Earlier this month, we chatted with Eromancer on the development of his game, Malise and the Machine. As we said before, there were a lot of different things we liked about this game and were inspiring. With a new release coming in May, we know there is only more to look forward to.
There was also a point of contention we had with the game: Its core mechanic, the Lust meter. While we think there was a lot of potential for it, we couldn’t help but be concerned. In the second of our two-part interview, we go in-depth regarding this game mechanic and what it can do for the game.
What inspired the Lust mechanic?
Similar mechanics are actually very standard in Japanese hentai games, so I’d say it’s drawn from those. There were a couple of hints dropped in the early test versions that correspond to how it fits into the story, but I don’t want to spoil anything.
Why did you make Lust into a negative status effect?
I think it’s a hasty assumption to entirely relegate it to that category so early. The demo offers a limited skill set, however the battle system we’ve designed allows for skills and items to exist that make creative use of the various character parameters. Lust is no different, as we actually have ideas for skills that focus on using Lust to the player’s advantage.
Fair understanding that the Lust mechanic is still in development. We suspected there may be more to this mechanic, but we weren’t sure to express it. Taking that into consideration, what ideas did you have in mind for players to take advantage of the mechanic?
We’re considering adding skills and/or items that become available for use when a character’s Lust reaches a specific state or range (sort of similar to a Limit Break from Final Fantasy), and also ones that can convert or use incoming Lust for beneficial effects or offensive purposes. The outfit/armor system in MATM ties what can best be described as a loose class archetype to each outfit type. We’re considering making one of these that is based heavily on skills that involve receiving and managing Lust. There’s also an idea where equipment could have bonuses or passives that only become active once a character has reached a certain level of Lust.
Would some of those Lust-specific skills affect certain mechanics in battle, such as perhaps a role reversal in the struggle mechanic?
Playing with mechanics that break away from the usual rhythm of selecting a command and waiting for it to be executed is something I’m definitely a fan of. Giving characters a customizable skillset makes this concept even more flexible since players can choose to utilize the ones they like and not mess with the ones they don’t. Unfortunately modular mechanics like this can be time consuming to implement and test, and are also difficult to balance, but that doesn’t mean we won’t try new things within our limits. What you’ve mentioned is one I haven’t yet considered, but sounds like something that could have a lot of potential and be built off of the current struggle system.
One of our main criticisms is that the Lust mechanic makes the player want to avoid H-content outright, which we think kind of defeats the purpose of having a game with sex as its focal point. What is your take on this?
I often use the example of the Dark Souls games when talking about MATM. The slogan for that game is “Prepare to Die”, and inevitably, you’re going to die in those games. The purpose of Dark Souls however isn’t to get defeated; it’s to complete a set of challenges. For people that enjoy that play style, getting sidelined by the challenges and facing the trial and error is part of the fun. The same can be said for MATM, except for that the player is presented with adult content along the way. It was very much on purpose when I used the choice words “In this game, you are rewarded with H-content by surviving” as opposed to “you are rewarded with H-content by winning” when I wrote the original Patreon description. This is actually a contrast to many Japanese H-RPGs, which require the player to outright lose in order to access any adult content.
I see where you’re going with the Dark Souls comparison. With that said, I think what the issue is, whereas the challenges in the DS series are essentially mandatory, MATM’s challenge with the Lust mechanic is relatively avoidable with smart playing. It then becomes a choice of “Do I want to make things difficult for myself just to get H-content, or do I play well to advance the game and only rarely see the fun bits?” Moreover, while the reward is overcoming the challenge by playing good in the DS series, playing good here still feels like a punishment. How do you intend to address this in a way that caters to all players?
The first part of your question is a far reaching problem in H games where the player’s character is on the receiving end of the H content. Balancing the game properly so that it is challenging throughout while still offering a dynamic experience is the key to this. Many games of this genre don’t manage balancing well at all and then it turns into the experience you’ve described. The early releases of MATM however have been difficult to balance since we’ve found putting people into the deep end right away can turn people off. What we’ve settled on is something more representative of what you’ll see in the very early part of the game. We want the game to be accessible to everyone, and we think that through proper balancing and the inclusion of options to tailor the experience to ones’ skills we can do this while still managing the above problem.
Regarding the second part of your question, you’re still very much rewarded for overcoming challenges by playing well in MATM, as ultimately new H content is unlocked by doing so. Solving the aforementioned difficulty issue is obviously important for this latter point to be effective however, as ideally we want difficulty to scale in a way where the player realizes that they can’t progress by playing sloppily.
Another of our criticisms is that the Lust mechanic makes the sex almost entirely non-con. We feel that in strictly making it so, it leaves things unbalanced, especially when there’s opportunities already in the game where the heroines could theoretically take on an active, consensual role. Do you think it’s possible for the heroines to at least have an option to control their sexuality?
There are a couple of different facets to this question. Firstly, it’s largely a question of genre. Adult games, especially in the eastern market, are often classified into genre not only by their mode of play (Action, Adventure, etc.), but by their variety of adult content. Is it fair to criticize a racing game for being a racing game? I personally don’t think so. Secondly, this choice is in part due to the story we aim to present. Without giving away too many spoilers, I think you’ll see that the concept plays a role in the story and isn’t just an arbitrary decision.
Good point on the story. Based on what is already available, it does have some dark undertones, which would possibly justify NC. At the same time, a consensual element could still be viable in this situation without undermining the overall mood of the story. In fact, it could serve to reinforce the themes by taking them in an interesting direction. Could it be possible to make this work by, say, splitting the narrative into different directions based on the player’s play style and the characters’ choices?
It could, and could give some of the characters more dimension, though changing the scope of the project in such a way to manage it may be overambitious. Something I often see is H game developers getting overwhelmed by requests to add in certain systems or varieties of H content. As a result, these projects very often either change direction, are vastly delayed or fizzle out, or end up in some eternal limbo where the developers feel they must satisfy every taste. This is something I’m cautionary of, and thus I’ve had a pretty defined direction from the start for this project.
So, with this in mind, if you were forced to choose between something that gives you the highest quality product and something that would expand your audience, you would pick the former?
I’d choose quality over audience, however knowing your audience is also important. At the same time, I also think it’s important to have enough variety that you aren’t relegated to a turbo niche kind of content. Whatever work we do in the future will probably be darker themed, but I don’t really want to repeat the same thing over and over either, so trying new things is always on the table.
What do you feel most proud about with this project?
I think anyone that’s been around the project since the beginning has seen the progress we’ve made, so there’s definitely that. I initially had not envisioned that the project would rise to anywhere near the standards of quality I now expect the remainder of it to meet. More than anything though it’s the connections I’ve made, the experience I’ve gained and the confidence I’ve established that will allow us to attempt some truly innovative projects in the future.