Coding Labors of Love

I programmed a fully playable visual novel during a 48 hour game jam. With the help of my friends, we made a charming and memorable game.
“Do you like Greek mythology? Do you like romantically diverse casts? Do you kinda’ want to get it on with a snake? Then look no further, because we’ve got the game for you!
Labors of Love is a dating simulator where you play as Herc, your average dude bro demi-god, who’s looking for love in the Ancient Grecian overworld. Join Herc, his trusty Lion Head, and the ever sarcastic Belt as they dip into the rivers of the heart (not the river styx).
There are 5 romance-able characters, each with unique personalities and three possible endings! Boasting gorgeous environments, whacky characters, and lots and lots of puns, Labors of Love is the dating sim no one knew they needed.”
This game was made as part of the 2017 Sarasota 48 Hour Game Jam by a team of Ringling sophomores that worked their butts off to make a fully playable dating sim in a single weekend.
Character Artist Sam McCollum
Head Writer Isa Pinto
Environment Artist Jasleen Rehsi
Programmer/UI Artist Kelsey Watkins
Misc. Artist/Programming/UI Assistant Kyla Hullick
Sound Design/Assistant Writer Alisa Ryu

If you would like to play it, it is free to download here (though donations are cherished and lets us know we did a good job):


Despite going to Ringling for Game Art, I ended up doing the behind-the-scenes technical stuff for making a dating sim. That meant I was in charge of learning the coding language and putting the game together. If I didn’t do it correctly, the game would crash and be unplayable until the problem was fixed.
It was pretty stressful, looking back on it. But it was fun, and everyone was excited to be there and very supportive of each other.

Luckily for me, I wasn’t building a game from scratch. I was working through the programming language and software known as Ren’Py, a well-known dating sim maker. Everything I needed to know and bugs that occurred all had a troubleshooting and tutorial page online. I also had taken an Intro to Computer Science class previously, so I had a fairly good understanding of the python language.

Being the programmer meant that I needed to know all of the pieces that went into the game, so I had to delegate tasks to people based on what the game needed. At its core, a dating sim needs characters, different emotions, backgrounds, and different paths to take. If this was all done by one person, it would have taken much longer. Below is a screenshot of me calling the files before beginning the coding for the game:

After figuring out the basics of dialogue and how to show a character changing emotion, I thought things would be easy going forward. Of course, I didn’t stop to think about our complex path decisions we made. I found myself making white board diagrams to map out the paths needed and the endings associated with each. A lot of struggling was done when implementing our first ending path with the Hydra. Tom had already written up the entire path sequence, so I did it all at once. This was the worst mistake I could have made. I had made so many errors that I had to go back and fix all of them individually instead of just starting with smaller pieces added on a little bit at a time. This lapse in judgement set me back three or four hours, and is a mistake I certainly learned from.

Towards the end of our 48 hours, Tom and Kyla had completed their tasks so I asked both of them to help me with programming in changes in characters’ emotions. Was the character happy? Well then, go ahead and type in “show cerb pleased”. Where was the character located? If it was on the right, then you should add in “at right” at the end of it. It was the most tedious part of the game making process, but with the help of Kyla and Tom we completed our game with 45 minutes to spare.
It was a great experience and working so well with a team might have spoiled me with what I hope  future teams are like. It was also kind of funny to see me continue to type in tabs after working in them over the weekend.
Again, if you would like to play the game I helped make, the link is!