Panel transcript created by Lawls, edited by me. God fucking damn this took a while.
Crud: Okay. Good afternoon everyone. Sorry about the delay in some changing things over, we just sorted that out, well, my laptop was better than whatever the last one was.
As you can see here we are talking about visual novels my name is cpl_crud and I’ve got Suriko here who will remain nameless because he hasn’t actually let me say what his name is.
Crud: Ryan, there we go, so you now know who we are. We didn’t actually know where to pitch this so to piggy back around to who we are; we are two of the writers for a little visual novel called Katawa Shoujo. Does anyone actually know what we’re talking about?
Audience: Yeah, yes.
Crud: Hey! Bloody hell. That makes it kinda easier for us because originally we thought that half the people would not even know what a visual novel was and if you go out there… you would probably find that we were right. What we might do is quickly run over this stuff. Now is there anyone that is going to get bored if I have to go over the basics of a visual novel? Well, too bad. When you write your own you can come up and do a speech.
So basically, a visual novel is a different way of storytelling it involves using text, pictures, and a bit of noise to try and get the story across to you, so it’s not quite animated, it’s not quite a book, it’s not a manga either, really it’s halfway between the two-
Suriko: You said three.
Crud: Halfway between the three. So the art’s a generally sort of static kind of thing. We don’t have much of the animation, although we kind of found some of stuff that will do animation for us in a programming language this is the game and what do we use? Ren’Py.
Crud: Yes. We’ll leave that a topic for later. Predominantly a Japanese export however people like us are now starting to make it internally (by internally I mean within the English language as instead of trying to get something Japanese and try and turn it English) and 60% of Japanese PC games were actually VN’s last year so it’s a big market even though they’re relatively cheap and the rest of it is kind of there, so I’ll pass over to Ryan now who is going to run you though these nice pictures that he’s chosen for us.
Suriko: That’s just a novel screen shot from a visual novel. We’ve got the background image, the sprite, expression changes, and there’s a textbox which supplies the text for the game. It’s pretty much how most visual novels are presented, by far the majority. That’s a CG which is a still painted image and they’re placed out throughout the game and depending on budget there can be more or less. Katawa Shoujo has a fair number of them.
Just kinda cruising through ‘cause I think most people know this.
A visual novel can tell a story without needing the budget of an animation and it allows more visual communication and also more animation and more music than a manga can give, and give it in an interactive storytelling format. All visual novels are different, some more different than others, and Katawa Shoujo is a very average visual novel.
Suriko: Yeah… It’s presented in a fairly normal format which is as I showed earlier.
That’s Quartett, my favourite visual novel. It looks really pretty, so that’s why it’s got two screen shots. Here’s another where you’ve got more abstract presentation style with cutting to save on art. Then you’ve got a more cinematic style in a letterbox format and text taking up more of the screen.
Dating sims first appeared in the early 1980’s, and they’re basically like visual novels except they focus more on stats and the relationship rather than telling a story. That’s the evolution of them and you got Tokimeki Memorial which is the of the most popular earlier ones and there’s Love Plus, which is a more modern one, and also Tokimeki Memorial was for the PC while Love Plus is for Nintendo DS. You can see how it compares and also lets them present it in a much nicer format.
[Note: slide with the cover of To Heart shown] The first major visual novel set in a school, with a kind of mundane school romance. More and more visual novels are being made in Japan and even in the West, and there are more and more anime adaptations of them.
That’s from Yume Miru Kusuri which is a visual novel you can buy, it’s been professionally translated, it’s one of the first major novels to be commercially translated by a company.
There are other fan groups that translate visual novels. Groups like Amaterasu and Mirror Moon. They usually offer patches so you can apply them to a Japanese game and it will translate it. That’s from Fate/Stay Night which is probably one of the most popular visual novels ever made.
They’re OELVNs which is basically what Katawa Shoujo is. [An OELVN] is Westerners making a visual novel starting from scratch in English rather than taking a Japanese visual novel and translating it.
Crud: So we have gone over OELVN thing originally being Original English Language Visual Novel. That’s one of the abbreviations we have been using the whole way through. That’s where we fit into the whole picture
[Katawa Shoujo Spin trailer plays]
Suriko: Thank Delta for that. He made the entire thing himself.
Crud: He is very bored occasionally, ‘cause I mean we… kinda going to take a bit of a detour here, the writing process for us is a bit bizarre.
We’ve spent… what, three nearly four years doing the writing part of the game and Delta is the director, he does the visual stuff like that, he’s basically the last guy in the chain so we have to write it then bitch about it, then we have to write it again, then someone’s gotta edit it, then someone has to draw the art, then Delta gets to do his bit so… I found that he gets bored and will do cool little pictures like that for us whenever we got something like this going on.
Suriko: Him being bored is a good thing, because it means we get stuff like that.
Crud: Yeah, so all of us-
Audience member: Will the trailer be released to the public?
Suriko: Yeah, I think…
Crud: Yeah, we might as well. As you can see, I’ve got a little recorder here so this will go up. So, if any of you speak loud enough you’ll probably find yourself on the blog probably tomorrow morning.
Audience member: Yoohoo!
Audience member: What’s up?
Crud: So that’s going to go up there and we’ll probably put this up on there as well ‘cause no vision of us is probably a good thing, but with no vision no one on the internet’s going to pay attention, so we’ll probably put that up there as well.
Suriko: Yep, so everyone can see Delta’s little baby.
Crud: Yeah, he’s been very proud of that. He’s made three versions of it so far. We'll use this one and then oh no, no, no, use this one I’ve upped the res. We’re using a tiny projector anyway why would you bother upping the res? So, well, that was kinda the five minute brief history to get us to where we are now. So what is it? I suppose half of you in the audience know, for the people who don’t know what it is, it’s basically about twelve or fifteen of us? It’s gone up to twenty now hasn’t it?
Suriko: Yeah, it’s about twenty now.
Crud: So there’s about twenty of us developers around the world, and there’s actually none of us in Melbourne. I come from Sydney, and Ryan here’s from Tasmania and flew in specifically for this, but we kinda came together about three… no… nearly four years ago based on a picture that we found somewhere. We kind of came up with a story based on a page that was in the back of someone’s doujin and it had five girls that were all disabled in one way or another, and we thought “Oh yeah lets run with that.”
So there was actually very little information originally and a few people kinda got excited about it on 4Chan and posted about it and started a whole bunch of forums and were like “Everyone look at this!” and they were like “Oh, that’s great, let’s make a game!” I came into it about three months of that process it happened and was like “what the friggin’ hell is going on its just a bunch of people with a whole lot of ideas like a crock pot of ideas” but there was nothing actually sensible in there, so we sorta had a big, hard fight with the people that were there first and got rid of most of them and took the team away and said “Right, let’s try and build this in a bit more closed world reality so that we can actually take all those great ideas and build a game.”
And so that’s where we kinda come in and made the game about a guy that has a heart attack in his normal high school and he finds out that his whole life has been ruined and his parents won’t let him go to a normal school anymore. So he finds himself put into a special school, and of course as I suppose anyone would imagine, that would be a bit of a shock to the system.
So we’ve got five routes, we took the girls from the original doujin page, made a bit of a backstory for each one of them, gave them a character put in a few extra characters, like the main character so we might as well jump into the main character here.
So, Hisao Nakai who I always spelled wrong I think…
Audience: Nah you got it right.
Crud: No, I spelled it right, but in the script I think about fifty times… I always used to call him Hisao Nikai.
Suriko: I think every writer had at least a couple things they always, always spelled wrong and they did that throughout the entire game. Sometimes twice.
Crud: Yeah. When I write Hanako path, who I will get to in a second, but I have written that entire thing thrice now and the first two parts I spelt it Nikai the whole time, so yeah. When people kinda get pissed off with people saying things the wrong way, I’m not entirely innocent of that.
So he’s the character who has the heart attack here he gets sent to the school because his parents think that he can’t live. Weak to blows to the chest, and we have all decided his medication will make him impotent, so that will make the dating sim part of our game fun.
Crud: He is the protagonist. The entire story is set through his point of view and we spent a lot of time early on discussing how we were going to do that, how do we take his narrative, his thoughts, and describe them and the world around him and try and put that in the visual novel engine and that took a lot of effort I think. First, I think back to Grid1, and if anyone’s heard of that, that’s my fault I’m sorry, when we were writing that it was kind of like we were still finding out way and by the time we wrote Act one we basically scrapped everything and we’ll sort of come back to it again. Anyway, moving on.
[Note: Hanako slide]
Crud: The best of course.
Audience member: Where’s Kenji route?
Crud: Kenji, unfortunately, is loosely based off of Anonymous22, the Shizune writer. Yeah, I think it’s sort of self-inserted him into the story like that. It was one of those characters… we had wanted to put a friend character in because there was not enough characters early on. There were only the five girls and the one guy and we felt we needed more people so he just popped up one day and it was like let’s just put a guy in his hall, he can wear glasses, he can be blind, whatever. And from then on he took his own spin and A22 just forced his character in there which became that sort of nutjob.
Suriko: The situation with a lot of the side characters was, they usually, they’d be written by a few people just because people wanted to have that character in their path, because they liked the look of them, or they liked the idea of them, but they really didn’t know what to do with it. Then one writer would write that character really well and everyone would just say “Okay, that’s good, we’ll use his character, we’ll use that version”, and that happened with Kenji.
Crud: That happened with Kenji, very much so. In fact, Delta has written one scene for the game, and that is the Kenji end. What was it?
Audience member: The manly picnic.
Crud: Yeah, the manly picnic. I keep on thinking… we’ve got codes for all the scenes. So that’s Delta’s one thing. When he hears this he will probably get the shits. But that’s all good. So that’s Hanako, she got burned in a fire when she was a kid, had all sorts of other stuff that I can’t really say because it will ruin the story for you. She’s burnt, she’s shy, she’s a bit too neurological than I originally hoped.
Audience: Scared of living.
Crud: Scared of breathing sometimes, I think. She’s actually an incredibly difficult character to write because with someone that’s never actually going to talk to anyone, how do you get them to start a dialogue? Drawn by Weee, who is I think the youngest dev? She’s only just turned… 16? Yeah?
Crud: 17, yeah, but she just started the project when she was 14.
Suriko: Thank goodness, too.
Crud: Yeah. Anyway, next one, let’s go, next one, so… Lilly.
Suriko: The best character.
Crud: Haha yeah, the other best character. That’s Ryan’s character there. She’s legally blind, completely blind from birth?
Suriko: From birth.
Crud: From birth. She’s befriended Hanako and I think the original pairings weren’t ever supposed to be like that.
Suriko: The pairings were very ad-hoc. Basically just, the writers started and everything fell into place. There wasn’t really any plan at all, whatsoever, and everything just kind of fell into the way it is now. Which is both a good thing and a bad thing, often.
Crud: Yeah. It kinda worked, and Lilly of course was the perfect foil for Hanako because she’s shy about her looks and doesn’t like anyone looking at her, so a blind person kinda fits for that. It was never as simple as that early on it just kinda evolved into that. Anyway. Next up, Rin, who is written by Aura who is… he’s from Finland?
Crud: Yeah, he’s Finnish so English is actually his second language but early on we found him to be probably one of the stronger writers. Not quite sure why that worked.
Suriko: I think he’s better than almost any writer at English, which is a bit embarrassing…
Crud: Quite embarrassing, really. You know you spend a whole life learning a language and then all of a sudden someone comes and learns it in two or three years and writes a story like Rin’s.
She was born with stumps for arms and they were surgically removed so now she only uses her to feet to do everything. A lot of people are looking forward to the fetish part of that.
Crud: We’ll see how that goes.
Audience: You should do the next slide
Crud: Actually she’s got a friend who I think is next?
Suriko: I think so.
Crud: No, okay, miss, lets skip forward. Way too far. So, this is Emi which is Rin’s friend and this is one of the coincidental pairings there. Emi had a car accident… err can we say that? Well, free spoilers there for anyone that didn’t know that. She lost both legs below the knee so she got prosthetic legs. She kinda became friends with Rin early in on the piece as well, so it’s kinda the whole concept that whenever Rin needed to get dressed or anything that was a bit too technical, Emi would come and sort of use her hands to make that happen.
Audience: Period scene.
Crud: Yeah, the period scene.
Audience: Lets no go there shall we?
Crud: Let’s not. I believe there’s someone here that will give us the cut-off signal if we kinda go above the MA rating that we’ve been given for this. Yeah, there in front. But that’s okay, censorship is what this is all about.
And so if we go back to our last main character which is Shizune. “Shi-zu-ne”, not “shi-zune”. If you say “shi-zune” I might have to hit you. Shizune is written by Anonymous22, which we talked about before.
Right, and for Emi who we kinda skipped over, TheHivemind is the writer for Emi, who is possibly the most reclusive dev. Including me, who went on hiatus for six months. Hivemind disappears, comes back dumps a whole bunch of text on us, disappears again, and comes back for about a week, so it’s a bit hard to communicate with him.
Shizune is legally deaf in both ears, but did we say that it was from birth?
Suriko: It was from birth.
Crud: From birth. There was a period when it wasn’t from birth but those things get confusing. So she has to do the entirety of her speech… once again, it’s like the Hanako problem, someone who doesn’t speak and you’re trying to bring them into a dialogue game, so that was kind of interesting. But we used the interpreter Misha, and if anyone actually cares, one of the reasons I came up with that name was I just watched Hannibal Raising and of course the sister in that is Misha and then we came up with a backstory around that. That worked and that’s one of those things in there that we just made up at the time and thought “that’ll do”.
Suriko: Yeah, it’s pretty much a lot of the game ended up.
Crud: Yeah, it’s pretty much how the entire game has happened, “Eeeeeeeeeeeh, yeah okay, that looks good let’s keep running with that.”
Suriko: And then we rewrite it.
Crud: Yeah, and rewrite it.
Suriko: A couple of times.
Crud: Yeah. I think I’ve written, I’ve personally written, I think something close to 550,000 words. That’s just in text, so that doesn’t include all the forum posts, all the talking, and everything else. And I think even though the game is only going to be about 650,000 words, I think it was?
Suriko: It dropped back down.
Crud: Yeah, it dropped back down to 600,000 words. Each one of us has written that alone, and more, in the writing team. This here is the little picture that we got the original concept from. If you can see that the art has completely changed. It was from the back of a doujin by a guy called RAITA and he did Valkyria Chronicles and there was another one? Maybe I’m just imagining things. But he kind of got his Tall, long, slender kind of picture and we don’t, but this is the thing that started it all and I think it was released in 1990…
Audience member: About that, yeah.
Crud: Which is just insane when you think about it, since it’s twenty years later and we’re still talking about it, and actually doing something about it.
Do you want to go over that? I mean we covered this before. Anything interesting there?
Suriko: Not really.
Crud: Not really?
Suriko: We covered Act 1.
Crud: Okay, let me change over here.
Suriko: Yeah, so, Act 1 seems to be what a lot of you have played, which is good because that was the first public release. There was an alpha leak long ago called Grid 1+, probably most people played that, and it shows that… That’s from the time that we really did not know what we were doing. We have never done anything like this before, ever. None of us have written a book, or a magazine, or any of that. We’re all completely new to this. Writing, game making, everything, and we sucked. Really badly.
Crud: Haha, yeah.
Suriko: There’s a lot of stuff that no one will ever see because it sucks so bad. Act 1 is the first thing that we thought was publicly releasable and it turned out that the reaction to that was way beyond what any of us thought would happen. Absolutely no one thought that is was going to be as popular as it was…
Crud: I think Delta once said about three or four months before we released Act 1 and I was kinda getting geared up - I was making sure the distro channels are all fine as I used to do a lot of fansubbing and thought that I’ve got to make sure there are enough ways to get it out to all the people and torrents - and he said “who cares, only 50 people are going to download it.”
Audience: Famous last words.
Crud: Yeah, famous last words. I think last time we checked it’s at about 400,000 or something?
Suriko: Yeah, it’s about 400,000 from the website. I think Fakku had about 250,000 when I checked, and that’s not including torrents.
Crud: Yeah, that’s not including torrents.
Suriko: It’s been very popular, which was surprising.
Crud: And it’s not here on disks. I screwed up and left them back in Sydney, so… sorry.
Suriko: Next slide.
Crud: Next slide.
Suriko: Okay, that’s the flow from Act 1.
Crud: That’s not all of it… that’s the flow…
Suriko: Yeah, part of the flow.
Crud: That’s the flow between Act 1 scene 19 and you’ve got Act 1 scene 24, so that’s five scenes with the flow.
Suriko: That’s kinda… and this is why the actual paths after Act 1 they are nothing like Act 1, ‘cause it would kill us to write any more.
Suriko: 600,000 words of that would turn anyone insane.
Crud: It has.
Suriko: That’s what the endgame looks like.
Crud: Oh look, you got animations in there.
Suriko: Next. Its currently in development… there’s no true main heroine. All the heroines are equal there’s no “you have to do this character to see the true end,” or whatever.
There will be adult content. You will have sex with them, which has been a good thing and a bad thing… I don’t think any of us like writing sex scenes.
Suriko: No one likes drawing them.
Audience member: Can you kind of like, die?
Crud: I think we had that a couple of times. I had one scene that got deleted where it went that he did die. He was trying… I think it was almost a rape scene, like he wanted to go in and kind of almost rape her, and because of that I thought that, well, fair enough if that’s the sort of path you’re going to take, then you die.
Suriko: It’s not in the game anymore.
Crud: It’s not in the game anymore. To kind of quantify how much stuff gets deleted, I was looking at my forum the other day where I post just for writing, and it goes there’s 470 posts in there for 33 scenes. So 470 drafts, draft posts to make 30 scenes, so there’s a lot of stuff that we cut out.
Suriko: Haha, yeah, there’s a few stories we could tell about this.
All the staff… we have plenty of staff from all over the world. We mentioned Finland, there are people in Britain, America, Canada, Indonesia, Italy, Germany… we’re from everywhere, and that makes organization between us really important so we all hang out in out IRC, which is just a chat protocol, and we are there every day… well, almost every day.
Suriko: Well, most of us are there every day. Devs try to be there as often as possible and after all those years… it’s been about four years of development I think now?
Suriko: Three or four years. And that’s IRC and everyone being in contact with one another. That’s the only thing that has held us together - we all know each other, we all listen to each other, some of us are friends, some of us… aren’t.
Crud: yeah, not so much…
Suriko: Not friends. Delta and A22 especially.
Suriko: They’re like a cat and a dog, we just try and keep them separate. Yeah…
Suriko: I mean, when you have any large development team, free or professional, you’re going to get people that don’t like each other. It’s just a matter of dealing with it.
Practice… we all practice constantly and one of the main things that we look at when we talk to each other and when we’re critiquing each other’s work is we’re absolutely as harsh anything. We don’t pull punches, if there’s something that has a minor problem we will yell about it, shout about it from the rooftops, we will make them know that there’s even a very small problem. And it’s a good thing, in that we have a lot more quality in our work than we started with, but it also means we are a lot more likely to scrap even good stuff, so it’s a balancing act.
Suriko: That’s where all the developers come from, all over the world. And timezones, as you can see, timezones are really horrible. I hate timezones, they are the worst thing.
Crud: When we were sort of discussing the idea for this we threw out the thought that why don’t we get two laptops, one will do the prezzo, and the other one we will have a Skype channel, and get the other devs in and for a while it was like “Yeah that will be great” and then I think about two weeks ago Aura went up and said that the panel’s going to be at 12:00 noon Australian time and I went “That’s great… That’s like 2:00am in London and 4:00am in Germany” and all this other stuff and they said “Yeah, screw that” so nobody else is phoning in from satellite today.
Suriko: Five writers one for each path, we talked about that pretty thoroughly… We made scenarios, a plan for each path, before we started writing and generally had the story for each character; a beginning, middle, and end, and we completely ignored that plan. And thank god we did, because those plans were awful.
Crud: They were shocking.
Suriko: And then we decided to rewrite the paths completely, we made another plan, stayed close to that one and it turned out pretty well. So don’t, if you’re writing anything and you’re planning it, don’t be afraid to deviate your path from your plans, because sometimes plans can be bad. Really bad. We’ve got six artists…
Crud: I thought it was seven… well, a lot.
Suriko: A lot of artists.
Crud: More than you can count on one hand, so there’s a lot of artists.
Suriko: We have one artist per heroine, and we’ve had a lot of artists come and go, and throughout development the art has been probably been… would you say it was the worst thing to try and coordinate?
Suriko: Yeah, ‘cause, it’s just… art is absolutely vital.
Crud: Is there anyone out there that does art in here? And no, we’re not going to try and hire you, because we did that before. But it takes kind of a long time to draw something in your own style and then if you try and combine six people’s styles to one thing you end up with your sprite set, and it’s very difficult to kind of do that. Artists are generally reclusive as well, they don’t type, it’s easy for a writer to just sit down there and type for five to six hours each night because that’s what we do, but with the artists, they just wave the pen around, basically, and make beautiful art. They’re not very social with us, and initially it was really hard to get the artists to listen or talk to us, and even still I only talk to Weee my artist for Hanako.
Suriko: Most of the communication between the artists and writers, it’s mostly between the path writer and the artist of that path. I talk with Raide (rai-de) most of the time… I don’t actually know how to say his name…
Crud: I just say Raide (raid).
Suriko: Yeah, something like that. And each path writer talks to their artist a lot to try and coordinate what we want the art to look like, and when the artists give ideas for the paths we try to incorporate those, but trying to get artists to speak was usually pretty hard.
Crud: But there is a lot of art assets like I think that each character has got about 90 or something sprites? Maybe not that many, but a lot of sprites, so each character needs each outfit, each facial expression, and each pose needs a new picture so each artist ends up with a bucket load of these pictures.
Suriko: Basically, none of the artists like doing sprites, because they’re not standalone art. They only work in the context of the game, and not only that but you need… I think most characters have about at least two dozen expressions, and then after the expressions there will be about three poses which requiring the entire sprite to be redrawn, then for each of those poses and each of those expressions there’s an outfit and about three outfits per character usually, and they require drawing from scratch, and that takes months and months and months.
Crud: Then welll change our mind and suddenly put in a scene like “Ah yeah we just want to have ‘em in pyjamas for this one scene is that cool?” and the artist will just go “…no.”
Suriko: In a lot of ways we whip them really hard and we’re kind of lucky they put up with us sometimes.
Crud: Yeah. Sorry. To them on the phone. So then on the next slide.
Suriko: Yeah, so, to show some of the art process. this is from Raide.
This is a concept sketch, so we’re sorting out what we want the viewpoint to be for this CG, I’ve described to Raide what happens, he’s gone onto his tablet and whips up a few sketches for ideas
[Note: Next slide]
So we’ve settled on a viewpoint, so we try and figure out details of the character’s designs, we see how the characters are posed, lighting, colouring, that kind of thing, and also the character’s positioning in the CG. We’ve now got the characters finalized in terms of designs, and we’ve got all of the different poses so they’re not going to change. This is what we call being lined, so the outlines are drawn, they’re not going to change.
[Note: Next slide]
And this is the end result with colours, and lighting, and background drawn, and this is basically the end result.
Suriko: These are the sprite concept images to try and work out the details of the character’s designs. Raide actually came onto the scene a bit later after we got our current batch of artists.
Actually, for a bit of background, we started out with one artist. He left! That was not a nice period.
Crud: Haha, yeah. I think it was about six months between when we had Ke^4 who used to be our artist and he made some great stuff and then after he left, because he said we weren’t giving him enough feedback, so he left and for six months we were without an artist and we were looking into different options for backgrounds like photos or a sort of Narcissu sort of thing, and do that and then we got four… four of the artists: Weee, Ambi, Moekki, and Kamifish. They all kind of came in at the same time to save our ass.
Suriko: Yeah. When they came on the forum we were panicking and were like “Oh Jesus Christ we’ve got no art.”And during that time we had no artists, we wrote. And that was probably a bad decision because we wrote a lot, and by the time our current batch of artists came in and saved us and the project, we had a whole lot of stuff done for the writing and we had this huge amount of art we needed and we hadn’t thought at all about the kind of limits to what a person could draw so we completely screwed it up and the artists right now are saving us from that. So were very lucky. By rights this project should have failed but we managed it.
Okay so a bit further, the expressions, we’ve got colours, we’ve got lines, it’s pretty much a finalized design. The stockings changed colour but that’s about it. Next… and we got the different poses, and different expressions, and there are also different outfits.
Audience member: Lilly clones!
Crud: Yeah, Lilly clones.
Audience member: It’s a part of the feminist conspiracy.
Crud: The game should have been just five Lillys. Would have been awesome.
Suriko: Lilly Shoujo would have been a good game.
Audience member: And save the artists.
Suriko: Delta does all out programming.
Crud: Delta asked us to do a specific shout out to the guys at Ren’Py and say quite specifically that 6.11 is awesome and we will be changing to it as soon as we can. So thanks, Delta, for putting in all the hard work and moving us over to 6.11.
Suriko: For a bit of context, Katawa Shoujo runs on the Ren’Py (ren-pi) visual novel engine. So what Ren’Py does is you can put in your art, your text, Ren’Py will make it into a visual novel.
Crud: I think its Ren’Py (ren-pie).
Suriko: Ren’Py (ren-pie)?
Crud: You know, like it’s renai and python together.
Suriko: Okay. And the problem is, Ren’Py makes it easy to make a very, very basic visual novel. I mean anyone can do it in a couple of hours. I did do it myself, it’s really easy. But to make a good looking visual novel takes years and years of bashing the engine into submission… and then it all breaks again when a new version comes out.
Suriko: Delta loves this. He loves Ren’Py because he enjoys fixing the game after every new version of Ren’Py comes out every new month.
Audience member: Are there any other engines that are focused on higher-end visual novels?
Crud: You find a lot of Japanese games are written in when you talk about our level as opposed to the really high professional levels is ONScripter. I think it’s a better engine, but since it’s in Japanese, so that’s probably ass backwards.
Suriko: ONScripter is fairly old now, and the documentation for it is, as far as I’m aware, completely in Japanese. So it makes it a bit of a problem to try and… It’s easy enough to plug your own text into almost any engine, but when you want to make special effects, animation, your own special menus, you’re going to need to program and Ren’Py in terms of English documentation for visual novels is the best, as far as being able to extend it goes. They are also things like Novelty, Blade… I think there’s Novelstream as well?
Crud: Novelstream is a new one that’s kind of an online one. I couldn’t really seem to get into it.
Suriko: There’s a lot of choice and you can use all of those, but they’re a lot harder than Ren’Py to modify for your own purpose. Plus, when Katawa Shoujo was made years and years ago there was only really Ren’Py to choose from.
If you ever want to do anything like make a game or something, do it, it’s fun. It’s really fun. We’ve had a lot of…
Crud: We’ve had a lot of fun, just don’t do it this way.
Suriko: Sometimes it sucked, and we’ve all wished we’d quit at various times.
Crud: And have.
Suriko: Yes, some of us have temporarily quit.
Crud: I quit and came back.
Audience member: And we’ve all very grateful for that.
Crud: What, that I quit? (laughs)
Audience member: That you came back!
Suriko: But yeah, it’s a lot of fun. It is an incredible amount of fun, and nothing compares to it. But, yeah, probably take everything we’ve done but don’t do it our way. We did it wrong and by rights Katawa Shoujo should be dead, buried and have faded into nothing. Also, yeah, just… create. It’s fun.
Suriko: Alright, I had a release date on here. Aura said to take it off. So… I think he might not kill me if I say we’re hoping to release late this year or in 2011. I don’t think he will kill me for that. If not, Aura, I’m sorry for saying that.
Crud: Yeah, I think we finished the, er, Delta finished the direction for Act 2 a couple of weeks ago? So that’s as close to almost putting a sticker on that. And we’re not going to be releasing Act 2 separately so… too bad, sorry, it just gets too difficult to do that. Act 1 worked as a package because it was kinda the introduction to everyone, this is how you get in, this is how you spread to each path.
Suriko: Act 1 was more or less a self-contained story.
Crud: The other sort of acts don’t make sense if you sort of release each act, so it will be one in big hit. But it’s looking like it may actually happen before we all die.
Suriko: Which no one is more glad about that than us.
Crud: Trust me I want to put this to bed, I want to go on to something else. I kinda said to myself a while ago “I got a couple of ideas for things I want to do but let’s not do those until KS is out let’s focus on that.”
Suriko: There’s a certain amount of cabin fever. I mean, we’ve worked with twenty other people for three or four years, online, free, volunteering, and after a while you pick up on really minor things about people and they become big and after a while it’s just cabin fever. It’s… I don’t want to lose contact with everyone, I have friends in the dev team, eventually you’ve just got to move on.
Crud: It’ll be good to kinda look back and say “How awesome was that?” There was a kind of honeymoon period after Act 1 where it was like “Yay, how awesome are we? Everyone loves us now!” And now we all hate each other’s guts again.
Suriko: leading up to the time before Act 1 was released, we were always getting at each other’s throats, morale was low and we thought, I mean back then, that the only people who cared were a few dozen people on 4Chan. Then we released Act 1 and… that didn’t happen. There were a lot more people that liked it and everyone was really happy about that. We were overjoyed, and that gave us a huge morale boost. But it’s wearing thin now, and that’s why we want to get this finished.
Crud: Yeah. (laughs)
Suriko: And I’m sure everyone wants to see the full game as well. Hopefully. I hope.
Crud: Is there any questions before we get kicked out?
[Note: Many hands go up]
Crud: Oh shit…
Okay you two have been kinda vocal, and I’ll get to you in the back next ‘cause that’s unfair.
Audience member: What is Misha’s disability?
Suriko: It’s a mystery.
Crud: It was a mystery. For a while she wasn’t…
Audience member: I thought it was her laugh.
Crud: We originally just had her there to be an interpreter and I threw the character together I just threw some character traits together had about three or four sketches and then she just appeared. And for a while I was saying why don’t we just make her gay and her parents go “Oh we can’t have that now in high class society so we’ll shove her in some school where no one will ever see her anymore”. So that was an early concept I had we’ve changed that now.
Suriko: Thankfully A22 has done his usual trick of taking a vaguely defined character and making them really cool. A22 is really good with side characters.
Crud: Yeah, he did both Kenji and Misha so he’s gotta to get ten points for those. And, yeah, I won’t tell you his final answer. I’ll go back there now…
Audience member: That was my question.
Crud: That was? Okay, does anyone have a question that isn’t “What’s her disability?” or “When is it going to come out?”
Audience member: I was curious… when I was reading the game and looking it up, and it was mentioned that Lilly was supposedly a Mary Sue…
Suriko, Crud: (nervous laugh)
Suriko: Okay, well, a bit of history about Lilly actually… I joined the very first forums when I first heard about the game, and I was crazy about Lilly back then. I actually quit back then because I didn’t think the game was going anywhere. This was before Crud showed up and did his awesome “make a dev team” thing. Then while I was gone, a new writer came in for Lilly.
Crud: And she got hit by a truck.
Crud: Literally, she got hit by a truck.
[Note: She’s okay now!]
Suriko: After that I ended up writing Lilly. So I rejoined when I saw that the project was moving, but in-between those periods, Lilly had no writer, so that was there for her was from the previous writer and you.
Crud: Because in that period where there was no writer for Lilly, Hanako and Lilly had already come together. So I had to go ahead with my story, but because they were so intertwined I kinda got stuck with a lot of it and the old writer wanted to have that Mary Sue character, you know, the rich girl that’s really good at everything, plays cello and does all that, so I just kind of followed that through but because she wasn’t my character I didn’t really care about her that much where her character was going.
Suriko: A good summary of her old character was “Onee-sama~.”
Crud: Haha yeah, pretty much. Oh yeah, the spinal stuff and all that weird shit. Anyway, she became a side character and I didn’t really care about the side character so we just filled in some gaps and to anyone who saw the Grid 1 stuff, half of it was stirfriedweasel, her old writer, and half of it was mine. I just filled in the gaps.
Suriko: So, pretty much, I scrapped everything and re-wrote her from the ground up.
Crud: She used to have a yellow dog. And drink a lot. Anyway, yeah?
Audience: Would you guys ever accept donations?
Suriko: No. This has actually come up a few times in the past. And by “a few times” I mean dozens and dozens of times in the past. Our general stance on this we don’t want money to become a part of this project. It’s more trouble than it’s worth, and any amount of money wouldn’t make a dent in the time we’ve all put into this.
Crud: Money would kill us.
Suriko: So what we’ve generally said in the past is: if you want to donate to us, to make a donation to a charity, especially a charity for the disabled. They can use it far better than us. So donate to a charity. Charities are great.
Crud: Over here?
Audience: What was the Japanese reaction to the game?
Suriko: It was actually…
Crud: It was okay…
Suriko: It was pretty positive. One thing to keep in mind is that the Japanese have, as you can imagine, hundreds of thousands of visual novels to choose from. And one thing that actually surprised us after we released Act 1 was the surprising amount of Japanese attention. It wasn’t huge, it wasn’t a great storm of attention, but it was kind of some surprise that foreigners can make visual novels too kind of reaction, and we were pretty heartened by that. It was good. And also, it was pretty cool to see the Japanese saying “translation where?”Because we were used to asking that so that was a great to see.
Crud: Over there, yep?
Audience: Will the team stay together after the game is released?
Crud: No, God no. I think we will stay together as friends, but the chances of us releasing something else with the same sized team will be probably impossible. I know a lot of us have got our own ideas.
Suriko: Yeah, I think a lot of us have our own ideas and we’re probably going to go off in different directions and we’ll probably make new stuff. But as a group of the 20 developers that made Katawa Shoujo, that’s probably not going to continue on after the game.
Crud: There are a lot of internal tensions and a bit of that cabin fever thing, and I know that if I had to consider working with a couple of them again I would tear my hair out, so no. I know that there are things I want to do and I know there are things everyone else wants to do and sometimes their ideas are kinda cool so it’ll be like “that’ll work for me so I’ll go and join that”.
Suriko: one thing I think every developer can agree on is that none of us want to write a high school romance set in Japan ever again. God.
Crud: Ever. Yeah. Sorry, that’s my fault as well, sorry, I really should have set it somewhere else, but damn am I over it.
Audience: Did you ever think of setting it outside of Japan?
Crud: No. We kind of half inherited this project and its preconceptions. That sort of crock pot of ideas that most of the people were contributing to already had that kind of Shuffle, that kind of, all that kind of high school romance in mind.
Audience: Were there any thoughts of changing KS’s high school concept?
Crud: No. there wasn’t. When we separated the dev team from that forum we just kind of just took that idea as a given.
Suriko: A lot of the early ideas and the early brainstorming were based around “Let’s make a visual novel, it will be really cool!” and nobody really thought to hard about a unique setting, or unique characters… it was very much about a by-the-numbers game with very normal anime tropes.
Crud: I feel kinda guilty. When people said “let’s make the game unique,” I said “it’s unique enough, they’re all disabled” and that was that.
Suriko: Yeah. A lot of early thoughts were “Everyone’s disabled that’s our gimmick the rest can be completely generic” and we can’t change that anymore.
Audience: Would you guys ever consider taking on beta testers?
Crud: We actually did take on beta testers, but most of the beta testers were kinda like long term IRC users cause when you talk to someone and they say “Hey you want me to be a beta tester?” you kinda got no trust in them, whereas if its someone who has been on the IRC channel for a couple of years you kinda go “Oh yeah I know this person,” or they’ve heard our discussions in sort of public and you go “yeah okay, I know who you are, I trust you enough to give you the demo”. Can you imagine if we gave one of you guys here a disk and said “Here you go that’s our current version, keep it to yourself.” It’s probably not going to go down so well as people are just going to want to spread that. And I know there is a lot of trust in that “Oh I’m a beta tester I’ll follow you sir,”type of thing but we’re…
Suriko: We’re paranoid.
Crud: We’re paranoid.
Suriko: We’ve put in three to four years… we’re paranoid.
Crud: And to sort of watch that go down in smoke because someone did a Grid 1 to us would be pretty disappointing.
Suriko: There are been a lot of people who have been around us for years and years since the project started, people like Konflikti, OscarGoldman, now VCR, people like that, Peorth… just shouting them out because I know they’ll hear this. And they’ve been hanging around us for ages doing fan-art and helping mould the game even though they’re not developers, and those kind of people…
Crud: Because we trust them. If any of you out there want to get into beta testing when we get into that in six or seven months. Best thing to do is get on the IRC channel, talk to us, become friends and then we’ll go “Oh shit were looking for beta testers,” because it’s probably going to take at least three months to beta test all of this.
Suriko: yeah probably your best bet would be to go onto IRC. Though if you do, you will have to withstand the rage of Delta and Climatic, and they can be fairly traumatic.
Crud: And my own ramblings. I come in sometimes, I don’t even care what you’re talking about, I just talk about my own shit ‘cause, fuck it, why not.
Suriko: Anyway, yep?
Audience: Where are the disks?
Suriko: The disks…
Crud: The disks are in a tray about yea big where I kind of put them in the print machine went “there you go” and printed those off, went down, someone goes “hey let’s have a beer after work,” I went “Hey cool, beer after work!”and went home, and caught a plane. So they’re probably still sitting in the out tray of the printing machine. Sorry, apologies, I know I did say I’d bring them. Maybe afterwards I can give them out to you. Give me a mail address and I can post it to you.
Audience: Will there be more crazy Kenji antics?
Audience: How do you deal with separating KS in like your free time and your work life?
Crud: We don’t. That’s why I quit. I kinda got a bigger workload than I expected… when I first started this I was a freelancer, and because I was a freelancer I set my own hours and did whatever I want and could take days off when I wanted to write. I took three days off to go write Hanako one day, and I wrote 10,000 words when I finished the first draft of the path.
So six scenes, I just bashed through it all in one day. How I do it now is I basically just have an hour each day, I can go into IRC, say hi to everyone, check the forums and go. I subscribed to a lot of the forums now and get them sent straight to my phone so if I’m at work I can go “Hey someone said this about that.” So yeah, I don’t think you really can, and that’s one of the big grinds about this is that the project requires a lot of work and yet I still got to do a job, I have to, you know, do my other stuff.
Suriko: It’s pretty much the same for me. I’ve got my job, and I’ve actually gone through a couple of jobs and education while working on the game, I mean, it’s just the fact that, I’d say by far the majority of my free time is spent on Katawa Shoujo, it is a huge personal investment.
In terms of size it’s the size of a fairly large commercial visual novel, the type where a company would be working on it for years. It’s just unavoidable that it will take up a massive amount of free time, and even during work hours I’m thinking about Katawa Shoujo. Throughout my work hours I will be thinking what I to weite… the game just becomes a part of your life.
Crud: I would probably say that about a third of the scenes that are in the current Hanako path were written whilst I was at work. I know I shouldn’t be saying that but that was before I got my current job. Yeah it was like “now I got a bit of downtime what should do?” and instead of lunch, I’ll have a sandwich while typing up a scene or some path notes.
Suriko: Katawa Shoujo just gets into all your free time, and your free thinking time, it permeates everything you can think of, and that’s part of the reason why after all these years a lot of the developers are basically just burning out. We’re slowing down, and I don’t think it could only survive a couple more years.
Crud: It would kill us if we weren’t almost ready in six months. Okay, one last one, does anyone got one last one or have we completely cleared you all out?
Suriko: Looks like we're good.
Crud: Alright, that’s awesome. Thank you all for rolling up!