Postmortem: Spooktober & Soup

It's this time of year again! This is shino, the director, character designer, co-writer, and sprite artist for The Final Prize is Soup.

Today I'd like to talk about the making of our survival horror yuri visual novel entry to Spooktober Visual Novel Jam 2023, starting from the decision to make this game up to our submission to the jam and now. 

(Fun facts about the story and miscellaneous tidbits will come another time!)


Spooktober Visual Novel Jam is an annual Halloween-centric visual novel competition jam where developers have one month in September to create a visual novel, which is judged in October.

This year, I had initially planned not to participate in Spooktober, which leads to the question:

How did I end up participating in Spooktober VN Jam 2023?

The short answer is Pumpkin Spike. The long answer is a bit of a funny anecdote...

Denial (Premise & Story Outline)

  1. Say I won't do Spooktober.
  2. Get convinced to try writing an outline since what else do I have to do anyhow?
  3. ???
  4. Profit

While chatting with some fellow developers in Discord, the topic of Spooktober was brought up. One way or another, I happened to mention a number of ideas floating around in my files along with the temptation of Spooktober. Pumpkin Spike mentioned her enthusiasm for the idea of The Final Prize is Soup.

The next thing I knew, I was writing an overview document.

If I could write it by early August, then we would consider making this game. Otherwise, shino would take a break from Spooktober this year as intended.

Result: I finished that overview document in about a week. (Fastest yet...)

My overview document, as usual, was comprised of a few components: the premise, the characters, and a full outline. 

However, as I did not believe I had the bandwidth to write the story, I wrote the outline with more detail than usual with the intent of passing it to another writer.

The document turned out to be an approximately 14k words long (most of it outline).

(ง ื▿ ื)ว

After a short saga of trying to find a writer to write the full script (predicted: 30k-50k words), and then nearly giving up on the idea for the year, we decided to co-write the story.

Thus, onward to Spooktober!

Team Recruitment

Here's my pre-production to-do list as written in last year's postmortem for Lachesis or Atropos:

  1. Premise
  2. Story outline
  3. Team recruitment
  4. Character designs
  5. General logistics

With the premise and outline written, the natural next step was recruitment.

I like to have the premise and outline down before recruiting as it allows me to better identify the scope of the roles that I recruit for. It also never hurts to attach a few sketches or designs to your recruitment to give the artists an idea of what type of art they'll have to draw.

Within August, our team was assembled.

The team was a bit larger than expected, but we found someone suitable for every role aside from logo artist. Given the size of the team at that point, I decided to do the logo myself rather than continue searching into September.

Note: As director, it's nice to know how to do the tasks of other roles on the team as it will give better insight onto assisting with workflows and setting deadlines for your teammates!

(Knowing != being good at)

Character Designs

Character designs, although the "next step" on the list, was done concurrently with recruitment.

Drawing character design sheets and passing along monster information for our amazing monster artist went smoothly. Designs were completed in August, ready for the artists to tackle the art in September without delay.

Haha! I will not have to draw after this—

—So I thought.

Oh, foolish shino, smugly thinking that you could just draw the character designs and have other people draw the actual characters instead.

This is what we call foreshadowing.

General Logistics

As usual, the team this year was organized around these three platforms:

  • Discord server (communications home base)
  • GitHub (code home base)
  • Shared Google Drive folder (assets home base)

I won't bother going into too much detail here as it's more or less the standard fare for my Spooktober teams.

That the team was large made it more important than ever before to be organized.

I highly recommend having details more hashed out beforehand with a larger team as it can be difficult to answer everyone's questions during the jamming period without getting distracted. I did, in fact, have days where I spent all of my free time answering questions and wasn't able to do as much writing as I intended.

You may think that giving details beforehand will address everything, but that is not the case.

You will miss things; people will forget and or miss things. The process of development is not static. Be open to questions, and keep your eyes out for small misses. Don't be afraid to repeat or remind!

If I were to reflect on pre-production, I'd say that perhaps I would have liked to slow down a bit and ruminate on the concepts a bit more, but considering the time at which I decided to join Spooktober, I think it turned out relatively well?


With pre-production down, September rolled around. I had a few unfortunate personal matters early in the month, but luckily it didn't impact development.

I'll go ahead and touch upon a few, but not all, aspects of production done in September to now:

  • Writing
  • Sprite Art
  • Project Management
  • Release


Let's start with the writing. This year, Pumpkin Spike and I split the scenario writing work.

Roughly speaking, we split down the lines of the routes with me writing Eleven's route and Pumpkin Spike writing Mimi's route. However, we ultimately chose not to split it strictly by character scenes.

Instead, the precise writing split was like this:

Game 1Pumpkin Spike
Recess 1Pumpkin Spike
Game 2shino
Recess 2shino
Mimi Route (post common route)Pumpkin Spike
Eleven Route (post common route)shino

After all, although there are Eleven scenes in Game 1 and Recess 1 as well as Yanxu (Mimi) scenes in Game 2 and Recess 2, wouldn't it be more complicated for our parts to be so mixed together?

As for the basic scripting that we two scenario writers did, we also split it along the lines that we wrote. Justinn did the magic once we put in a base!

Some points to keep in mind while co-writing are:

  1. A solid outline is required. While you can make up plotlines on the fly when writing yourself, you have to keep in mind dependencies when writing together with other people.
  2. Split the work at clearly distinguished points. The scenes being written should be split at easy transitional points. That makes the jump between scenes written by different writers less jarring and also makes writing a bit easier as you won't need to worry too much about the specifics of the previous scene.
  3. Specify logistics and style. For example, whether the game is past tense, what variables to use for character names and whatnot throughout the story, the names of labels connecting each of our sections. If possible, you may have to check in on everyone's writing to make sure that they're hitting the required parts of the style guide, otherwise editing will be difficult.

Sprite Art

Next, let's talk about sprite art.

Normally, I wouldn't talk about this because I wouldn't be drawing sprite art for a Spooktober game that I write for.

Unfortunately, due to personal reasons, our initial sprite artist had to drop out. I really appreciated how they were upfront with communicating it to me, and I hope we get another chance to work together at some point!

I initially wanted to find a replacement sprite artist, but with the clock ticking and difficulties finding someone who fit, I decided to draw the sprites myself. 

I'll be the first to admit that I'm not my first choice for drawing sprites... Haha, for various reasons.


  • Drawing myself cuts out the project management people-ing part.
  • I know what I'm drawing and that allowed for more expression/pose variations (mostly for Yanxu).


  • My rendering style doesn't match well with the other art. Thank you very much to Pauline for helping with the rendering...!
  • Time spent drawing cut into time for writing, meaning that there wasn't very much time to draw sprites.
  • I have to draw things that aren't just sketches. _:(´ཀ`」 ∠):_

I did manage to meet my September 22 deadline for sprites and finished my part of the script in time!

Project Management

But overall, I'd like to stick to scenario and direction roles rather than getting involved in production art (beyond character designs) for jam games due to time constraints in the future.

As it happens, directing can be a busier role than you might expect!

Especially for jams, being a director often encompasses being a project manager (which is technically a different role).

As a project manager, you have to:

  • Make sure everyone knows what they have to do. Even after pre-production logistics and organization, you'll have to be available for details confirmation and draft checking. For art, you may even have to draw sketches for reference or adjustments. Unfortunately, people won't be able to read your mind!
  • Manage schedules. Keep everyone on track and check in on progress. Especially for work with dependencies, delays in one place can cause delays in others.
  • Set hard deadlines. This is surprisingly hard. I'm very grateful for the teammates who picked up the slack for me...

Among other things.

The more people you have on your team, the more work project management is.

Thus, keep in mind your team size and your bandwidth. Try not too juggle too many roles!

Perhaps, even consider delegating...


Due to some asset delays, we built the game for the first time in the early afternoon of the last day. Then, we speed ran testing.

It was a reminder that testing is important...

Since without thoroughly testing, we would have missed a game crashing bug that would have crashed the game within the first minute... 

\(º □ º l|l)/

While there were some hiccups along the way, the game was released and submitted on the last day of Spooktober this year. I wanted to aim for September 27th as an early submission date, but nonetheless, we submitted in time.

Thank you to the team for the hard work making The Final Prize is Soup!

Thank you for reading. That's all I have to say for now in this postmortem. I'll be writing up a separate post regarding story and miscellaneous tidbits, so keep an eye out for that if you're interested.

Until next time!


Interested in the character designs in The Final Prize is Soup? Check out this post about our protagonist Qian Hailu's design, originally delivered via my newsletter during September:

If you liked The Final Prize is Soup, consider checking out some of my past Spooktober entries too:

Get The Final Prize is Soup


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I'm both sorry and ecstatic that you ultimately worked on this project with me! 😂It was really awesome to work with you as a writer this time!


The game couldn't have been done without ya! I always have a great time working together with you (*¯︶¯*) year 4 of Spooktober together :p