A med student spent 8 months learning game design to make a Pokemon-inspired Hololive vtuber JRPG

Hololive CouncilRys RPG
(Image credit: Kebbie / Cover)

An impressive number of remarkably good fan games have come from the vtuber enthusiasts in the Hololive community, with an unbelievably sharp fighting game cropping up just this month. We can now add the free JRPG Hololive CouncilRys RPG to the list. Since its release on Itch.io, it's been picked up by several of the vtubers it's about, who've already racked up hundreds of thousands of views streaming it to their fans.  

If you're wondering – as I was at one point – the name refers to the Council generation of Hololive streamers who star in the game: Fauna, Bae, Kronii, and Mumei. There's also Irys, a standalone talent who focuses on music. All five characters have cute little sprites and portraits for combat, exploration, and cutscenes. This is a full-fat JRPG, and a mercifully short one at roughly three hours. 

As is often the case with these fan games, I was immediately struck by the level of care that clearly went into this. But it wasn't until I learned more about its creator, Kebbie, that my gob was well and truly smacked. Not only were they not a game dev before this – which is why this RPG was made with the beginner-friendly RPG Maker toolset – they were already waist-deep in another life-consuming trade: studying medicine. How does a med student find time to not only learn game development, but get proficient enough to release a proper, polished JRPG? I had to find out.  

Hololive CouncilRys RPG

(Image credit: Kebbie / Cover)

GamesRadar+: How long have you been working on this game?

Kebbie: I’ve been working on this game in my free time for about 7-8 months. Though it was inspiring to see the quality of fan games like Holocure, I didn’t really develop any desire to make anything until around fall of 2022. There was no catalyst that set off my desire to make a fan game, but rather, the slow culmination of my growing appreciation for 'CouncilRyS,' and inspiration from seeing fan content like Holocure, Delivering Hope, and Myth’s Bad End. I saw a space for CouncilRyS fan games I wanted to contribute to. Exploring my options as a newbie, I came across RPG Maker. Once I watched the 2022 Holoween collab, I had the missing link for my story and this really ramped up my determination.

How the heck did you fit game dev into your life as a med student?

Sacrifices had to be made, and that’s what passion leads us to do! Of course, I would never compromise patient safety, so I kept up studying and did well on my exams, and am graduating soon! Luckily, as a fourth-year medical student in the US, once we submit our residency applications, we only really had to worry about doing well in interviews. So the latter months of 2022 were just me working on this game, fulfilling my duties on rotation, and doing interviews. I willingly chose to sacrifice my sleep and other hobbies to get this done in a timely manner. I was big into custom keyboards and climbing but had to cut back on those, but now that I’m done, I’m really getting back into the swing of things!

Hololive CouncilRys RPG

(Image credit: Kebbie / Cover)

Why a turn-based JRPG? Did your experience with RPG Maker influence your choice of genre?

There was a story that I wanted to tell with powerful characters, silly NPCs, villains, and magic powers. That all sounded like a formula for an RPG to me! Though, really, it was my inexperience with game making and experience playing JRPGs that made me choose the genre. JRPGs tend to be more story- and character-driven, rather than gameplay-focused, with many established tropes I could utilize as vehicles for the story beats I wanted to hit. Of course, the existence of RPG Maker and its community was what allowed me to make anything as a complete newbie. I hadn’t used RPG Maker before, but I’m familiar with its bigger titles like Ib, Omori, Off, Lisa, Hylics, Ao Oni, and Yume Nikki. I drew more inspiration from Dragon Quest and Pokemon for the gameplay, though.

I started out seeing if I could even make art that would look okay, so I spent time learning pixel art and drawing sprites, grass, and trees to see if this idea had any legs to stand on. From there, I knew if I could draw simple portraits and write things, I could see this project through as a JRPG, rather than, say, a visual novel which would require more skillful art and writing.

Hololive CouncilRys RPG

(Image credit: Kebbie / Cover)

I saw the music was arranged by Jeremy Robson. Did you make every other part of the game, within RPG Maker, yourself?

I drew the art, wrote the story, and designed the game, but I utilized a lot of plugins made by the RPG Maker community to make the game happen! Of course, RPG maker itself allowed me, someone who hasn’t coded or made anything creative in their life, the ability to put out my vision without much barrier to entry.

I didn’t feel confident reaching out to anybody until I came up with some of the prologue which I showed to Jeremy. I had been listening to his CouncilRyS arrangements while working on the game, and I knew he would be able to arrange the music in a way that fit specific moods and emotions I had in mind. I’m so glad that I did reach out and that he agreed to help!

Do you have any plans to add onto this game in the future, or are you happy with it as-is apart from additional bug fixes and such?

I don’t really have any plans to add anything, aside from fixing some bugs or changing up some dialogue. I think I’ve exhausted my limited creative tank, and I don’t have any ideas I’d feel stellar about adding. I don’t really have a passion to create art, make games, or anything like that. This whole project was created as a swell of different emotions grew over time while watching CouncilRyS. I’m happy with what I’ve captured. Though it is bittersweet to let such a big project go, I love hearing people’s feedback. It seems like I was able to portray the feelings I wanted to, and I’m so glad people felt touched by what I made. Sadly, this is probably where my journey with game development ends, but I’m so happy to have made an impression on the community before I begin the next chapter of my life.

A promising, more traditional Pokemon-like is out next month.  

Austin Wood

Austin freelanced for the likes of PC Gamer, Eurogamer, IGN, Sports Illustrated, and more while finishing his journalism degree, and he's been with GamesRadar+ since 2019. They've yet to realize that his position as a senior writer is just a cover up for his career-spanning Destiny column, and he's kept the ruse going with a focus on news and the occasional feature, all while playing as many roguelikes as possible.