Yatagarasu Developer Diary (Apr 9th)

Hello, Shiza from the Yatagarasu development team here.

In this update, we have an interview with the manager of Nakano TRF arcade, and some news about progress with the PC version of Yatagarasu Attack on Cataclysm.

PC Development Update

・The core fighting parts of the game are all complete
・The currently delay is caused by some parts that are deficient (perks and non-core parts)
・Given that the main parts are complete, the development team feels we’d like to release as soon as possible and take care of any remaining parts in later updates
・We will provide more details in our next announcement, which  will include the release schedule and screenshots

Once again, we apologize for the ongoing delay and we are grateful for your continued patience!

Interview with Nakano TRF

Nakano TRF is a video game arcade in a corner of the Nakano Broadway shopping precinct in Tokyo’s Nakano Ward. It’s quite small and players have to line up outside when it fills up. It’s unusual in that it has a lot of visitors and they’re all avid gamers.

Nakano TRF hosted location tests of the NESiCAxLive version of Yatagarasu Attack on Cataclysm on two occasions, and I talked with the manager of the arcade.


trf1There are 4 NESiCAxLive units in the arcade. Today, all of the units are playing Yatagarasu AoC!

To start us off, please tell us about what kind of an arcade Nakano TRF is.

Nakano TRF Manager (‘Manager’ below): It started out as an arcade for hardcore gamers, but there was a change in direction around the time that Street Fighter 4 released and we began to cater more to new and mid-level players while focusing on community, and groups of friends. Encouraging groups of friends to visit might sound off-putting, but groups of friends have a fun vibe, so we worked to encourage them to visit.

★ It’s seems to be going to plan. Looking around the arcade, I saw friends having fun.

Manager: Yes, it is. We aim to be an arcade for friends, but at the same time to have an open community. We want to bring in more and more new players.

★ It seems to be going well too. It’s a nice arcade.

Manager: Thank you. It helps that our regulars play a variety of games instead of sticking to specific games. They’re also keen try out new games that they see other people playing. We put effort into holding tournaments aimed at beginners to encourage this.

★ Nakano TRF does a lot of streaming. Is that also for the benefit of friends and community?

Manager: It’s a way for us to attract new players. Some people deride people who only ever watch game videos as douga-zei, but my view is that if 100 people see a stream and even one or two of those people become interested because of that, it’s a success. They’re potential future players, so we prioritize and work at reaching out like this.

* Douga-zei = people who watch streams of videos of games more than they play them.

★ I think the streaming is very effective at expanding awareness.

Manager: I think the number of people who visited the arcade after seeing a stream is actually quite large. I’ve seen a few people who played a fighting game for the first time play after watching a stream.

★ Do you ever feel that a certain video might attract even people who have never visited the arcade?

Manager: Probably so. Some people even if they can’t play fighting games, just think it looks like a fun place and come. Having people like that come and hearing stories like that, I feel it’s worthwhile doing the streaming.


The Yatagarasu AoC Launch

trf5The arcade frequently broadcasts live over the Internet broadcasts, and you can see
streaming monitors dotted around the arcade and see real-time comments from viewers.

★ How did the Yatagarasu AoC launch go?

Manager: We have NESiCAxLive units that play certain games depending on the day of the week, but apart from these, all the other units have been running Yatagarasu AoC since it launched. We have people playing versus match ups right until we close at 12:55am.

★ Wow. I don’t know what to say. Thank you.

Manager: Thank YOU. We have a lot of people who want to play single player in the evenings, but once someone jumps in to play a versus match, they tend to keep going from there.

★ So from when people start to gather around, then.

Manager: Yes, that’s right.

★ What do you think people find enjoyable about Yatagarasu? Why do they play it?

Manager: The players here try it out any new games that arrive. It’s a community-oriented arcade, so everyone has fun trying them out. In cases where a game doesn’t catch on, people stop playing after about two or three days. Yatagarasu AoC is attracting more and more players from other games, so it certainly seems easy to pick up. A word we  often hear with relation to Yatagarasu in the arcade is ‘rougai*’ (we both laugh.)

* Rougai = Expresses when old people meddle in younger people’s activities; in this case because Yatagarasu is the kind of game that you can apply classic, old school game play skills.

Yes, we’ve seen that comment a lot on the Internet.

Manager: Players who picked up their skills back in the day are always laughing, ‘ah, I know how this works’ when the start playing.

I thought rougai was a funny word to apply when I first saw it. Has it always been used here?

Manager: No, not really. Some people use it in a negative way, but if anything it’s used jokingly now.

★ I thought it was funny that this word would become popular.

Manager: Well, I’ve heard Yatagarasu called the ‘gateball* of the fighting game world’ (we laughed the most at this.)

* Gateball = Japanese croquet – regarded as a classic old person’s sport.

At first… it was the long-time fighting game players playing it, but when it reached a certain level of popularity, even people who don’t usually play fighting games decided to give it a go and started to learning it. The Akatsuki-zei* have been extremely supportive – they’re always helping out people who are trying int for the first time and want to learn how to play.

* Akatsuki-zei = Akatsuki Blitzkampf players

★ It’s great how the arcade and the players support each other. It seems to make a big difference as to whether someone who has only a little interest in gaming will disappear or develop. TI seems that Nakano TRF does a great job of nurturing interest.

Manager: It feels like it’s working. Players who are familiar with the arcade won’t jump in on a game when it’s clear that someone is teaching the player. It’s kind of like they think, ‘let’s let this guy practice’. The Akatsuki-zei who used to play Yatagarasu from before won’t challenge people who are just starting out with the game. If really feels like they’re looking out for new players. If anyone has a question, they’ll always help them out.

★ Thank you for making up for the lack of official help from the developers. I feel bad about it. You mentioned that the Akatsuki-zei play Yatagarasu, but what other trends do you see among the players?

Manager: Let’s see… almost all of the Akatsuki-zei play it and some of the Hokutonoken* players too. Players of new games like Chaos Code and Persona play it too.

* Hokutonoken = Fist of the North Star

★ That’s great. So everyone is playing it together.

Manager: Players who previously didn’t mingle are starting to interact thanks to Yatagarasu. It’s great for our arcade.

★ I’m happy to hear that.

Manager: Regulars who previously didn’t talked much are enjoying fighting and heckling each other on this ‘old game’. It’s been a pleasure to watch.

★ I think the decision to make the gameplay easily accessible was a good one. Yatagarasu is really easy to pick up and play, and it’s really gratifying to hear how it’s being played. How do you feel about the gameplay?

Manager: I agree. The one potential downside is that fighting game players with old school skills and experience have an advantage over true beginners that is difficult to overcome in versus match ups. But then, I consider that to be an area that the arcade supports. Right now, we’re discussing with the Akatsuki-zei which characters we should recommend to new players and how best to start teaching them.


Dynamic Commentary

trf3Another view of the NESiCAxLive units. Players are lining up in the aisles to play.

 ★ Yatagarasu a somewhat unusual dynamic commentary system. How has the reaction to this been?

Manager: Frankly, not that good in our arcade.

★ We started the location test at TRF, we received a strong request to be sure to allow the commentary to be turned off. We even pushed out the launch date to allow time to add it. Since then I’ve often thought that it must troublesome for people who don’t want the commentary to go through the motions to turn the commentary off.

Manager: Yes, but most people say they don’t notice it anymore once they play the game and get into it. It’s only at first that it’s an inconvenience.

★ Yes, we noticed that.

Manager: When we first started location testing… how to put this? The commentary system put most people off playing. This was particularly noticeable among younger players. Long-time fighting game players like the Garou-zei* or Hokuto-zei** weren’t really put off by it. If anything, they found it funny, but the Persona-zei or BlazBlue-zei or Chaos Code-zei reacted along the lines of ‘who are these old guys?’ A lot of people said that they just didn’t like the commentator photos appearing on the screen.

* Garou-zei = Garou Densetsu players
** Hokuto-zei = Fist of the North Star players

★ There were probably people who didn’t play because if it, but didn’t provide feedback. It’s really unfortunate that they would give up it before trying it.

Manager: Yes, all they needed to do was give it a try.

★ It seems a lot of people who gave Yatagarasu AoC a try found it to be surprisingly fun. I think that’s just the kind of game it is, but we’ll take today’s feedback onboard.

Manager: Right after it launched, a lot of players approached us asking if we couldn’t do something about the commentary system. Thankfully, you made it so that if one player turns the commentary off, it turns off for both players. Plus, if you use a NESiCAxLive card, the setting is saved, so we recommend doing this when people ask about it now.

★ We wish we could have done a better job on the presentation. It’s  ended up being the bare minimal. Sorry about that.

Manager: It might have been better to set the commentary off by default.

★ From the point of view of attracting new players, that’s probably right.


Location Testing

trf4View from the left side. The leftmost unit is reserved for beginner players.

★ TRF carried out location tests twice. Can you tell use how that came about?

Manager: At the time when the opportunity first came up, all I knew about Yatagarasu was the name, and I thought ‘eh? Why us?’ Then I started to look into it. The first time I thought ‘ah, let’s do this. I want to do it’ was when I heard that it was a doujin game. Part of me feels that the future of the fighting game scene depends on doujins. Our arcade’s stance is that we want to support games that come up from the doujin scene, including games like Skullgirls. So when I heard it was a doujin game, I thought we have to support it.

* Doujin game = game created by a small, independent development team

★ Thank you. Personally, I worry that the industry might go into decline without more new titles . We’re happy that people play our game, but we’ll be happier still if more new games come out as a result of it. The market can’t grow without new games.

Manager: The old school pixel art has been popular among some players, too. Games like the recent Persona or BlazBlue are becoming more and anime-like , but throwback pixel art is good too. It fits very nicely with today’s game line-up.

★ It’s an interesting sight to see Yatagarasu being played between BlazBlue and Persona NESiCAxLive machines.


Finally

trf2Shot of the right side of a versus fighting unit

★ Can you give us a message for players in and out of Japan?

Manager: I’m not familiar with any arcades besides Nakano TRF, so I don’t know how the market is in general, but based on seeing rankings and tweets on the Net, and listening to players and rumors, Yatagarasu AoC is more popular than I thought. If it continues like this, it can become a fairly big game, and our arcade wants to help make this happen.  Please lend us your support.

★ Likewise, I’m sure. Thanks very much for today.


We ended the interview here, but we continued the lively discussion. It would have been a waste not to include some of the chat and some details that came up, so I started recording again and actually ended up recording about three times as much as the original interview. Here are some highlights from our talk.

The Manager is a Player!

 

trf6-2

The manager’s win-loss stats at the time of writing.
#5 in the country!

★ You’ve seen games games come and go as a manager. Would you say you have a good idea of how players think?

Manager: I’m still an active player myself. I’m too old to want to take part in large tournaments, though (laughs). I play quite a bit of Yatagarasu myself. Somehow I ended up in the top rankings. I was like, ‘how’d that happen?’

★ Thank you. What is your player handle?

Manager: It’s an arm emoticon with waru* written on it. The arm doesn’t display properly in the game, though…

* Waru = the kanji for evil / bad.

★ Sorry about that. It’s probably because we have some strict filters in place to prevent undesirable situations happening in the game.

Manager: Oh, don’t worry about it. It’s my own fault. I just thought I’d mention it. I have to say, I’m really enjoying the game. I started playing from the arcade version, so I didn’t know much about the game to begin with, but I’ve played with almost all of the characters now, enough to be able to teach new players how to play. Before I knew it, my points had built up and I’m listed in the top rankings.


The Launch (continued)

★ NESiCAxLive releases are generally done by companies. I think this is the first time for private individuals to release a game. It was a bit of a concern, but we’re glad that people are playing it now.

Manager: That’s right. You must be pleased with the results. It doesn’t feel like it’s going to die down at all. We arcade operators have a good idea about how a game will do after about a week after launch.

★ Ah, that’s all it takes?

Manager: The number of players is on the increase, even without us doing anything, so I’d say it can do well.

★ That’s nice to hear, and not just for Yatagarasu. It might sound odd to say, but if someone sees Yatagarasu and thinks, “if this can do well, maybe I can do well?” and then is inspired to make a game, that will make us happy too.

★ I also have a sense that other arcades are putting effort into supporting us. Maybe they feel that Yatagarasu has the potential to do well.

Manager: Certainly, we do. We couldn’t have anticipated that the Yatagarasu events we originally planned for Mondays and Thursdays would end up being held every day. That really was amazing.

★ I don’t think anyone expected that. If things had gone differently, no one would have even known it had been released. We have no promotional experience, after all.

Manager: I did think that the promotional activity was weak, and we’ve make up for that at our arcade. We stream a lot, play it on monitors, pick up on players’ Yatagarasu chat by microphone. For now, we’re really trying to spread the message of “check out this game”.

★ It’s the area that we’re the weakest at, so we’re really grateful for your support.

Manager: Let us know if there’s a problem with any of the content we’re pushing out.

★ No problems at all. Feel free to tell us to do a better job at development. Come to think of it, we talked about rougai earlier, and something interesting that popped to mind was the idea that, “winning makes you older, losing makes you younger”. I find that really interesting.

Manager: At first, I would be heckled with “rougai!” whenever I won, and to the losers I’d say “you’re still a youngster”. That’s how it started.

★ I can see those kinds of exchanges coming up when play gets heated. it really feels like you’re playing in the game for real.


Happy Stuff

Manager: Something I’m really happy about is that players of the recent ‘combo-oriented’ games and licensed games are playing Yatagarasu. I knew that long-time fighting game players would enjoy it, but it’s also attraced these other players.

★ That’s great. But I can’t just be surprised – I need to work harder on it, too.

Manager: I think this environment where experienced players teach new players is quite different from back in the day. Way back in the past, beginners were mostly just left to their own devices. No-one paid attention to the them. But now, if experienced players find a newcomer who is even just a little interested, they invite them to play with them.

★ So it’s like they look after them.

Manager: Yes, they look after them.

★ So there’s that aspect too. I imagine that the experienced players want to play themselves, but they might be are concerned about the state of the industry, which is why if someone shows even a little interest, they want to bring them into the fold and get them more interested.


Taito

Manager: Taito must be very happy too.

★ Yes. I don’t think they expected it to be played this much, so hopefully they’ll push it more from here!

Manager: They’ll probably change how they handle it.

★ Ah, I have to say, with regards to development, they’ve been extremely kind and treated us well. They’re amazingly kind and polite, even to small teams like ours. I honestly wondered if it was okay for them to be devoting so much time to us. We may never be able to repay our debt to them.

Manager: I see. You should really put this little chat into the article. It’s for Taito’s benefit, but other developers might see it and decide to develop a game for NESiCAxLive.

★ Okay, I’ll include this chat.

Manager: It’s really important that creators to have an environment that’s easy to access.

★ That’s right. At any rate, their treatment is very polite and even they reply to even the slightest question politely and provide sample code, to the point where I worried there’s no way they could recoup the cost of the support the provided to us. When I talked about this to a Taito staff member he would always reply, “we have a lot of hardcore staff members, so they’re happy when difficult questions come up and reply right away”.

Manager: Now you mention it, the Taito salespeople that came to our arcade also seemed to fairly enjoy video games. When we talked about the location test too, they were happy just watching people play. I suppose that people involved in fighting games are involved because they enjoy them. I’d like to preserve a place for them in some form or other.

★ We’re not powerful or influential, but we’d like to contribute somehow.

Manager: If it continues to build up, we’ll have to cut the arcades off. For now, if they can leave it be, that would be fine.

★ Yes. Er, um, Taito, the arcades, the players are now really supporting us and I don’t think I’ll be able to repay them in life. I’m wondering how hard we’ll have to try to reply the debt we owe them.

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