One of the awesome things about the furry fandom is how it easily intersects with various other aspects of Nerd culture, such as with gaming for instance. And in some cases, these gamers decide to become game makers themselves, such as in the case of Kyle Lambert, or as he’s known in the furry world, Klace Husky. Klace has been making a name for himself in the furry community the past few years, having previously released the furry visual novel Major\Minor in 2016 under his own development studio, Tall Tail Studios, which later went on to win the 2016 Ursa Major Award for best game, and has recently been building up hype for his new game, Winds of Change. I was able to catch an interview with Klace this past week on being a furry, as well as get some insight into the development of both Major\Minor and Winds of Change. Let’s take a look.
Pop Star Takes the Stage
How did you find out about the fandom and/or become a furry? What made you interested in the furry fandom?
As far as I know, I’ve always been interested in furries. Even when I was a kid in elementary school, I had a tendency to read the books featuring anthropomorphic animal characters. I guess there’s also the fact that a lot of the media geared towards children featured them as well. Disney Movies, Educational Films, Mascots, etc… So while my interest in furries in general is pretty much almost as old as me, I didn’t actually figure out what the fandom was until about 13-14 years ago. After a couple years of hesitation, I decided to get involved in it, rather than being an appreciative bystander. I started attending local furry events around 10 years ago, and the rest is history.
How did you decide on Klace Husky being your fursona?
As a big fan of pop music, I wanted to create something vibrant, eye-catching, and different. I always intended the character to be a pop singer, so I wanted something that would fit such a career. Popstars are known for their odd wardrobe choices, eccentric behavior, and less than normal personalities. I stuck to those rules when creating my fursona, and Klace was born.
What made you go into game development?
In several ways, I’ve always been into game development. As a kid in second grade I even made games on RPG Maker. I’d put them on discs and show them off to my classmates. They weren’t very good games, and my classmates didn’t hesitate to let me know that fact. But I never gave up, and kept tinkering with engines on and off for almost the last 20 years. When I decided to take it to a professional level, I had long since possessed the skill set to do so.
Any particular folks you look up to and/or draw inspiration from?
I look up to Drew Karpyshyn, a writer for BioWare. He was the lead writer on Knights of the Old Republic as well as the creator of the Mass Effect universe. I guess I could also say I was inspired by David Gaider, the man responsible for the Dragon Age universe. I try to create games with stories like theirs, since I grew up on them. In fact, for the entirety of my life, there’s always been a BioWare game coming out, and I’ve played every single one. I try to take inspiration from their earlier titles, since lately they’ve been favoring other aspects over in-depth storytelling. Shout out to TellTale Games as well, for bringing adventure games back into the spotlight.
You tend to focus on doing “SFW” material for your games. Any particular reason for that [Plenty of games in the fandom focus on Adult or “NSFW” content]?
I don’t make my games to appeal to furries. I make them to appeal to everybody who likes a good adventure. Involving the NSFW elements the fandom is known for would extremely limit appeal of the projects. In some cases, it would even prevent them from being sold on the commercial portals that I rely on. While my next game will have romance options and sexual relations, these are handled no differently than the games I take inspiration from – Mass Effect and Dragon Age. This is a game for everybody, not just for furries.
A Minor, Major Leap
As mentioned before, Major\Minor was Klace’s first real foray into the professional gaming world, released in 2016 under his Tall Tail Studios brand. The game was initially presented in an episodic format that began in 2015, with each new chapter of the game being released one by one until its completion in 2016, when the game was repackaged under a “Complete Edition” that connected the chapters together into one seamless narrative, rather than a more episodic one.
Major\Minor sees the player taking the role of a winner in a contest to see Klace’s world tour which begins in Akihabara, Japan; but things take a turn for the worse when they learn of the “Midnight Deaths” that have been plaguing Japan as of late, and Klace becomes the latest victim. The player is also whisked away to the fantasy world Terra, which is undergoing political turmoil as the ambitious Lord Plair seeks to win the throne from the Immortal King Velasquez. The player soon learns these two worlds have some kind of link, and are forced to partake in a dangerous game with a mysterious inter-dimensional hyena seemingly at the center of it all.
Where did you even get the idea to do a furry visual novel? What inspirations led you to it, and where did you get the idea for the plot from?
My direct inspirations for Major\Minor were Steins;Gate, Future Diary, Tales of Symphonia, and Persona 4. In order from most impactful to least impactful. I wanted to create something like a love letter to my favorite stories, while also creating something original and unique at the same time. I’m proud of that story, and I think I’ve accomplished that. The reason I decided to make a visual novel is because I knew I could see it through from start to finish. A lot of developers are overly ambitious and it leads to the downfall of their entire project. So I’m starting right at the bottom, and working my way up as the studio grows and can naturally handle such tasks. For example, my next game, Winds of Change, is more of a 2D Dragon Age than a visual novel. The choices and branches are immense, the character interaction is exactly the same as in those titles, and the world was created from the ground up, allowing full creative freedom. I think I’ve perfected what I see as the merger between visual novels and the storytelling flow and character relations of the AAA titles that I’ve drawn inspiration from.
Why did you decide to use furry characters instead of humans or say, humans and furries?
My love for furries in general led to this. However, if the game were to feature a human cast, I know it wouldn’t stand out as much. The use of furry characters gives the game even more of a unique identity. I think a visual novel featuring humans is now “been there done that” territory. But looking at the Major\Minor store page, it’s immediately different from the pack.
What kind of obstacles did you encounter during and post development of the game?
Rather than a couple people backing out of the project (asking that their characters be removed from the game), there weren’t really any obstacles. I kept my year long development plan as simple as possible, and didn’t try to get ambitious with what I wanted to include in the game. It was remarkably smooth sailing from start to finish, save for some “furry drama”.
What was it like working with all those other furries and their fursonas that’re used as characters in the game?
Like I mentioned, some of them backed out, so it was a little interesting. I don’t think I made a mistake, but when they signed on, I asked each and every one what they wanted their character to be like. If they had a personal story arc they wanted, and what main personality traits they should possess. At the end of the day, I had 20+ unique requests, and it was an extensive writing exercise to work all of these plots into one seamless narrative. Not only that, but I was limited to the locations I had backgrounds for, which were stock images. So that limited me even further. Personally, I’m still amazed I managed to fit everything into the game, considering the constraints that were placed upon me.
Every character owner got what they wanted, and they were all integrated into the story
in a way that suited the overall narrative. I was also still able to tell the grand plot I wanted to, even while severely limited location wise. The game actually takes place in only a few major areas. The convention center, the Terran village, the tavern, the castle, the underground bunker, and The Ark [where the mysterious hyena resides]. Yet the story never seems like it’s being held down by that fact. Everyone was very happy and surprised with what had been done in the end.
What was it like winning the Ursa Major Award for best Anthro Game of 2016?
Overwhelming, to say the least. I never expected to win in the face of such competition.
For example, I was up against Overwatch and Pokemon! I’m extremely proud to have been on the list with such amazing titles, let alone winning the award. That puts me on the same list as some extremely talented people, like Ursula Vernon, Kyell Gold, and more! Some people seem to discredit the award because of its “furry” nature, but every genre and subculture seems to have their own award ceremony, and I see no reason why this is any different than those.
Given your experiences with developing Winds of Change, would there be anything that you would have done different with Major\Minor? Any plans to revisit that project or is it over and done with? Especially since the game tends to end on an ambiguous note.
I don’t think there’s anything I would change with Major\Minor, as I completed exactly what I set out to do. Going back and doing more work on it, I think, would be pulling a George Lucas. Don’t try and fix what isn’t broken. I consider Major\Minor as final.
The Winds Are Blowing
Klace wasn’t finished with Major\Minor, however, as he soon unveiled that he had a new project in the works titled Winds of Change. Taking place in a new fantasy world, Winds of Change sees the player taking the role of a Seer who receives a vision of their home village being invaded by the mysterious Triumvirate and attacked by their Grand Inquisitor, Sovy. In order to prevent such a grisly fate, and to prevent the Triumvirate from inflicting their will upon the world, the player joins up with Valessa and others in a Rebellion that’s dedicated to the downfall of the Triumvirate, and the safe guarding of a mysterious sword.
The story isn’t the only thing that seems bigger, however; the game has double, if not more, production value than Major\Minor, with more digital artwork and graphics, an original soundtrack recorded by a live orchestra, and even voice acting.
What led you to wanting to do another visual novel game? Where’d the concepts for the story come from for this one as well ?
Winds of Change is the story I always wanted to tell. I had it in my head for the last 6-7 years. I just simply didn’t have the budget to make it in the first place, or else I would’ve started with it. That’s why I had to create Major\Minor, and start small. So that one day I could tell the story I’ve always been wanting to. Major\Minor was written over the course of one year, but Winds of Change has been in the making for almost a decade. I’m extremely lucky that I was able to create Winds of Change directly after Major\Minor. I didn’t expect it to happen so fast. It’s heavily influenced from Star Wars and Dragon Age as well as The Monomyth.
What’s development been like so far? Any challenges? New things learned?
There haven’t been too many challenges, partly because I only stuck to stuff I knew I could pull off. Development has been very smooth, it’s just going to take a very long time to make this game. So the biggest challenge in that case would be patience. I don’t expect to fully launch until 2019. I can’t pinpoint specific things I’ve learned, because I’ve just learned so much. If you were to play Major\Minor, and then the demo for Winds of Change, I think that would be a much better way to understand just what I’ve learned since this journey began.
What’s it been like working with so many different creatives such as voice actors, artists, and musicians?
It’s been an honor to work with everybody, and I’m so glad that they’ve chosen to work with me, too. Especially the voice actors. Having people who have been in my favorite games of all time, approach me to voice for my game? I can’t really describe how awesome that is. Everyone involved is so passionate about the game, and everyone is putting in so much effort. I know that the final game will be something truly special. The art team is talented beyond description, and they’ve brought this world and the characters to live better than I could’ve ever imagined. It’s my job to take everything they give me, and mix it together. I hope my story and plan for this world can match up to the quality of everyone else’s amazing work.
What are you aiming to improve on with WoC that was a problem with Major\Minor? How do you think such improvements have been going?
Absolutely every aspect will be improved when compared to Major\Minor. These improvements have already been integrated and I’m very happy with the results. Pretty much everything that fans (and critics) of Major\Minor wanted, will be present in Winds of Change. It’s not just “another game”, I won’t pump out games like other studios. It’s an improvement in every single way, and it elevates the game to an entirely new level.
Got any favorite characters at the moment?
Sovy and Fortaime. A lot of these characters go in such different directions than the player would think. They’ll all grow into different people by the end of the journey. I can’t wait to see what characters the players will enjoy the most, and their reactions to the plot as a whole.
Originally Valessa was slated to be the main character as seen in the first playable demo, but you switched to having the player be the main character/seer, with Valessa becoming an NPC. Why is that?
It would be much more immersive for the player to be able to step into their own shoes, just like with Major\Minor. It also opened the door to even more creative freedom, and I wanted to take every opportunity I could to open that door. I don’t want this project to seem “held back” in any way. It also helps the player appreciate the world more. It’s almost like they’re in the world, rather than just watching other people act out the story. It was a very positive change.
What other changes during production were made that you’d like to share?
It started out as just a visual novel, a Major\Minor 2.0, if you will. But so much has changed that I now consider it a 2D Adventure game. We’re also having the entire game voice acted, every line of dialogue. This is a massive undertaking and puts it on the same level as the AAA games I was inspired by, word/line count and voice acting runtime wise. I think it’s going to be a remarkable achievement to see it through to the end, and I can’t think of many indie games that have taking things to that kind of level. We’re looking at 20,000+ lines of voice acted dialogue. Another indie game, that’s praised for its voice acting quality and quantity is Dust: An Elysian Tail. That game has 1700 lines of voice acting. Just for some perspective!
Anything else with Winds of Change you’d like to share or throw out there?
I plan to do Early Access on Steam sometime in March/April. This will be the first act of the game (25%). After that, the rest of the acts will come out every 6-7 months. Player feedback will be incredibly important, and everyone has a say. I want to create an end product that everyone will be proud of. If you don’t mind beta testing, or waiting between story arcs, please consider checking out the Early Access version on Steam in a couple months!
Any future projects or ideas you got brewing?
I have a long term game plan for my studio, but I can’t say anything just yet.
Got any advice for any aspiring game developers – furry or not?
Never give up, even if people hate what you make. Even if you feel like your work sucks, still don’t stop. Never get too ambitious, only plan to make something that you know you’ll be able to do. I think that’s pretty much it. Very simple advice, but more effective than I can aptly describe.
Any last comments/words you have before we wrap things up?
I feel good with what I’ve said! I really don’t think I have any more to say. Of course, except saying thank you having me do this interview, and for offering me your time to do so. Cheers!
The Next Journey
It seems that Klace had quite a bit to say about his experiences as a furry game developer, and what it was like producing his two games! Winds of Change definitely looks like it’s shaping up to be a sequel that bests its predecessor in almost every way, and I know I’m definitely excited to pick up my gear sword and fight Sovy and the Triumvirate when the game drops in 2019. I’m also interested in what future plans he has for his studio, as well. Maybe he’ll try out a new genre with his next game or add even more elements into the visual novel format? We’ll see.
If you’re interested in Major\Minor you can check it out on Steam here! Winds of Change also has its own site where you can download the playable demo, and if you like what you see, Klace also has a Patreon going to help fund and support development of the game. And if you want to keep tabs on the development of Klace and his games (or his furry antics in general) definitely check him out and follow him on Twitter.
And as always, I will see you all next time.