Games — How Idea Factory (Otomate) Creates Otome Games

Siliconera recently posted an interview with Norihisa Kochiwa, development director of Idea Factory. Otomate is a studio under Idea Factory that focuses on romantically themed visual novels aimed at women. Some of their games have made it over to the west, such as Hakuoki, Sweet Fuse, and Amnesia: Memories. In the interview Kochiwa goes over thematic decisions for new games and bringing out their titles worldwide.

“What we at Otomate would like to focus on and strive toward now is to work with various partner companies and creators to bring more of our Otomate titles to fans worldwide! We appreciate all your continued support!”

“Also, we would love to have feedback from western otome fans! Our first step is to try and introduce otome games as part of gaming culture in western countries, and grow the otome genre with our fans!”

It’s nice to hear that they are making efforts to bring out more otome games globally! We’ve seen part of their efforts recently with Idea Factory International releasing Amnesia: Memories for PlayStation Vita and even porting it to Steam!

Additionally, the otome games Aksys announced for Vita a while back just had their release dates revealed. Code: Realize will be out October 20th and Norn9 will be out November 3rd!

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Games — Tour de Akiba and the #iluJam

 

For the past month my friend Jia and I have been plugging away at our entry for the dating sim game jam I organized, #iluJam. We released our game the other night, Tour de Akiba, just before the upload deadline ended. We’re both pretty proud of what we turned out!

Tour de Akiba is a Yowamushi Pedal fan game (yes we know technically the French is wrong, but it makes the title unique and endearing). Think of the game like an interactive fanfiction. Doujinshi games like this have an active community in Japan and are sometimes even sold at events like Comiket. Both Jia and I are huge fans of Yowapeda and working with the characters in such a fun space really drove us to complete our deadline goals.

It was also such a pleasure to work with my local friend Jia. I have always loved her art style and it was so thrilling plugging in her new portraits and backgrounds and seeing them paired up with my dialogue. She’d come over and I’d sit her down to test things out and she’d squeal, exclaiming “they’re alive!” It was adorable and super fun. And she was extremely dedicated to the project, going above and beyond to implement corrections and additional art to flesh out the game.

Initially we planned to include a representative of each major team in the game that the player could choose to invite to Akihabara. We originally settled on Makishima, Arakita, and Midousuji since they were favorites of ours. As the jam weeks progressed and we realized the workload that would be required we first considered Makishima a end-game bonus stretch goal. Then came the point where we settled on finishing just one route, and half the work was already done for Arakita’s. We still kept a Midousuji teaser in there in case we want to keep making character routes at our own pace. Imaizumi and Manami could be on the horizon as well if we want to keep it up that long.

I intentionally designed the game to be able to expand and contract depending on the situation, in order to make it safe to complete in at least some kind of deliverable state in a single month. The game would have an initial decision branch where the player would explicitly pick the route they wanted, rather than having to deal with a common introduction and multiple character stats. And that way I only had to keep track of one hidden stat in order to determine one of two endings the player got.

I wrote the game in third-person because I wanted to give the player the feeling of directing the action but not acting as a stand-in for Onoda. I worried it could seem voyeuristic but I also hoped it might help people who aren’t used to this kind of game feel less weird about it. And the content itself is about as PG as you can get. Just guys being dudes.

I plan to make a post later about my experiences using the TyranoBuilder engine to create the game, and share some of the tricks I learned a little too late to make my life easier.

The #iluJam itch.io page contains all the entries uploaded for the jam—16 of them! Now that my game is done I look forward to playing through everyone’s games!

Update 7/12: The game can now be played directly in the browser from the itch.io page!

International Love Ultimatum — Dating sim game jam running in June!

I had been wanting to organize a game jam themed around dating sims for a long while now, and finally committed the month of June towards that goal!

The International Love Ultimatum will be a month-long digital game jam. You can work solo or in a team, the only rule is you have to finish some kind of romantically-themed game within the coming month of June. There is an iluJam Tumblr page with details, FAQs, research, resources, and tools available to help you out. Submissions will be handled through the itch.io website.

I’m excited to be working on a silly little Yowamushi Pedal dating sim in Tyranobuilder with a friend of mine. Hope you give the jam some thought and make something fun! Even if you don’t finish by the end of June

Games — Starfighter: Eclipse released!

My friends over at Date Nighto have been working on their custom-built, browser-based Starfighter dating sim for a while now, and it’s just been officially released to the public!

I’ve been excited for their HTML5 visual novel engine for years and it’s amazing seeing the tech develop from its humble Namco High beginnings into what it’s capable of now. Lead developer Conrad first started the project because he wanted to work with his friend HamletMachine on making her popular 18+ comic Starfighter into an interactive visual novel and since platforms like Steam don’t allow explicit sexual content then they had to build their own.

I offered a bit of my QA testing services at the end of the project cycle but I have genuinely been excited for this title since the Kickstarter was announced. If you are a fan of sci-fi space operatics involving a cute guy with an undercut kissing fellow space marines then please consider this game!

TCAF Trip Report!

Last Friday morning I boarded a propeller-driven puddle jumper from Boston’s Logan airport and then one complimentary glass of wine later I was in Toronto. This would be my second visit to the city and my second TCAF. After landing I felt it was already a much better experience because my new phone plan allowed for unlimited, albeit slow, data roaming services, so I was able to better navigate the city’s public transportation system by myself without feeling a constant, desperate, anxious tether to Starbucks’ free wifi.

Fresh off the plane I headed uptown to have lunch with my friend Miguel, who runs the Comics vs Games event that happens in tandem with TCAF weekend activities. I would be giving a microtalk during a session later that weekend so it was a good time to discuss expectations. Then he showed me to a bunch of nearby comic book stores and to the world-famous The Beguiling. It was an amazing shop that I wished I had more time to poke around in. There I found an incredibly out-of-print copy of The Passion of Gengoroh Tagame, which I snagged with the hopes of getting it signed by The Master himself while he was attending TCAF.

That evening I got to go to a mixer put on by Toronto’s local Japan Foundation and there I briefly met Ken Niimura. I had bought his amazing collection Henshin a couple of days prior and was loving it but wasn’t able to lug it up to Canada to get signed. Later that night my friends and I went to Momofuku, where I had the most decadent Korean fried chicken I have ever eaten, capped off by a dessert of yummy Cereal Milk ice cream with corn flakes on top.

Saturday morning and afternoon was frantic. I scurried into where the artists were selling and grabbed a couple of items, particularly a book from Leslie Hung’s table, before heading over to the Aya Kanno spotlight. She spoke of her start as a manga artist and how originally she was more interested in shounen (boy’s) manga but after a bad experience working with a particular editor she decided to go into shoujo (girl’s) instead.

Immediately after that was the Gengoroh Tagame panel. This session was absolutely amazing! They even had a member from Viz Media’s SuBLime imprint present to provide insight into Western perceptions of geikomi compared to BL/yaoi and publishing realities involved. Tagame even talked about when getting his start initially submitting his works to BL magazines like June because outlets for comics aimed at gay men didn’t exist yet. It was a super fascinating discussion that the wonderful people at Massive recorded, so I hope that becomes available online at some point.

Later I waited in line to get my copy of Requiem of the Rose King signed by Aya Kanno, then waited in a different line to get my Passion collection signed by Gengoroh Tagame. That man is so sweet and bright! He even was taking pictures with guests upon request, which is quite uncommon for manga authors.

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Then I synced up with my friends Christine and Sophia to head down to the Bit Bazaar, which is sort of a game demo exhibit and crafts fair at Toronto’s Bento Miso coworking space. It ended up being a bit too hot and crowded for me to stick around too long but I got to say hi to some pals and bought a cute zine from Kelly K’s table. Then I scurried off to the Queer Mixer and saw some great micro-interviews on stage with a lot of amazing looking artists I was unfamiliar with before.

Sunday was pretty chill for the most part but I was stressed about getting my Comics vs Games talk right. You really can’t underestimate timed microtalks! We were going off the GDC model where it’s 20 slides with each one being displayed for 16 seconds before automatically proceeding. You have to practice and time your words! And of course when you’re actually doing the talk it goes all off script. Hopefully a recording will be posted soon!

And at the end of my section, which was about dating sims and development tools, I announced that in June I’ll be running a dating sim game jam! You can visit the International Love Ultimatum #iluJam Tumblr here where all the announcements and useful posts will be made.

If you ever find yourself able to make it to Toronto for TCAF I highly recommend it! It’s one of my favorite conferences I’ve attended and definitely the top comics one. Admission is totally free too so you can spend all your money a the artists’ tables instead! And Toronto is a great city.

Game Developers Conference and Kinokuniya San Francisco

 

March 1st through the 8th I was out in San Francisco while GDC was going on, catching up with old games industry friends and locals.

Paste Magazine asked me to compile my experiences! For the past two years I actually haven’t bought a badge for GDC, just attended the periphery events and enjoyed the sights of San Francisco for the weeks I’m there. It’s great if you can manage the expense!

Part of those expenses are my annual visit to the Kinokuniya bookstore in Japantown, San Francisco! I love this store because compared to the New York flagship there are a ton more goods and books for shows and games popular with women and girls. Lots of Free!, DRAMAtical MurderUta no Prince-sama, Gintama, Tokyo Ghoul, Girls’ Monthly Nozaki-kun, Yowamushi Pedal, Haikyuu!! and Diabolik Lovers, among many others. Tons of artbooks and magazines from otome games and a larger than usual BL manga section.

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And as you can see from the above photoset of my haul, the store also sells a large selection of doujinshi, unofficial fancomics. Last year when I went there were a lot of Kuroko’s Basketball anthologies but this year Haikyuu!! definitely reigned. My friend and I divvied up what little Yowamushi Pedal doujin we could find (I grabbed the Arakita stuff) and I snagged lots of Haikyuu!! books, particularly the rare ship anthologies as they interest me the most. There was not one but two OiKage anthologies! And then a KuroTsuki one. Also lots of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure doujinshi was there, I grabbed a couple for a friend back home.

Another interesting find was a copy of the Hentai + Kareshi PoeBack book I had been eyeballing for some time.

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Since last year’s trips out I’ve started collecting some of the boyfriend book series since I find their first-person almost game-like style super unique. My game developer friends I show them to are fascinated by the concept! They started coming out too fast for me to keep up, though. So nowadays I usually only snag the weirder ones, like Kuroko BL Days, Kuroko Do-S, and now this one. The book is pretty lewd and I hadn’t even heard of half of these fetishes!

If you’re in the San Francisco area I recommend checking out the mall at Japantown! They even have a cute arcade with Pop’n’Music machines and the table flipping game. Also down the street is the adorable New People building where designer Omocat currently has some awesome clothes for sale.

Games — Tools — Twine

Today The New York Times published a very good article on Twine written by Laura Hudson, where she gave a history and interviewed some creators who use the interactive fiction tool. Twine is something I’ve used off-and-on for the past couple of years in my endless journey for a game-creation tool that felt right for me and it’s been awesome watching it gain so much exposure from so many different creators trying it out.

I was introduced to Twine back in 2011 thanks to Anna Anthropy’s game Encyclopedia Fuckme and the Case of the Vanishing Entree. After playing her game I followed the little Twee link because I was really curious about the tool she used to make such an impressive looking browser game. Turned out Twine had a visual interface for editing, which I found much more easy to use than scripting in ChoiceScript or Undum. At the time I was working at Irrational Games and I shared Twine with any of my coworkers who were curious about messing around with interactive narrative stuff on the side. I also was sharing the tool with my indie game dev friends, particularly women I knew who hadn’t been too encouraged by the existing tools out there.

At the time I took my own game that I had been poking at in Inform 7 for the past year at that point and ported it over to Twine. I actually did most of this transfer work on Sundays at a local Cambridge coffee shop sitting with my friend Andrew Plotkin who is an Inform 7 programmer and engine contributor, so I felt a little guilty about bailing on his engine of choice. But it was a really fun exercise trying to figure out how to make a traditional interactive fiction style game work in a more choose-your-own-adventure setting. Twine is also easier to share due to it building to a simple single HTML file that could be uploaded to free services like Dropbox.

I actually just uploaded what little bit exists of my Twine game, P/alewife, if you’re curious to see. I haven’t touched it in nearly a year and it’s a first-pass, so it’s really rough! And I have no idea where I’m going with it, but I would like to revisit it some day.

As time went on Twine started getting more popular thanks to Anna’s great example of what Twine games could be like and so she created a really useful from-scratch tutorial to support the already existing videos and wiki provided by the engine’s creator. I recommend going through this tutorial even after looking at the new, updated documentation for Twine! It’s still very helpful and supportive!

In 2013 I attended local Boston game developer conference No Show at which Twine’s creator Chris Klimas was going to be giving a talk. You can see the video of the full talk here. What’s amazing about the talk is that Chris completely credits Anna with reviving this dead side-project of his, and for showing him him how much potential something like Twine really had for empowering new creator voices. Anna was in the audience at the time. It was awesome experiencing that first-hand. Then I got to meet Chris later at dinner and he is probably one of the most pleasant people I’ve ever had the privilege of chatting with.

Also at No Show, Chris announced the existence of Twine 2.0. This would be an attempt to revive the project, modernize the engine, and make it even more accessible. The existing Twine was open source and had pretty much been abandoned, except for some random patches you could pull off the newsgroup to help fix annoying macro bugs. Instead of being an executable Twine 2.0 editing would run itself directly off a browser. Not through a cloud server or any kind of auth service but a local copy of the program that would launch and be usable through any browser. This would make multi-platform support and bug fixes much easier.

Twine 2.0 is currently in beta if you’d like to take a look!

When I ran the Magical Girl Jam last year I got quite a few Twine submissions! It was really fun seeing all the different style and aesthetic takes on the Magical Girl theme that transferred over to text.

And speaking of magical girls, my most favorite Twine game of all time is Porpentine’s Cry$tal Warrior Ke$ha. Please play it. It’s important!