“KID Fans Club” “Key Fans Club” “Clear Sky Academy” “Sakura Dancing Season”… If you think of the name of these forums when it comes to text adventure games, it probably exposes your Internet age.
At the beginning of the new century, when the Internet social platforms were not as concentrated as they are now, the above forums were the Garden of Eden for Galgame fans in China. From disseminating the latest information to sharing game resources, from teaming up Chinese games to publishing personal thoughts…These niche forums used to be full of people, and thousands of new posts were posted every day.
But time has passed, and visiting these forums now is like returning to the old school buildings that have been abandoned: in those once noisy forums, most of the latest posts stayed five or six years ago; sometimes there will be some newcomer’s report posts, but No old people come out to greet them; occasionally, I can see nostalgic messages coming here, like little flowers left at the school gate, proving that some people still remember this place.
However, just like the real school, even if the school building itself ceases to exist, the students she has educated will also enter the society; and even if these forums are deserted, there are still many users who graduated from here continue to have their knowledge of text elsewhere. Passion for adventure games.
In the summer of 2004, Xiaofeng, who was about to face the college entrance examination, was confiscated by his parents, leaving only a computer that could not run any games. Aspiring to become a game magazine editor, he was forced to withdraw from it and turned to watch the animation downloaded from the Internet.
At this time, “Air” produced by Kyoto Animation was broadcast.
The story of “Air” also happened in the summer: in a small town by the sea, the male protagonist Kunizaki Xiangren met the female protagonist Kanao Kanling. In the short summer vacation, he experienced many changes about family, friendship and love. An indelible memory. With beautiful pictures, moving music, and sentimental stories, “Air” and Kamio Kanring are also imprinted in the hearts of many viewers, including Xiaofeng.
Even though he was already a high school student at the time, Xiaofeng still watched “Air” and saw that he was crying. From then on, he would relive this animation every summer and return to the seaside town again. At that time, he was like many viewers who saw “poisoning” watching the animation, searching for more information about “Air” on the Internet-this became the opportunity for him to meet Galgame.
The animated version of “Air” is actually adapted from a text adventure game. Its original work was released by Key in 2000. The works of this company often make people cry, and at this time it has already had loyal fans in China under the name of “Weeping Society”. Fans set up a forum called “Key Fans Club” (hereinafter referred to as “KeyFC”) as a communication platform. When Xiaofeng explored here, it had a four-year history of development. In fact, “Air” was able to spread in China at that time, and it was inseparable from the enthusiastic fans on KeyFC’s spontaneous localization and promotion.
This is the first time that Xiaofeng, who has always played console games, has come into contact with a text adventure game. This type of game that seems to have a weak gameplay has also deeply moved him. Although it is not too early to enter the pit, Xiaofeng who entered the university has successively pushed out the famous Galgame field such as “Dream of Stars”, “Daffodils”, and “Autumn Memories”, and actively shared his thoughts and participated in community affairs in KeyFC. Two years have passed, unknowingly he has also become a predecessor in the forum, becoming a moderator, and welcoming more and more newcomers to the forum. During the period, Xiaofeng also met many people who love Galgame as much as him. Among them is the moderator of another forum KIDS Fans Channel (hereinafter referred to as KIDFC)-Light Memories.
The light color, which is similar to Xiaofeng’s age, was also entered by Key’s work “Dream of Stars”, but he was attracted by KID since he was a child of science fiction and became the moderator of related forums.
Although it is mainly based on text adventure games, but compared to Key, KID publishes more diversified types of works. There are both pure and pure love games like “Autumn Memories” and wonderful suspense like “EVER 17”. Science fiction dramas, known for their tricks, and games like “CROSS†CHANNEL” that are difficult to use simple labels to summarize the content-it is this work that makes the light color “If one day, I can also write Such awesome things are just fine” thought.
Xiaofeng and Light Color are located in Shanghai and Tianjin, but they exchange their thoughts about Galgame’s works, analysis of creators, and views on this subcultural circle through the forum from time to time, and they will also share with relevant paper media. Magazine submission.
Whether it was for them at the time or the domestic Galgame circle at that time, this was a leisurely time. Everyone is always looking forward to the next interesting game coming out soon, and I believe that the loving discussion in the forum will continue.
However, the reality is that the Galgame industry in Japan has been shrinking in recent years. A large number of companies, including Kid, have closed down, production has fallen off a cliff, and good works are even more available. The traditional forum model has been affected by Tieba, Renren and Weibo. The impact of new social platforms such as blogs is decreasing, and the number of newcomers is decreasing; and old users such as Xiaofeng and Light Color are about to set foot in the society, and there is no longer so much free time and energy left for Galgame.
In the second decade of the new century, Xiaofeng, who once aspired to become a game magazine editor, rushed into the animation and media industry with an internship salary of 500 yuan after graduation. He thought about writing his own scripts, and he followed everything Become an accountant by studying professionally. And behind them, the golden age belonging to the Galgame forum seems to have ended quietly.
Not alone observer
For a long time, Galgame was more regarded as an accessory of animation culture than being regarded as a game genre, and was classified as a “two-dimensional” category.
When the young people in China who are deeply influenced by Galgame culture go to work, there are naturally no shortage of people who have joined the animation industry. Some of them went to Japan to study for further studies in order to join the animation and game company they were looking forward to; and those who stayed in China also tried to explore the local Galgame industry, which later became “National Gal”.
In fact, as early as 2010, domestic enthusiasts have successively produced a batch of domestic text adventure games, both based on the original fan-derived, and completely original works, some of which have been done in a decent way.
“The Virtual Image of Blue Bird” is a derivative work produced by a group of fans of “Fullmetal Alchemist” in China in 2005. This text adventure game draws a brand-new vertical drawing and CG based on the style of the 03 version of the animation, and even simulates some animation effects; not only tells a complete story in the plot, but also has a wealth of branch options and even multiple endings-from In all respects, “The Virtual Image of the Blue Bird” was a fan work with a very high production level even if it was released globally at that time.
For the Galgame cultural circle in the mainland, “The Virtual Image of the Blue Bird” was the first work to be sold through mail order, and it was marked as high as 70 yuan in the same year. It represents the first attempt by domestic fans to build a local Galgame industry.
So when Xiaofeng entered the industry to become an animation editor, the domestic text adventure game has actually passed the initial stage of reclamation. The seeds planted that year are sprouting, and some more mature local teams and works have been born.
Recording this ongoing history became part of Xiaofeng’s work. In his spare time, he also keeps writing and recording his opinions about animation and Galgame on the Internet, but the platform has changed from the forum of the year to the blog and Zhihu and other social networking sites. His personal column “ACG Criticism” has accumulated nearly 400 articles, most of which are analysis and interviews of domestic and foreign text adventure games and the creators behind them.
This experience also made Xiaofeng contact and know many people in this industry, recording their sweat and tears, and witnessing their joy and distress.
For a long time, for the production team of text adventure games, the most difficult thing is not to make the game, but to attract people to play the game.
Although text adventure games have advantages over large-scale games in terms of production difficulty and cost, even immature small teams have the opportunity to produce well-completed works; but when it comes to the publicity stage, everyone is still on the same track. Whether it’s offline store booths or public opinion propaganda on the Internet, text adventure games have no chance to seize the limelight.
Of course, there will be people who say that “the aroma of wine is not afraid of the deep alleys”, and they think that the level of national Gal is far from Japanese works, and no one cares about it. But in fact, compared to the physical stores in Japan that specialize in Galgame, domestic text adventure games can only be promoted and sold through offline comic exhibitions and fan exhibitions, not to mention getting proper evaluation, even There is no chance of being scolded.”
Such a dilemma has improved with the popularity of the Steam platform in China, but only a more reliable sales channel has been added, and the publicity problem remains the same.
The most indispensable thing in Gal’s circle is failure. Most of the projects are still dying, the corpses of abandoned projects are full, and the completed works are still unknown… For more than ten years, people have been forced to leave the circle because of their lives, but there are always newcomers who throw themselves into it with passion. The scene is almost It can be described as “first and next”. There are also people who stick to it all the time, living in the basement and eating instant noodles and trying to write stories full of sunshine and inspiring others.
All these small winds are in my eyes. Along the way, he himself has changed from traditional paper media to online media, and has grown from editor-in-chief to editor-in-chief. After playing so many games, there is no work from other countries that gave him the idea of creating Galgame, but looking at the burning enthusiasm of the people around him, the small wind that has been a bystander and recorder finally emerged.” “I want to do it myself”.
Ebb and flow
At this time, it is a period of development and even expansion of the domestic “two-dimensional industry”.
Represented by the rise of station B, the original niche animation culture in China has moved to the mainstream and has grown to an unimaginable scale in just a few years. Hot money poured into all corners of the industry, searching for the next opportunity, and the Galgame circle was naturally not missed.
At this time, the national Gal circle also had “breaking the circle” works such as “100 Days of Love in the College Entrance Examination”, which broke through the older generation with Japanese Galgame as the core group, and attracted a wider range of players to try this game type. . Although it has not been able to bring great returns to producers in business, it has a milestone significance for the entire circle.
For a text adventure game such as a game type that emphasizes the sense of substitution, “100 Days of Love in the College Entrance Examination” proves that the localized elements such as the “college entrance examination” can become the advantage of the country’s Gal, and it can also become the explosive point of publicity. Different from the fantasy style of Japanese works based on the “overhead” background, taking the domestic reality as the stage and taking the realistic route has become one of the footholds of National Gal.
“100 Days of Love in the College Entrance Examination” itself has also cultivated a group of new players who are willing to buy domestic text adventure games. They will spontaneously recommend such works to others, bringing a group of seed users to the entire circle.
The right time, the right place, and the harmony of people are the judgments made by the small winds at that time. He quit his original job, put aside his savings, and started making his first text adventure game full-time. With the contacts he has accumulated over the past few years, it didn’t take him long to get in touch with the illustrators, voice actors, and soundtracks he needed. With the help of his predecessors, he started to learn while doing.
He also found light-colored memories from his QQ list. Although the latter is in an industry that has nothing to do with animation and is far away from the forums of the past, he has remained the same as Xiaofeng over the years, always recording him on the Internet. The perception of ACG.
“Would you like to read the script for me?” Taking Xiaofeng’s words as a starting point, the two of them began to analyze and polish their own scripts just as they analyzed and discussed the works of those Japanese playwrights together…
The production of the first game was fairly smooth, but Xiaofeng soon encountered old problems.
“I myself have done a lot of special interviews about domestic Gal, and I think I have done a lot of promotion. But now, when I transform from a media person to a Gal producer, I can’t find any A suitable media came to interview me”-this is the feeling written by Xiaofeng when he was worried about how to promote his first game.
Compared with the average developer, Xiaofeng who is a media person has a wider network and resources to use. In the past, the producer came to consult his propaganda advice. But when it was his turn to play off the court, he still scratched his head in distress.
No matter how many stories have occurred in this circle, and who have had interesting people, once the magnifying glass is removed, it is impossible to deny that Guo Gal is still in the marginal corner of the whole game industry and even the animation field. When Xiaofeng pulled down his face to promote his work on forums and social networking sites he was once familiar with, although there were no shortage of enthusiastic supporters, he also inevitably questioned his cynicism about using games to “monetize traffic”. He was often criticized from head to toe. Pour a basin of cold water.
More importantly, the text adventure game is always a story-centric game type in Xiaofeng’s mind. This means that the more you cherish this story and want to leave the player with a complete experience, the harder it is. Use straightforward language to attract others to read this story. This way of expression is completely different from his past “after-playing” game reviews.
From posting by himself to participating in crowdfunding, from network forwarding to lottery promotion, Xiaofeng has exhausted all the methods he can think of. He basically has no extravagant hope that the original game can recover the cost, but hopes that the story he has carefully woven can be used by more people. see.
The reality gave him a blow.
The retreat of the two-dimensional capital boom came faster than expected. The first issuing company signed by Xiaofeng broke the capital chain two years ago, and immediately closed down, leaving nothing but feathers. Two of Xiaofeng’s works were also implicated and removed, and the second one was just released soon.
Compared with some developers who have lost their money, Xiaofeng is lucky. He finally recovered the arrears, recovered the production cost, and made about 10,000 yuan-these are two games in a few years. All the income brought to him.
“We are just lucky”
For Xiaofeng and the national Gal circle, this is a period of confusion and hesitation. When everything goes back to the original point, no one knows where to go.
At this time, Xiaofeng’s financial situation is safe, but it is not enough to support him to continue making games out of his own pocket. But when he came back to his senses, he found that he was already preparing a new project. He realized that he had no idea of giving up on this path at all, and the only question left was how to go on.
He took an unprecedented serious attitude towards the next work.
He once again found light memories, but it was no longer just an advice, but formally attracted him to participate in the production of the next Galgame as a script writer, and informed the other members of the candidates.
Different from the small breeze where one person is not hungry and the whole family is full, the light color at this time has long been married and has a daughter, and leads a peaceful and stable life. But after receiving the invitation from Xiaofeng, his first reaction was: “Cooperating with these people is reliable and successful.”
Other members of the team also include painter Lianki, Ling Jinxin who is in charge of the dubbing work, and Tokisaka workers who are in charge of the production of the performance. Like Xiaofeng and Light Color, they have both been addicted to Galgame. Lian entered the pit through “The Gate of Destiny” and “When the Sea Cat Cries” in high school, and prefers works with urban grotesque styles such as “God of Pop” and “Infinity”; and for elementary school, she has been exposed to Galgame’s spiritual heart. , The story of sweet and happy happiness is her heart. Both of them have accumulated a certain amount of industry experience, but it is the first time that they have collaborated with someone in a real “own work”. Full of anxiety, they were finally moved by Xiaofeng and joined the team.
In this way, although there is not even a fixed office location, the studio “Never Knows Best”, which originally had Xiaofeng alone, has truly become a team.
In such a production team that is actually hard to be called “professional”, although everyone nominally shares the responsibilities of “main reminder”, “script”, “art” and “dubbing”, they are no longer only responsible for outsourcing to themselves as usual. Part of the affairs, but to participate in every detail of the project. The warm stories that Xiaofeng and Lingganxin value, and the atmosphere of urban talks that Light and Lotus have worked hard to build are all integrated into this Galgame project called “Love Itan”. Everyone will have a long-term understanding and enthusiasm for Galgame. Pour into it.
Regarding the advancement of the entire project, Xiaofeng said that “we are lucky.”
Relying on his accumulated contacts, Xiaofeng obtained valuable start-up capital in the early stage and was able to make a demo of the game.
This highly acclaimed Demo helped them successfully crowdfund nearly 100,000 yuan on Modian, which was ten times the expectation, allowing the entire project to be polished under relatively ample conditions.
After the official release on Steam in October last year, the game received rave reviews, and received enthusiastic feedback from players from the screen performance to the overall story.
Although “Love Itan” with a unit price of 35 yuan has not been sold back yet, for the creators, this is already their proud work of doing their best to achieve the best condition under current conditions, and can understand so much. It’s lucky enough to meet the players of what they are expressing.
However, the “lucky” of “Love Itan” has not yet reached the end.
Xiaofeng once took “Love Itan” to participate in the IndiePlay China Independent Game Competition, hoping to have the opportunity to compete for the script narrative award, which is also one of the few competitive fields of text adventure games for a long time. But unexpectedly, “Love Itan” won the nomination for the best auditory effect. This incident made Xiaofeng realize that text adventure games are gradually being regarded as a serious game category in China, rather than just an accessory to anime. For the whole circle, this is undoubtedly more worthy of joy than a single game winning.
The chance to get on the mobile platform is another surprise for Xiaofeng.
Although some screen composition and gameplay that are highly compatible with the mobile terminal were designed during the game production process, Xiaofeng has never dared to release the mobile game version as an expected plan.
In Xiaofeng’s view, the mobile terminal is a very suitable platform for the development of China’s Gal. Unlike Japanese Galgame, which pays attention to rendering the daily atmosphere, is expensive, and aims to provide more than 40 hours of gaming experience, most of the Japanese Galgames take the short, flat and fast sketch route, which is very suitable for the small screen game experience on the mobile phone and the buyout mode of a fast food meal. But for their small-scale studio, publishing mobile games is much more complicated than landing on Steam.
In fact, few text adventure games have been successfully released on mobile phones in China so far.
But shortly after the game was released, the publisher Polk City contacted Xiaofeng and offered to represent the mobile version of “Love Itan”. Polk City has not released a similar text adventure game before, but at this time the company is committed to helping excellent domestic independent games to get on the mobile platform, and “Love Itan”, which has won unanimous praise in the internal trial play, has become One of their top choices.
Xiaofeng and the others cherished this opportunity very much, and Polk City was also deeply moved by the enthusiasm of these people. After the contact between the two parties, it hit it off and began to work together for the launch of the mobile version of “Non-Existent Lies: Love Itan”.
In the past two days, Xiaofeng and Qingse are taking “Love Itan” to participate in the CP28 doujin exhibition in Shanghai. They used to find acquaintances everywhere in the venue, and this year they sat at their own booths. They are still trying to let more people see their works in various ways, and the mobile game “Non-Existent Lies” also took this opportunity to open appointments, and during CP28, they ranked first on the TapTap appointment list with a full score of 10. .
The still uncertain future
So do you think that the development of National Gal is on the right track and is getting better and better?
When asked about this question, Xiaofeng quickly gave a negative answer: “I can’t just say that this industry is getting better and better because I am lucky and have a better chance for the time being.”
From ordinary enthusiasts, to industry observers, to personal ups and downs, Xiaofeng has witnessed the development of domestic Galgame culture from all angles along the way. He knows how difficult it is to insist on making text adventure games. but. Compared with the tip of the pyramid, a small number of production teams have received a resource tilt. Struggling on the food and clothing line or even the life and death line is the norm for most people in this industry, and the enthusiasm that these people have for Galgame and the stories they want to tell may not necessarily be the same. Inferior to those survivors, but they didn’t even have a chance to show it.
If “Non-Existent Lies” can get more people’s attention and love through its distribution on the mobile platform, Xiaofeng hopes that this will become an opportunity for everyone to pay attention to Gal in other countries than his own company.
“But putting aside these industry topics, I did it because I liked it and wanted to do something like this. When I saw the comments from players telling me how I was impressed by our work, I remembered being 18 years old when I was “Air “I was so touched… I felt that everything was worth it.” Xiaofeng said at last.