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Postmortem: Creating a Sequel to a Cozy Retro-Style Game Coffee Talk

The Toge Productions team explained how Coffee Talk's warm and calm atmosphere was achieved, discussed the history behind the first game in the series, and shared some advice on how to get noticed as an indie developer.

In April last year, the Toge Productions development team officially unveiled Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus & Butterfly, a relaxing coffee brewing/heart-to-heart talking simulator and a sequel to the 2020 Coffee Talk, featuring retro-style pixelated graphics. Upon its launch, the game was praised by gamers and critics for its relaxing atmosphere and immersive gameplay mechanics, retaining its 97% Overwhelmingly Positive rating on Steam to this day.

To learn more about creating a perfect sequel as an indie studio, we spoke to the Toge Productions team, who explained how the game's warm and calm atmosphere was achieved, discussed the history behind the first Coffee Talk, and shared some advice on how to get noticed as an indie developer.

When asked about the creation of Toge Productions, the studio's Audio Director and Project Manager AJ revealed that it all started by a team of aspiring University students with a shared desire to bring to life the games they had dreamt of.

"It all began when all the founders were in university, studying for a degree in game technology, and after doing group assignments in game development projects, they decided to form a team and named it Toge Productions to create games they had dreamt of. Several years later, the studio expanded to establish its publishing division, aiming to support not just internal development teams but also other studios in need of assistance with development, marketing, and releasing their games."

Discussing the topic that would unite Toge's portfolio of games, AJ explained that they aim to maintain the feel of retro in their games:

"Almost all Toge games are about that – pixel art, low polys. And also, touching the emotional side of the players with thoughtful and impactful storytelling is important for us, that's what we're trying to deliver through our games."

Sarah Johana, the studio's Head of Marketing and PR, further clarified that Toge never changed its main priority, simply creating games they themselves enjoy:

"Right now, we have a pretty varied game portfolio, from narrative-driven games, and simulations, to strategy games. We never want to limit our creativity; we simply create games that we enjoy playing and making. We also want to create and publish games that have impact, be that from the visual, the story or message, the mechanic, the audio… We believe that games that have an impact will give a long-lasting impression to the players, and that's what we want to achieve."

First and foremost, the Coffee Talk series is renowned for its cozy and warm atmosphere. Here's what AJ and Junkipatchi, Lead Writer and Narrative Designer, had to say about how it was achieved:

"AJ: That's one of the elements in the game that would describe the Coffee Talk series and we keep that in our CT core design pillars. It would always have to maintain its coziness and relatable stories so that people would stay to play throughout the game.

Junki: Our goal is to create a 'third place' in the 'Coffee Talk' series for both newcomers and returning players alike – a cozy corner that offers you a brief respite every time you play. It's a chill place to meet fresh faces or reconnect with familiar ones – in the form of characters you've already known throughout the franchise – and to get to know them as timeless friends. That's the vibe we're aiming for."

Furthermore, AJ and Jovan Anggara, Coffee Talk's Programmer, took us on a trip back to the past and shared their thoughts about creating and launching the first game in the series:

"AJ: Coffee Talk was conceived during a game jam we conducted to explore new game development and release ideas. The initial idea was to recreate the feeling of hanging out at a coffee shop, enjoying warm drinks while it's cold and raining outside. As we progressed, we added more elements, such as having casual and heartwarming conversations between the café owner and the customers, talking about life, and sharing experiences.

The first month of the release was intense, and we felt so hopeful and excited because of many positive responses from players around the world.

Jovan: The first month was… very tedious, so many post-release bugs to fix. And for everyone in the office, it was very scary, because it could be our last game considering the financial situation back then."

When we asked about how to get noticed as a small game developer, AJ and Sarah shared some advice on promoting yourself, highlighting the most important nuances one should pay close attention to:

"AJ: First, you have to know and understand your target audience. Allow them to test your prototype early on and track their feedback for market validation. Then, start marketing from the beginning of your development process to gain traction. Provide continual updates and progress, build hype among the community and fanbase, and then find the right moment to introduce the whole package of the game with compelling trailers and cool demo builds.

Sarah: Adding to what AJ has mentioned, yes, knowing exactly what game you are making and who you want to sell it to is important. You have to know the hook of your game; what is it that makes your game stand out from the others? Keep showing that to your potential customers, be that on social media or how you present your store page. If it's the visual, show all the cool visuals you have. If it's the game mechanic, you can share GIFs or videos or create a devlog of how you came up with it."

The studio's Productions Manager Frederick Tirta also joined the interview, telling us what the team focused on when developing the game to run on different platforms:

"From the very beginning, we made sure the game was playable using a gamepad/controller. Some technical aspects also need to be compatible with multiple platforms such as shaders, plugins, and various systems such as save, trophy/achievement, etc. Porting the game to various platforms opens a lot of opportunities to reach a wider audience with your game, and some of these technical aspects might be harder to add or implement if you haven't prepared for them from the very beginning."

Besides developing games themselves, Toge Productions also offers publishing services to indie creators and even has a prototype funding program.

"Our vision and mission are to bring games with impact from the underrepresented communities to the world. If you are working on an indie game project, send your pitch to our email. If you are an indie game developer from Southeast Asia looking to realize your game idea, we have a prototype funding program called the Toge Game Fund Initiative or TGFI. You can find out more about the program on our website."

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