Cold Hearts Developer Talks Telling An Emotional Story With Appliance Romance

By Joel Couture . August 21, 2017 . 2:00pm

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Cold Hearts is a game about romance and refrigerators, with the main character dealing with a personal loss during a strange period where fridges are becoming personified. Despite its silly premise, though, its developer say that the game will deal with depression, lost hopes, and learning to overcome the difficult parts that follow the death of a loved one.

 

Siliconera caught up with its developer, Outstar, to learn a little bit more about the project, delving into why they chose what appeared to be a goofy story for their emotionally-charged storyline, as well as how they intend to create appliances players want to get a little closer to.

 

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What prompted the idea for Cold Hearts? Why this romance with refrigerators?

Outstar, Writer & Artists for Cold Hearts – Would love to have a better story about this, but it started with a mere joke in between me and my friend on Twitter. I wrote about dating fridges, he made up a name, I said – either you sell me the name for the game, or you join me in making this happen. He joined, and we stood loyal to this idea for over a year of development now.

Wise developers taught me once that ideas don’t matter that much, as you can make up dozens of original game concepts in one hour – what matters is if you manage to finish any of them.

 

What work went into personifying each appliance? How did you choose which fridges would enter the player’s life, and what each of their personalities would be?

We started up pretty simple – we outlined character tropes we knew from popular visual novels and thought ‘What can we do with them?’. For example, gamers tend to love tsundere (hostile at first, caring in the end) characters, but does it mean every tsundere has to act the same, or be driven by similar motives? It was a road from simple adjectives that were supposed to create contrasting, different paths to suit every “taste”, so to speak – then we added more depth, backstories, and relations in between characters.

For me, it was most fun to design characters visually – all fridges have two forms, human and non-human, and they closely correspond with each other. An elegant, expensive fridge dressed in a long gown in her human form is not going to be covered with magnets when she’s an appliance!

 

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How do you create a connection between the player and their fridge/lover? How do you get the player to feel for these beings?


Our protagonist struggles with it as well. After all, these are ‘just fridges’, and he might treat his contact with them as a sign of mental illness or exhaustion. We often thought about what the player could feel in the same situation, and questions he/she would like to ask. Our general aim is to slowly introduce these feelings and lead to the point where the funny concept of romancing fridges doesn’t matter anymore – emotions start to get real.

Hatoful Boyfriend did that to some extent, but we wanted to go a little bit further, ditching the comedic setting and giving a very serious reason behind humans ‘being’ fridges, or vice versa. Revealing that would be a huge spoiler though, so I recommend playing the game yourself to find out why :).

 

While a silly concept, Cold Hearts explores real depression and loss. Why marry these things to a seemingly-silly story?

As much as we love food puns and comedic scenes portraying human kissing a fridge, most jokes get old quickly and reusing them over and over in full-fledged gameplay might not create the best player experience. After all, visual novels are mostly about emotions, not only love – and we prefer to call Cold Hearts a visual novel over a “dating sim”. Our game is not about grinding your stats to finally get a fridge lady – treat it more like a ‘make your own story’ experience in small universe we created, full of secrets, hidden intentions and hard decisions.

 

We’re making tons of fun of the premise at first in our writing, but the most exciting challenge came later on, when we developed emotional sides of our stories. The happiest endings might not be the ‘canon’ ones and there’s a shortage of ‘They lived happily ever after’. Hopeless romantics shouldn’t worry though – we have something prepared for them as well.

 

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What do you feel draws players into this kind of goofy premise? What effect do you feel it has on the player coming into this game? Do these effects help your more hard-hitting topics strike home?

Another good tip I heard from a more experienced developer back in the day was ‘You should be able to sell your game in one short sentence’. I could show people a booklet describing the feeling of loss, the struggle of taking responsibility for your own life, and all other emotional aspects of our game…or I could say ‘Hey, it’s a game about romancing fridges’. As it turns out, second one drives way more attention, no matter how great and deep (or vague!) the story behind it is.

 

Naturally, we are aware that this idea itself may scare a lot of people off and cross it off of people’s lists when they think it’s ‘Yet another dumb dating simulator’, but our aim is to change this view as soon as they decide to play our game a bit. We’re not very afraid of introducing difficult topics, although some pathlines get pretty dark and could be disturbing for younger audiences. We’re making sure that their introduction is slow and gradual, to not create a fake line in between comedy and drama.

 


What do you hope players take away from this appliance-based romance? What do you hope they feel as they play it?

We really hope they will care for our characters as much as we do now! I remember a few visual novels I played that left me with this warm feeling of connection – like I found a virtual soulmate. Our wish is to create compelling characters that will be able to create the same feeling in our players, regardless of their gender. ‘

 

Converting’ at least a few people who don’t believe visual novels are a ‘worthy’ genre of video games would mean a world to me, too. During development of Cold Hearts, I heard few times that it’s not really a ‘game’ – after all, entertainment without the ability to move or fight is called ‘a book’. If they can change their mind after crafting their own story in our fridge game, I would consider my quest done. Oh, and few laughs here and there would be great as well! :)


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