A Short Look Back, Part 7

Mascots

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. ย 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.

uhu~

The true horror of this screenshot is the typo.

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.

Waha~

This scene in Greatest Inventions was the single greatest non pornographic H-scene ever.

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.

'Really? Really!' in the Unity editor.

‘Really? Really!’ in the Unity editor.

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,ย 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.

Koharu Panties are the Best Panties

Why panties? Why NOT panties?

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. ๐Ÿ™‚

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!

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28 Comments

  1. Your work is much appreciated, keep it up! ๐Ÿ˜›

  2. That was a fantastic post. Thank you! I really enjoy the blog posts you’ve written. I’m glad MangaGamer is employing you to bring a wider range of titles out. I’m looking forward to D2b vs Deardrops and Da Capo III. Good luck with Imouto Paradise – the most important thing you’ll do for humanity. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Has someone proof read this, there’s some good errors in there! :p
    Seriously though, good job man. You make these games actually playable! Looking forward to D2b vs DearDrops, or at least I will be when I can actually purchase it (and I don’t mean when you release it. Damned region locking!). ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Hi! I was wondering, if you are porting the next Shuffle game, โ€˜Really? Really!โ€™ in Unity, wouldn’t a Mac or Linux version or any of the supported platforms in Unity be doable as well, since Unity is multi-platform? What challenges is MG facing that multi-system games are not a reality yet? thanks!

    • Doddler would be able to provide more details about the programming issues related to multi-platform releases using Unity, but another issue we didn’t quite expect to run into would be figuring out how to handle actually making all three versions available on our website to customers who buy the game. We don’t want people to have to buy specific versions since that would be a silly and a confusing hassle, but that also means we have to check our back-end and see what we can do to make things work.

  5. Keep this guy happy and healty! Every title he isn’t been involved and relies on scripting by the original japanese companies seems to be delayed for years. Not to mention his side works on Yumina, Grisaia, etc.
    BTW, why is Higurashi on the list of titles to port? It’s already finished and available to buy, isn’t it? Why does a retranslation make report necessary?!
    Ah and thanks for Tick Tack, I loved that one. Looking forward to Really? Really! :-).

    • Well, since it’s a retranslation, every single line has to be reinserted. I don’t know who did this back in the day, but I can imagine that MangaGamer can’t rely on them anymore. They’re going to rely on Doddler for the reinsertion of the lines. And in order to make that easy for Doddler, it’s going to be re-ported.
      That’s what I think, anyway.
      The other explanation might be that they’re planning to add the minigames that were cut.

    • Higurashi is a bit of a complicated one. D2BvsDD is being ported because the license cost of the engine plus contracting scripting is prohibitively expensive for a game of that size (Chou Dengeki uses the same engine but it has a much higher budget). Higurashi is technically already a port, if I do the work on D2BvsDD properly it would be pretty easy to do Higurashi as well at the same time. Porting on Unity also opens a few neat options; Higurashi has been greenlit, and Unity gives us the possibility of supporting Steam’s three target platforms (Win/Mac/Linux). I’m still not sure how feasible multiplatform releases are, but I’m pushing for it~

    • Ah, license costs are a real pain, especially for voices *cough*SKM*cough*. But it surely makes sense to port a title if it’s cheaper than the license costs for the original engine.
      A multiplatform release is definitely a good thing if it can be done without too much extra effort. The competition on Linux and Mac isn’t as high as in Windows, so the title could get more attention there.
      Oh, and will the minigames Nurio mentioned be included in the re-port or would it be too much effort?

      • Well, the reason the minigames were left out was due to licensing problems. I suppose that if they didn’t do anything about that, then they won’t be able to port over the minigames this time either.

  6. Great job, man! Keep it up.
    ( is it bad a ship kouryuu and doddler together)

  7. That scene in Greatest Inventions was the worst thing to happen to me! So much great build-up, and then it doesn’t deliver! I was in tears, and my grandma had to console me for days afterwards!

  8. Nice and informative post, I had noticed quite a few of MG’s games were using kirikiri lately and it’s cool hearing how that came to be. Kudos to you Doddler and keep up the good work.

    Couple sidenotes:
    1) On the list of games to port the Deardrops FD is metioned but not Chou Dengeki Stryker.
    2) If RR sells well and considering everyone is asking for Essence +, I wonder if it would be possible to port the new content into either an expansion pack for the original Shuffle! or a standalone game…

  9. Most interesting part of this to me as a programmer is the usage of Unity as a port target. Have you guys considered releasing mobile versions of games (presumedly sans H-content) based on that? It would be pretty awesome, just saying. Would also make me as a windows phone guy pretty happy. =x

  10. Thanks for all the hard work Doddler! Waiting for Imouto Paradise! ๐Ÿ˜€

  11. What I want to know is why someone would use Unity instead of Ren’Py. Talk about reinventing the wheel! I can’t imagine how much effort you went through effectively writing a new engine from the ground up. Not to mention you’re just asking for a big pile of bugs.

    • That’s a good question. I actually started the port to Kirikiri in the same way I did with Tick Tack, and actually got a decent way in when I realized that there were features I’d need that weren’t present in the engine which would be very difficult to work around. I’m not certain if Ren’Py would have been a decent fit, I figured it would fall short in the same way Kirikiri did. I’m also a bit biased because I don’t really like working in Python, while being quite familiar with Unity and coding in c#. It was re-inventing the wheel, but it’s not dramatically more work than porting to an existing engine and trying to make existing features work the way you need them to. I have a good many ports to do, so starting with my own wheel may be better for me in the long run. I think people will be happy with the result.

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