- A rare game where you sit back and listen.
- New writers approach the challenge of keeping the magic blend of character and story
- Inspirations for the cast of fantastical characters and their problems
In a social media world where more people want to talk and express their opinions, listening can seem an underappreciated skill. This is what we from Toge Productions wish to highlight in Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus & Butterfly, out now on Xbox and available with Game Pass. I’m Arya, Toge Production’s PR & Communications Manager and I’d like to tell you more about how a game that’s focused on listening can be engaging…
Heart to Hearts over a Warm Brew
Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus & Butterfly is a coffee brewing and heart-to-heart talking simulator that will take you to an alternate near-future of Seattle. Here, you’ll not only find humans as its residents but also a myriad of fantasy creatures such as vampires, werewolves, orcs, elves, and a few others too. If you have played the first game you will also catch up with some familiar faces, as well as get to know some new ones too.
You play the barista, whose job is to brew coffee and other warming beverages, while listening to your customers and helping them out. So how does Coffee Talk make listening interesting?
I chatted with Hibiscus & Butterfly’s two writers, Junkipatchi (Narrative Designer and Lead Writer) and Anna Winterstein (Writer), on how they maintain the right atmosphere and experience in a game where listening is pivotal, and their own challenges as new writers for the series.
Coffee Shop Conversations
“The writing is one of the most crucial aspects after the vibe (visuals, music), as it’s how the player interacts with the characters. We need to ensure the characters talk, while players gently encourage them to open up, so to speak.” Junki said.
Real-life experience, according to Junki, can also come as inspiration.
“Some experience with real-life conversations with strangers can be helpful, as people’s communication styles vary based on location. Coffee shops or bars often serve as a ‘third place’ for individuals, where they might either relax or become more cautious, depending on their personality. This can lead to interesting dynamics…” she added.
The ordeal dates to when Junki was – in their own words – “a penniless freelancer” in Toronto, which makes Coffee Talk and its Seattle setting relatable.
“Back when I did freelance comic work, I often spent hours in a cafe for the background noise. I’d stay for hours, always ordering the same drink – the baristas knew my order by heart! Oddly, people would chat with me because they saw me drawing.” she recalled.
“There was a bodybuilder who loved manga, a curious chef who always noticed me there, and even a textile factory owner seeking new pattern ideas. Even the cafe itself ended up inviting me to test new drinks. It was kind of a funny experience and admittedly made me nervous!”
As for Anna, she said the key to creating the right player experience is about making the characters feel like they’re the player’s friends, which means that as a writer, you start seeing them as your friends as well.
“The process is very similar to watching a sitcom: nothing big or dramatic happens, but as you grow familiar with the protagonists, you start rooting for them, and you want to know what’s going on in their lives—much like with the real people you care about,” Anna said.
“Of course, in this case, a lot of the characters are already familiar to the players, which makes it extra daunting, because you don’t want them to feel like their friends have become strangers! There’s some pressure there to make sure that they keep enjoying the pixel people they’ve grown to love, and that they keep feeling invested in their personal stories.”
Maintaining the Magic
The challenge for both in writing the sequel, of course, was to do justice to the existing work. They had to gather character stories and lore from the first game, create a continuation that enhances fans’ experience, yet keep that relaxed and magical experience that so many players have already enjoyed… so no pressure!
Anna played the first game, and it had a huge impact: “When I got a chance to write for the sequel, I was thrilled but also a little scared: I really didn’t want to mess it up for everyone else who had felt like me,” she said.
“Fortunately, the channels of communication with everyone at Toge, who had worked on the original game, as well as with Jho, my fellow writer, who had long-standing ties to the project, were always completely open, and every part of this was a joint effort. Now I only hope the fans of the original game enjoy reading this sequel as much as I enjoyed working on it.”
So, there you have it. We really hope you’ll enjoy Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus & Butterfly!
Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus and Butterfly
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