young adult novel

  • imagemaps (images as choice menus rather than text) and other various in-game visuals

  • two new cgs, as well as a cg library to view all cgs unlocked during the game

you can read more about what the new build includes in the devlog that i posted on itch.io on the day of release.

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