I am beyond excited this week to be talking to Bobby Schroeder, the creator of Super Lesbian Animal RPG (SLARPG), an upcoming game that’s a love letter to old school JRPGs, and It’s also full of trans and gay characters that happen to be cute animals. I’ve been following the development of this game loosely since it was announced, and I cannot wait to play it! Currently, a demo is available here.
In the interview, Bobby talks about how MLP helped her with gender feels, what anime she watches, and how she makes SLARPG! Okay, here’s that interview!
How do you identify and what pronouns do you prefer?
I’m a bisexual trans woman, and I generally go by she/her pronouns.
Do you have any trans role models?
Honestly, I couldn’t really name one in particular! Being in the communities I’m in online, I’ve been surrounded by a lot of really cool and talented trans folks for years now. That’s definitely a big part of why I was able to come to terms with my gender identity and come out myself.
What kind of art are you interested in making at the moment?
I dabble in different mediums, but video games are definitely my main focus at the moment. While games are a lot of work and have a ton of moving pieces, I’d say they’re one of the best mediums for me to tell longform stories in a (relatively) efficient way. SLARPG may be taking me a long time to finish, but it would easily take me much, much longer if I tried to tell Melody’s story in as much detail as this in a medium like comics. I also just love being able to tell a story where players might see different things or make different choices or poke around and find a bunch of fun little bits of optional content.
I’m also an aspiring illustrator, and I do love comics as a medium, but I always find the amount of work that goes into drawing a comic daunting. That said, I am (very slowly) working on a short comic as a sort of prologue to SLARPG, which is an interesting challenge and will hopefully turn out very good and cute.
Do you have a certain moment that made you realize you wanted to come out or inspired you?
This is less related to me coming out (I’m not yet out to my family, truth be told) and more about me realizing I was trans in the first place, and this is going to be the dorkiest thing ever, but. I’d honestly say My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic was a big factor for me. I was (and still am) a big fan of the series, and I’d never really encountered anything like it before–a series specifically about femininity, with a ton of well-rounded female characters, that at its heart is about how there’s no right or wrong way to be a girl. It gave me a space to explore my feelings about femininity and what it means to be a girl in a way I had never been able to previously. And also, it probably should’ve been telling that I found overly-earnest MLP femslash fanfiction to be like, the most relatable and appealing romance fiction I had ever been exposed to at age 18.
What kind of media are you enjoying? (video games, movies, music, etc)
I’ve been revisiting a lot of the Kirby series lately in the wake of Star Allies. As far as TV goes, I’ve been watching OK K.O., the new season of Netflix’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, and Dragon Ball (which has been quite the undertaking), and for music I’ve been listening to recent albums by Jeff Rosenstock, BROCKHAMPTON, The Go! Team, Girls Rituals, and Kero Kero Bonito. I don’t see as many movies as I’d like, but I did finally see Thor Ragnarok recently and boy did that live up to the hype for me.
What kind of comics do you read? Any graphic novels you’d recommend?
I only follow a small handful of comics these days, honestly! One is Cucumber Quest by Gigi D.G., which I’m sure sounds very in character for anyone familiar with my game. On top of being incredibly colorful and fun, it also manages to poke fun at video game and fantasy tropes in a way that doesn’t feel too on-the-nose, while also providing an incredibly sincere, heartfelt story at its core. Softies by Kyle Smeallie is another webcomic I think way more people should be reading. It’s a comedic, episodic sci-fi series following the story of Kay, a child who becomes the last surviving human following the seemingly random destruction of Earth and is soon picked up by a pair of alien garbage collectors. I swear it’s funnier and less dark (well, usually) than I’m making it sound. KC Green’s current ongoing webcomics like Back and He Is A Good Boy are also always entertaining, and Close Your Eyes Look at the Mountains is a delight every time it graces my social media feeds.
As far as traditional print comics go, all I’m really following lately is IDW’s Transformers comics–especially More Than Meets the Eye and Lost Light. Love me some gay and trans robots.
Is there a dream project you’d like to do, if time and funding wasn’t an issue?
Like seemingly every indie dev out there, I’d love to make a Metroidvania someday. The thing is, while they seem fairly straightforward, making a polished one as a tiny team usually ends up taking years and years. Just look at games like Owlboy or Iconoclasts, both of which are amazing but took nearly a decade to make. Due to the nonlinear nature and the heavy backtracking, on top of the usual sidescrolling action/platforming mechanics that need to be fun and polished, you have to nail basically every aspect of the game for it to even be half decent. Given unlimited time and money, though? I’d absolutely love to make something like that in the SLARPG universe.
What are you excited about in 2018?
Is just “Mega Man 11” too straightforward of an answer? Because that’s the honest one.
How is your community in the city you live in?
I live in Daytona Beach, Florida, and it’s… well, it’s a fairly diverse place that’s definitely more left-leaning than many parts Florida, but there are a lot of your stereotypical bible-pounding southern conservatives around here, too. I’m also not really sure there’s much of an active LGBT community here aside from, like, the GSA at the local community college? But half of my close friends from high school ended up being gay and trans, so at least we’ve got each other.
I saw recently on twitter, you’ve been live-tweeting Dragon Ball Z. Is that a super nostalgic anime for you? What’s some other anime you grew up with?
Honestly, I never got into it as a kid! I think something about the slow pace and the fact that I never saw the beginning of the series were daunting to me. I’d try to jump in in the middle as a kid and wonder why Goku was seemingly constantly stuck in the afterlife. It’s been an interesting experience watching it (and the original Dragon Ball anime) for the first time, though! It’s a show that gets brought up a ton, so it feels nice to watch it and go “Ah, so THIS is the part where Vegeta wears the badman shirt. Incredible.”
As far as anime I actually did grow up with, I guess I watched lots of franchise-based shows that were trying to sell me toys (and often succeeding). Transformers Armada, MegaMan NT Warrior, Sonic X, Yu-Gi-Oh!, that kinda thing. I was majorly into Naruto when it first started airing in the States, but unfortunately I moved in the middle of the Chunin Exams and lost cable for about half a year and ended up dropping the series. Someday I’ll actually go back and watch the rest of it. I also watched the 4kids dub of One Piece and enjoyed that as a child with no standards, but wasn’t able to really get into the series until years later when I watched the Funimation dub and started following the manga.
I really love JRPG’s and obviously, you do as well! What’s a favorite of yours?
Without a doubt, I’d have to say EarthBound and Mother 3 are my favorite JRPG’s–as well as two of my favorite games ever made. There’s a running theme in many of these answers relating to me liking lighthearted stories that draw you in with their comedy and their goofy worlds before getting a bit darker and incredibly sincere and heartfelt. There are few games that exemplify that as well as Mother. They were a big part of why I wanted to try making an RPG in the first place, and so many parts of those games will be etched into my memory forever.
I’m also a big fan of many of the Mario RPGs, as well as more traditional stuff like your Final Fantasies and your Chrono Triggers and your Etrian Odysseys.
You’ve said you used RPG Maker to build SLARPG. Can you talk about your current setup for making the game? (software, art programs)
So naturally, most of my work is done in RPG Maker, where I make the maps and script events and set up the gameplay and that sort of thing. Beyond that, I do basically all of the art in Photoshop. Stuff like character portraits and enemies start as high resolution PSDs that I then shrink down to the correct size for the game, while the pixel art assets I just draw at their intended resolution with the pencil tool.
For keeping my many, many notes on my ideas for the game, I primarily use Evernote. Lately, though, I’ve also been writing a small, private encyclopedia of sorts on the game using the site World Anvil. It’s a really cool little site, and it’s helping me both flesh out my ideas better and keep track of what’s canon in my worldbuilding. Neither of these are necessary at all, they’re just the things I personally like to use to keep track of my ideas.
How has feedback been for the game? Has there been any feedback that has been surprising to you?
Feedback has been very positive so far! This early it’s still hard to tell how well the final game will do, but the players I do have seem to have enjoyed the demo a lot. It always means the world to me when folks tell me that they relate heavily to one of my characters (Melody and Claire especially), or that a joke in the game made them laugh out loud, or that they even played the demo multiple times. And whenever I see folks drawing fanart, oh my gosh. That just makes my day. I can’t say it will ever be a smash hit, but it’s validating for folks to say my game is exactly what they’ve been dying for someone to make.
One surprising aspect of all the feedback I’ve been getting, though, has been the generally warm reception of the combat, even with the stuff in the demo remaining fairly simple. I was worried to death this whole time that it would be impossible for me to do enough to differentiate it from other RPG Maker titles, due to the limitations of the engine. But I’ve gotten more than a few players saying that they had more fun than they expected with it, and that I managed to balance it in a way they found engaging. In the back of my mind I was worried that people would find it dull and that I’d have to downplay the combat in the full game, but thankfully that’s not the case at all. (It probably helps that one of the main things you can do in battle is make Melody and Allison kiss.)
I also had an itch.io user include SLARPG as the only game in their “YEAH BABY ITS THE GOOD SHIT” collection with the comment “i want to eat this game and absorb its power,” and if that doesn’t tell me I’m doing a good job then I don’t know what will.
Could you briefly explain a work day, working on the game? Are you pounding coffee and binge-working? Or is it done in brief intervals? How has the experience of putting so much time in on the game been?
It varies a lot from day to day. On my most productive days I’ll tend to wake up, start working on something for the game (most often visual assets) within an hour of getting up, put on some podcasts in the background, and then continue working on and off the whole day until I go to bed. It’s rare for me to have a solid 8-hour work day or anything like that, though–I can certainly get a lot done in a day, but I’ll usually break it up into multiple 2-3 hour chunks of work.
Other days I’ll attend to other things that feel less “productive” but still contribute to my work in some way–managerial stuff, social media stuff, research, planning–but I may only end up getting like an hour of work on proper content done. That’s just kind of the nature of the beast, I suppose. With a creative project, I can’t fire on all cylinders at all times. I’ve just always gotta be sure to take advantage of it when I’m actually capable of getting a lot done.
It’s been interesting, though. It can be hard, spending so much time mostly working alone (aside from a couple people like my boyfriend Anthony contributing NPC and enemy designs, and my wonderful lead composer Beatrix Quinn). It kinda kills me sometimes that I have to keep so much secret so as not to spoil the entire game before it’s released. Like, I’d love to talk about the antagonists of the game, who are undoubtedly some of the best characters, but I’ve kept them secret because it’ll be more fun for players to meet them for themselves. As an independent artist, it’s also easy to feel like I’m never working enough. Balancing productivity with my own mental health has definitely been a learning experience. But I’m making the game happen, slowly but surely.
What is the one thing you’d want if you had the money? (piece of gear, computer, tv, idk, a leather jacket)
My boyfriend Anthony and I desperately need a car. If I had the spare cash, I’d totally just buy a car, so we could live out our wildest dreams of like… being able to go to Publix, or the movies. Wow, just imagine… we’d truly be living in the lap of luxury. We would be unstoppable
Any links for your art? Anything else you’d like to share?
So the demo for Super Lesbian Animal RPG can be found here on itch.io! The game also has its own Twitter and Tumblr accounts free from the clutter of my mains. Outside of just SLARPG, you can find me at ponett on Tumblr and ponettplus on Twitter.
Thanks again, Bobby! I was super excited you agreed to do this interview, and I’m sure the full game is going to be a great experience. Good luck!
(If you are a non-cis person that makes music, art, comics, lets play streams, etc, then email me your basic info and links to: firstname.lastname@example.org and we can set up an interview.)
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