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Q&A With Drillmation Systems

Looking out for more indie game prospects on social media, I recently got in touch with another indie developer to discuss their upcoming project. Drillmation Systems, operating out of the United States, is a games developer and animation studio heavily inspired by Japanese culture, as well as games such as Super Mario and The Legend of Zelda currently working on 2 gaming franchises; Touhou and Chuhou Jotai. Currently in development is the sequel, Chuhou Jotai 2: Paraided, a bullet hell game based on multiple facets of the Japanese way of life accompanied with a strong sense of humor. Slated for release within the next few months, it boasts significant improvement over the previous game including greater visuals and enhanced and more intense gameplay. Wanting to know more, I got in touch with the game’s lead developer, known only as The Prophet, to ask about the game, what improvements players can expect to see, and to learn more about Drillmation systems in general. Here’s what The Prophet had to say about Chuhou Jotai 2:

 

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What were the influences behind your game? 

The main game that influenced the whole look of the game had to be Konami’s 1991 game The Legend of the Mystical Ninja on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. In fact, the entire Ganbare Goemon series influenced the game as a whole, as many songs in Chuhou Joutai 2’s soundtrack took influence from that franchise. The Mario & Luigi series, alongside the Marvel Cinematic Universe, were major inspirations for the game’s humor.

 

What has the developmental process been like?

I had a strict time deadline to get the game done, and as of this writing, the game is 80% done. Development on Chuhou Joutai 2 began before the first game had even released. After Chuhou Joutai 1 released on Steam last year, development on Chuhou Joutai 2 began almost immediately. To test the engine for this new game, a complete NES-styled remake of the second Touhou Project game, Touhou 2: The Story of Eastern Wonderland, was created to demonstrate the new engine. Despite this, I actually reused the same engine as the first game, although the only changes I made were the graphical design and color palette.

 

How close are we to seeing the finished product? 

As I mentioned before, the game is almost done. The endings and achievements are all I have left. After I get the endings programmed, I might as well release the beta. The game is scheduled for release on July 2, 2021.

 

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What has been the most exciting aspect of development? 

Drawing the cutscenes is something I generally did on the weekdays. On some days I even drew up to four assets in a single day. Of course, to keep in line with my academics, I dedicated programming only on the weekends, as programming takes a lot of time and effort.

 

What has been the most challenging aspect of development?  

Programming the bullet patterns takes a lot of time. All playtests are done on Lunatic difficulty to ensure the attack patterns are working. Perhaps the most difficult part of programming these patterns is difficulty balancing. If I can’t beat that pattern without getting hit once, I will have to tune the attack patterns to ensure the game is balanced.

 

How well has the game been received so far? 

Early reception when the demo came out has been overwhelmingly positive.

 

What platforms are you looking to bring the game to?

Chuhou Joutai 2 will be a PC-exclusive. I really want to bring the game to the Nintendo Switch, but I can’t because I don’t have the money yet and there are a number of legal issues that I have to work out. In order to publish games for the platform, you have to have a contract with Nintendo.

 

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What do you think will be the most significant improvements that the sequel will perpetuate compared to the original game?

The new art direction was the most significant improvement. After players were divided on the art direction for the first game, this change had to be made. Interestingly, the Chuhou Joutai 2 was originally going to use the cartoony art direction of the first game before the realistic switch.

 

Have there been any ideas at this stage of development that has since been scrapped or reworked?

Risu Yokumaru, the stage 6 boss, was originally going to have blonde hair, but I changed it to magenta because there were too many blonde-haired characters in the game (being Maika Ohtake and Naoko Shigematsu).

 

I saw on your Twitter page not long ago that you recently applied for a composer role for another game. Will you be composing the music for Chuhou Joutai 2, and what approach have you taken towards doing that?

I have been the sole composer for Chuhou Joutai 1 and 2, and back in September of 2020, I tried to apply for the composer role for David Murray’s (aka The 8-Bit Guy) Attack of the PETSCII Robots. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make it in as during my request, he told me there were dozens of people who want to compose for his projects. I understand he can do it himself. The only job he had open was programming the music into the game, and I don’t code for the C64, so I was pretty much out of luck.

Anyway, I took a mostly oriental approach to the game’s soundtrack. I’ve always wanted to make a game in the style of a PC-98 game, and I used the YM-2608 chip to compose the game’s soundtrack. I largely used the same instruments as the PC-98 Touhou Project games, though I included two original instruments, being a shamisen (FM instrument) and a taiko drum (SSG instrument). I also incorporated one thing that ZUN never used, being the ADPCM channel for a few mod tracker samples such as an orchestral hit and gong.

 

How instrumental has player feedback in terms of shaping the course of the project been?

After the second trailer for Chuhou Joutai 2 released on YouTube, I received praise for the improved art direction, and it ended up sticking as a result.

 

Do you think the bullet hell genre is adequately represented throughout the indie community?

The Touhou Project was responsible for popularizing the danmaku genre within the indie game community. Since it started on PC-98 and as I mentioned before, one of my goals was to make a game in the style of a PC-98 game, and I did that with Chuhou Joutai 2. In fact, both Chuhou Joutai games were featured on the Japanese gaming blog 4gamer.net. I even translated the articles on my website at drillimation.com.

 

If you had the opportunity to develop a game with any company or for any franchise, which would it be, and why?

To continue the Drillimation Danmaku Universe, I might start making the franchise Nintendo-exclusive, and that Nintendo would be acting as publisher. One of my philosophies with the Chuhou Joutai series is incorporating elements from its inspiration franchise being Touhou Project. One of the things I want to do is remake the original Touhou games in between so that players could get the opportunity to play the original games. My goal is to remake all of the PC-98 Touhou Project games on Windows. When I begin making the games for Nintendo, I can always resort to Bandai Namco for outside help. However, Nintendo has seldomly published games from independent developers, and after I saw the success with games such as Cadence of Hyrule, I realized it was possible to create a game and have Nintendo publish it.

 

Do you have any advice for aspiring developers that may be reading this? 

I learned that developing games is a great way to start a career, but running a successful franchise is a lot of hard work. This is why Super Indie Games exists, to help you with running campaigns. Another great way to get the word out is through the website Discord Me, which allows users to advertise within their space. Chuhou Joutai (including the second game) has been running as an ad there for over the past month.

 

Where on the Internet can people find you? 

Anybody can search either “Drillimation” or “Chuhou Joutai” to easily find Drillimation. When Drillimation started out, the name was nowhere to be found within the search results, but nowadays, it is searchable thanks to Drillimation being a burgeoning brand.

 

Do you have anything else to add?

I don’t have anything else to say, but it was nice speaking with you.

 

I’d like to thank The Prophet for taking the time out to discuss Chuou Jotai 2 and what players can come to expect from this exciting game. Bullet hell is a genre that seems to be neglected within the indie community compared to 3D platformers, RPGs, and Metroidvanias, so discovering Drillmation and this game was like a breath of fresh air to me, and I’m sure the final game will deliver something new and special. If you like the look of the game, you can download the demo via Drillmation’s itch.io page:

https://drillimation.itch.io/chuhou-joutai-2-paraidedhttps://drillimation.itch.io/chuhou-joutai-2-paraided

But the full game will be coming very soon. In the meantime, I hope you guys enjoyed what The Prophet had to tell us and that you’re looking forward to Chuhou Jotai 2.

 

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88

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