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kurou connect is a frenemies-to-lovers dating simulator that uses popular fanfiction tropes and forced proximity with the main character to develop an experience of relationship dynamics, character exploration, and short-term narrative in an in-game duration of 24 hours. it was created for my bachelor's in fine arts undergraduate thesis, and the demo of the first act was released on itch.io on april 10th, 2024. it's the spiritual sequel of cryptid coffeehouse (2022), a slow burn dating simulator revolving around humanized nonbinary mothman. the demo is approximately 20% of the full game, being 1 out of the 5 acts that create a single, full route cycle. there are currently 5 routes planned, and the first act is shared between all five routes.

this game had mentally been in development for years prior to its physical form. on august 10th, 2022, i had a conversation in twitter dms with my friend kye about a theoretical game i wanted to create about kurou hasegawa, a side character within cryptid coffeehouse. it was intended to be a "be forced to spend a day with kurou" type of game, and the work hasn't strayed far from that idea at all.

screenshots of the twitter conversation i had with kye back in 2022

when thinking about what to do for my thesis, i knew that i wanted to make a video game. since my practice is centered around the experiences and narratives provided by video games, it was important for me to bring my collegiate career to an end with what i do best. after spending over two years developing cryptid coffeehouse, i had honed my skillset and had a significant amount of technical knowledge that could be applied to creating a new game. even while developing cryptid coffeehouse, i knew i wasn't finished with the game's world in any sense. the characters i created for cryptid coffeehouse are all so nuanced and require attention drawn to each of them individually, so i had already been considering several spinoff games in response to cryptid coffeehouse. however, my decision to make a game about kurou was solidified by the continuous love that fans seem to have for him. aside from artemis, being cryptid coffeehouse's main character and love interest, kurou was always the second most popular character, a fact that confused me for a while. i realized that players were drawn to him not only because of his thorny personality but also because they felt like he had more love and kindness hidden away somewhere behind his aggressive facade. as the months and years dragged on during my cryptid coffeehouse development stage, i started to mentally develop a wealth of character information about kurou, creating family members, memories, relationships, and interpersonal dynamics for him. he quickly began to rival artemis for character lore, so i knew i had to make good on the game i had detailed to kye all that time ago.

the biggest challenge in creating this game was the amount of time provided to me— i was to make a game in four months and it had to be done well. it had to be the best game that i could possibly create. initially, the entire 24-hour act cycle of the "true" route was going to be created, but i quickly realized that wouldn't be feasible. even though i was going to be moving much faster than i had been when creating cryptid coffeehouse, i was still making a game from scratch. because of this, i decided to create a demo of the first act of the true ending so i could hone in on making every aspect hit hard for players.

first, i created a document to streamline my thoughts, feelings, goals, and intentions with the work. this documentation was compounded on throughout the semester and was shared with professors, classmates, and my eventual collaborators. i detailed specific aspects of the game i wanted to hit, artists to look at, medias to consume, tasks to complete not only for the game but also for the imminent installation that would come with it for my solo thesis show... this document had it all.

images of the comprehensive document i used to plan out a large majority of the game's inspirations and inner workings, plus suggestions on artists and medias from my professors and classmates

the next step was to develop the outline of what i was going to write for this build. i initially wrote an outline that specifically detailed all of the events i talked to kye about in 2022, but not only would it have been incredibly difficult to write in four months, it was also hard to piece together. i then wrote a second outline that was more succinct. it was after this that i chose to write just the first act, rather than the wrote true ending. this way, i could focus on making the game well-crafted in every sense, not sacrificing one element for another. additionally, the first act would leave a very good drop-off point for the demo, allowing players to explore the world and their dynamic with kurou, then amp up the anticipation after something shocking happens at the end of the playthrough.

the full revised outline of the true ending of kurou connect

once this was done, it was time to begin the narrative. when i create my video games, i always write the story and dialogue first so that i can create the visuals in response to it. after 41 days, the script was complete, totaling just over 11,400 words. this clocked the game in with a 30-minute playtime, give or take.