There are certain games where, even though they have different concepts and stories, you can see the influence a creator has on them. NIS’ Masayuki Furuya is one of those developers. The director of Void Terrarium also directed and designed games like htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary, A Rose in the Twilight, and The Liar Princess and the Blind Prince. We had a chance to talk about both the new roguelike, past titles, and what the future could hold.
Jenni Lada, Siliconera: How did you first get involved in the video game industry, and what led to you becoming the designer and directors for your own games at NIS?
Masayuki Furuya: I studied painting in university and entered the company as an artist after passing a selection exam. I worked for a few years as an artist, but as the person who proposed htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary left the company, I was chosen to pick up directing the project. After we completed that project, I have been the director for several projects.
All of the NIS America titles have a shared sort of color palette, with games like htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary, The Liar Princess and the Blind Prince, A Rose in the Twilight, and Void Terrarium all having similar aesthetics. What led to this design choice? Is it about evoking emotions?
Yes, all the titles listed were created with the goal of shaking the players emotions with a sentimental atmosphere. To do that, we focus on an art style that feels like the hand-drawn illustrations of a picture book.
All of your games also tend to have premises that rely upon connections. For example, the Blind Prince is dependent upon the Liar Princess and Rose relies on the giant for survival. What led to you embracing these themes? What do you hope people take away from them?
Furuya: As mentioned before, the games I am involved with have a goal of stirring up the player’s emotions. Having complementary relationships as a game mechanism fits very well with the theme of letting the player experience those feelings themselves. Although my scenarios rarely have cut-and-dry “happy endings,” I do hope the player cares enough by the end of the game to imagine what they would have done in a certain situation, or how the characters would have continued their life afterwards.
How do you feel Void Terrarium exemplifies the sorts of themes your past NIS titles have? What do you think it does differently?
Furuya: Void Terrarium is set up for the player to feel the connections and bonds that form via the game’s pseudo-child-rearing gameplay. In previous games, the characters move together and help each other out, but this time, the robot takes care of Toriko one-sidedly. Toriko basically just provides the robot (player) with psychological motivation.
Void Terrarium involves a roguelike gameplay element for the "protector" character. What led to this decision as opposed to more of the escort elements found in games like The Firefly Diary and The Liar Princess and the Blind Prince?
Furuya: Void Terrarium was conceptualized as “arranging an environment conducive to the young girl’s survival.” Thus, she couldn’t leave that environment from the start, and we never considered any escort elements.
What does your creation process look like for one of your NIS games? For example, all of them are very story and lore heavy, even though many excel at conveying stories and emotions even without words.
Furuya: As I said before, I treat the game mechanics as important as the theme and scenario for having the player feel certain emotions. During the early stages of development, we go through an iterative process of study on the setting, scenario, and game mechanics, and work hard to find and make mechanics that naturally come from the setting.
While all of your recent NIS games have had a protection and care element, Void Terrarium goes very into this with what is essentially a Toriko Tamagotchi while you’re venturing into dungeons. What led to that design decision?
Furuya: There are both negative and positive reasons for this. On the negative side, we wanted to have the player feel Toriko’s existence even while exploring the dungeons, but a 3D model or illustrations for it would have been an extra cost. So, we went for a relatively low-cost method. On the positive side, the O.S.E.Watch, as it’s called, has a very strong child-rearing feel to it and was popular around the office.
Many of these games have dark or "scary" themes, but subvert preconceptions by focusing on hopeful and loving messages. Is this contrast on purpose and how do you achieve the right "balance" for each game?
Furuya: I hadn’t really thought of it that way. I focus on making games that are interesting, fun, and prioritize the setting and feel of the game itself. Any message of hope or love comes out naturally from the amount of effort we put into the game. I also think we try to make the possible decisions for the player to make in game be different from one game to the next.
When you look at your library, you can see how past games influence future ones. What do you hope to take away from Void Terrarium and apply to your next possible project?
Furuya: Hm, it depends on what I make next… I want to try all sorts of genres, so I honestly want to try a new approach next time.
While I’m sure it’s likely like being forced to choose a favorite child, which one of your NIS games do you feel best captured the vision you had for it?
Furuya: Hakoniwa Company Works and Void Terrarium. I like RPGs.