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Forward To The Sky Interview: The Passion Project Of A Group Of Anime Fans

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Forward to the Sky is a 3D action platformer with puzzle elements and features anime-style characters. It’s the first game from AnimuGame, which is a new studio based in Taiwan, and consists of a small group of anime fans.

 

You play as a Princess who decides to climb to the top of a legendary sky tower to collect crystals (100 on each floor), which steadily unlocks the story of the tower. It’s a brightly colored game with full English voice acting, traps to avoid, and skeletons to fight with the Princess’s sword.

 

As Forward to the Sky has now been released on Steam, Siliconera spoke to the founder of AnimuGame, Wei Chen, to discuss how a group of anime fans went from just that, fans, to making their own anime-style video game. Chen talks about his own passion for anime, how the team designed the Princess, and why the game only has English voice acting rather than any other language.

 

To start us off, could you introduce yourself and explain how AnimuGame came about?

 

Wei Chen, Founder: Hello, I am Wei, the founder of AnimuGame. I live in Taiwan. Our culture is similar to Japan’s and it’s easy for us to get the latest anime/manga/game things, so I have been a fan of anime for a very long time. And so I have been trying to make something anime-related. I even tried to make games by myself for a while, and eventually, I was lucky enough to find a few friends who would like to work together on that kind of project. We all like anime and its culture so we wanted to make something tied to it, and so we did.

 

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Why did you feel compelled to make your own anime-inspired games?

 

I just wanted to do it. Watching anime is enjoyable, but sometimes you want to make something of your own out of that fandom. And when I came to this realization I had been making games for many years already. I am not very good at painting but OK at programming, so making an anime-style game seemed to be the only choice. Maybe it’s a lifestyle for me; watching anime for fun and creating within its cultural sphere for self-fulfilment.

 

When coming up with the idea of Forward to the Sky, what anime and games did you take ideas from?

 

During the development when we were running out of ideas, we did search for some famous titles like Zelda, Zwei, YS, and any other games like those that we could find. There’s no particular one that stands out above the rest and it’s hard to tell which idea was inspired from which game. What I found was funny is one day having a great idea that you think nobody has done before, but the following day you find it in other games.

 

In a nutshell, all these kind of games have similar elements that hold them together. It’s just a matter how you put them together, how they are organized. We put a lot effort into giving these elements a new spin, something different, and hopefully players will have fun with that.

 

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How did you design the main character? Could you tell us more about her?

 

Before Forward to the Sky we had tried to make another game. The project was too ambitious. It was hard to finish and, eventually, ended up as a half-done game. We want a chibi (or near chibi) style and CONE, who is our character designer, had a try with that style. A princess just happened to be our first character.

 

CONE designed the character, Apupu (our 3D artist) translated the character to 3D, and I made the character playable in the game. We were the only three working on the game at the time and we found that we had invested a lot of work and emotion into the Princess. So we decided to give her a journey all of her own in Forward to the Sky. So, we didn’t design her for the game, instead, the game is designed around her. That may sound silly but it’s honest. This is how the Princess came to be, a kind of memorial character for us, and for our work.

 

There’s more about the design changes of the Princess if you are interested in finding out more about her: https://animugame.com/ftts/princess-character-design-from-cone/

 

Why did you decide to have English voice acting but only Japanese and Chinese text? Will you add voice acting for other languages in the future?

 

I would like to try Japanese voice acting for the game. After all, anime plays in Japanese, and it’s the voice the audience is used to, no matter where you live. But the bad news is that I can’t speak Japanese and that makes it impossible for me to communicate with Japanese voice actors.

 

And, as I found out, getting voice acting into a game requires a lot communication. So the other option was to go with English voice acting. Most people have English as their second language and so we tried to use easy words in the game for those people. I think most people can understand it. Not to mention that Kim and Ayu (our English voice actors) acted very well in the game. Professional voices!

 

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Are there any ideas that you weren’t able to include the game that you really wished you could have?

 

So many. I’d like to have more levels, more mechanisms and traps, more characters, a deeper combat system, avatars, multiplayer…etc. It is very hard. When you have limited budget, you can only pick one, or maybe two things, to do. All of these require a lot of budget and time. It’s just not possible to work on it all. But, if I could pick one feature, it would probably be to go with deeper combat in the next game. I really want to make it better.

 

Did you face any challenges when trying to promote the game and get it through Steam Greenlight?

 

As an indie, it is hard enough to concentrate on making the game, but we have to try to promote our game as well. And it is really hard to promote your game, because our love is in creating games, not selling them. The biggest fear was that nobody would actually know about the game.

 

We tried to get our words out but it didn’t seem to to much most of the time. Fortunately, we cooperated with Steam anime groups and people seemed like it. And we were lucky to have an article on Siliconera, so that was great. And we really enjoyed the responses on the site. We had a great day of reading them. They encouraged us a lot!

 

We actually have an article about our Greenlight campaign, if you are interested: https://animugame.com/ftts/greenlight-experience

 

Is there any chance that Forward to the Sky could come to consoles if it’s successful on PC?

 

We are more interested in starting a new one. We could probably make more than one game at the scale of Forward to the Sky if we save the license fee. This is the most attractive option for us. But, yes, if it is a big success for we would of course consider it.

 

What’s the next move for AnimuGame now that Forward to the Sky is released?

 

We’ve already got ideas in mind and are going to start a prototype soon, once we’ve had a short break. It will depend on how Forward to the Sky does, as all the income it brings us will be the budget for our next game. Playing games with friends is fun so creating a multiplayer game is one choice.

 

We also enjoy focusing on story and the character-based combat of anime, so a story-driven action game would certainly be another choice. Either way, we are looking forward to making something fun in the next project. We hope you will like it. :)

Chris Priestman