Rock Candy Games is a newly formed studio helmed by Becca Farrow and Anne Camlin. Their new game, Seventh Circle, a queer romance visual novel set in a magic dueling league, is on Kickstarter right now. You might know Farrow from her comics work, including some amazing covers. Camlin’s debut novel, Young Magic, was released serially online, concluding in 2016. Sidequest has gotten an inside look from the creators, and here’s the good stuff.
As the protagonist of Seventh Circle, you recently graduated from college with a degree in the arcane. Your aunt used to be a big name in competitive dueling, and she helped you prepare for the Trillian’s annual trials. The Trillian is a high-profile dueling league watched by people all over the world. You defeated everyone else in the trials and earned a spot among these glamorous athletes. Of magic.
The game picks up with your first day at the Trillian, meeting and greeting your fellow athletes. They’re a delightful array of personalities, appearances, genders, schools of magic, et cetera. They’re also all cuties made of 100 Percent Dating Material.
Camlin and Farrow are excited to show the world what Trillian and Seventh Circle have to offer. This is the first Kickstarter in which Farrow or Camlin has had an organizational role, and they’re feeling confident in its success.
“I feel like the squad in A New Hope in the trash compactor,” Farrow says, regarding the stress of the campaign.
“I think we’re doing everything we can. We did our research, we worked hard on our materials, and we know we have an audience,” says Camlin.
It will be interesting to see where that audience comes from. Farrow has fans from her comics work, and visual novels are a similar enough format that many of those fans might find this project appealing. The runaway success of other queer romance visual novels like Dream Daddy and Ladykiller in a Bind indicates there’s a good base of visual novel fans already who would find this game a good fit.
The world Farrow and Camlin have created in Seventh Circle is roughly the real world we’re used to, only “magic is common and woven into the fabric of society.” The demo doesn’t touch on the setting outside the Trillian much, but Camlin explains, “[Magic is] science! And it’s become a form of entertainment. You have a tension between academic mages and arena mages, which is what our Trillian mages are. They do magic ultimate fighting, basically.” MMA and the “pro bending” depicted in Korra: The Last Avatar are some of the primary inspirations for the Trillian itself.
Despite some similarities, Farrow, whose previous work includes some of BOOM! Studios’ WWE comic, offers, “The Trillian isn’t necessarily WWE.”
“Yeah, it’s not scripted, and you don’t have ‘characters’ the same way you do in wrestling,” says Camlin.
According to Farrow, “It’s also a sport that has evolved and gotten safer. It used to be way more dangerous.”
“They have safety regulations now!” Camlin explains.
The athletes of the Trillian include an elitist champion, a dedicated party girl on a quest to get her fellow competitors to unwind, and Jem. Jem mentions when introducing themself that their pronouns are “they/their,” and nothing further is discussed on the matter during the demo. This, combined with their fashionable, androgynous appearance, is a nice way of presenting a non-binary character in an affirming way without making a big deal of that single aspect of their character. Jem seems to be Camlin’s favorite child at this stage in the writing:
Jem is the most fun to write, I think, though everyone is fun in their own way. But I gave Jem my sense of humor and I think they set the tone of the game, at least for the demo. It’s intentional that we introduce you to this total “tsundere” kid, Will, and then have Jem come in and roast him for putting on an act. I want Seventh Circle to be a bit meta, in that sense. It’s a game that’s aware of what a dating sim is supposed to be, and it’s pushing against that status quo.
Jem also plays a role in another LGBT+-friendly element of the game. When they meet the protagonist and mention their own pronouns, they also ask the protagonist for theirs. The demo gives five or six options, and once the player chooses their character’s pronouns, that’s the extent of game’s interrogation of their gender. For some, this is a very welcome change from being asked to fit into one of two narrowly defined genders with a lot of social and narrative baggage attached. Camlin says this is an excellent indicator of how the rest of the game will handle the protagonist’s identity.
As queer folks themselves, that spectrum of representation is important to both Farrow and Camlin.
“I want this to be a game that anybody can project into, and that they’re comfortable with who it asks them to be,” says Camlin. She cites Dream Daddy as a “great game” that was “hard for [her] to get into as a gay woman.” The creators say it’s very important to them to make a game everyone can relate to. They hinted that they’d like to have narrative options for polyamory, aro/ace protagonists, and other sorts of romance stories that are traditionally underrepresented.
Camlin explains, “In general, I’ve avoided the term ‘dating sim’ for the game because, while it’s romantic, I want the kind of relationships explored and the routes you take to feel extremely real and emotional. I want you to feel like you’re in this character’s life. Romance, to me, is about friendship and growing together, and it’s often more complicated than running a route for a certain ending. Also, we’d like to have options for players to take an aroace path.”
These thoughtful discussions are par for the course for Farrow and Camlin, whose excellent rapport goes back to their days of sharing romantic fan fiction. Camlin wrote, and Farrow read and later contributed art. It’s no surprise that a friendship built on a love of stories and specifically a love of love stories has led them to developing a game like this together.
Like their characters, they have athletic and magical interests. Some of those interests play a role in shaping the characters, too—Farrow was a competitive swimmer, while Camlin did some competitive horseback riding.
“Remember that time you almost majored in horses?” Farrow asks, but Camlin lets the answer remain a mystery. So mysterious!
Though Farrow might not have magic powers, she does have a mug that says “You are magical.” “I’m the one who drinks out of it,” she says. It may not be quite the same as having a Trillian athlete’s abilities, but it’s a start.
Their easy camaraderie is reflected in their art, too. Camlin’s writing does an admirable job of creating distinct impressions of each of the seven characters over the span of a short demo, and Farrow’s art style falls perfectly between sexy forward-thinking fashion and cute adorableness.
Farrow says that she’s finding it less “mind-numbingly exhausting” to illustrate for a visual novel than it has been to draw comics. She enjoys being able to put more focus and detail into each image rather than churning out panel after panel of similar art. She says, “Working on Seventh Circle has been one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had, because I was able to put more into the visual aspects of character creation.
“Also, it’s super cool to see stuff I’ve made animate in a game.”
The Kickstarter campaign for Seventh Circle ends April 12. The game itself is available starting at the very reasonable backer level of $10, and the higher levels include lots of art from Farrow and other goodies. The demo is available on itch.io, and it gives a good example of what the game will be like. More information can be found on the Rock Candy Games website.
Annie Blitzen is Sidequest’s Resident LARP Expert, an inveterate player of tabletop roleplaying games, and a fair hand in video and board gaming. Sidequest writer since 2017.