“You’re joking, right?” was my response to Kouryuu when he asked me to write a “5-year” post as I was confronted with a sense of surprise and confusion at his request. For starters, I have only been with MangaGamer for a little over three years, starting back in 2010, riding the adrenaline high after being picked up from NNL and their release of ef – a fairy tale of the two. Back then, MangaGamer had begun a large effort to improve the quality of their releases, which meant a significant increase in quality control and beta testing. Having beta-tested ef to the point of memorization, I and numerous others from NNL were offered to partake in the first game in this beta-testing effort, Da Capo Innocent Finale.
To say that there was a rough start would be an understatement. Early testing was plagued with multiple problems such as the complete lack of scripts for testers, no defined format to reports, and an avalanche of overused commas. The game itself was fairly standard for a visual novel, with excessively mopey or cheesy moments here and there, and MangaGamer’s first beta test ended with little cause for concern. In the years since then, I have been able to beta test or otherwise contribute to over sixteen titles in MangaGamer’s library. Some games were an absolute blast to be a part of, like Dengeki Stryker, Koihime Musou, and Kara no Shoujo. Some games, such as Magical Teacher, were less exciting if not outright mind-numbing to complete.
Half the fun of working for MangaGamer isn’t what you do, but who you work with. One of the driving reasons why I continued working for MangaGamer is that the people I work with, Kouryuu, Café, Doddler, DS55, all of them, have developed into an entertaining and close knit community over the past few years. One of the more interesting things I found was how various people from the visual novel scene found their way around here. For one, I never expected Evospace of TYPE-MOON and Beast’s Lair fame to be my boss. Nor did I expect to be reading Tick-Tack translated by DS55, who I originally heard about as he was translating Tick-Tack for fan translation groups back in 2006. The addition of Tim and Ocharenja and the departure of Sloanereinja in editing has been marked with an interesting and bumpy period of adaptation as testers and translators, new and old alike, become acquainted with each other and their duties. Also with the advent of the Doddler, our entire programming “team” within one man, we’ve been able to dramatically increase the number of titles in progress at any given point in time. He has made great strides in simplifying and streamlining the work flow for all of us, and I’ve been really looking forward to beta testing one of the games that uses the new engine he’s been working on for the past year or so, as there are specific tools built in to make all of our collective lives easier. The staff room has been ripe with both casual banter from the translators as they spewed various lines from their current assignments to more interesting topics, such as advanced notice of upcoming licenses and acquisitions.
However, I don’t mean to paint all of these experiences as a picture of roses and sunshine. There are a few parts of the experience that have left a less than happy mark on my mind. For starters, with the constant influx of eroge to work on and having beta tested so many of them, I have simply stopped reading visual novels outside of work. The ero in eroge has lost its allure, and I often found myself pointing out anatomical or cosmetic inaccuracies in an ero-scene rather than enjoying it for what it was. At the same time, the amount of control and change one can propose at the position of a beta tester is very limited. It is frustrating to see errors and bugs pop up in games I have worked on, such as the infamous “Anti-Toutaku Alliance” mistake of Koihime Musou (I swear, I only asked for it to be replaced once!). It is enjoyable to see people praise and suggest games you have worked on one minute and defeating to see the community tear apart another title the next.
Having stuck around for so long, I’ve even gotten the opportunity to operate a booth and panel for MangaGamer at anime conventions. MangaGamer has made a push for additional convention attendance to better market their games and distribute hardcopies of their titles in recent years, and I had the pleasure of running the booth at A-Kon 2013. With my last convention of any sort attended being in 2005, I found A-Kon to be a massive storm of excitement, stress, and amusement. It was amusing to see so many people who would ask how to start beta-testing at MangaGamer and think that they would only work on the long story games, like Shuffle or Da Capo 2. It was also amusing to find people drawn to my booth purely due to the large and suggestive wall scrolls I had on display, unaware of what MangaGamer was or what we even did as a company. At least for me, the experience was enjoyable enough to repeat again for A-Kon 2014 this year, registration and details pending.
I believe that MangaGamer is growing, alarmingly fast in some ways and dreadfully slow in others. One of the better points is that MangaGamer is now acquiring and slated to release more titles each year. Less appealing to me would be the variety of games I get to work on. These past few years have been filled with excitement as I got to experience the changes and advancements from within the company rather than as a consumer on the outside, and it has been a pleasure working with Kouryuu, Sloanereinja, evospace, and all of the others during this time. As I draw my personal ramblings to a close, I will implore you to give MangaGamer and our games a chance. We’ve worked hard over the past five years to build up from a shaky start, and it is through your attention as a fan that we are able to continue as a company within this niche of a niche of a niche community.
It’s been one hell of a wild ride so far, and it ain’t over yet.