Dev Blog #16: Waking the Sleeping Giant

It's been a long, long while since we've given any real update beyond 'Hey, we are alive, promise! Update later, maybe?'. Honestly, a lot of that is my fault, a lot of it is due to actually being inactive, and most of it, conversely, is due to how active we are recently - on things we can't show you yet.

Yes, that means Avitus.

A lot of Avitus.

But, in order to bring everyone back up to speed, let me start at the last known savepoint for many of our fans: Fare Thee Well. A little under a year ago. For those who aren't aware, Fare Thee Well was our NaNoRenO 2016 game we released, as expected, after a two week development time. It was directed by myself (Wolf) and more importantly, Electro, who directed much of Palinurus a year prior.

So, I have to level with you guys. Fare Thee Well was rushed, and in a way vastly different than Palinurus. Palinurus was rushed because we decided to join NaNo after it was already underway, because we thought it would be a fun thing to do. Fare Thee Well, however, was our second choice for NaNo 2016. It wasn't the story we originally wanted to tell. The original story went by the name of In_Human, and it never took off due to the director of that game having unfortunate life related issues to take care of. Of course, Watercress is okay with this, as always 'life comes first'.

And so, we went with Fare Thee Well, another story of Electro's design. An excellent outline, and something we immediately got behind, despite being already a couple weeks into NaNo2016. We were up to the challenge of course, and more than that, we were willing to work on many things at the same time. Avitus, Fare The Well, the Steam release of Palinurus, we were doing it all. Then, what we coined as 'World War II' reared its ugly head at us.

There was a split within the studio, and during the last stretch of Fare Thee Well, myself and roughly half of the studio left. We promised to finish Fare Thee Well, but we were done with Watercress, and all of the demons therein. This is readily apparent in Fare Thee Well's writing, which is subpar compared to our previous works. I guess it's in the name of the story. Bidding Fare Thee Well to many of us who no longer had the patience or the drive to work in the studio. Bidding Fare Thee Well to those who still had the energy, who'd carry on the legacy that many of us had planned to leave behind.

In my absence, a person by the name of Valjean took over where I left off as Studio Director. This had been the first time in the year and a half (at the time of the split) of Watercress' history in which the majority of the leadership had disbanded, including the loss of over three of the character teams altogether.

Then, there was roughly a six month period of time in which Watercress attempted to rebuild itself and failed, unable to regain the traction it had prior to the incident. This period of inactivity was brought to a close when the studio requested my return as a Lead Writer, and the studio's request for Valjean to have elections again for his position - which ended in his departure from the team. I don't want to get into the details, for privacy's sake, but there were issues on all sides, and a lot of them were not the fault of the Studio Director's. Regardless, due to this, the Studio Director position was cut in half (birthing the Game Director position), and elections were held. Nephalos was nominated to the Game Director position, and I was nominated to my old position as Studio Director. We both won the elections, and we both immediately worked together with the studio to forge a new path for Watercress.

This started with the return of many of our former members - our Music Director, our PR Director, our Interim Art Director, alongside a few other members, who had left the studio originally when they saw the direction it was heading after the split.

With that, we both reinvigorated how the studio ran with a new system of chain of command involving a revived HR department, and a week by week plan for the release of our Act 0 project, something we have yet to fully unveil. After so much inactivity, this burst in productivity was the reawakening of the 'Sleeping Giant', what Watercress really is given its size relative to other OELVN freeware studios. We took December off after our successful launch of Palinurus' Steam version, and then in January we came bursting out of the gate with a new objective - complete Act 0.

Since then, we've become a prominent member of the VN development scene, especially after our talk at the VN Conference hosted by Sekai Project's Project Manager (at the time this was written), the speech titled 'Pitfalls and Getting Out' being about falling apart and getting back up (something we know a bit about now after our history of drama), given by myself and EchoFrost, our Coding Director. (It was during the lunch break of that conference when Ren'Py Tom said our game Palinurus is one of his favorite Visual Novels of all time - we were/are super hyped about that!) From there, we've partnered up with a bunch of other devs to develop our NaNo2017 game, which we have yet to name.

While this short summary very much leaves out a lot, including perspectives from other members, it is an accurate one and hopefully will explain what we've been up to for so long. We've been rebuilding, and now we are finally out of our infancy as a studio. We've grown up. We've learned from our mistakes, and coming into our third year of development, we have matured far more than we ever would have expected to. We've had to make some hard decisions, and we've lost a lot of good people along the way (Electro included, given that he no longer has the time to work for free), but having this experience, we are more driven and excited than ever to begin our new journey, with many more tales to tell ahead of us.

Thanks for sticking with us so far. We've released four games at the time this was written, and we plan to release many, many more, three a year! Without your support as fans, we wouldn't have had the strength to stay in such an unforgiving field.

Thank you.

~Wolf, Watercress Studio Director and Sanne Lead

"Constantly bullied at school, beaten in the streets, and ridiculed at home, Sanne's life was a recipe for disaster. A recipe that could turn her into a maple syrup loving drug dealer sent off to sex up some waifus, if she wasn't careful." ~Wolf, on Sanne's childhood