So it’s been a few weeks since Tick Tack has come out now, the game has been doing reasonably well. It might not be obvious to those playing the game (I hope it’s not!), but unlike recent titles we’ve released recently, Tick Tack was actually ported to a new game engine. I wanted to talk a little bit about why this happened, and my experience in porting the game. Also check out the end of the post for the game guide/walkthrough.
There’s a variety of reasons why porting a game to a new game engine may be necessary. The usual culprit are from problems in the original game engine, often resulting from the processing of language. Games written for the Japanese market often use features or functionality that don’t work on systems without Unicode or Asian language support, and our customers expect a working product out of the box. Fixing these issues can be problematic, companies in this market are often very short on manpower and contract out a lot of the required work, so are unable to dedicate resources to fix these issues. It’s possible even that they license the game engine from another company and have no direct control over the code itself. We’ve even encountered instances where licensing fees for the game engine alone are too high to release a product.
Whatever the case, the solution is often to rewrite the game from scratch, porting the game to a new game engine that will meet the needs of English market users. Mangagamer has actually done this several times in the past, with Kara no Shoujo, the Da Capo series, Suika, and the Higurashi games. While I’ve been involved in helping bring several titles to release for Mangagamer, Tick Tack represents a first time where I was required to perform a complete port of the original game.
Building a complete product from the ground up is quite unlike anything I’ve done before. You have all the pieces of a working game laid out in front of you, and a huge stack of sketchy directions on how to fit all the pieces together. The trick is the directions don’t necessarily work on the engine you’re porting to, and require a lot of elbow grease to get it to work the way you’d expect it to.
The engine we used is called Kirikiri (or krkr for short), an open source freely available visual novel game engine. The engine is used in a lot of commercial titles, ranging from the softhouse seal titles we release, all the way up to big players like Fate Stay/Night. It’s one of the go-to engines for it’s robust capabilities and flexibility.
Bringing Tick Tack over to the Kirikiri engine was a fairly complex task. First, the in game interfaces and systems were coded by hand, attempting to keep everything as close as possible to the original game. This means every little thing, to the positioning and ordering of the characters, the behavior and timing of screen transitions, how buttons and the user interface react to the player, etc. Once all the facilities are in place, the original game scripts can be run through a converter that we built to re-write the script into KAG compatible commands. The scripts are then manually touched up to fix small problems that occur. When everything works, the game runs indistinguishably from the original.
Porting a game does offer some unique advantages. While the majority of the work is done to ensure the game plays as close to the original as possible, it does let us actually improve on some aspects that felt rough in the original. Of course we didn’t make any changes to the core gameplay, but work was put into making the user interface and menus flow a little nicer, using transitions and fades where elements would normally just instantly pop-in and pop-out. Small tweaks were made all around. The only other somewhat interesting change is I’ve modified the pre-requisites to unlocking the Bust Gallery (a character paper-doll viewer) down from 100% completion to only requiring one complete playthrough, and simply hiding the characters you shouldn’t yet see. Building the screen took some time and it would be a shame if only a few people could mess around with it!
In the end, I think the final result was good, it looks and feels like a solid product. I hope everyone that’s played it has enjoyed the work we put into bringing it to you guys!
While working on Tick? Tack!, I required a way to verify that I was putting in all the route and scene requirements in the right order, so I created a guide for me and our play-testers to reference. Below is a download link for those that want to take a look at it. If you are only interested in a 100% clear walk-through rather than a guide, I’ve translated one of the Japanese walkthroughs for the game as well.
Don’t forget to grab the Tick Tack Patch 1.11 if you haven’t already!