There’s a sea of hentai junk games on Steam, and then there’s Crush Crush

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Since Valve changed its stance on selling NSFW games, a steady stream of them has arrived on Steam. In December 2020, 75 new games appeared in the sexual content category, with no DLC or games clearly marked as a joke, like Halo Infinite. Some are part of an endless supply of hentai captions puzzle games. Others are placed under “Visual Novel,” which is where anime-looking games end up by default.

The Steam page has visual novels sorted by concurrent users.

The sad panda story

Crush Crush had been available on Steam for over two years when Steam began allowing and categorizing NSFW games. It was first released on Kongregate with no adult content – it wasn’t until after reaching out to adult game developer Nutaku that Crush Crush’s creator, Sad Panda Studios, started working on an expansion over 18.

“At the time, Steam didn’t support adult content, so we had to be careful about making it available after launch,” recalls Sad Panda founder and art director Morgan Long.

Crush Crush

In Crush Crush, players improve their relationships with various ladies by buying gifts or making appointments. New characters and certain upgrades are behind statistical improvements. These stats rise by assigning time blocks to hobbies of character building, which automatically improve over time, or by taking on jobs that give money or appeal to specific characters.

Prior to creating Crush Crush, Long and several other Sad Panda developers worked on one of the most popular idle games on Steam: AdVenture Capitalist. (Prior to that, Long worked at Disney on art for the MMO Club Penguin for seven years.) While at the AdVenture Capitalist Studio Hyper Hippo, Long began devising the personal project that became Crush Crush and needed to start a new studio.

“We went for a riskier idea with far fewer resources because we felt we were pursuing something interesting and valuable,” says Long. She describes Crush Crush and its spin-off with anime boys Blush Blush as something different from other NSFW games, in part because of the studio’s approach to writing, which she speaks passionately about.

Charming

“We always start with a desire to create charming, interesting, believable characters. Even if the context of a character is fantastic (like a robot girl from space or a demon boy or something), we want the dialogue to be natural Using humor as a foundation to establish familiarity and edify the player before transitioning to a character tone that feels sincere and engaged. “

Because of this, Crush Crush’s characters include a philosophy-obsessed narcoleptic, a stalker introduced to murder your high school sweetheart ‘Generica’, and Bearverly, a bear in a dress. These include a wolfman with personal space issues and a Pegasus who seems pretty happy to stay cursed.

“There is a tendency in games with sexual content to play directly on a certain type of power fantasy,” says Long. “They set up worn-out scenarios with their characters that instantly lead to explicit sexual encounters that give the experience a ‘blast-doll’ feel. We take a completely different approach. Our players love that our characters have quirks and personalities Problems or moments of fullness of soul or being silly or shy. We try to create well-rounded character dynamics in the “story” of our worlds and then invite players for conversations that vary and speak to feelings of attraction from all different personality types. “

Dating Sims

Dating Sims face unique challenges, especially those that involve sexual content. There is a double standard in the way they are treated by the store fronts that benefit from them, as Long describes.

“As any gamer will tell you, there are a lot of games that use tangential sexual content as a selling point – so think of all fighting games that feature girls in skimpy costumes. There are games that have nothing to do with relationships that do . ” I rarely dressed in female characters telling you to play, M’lord, and so on. In terms of appearing on app stores or gaming platforms, these games get a solid pass. But when a game has content where people are consensual, enthusiastic, loving relationships that have references to sexuality … well, those games are avoided. “

Dirty light

Crush Crush is a free game with optional microtransactions. There is a premium currency in the form of gemstones that can be used to speed up timers, buy blocks of time, or increase labor income. Long says Sad Panda opposed modeling games as “infinite sinks” for player money and focused at most on short purchases of more than $ 10. However, there is one expensive item in his store – a $ 100 gem package.

After emphasizing that Crush Crush can be completed without spending any money, Long explains why: “We don’t literally ask you to spend $ 100 to finish the game – it’s just a handy visualization tool for them Trivialization of a game 6-9 months of idle play in a 20-minute game session. “

Sad Panda’s

A unique feature of Sad Panda’s range of games is the reset button. Both Crush Crush and Blush Blush allow the player to start over at any time with a multiplier applied to progress bars.

Crush Crush was profitable enough to lay a foundation for the studio’s future projects and support the developers. “It’s not like filling a money box with gold that we can swim in,” says Long, “but we tried to pour it all back into the studio to do more and more things.”

These include future additions to Crush Crush and its boy-focused spin-off Blush Blush, which is predictably less profitable. “The fact that we can build and support things that are not ‘mainstream’ is probably our proudest achievement. Blush Blush is like Crush Crush’s little brother and doesn’t have that big an audience, but it always works still very good and will continue to receive updates from our studio. “

Hush Hush

Sad Panda is also planning a follow-up called Hush Hush, which includes other visually novel elements in addition to time management. It will also be a tonal departure from the team’s previous work, which addresses a taboo that video game marketplaces usually don’t have a problem with: killing people.

“Given that it’s part of Sim and part of a crime thriller, you can’t have a real thriller without murder …” Long says. Hush Hush will contain some crazy stuff. It remains to be seen whether our fans will enjoy the departure or bring us back [in Direction] lighthearted, flirty content. Either way, it will be fun and rewarding to see their reactions. “