Hello everyone!

My name is Jeremy Miller, and I'm the owner of Dischan Media. We created the popular and free kinetic novel Juniper's Knot (over 230,000 downloads on iOS, Windows, Mac, and Linux) and the visual novel Dysfunctional Systems, which made it onto Steam via Greenlight.

In addition to running Dischan, I am also a writer and programmer. In a couple months I will have a degree in computer science from Memorial University of Newfoundland. Feel free to ask me anything!

Proof: http://dischan.org/public_files/proof.html

Comments: 77 • Responses: 32  • Date: 

z65119 karma

Cradle Song when?

jrmiller_15 karma

Cradle Song was our first project back when we were just a group of volunteers, and so we were very ambitious with its design. Far too ambitious, actually. After several years of working on it, we realized that we had dreamed too big for the resources we had, and decided to put it on hold while we developed more reasonably sized projects.

We do hope to return to it eventually when we have the ability to properly do it justice (and actually finish it).

looperhacks11 karma

I most likely just missed the update, but why did you change the art style of Dysfunctional Systems? I liked the old one much more ...

jrmiller_13 karma

Hello looper.

We ended up changing the art style because the artist who worked on Juniper's Knot and Dysfunctional Systems left the team. We found a new artist to take his place, and decided to allow him to reworked the style rather than copy it completely. We've allowed our fans to give us feedback on the changes, and you can see how the new style has progressed here.

Romdeau05 karma

Why did he leave?

jrmiller_13 karma

I'm afraid I can't really answer that question. It was a personal decision on his part.

coldacid2 karma

Did you consider having an art transition rather than such a sharp shift, though? rtil's pretty good, but his style is quite a bit different from Doom's. I personally think it'd be better if ep 2 had art a blend between their styles, and ep 3 be completely rtil's style; it wouldn't be so jarring a change.

jrmiller_5 karma

It's not really something I worried much about myself, even though I suspected a lot of people would be unhappy with the change. I like to embrace change more than others, and to me it was actually kind of refreshing since I had been working with the same artist who drew in the same style for 4 years prior.

In any case, we were open to feedback and ended up incorporating a lot of the old style anyway.

TurbanatorUK10 karma

Well, looks like this has been going for a few hours. I have three questions as I'm coding my own VN. If you can't answer these due to the time, I understand.

Since I'm not an artist at all, how would someone hire an artist in general? The same applies to music. Aside from money, would there need to be a special contract for earnings, copyright or usage of the images or tracks (as in, the person chooses not to come back for a sequel, could I still use their images etc). If you have any info on this, that would be appreciated.

I'm coding the novel in Ren'Py as well, and have an initial goal for 500,000 words, moving up to a million, so you can imagine there's going to be a fair number of pictures!

Secondly, you created your site and company. Did you have to formally register it in your country? What other legalities did you have to go through and were there a lot of fees involved? I'm thinking of creating my own company one day for the game I have planned, but feel daunted by all the business matters.

Lastly, congratulations on getting your game into Steam! Magical Diary and Analogue have been there for some time, but newer ones are appearing now, and even old classics like Higurashi will be released soon. How do you feel that visual novels are finally making their way into the public eye more (in my opinion) via Steam?

jrmiller_12 karma

When it comes to recruiting, I suggest hanging out in places where people with the talent you are looking for hang out. For artists, I would look through Deviantart, and for musicians I'd check out SoundCloud (although we found ours on Newgrounds). If you want your company to own the intellectual property of the stuff your contractors produce, you will likely have to get a work-for-hire contract signed. As for the terms of that contract, it just depends on what people are happy with. I'd check with a lawyer to be absolutely sure of what you need though.

In Canada there is nothing special you have to do to start a company, other than file your income taxes differently. I did register my company name though, which required paying a little for the registration and the name search to ensure it wasn't already taken. We'll be getting incorporated soon, and that's a bit more complicated, but if you're just starting out there is no reason to do that. Look up the laws for "sole proprietorships" in your country. It's usually the simplest way to go.

Thank you for your congratulations! I'm quite pleased to see more visual novels on Steam, as more attention to the genre can only be a good thing for us (and other developers).

TurbanatorUK5 karma

Thanks for your detailed responses, sorry for asking the boring business questions. Hope things work out for you in the Kickstarter and your future projects!

jrmiller_7 karma

No problem, and thank you for your support!

TheDudelyLlama8 karma

I really dig the music you guys had for the Dysfunctional Systems trailer. Did you guys release any of the game's music?

I'd also be interested in knowing who made the music and how. It fit the visuals so well.

Awesome game my dude. Good luck with Dischan.

EDIT: After 5 seconds of googling I found the OST by CombatPlayer. It's really really good.

jrmiller_9 karma

Glad you like the music! I see you found the OST, so I suppose there's nothing for me to answer really. I feel like I should point out though that the Steam version of the game actually comes with the OST, although many don't realise this. The description on the product page tells you where to find it, and both MP3 and FLAC versions are included.

Also, CombatPlayer uses Fruity Loops to make his music.

cptn_garlock8 karma

Hey, it's you guys! Love the work, please keep it up. Elsewhere you said that you don't play VN's very often. If that's the case, how'd you get exposed to the medium?

jrmiller_6 karma

Yo, glad to hear you like our stuff! My first exposure to visual novels was the Katawa Shoujo demo which was released by 4LS way back in 2009.

bbkkristian7 karma

How difficult was it to code your Visual Novels? Was there any memorable moments that you had debugging your product?

jrmiller_6 karma

For the desktop versions we use ren'py, which is a python-based visual novel engine that makes things fairly simple. Sometimes we struggle with it, but we're in fairly close contact with the creator, so things tend to work out eventually.

For the iOS version though, we used cocos2d, which resulted in more interesting bugs. Things like characters fading in on top of one another, fade-outs leaving ghosts, etc.

Overall though, debugging is a fairly tedious and boring process. I can't remember any particularly memorable moments about it, other than perhaps moments of incredible frustration.

A-Fingerthing6 karma

Hi! Big fan of DysSyst (75$ tier!) and I was just wondering how you guys got into contact with rtil? Did he approach you or was it vice versa? As a side note, I really like the new style, and those backgrounds are wonderbar. Best of luck to you guys.

jrmiller_4 karma

Hey there! Thanks for your support.

I contacted rtil to work on the Juniper's Knot Animation pilot because I was impressed with his animation skills. While working with him on the pilot, I was impressed with his work again and so decided to ask if he would be interested in working on Dysfunctional Systems. He was, and now here we are! Glad to hear you like the new art.

NyoZa6 karma

why is the soundtrack so good

jrmiller_8 karma

Because CombatPlayer uses only the finest ingredients in his music.

Gzalzi6 karma

Why did Doomfest leave? Terrible sales on Dysfunctional Systems or something personal?

jrmiller_10 karma

Doomfest left because he wanted to. I can't really elaborate much, but I can say that it was a personal decision on his part. The discouraging performance of Dysfunctional Systems probably didn't help though.

Shadocchi5 karma

Hey Jeremy! What kind of process do you guys go through when you make a new VN? Do you come up with a story, or does an artist say "I really like X period" or something else?

jrmiller_8 karma

Hi Shadocchi!

Usually we come up with the story first. There are two writers on the team, Terrence Smith and Myself, and one of us always seems to have ideas floating around in our heads when we need them.

Of course, the artist does have a lot of input as well. While we as writers decide what the story will be about, it's the artist who decides what the story will look like. We make suggestions about how things should look, but in the end we trust our artists, since they are the ones with experience in visuals.

Duffadash5 karma

I don't really have a question as such. I just wanted to say that I loved the first episode of Dysfunctional Systems and have been waiting impatiently for the next episodes. It's such a shame that you had to shorten the game to 3 episodes though, I was really looking forward to a long and complex plot, but hopefully that will still happen nonetheless!

jrmiller_2 karma

Thank you for your support! It's appreciated.

barry_baltimore5 karma

Didn't know you were involved in another visual novel after Juniper's Knot, but I really, really loved Juniper's Knot, so thanks for that. The ending really killed me, I wasn't ready to get kicked out of that world so soon.

Went and Kickstarted your new project. Can't wait, and good luck!

jrmiller_3 karma

Glad to hear you enjoyed Juniper's Knot, and thank you for your support!

werewolf_nr5 karma

When I read your site not long ago, it seemed to indicate that you would not consider doing a Kickstarter, but now you are. What changed?

PS looking forward to ep 2+

jrmiller_14 karma

Originally I disliked the idea of Kickstarter mostly because it involves paying for something that doesn't exist yet and may never exist at all. It seems like an large risk for the consumer, and the reward for that risk is at best what they paid for and at worse nothing at all. This seemed unfair to me.

However, after talking to some people about it, I softened my views. I realised that while my original thoughts were true, the chance to have something that may never have otherwise existed can be worth the risk, especially if it's from a reliable company/group.

Also, after we announced that we didn't have the funds to make the next episode right away, we received a lot of requests to start a Kickstarter. Seeing our fans so eager to support us made me think that it was something we owed it to them to at least try.

TheBetterStory5 karma

Hello, Jeremy! I was wondering how the initial Dischan team came together to start business. How did you all meet?

jrmiller_2 karma

When I first decided to start Dischan, I created a website and forum and got everything organised for how I thought development would run.

Afterward, I made a post on a certain popular imageboard asking if anyone would like me help make a visual novel. I got a lot of interest from that initial post, but the only one who actually stuck was Terrence Smith (Swiffeh).

Doomfest (Saimon Ma) later found out that we were looking for an artist because some of the KS devs were making fun of us. He decided to check us out and we convinced him to join (or he convinced himself).

I recruited Combatplayer (Kristian Jensen) from Newgrounds. I saw his work, liked it, asked him if he wanted to help, and he did.

RiceGnat came from the application form on our website. Guy-kun was on another project (I can't remember which) and hopped over to ours to help with iOS development.

All of this happened over years, of course. We also had a lot of others who joined the group and ended up not being able to contribute much. Too many of those to even list, in fact.

MoSauce4 karma

What are your favorite VN's?

jrmiller_7 karma

Ironically, although I develop visual novels, I almost never play them. The only professional visual novel I have played close to completion is Ever17, which I thought was pretty good.

lchen20144 karma

you should check out Cinders, which got Greenlit by the way as well. A VERY different approach for Visual Novels

jrmiller_7 karma

I know about Cinders and chat with the developer every now and then. I haven't played much of it, but it definitely is an interesting take on the visual novel genre.

dexo5684 karma

Have you played any of Kotaro Uchikoshi's other works? In English, your best bets are probably 999 and its sequel, Virtue's Last Reward. They're fantastic, and have similar mind bendy themes to Ever17 as well.

Going to play Juniper's Knot later today, looks awesome.

jrmiller_1 karma

I'm afraid that I haven't played any of his other works.

Hope you enjoy Juniper's Knot!

The_Dvls_Advocate3 karma

No insult intended, but do you not believe that an artist benefits from being aware of the work of fellow artists?

jrmiller_12 karma

That's an interesting question. I think I'd have to say that I don't believe that. I think a general knowledge of art helps you make good art for sure, but I don't think that someone has to experience a lot of a specific genre to make a good entry into it. In fact, I would say that sometimes ignorance of existing works can allow people to make valuable, unique, and refreshing contributions to a genre.

That might be a controversial opinion though.

Aetheus4 karma

I'm just curious - why did you choose to create visual novels if you didn't have a whole lot of experience in the genre?

I mean, sure, one doesn't actually need to have read a lot of (say) fantasy novels in order to write one. But many authors write such novels to begin with because they're fans of the genre themselves. And they're typically fans of the genre because they've, well, read a lot of it themselves.

While I know that terms like "a true fan of X" are silly, do you consider yourself to be a fan of visual novels at large? Discounting your own works, of course

jrmiller_7 karma

I'm a writer, and I like writing and creating worlds and stories for people to experience. Before starting Dischan, I was an avid reader and eventually wrote two self-published novels of my own (short and crappy ones, but hey I was like 14-16 years-old at the time).

When I first discovered visual novels, I feel in love with the medium, but not necessarily with the existing works in it. When I first played the KS demo, I thought "Wow, what a great middle ground between animation, comics, and books". I wanted to try making my own entry into that medium, and so I started Dischan.

Therefore, I wouldn't consider myself to be a fan of visual novels at large. I think that the medium is powerful, and that engaging stories can be told through it, but that doesn't mean I spend a lot of time devouring works in the medium.

wongsta3 karma

By close to completion do you mean "completed all the routes" or "read most of the text"? If you haven't completed all the routes you really should...you'll at least go from 'pretty good' to 'great'

jrmiller_5 karma

I finished all of the main routes except for one, which I know means I didn't complete the true route as well.

I'm told the true route is amazing, but I just couldn't get myself that far I guess.

jadomonkey4 karma

After a period of silence, we heard about the Juniper's Knot animation project, layoffs and now a Kickstarter for further episodes of Dysfunctional Systems. Frankly, it seems your direction is a bit whimsical how can we be sure work on Dysfunctional Systems will stay on track if it gets funded?

jrmiller_12 karma

I founded Dischan in 2009 and have stuck with it through university, full-time jobs, and hard times for 5 years now. Although our first project wasn't finished due to being too ambitious, we still finished Juniper's Knot and Dysfunctional Systems, as we planned to.

The layoffs were nothing more than an attempt to focus the team now that we were becoming a serious full-time business. RiceGnat already has a full-time job and would not be able to commit the time we need, Guy-kun was redundant now that I'm graduating and can take over more programming roles, and Doomfest left because he wanted to.

The Juniper's Knot animation is a labor of love and I admit that. It isn't a project that will endanger our main goals, but rather something we will poke away at when we have the time.

As for the Kickstarter, I don't see how trying to fund the completion of something we started is whimsical.

Hopefully that answers you question.

AndrewRadev4 karma

Hi, Jeremy.

When you're working on a VN, what's the order of work? As in, do you build the artwork and storyboards completely and then write the Ren'Py code? Or do you build up the artwork and code in parallel, maybe scene by scene? For example, does it often end up that you build the code for a scene and it feels like art and/or sound is "missing", so it's back to the artist?

To generalize the question, I guess I'm interested in the process of everyday development work for the game.

jrmiller_7 karma

Hello Andrew.

Generally we start out with some planning. Nothing too intense, the writers just create a list of characters and important events. Locations and characters are then concepted based on descriptions and ideas provided by the writers.

Once that is finished, real development starts. The writers begin writing in the script format for the final game to save time, leaving comments where characters appear, environments change, sound effects play, etc. The artists begin creating the character sprites, environments, CGs, and etc.

Once all the script and art resources are done, then we begin really building the game. We don't usually bother to try and do it before that point. Often times while putting everything together we'll realize that edits or changes are required, so we go back to the development phase and make the changes. While we're building the game, we also plan out and work on the user interface, and begin finding and inserting sound.

Then we just keep refining and testing until we finally have a finished product!

BIDZ1804 karma

Snagged Dysfunctional Systems on Steam just the other day, and quite enjoyed it! I hadn't heard of you guys before bumping into it, so this question may be answered somewhere, but is there a projected release time for Ep. 2?

jrmiller_8 karma

Unfortunately sales of the first episode were not enough to fund a second, so we haven't been working on it much. We did recently start a Kickstarter to fund the next episodes though, so perhaps you can check it out.

redwire_4 karma

Hey Jeremy-senpai! Do you have any long-term plans for Dischan formulating as you come closer and closer to being able to make your work for the company a full-time, self-sustaining gig? Do you think you'll stick with VNs forever or do you think you might even try to dabble more in animation after the JK animu? Can you foresee the group building any other sorts of software or media together? Say something cute to be recorded in the eternal diary of Reddit.

jrmiller_5 karma

Well, I hope that I'll be able to turn Dischan into a self-sustaining business which can keep making awesome things for many years to come. I don't think we'll be sticking with VNs forever though, and likely after we finish the Dysfunctional Systems series we will be trying something new.

I'm not sure if we will continue with animation, since that really depends on how the Juniper's Knot pilot goes, but I will say that it's a possibility.

Raithfyre3 karma

Oops, I'm a bit late to the party. Wanted to ask, though: what are you guys gonna do if the Kickstarter doesn't work out?

jrmiller_9 karma

Cry and then get real jobs until we have the money to make more stuff?

Seriously though, we'll probably still make the game, but in a slow and gradual manner.

Although, if we can't even get funded on Kickstarter from our current successes, it doesn't bode well for the sequel being a good investment of our time.

frobnic83 karma

I feel like writing quality is a huge component of Visual Novels. How do you feel about demos and VNs? Why do they work or not work?

jrmiller_7 karma

I think demos for visual novels are fantastic. The average person probably hasn't tried a visual novel before, so having a free sample of one is a great way to convince them that it's worth their money.

We felt that Dysfunctional Systems: Learning to Manage Chaos was too short for a demo, so we usually just link to Juniper's Knot as an example of what we're capable of. We also made Dysfunctional Systems quite cheap in the hopes of convincing people to try it out, although I now think that was a mistake.

essilor3 karma

Heya Jeremy, haven't read any Dischan works but they're upcoming on my backlog and I'm glad to hear a lot of positive things about them.

I'd like to ask where you got the name "Dischan" from and if there's a story behind it?

Additionally, what genres and themes in writing really appeal to you?

Thanks for doing this!

jrmiller_5 karma

The name "Dischan" comes from a domain name that I had bought with intention to start a forum (dischan.org). The forum didn't work out, so when I decided to start a VN development group I still had the domain around. Rather than buy a new one, I decided to just use dischan.org. I didn't really intend for the name to stick. I expected we would come up with a new name and switch to that, but we never did.

I personally enjoy Sci Fi and Fantasy, because they allow for so many new and unique ideas. I like thinking about "what ifs" and fantastical worlds with rules different than ours. I also used to read quite a few crime thrillers and enjoyed those, stuff like Jeffery Deaver's "The Cold Moon".

Arcterion3 karma

I know this is incredibly late and probably won't get a reply, but I saw a (rather silly) playthrough of Juniper's Knot on PressHeartToContinue and thought it had a rather wonderful story.

Normally I have no interest in visual novels, but this one got me to reconsider that. :)

jrmiller_4 karma

We actually noticed that playthrough! We were quite flattered by it. It's always nice to hear people enjoying our games.

I'm glad to hear that you decided to give Juniper's Knot a try (or in this case, a watch). Thanks!

zzzk1 karma

Late to the party, but what would you say is the biggest hurdle that you've had to overcome in your time since starting Dischan? What is the most difficult part of running a company?

Also, would you rather fight 100 duck-sized horses or 1 horse-sized duck?

jrmiller_3 karma

100 duck sized horses. Horses don't scale down well.

The most difficult part of running any company I think is maintaining motivation. There are always dark times where it feels like you'll never find success. This usually follows a disheartening event, and I know it really tore me up when Dysfunctional Systems didn't perform as I'd hoped. There's always that temptation to give up and get a "real job", especially since I have an in-demand degree. I could be making six figures within a few years at a software company if I was determined to. I'd be miserable, probably, but I'd be doing well.

I suppose that's not a good thing to admit to while we're running a Kickstarter, but it's more common than I think people realize. There's a lot of work to running a company, and it isn't always rainbows and roses. For the first two years that Dischan existed, nobody knew about us and nobody cared about us. That felt kinda crappy.

It's worse when you find some success though. People start to criticize your decisions and your work. They start having expectations and making demands. It was a hard thing to get used to at first, but I know that it's just part of the business.

Still, I see that it breaks some people, like the guy who made Fez. That guy is way more popular than us and received some serious abuse. If I had never started a company, I would probably be just as hard on him as everyone else. However, I've come to realise how easily a negative and vocal minority can break you down. There were times a few months ago where I couldn't sleep because I just kept iterating over the negative comments in my head.

Anyway, I ended up pretty much rambling instead of answering your question. Hopefully my "answer" satisfies you. :)