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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Interview: The duo building Australia's own Danganronpa (exclusive images, too!)


We have become immediate fans of Quantum Suicide after being made aware of it yesterday. It is in many ways a holy trinity for what we like to stand for at DDNet; it's indie creativity at work, it's a "Japanese game" and it's developed by Aussies!

As a visual novel heavily influenced by the likes of Danganronpa, our expectations of this one are sky-high, and judging from the Kickstarter response that it has enjoyed on its second attempt (the first fell slightly short of its goal), there are a lot of people out there that are of a similar mind to us.

So we decided to sit down and talk to to the two Aussies behind this particular visual novel; Tina Richards and Ashley Pearson. We had a good chat about their love of Japanese games, building visual novels, and everyone's favourite topic; fan service!

We also have a couple of exclusive game renders that you won't see anywhere else. Enjoy!


Exclusive: Bath environment render

Digitally Downloaded (DD): Congratulations on the positive response to the game so far! What do you think has driven the early hype for it?
Tina Richards (TR): The reason why we are doing so well is simply because of our previous backers (who we refer to as Quantumers). Not only have our Quantumers come back and supported us this time around, but they are also putting in the hard yards just as we are! We have Quantumers sharing links, creating original content and even suggesting outlets for increasing our exposure. Our success this far has been their hard work!

Ashley Pearson (AP): The early hype for Quantum Suicide has largely come from backers from our previous Kickstarter campaign. Unfortunately last time, we weren’t successful but thanks to that campaign we gained a lot of exposure that we really needed given that this is our first title and we are a new game dev company. I think, if anything, the second campaign has shown that we are dedicated to finishing this game regardless of the hurdles.

DD: What made you decide to do a Japanese-style game as an Australian studio?
TR: To put it simply, it's that we both enjoy the anime style of drawings as well as absolutely love Japan’s fascination with the Batsu Game (punishment game), such as Danganronpa and VLR, and so it seemed only fitting to give it a Japanese feel.

AP: Both Tina and I have studied Japanese, lived in Japan at some stage of our lives, and have a huge interest in Japanese language and culture. We decided to do a Japanese-style game as they are the types of games that we enjoy, and have also found a lack of them on the English speaking market. There is a great barrier for non-Japanese speakers that we wanted to help break down by making games like Quantum Suicide.

Exclusive: This is one creepy hallway

DD: Did you find it difficult to capture the Japanese sense of aesthetics, narrative theme and design as non-Japanese? How did you overcome this challenge?
TR: We just did the best we could. I’m not going to claim that I can speak for Japan as a whole, but I like to think that Japan and I are pretty good friends (I think… well, at least Facebook level of friendship), and so I am pretty sure I haven’t over stepped anywhere or offended anyone. At the end of the day, this is an Australian game that has a crush on Japan and that’s as far as it will ever be able to go.

AP: There will always be some sense of otherness when dealing with a culture that is not your own, but as above, we have a decent understanding of Japanese culture. Personally, I’ve lived there for a bit under two years (10 months at a time) so I feel confident about how I’m portraying Japanese sensibilities. In any case, Quantum Suicide takes place on a spaceship in the future, so even if some things aren’t quite right, they can be chalked down to ‘world-building’.

DD: Of the images I've seen, there are a couple of fan servicey ones. How much fan service can we expect to see in the game, and what inspired the decision to go down that creative path?
TR: Ahhh Fan service… I enjoy fan service, but it has to be just the right amount. If you go too far it’s smutty, and too little it’s prudish. I hope that we can use our choices of fan service to make some really interesting stories and some super awkward, funny, moments! To give you an idea, if your mother walks in when you are playing our game and sees the fan service, I am aiming for her response to be an ‘eye roll’ and an amused ‘of course they like the cartoon stuff’ comment, not for her to run out screaming and seeking therapy for you.

AP: There will be a minor amount of fan service, given that it is a romantic visual novel. We’ve actually commissioned more non-fan service scenes than fan service scenes, but given that we want the players to experience the more shocking images during gameplay, we haven’t released them outside of the demo and the upcoming prologue.

Fan service has become part and parcel of the anime/game experience, something to titillate and amuse. Rest assured, there will be enough serious images to balance out the fan service, but all courtable characters will have one or two images of them looking sexy at some point.



DD: How much player choice can we expect to see in this as a visual novel? Was it difficult to keep control over the narrative trees, when the game promises to be so long?
TR: The trees are out of control! You should see the mapping – we need either a tree surgeon or a specialist in orienteering! No but seriously, it’s easy to control a mess if you are slightly unhinged!. With six courtable options, each with good, bad and true endings and their sexual preferences to take into account, the narrative paths this game can take makes for some interesting stuff. But there is a real positive to so many trees! Not only does the player get more options, but it is like you get to make all the games you want in one! Want this to happen but it isn’t viable on an existing storyline? No problem, it’s now another branch!

AP: We don’t want the choices in Quantum Suicide to be minor ones that have little impact on the story or endings; we want the player to feel that their choices have consequences. And they will. Characters will literally die if you make the wrong choice. It was quite difficult to keep track of the narrative trees, but Tina is a whiz-kid at planning so she kind of takes care of it and I just smile and nod.

DD: What about the game is comparable to Danganronpa or 999? I noticed that you are deliberately drawing comparisons to those games but they are very philosophically dense. Does that mean we can expect to see the same from this one?
TR: Argh... philosophically dense? Such big words so early in the morning! The main similarities between Danagronpa and 999 would have to be the stories revolving around a punishment game system. As for puzzles, I would say that it falls in between the two – there is definitely more thought/planning required to make decisions than in Danganronpa, but I don’t think the puzzles are quite on par with 999. I wish they were and I aim for that, but puzzles aren’t the easiest thing to write for you know! As for the philosophy… I don’t really know. People will die, you will die, your loved ones will probably betray you and throw you out an airlock, but I’m not sure about it being dense. I’d say the opposite and that it’s pretty simple. People can be jerks when their backs are against the wall and they have little choice, but you always have a choice. You don’t have to be a jerk.

AP: Quantum Suicide is comparable to Danganronpa and the 999 series in that they are games that emphasize human relationships in the face of a desperate, closed circuit situation. So for example, despite participating in the Deletion Game, the crew still must live with each other and have built up bonds over many years of cohabitation. It’s not easy for them to go around and betray the people they grew up with, but that’s what happens when it is You VS Them; your mentality shifts. I don’t think that Quantum Suicide will be philosophically dense, but there will definitely be a certain amount of thinking involved. Quantum Suicide is a real scientific theory/ thought experiment, and we would like to adhere to that as closely as possible, so there will be times when the player is expected to think outside of their current understanding of reality to really get a sense of the whole narrative.



DD: As your first project as an Aussie indie developer, how have you found the process of getting up and running in this country? What has the development community been like?
TR:Australia is pretty awesome. We are both PhD students yet here we are creating our first project! You really can just do what you want! Yes we have both put in a fair amount of money, have made no money and are juggling our commitments, but I have never has so much fun in my life. We have met heaps of other Australian and international game devs through our Kickstarter campaigns and it’s just been awesome. It’s like a whole new family that doesn’t tell you daily you should have been a lawyer instead of making video games.

AP: Despite being Aussie creators, this project is actually much more of an international one. Our artists range from Brazillian, French, American, and Japanese, and we have been very fortunate in finding passionate people to work on this project. When we attended the Supanova Convention in Brisbane late last year, we got a chance to connect with some other developers who were very lovely and supportive of our efforts. In terms of getting a game up and running in Australia, to be honest, our biggest problem is the weakness of the Australian dollar. As most of our artists are being paid in USD, we’ve had to take our poor exchange rate into account when making the game.

DD: Given that this game is looking like a success, have you got plans for more?
TR: My plans are quite simple, an offshore account, a maid that I also pay to be my friend, and a mansion! Just kidding… or am I? but really, I have loved making this so far, and although the coding road has seen me throw a few tantrums, fixing the code is one of the greatest feelings on earth. Whether it be on the weekends, or becomes a full time job, I want to continue making video games for the rest of my life.

AP: Right now, we really just want to focus on getting this one done. Once Quantum Suicide is out and released, then we will have to reassess where we are at. This isn’t a paying job for either of us, it is being done purely in our spare time, while we’d love to do more, it really is a matter of whether we have the time/ energy/ money to do so in the future.



DD: How have you found the Kickstarter process, and what would you recommend to other developers looking to Kickstart a project?
TR: Creating the Kickstarter itself has been pretty simple. The Kickstarter crew have got so much information available to you that you really can’t ever be lost, and if you are, they are just an email away. Give yourself plenty of prep time and have your friends check it out before launch – you can send them a preview so you don’t launch a ‘less than ideal’ page and walk right into the den… OF THE INTERNET!

As for running the campaign… it’s exhausting! Thirty days of updates and social media posts and emails begging for coverage… the only thing that keeps me going is our comment section. Quantumers are so supportive, and importantly, hilarious! We have daily songs written by our own Quantumer song bird Teofilo, give aways by MrMonttu and just a general awesome community. If there is one thing you should do when doing a KickStarter its forming bonds with your backers; a day where you only get pledged $40 hurts less when you are in great company.

AP: I found the Kickstarter process simply by being a Kickstarter backer myself. I’ve backed around 10 projects, and enjoyed the process of supporting creation from the ground up. Money shouldn’t be a barrier to creativity. Prepare your Kickstarter page well. Get people to proof-read it. Don’t stake your sense of self on whether an idea is successful or not.

DD: Finally, what games are you playing at the moment?
TR: DOTA 2. I play a lot of DOTA 2. My brothers and I all live interstate with each other, so we usually play a few games a day together. A family who Dotes together are Totes together (I know, it was awful). Outside of DOTA 2, I’m currently dabbling into the new Harvest Moon game and Persona Dancing All Night, but my heart truly belongs to DOTA 2.

AP: I’m playing Possession Magenta on the PS Vita. It’s a Japanese game about love, murder and tarot cards. I want to date Touyama-kun a whole bunch. I also recently got hooked on CrossxBeats Revolution, a rhythm game machine that can only be found in Japanese arcade machines. I got to the point where I was looking up videos on YouTube and slowing them down to half-speed so I could practice the harder songs.


- Matt S. 
Editor-in-Chief
Find me on Twitter: @digitallydownld


Interview: The duo building Australia's own Danganronpa (exclusive images, too!)
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