With our fifth year anniversary coming to a close, we decided to take a moment to showcase some of the thoughts and feelings of the staff that have been a part of MangaGamer over the years. This one comes from our programmer Doddler, who’s busy working on all kinds of different games for us!
Has it really been five years already? It hardly seems that way. I’ve been on with Mangagamer as a part-time programmer for almost two of those years now, and that time has just flown by.
I started in some capacity with Mangagamer a few years back. Mangagamer had originally come to market as the only company releasing real games, ones that I’ve heard of before they were released to English, like Da Capo, Suika and Shuffle. The earlier releases had issues though, and since then MG has been constantly working on improving the quality of it’s releases. But even with English translation and editing staff, there was still a technical deficiency. All the programming work had to be done by Japanese staff, which made for long response times to address problems, and often meant there was no one to take care of issues post release.
That’s the point where I first started getting involved; I figured there was a hole that could use filling. I made a number of small unofficial patches for some of their old games, fixing some reported issues, changing unreadable fonts, slowly working my way to being useful in an official capacity.
After constant pestering of MG staff in the official IRC channel, I finally got involved officially as a playtester. The first job I did was to help prepare Koihime Musou for it’s hard copy and voice added re-release. Even though the game was on market for some time, there were still a large number of issues in the game that needed addressing (I’m looking at you, ‘Anti-Toutaku Alliance’). It turns out I’m not the fastest reader out there, and my editing skills aren’t the greatest, so it took an incredible amount of time to get everything ready, but I finished it and not too long after the update was released. It was a long time coming, but I’m glad we were able to put out an improved version.
My playtesting role lead to new opportunities though. I got approached asking if I’d be able to help work on games under a new license for MG, Softhouse Seal. Unlike Baseson and Overdrive’s games who had their own staff to handle the coding, Softhouse Seal had asked Mangagamer to handle the technical work, but there was no one immediately available to do the job. Since working on titles in a technical capacity is exactly where I wanted to be, of course I agreed.
The first game I got a chance to work on was a silly but entertaining number, Sexy Demon Transformation. The game, like all Softhouse Seal’s titles runs on an open source engine called Kirikiri (krkr for short). MG hooks me up with original game scripts, a set of files containing translated text, updated images with uncensored CG and translated UI, and told to go to town. I merge the translated text into the original script, update the images, and then make the necessary system and script changes necessary to have the game work properly in an English operating system. Everything then gets packaged up into a nice installer, tested by playtesters, and then goes onto the store.
More recently, MG has started getting the opportunity to license games where, due to various reasons, the game won’t run properly in English or with English text. A lot of visual novel companies use licensed game engines or their programmer(s) are busy on other projects, meaning we don’t always have the ability to update the games to work for us. Normally it would be impossible to bring these games over, but one thing I’ve been undertaking is porting games.
Porting a game involves taking all of the games art, scripts, and logic and rebuilding it in a new game engine. As you might imagine, it’s much more challenging than simply updating a game to work in English. It’s time consuming and challenging work, but the payoff is a working game that can be played by English users. In the past Mangagamer has had games ported through Overdrive to the BGI/Buriko game engine, but it’s expensive work and also has a hefty licensing fee that’s out of reach for the amount of sales we usually see for games.
So that’s where I come in. The first game I’ve ported was ‘Tick? Tack!’, a Shuffle sequel of sorts. I took the original game scripts and converted them through some scripting magic to a format that could be read on the krkr engine. With enough with work and a lot of custom code, the game was in a working order and ready for an English release. If I’ve done my job properly, anyone who’s played Tick Tack wouldn’t notice the fact that it wasn’t running on the original game system.
Porting games is quickly becoming a bigger part of my job. I’m currently working on a port for the next Shuffle game, ‘Really? Really!’. Unlike Tick Tack, this game wasn’t a good fit for using the krkr game engine, so in the end I’ve actually written my own using Unity. Really Really is nearing completion, and I’ll be talking about the process about writing a new visual novel game engine here on the blog in the near future. Once that’s done, I’ll be moving on to working on porting D2b vs Deardrops, Higurashi, Cartagra, Free Friends 1 & 2, Kara no Shoujo 2, and Da Capo III (probably in that order). That’s a lot of work! I’m happy though that I have the opportunity to work on these, because without this these games might never see a proper English release.
In the year and a half or so since I started working with Mangagamer I’ve been involved in 7 titles that have been released so far. There’s 15 announced titles that are in the pipeline that I’m working on, 7 of which will be ports. There’s even 4 other titles that haven’t even been announced! At this rate I’ll have to give up the day job. 🙂
It’s been a fun ride so far, and it looks like it’s going to bigger and better places each year. It’s really amazing to see how far it’s come in the 5 years since it began. Mangagamer launched 5 years ago with a very rough start, and it’s taken a lot of effort from people like Kouryuu and Evospace to turn the ship around. There’s still a lot more to go, but the ship is slowly turning in the right direction, and if we keep working at it, we can get it going to places we can only imagine now. Mangagamer has given me a real opportunity to do what I love doing, and hopefully you’ll give us the chance to keep doing so!