Trying to type while coughing every 30 seconds is not easy
anyway I want to answer some points:
- press/media interest is completely overrated. Really, I know what I'm talking about. I am close friends with many top indies, those who make six figures a year, and they all agreed on one thing: the press doesn't really change a game. Doesn't make a crap game a success. Hatoful boyfriend got a lot of press attention for example, but because of the bizarre game idea itself. I have countless examples of people who did everything, I won't make names since it was confidential, but in practice I know of people being in frontpage of Kotaku and seeing a 1% (yes, 1 PER CENT) increase in sales for 3-4h then stop. I had others spend over $10k in marketing to get zero results. And so on. I think is much more important a presence in the social media nowadays.
- since I started quite early (Heileen 1 was in 2008... when VNs were mostly unknown here in the west) I have already a fan base luckily. Of course not big or anything, but I have it. My main "problem" is that I want to keep releasing at least 2 titles a year. And SOTW took me most of past year and in the end results didn't match the effort. I had a lots of positive comments but also a lot of negative, all stressing one thing "I tried to play it but couldn't finish because of so many battles" and "I play your games only for the story" etc. So, it made me think that perhaps I should give a try to a VN again, even if I'm sure that a pure VN wouldn't do as well as a VN/RPG or something else.
Hm. I guess I can share your press is overrated sentiment. But my sentiment that word of mouth and branding are your best bets in terms of advertising in this market still stands. One does still need initial exposure... but seeing the negative reactions with SotW, then it really may be that you've maxed out on the new blood you can take in that way (at least on Steam and whatnot); so if you feel that VNs are your best bet, I wholeheartedly encourage you to go for it.
Now, I took a while to read through Heileen 1 and 2 and here are my sentiments:
is too short to make any lasting impact. I've mentioned length as an important quality before, and it really hurts here. I've read through the whole thing, and gone through the endings, and I just couldn't give a damn. It also attempts to build on its story and characters on its barebone word budget, and the result is mediocre. Generally, a strong thematic focus is better suited for works of these lengths. Stories generally need to give a lasting impression, whether through a sense of accomplishment, a strong thematic message, or etc. but it can't be found here.
works on the issue above and does well on it... but suffers that it is part of the same series as its predecessor. There is a huge mood whiplash between Heileen 1 and 2, and so it didn't really put me on a good footing from the beginning. Second, while the cards were interesting as a gameplay mechanic, it actually hurts it somewhat in terms of the story, as it feels rather thematically inconsistent. They have no real explanation , and they have no seeming purpose other than for the convenience of the player and to make seemingly random feats of magic happen. And at the end, when I finally arrive on the ship- I merely end up wondering so what was all that even about?
Finally, tying into the same sentiment as sbove, the game feels incomplete. There is no real standalone story here, it's merely part of one leg of a journey, and that really hurts my overall enjoyment of it, because at the end of the story, I merely feel tired and somewhat cheated of my ending. There's nothing that makes me look foward to the next part of the series either, other than for the sake of completion. Considering that visual novels aren't something produced on a regular weekly or a monthly schedule, each work not being a complete story in itself really hurts the ability of the reader to maintain continued interest in the story.