One Small Fire at a Time Interview: Mental Illness and Challenging the Taboo

As we previously reported, developer Kidalang has recently published their newest visual novel, One Small Fire at a Time, to Steam Greenlight.

One Small Fire at a Time is the prequel to Kidalang’s previous title, An Octave Higher. I managed to get a hold of Yusdi Saliman, Kidalang’s writer, for more details regarding the upcoming visual novel.


Yusdi, what’s your position inside Kidalang’s development team?

I’m the writer and programmer.

Why has Kidalang decided to revisit Overture and it’s magical city setting?

Back when we were still working on An Octave Higher, I came up with an idea for a backstory for one of the characters, but it didn’t really fit within the game’s main storyline, so we saved it for another game. So we made One Small Fire at a Time not so much because we wanted to revisit Overture, but because we wanted to tell this character’s story.

What expectations do you have after the success One Octave Higher was?

I hope players will love this game as much as they loved An Octave Higher. Reading user reviews on the game’s Steam page never fails to motivate me.

Will there be cameos from One Octave Higher characters besides Janis?

Yes! And they won’t just be cameos; they’ll play important roles in the story.

One of the themes of A Small Flame at a Time seems to be mental illnesses. How have you decide to approach this particular subject? Are you afraid of offending people with mental illnesses?

Well, it’s possible some people might get offended, but if you think about it, isn’t it precisely the problem? It’s good that there are increasingly greater efforts to improve mental health, but they won’t mean anything if the social stigma surrounding mental illnesses prevents people with such illnesses to seek help.

Ultimately, a mental illness is an illness. Having a mental illness is regrettable, and it’s a serious issue, but it shouldn’t be any more shameful than other diseases, whether it’s a cold or a cancer. So why is it so taboo to talk about it? Why is it “politically incorrect” to talk about the mentally ill?

There are characters with mental illnesses in One Small Fire at a Time, but I didn’t write them so they could be pitied. They play roles that are just as important as the other characters’. They have their own character arcs.

And I guess that’s what I wanted to do with this story: to portray those characters as people that we can all relate to. They’re not villains in a horror movie, they’re not subjects in a documentary film, they’re not the punchline of a joke. They’re just people.

What can we expect in terms of features? Will it have multiple endings?

There are four different endings, one of which is the true ending. Other than that, it has your standard visual novel features: saving, loading, skipping previously read text, etc. It also has an auto-save feature, so players won’t have to save very often. Even if you quit the game without saving, you won’t lose any progress.

There’s an art change compared with One Octave Higher. The characters and scenery are more detailed and shaded. Was this a concern taken in account during development?

It’s probably because there are fewer art assets compared to An Octave Higher (the prequel is only about half as long), so our lead artist was able to spend more time on each of them. Or maybe he’s gained some experience points and leveled up.

If everything goes as you plan it, what’s the estimated release date?

We’re aiming for Q2 2016.

I assume that just like An Octave Higher and Sage Fusion 2, One Small Fire at a Time runs under HTML5. This means you have plans to port One Small Fire at a Time to other platforms like iOS/Android?

Absolutely! The game will be released for Windows, Mac, and Linux first, and then iOS and Android.

How much feedback for fans did you get with previous works and what was implemented in result of that?

We listen to all feedback from fans, but it’s hard to say which pieces of feedback resulted in which improvements. We just try to learn from all of them and use what we learn to make a better work.

Any plans for the future after the release of One Small fire at a Time?

We’re already planning a new game. Hopefully we’ll be able to start the development soon so we’ll have more to share about it.


Niche Gamer regularly interviews developers on a variety of subjects—if you’re a developer and want to chat with us, please contact us!

Diogo Teixeira

About

A gamer since a young age, starting with oldies such as the IBM 386, Atari, and Commodore 64. A Portuguese guy with a tendency for snappy and witty remarks. Also harbors an obsession for adventure games.



  • Heavily Augmented

    “Well, it’s possible some people might get offended, but if you think
    about it, isn’t it precisely the problem? It’s good that there are
    increasingly greater efforts to improve mental health, but they won’t
    mean anything if the social stigma surrounding mental illnesses prevents
    people with such illnesses to seek help.”
    It really can limit the possibilities of storytelling when your appeasing the overly sensitive, so it’s positive to hear about developers not backing down from discussing about taboo topics in their stories just because of that small minority of people who probably didn’t plan on getting their game in the first place.

  • Eldhin Hellknight

    well, i’m interested

  • scemar

    I can sympathize with their approach to portraying characters, that’s the way it should be done.

    No fear of what people will say, just do the characters justice and let the chips fall.

    And any clue on who is the artist?

  • TheCynicalReaper

    And just like that, I’m highly interested! The artwork isn’t half bad either.
    But really, VNs require talent and diligent integrity, which we see all over the answers in this interview. I’m really looking forward to this

  • Nagato

    I thought Fire Emblem Fates already had some mentally challenged characters in it as well, but I suppose that might just have been an unintentional reflection of the Nintendo staff writing the localization.

    Either way, both this game and An Octave Higher seem interesting; gave One Small Fire an upvote on Greenlight, and threw AOH onto the wishlist – although I really shout get the latter before its current sale ends.

  • Nad Nod

    @scemar:disqus
    https://twitter.com/zo_iskander
    i think he still the Illustrator for that game

  • Eugenio Gil de la Madrid

    Great interview! I’ve never heard of this game series before but after reading it I am interested in checking it out. It makes me happy to know that there are developers and writers out there that still wish to explore real important problems that we as a society have to constructively face, not ignore. It actually helps recover my faith in humanity. Once again great interview!

  • Joel Leonheart

    This might be my second actual VN (I might have played more than I realize) that I might get I’m very interested in this after all having issues with mental illness myself this might help with it like fran bow/alice madness return’s and so many other’s have done I’l keep an eye out for this

  • Black_Bob

    ” Well, it’s possible some people might get offended, but if you think
    about it, isn’t it precisely the problem? It’s good that there are
    increasingly greater efforts to improve mental health, but they won’t
    mean anything if the social stigma surrounding mental illnesses prevents
    people with such illnesses to seek help.

    Ultimately, a mental illness is an illness. Having a mental illness
    is regrettable, and it’s a serious issue, but it shouldn’t be any more
    shameful than other diseases, whether it’s a cold or a cancer. So why is
    it so taboo to talk about it? Why is it “politically incorrect” to talk
    about the mentally ill?”

    Interested. Definitely interested.

  • Immahnoob

    Devs should start to understand that people are going to get their games also because of reasons like these.

    I want to actually play it now because I know they didn’t held back any punches with how they portray their characters. We won’t have any pussyfooting and I’ll get to see how this author portrays actual mental illness.

  • Random Dude

    A game from our country that’s not a cheap rehash of popular ones? Well, colour me surprised.

  • sanic

    Art is meh but the story does sound interesting.