Feature Interview Visual Novel

Untold Atlas – Interview With Nochi Studios

Nochi Studios is a game development team, consisting of three women creating romance games. They’ve previously come out with Somnium Eleven and Sifting Thyme which are both on mobile devices, but now they’re launching something new – Untold Atlas.

Untold Atlas describes itself as a choice-driven, expedition-themed spin on visual novels (GxB/GXG), featuring in-game group chats and an intricate romancing system! It’s just launched a KickStarter to try and fund its next title.

I asked Natalie from Nochi Studios if we could have a brief interview about the game and she kindly agreed.

Untold Atlas - Map

Could you tell a little about Untold Atlas?

Yea! Untold Atlas is our studio’s third game. We’re really excited for it because we’re trying something different than our past titles and from what we’ve seen out there. It’s an expedition themed dating sim – a twist on romance visual novels as we’ve added features such as in-game group chats, a pixel art text-based minigame, and a unique interactive romancing system.

You mentioned a romance system. Could you tell us how it works and a little about what makes it stand out as unique?

So our second game “Somnium Eleven” had an open world concept where players can choose how to spend their days and meet characters to build their relationships with the love interests by spending time with them and also from chosen answer choices in various scenes. We took a page from that but revamped it in Untold Atlas – we kept the open world idea but folded in things like a questline for each love interest and achievements that can be accomplished through the visual novel-type scenes and also through mini-game encounters.

Could you tell us a little about your team and their roles? It looks like you commission freelancers too – could you tell us a little about what they do?

We’re a small team of three women working on our games full-time. And we do everything between the three of us to keep things running and game development going – including but definitely not limited to writing, programming, creating art assets, and even business operational tasks. But there’s quite a lot of work to be done to not only develop games but run everything that’s needed for our studio to keep running. So we do usually have 1-2 interns helping us out and we also work with freelancers. 

Between the interns and freelancers, they help us cover things from marketing, creative assets like art & writing, and programming. While we do try to make each game unique and find creatives that fit each game, we do like working with the same people if possible! It makes things a bit easier since they’re in our work ecosystem and understand our processes 😆

The keyart for Untold Atlas really caught my eye. I do have to ask, who created it?

We love it! oyakorodesu is our character artist

It looks like Untold Atlas has a female main character, with two male and one female love interest. Would you consider it as an otome game or something else?

Hmm… this is a bit of a tough question because it’s a mix of several labels in our opinion, so we market it to various communities because of that.

Our studio’s motto is to create romance games that people haven’t seen before. Since we’re indie, we like to experiment quite a bit with our games and have the luxury of trying something different. But we do market it to the otome community since it has love interest routes and a female MC. However, since there are adventure storylines in this title and we’ve added things like the expedition mini-game, we hope that all players who enjoy expedition-themed fiction would enjoy playing this game. 

With the different routes and activities players can choose to do, we don’t think a player has to be a romance gamer to get into Untold Atlas.

Talking about the adventure story, did you have any inspirations from other games or stories for Untold Atlas?

Actually, our team is based out of Ann Arbor, Michigan. And we work primarily remote and then meet in person for weeks here and there to get hardcore sprints done. When coming up with Untold Atlas and fleshing out the concept, we actually met in-person over a period of a combined total of four weeks to create it. 

Out of curiosity, I just looked at our design thinking brainstorm boards and we had listed over 50+ titles haha. During that time, we definitely did inspiration boards that included titles like Atlantis, Jurassic Park – and we actually interviewed people for hours. Since the game is about an expedition crew, we rung up some veterans and listened to their stories.

Ringing up veterans and listening to their stories for this sounds really interesting!

Oh man, it was a riot! Didn’t feel like work at all because it was just so fascinating.

Looking at the KickStarter page, it seems that people who support at a certain level get currency. Could you tell us a little about how unlocks work in Untold Atlas?

There’s quite a bit to unlock in the game – from the love interest routes to things like group chats, CGs, and achievements. For the currency that Kickstarter backers are getting, it’s the premium currency that players would otherwise have to make in-app purchases for via Apple App Store or Google Play Store transactions. Usually when players see premium currency, they think gacha system but that does not exist in this game. The premium currency is to purchase special pixel characters that players can put into their expedition crew for the mini-game, which then unlocks different experiences. These experiences include not only mini-game related “scenes” but also group chats and additional visual novel-type scenes, notably the “deeper” routes. If a player doesn’t have premium currency, they can still earn coins through the mini-game to purchase non-premium pixel characters and they can still unlock basic routes with the love interests.

Untold Atlas - Lilith Wren

So for example, if I didn’t purchase any premium currency, I could still play Lilith’s route?

Yes, that’s correct! It’ll be her base route that you’ll be able to play if you achieve her requirements – basically, make sure to follow her questline to meet her enough times, pass the mini-games, and pick the right answer choices to intrigue her 😉  

Now if you do have premium currency and purchase Lilith’s pixel art forms, you’ll start unlocking different experiences with Lilith and eventually see a different side to her while uncovering more to the world of Untold Atlas

From what I’ve seen Untold Atlas and your previous games have been only on mobile. Have you ever looked into launching a paid PC version with all routes and endings included?

We’ve looked into other mediums including PC and also Switch. But with there only being three of us, we’re unable to take on the extra work required to rework the games for each platform and all the other business/legal operational tasks for those mediums. We certainly see AAA companies doing that these days though so we’re definitely keeping it in mind still. Maybe one day Nochi Studios has grown enough so we can do that with our titles!

Untold Atlas - Journal

I heard it is often challenging for indie visual novel/dating sim projects to reach financial success. What do you think you’ve learned from your experience with your previous games that will help with Untold Atlas?

It’s definitely about the grind haha. Like Cheritz took several years and made other game titles before they created their hit “Mystic Messenger”. 

For us, we’ve definitely learned things with each title that we take into account with each successive title. Being indie though and not having to speak to a higher corporate power, we’re able to make-up and try different gameplay styles and story telling mediums. It’s fun being able to experiment that way but it’s also challenging because it’s hard to truly know how successful it’ll be until it goes out into the world.  We’re constantly taking notes on what people like and dislike about our games. So one notable thing that Nochi fans may notice is that Untold Atlas does have a spirit of Somnium Eleven in it but yet is different with its gameplay.

Finally, could you let our readers know the top 3 reasons why they should check out Untold Atlas?

If you’re interested in any of the following, please consider checking out our KickStarter and play the “Untold Atlas” demo we’ve put together!

1) Going on an adventure and experiencing character interactions of not only romance & expedition-life, but also work-life — such as experiencing fun slack/discord-type convos

2) Hours of replayability to not only unlock CGs & love interest routes, but also discover more of the characters & secrets of the world we’ve built around Aethra — an island that disappeared into the sea with its ancient technology long ago, but has now resurfaced

3) Supporting an indie team of three women and interact directly with us! We’re very active on our discord servers and love connecting with players to chat and get feedback!

Thank you to Natalie and Nochi Studios for talking with us. If you’d like to check out Untold Atlas, you can find the KickStarter here

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