Interview with Fruitbat Factory
Interview with Fruitbat Factory
Fruitbat Factory is an indie company that localizes Japanese Indie games for the English-speaking market. I had the chance to have a brief chat with Jakke and Ozhan, two thirds of the founding members, about their company, their games, their current indiegogo campaign for 99 Spirits, and more.
Firstly, thank you for taking time to chat to us.
Ozhan: The pleasure is mine. Ours?
Jakke: Thanks for asking for us! it’s a bit hard to find a good time due to time zone differences.
For our readers who may not know about you and your work, could you please tell us a little about Fruitbat Factory? Who are you?
Jakke: We’re a small completely independent localization company and our simple goal is to bring lots of great Japanese games to the English-speaking audiences worldwide. we’ve been around since early 2012 and released our first game, War of the Human Tanks in September 2012
Ozhan: Three founding partners, and some additional staff, almost everyone is from and currently living in different countries.
Well before we get into 99 Spirits I’d actually like to talk a little about your first game, War of the Human Tanks. Can you tell us a little about it?
Jakke: Let’s see, War of the Human Tanks is part of the Human Tanks, Charge! series, developed by Yakiniku Banzai and originally released in Japan in… was it 2009? It got a small cult following there, and has produced two sequels and a third in the works.
I don’t think they actually had immediate plans for the 4th game in the series before we licensed War of the Human Tanks because they were working on a game in a new series, Recycle Princess. The new game’s called Human Tank Factory so it’s easy to think we helped inspire it for our small part
Ozhan: One of the reviewers called it’s gameplay a mix between chess and battleship, that’s my favorite description of it
Jakke: The concept of the game was really funny, it instantly caught our interest, just a bit too crazy to be for real.
Ozhan: We were so glad when we managed to grab its licence.
Jakke: War of the Human Tanks is currently available in English from GamersGate, Indievania, Desura, Amazon, Green Man Gaming, Nyu Media, Jbox and Shiny Loot. And fighting the never-ending good fight on Greenlight, of course.
Ozhan: It’s everywhere!
Greenlight is actually something I wanted to talk about. Despite critical praise from many places, a very unique concept and being available on a plethora of digital stores, have you found it hard to sell the game without the steam “label” behind it?
Jakke: I don’t think it’s the Steam label that’s important as such, it’s simply that all data seems to support that around 80-90% of gamers are on Steam, it’s the biggest distribution platform is all. And visibility is always a key issue for a game.
Ozhan: Games sell a lot more on Steam, that is a given.
I see. Now let’s move into the real meat of the interview, 99 Spirits.
Currently at 80% of the goal with 10 days remaining on indiegogo, 99 Spirits seems to have a bit of interest behind it. The question is, what is it?
Jakke: To put it in a familiar category, it’s a puzzle RPG.
Ozhan: We have been preparing for its release for a while, even at its early stages of development 99 Spirits got goot public reception. It won the Indie Dev Grant in December, around the same time when the War of the Human Tanks got picked as the 4th best indie strategy game of the year, we were quite happy those days.
Jakke: That was a positive surprise, yeah. We hope it was an indicator the game has some instant appeal. I personally love the style of the game but everyone has their own tastes so I’m careful not to generalize too much just based on that.
Ozhan: We launched an IndieGoGo campaign and Steam Greenlight entry for it at the same time.
The Indie Dev Grant is something I’d both like to congratulate you on receiving and also want to come back to, but what about the real meat of the gameplay? From what I’ve seen it looks kind of like a grid based RPG with some unique puzzle elements, is there anything you could compare it to?
Ozhan: Have you seen the English gameplay video we added later? There was a demand for more spotlight on its gameplay, so we made a video focusing on it and it got good reception.
Jakke: Ah yeah, I’m moderately happy about how that turned out.
Jakke: Well, the way the actual puzzle mechanics are integrated into the main gameplay brings Jewel Quest to mind. It’s a J-RPG, but the battles have an unique mechanism, which is also an interesting challenge for the localization.
Ozhan: I never thought it similar to Jewel Quest at all.
Jakke: Only in concept, I can’t think of any other comparisons.
The battle mechanics have this unique system I haven’t seen in any game, they revolve around identifying the identity of your enemy from hints you draw out by fighting it.
Ozhan: The grid movement in the maps are turn based, you move, everyone else moves, based on their speed of course. Battles are on a separate screen from the first person perspective, where you need to first figure out what kind of an enemy you are fighting to be able to defeat it.
Jakke: Well calling it turn based might be distracting, the grid part is more symbolic, as you can already see from its simple stylized execution.
It sounds very unique, much like Human Tanks was.
Ozhan: That’s where the puzzle aspect comes in.
Jakke: The puzzles also play in that you can capture the enemy Tsukumogami (the spirits you fight), and use them to solve logical puzzles on the field. The gameplay video shows me capturing the Tsukumogami of a lantern and using it to light a candlestick to open a secret door.
Ozhan: Combat is real time. You need to attack, block, counter, etc and fill up the power of your sword’s crystals and then you unleash their power, say the name of the enemy to “release the shroud” and face it head on. Every crystal has a different power. You repair and upgrade them; you also capture some of the enemies and gain their special skills, and train them to gain even more skills.
Alright, I think I’m starting to picture it in my head. Very unique.
Jakke: It’s certainly very unique; it’s fun to find such gems. This one was just released in Japan in August 2012 and we began talks about localizing it as soon as we discovered it.
Ozhan: We would like to release it as soon as possible, when it’s done™ of course. It’ll be quite nice to be able to release an English localization so close to the actual Japanese release date
Unlike Human Tanks, I believe this is the first game by developer TORaIKI. Can you explain who they are and about your relationship?
Jakke: TORaIKI is great to work with and she, it’s essentially a 1-woman circle, was very enthusiastic about an English release from the start. I hope this IGG will show them that there’s real interest in the game here too, I’m sure she’s happy about that. We’ve been in close touch during the entire project, shooting ideas off one another
Ozhan: Our third partner Yoshifumi is Japanese, and he is currently living in Japan, his unique position allows us to have a personal relationship with the Japanese developers. We found Japanese indie developers quite cool and friendly people; we work together with them in releasing the games, bounce of ideas on improving the English version. For example; originally Human Tanks had this light show on the battle backgrounds, we added hand drawn maps instead of them, which Yakiniku was already doing on their latest title
Jakke: Right. We also revamped the deployment screen to make it more user friendly, it used to be 2 separate screens.
Compared to WotHT, 99 Spirits is definitely more challenging as a localization project. We had to discuss the main points before we even signed up for it to figure out whether it’s even possible, given that the main gameplay revolves around word puzzles.
Ozhan: [laughter] Yeah.
Jakke: And it’s also heavily Japanese in the themes, the Tsukumogami theme was really interesting.
Ozhan: Objects that you see around you every day gaining their own life after existing in this world for a century.
You just mentioned Japanese themes and interest in the game, and coming back to the Indie Dev Grant, I want to know if you two think that perhaps these events and your success is indicative of a want for Japanese indie games in the west, a market that, perhaps, didn’t exist even five or so years ago.
Jakke: Hmmm… Well we began operating on the premise that there is such a market, and we’re sure there is, though it’s difficult to estimate how large it might be altogether. We also believe it’s a growing market, with anime and other Japanese media becoming more mainstream in the West.
Ozhan: Japanese games market leans mostly on consoles and handhelds compared to the West.
Jakke: Certainly yeah. When we talk about the market on PC, it’s difficult to gauge.
Ozhan: Most people we introduced our games were complete strangers to the Japanese games. There was much suprise and confusion regarding the amount of text in Human Tanks, something that is no stranger to the people who are more familiar to the Japanese games.
The gap between consoles, handhelds and PC are getting smaller every year though, and that makes the response to our Japanese indie game releases more and more positive every day.
Jakke: Right, well we’re at least doing our best to spread the word. We’re trying to provide everyone the chance to check out our games through various promotions and bundles, and the player feedback has been very positive, it’s always fun to read.
Ozhan: We already have some diehard fans of the War of the Human tanks that are trying to help with our next release, that is so good to see.
Jakke: Yeah, that’s awesome. Most people still have never heard of us or our games and that takes time and effort to change.
The indiegogo campaign is very nearly at its completion mark, what I want to know is when can I get my hands on it, where can I buy it and how much will it cost?
Ozhan: Some pledges give you access to our current builds right now.
Jakke: Right after the campaign ends.
Ozhan: Of course. You can start fiddling with the game without waiting the release that way, otherwise we’ll release it on all our distribution partners I’d think
Jakke: We’re not quite far enough to set down release arrangements yet, but we’ve had some preliminary talks and 99 Spirits will probably be available from at least the same distributors as WotHT. And maybe someday on Steam too!
I see it also has a greenlight in addition to indiegogo, correct?
Ozhan: 99 Spirits pretty much already caught Human Tanks on Greenlight, that is something considering it is yet to be released.
Jakke: We’re aiming at an April release at the moment, but there’s still enough work to be done to not make it official, shouldn’t be long though.
Ozhan: We haven’t finalized its price but it is planned to be around $15.
Time is running and I’m aware you both have places to be and things to do, so a final question. What can we expect from Fruitbat Factory in the future?
Ozhan: Lots of unique and fun games!
Jakke: Yes, we’re always on the lookout for whatever’s interesting out there
Ozhan: We first consider if we’d like playing a game before we start considering licencing it. We had a lot of fun on both localizing and playing the War of the Human Tanks, that’s why we are so happy to hear to hear when people say that they loved playing it as well.
Jakke: Right, that’s indeed been a main criteria for us. If we’re not interested in a game ourselves, we’re not inclined to release it just because “there might be people that like it”. Gotta like it first!
Well said. Thankyou both for your time and good luck!
Ozhan: Thank you for having us!
Jakke: Thanks for the interview.
You can see the 99 Spirits indiegogo and contribute right here, or you can check out Human Tanks on it’s own website. Thank you again to Fruitbat Factory for taking time out of their busy schedule to have a chat to GYP.