The Little Guy

The Little Guy
Doujin A Go Go, Baby!

John Szczepaniak | 9 May 2006 12:02
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The flurry of names and games that Mr. Roni fires off is impressive, though at times tricky to follow, due to this being such a rapidly shifting movement. Everyone has their preferences, and with some titles gaining limited exposure, only occasionally do followers have precisely the same interests. Last year, thanks to the kind assistance of Japanese translator Andrew "Shih Tzu" Davis, I was fortunate enough to speak to three established figures whom I personally regard highly. One was the aforementioned Omega, a university student and self-proclaimed fan of mecha. He's the mind behind titles like the popular, genre-defying Every Extend, and pastel colored shmup DanDaDan. Both of which are free to download, and highly innovative in what they do. These titles are like a reinvention of older ideas; not surprising when you hear his views. "I don't like modern styled games so much. These games use so much '3-D graphics' - but they don't make games any easier to watch. They often have a 'growth system' - but that needs memory cards and isn't easily playable. They also have so many buttons and complex interfaces - but that only makes it more difficult, not more interesting to play! I spend much time making visuals that are easy on the eye, an easy system to understand, and an easy control interface to use. I believe that 'a nice game is easy to play, but hard to master.'"

Omega raises an interesting point regarding genres for doujin soft. There are flirting/dating games, and also a lot of "ero-ge," or hentai titles. Otherwise there is heavy emphasis on 2-D fighters, shmups and traditional RPGs; mainly 2-D genres, which are no longer well-represented by mainstream developers. These are also more viable for small teams to develop.

Omega's words are echoed by industry insider Hikoza, a doujin superstar since his 2003 release of the elegant Warning Forever. "As one who works on modern games for a living, I see a climate that doesn't deem games sales-worthy without gorgeous graphics, epic stories, and tons of characters, and I think there is too much time and money spent on parts of the game that have nothing to do with the amount of fun. The next generation of consoles [makes] the programming even more complex, with network play increasingly [common]. I'm worried that game developers will be spending too much energy on things aside from making the games fun, and that we'll wind up with fewer and fewer fun games overall. No matter how many people worldwide you can fight in real-time, no matter how pristinely the characters show up onscreen, a dull game is a dull game, and I wish we would spend more time and energy on just making sure the games are fun."

Hikoza's reason for making games outside of work is having control over the entire project and making the games he wants to make. He's created several titles, but Warning Forever's beautiful simplicity proves a point. It contains only a single green wireframe boss which evolves, based on simple algorithms, allowing further appendage growth. People quickly fell in love with its unique aesthetic and masked level of depth. "The fun of making games, for me, is seeing how much playability I can get out of the least amount of data creation. I've received countless messages from people throughout the world. I'd assumed that a classical 2-D game wouldn't find reception outside of Japan, but I was happy to be proved wrong by those who've enjoyed it."

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