Ever17 Anniversary Uchikoshi & Nakazawa Interview Part 1 (Non-Spoiler)

*This is an unofficial interview with Ever17 original concept/scenario writer Kotaro Uchikoshi, and director Takumi Nakazawa. Please note that the views expressed in this interview are Mr. Uchikoshi and Mr. Nakazawa’s own, and do not reflect the views of any related organizations or copyright holders of Ever17.

#1. First of all, please introduce yourselves and explain your roles on Ever17.

Uchikoshi:

I am Kotaro Uchikoshi, a director and scenario writer at Spike Chunsoft. I was in charge of the planning, original concept, each character’s plot creation, the writing in Coco’s Route, and supervised all the routes.

(Interviewer’s note: Mr. Uchikoshi is the director and writer of the “Zero Escape” series, developed by Spike Chunsoft, and published/localized in the USA by Aksys Games. In late March, an updated rerelease of the first two games of the series (“Zero Escape: 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors” and “Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward”) was released on Steam, PS Vita, and PS4, titled “Zero Escape: The Nonary Games”, while the third and final game in the series, “Zero Escape: Zero Time Dilemma”, was released in June 2016 on Steam, PS Vita, and Nintendo 3DS.
Mr. Uchikoshi can be found on Facebook and Twitter.)

Nakazawa:

I am Takumi Nakazawa. I work at Regista, where I mainly make VNs. I am the creator of Root Double, which was released in English as well last year. As for Ever17, I was the director and the writer of part of the scenario (Kid’s Common Route/You’s Route).

(Interviewer’s note: As stated, Mr. Nakazawa is the director, producer, and original concept writer of “Root Double -Before Crime * After Days- Xtend Edition”, which was developed and released by Regista and Yeti in Japan. In April 2016, an English release of “Root Double” was released on Steam by Sekai Project and localized by us here at Lemnisca, while a PS Vita release is scheduled for the future.
Mr. Nakazawa can be found on Facebook and Twitter.)

 

#2. Please tell us about how you got into the visual novel industry, as well as how you came to end up working on Ever17.

Uchikoshi:

Initially, I didn’t go in wanting to make VNs. It started when I learned that a company named KID had made video game versions of board games, which interested me, and so I joined that video game making company. My first job was doing the wireframes on the 3D models for the action game “Pepsiman”. Afterwards, KID became a visual novel maker, and my superior asked, rather simply at that, if I could write scenarios. I accepted his offer, and ended up writing visual novel scenarios. Then, after making several bishoujo games, I think I wanted to put some sci-fi elements into my next work, which is how Infinity (Never7) came about. I don’t remember too well, since it was 18 years ago, though. Anyway, Never7 got fairly good reception, so I ended up making its sequel (or rather, the next game in the series) Ever17.

Nakazawa:

It was also a series of events that led me to making VNs. I went to a computer school with dreams of becoming a video game creator, but when I was job hunting, a job offer flyer from the video game developer KID (who would later become Ever17’s publisher) was put up at my school, so when I applied and sent them a game proposal, it was fortunately accepted, and I entered the gaming industry. Back then, KID was a developer of not just VNs, but all sorts of genres, such as board games, action games, simulation games, and so on. Right after I joined the company, I participated as an assistant on a Sega Saturn port of a PC game. Following that, I worked as an assistant director and game scripter on board games and romance simulation games, and three years after joining, I was assigned as the director of Infinity (the first version of Never7). This was essentially my first time making a VN. Afterwards, I worked other VN projects such as Never7, Close to, Memories Off 2nd, and Subete ga F ni Naru as a director and/or scenario writer, eventually leading to me participating in the sequel of Never7, Ever17.

#3. Please tell us about how the inception of Ever17 came about.

Uchikoshi:

As stated above, I think it’s because Never7 got good reception, so I went about planning it as a part of the same series.

Nakazawa:

Uchikoshi, who was a freelancer at the time, was the one who came with the game proposal for Ever17. Once the proposal was accepted and the project was assembled, I was asked to participate. I was the director of the previous work, Never7, so they assigned the sequel to me as well.

#4. How long was the development for Ever17?

Nakazawa:

Hmmm, I think it was shorter than a year. I don’t remember too well, but about ten months… maybe? Now that I think about it, it was a rather short production time.

Uchikoshi:

I remember the beginning very well. First, I began gathering material around August 2001. Back then, I read a book titled “Tertium Organum (by P.D. Ouspensky)” over the course of a month.
After that, I took a trip to Bali in Indonesia from September 2/3-11. I got all sorts of inspiration from there, and just when I was getting ready to return to Japan, I put my luggage in my room and turned on the TV, where I saw the news showing footage of one of the World Trade Center towers burning. I saw the second plane crash in realtime. I won’t write about what happened in the world over the course of the next three months. Just that the creation of Ever17’s plot took place at that time, and the spirit of the times may have had a considerable influence on it. Oh, the topic’s gone off-course. Anyway, I remember when I began to knead Ever17’s structure together and when I set about creating the plot very well because of that historical event. I started writing the plot in September 2001, and finally finished around February 2002 (about half a year later). The scenario was divided up amongst all the writers, and was written over the course of March-May (about three months). Now that I think about it, that was unbelievably insane! A miracle! And the release date was August 29, 2002! When making a console game, the finalized ROM usually has to be completed two months before release, so we had to finish the debugging and everything else related to development by the end of June. A scenario completed at the end of May, and the finalized ROM completed at the end of June… what in the world?! This doesn’t make sense! I can only assume there was some sort of time distortion along the way! This could not have been the act of a man, but a god! That’s right, we made the game known as Ever17 with God! Or maybe it was director Nakazawa’s brilliance. He’s a genius who sacrificed sleep to pour all his effort into the game. The same went for the staff. They worked themselves to death. We made this game feeling like we were hacking up blood. Behind the scenes of that miraculously short development time was everyone’s hard work.

Nakazawa:

I get the feeling you’re seriously overexaggerating, but it is a fact that we were able to finish the game thanks to the team’s hard work.

#5. Mr. Nakazawa, what exactly does work directing a visual novel entail? To what degree of control does a director have over the whole process?

Nakazawa:

The scale of a director’s work varies by the company and project. In my case, it involves the following work:

*Checking the scenario and offering support
*Supervising the quality of the overall work
*Supervising the project’s progress.
*Creating specification documents (for graphics, sound, game systems, etc.)
*Identifying and supervising outsourced staff.
*Supervising outsource budgets
*Negotiating with the platform company (such as Sony)
*Offering PR and business support

In addition, if the game was your idea, you also “come up with the game’s concept and make the proposal draft”, “come up with the details about the characters and setting, then document them”, and if you’re the scenario writer, then you naturally “write the scenario”, all at the same time.

As for how much control (authority) the director possesses, so long as they keep within the allotted budget and don’t stray from the concepts laid down by the producer, they have a strong say when it comes to the game’s content. However, they must also be careful to be very respectful of the opinions of expert staff members (such as the programmer and designer), as if you ignore them, you can’t keep making games. Also, there are occasions where, due to adult circumstances, you must obey the producer’s orders. So, while there is responsibility involved, it’s not that distinguishable. It’s essentially middle management, so to speak.

#6. Please describe to us how the production of a visual novel normally goes about, step-by-step. Did Ever17 stick to this process, or were there deviations?

Nakazawa:

I think it varies by company, but I’ll explain how the projects I participate in progress. This will be long, so please skip ahead if you’re not interested.

1.

First, the planner comes up with a game concept and compiles it in a game proposal draft. In general, the one who came up with the idea is the one who does it. There are many cases where the scenario writer, director, producer, and planner writes it, but if the one who came up with the idea is the designer, then the designer writes the proposal draft. At this point in time, there are cases where only the concept and the general details are decided, and there are cases where even the specific story has been decided.

2.

If the proposal is accepted, the producer negotiates with the company and secures a budget, then assembles a project team. There are times where only an in-house staff is used, and there are times where outsourced staff participate as well.

3.

Once the team is assembled, the scenario writer comes up with the plot (if the specific story has not been decided yet, this is when it is thought up), and the director helps out (by compiling resources, coming up with ideas, etc.)

4.

Once the plot is complete, the scenario writer starts writing the scenario. When there are multiple writers, you at first decide who covers which parts. After that, the main writer starts their work first up until a certain point, and then the subwriters start writing while the main writer is compiling their work.

5.

The director starts creating specification documents based on the plot. Details such as what sprites/pictures will be needed, what music will be needed, what systems will be needed, etc.

6.

While 5 is going on, the director checks the slowly growing scenario script, which influences the specification documents. If the details of the scenario are straying from the concept, or if there are issues with the quality, they can order a retake.

7.

While 5 is going on, the director requests character designs from the illustrator, including their figures, facial expressions, hair types, clothes, coloring, and other such design details.

In projects with a lenient schedule, the rest of the staff doesn’t work until the scenario has been completed to a certain point.

8.

In projects with tight schedules, the graphics and audio materials also begin production before the scenario is finished. The plot is made into a specification document for reference, and background and BGM specialists are given requests. Since not all the details have been decided yet, there are occasions where contradictions arise between them, but the director resolves this by deciding to fix either the scenario or the graphics to match.

9.

Once the character designs are complete, production on the character visuals (character sprites and event CGs) begins. When the schedule is tight, they start drawing them before the scenario is done. Naturally, since not all the details have been decided yet, this can also result in contradictions, but we work hard here to make them consistent.

10.

It is around this point in many cases where the key visual is made: a picture that represents the work as a whole. The character designer is responsible for this. In Ever17’s case, it was a drawing of the five heroines against an underwater background. Once it’s finished, the image is used as a reference for the finishing stages of the CGs, and is used as a promo material when the work is announced publicly.

11.

Once the general scenario has been written, voice recording starts next, but in the event there are multiple writers, the main writer supervises the work written by the sub-writers. There have been occasions where this process is omitted due to time constraints, but with Ever17, Uchikoshi thoroughly supervised the whole thing. This involves making sure there are no contradictions/plot holes between the writers, ensuring the characters’ ways of talking is consistent, ensuring the setting is consistent, and rewriting sections when necessary.

12.

Once the scenario is completed, it’s turned into a script used for voice recording, and voice actors are hired for the recording. Recording is carried out by engineers and sound directors. Recording doesn’t end in one day. Depending on the number of lines and the voice actors’ schedules, recording can last several months. The recorded voices are split up into separate lines by the editing staff, and converted into voice data used for the game.

13.

It’s around this stage where more and more tasks must be carried out at the same time. A list of necessary sound effects for the scenario is made, and specialists create them. The programmer builds the system. In games that require a special system, the director, planner, and producer design the game system over discussions. The designer designs the UI. The scripters begin game scripting the scenario. Completed graphics and sound materials are implemented by the programmer, making them a part of the game. There are many times where the backgrounds and event CGs aren’t done yet, so dummy data is made as a placeholder for them during development.

There are a lot of people involved at this point in time, resulting in all sorts of opinions, beliefs, and expectations getting all tied up. It’s a time where the schedule is likely to deviate, making it easy for problems to occur. Should any serious problems occur, the director can’t deal with them alone, causing occasions where the producer has to be brought in to resolve them.

14.

Once the game has been completed to a certain degree, a request to rate the game is sent to the rating company (the CERO, in Japan’s case), and debugging to check the game for bugs begins. There have been occasions where the debugging is carried out in-house, and other occasions where a debugging company is requested for the task.

15.

At this point, requests for the in-game videos are made to the video designer.

With all this work occurring simultaneously, the game slowly yet surely takes shape. The director observes the overall work and supervises the quality. They check out all the materials while envisioning the finalized game, play the game while it’s in development while checking it, and add or remove game specifications when necessary. It’s like doing editing work, in a sense. Furthermore, when the game’s completion draws near, they begin coordinating PR and business sales, but I won’t go into that here.

16.

With games made in a short period of time, all the materials are finally assembled about a month prior to the finalized game’s submission. In hopeless projects like a sudden death match, it’s not rare for finally assembling all the materials right before the finalized game to look like a scene straight out of hell. The finalized materials are implemented when the occasion calls, and through debugging the game over and over again, it takes on its finalized shape.

17.

Once the game is completed, the finalized ROM is submitted to the platform company (such as Sony). The platform company runs a check of the game, and approves of it if there are no problems (if there are problems, they get fixed, and the finalized ROM is sent again), therefore preparing the release copy. With development work complete, all that’s left is to wait for the release date. Incidentally, if the game is being released on a console, the finalized ROM must be submitted about two months prior to the release date. There have been times where players have cheered us on as the release date draws near with “please work hard until the very end”, but sorry, by that time, there’s nothing we can do.

I understand that was long, but even this was a rather abridged explanation. VNs are a rather simple genre to make when compared to other games, but they are developed through countless processes and with the help of many staff members.

Ever17 was also more or less created with the same sequence. The schedule was tight, so I remember a lot of work had to be done all at once. The staff worked to the bone to make it.

#7. Mr. Uchikoshi, what process did creating the plot of Ever17 involve? Were there any notable changes between the first draft and the final version? Was there any content you had wanted to put into the final version but were unable to, or had to cut?

Uchikoshi:

The “first draft” and the “final version” are different in every game. I think other writers would agree with me there. When you find an interesting turn of events while writing, you ignore the first draft and write it in the way that makes it more interesting. I don’t particularly remember any parts that I wanted to put in but couldn’t, but I do remember that I had to rush the end of Coco’s Route because I didn’t have much time. That might be my only regret.

#8. As I understand it, Mr. Uchikoshi wrote the main scenario and Coco’s Route, while Mr. Nakazawa wrote You’s Route. For Mr. Uchikoshi, how did you go about preparing all the foreshadowing for the reveals in Coco’s Route in each route? For Mr. Nakazawa, how did writing You’s Route go? Was it hard to juggle between all your other directorial duties?

Uchikoshi:

I kneaded the plot together over the course of half a year. Oh, now that I think of it, I haven’t been told “we’ll give you half a year on the plot” in a while. And I wasn’t even managing more than one role at once with Ever17… For half a year, I focused on nothing more than kneading the plot of Ever17 together, day in and day out, seven days a week, which I considered to be a huge victory for me.

Nakazawa:

I wrote the scenario in between writing the specification documents while also supervising the overall production and performing QC. I had so much to do and so little time, so I would stay at the company overnight each day and pull all-nighters for work. It’s a miracle I didn’t work myself to death. I think I only pulled it off because I was young. Were I in a similar situation nowadays, I would ask for a much longer production period.

#9. It has been noted that with the exception of Coco’s Route, the character routes are all roughly around the same length. How was the size of the story determined for Ever17? What instructions were the other scenario writers given in terms of length?

Uchikoshi:

I think standards for VNs back in the day had an average amount of bytes that you aimed for (note to readers: in the gaming world, the quantity of text is measured by bytes). Also, I was given some minor instructions that a single route should be a certain number of kilobytes… Nakazawa, please follow up on this.

Nakazawa:

Mmm, I don’t really remember too well… I think there were instructions to make each route a certain length, but perhaps each of the scenario lengths turned out that way as a result of each scenario writer developing the story as per the scenario plot Uchikoshi had written… The general length may have been decided during Uchikoshi’s plotting stage.

#10. Up until this point in visual novel history, it was very rare for a visual novel to have more than one protagonist (some of the more famous exceptions being the Eve series, DESIRE, and Machi), and all of KID’s games up until that point featured only a single protagonist. Why was it decided for Ever17 to have more than one protagonist?

Uchikoshi:

That’s a very good question. The answer is simply “because having only one protagonist was stale”. That was the sole reason why we had two protagonists. In other words, instead of the main trick, the first thing I was thought was “let’s have two protagonists!”->”How can I make that interesting?”->”Oh, I know!”. First of all, when you figure out the core of what will make the story interesting and then think of ways to make the setting match that core, that’s what’s called the “deductive composition method”. On the other hand, when you think of the setting first, then think of what core will be needed to make that setting work, that’s known as the “inductive composition method”. In Ever17’s case, we used the inductive composition method far more than compared to other works. Incidentally, I don’t recommend the inductive composition method to those currently striving to become writers and directors. As for why, it’s because it’s a gamble that doesn’t guarantee your story will be interesting. Therefore, I believe those striving to be writers or directors should read beginner books on “ways to write an interesting story” or “scenario writing for beginners” and consider coming up with an interesting core first, then deduce the setting from there. Through that, you should be able to write a decent scenario. But if you’re a gambler who dreams of someday writing a revolutionary story, then I believe it would be best for you to take all those crappy “Something for Beginners” books and sell them on Ebay or burn them in the fireplace or something. First, think of a setting you consider interesting, then work backwards (through the inductive composition method) and come up with a main core. Though as I said before, whether you can think one up or not is a gamble. There’s no real established method for it. If you can’t come up with one, it’s all over, so please take personal responsibility into account while considering the risks.

#11. Also, each protagonist was “assigned” different heroines. To what process was it decided which heroines would be paired with which protagonist?

Uchikoshi:

Hmm, with Ever17, it was never about “which guy ends up with which girl”… I don’t really have any other way of saying it other than they were paired as according to the plot…

#12. Ever17 is widely considered to have the recommended route order of Tsugumi->Sora->You->Sara->Coco. Was development done with this in mind?

Uchikoshi:

Nakazawa, was this recommended route order official?

Nakazawa:

It was intended to be. However, it wasn’t decided that would be the case at first, and the routes weren’t written in that order either. The recommended completion order was decided around the time the scenario was more or less done. When I was ordering the creation of the opening movie, I remember instructing: “show the characters in this order. I want this order to leave an impression. I want players to play the game in this order, if possible.”

#13. As I understand it, Ever17 was developed for the Dreamcast and the PS2 first. Now, the Dreamcast was discontinued in March 2001, and was considered totally dead in the USA. No new games were even released for the system after 2001 in the USA. However, in Japan, companies kept releasing games for the Dreamcast as late as 2004-2006. Why do you think that was?

Nakazawa:

I think it’s because back then, development costs for the PS2 were expensive (though that was mitigated a few years later), so there were a lot of makers who couldn’t easily enter the PS2 market. But on the other hand, the specs of the PS1 were unfavorable. Thus there were a surprising number of makers who kept making games for the Dreamcast. This was especially the case with VNs: since they sold less copies compared to other genres, they couldn’t have very high budgets. Furthermore, a lot of VN players owned a Dreamcast. So I think they kept making games even for the Dreamcast because they could make them for low budgets and still expect a certain degree of sales from them. Perhaps the reason no new games were sold in the USA after 2001 was because there was no demand for low-budget VNs in the country.

#14. Ever17 is the second game in the Infinity series, after Never7. Was it intended as a sequel to Never7 from the start? If not, then when was it decided?

Uchikoshi:

I think it was made from the start as a sequel (or rather, as part of a series)…

Nakazawa:

From what I remember, Uchikoshi initially proposed it not as a direct sequel, but rather as a work following the tradition of Never7… I think. That’s what was written in the initial draft, I believe. So at first, it had a completely different title. It was only later, when Uchikoshi began putting together the detailed plot, that it became a direct sequel (because he put in keywords that were related to Never7). Though the title still wasn’t Ever17 at that time. It was only when the plot was totally completed that it did, I feel…

#15. Speaking of series, at one point early on in the Kid’s story, You says “it’s not like we’re on a snowy mountain during the winter!”. Was this line intentionally foreshadowing the development of Remember11, or was it just a coincidence?

(Interviewer’s note: In the official English release of Ever17, the line in question was translated as “it’s not as if we’re lost in a blizzard”.)

Uchikoshi:

I think it was a coincidence.

Nakazawa:

It was just a coincidence. Well, assuming there is no storage medium that can cross the fence between spacetime and humans. I forgot there was even a line like that.

#16. In-between development of Never7 and Ever17, the two of you also worked on the games “Close to ~ Inori no Oka” (Mr. Nakazawa was the director and wrote Shoko’s Route, and Mr. Uchikoshi wrote Yuuna and Mai’s routes) and “Memories Off 2nd” (Mr. Nakazawa worked as the director and participated in the writing of Tsubame’s Route, while Mr. Uchikoshi wrote Hotaru’s route), and Mr. Nakazawa also participated in the scenario writing of the VN adaptation of “Subete ga F ni Naru”. Was it hard working on all three/four games at once? Or was there no overlap in their development cycles?

Nakazawa:

Hmm, as far as I remember, none of the games had overlapping development.

Uchikoshi:

I was having some minor mental issues during the production of “Close to”

Nakazawa:

Mmm, next question, please.

#17. Did you have any influence on the voice casting and recording sessions? Were there any difficult parts or interesting occasions in particular?

Nakazawa:

You had too many lines (out of all the characters, she had by far the most!), but Ms. Noriko Shitaya did a great job. There were times where she got exhausted from the sheer amount of talking she had to do. Also, Sora had a lot of long lines with a lot of difficult terms, so Ms. Hiroko Kasahara also worked really hard. As for any interesting occasions… I feel like there were some, but it’s been so long that I’ve forgotten.

#18. At the height of its popularity in English-speaking regions, it was almost considered taboo to reveal spoilers for Ever17. What countermeasures did you take to ensure spoilers didn’t leak out for the Japanese market?

Nakazawa:

Back in the day, there was a warning in the precautions section of the Infinity series forum run by KID informing players to refrain from spoiling any future players, but apart from that, we didn’t do anything else in particular. I feel Japanese players tend to use their own judgment to hold back on spoilers for the sake of other players.

#19. What were some of the greatest difficulties you faced during Ever17’s development?

Nakazawa:

I was so busy that felt I worked myself to death… Apart from that, I can’t think of anything in particular.

#20. How did you go about researching topics for this game? There seemed to be quite a lot of research put into figuring out how a place like LeMU would function.

Uchikoshi:

Reading books and checking the internet…

#21. Ever17 extensively uses German for its setting. Why was this aspect chosen? On that note, why was Leiblich Pharmaceuticals made a German company?

Uchikoshi:

There are several reasons:

#1: We felt English would have been too ordinary and not interesting enough.
#2: I was influenced by the 2000 anime movie “Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade (directed by Hiroyuki Okiura, written by Mamoru Oshii)”.
#3: I had a friend who was familiar with German.
#4: I had taken a trip to Europe before, based in Germany.
#5: When we decided to include a pharmaceutical company, we felt countries like Germany and Switzerland were famous for their pharmaceuticals… (excluding the USA and the UK)

#22. An underwater theme park is quite a unique setting for a story, to say the least. Why was it chosen? Also, each attraction is linked to one of the heroines. Were the attractions created based on how they would tie into each heroine, or were the attractions decided first and the heroine’s ties to them second?

Uchikoshi:

First, that friend who knew German that I mentioned earlier talked one day about how Disneyland was really great on rainy days. He said “there’s barely anyone around, and if you walk around with a raincoat, it feels like you have the whole place reserved to yourself. Theme parks without others around are tons of fun!” After I heard that, I thought “yeah, empty theme parks are indeed nice.”, which is how it started. At first, I considered a setting where the cast was “trapped on an ordinary theme park on land”, but when I realized they could simply climb over the fence to escape, I tried thinking of a way where they couldn’t escape so easily, when it hit me to set it underwater.

Nakazawa:

The relations between the attractions and the heroines was assigned by Uchikoshi during the plot development stage. It was decided that each heroine’s impactful event would occur at one of the attractions. I think the heroines’ backgrounds were done first, but I also feel that the image that could perceived from each attraction fed its way back into the heroines’ personalities. For Tsugumi, there was the Qualle: as elusive as a jellyfish. For Sora, there was the Karussel Delphine: pure and fantastical like a child playing on a merry-go-round. For You, there was the Lemurianische Ruine: archaeology and fate. For Sara, there was the Kosmisher Wal: a girl with hobbies as eccentric as a whale floating in space. Coco was the only one without an attraction, but her speech and conduct was already as delightful as an attraction, so she didn’t need one.

#23. Takeshi’s Bad Ending left quite the impression in the minds of many players. What sort of process goes into writing bad endings for a game like this? Why make them? What sort of emotions go through your head as you write them?

Uchikoshi:

I feel bad.

Nakazawa:

There are two main reasons why Bad Endings are made. The first is Bad Endings that are made more from a game perspective. Those ones are made as the opposite to the reward (the good ending) that is the result of the player’s interactive actions (making choices, etc.). It’s made as a foil to the good ending in order to boost the latter’s sense of accomplishment. VNs in the past essentially had Bad Endings for that reason. The other reason is Bad Endings that are placed relative to the Good Ending to give the story more weight and variety. A series of “what-if?” events that are there show “what would have happened if you had done something different at that time?”. This has been common in recent VNs. For Ever17, both reasons applied. As a writer, it is painful to write them, but at the same time, you can’t help but feel interested when you look at it from above and consider what turn of events could have occurred. I feel this is an experience unique to games out of all the mediums out there.

#24. Was there any sort of concepts and themes you had in mind when you wrote Ever17?

Uchikoshi:

Thinking of concepts and themes is the theme.

#25. Ever17 was released in English in late 2005. It developed a legendary reputation at the time, as it was one of the first English-translated visual novels with such a heavy focus on plot. What were the contemporary reactions to Ever17 in Japan at the time of its release?

Nakazawa:

It was the same in Japan. There was a storm of praise that came in from players who had played all the way until the end. I’ve even heard cases of people whose lives were influenced by Ever17, such as those who wanted to became VN makers after playing it, or those who decided to major in physics as a result. We were sure it’d be a fun game while we were developing it, but the truth is, while we were debugging it after it had been completed to a certain level, I suddenly got worried, and I would ask the staff who were debugging it nervous questions like “is this okay? Do you think it’s interesting”? So as a result, when it received high praise, I was quite surprised.

Uchikoshi:

I think it got very favorable reception, and to this day, I’m still known as “Ever17’s Uchikoshi”. Though I have mixed feelings on that, I must say… There’s more people in Japan who know about Ever17 than the Zero Escape series, so that’s what they call me. But it’s sad, not being able to overcome a past work. Am I going die with that label forever…?

#26. How was Yuu Takigawa picked for the character designer?

Nakazawa:

Yuu Takigawa was a friend of character designer Chisato Naruse, who did the character designs for a VN made by KID at the time called “Yume no Tsubasa”. I remember that Ms. Naruse and the KID PR staff got along well, and so Ms. Takigawa was brought on board on the recommendation of the PR staff.

#27. What sort of work went into the CGs? Were there parts you wanted to add CGs that you were ultimately unable to (due to deadlines and budget)? Did any difficulty with the CGs occur during production?

Nakazawa:

First, a specifications document (instructions document) based on the plot and scenario, detailing what CGs will be needed, is written and given to the art staff members to make. The budget and deadline was carefully considered in advance when deciding how many CGs there would be, so there were no CGs that we were unable to finish and insert in time. However, since the specifications document was created before the scenario was completed, I can’t say that all the spots the CGs were made for were the best ones as a result. I rewrote the specifications while looking at the unfinished scenario when the occasion rose, so while they were fine, when I looked back on the whole scenario after it was completed, I found myself wishing we had put CGs in certain scenes too. So when we added CGs to the Premium Edition re-release edition, I was able to clear my regrets about multiple scenes.

As for any obstacles with the CGs, the graphics staff didn’t understand the main twist of the story (probably due to my poor explanation), and had trouble with my instructions. There were multiple occasions where I would find mistakes in finished CGs (mistakes that people who didn’t know the twist wouldn’t have noticed), and they’d have to be fixed.

#28. The Premium Edition of the game had quite a few additions to it, including a good deal of CGs added to Coco’s Route. Were those all planned for the original version, or were they only created afterwards?

Nakazawa:

As I said in the last question, the CGs for the original version were requested before the scenario was completed, so when I looked at the completed scenario, I found several scenes I wished could have CGs. So when we decided to make the Premium Edition, we got the budget to add more CGs, allowing me to resolve several of those regrets.

#29. Mr. Nakazawa, what compelled you to add TIPS into the PSP version of Ever17? How did you decide what would be the TIPS for a game that was already fully written out?

Nakazawa:

Back when Cyberfront, the makers of the PSP version, requested for the development of the PSP version, they asked that it have some additional content. Since it would have been difficult to add more CGs or more to the scenario, we proposed adding TIPS so players could enjoy Ever17 at a deeper level.

#30. How was the production of the in-game movies carried out?

Nakazawa:

For the original version, the producer made the opening movie, and I made the ending movie. For the opening, the producer came up with the general direction to make the video match the song, and looked at that while choosing what CGs and text (keywords) to use. For the ending, we added those details in there to add to the feeling of the song and the story’s conclusion. At the time, I was unused to video making tools, so I remember the job being really hard for me.

For the PSP opening movie, we hired a professional video design company. A designer with particularly good taste worked there, so we singled them out to work on it. I thought up what CGs and text to use while listening to the finished song and sent instructions. The designer used those to create a video storyboard (the rough movie), then used it as a base to add the details. The PSP ending movie was handled by Cyberfront, so I didn’t have a hand in it.

#31. Why was a timeline added to the ED credits?

Uchikoshi:

This was genius director Nakazawa’s idea! I think it was good that he added that timeline there. Simply wonderful!

Nakazawa:

Because I was sure that it would make things more emotional to have a timeline after clearing a game that gave an overlook of the story. Plus, I thought it would fit to have a timeline scroll slowly along with the calm, euphoric ending theme.

#32. Please describe the process of how the soundtrack was created. How do you decide the number of BGM, their variety, and when they’re used in-game?

Nakazawa:

The director and producer base the number and variety of BGM off the game’s content and budget. Then, using the plot and scenario as a reference, we inform the composer what sort of songs we imagine having. For Ever17, one of my assistants (Mr. Sasanari, who was also the scenario writer for Tsugumi and Sora’s routes) was well versed in music, so I decided the songs while talking with him. After laying the ground rules for using songs in-game (such as “use this song for this scene, don’t use this song in that kind of way”, etc.), the music is inserted at the discretion of the game scripter(s). After that, if the director feels during debugging that a song doesn’t fit the tone of a scene where it’s used, they specifically request how to fix it.

#33. Was there any specific reason for the frequency of chicken sandwiches at LeMU?

Uchikoshi:

Uh, were tatsuta sandwiches translated as “chicken sandwiches” in English? Well, in Japanese, I think they’d be “fried tuna sandwiches”, Anyway, as for why tatsuta sandwiches, it’s because raw tuna would have rotted away.

#34. Ever17 has been considered a revolutionary VN. Were you always intending it for it to be a special project, or was it just created as any other project?

Nakazawa:

I was bitter that the previous game, Never7, didn’t sell too well despite being a very interesting game, so I worked my heart and soul on Ever17 as revenge of sorts. I was simply passionate about making an interesting game, but the reaction of the players after release was beyond what I could have imagined.

Uchikoshi

I personally thought it was very interesting, but I never thought it would hit off with players so much. Judging from my experiences with my other works up until then, my attitude was that it would be bashed no matter how interesting it was, so I didn’t look at any internet reviews directly after release (roughly from the end of August to the middle of September).  Then one day, I got a text from Nakazawa saying “Uchikoshi, this is insane! Ever17 is getting really good reception! Don’t be scared, just go on and check out 2chan!”. When I went to check what he said, I found a storm of high praise… That said, as for whether I was trying to create a special project, I try to make all my projects special, not just Ever17, but I never know if it will really turn out that way or not.

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