Kickstarter Interview: The Megatokyo: Visual Novel Game rips characters from the comic and puts you in control
Back in 2000, the English webcomic Megatokyo came out on the internets, heavily inspired by Japanese Manga. Megatokyo tells the story of comic fan Piro and delusional gamer Largo, who fly to Japan, get stuck, don’t have the money to get back, and take up jobs to start a new life in a foreign land. While the entire webseries has been published in multiple editions through Dark Horse and CMX, you can still read all of them for free via Megatokyo.com.
Although Megatokyo was highly influenced by visual novels, the idea for making an actual visual novel game is recent for artist and creator Fred Gallagher. Video games offer dimensions impossible to reach via text, comic, or film. Players will be able to take the cast of the series and evolve the story in the way they want with different paths and different endings. While the project only started with Piro and Largo, through funding there's a total of seven characters now.
While those who have been following the game for thirteen years now will be satisfied to interact with the characters they know and love, the Megatokyo: Visual Novel Game will start from the beginning of the comic and introduce all the characters. This will allow those less familiar with the series to get a fresh start. If you’re a visual novel fan but not familiar with Megatokyo, check out the comic and get on this!
This brings me to my next point: The Megatokyo: Visual Novel Game is currently being funded via Kickstarter. Check out the official page, check out the comic, check out the funding video, and check out the interview below. If you like what you see, back it! Enjoy.
1. What exactly is the Megatokyo: Visual Novel Game?
The Megatokyo Visual Novel Game is a game based on my long-running webcomic Megatokyo. A Visual Novel is a form of interactive fiction with static graphics, background music, sound effects and a story with multiple paths and numerous possible endings. You play these games by clicking to advance the dialogue and graphics and making choices that cumulatively determine your story path. The game will be in three parts - the first part cover the content in the first three volumes of Megatokyo books, the second part covers the content in volumes 4, 5 and 6, while part 3 will be entirely new content with all the good, the bad, the neutral, the really bad and the awesome endings for the various story paths. :)
In Megatokyo, each of the characters has their own unique perspective on the world around them to the extent that the Tokyo Largo sees is vastly different from the one Piro sees. In the comic, you can really see the contrast between these two worlds as the characters will often read the same scene vastly differently. In the visual novel game, you will have the chance to play as a variety of different characters and experience the story entirely from that characters point of view. The ability to see the story from so many different viewpoints is one of the most interesting aspects of the game and really takes advantage of the POV nature of visual novels.
2. Where did the idea for Megatokyo: Visual Novel Game stem from? How long have you had a project like this in mind?
Actually, the idea of making a visual novel based on Megatokyo itself is rather new. I've often thought about actually making the visual novel game that is contained in the MT story itself, "Sight," and in fact it was while pondering this idea that I wondered how a game based on Megatokyo itself might work. The more I thought about it and the more I bounced the idea off of friends, the more solid the idea became. At first, I thought about doing something more in a NVL format, which just following the story route in a visual novel format. I can't give MT fans an anime, but doing the MT story in this medium looked like a great and viable alternative. Once I started to get into it, I started to really get into the alternate story path stuff as well. It's sort of like writing a doujinshi (fan-comic) of your own work.
3. What games inspired you for this project?
One thing about Megatokyo the comic is that it is itself heavily influenced by the fact that I have long been a fan of visual novels and there are a number of them that have heavily influenced the comic itself. I was a huge fan of Kanon when I started Megatokyo, and you can find references to the game all over the place... including my nickname (Piro is the name of the cat in the game :P). Other games that influenced me were games like True Love Story 2 (I even did a doujinshi based on this years ago: http://megatokyo.com/envelope/index.html ) To Heart, Tokimeki Memorial, and in particular Sentimental Graffiti (love that game, really wish it would get localized into English someday.)
In fact, games that had not yet come out yet also had a significant influence on the Megatokyo story. When I started Megatokyo, the game CLANNAD was nothing more than few vague tidbits and a song or two and some sketches. I SO wanted that game to come out and was so frustrated about it that I built part of the MT story around a game that fans were eager for and was finally starting to come out, and Kimiko landed a role in it. :)
4. I like the idea of putting a free playable demo out there so people can get a taste of the project. What was the thought process behind that?
Well, there were several things behind that. The first thing that makes this project so viable for me is that unlike so many other types of game projects I have looked at, this one is based on existing back end that would allow me to focus mostly on content rather just developing a game engine from scratch. No better way to learn about using something than to jump in and try making something with it, so we took a small snippet of the game and did as a proof of concept to see how it would feel. We learned a lot by doing that, including fine tuning our approach to how we would pursue organizing and setting things up for the larger game. The ability to provide a small playable sample was a simple thing to do, and it really was the best way to get a sense of how this game might look and feel, especially to people who might not be familiar with visual novels.
5. The concept of the realities being different from the perspective of Piro and Largo makes a ton of sense and is unique; will the other five characters have different perspectives as well? Will their stories be shorter or equal in length?
Yes, of course. The contrast between Largo's view and Piro's view is the most pronounced, but really every character has his or her own way of looking at things that might be a little more subtle, but ads a kind of depth to the more extreme viewpoints of our two main idiots. Since Largo and Piro are the main characters in the story, the comic tends to follow their activities the most. The other characters will often be off-screen doing other things, and part of the challenge of doing this is following up with what they were doing while story wasn't focused on them. As for length, at this point the main seven characters will all have fairly long routes (some might be longer than others, just depends on story direction and sub routes) while the five minor routes will be more like short stories, and will be shorter (though hopefully quite long enough to enjoy).
6. Will the story in the game follow along with the comic? Player choices pending.
Each character will have what I am calling a 'canon' route which follows the comic's story path. This path might not actually as simple to follow as you might think. :) There will be paths that branch away from this 'canon' path - some will go very different places, some might not be too different. There will be a point when all story branches (including the canon ones) will go off on their own, once we've reached where things are currently in the comic. One thing to keep in mind too is that canon routes may NOT all lead to 'good endings'. So playing straight to the comic path may NOT be the best way to reach an interesting and satisfying story end.
7. I’m assuming Megatokyo: Visual Novel Game will be a fan service to those who follow the series. Will those unfamiliar with Megatokyo be able to jump into the game, learn the characters, and find equal enjoyment in it?
That's the intent, yes. Since it starts at the beginning, it will do a lot to introduce the characters to people the same way the comic did. If anything, I think people will have a better chance to understand and get to know the characters and the story of Megatokyo better with the game than with the comic, which is a linear experience. Of course, there will be a LOT of fan service for both new and old longtime fans of the series, but that won’t make it impossible to understand. In fact, if anything, over time if they go through the game a few times they might appreciate something they may not have noticed before. This happens with the comic, too; re-reading can be fun.
8. A visual novel adds more options to you as an artist and storyteller, can fans/players expect to learn more about the characters than previously known in the comic?
Yes, very much. While characters will often have a chance to make choices that will differ from the main story, these are choices these characters COULD make - to me, it would feel wrong to let a character make a choice they would never actually make. By exploring other decisions characters could make, you can find out more about them, get a sense of how they might develop differently than they do in the story. This aspect of the visual novel is one of its most interesting aspects.
9. Your original goal of $20,000 has been blown away and there is still so much time left, how excited are you to work on these stretch goals and the feedback from your fans/community?
Well, it's probably evident that when I put this Kickstarter together I had no concept that it would grow to the level it has so far. In my most optimistic, fantasy-addled moments, I thought wow, imagine it reached $75k. I REALLY never expected it to fund ALL parts of the game and ALL the stretch goals so quickly. I started with the concept of a goal for doing a very basic game and then added all the little bits and pieces that I wanted to add to the game to make the game I wanted to make. I obviously didn't scale thing properly because by the time we hit $150k, the entire game and everything in it was funded. Right now we're at 230k and... I’ve been wary of adding new stretch goals because the game is packed with content right now and it's going to take an enormous amount of effort to have the first part of this much larger game done by February 2014. Right now, I have at least a year and a half of hard work ahead of me, so I’m trying to be really careful about adding things that might overload the project.
All that aside, as you can imagine, it's hard to really put words to how I feel about the amazing amount of support the project has received. The way I look at Kickstarter, what it does best is it gives people an opportunity to make a project happen. It also helps the supporters make the project BETTER. I'm being given the opportunity here to make this game the best game I can, and it is a commitment I take seriously and I’m very excited to be working on.
10. Once completed, will you attempt to Steam Greenlight Megatokyo: Visual Novel Game? When do you estimate the first episode will be released? Will the "characters" page even be finished on the website?
There has been some talk of trying to release this on Greenlight, and that is a possibility - given the response we've had to the concept of the game, I think it might actually be possible.
The first part of the game is slated for release in February of 2014. This is a HUGE project for me and the people I’m working with, and we will be doing everything we can to release it on time. Given the fact that I have an infamous reputation for being late with things, I feel like the best troll in the world would be to release the game on time. That said, like so many large projects of this nature, it may run late, but we'll do what we can to be on time if we can. Since I will be doing so much of this project out in public view, people should have no difficulty seeing where the project is at any given time. I'll be drawing most of the artwork live on my justin.tv feed http://www.justin.tv/fredrin (like I do most of my work) so people can easily keep tabs on what’s up.
As for the characters page on the website... it's sort of tradition at this point (and a long running joke) to leave that blank, under construction. There ARE character guides out there (as well as one in Megatokyo volume 5) so it wouldn’t be too hard to post one... but really, the reason I don't have a character page is because the characters in Megatokyo have grown and changed a lot over the years and continue to do so. When I DID have one up for a while, after a few months I started getting complaints that the character page was not up to date, so... I took it down and told people that the best way to really understand the characters in Megatokyo was to just read the story. It IS up on the web and free to read, after all. :)