Coffee Talk is one of my favorite visual novels to come out within the last few years. This layered visual novel combines notes of comfy music, clean visuals, and smooth storytelling to create an interesting blend of tales akin to a smooth cup of coffee.
Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus and Butterfly will pick up directly after the events of the first game released in 2020. Taking place in an alternate version of Seattle in 2023, where humanity lives alongside fantasy creatures and beings in the modern day. Coffee Talk Episode 2 picks up on the stories left behind by characters like Freya, Jorji, Lua, and many more as you reconnect with familiar and new brew drinks that can change lives.
QooApp had a chance to talk to two key members of Coffee Talk’s development team, including Junkipatchi, the Narrative Writer for Coffee Talk Episode 2, and Andrew Jeremy, the Project Manager and Composer for Coffee Talk and Coffee Talk Episode 2. We wanted to learn more about the development process of the second unexpected but welcome entry, why they wanted to make it, and how did the last few years of the globe’s biggest incident affect the game’s story.
So sit back, brew yourself a warm drink and read on to see what we learned from our little chat with Toge Productions.
▍ Why not Coffee Talk 2?
Q. Coffee Talk originally didn’t have an “episode” attached to the end of its name. What made the team decide to work on a sequel to Coffee talk? Was this always planned or did fan reception drive the project?
AJ: At first, we weren’t sure if we wanted to give the next Coffee Talk a try. But after seeing the positive responses from players and fans, and the success we had with it, we decided to come up with a new story for Coffee Talk.
Q. Coffee Talk started off as wanting to replicate the feeling of chilling at a bar with a nice cup of coffee and listening to conversations. What new themes or stories did the team want to explore with Episode 2?
Junki: “Social media” might have been the first thing that caught your eye from the demo, but it’s really more like a catalyst of sorts, haha. It’s a theme that runs through the game but manifests itself quite differently for each character.
Our goal is to convey the feeling of being the customers’ “Third Place”, where the characters can casually share their stories, allowing you to learn about the world, their struggles, and growth through butterfly-effect-like choices. Every path taken leads to a better understanding of the big picture
Q. On that note, why did the team decide to name it Coffee Talk episode 2? Are there plans for a third episode?
AJ: There had been quite a few discussions about the title. Initially, we thought we just wanted to expand the stories and provide a continuation for some of the characters in the future after the first set of Coffee Talk. That’s why we called it “Ep 2”, as it was aimed for a DLC instead of a full sequel. However, after adding new features and more content, we now consider it a proper sequel instead of just an expansion. But we kinda stuck with the original name. Who knows, there might even be an “Ep 3” in the future! Let’s see how it goes
▍ Time can be the Secret Ingredient
Q. In game development often times features end up getting cut due to time constraints. Were there ideas or concepts the team wanted to explore in Coffee Talk 1 that the team was able to fully realize in Episode 2? Or was the team fully satisfied with every aspect of Coffee Talk?
AJ: During the development of Coffee Talk, we wanted to include branches and longer stories, but due to time and other constraints, we had to leave them out. However, in Coffee Talk Episode 2, we’ll have multiple branches and stories for you to unfold. Additionally, with some small features such as a music playlist, character selection in the “Free brew” section, and latte art displayed in the cup while being served- we were finally able to include them in Coffee Talk Episode 2.
Q. How did the success of Coffee Talk impact Toge Productions? The team previously used Itch.io and Gamejolt for testing, and in recent years it seems to not be as necessary.
AJ: Coffee Talk was a huge hit for us. It quickly became one of our most important and successful titles. When we first set out to develop it, we chose to use itch.io as a platform to get feedback and validation from players. It was a great decision because it allowed us to test the waters with a prototype we created during an internal game jam. Due to the positive feedback we received, we were confident that the core mechanics were solid and ready to develop the continuation right away.
In the future, it’s still possible that we’ll use itch.io again, depending on our next projects.
Q. Episode 1 of Coffee Talk came out 3 years ago right around the time of the pandemic. How did the pandemic affect Coffee Talk’s development or even story now it takes place in 2023?
Junki: Probably pretty deep, haha. A lot of things happened, after all.
The pandemic likely had a big influence on our decision to use “social media” as the theme before the stories had fully developed. However, as things progressed, we decided to shift our focus more on the personal journeys of the characters, while still touching on emotions and feelings that many people have experienced during those years, perhaps in a more roundabout way.
Q. After Coffee Talk 1 was released physically, Toge Productions ran into some tax problems with Indonesian customs. How has the situation changed with Toge Productions and the government if at all since 2020?
AJ: When the tax issues came up, it obviously became a hot topic. Thankfully, AGI (Asosiasi Game Indonesia) stepped in to help bridge the gap between us as representatives of Indonesian game developers and the government. Together, we’ve been working to find a solution to the problem and I think the issue has been handled pretty well so far.
Q. Mohammad Fahmi was a beloved member of the South East Asian game development community and a key member in creating Coffee Talk. In the early credits his name wasn’t mentioned but as your studio is very close to pikselnesia, did he aid in the development in Episode 2, and how did he contribute?
AJ: Fahmi was not involved in the sequel’s development process, but we made sure to incorporate the game design elements he had built in the first creation of Coffee Talk. A few of us, including myself, sometimes reached out to him for suggestions on new music themes.
▍ How To Blend Old and New Stories Together
Q. Coffee Talk was received very well and had a great cast of characters. What challenges came when a continuation for these beloved characters, and new faces?
Junki: New characters can be tricky in any beloved franchise, but due to the setting of Coffee Talk, having new patrons is not only normal but expected.
However, keeping their presence and story development balanced with the older characters can be challenging, because as easy as it is to get caught up in building the new characters, it’s equally easy to fall into the temptation of solely concentrating on fan favorites…
That’s why we had to carefully consider each character’s vibe and development to avoid forced plot or interaction, and whether their potential conversation will be relevant or interesting enough to drive the story forward. It’s always a fun process to go through, though.
Q. It was really nice seeing characters like Lua and Jorji come back after three years. Neil’s a favorite character among fans, but who’s your favorite character, new or old?
Dio (Art Director): Neil, forever and ever
AJ: I always say Neil, everywhere I’ll answer it’s Neil.
Junki: I’ll have to say Jorji, haha. But I’m fond of Riona & Lucas as well 🙂
Q. It was very neat to find out that Lucas and Riona were heavily involved in internet culture, and on both opposite extremes of it. What specifically inspired the team to write these two characters, and how big of a role does the internet play in the story of Episode 2?
Junki: A bit of a story: Riona and Lucas were actually created from a rejected character concept. A script test proved the character to be unengaging, so she was split into two new characters: Lucas, the boisterous satyr influencer, and Riona the banshee (who took on the character’s name before it was changed into what it is now).
Throughout their development, it became apparent that their contrasting personalities made them more memorable. Plus, it was easier to create more nuanced dynamics between them and the old cast.
As previously mentioned, the internet is a theme throughout the game, but it’s more of a catalyst for characters to grow 🙂
Q. Should players expect to see all of the characters from Coffee Talk make a return in Episode 2?
Junki: You’ll have to find out for yourself, hehehe.
Q. Might be too early to tell, but have there ever been any plans to release Coffee Talk on mobile?
AJ: Interestingly, we had the idea of releasing a mobile version, but there are no plans for it at the moment.
Q. What’s next for Toge after Coffee Talk episode 2?
Junki: We’re currently very pumped to be working on Kriegsfront Tactics and Whisper Mountain Outbreak. Be sure to check out our 14th-anniversary event video for a sneak peek of some exciting teasers! Oh, and don’t forget to check out A Space of the Unbound, you won’t regret it 🙂
Q. Any messages for the fans or new players out there?
Here we had some messages from team members, they wanted to remain anonymous but here’s what they have to say to you, the reader!
“Please keep supporting us, we need our daily meals…”
“Don’t forget to hydrate!”
“Money can’t buy you happiness, but you can buy and play Coffee Talk Episode 2. Hopefully it will bring you happiness.”
“If you wanna chill, chill with Coffee Talk Episode 2.”
“We hope you’ll enjoy the game!”
Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus and Butterfly is set for release on April 20 for the Playstation 5, Playstation 4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, Nintendo Switch, and PC via Steam, EGS, and GOG.