Last month, we covered a visual novel by the name of A Scar of the Doll, released on the iPhone for $1. The game, written by Child-Dream founder, Hidehisa Miyashita, is available in English and is about a girl named Asumi, attempting to track her sister down in Tokyo after she disappears.
One thing led to another, and we had a brief chat with Miyashita-san via e-mail about his company, what he thinks of the games market, and what his plans for the future are.
We also discovered Miyashita is the writer behind Folklore on the PlayStation 3, and worked with the now defunct Game Republic on the title.
For those who don’t know, when was Child-Dream founded and what kind of company is it?
Child-Dream founder, Hidehisa Miyashita: I have been making games in Japan for 15 years since 1997, We create both visual novels and role-playing games in Japan. I’m a scenario writer and specialize in mystery and fantasy stories.
Could you tell me a little bit about your background in games development and what you’ve been working on since ’97?
As for my background, ever since I was a child, I loved mystery and detective novels, and Nintendo’s Famicom had also become popular in Japan, so I would often play RPG and text adventure games.
However, I never had the of growing up to be a game developer. This was especially because, at the time, I didn’t feel that game development was a very good profession, so I’d studied at an engineering university.
After that, I had planned to search for employment at major companies like every other ordinary Japanese youth, but because I had started to create an RPG game out of pure interest at the time in one of the university labs, I started to become passionate about creating games. Also, the internet was starting to spread at the time, so when I published the RPG I created, "Lost Memory," online, many users reviewed it and bought the game. That was the start of Child-Dream in 1997.
Following ’97, I created an RPG titled "Creatures" and the visual novels "A Scar of the Doll" and "Angel Whisper." Because these games were a hit, Child-Dream became a company. I mainly focused on the scenarios and created a simple game system using tools. Various other creators helped with images and sound.
Afterwards, we created cell phone games and computer games, but I also was the scenario writer and the Event Branch Director [one responsible for the "event" programmers/branch/team] for Folksoul~Lost Legends (overseas, it’s called Folklore), a console game released in 2007 for the Playstation 3.
How many people are working at the company in total?
The company’s small, just a team of creators. To make "A Scar of the Doll", we had 8 creators (1 Scenario Writer, 1 Programmer, 2 Designers and 4 Sound Creators). They don’t work full time [at Child-Dream].
Do you make games full time at Child-Dream, or are you doing it part-time as well?
I have always worked on games and scenario production full-time. This is different from what other creators do, many of who work part-time on their game projects. However, my child was just born, so I’ve cut back a little on my work with games, and am investing in stocks at a side job.
What kinds of games do you like making?
We create both visual novels and role-playing games in Japan, but since visual novels are simpler to produce, we selected one as out first release. Next, we plan to release a game based on the Mayan calendar’s 2012 apocalypse theory. In the future, we would like to release RPGs in English, too.
Japan’s RPGs are not as popular in Europe and America, but the feeling of an interesting story is something people can experience no matter where they are from. I would like to find out if people will find the stories I created interesting.
A lot of people outside Japan do appreciate Japanese games, but I feel the problem is that a lot of Japanese games aren’t "growing up" along with the audience that has played them for many years.
These past 15 years, doing business in the Japanese game market has become incredibly hard. Because the capabilities of console systems are shooting upwards, it requires more money and manpower to develop games, but on the other hand, those games don’t sell more than before.
As such, development companies go bankrupt and fewer and fewer games appear on the market.
Because of that, game development companies forego creating good games and instead, focus on games that can sell well, and end up creating only games with designated or branded characters, or sports games or titles that can be cheaply serialized. As it becomes harder for developers to challenge the market, there’s a decrease in the number of interesting games or games that bring in new ideas.
This only serves to alienate players further, and this continues in a vicious cycle.
As for my own creations, the PS3 game Folklore that I mentioned earlier, was a game created as a pretty ambitious experiment, but in the end, it couldn’t recover its development costs and didn’t become a hit.
On the other hand, creating simple games for children and light users on the cell phone and iPhone is an easily profitable environment, and profound, interesting games that appeal to adults have become rarer in Japan.
As such, I agree with your point that Japan isn’t producing as many interesting games, but I also believe that the reason for that is the market environment I just spoke of. Also, action games are popular in the West, and Japan games are biased against the action genre.
That said, the world should like games aimed towards adults who like to enjoy the story. This is what A Scar of the Doll is; we published a story-focused game on the iPhone and PC, and now we’re checking for player reactions.
If someone were to create a good RPG that treated the player like an adult, and if you could release it via a mainstream distribution source like Steam, I think it would get some attention.
This was the first time I’d heard of Steam, but creating an RPG for the computer to be released on this site is very appealing and I would like to challenge it. [note: Miyashita sent this reply after doing a bit of research on Steam]
A fair number of indie games have been successful on Steam. In fact, a game released by a doujin developer in Japan, Recettear by EasyGameStation, sold quite well.
I’m surprised you’re familiar with doujin games. The success of Recettear on Steam is helpful for my next release. I appreciate your information about Steam and I’m going to begin to studying and researching it, and developing for PC in English. It’s best that we make a new game and try to release it on Steam in the near future.
It must have been a very different experience, going from working on smaller games to a big-budget title like Folklore. What was that like for you, working on such a large game with so much money being invested into it?
I’m sorry if I didn’t explain that earlier — Folklore is a project by Game Republic, which was invested in by Sony Computer Entertainment. I just joined the project as a scenario writer.
A lot of people were unhappy to hear about Game Republic being closed down recently. Do you still keep in touch with [president] Okamoto-san?
I haven’t contacted Okamoto-san for three years. If you’d like to interview him, probably I can contact him. But I think he wants to keep a low profile, so there are no comments on him from the Japanese media, at least.
Can you say what your next project is and what your hopes for the near future are?
Our next project is going to be a visual novel like A Scar of the Doll and on the iPhone (it’s a game based on the Mayan calendar). Also, we are working to translate A Scar into German.
We wish to expand our PC software to Steam as well. Also, we have not only ADV, but RPGs that are popular amongst the Japanese, so we would like to translate them into English as well. We just released A Scar of the Doll, and even though those who’ve played have reviewed it and said, "It was interesting/fun," we would like for more people to play it, to spread the word.
You can find Child-Dream’s website (and links to all their games) at the following link: https://www.child-dream.net/.