Alice in Dissonance Interview – The Second Beginning of the fault Series

If you’ve been a fan of visuals novels for a while, then you’ve most likely heard of fault – milestone one. If you haven’t or are just getting into the genre, well, you’re in luck because the game recently received a Nintendo Switch release date.

Interestingly, the fault series has had an interesting development cycle full of reaching its own milestones, but not without setbacks. We had the opportunity to interview the head of ALICE IN DISSONANCE Munisix to talk more about the porting the game to Switch and the future of the series.

[UPDATE] Previously an error was made where the release year for SILENCE THE PEDANT was said to be 2021, but it has been corrected to 2020. Sorry for the confusion.

Azario Lopez: fault – milestone one originally released in 2013, during its development did you ever think that six years from release it’d be finding a new audience on new platforms?

Munisix: It’s been so long now so it’s kind of hard to recall but I know for a fact that the rational side of me was expecting to just fade into obscurity. Visual Novels sales, especially at the time of development, were tanking in Japan and the boom clearly seemed like it was over. I’ve known developers that would pour their heart and soul into their titles and it would sell no more than maybe 20 copies throughout its lifetime.

Then on top of that, you take something like fault where the focus isn’t on sex appeal which much of the industry is known for and it was just simply unreasonable to expect anything out of it. The emotional side of me though, knew I was onto something. Sometimes you gotta trust your instinct and do something stupid like drop your entire life, move to Japan and make Visual Novels. Sometimes it works out. I’m ecstatic that fault is finally going to be on the Switch.

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AL: Being a visual novel developer, what are your thoughts on the Switch and do you think that the future of the genre will continue to find a home on the platform?

M: Yes and maybe… This one is kind of hard to answer. “Yes” in a technical sense that the Switch is the perfect medium for the genre. A choose your own adventure book with moving art and music that you can experience anywhere. Most of them run on potato level hardware too, it’s almost a no brainer. “Maybe” in a sense that Visual Novel’s kind of goes through an existential crisis whenever it hits console. The issue again stems from the fact that many of these ported best sellers are typically associated with adult content. The fault series doesn’t have to deal with these issues because it never had or will have adult content but it’s a major drawback for titles that have a “full version” on the PC end.

Okay, so what about new IP’s that don’t focus on adult content? Then you have an issue with the higher barrier of production for consoles which eliminates the number one strength Visual Novels have over more traditional video games which is its relative ease of access and low entry barrier. If you take an average person interested in making a Visual Novel and restrict them to say, Unity, Unreal, Godot or GameMaker (basically something that has console support) instead of a tailor-made Visual Novel engine like RenPy there’s a very good chance they won’t be able to follow through to completion. And even if they could, after hunkering down and learning these complex engines, why make a Visual Novel? Why not make a game that probably has appeal to a larger audience where you can get more of your investment back?

The dynamic might change with the advent of things like NaniNovel and Utage for Unity but this doesn’t change the fact that you then need to tinker with your game (after completion of course) to properly work with the Switch which requires a different set of technical skills. So to sum it up, you’re going to have to find people who are willing to abandon sexual appeal which is typically the biggest selling point of these games, have the means, skill and access to personnel that can make their idea into a reality on the console level… and still, be determined to make some variant of a Visual Novel. It’s just my experience that these kind of people are rare. These are specifically grassroots people though, I have no idea how large companies operate and how they value the market of Visual Novels on the console end.

AL: After releasing  fault – milestone one on Switch, would you like to see your other titles, both released and upcoming, on the console as well?

M: Absolutely. We’re pretty much timing our release schedule so console can be in sync with the PC side. That was our plan all along. Porting the first game over to Unity was and is the groundwork for our future titles. It took forever… but things are finally coming together now. Also, something like Mhakna Gramura and Fairy Bell would be absolutely perfect for the Switch even as a stand-alone title.

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AL: How have you seen the visual novel community in the west changed since fault – milestone one first released?

M: I don’t follow the western community much but from what I can see from this side of the pond it seems like it has grown larger and diverse. Way, way more diverse. Especially compared to Japan. I also get this impression that sexual minorities have found the genre as a means to express themselves and I find this to be a wonderful thing (again, the lower barrier of entry makes it easier for people to finish and release these things). You don’t really see much of that here, at least I don’t. I also see a lot of character design involving people of color which is, unfortunately, something that’s seldom seen in Japanese made games, especially Visual Novels. These are all just surface-level observations though so I won’t deny the fact that I might be totally off.

AL: As a visual novel developer, do you find it tough to truly create what you want because of current trends or expectations or do you generally find it easy to focus on your projects and tell the stories that you want to tell? Ultimately, what keeps you motivated to tell these stories?

M: The team is creating pretty much exactly what it wants. We’re blessed with fans that don’t really expect the status quo from us either. We keep up with what’s popular but are not really interested in incorporating aspects of trends just for the sake of it.

As for what motivates us… the base of what has become the world of fault has been in my mind since around high school, well over a decade ago. I believe it’s not something that’s going to erode away if it has stuck this long. Not to mention our fans too. There are Patrons who have joined at the inception of our Patreon campaign and have been there for years. We feel a strong sense of dedication to these folks and we want to bring them the best fault that can be.

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AL: Were there any issues encountered when returning to the first version of the fault – milestone one to update the assets and soundtrack? Why was this an important update for your team to implement?

M: Soundtrack because there would be serious copyright issues. It was time we made all in house music anyway and console release was the perfect occasion to do so. Updating the art wasn’t much of an issue either since it was port from the ground up. The most backbreaking and soul-crushing part was the long and arduous process of finding help from someone who was able to properly port our game to Unity. The “camera system” to produce the parallax our games have looks simple but it was a serious pain to recreate.

AL: Was it important for you to bring the best version of fault – milestone one to the Switch?

M: The IP of fault seems perfect for the Switch and consoles in general. The series is known among fans for being a great introduction to Visual Novels because of its tightly packed length, lack of adult content, story structure and presentation that is heavily influenced by cinema and art that is easy on the eyes. You only get one chance to make a first impression and we wanted to make sure that we knock it out of the park with our introduction to the console market.

AL: For fans returning to the console version to replay fault – milestone one, what is one aspect of the game that you enjoy, but don’t see too many fans discussing? Perhaps something that you’d like readers to notice about a situation or character interaction that some might miss.

M: I actually think pretty much every stone has been turned that can be turned as of the moment. Despite fault – milestone one being a pretty short read, there are links to documents in our Discord server that has close to 100 pages of Q&A content much of which is fault story related discussions. There’s apparently another server dedicated to speculation. I have no idea what goes on in there but for such a short series I feel as though it’s been dissected on a pretty serious level. Whether they are accurate or not is a different story but many years of discussions have already taken place.

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AL: Readers would probably kill me if I didn’t ask, but how is the development of Fault – Silence the Pedant doing?

M: I suppose we’ll reveal this for the first time in public now that we’ve actually crossed a major milestone. The production of SILENCE THE PEDANT or StP was basically in forced hiatus till recently. As I’ve answered in an earlier question, we’ve gained access years ago to port all of our games to console and we needed to make some big decisions. If we finished StP in its original engine (which did not have console support) we’d have to redo everything in Unity starting from milestone one right up to StP. Contrary to popular belief ALICE IN DISSONANCE is a tiny group. In fact, we barely cut the definition of a group since there’s only two of us, myself and the in house artist. This means we constantly need to kill as many birds with one stone wherever it is possible. So our original plan was to port fault – milestone one and use the base of that to rebuild StP mid-production. This way we can streamline everything and get a good grasp on release dates, both console and PC, since that is precisely Unity’s strong point.

Then a string of misfortunes happened.

Many people have tried and failed the port and eventually, it cost us close to 4 years to get to this point. Had we known that it was going to take this long till we found a programmer that can help us see the project through till the end we would have probably taken a very different approach. Any case… a majority of the port was done by late spring of this year, enough to the point where we finally could start recreating StP properly.

It was a long, stagnant and very depressing 4 years but we’ve finally reached the light at the end of the tunnel. This Switch release is a huge deal for us because it is not just a release of one of our titles, it represents the second beginning of the fault series as a whole. I hope we can keep cranking out games from this point on. As for now, StP will probably be a 2020 title. I’m very saddened that we probably won’t make it this year but I also promise that it will be worth the wait. The scope is much much larger than any of the previous milestone series and Rughzenhaide is an extremely beautiful place with dozens of new characters and culture that can be explored. If people want to know more about the turmoils that we’ve gone through they can check out our Patreon where I reveal more intimate details of our operation. Typically these articles can be accessed through the dollar tier.

Whoa. That was long.

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AL: Is there anything you’d like to tell fans new and old who are looking forward to playing fault – milestone one on Switch?

M: To the old fans, thank you. I know who a lot of you are and many of you know who I am and ALICE IN DISSONANCE’s current state. You guys are the reason why this is actually happening, starting from the Kickstarter all the way up to now. Repurchasing a game you’ve already played is in a sense the highest praise a developer can receive. So thank you everything for believing in us, that we wouldn’t give up and fade into obscurity. We got out of the rat race!

For new fans, you’re in luck! You’ve come at the perfect time where wait times for the next title resemble something a bit more reasonable. We hope you keep enjoying the series!

Most of all though, new or old, thank you, everyone, for your time, the most valuable resource you can spend on us.

Vilserio and have a wonderful day.

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Azario Lopez

Hanging out max, relaxing all cool.