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The Office Doggos

~Insert theme from “The Office” here~

Hey Panda Peeps!


It’s me, Witchy Panda, and I’m here to brighten your day with a little blog about dogs!

Did you know that the Sad Panda Studios office is dog-friendly? Every day, a handful of puppers and doggos come into work and make the day a million times more fun. And, I mean, let’s be honest – this is a video game company. Working here is already fun. The dogs just really take it to the next level!

So, I thought I would share a little bit of this office-related joy with you by way of introducing the core doggos of Sad Panda Studios.

First up: Ludo

Sometimes you’ll see what looks like a stick-figure drawing of a dog zooming across the office. That’s Ludo, who has no concept of the “Monday Blues.” I think he’s actually MORE chipper at the start of the week, happily greeting each and every Panda as they come through the office door. He loves people and he loves to play. Here are his stats!

  • Birthday: January 31st
  • Hobby: Sprinting & Sleeping
  • Favorite Job: Baker
  • Favorite Food: Chicken or Cucumbers
  • Gift Preference: Blanket
  • Occupation: Assistant Panda’s Assistant
  • Liked Trait: Outgoing

Next up: Chloe

Chloe is known around the office for her magnificent beard. She also has eyelashes for days – and they’re not even falsies! It’s literally not fair. This one’s a woo girl who likes to bork and bow wow at the door from time to time, but she makes up for it by knowing a TON of cool tricks, including how to “stick ‘em up” and “play dead.” I don’t know about you, but I’ve only ever seen dogs do that in movies. Here are Chloe’s stats!

  • Birthday: April 20th
  • Hobby: Eating Paper Towel Tubes
  • Favorite Job: Art
  • Favorite Food: Chicken or Tuna
  • Gift Preference: Tea Set
  • Occupation: Blush Blush Art Supervisor
  • Liked Trait: Buff

The Dynamic Duo: Tessa & Peanut!

If you’re reading this blog, you’re probably familiar with Tessa. After all, she’s the inspiration for the adorable dog-themed Crush Crush girl of the same name! In real life, she’s a gentle giant who loves to visit all the Pandas at their desks before sprawling on the floor in the middle of the office for a long nap. Tessa’s stats are:

  • Birthday: October 10
  • Hobby: Blocking The Path To The Boardroom
  • Favorite Job: Zoo
  • Favorite Food: Peanut Butter & Bananas
  • Gift Preference: Cute Puppy
  • Occupation: Crush Crush Waifu
  • Liked Trait: Motivation

Peanut is the newest of the bunch. She came from a litter of puppies that was rescued from a wildfire last summer! She’s completely precious and basically spends all her time following Tessa around, just like an annoying little sister. When she’s in the office, she loves to wander around getting head pats and looking up at you with soft, curious eyes that seem to say, “Watcha dooooiiing?” Check out little Peanut’s stats!

  • Birthday: April-ish?
  • Hobby: Copying Tessa
  • Favorite Job: Love
  • Favorite Food: Cow Pies
  • Gift Preference: Shell
  • Occupation: Resident Puppy
  • Liked Trait: Funny

Honorary Mention: Irish (Work from Home)

Irish isn’t *technically* an office dog, unless you count the home office, which I do. After all, whenever I’m working from home she’s right there by my side, supervising every word I type. Fun fact: Irish is a chihuahua-pitbull cross. How does that happen? Well, when a male chihuahua is feeling very brave and a female pitbull can’t be bothered… Ahem, anyway. Irish is tough as nails but also super loving and affectionate. Here are her stats:

  • Birthday: June 6
  • Hobby: Roughhousing
  • Favorite Job: Space
  • Favorite Food: Rice
  • Gift Preference: New Car
  • Occupation: Script Supervisor
  • Liked Trait: Tenderness

And those are our office dogs! I hope you liked getting to know them a little bit. And if you did, maybe we can revisit the topic again? Most of us Pandas are pet people – we could do a whole other blog post about our remote-work doggos, not to mention the cats, cows, and chickens we have in our lives!

That’s all for now, peeps.

Signing off,

Witchy Panda

Mio has a Vtuber Channel!

Hey everyone! Artist Panda here.

Some of you may know by now that I’ve got a Mio Vtuber channel now! I stream myself drawing, playing games, and chatting on Twitch a few times each week. It’s been a blast, because I’ve enjoyed the communication and collaboration with the peeps in chat. Especially when I do draw streams, like coming up with new character designs for Crush Crush – it’s super helpful and awesome to have feedback coming in live from the chat.

(3D Mio)

I wanted to do a lil blog post talking about my setup and how I got started as a Vtuber. Maybe dig a little into the process Twitch has, and other tools I use. Most of my setup I learned about by reading online or watching other Vtuber’s videos like Girl_DM has a bunch that explain how her setup works. But I’ll go into mine below!

(Screencap from Mio’s debut stream)

Early on I knew I wanted Mio to be my character since her persona is closely aligned with my own, and she’s kinda already based on me 😛 So developing her design/character traits was easy because she’s already been established in Crush Crush and Hush Hush. Plus I wanted to do a hybrid approach where, yes I am Mio, but I am also me – the Sad Panda Studios developer. It’s nice because I don’t have to worry about slipping out of character or breaking the 4th wall with the ‘lore’ – I’m just me, being me. But I can definitely appreciate the Vtubers who go the extra mile to stay in character for the persona they’ve created.

(Lovely reference sheet made by Osiimi)

I wanna go over the things I got working ahead of my ‘debut’ – since there was a ton of work and time put into it before I even had my first stream. This isn’t meant to be a list for everyone to follow, it’s just my own checklist that I had leading up to it. In case anyone was ever curious! I recommend any new Vtubers or wannabe streamers start much smaller than I did. If you can do the art and modeling/rigging on your own – do it! Otherwise costs will stack up pretty quick the more people you commission.

  1. I reached out to my talented artist friend Osiimi to help design the model sheet & outfit for Vtuber Mio, because I know she had some experience doing something similar with her own Vtuber. She also had connections to a super amazing 3D modeler, so I took advantage of that 🙂
  2. Once I was happy with the design, I reached out to Rui who took on the task of modeling and rigging my 3D model so I could have different expressions and 2 variations of my outfit (jacket on/off). I also asked him to set up some special functionality with the rig so Mio’s eyes would have tracking enabled (ARkit is what he called it).
  3. There are lots of software options for hooking up a Vtuber model to sync with your movements, but I decided on Luppet because it had the nicest looking movements. It’s Japanese software and was a little tricky to get working, I gotta say!
  4. I bought an app for my phone called iFacialMocap which captures my face using my phone’s selfy camera, and translates it to a 3D character on the screen. This facial data is then sent to my computer so I can pipe it into Luppet, and Mio’s model will be able to match my facial expressions and head movements the same way my phone is seeing it.
  5. While my model was being worked on, I ordered a few things – 
    1. One was a device called LeapMotion which is used to capture my hand movements. That was a tricky thing to get working, and I’m still not 100% happy with how it syncs up to my hand/arm motions so I might have to buy a proper necklace to hold it in place.
    2. The other thing I ordered during this time, was a logo for my streams/channel. I simply went to Fiverr and there were so many options with different price ranges, it was really nice. It’s helpful that Vtubers are so popular right now; it generates lots of interest from artists who do commissions.
    3. Along with the logo, I reached out to an animator in Japan, Hoopyon (whom I found on Twitter by checking out other Vtuber’s recommendations) to help create some animated stickers and interstitial screens.
    4. During all this, I decided to commission Osiimi for some illustrations of Mio to use as my interstitial screens (in case the animator took a long time). She got those done super quick and then I sent them to another person to animate.
    5. Then I found an awesomely talented designer on Twitter (Izu) who was up for making my overlay. That’s the screen that has all those pretty animated stars and buttons, and he even animated my logo for me 🙂
(Some stickers/emotes made by Hoopyon)

Once I had most of those things finished, like the model and logo, I was ready to put together a little intro video. I drafted up a script, got Witchy Panda’s help refining it, and recorded myself acting it out with my Mio model using the Leapmotion hand tracking and iFacialMocap to capture my expressions and movements. I put that together with my friend Screenhog (who has helped us make most of our game trailers) and after a few weeks it was ready to go!

(Screencap from the Intro video)

The whole process from original character design, to getting everything ready to launch took around 9 months. I debuted near the end of February, and the first stream went super smooth! I had no audio issues or internet dropouts (aside from the one at the very start… thanks Starlink >.>)

All that time I watched as many Vtuber videos as I could and instructional YouTubes about how to set up and use Twitch. Turns out there is a TON to learn. But I installed Streamlabs which made it easier, and leaned on some Pandas who had experience streaming to give me tips. At the end of the day, streaming is just one of those things you learn quickly once you start doing it. The schedule I’ve been sticking to is pretty demanding on my time, but I’m hopeful that it’ll become easier and will turn into a fun relaxing hobby. Of course I still get nervous just before going live on stream, but after a while it starts to feel like I’m just hanging out with a big group of friends. And it gives me time to game, which is something I really missed doing. I’m always working on making games so that was my ultimate goal with this whole Vtuber adventure – play more games and have fun! Even if nobody shows up to watch, it’s OK, because I’ll be doing what I love.

(This is my setup – you can see my mic, my leap motion attached to my collar, phone with facial tracking, etc)

Thanks to everyone who has checked out my streams. If you want to join a live chat then please consider following me on Twitch here: https://www.twitch.tv/mioschannel

Or if you just want to watch some of my past streams, they’re all archived on YouTube here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCKVx-05Sz1vYHwUZsCC9ehQ

I love you so hard!

~Artist Panda

What is an SPS ID?

Maybe you’ve gone to the MORE page from within Crush Crush and seen the SPS ID.  Or, perhaps you’ve e-mailed customer support and we’ve replied asking for your SPS ID.  Or perhaps you just seen the title of this blog post, and you too are wondering what an SPS ID is!  To arrive at the answer there is first a bit of history to unravel.

Some History

On February 9th, 2016, Sad Panda Studios launched its first game on Kongregate, Crush Crush.  We weren’t sure if the game would do well, and didn’t know how to service a game like Crush Crush.  A free to play game with new content, limited time events and frequent updates requires some infrastructure that a typical game.  For example, a typical game that you purchase a single time and play might never receive an update.  However, Crush Crush has been updated over 700 times, with major new content updates, bug fixes, events during holidays, and more.  To deliver this content efficiently, Crush Crush needs a connection to a server to get the latest art assets, events, etc.

With this knowledge in hand, and knowing that Crush Crush was a success, we took off to the 2016 Game Developers Conference in San Francisco.  Armed with his laptop, Programmer Panda approached several kiosks to discuss a solution to live servicing Crush Crush.  One kiosk stuck out, and that week Programmer Panda added PlayFab support to Crush Crush.  PlayFab allowed the Pandas to set news updates, store player sessions (important on the web!), hand out items to users, perform customer support, change store prices, set events, and more.

A typical player page in PlayFab

If you played Crush Crush around this time on Kongregate, you probably noticed the addition of a PlayFab ID on the MORE page.  Our customer support team would have asked for this information to restore a save file, etc.  PlayFab also supported the necessary server infrastructure for managing in-app purchases on Steam, which was helpful when we were scrambling to just keep up with content updates to Crush Crush.  Remember, we were only 3 people at the time, all of us with full-time jobs outside of Sad Panda Studios.

Migrating away from PlayFab

Over the months and years, PlayFab didn’t offer us all of the tools we needed to do our job.  It helped us when the game was new, but was now holding us back on the type of content and updates we could make.  We were already writing our own server software to support in-app purchases on platforms like Kongregate and Nutaku, and we had our own tools for customer support and save files at this time as well.  A decision was made to migrate away from PlayFab, starting in 2018.  Little by little, features that used to rely on PlayFab were relying on our own server software instead.  In 2018 both Crush Crush Kongregate and Steam dropped support for PlayFab entirely, and now work using our own server software.  In 2019, the Nutaku version of Crush Crush finally dropped PlayFab for user session storage, switching the last game over to our own server software exclusively.  Blush Blush, Hush Hush and Kitty Catsanova never used PlayFab, and have always used our own server software.

When you first install one of our games, a unique ID is assigned to your account.  That ID is your Sad Panda Studios ID (or SPS ID for short).  That ID will live with your account and should be the same ID across all of our games.  So, if you play both Blush Blush and Crush Crush on Steam, you should find that both games show the same SPS ID.  This allows us to enable features like the Panda Pass, which allows you to have inventory items across multiple game titles.  Cool!

A typical player page in our custom server solution

There are a lot of pros and cons when writing your own server software.  The obvious con is that any downtime is probably attributable to us.  It’s one extra thing we need to worry about, and something we need to plan for.  Maintenance?  That’s on us.  Server costs?  That’s on us too.  On the plus side, the server costs are much cheaper now that we have migrated away from PlayFab.  Another benefit is having full control of the data that we store.  We’re very keen on privacy, and we want to store only the information that is necessary for you to enjoy our games.  For this reason, we don’t log IP addresses, or associate your geographic information, IP, computer type, or any other personally identifiable information to your SPS account.  The only information we store is your account ID for whichever platform you are connecting on.  For example, if you connect on Steam, then we store your Steam ID so that we can link that to your SPS ID.

So, if anyone ever asks you about the SPS ID, you can confidently tell them that it’s a unique identifier used by Sad Panda to link your gaming account with your user data and inventory stored on Sad Panda servers.  It allows us to keep bringing you new content, new events and fun updates, hopefully for years to come!  Thanks for playing Sad Panda games, and we hope you enjoyed this blog post!

~Programmer Panda

The Cost of Making a Visual Novel

(And what I mean by that is the cost of making a game like Cabin Fever)

Hey everyone! Artist Panda here.

I’ve wanted to do a blog post on this subject for a while now, because as an indie game developer I find articles on this topic extremely helpful for understanding the actual costs of making a good game. I’m talking about articles written by devs who outline all their costs that went into making the thing, and in this post ‘the thing’ in this case is Cabin Fever.

Key Art for Cabin Fever (available here: https://store.steampowered.com/app/1336600/Cabin_Fever)

If you haven’t checked it out, Cabin Fever is a short visual novel with lovely artwork and full voice acting, and it’s available on Steam. You can read more about that game in my other blog post from July 2021. This post is going to go into some depth on the costs associated with making a game like Cabin Fever. Why? Because maybe it will help aspiring indie devs who want to make a visual novel the same size as this, but have no idea about the scope of the project and need some help budgeting for something like this. In this post we’ll talk about cost in terms of hours worked. The reason for this is that a dollar value isn’t as applicable to understanding what goes into a game like Cabin Fever, as hourly rates change depending on where you are around the World.

I’d like to stress that it’s possible to make a visual novel like this 100% for free if you have the time to spare, or talented friends to help out. There are lots of amazing resources online now such as https://opengameart.org and https://pixelsticky.wordpress.com/2015/06/27/free-ui-resources-for-game-developers/ that have oodles of open-source/royalty-free stuff you can use in your games. The Unity asset store also has some freebies, and there are sites like https://www.storyblocks.com/audio that has hundreds of royalty-free music files you can use (for a subscription fee). 

I don’t want this post to discourage anyone, it’s meant to be an eye-opener so you have a realistic idea of what costs go into making a visual novel like the one we made. Maybe it’ll also help people understand why we charge money for games like this, and can’t make everything free. So without further ado I’ll dive into the costs!

The main categories I’m going to break these into are Art, Audio, Writing, Miscellaneous/ Development time. Those will be broken into subcategories for more details.

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Art: My favorite place to start 🙂

The artwork for Cabin Fever can be separated into 4 parts; the Background art, Character art, CGs, and logo. Usually the UI would be lumped in here too, but I made all the UI and it was pretty basic (took me less than a day to put together) so I won’t count it.

Background art: There are 167 unique backgrounds (including some that were never used) in the game. Some of those backgrounds were used in the CGs, but I’m classifying backgrounds as any illustrations of a setting (no characters). I worked with 1 artist for all of these but had a heavy hand in crafting the settings; so if you don’t have an art director then be prepared to spend some time putting together reference images and writing out descriptions for all the backgrounds your game needs. This will help save lots of time later on so your background artist knows exactly what you’re looking for.

Total cost: 400 Hours

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CG & Character art: There are around 80 unique CGs and over 1,000 unique character poses (not all of them are used). Like I mentioned above, all the backgrounds for the CGs were counted in the above subcategory. All of the CG art applies to just the character illustrations in the cutscene/fullscreen CG images; and the Character art includes every unique pose/outfit/expression for all the characters. I worked with 1 artist for all of these but also spent a great deal of time adding extra expressions, drawing over top of the sketch and final art to keep it on brand, drawing the different mouths for lip-sync etc. I spent quite a few days of my time working on all that, so some of the cost associated with my time is lumped in here.

Total cost: 760 Hours

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Logo: Normally I would make the logo myself, but I’m not super great at making them and I wanted to get a professional to create something really pretty. The logo can play a huge role in your game’s branding, and when you consider it’s the first thing many people will see on your game’s thumbnail – that might make them want to click on it to learn more, so it’s super important. I was happy with the result but it definitely wasn’t cheap!  :”)

Total cost: 36 Hours

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Audio: Music & Voice Acting

All the music and voice acting really helps set the tone and breathes so much life into the static 2D art. Personally, I feel that one of the most important parts of creating a good visual novel is to have a strong cast and beautiful music. I found the best people to make that happen, and they delivered fantastic results. I’ll break the audio into 2 subcategories; Voice-acting and Music. All the sound effects were either found on a royalty-free site or made from scratch.

Voice acting: A game the size of Cabin Fever has a surprising amount of lines. The count for all the voice-acted words totals 20,412. That also includes a few lines used specifically for game trailers. We don’t have many characters in the game, but we do have 2 different voice options for the main protagonist (that’s something I really wanted for this game). That doubled the amount of voice-acting lines just for 1 character; a feature that not many games would bother to worry about. Something else that’s kind of silly but I’ll mention here – there were a few small parts that I ended up voicing myself 😛 Hopefully I didn’t bring down the quality bar by including myself but I really enjoy voice-acting and it’s kind of fun (and cheap!) to voice some lines yourself if you can. 

Total cost: 20,412 Words (we used words here because many Voice Actors/websites will quote on word count, and not by the hour)

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Music: Ahh the music is my favorite part about this game. I constantly find myself humming the main theme’s tune, it’s just so catchy. There are so many wonderful tracks that just suit the scene so well, and that wouldn’t have been possible without my super talented friend who somehow got inside my head and pulled out the exact music I was picturing in my mind. There are 18 tracks, a few of which are ambient sound (crickets or rain with a tiny bit of music added, that sort of thing). All of the tracks loop, and most are around 2 minutes long. One last thing to mention here, is that I did spend some time putting together a detailed list of all the tracks I needed and pulled lots of reference songs I could point to. So if you’re working with someone to make custom music, it’s really helpful if you can make time to do something like that – and time is money 😛  

Total cost: 240 Hours

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Writing: Words ‘n stuff

Writing is crucial to the Visual Novel genre. I’ve played games that have walls of text and little to no visuals, and still managed to suck me into their great story. You can have crappy art, music, and no voice acting as long as your story (the writing) is strong. There’s always the outliers that can pass a ‘meh’ story with gorgeous art and gameplay, but for me personally I feel like the story is what carries the game, and draws you into that world. Oh – I should also quickly mention that writing doesn’t just apply to the game’s script. You’ll need writing for the game description (for Steam/whatever game store you’re releasing on) and marketing (if you make a trailer) etc.

Script: I am not a great writer, but I wanted to challenge myself with this game. I had a story in mind and really wanted to tell it, so I worked after hours in the evening and on my weekends to jot down my draft and finessed that over and over until it started to sound like a half-decent script. I used my 3rd draft of the script to hook up into a prototype so that Witchy Panda (one of our writers) could take a look and see what needed fixing up. She graciously spent a few weeks collaborating with me to refine the script and make it sound awesome. There were lots of back-and-forths and we pulled in Assitant Panda (Alanna!) to help spellcheck and read through it a bunch. OjiPanda gave me some really great writing tips and once I had all the art in, he was the first person to play it (I was so nervous he would hate it haha but he gave it so much praise).

The final word count for all narration and dialogue in-game is 40,827 words. It went through around 7 drafts before the final game-ready script was in.

I also spent a good chunk of time formatting the game’s scripts into an easy-to-read document for the voice actors, and added direction notes for them. Then I made a draft for the game trailers, which later on was cleaned up and rewritten by Witchy Panda. There are always little things like that you don’t plan for, that end up eating into your time. That’s just part of the fun of making your own games 🙂 You gotta wear many hats!

I’ll preface the total writing cost with an explanation of what contributed to them – tons of hours of my time writing the initial script, then Witchy’s punch-up script time, Alanna’s time reviewing it and acting as editor, plus all the other miscellaneous tasks (store descriptions, etc) that took writing time.

Total cost: 400 Hours

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Miscellaneous: Everything else

We had some of the Pandas help with this project, even if it was just to play the game and leave feedback. Their time is valuable; I pay them a salary, so I’m rolling some of their time into the miscellaneous costs. On top of that we had the usual software license costs, subscriptions, etc. I also worked with someone to help make the trailers.

Unity pro license – yearly subscription: $2,000  (sidenote – if you are developing a game on your own / solo dev then you can get Unity for free, the personal license)

Audio Blocks (I grabbed some royalty-free sound effects from here) – yearly subscription: $200

Adobe Creative Cloud: $2,000 – multiple yearly subscriptions

Panda time (editing the voice-over files, programming, playtesting, QA to find bugs, setting up the game in Steam) : 700 Hours

Trailers: 60 Hours

Total Cost of Cabin Fever

~$4,200 CAD in tools, 2,536 Hours of work and 20,412 Words of Voice Acting

As of writing this, Cabin Fever has not made back its money. It launched in July 2021 and has had over 19,000 wishlists but around 4,400 actual installs. It’s worth mentioning that Steam takes a 30% cut, and there are also chargebacks and fraud that can diminish the total number of sales.

There’s usually a peak of interest at the launch of a game and then it peters off pretty quick. Something random I’ll mention here – the reason why Cabin Fever doesn’t have Trading Cards, Backgrounds, or Emotes on Steam is because the game hasn’t met the ‘target revenue’ yet. My guess is that’s around 50k USD so when/if that happens then I’ll be able to add those in.

There’s no easy way to market the game, since Steam doesn’t support that and your best bet is just word-of-mouth or to have a big influencer shine a spotlight on the game. So it’s hard for people to discover the game organically. We’ll do the occasional news alert to let our players in Crush Crush know about it, like when it goes on sale etc. But it’s leveled out to only get on average around 3-5 installs per day. The ROI (return on investment) might happen before the end of NEXT year (2022), but it’s hard to tell. You can’t predict how games are going to perform, and not every game you make is going to be a hit. It’s always a risk… But for me, making Cabin Fever was something I wanted to do to prove it to myself that I could. I’m really proud of it and whenever I read the comments on our Steam forum, my heart fills up seeing all the positive things players have said ❤

Final thoughts:

As of writing this, I am super happy to announce that Cabin Fever has been approved to launch on the Nintendo Switch November 26, 2021!! I really hope it finds an audience there, because I know the people who have found it on Steam said they enjoyed it. And honestly, if just 1 big YouTuber discovers it there and plays it on their channel then that would change everything. I could write a whole blog post about the impact of having someone like Markiplier play your game, but I’ll save that for another day. In any case, wish us good luck!! And thanks for reading this long post – I hope it helps give some insight into making games and the costs/time involved.

What’s Cabin Fever?

Hiii~ Artist Panda here!

Some of you who follow us may have noticed that we recently announced a new game. It’s a small visual novel called Cabin Fever, and I wanted to chat about it.

How’d that get in my Library??

The first thing you’ll see is that the developer isn’t Sad Panda, but is this new studio nobody has heard of called “Steamy Buns” – basically the deal with that is it’s some of the peeps from Sad Panda, only it’s a separate studio. Steamy Buns is like the team B made up of me (Artist Panda), Programmer Panda, and Witchy Panda (one of our writers). For Cabin Fever I worked with Azahara for the character art (she’s awesome and has done a bunch of art in Crush Crush, like Charlotte/Shibuki/Sirina, etc). I also worked with Dao for the background art – she made all the gorgeous backgrounds in Hush Hush & Blush Blush, so it’s always a treat when I get to collaborate with her ❤

This is Witchy Panda

Cabin Fever was my little experiment to make a visual novel in preparation for Hush Hush, which is a MUCH bigger game. We wrote some cool new tech to accommodate the things I wanted, and learned so much about the development of making visual novels. So while OjiPanda was busy writing the script for Hush Hush (which is about the same word count as ‘Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire’) I decided to write my own mini VN to familiarize myself with the setup. It turns out that even a small visual novel like Cabin Fever is a ton of work, but I was really happy we made it because it’s taught us many good things that we’ll bring over to Hush Hush.

Cabin Fever’s key art

The story for Cabin Fever revolves around a loner character, living in a dystopian world that has been ravaged by a fatal pandemic. I started writing it at the very beginning of all the COVID-19 stuff that was happening, when the world was uncertain about everything. We shut down the Sad Panda office for a few months to keep everyone safe, and all worked from home. That meant I had some spare time to kill, so I got to work on this little story idea I had. 

Over the course of a year I dabbled in this other side project, getting help from my artist friends and a super gifted music composer to do the soundtrack. I figured all the pieces I needed to make a small visual novel were story, art, music, code, and voice acting. The writing was finessed by Witchy Panda over a 2 month period, while she was helping with other Sad Panda tasks. As for me, I did the bulk of the work up front and then oversaw the other pieces to make sure they stuck true to the vision. I would redline/critique artwork as it came in, giving my feedback and sometimes drawing overtop to show how I wanted things to look. I also took on the grunt work like exporting the hundreds of character sprites 😛 And added a few more expressions, etc to the CGs.

Dao is a fantastic background artist and does a great job translating my ideas into beautiful illustrations. We worked hard to get all of the backgrounds, and different scenarios, looking the way I wanted. She drafted up a blueprint of the cabin at the start, so I could fit the story around the house and make sure it all flowed correctly. A few scenes were written in after all the art was done, so I had to bug her again for more art 😛 But she did a great job matching the style and making everything look like it came right out of a gorgeous anime film.

I would sketch over top the designs Azahara came up with, to bring it more on model with my style 🙂
Initial layout plans for the cabin

Then I reached out to voice actors to cast the perfect people for the roles. I knew early on that I wanted the player to be able to pick their ‘voice’ which could sound higher pitched/more feminine, or deeper/more masculine. The writing in all of our games is gender neutral so anyone can insert themselves into the main character’s role. As far I knew, no other VN had 2 different versions of the protagonist’s audio. So that was kinda neat to put together. All the voice actors did a beautiful job, and it’s probably my favorite part when I get to load up the game and hear all the voice acting for the first time. Visual novels to me are like a low budget anime, so hearing the voices alongside the artwork was a real treat. It made me feel proud of all the heart we put in to make this little experiment into a finely polished game.

Protagonist Voice Options

The inspiration for Cabin Fever was one part my own experience during COVID, another part impatience with Hush Hush and wanting to just make a VN myself. I also wanted to tell a story inspired by VNs that I loved – one of them being Planetarian ~ the reverie of a little planet. Our game has many branching paths and multiple endings, so I hoped it would be fun for players to take notes and try going down alternate routes. I promise there is a way to have a happy ending! It’s just a really difficult path 🙂 Because sometimes that’s how life goes, but the reward is worth it.

Sad Panda will continue developing Crush Crush, Blush Blush, and will release Hush Hush soon. But don’t be surprised if you see a couple more games popping up from this ‘Steamy Buns’ developer. Honestly there are so many games I want to make, Steamy Buns was my solution to ‘clocking out’ at Panda each day, and switching to a different type of creative outlet at night. I hope you like our little game! And in case you’re wondering, yes the Panda Pass does work with it… haha.

Here’s a link to the Steam page: https://store.steampowered.com/app/1336600/Cabin_Fever

Thanks for checking it out!

Xoxo

~Artist Panda