The following interview is taken from the October 24 issue of Famitsu, which contains a special interview with the staff of Ciconia When They Cry in celebration of the release of Phase 1. The interview is translated by rockmor. Source
From the desire to once again create When They Cry
Please tell about the developing of this game.
Ryukishi: As an author, I created many different things, but the titles that made the biggest impact are Higurashi When They Cry and Umineko When They Cry from so-called When They Cry series. I thought that I needed courage if I wanted to make a new game in that series. So, after rising my motivation levels for some time, I finally decided to start, and I feel that maybe it was time to do so. Or rather, the right answer is that I’ve created a lot of stories that I couldn’t do inside When They Cry series in these 9 years (laughing).
Did you have the desire to make When They Cry inside yourself?
Ryukishi: I did. I think there wouldn’t be Ryukishi07 without When They Cry, so I wanted to return to my roots once more and do some writing activity. And also, there were a lot of fans who were demanding for new When They Cry, so I wanted to answer their request. And when I decided that I will do that, right at that time an idea that is perfect for When They Cry has come. In that sense, it was just the right timing.
My goal was “Evangelion genre”
You mentioned “a perfect idea for When They Cry”, so do you have a standard that is suitable for the series?
Ryukishi: For me, the world-view of When They Cry is “pieces moving on the gameboard and a player that observes them and tries to find out the rules of the game”. Each piece on a gameboard has its own winning conditions and moves by its own rules. These pieces meet, interfere with each other, some invisible from the first glance chemistry borns between them. By actions that these pieces take in those situations you can understand the rules, and that world-view is a fundamental rule of When They Cry.
So, the idea for Ciconia was born with that rule in mind?
Ryukishi: Yes. Moreover, the intention behind Ciconia is for it to be a little bit different from other When They Cry entires. Both Higurashi and Umineko urged a player to “do solving”. In Higurashi, you were looking at the serial murders in a village with strong traditions, and in Umineko, there were closed-room murders in a Western mansion on an isolated island. Both games wanted a player to solve the mystery.
It’s one of the distinctive features of When They Cry, isn’t it?
Ryukishi: However, after seeing how players reacted to the first two entries, I decided to change it up a little. Now you can simply enjoy the story, or you can think and speculate as you like. Ciconia is a game that doesn’t force you to solve it.
It broadens the ways to enjoy it, right?
Ryukishi: Exactly. You can have fun even if you don’t think deeply about it. In my head, I call it “Evangelion genre”.
Ryukishi: Yes. For example, if I’d write a zombie thing, nobody will probably call it a “Romero rip-off”. Evangelion is such an influential title, that it became an outline for the whole “sekai-kei” genre. As you know, Neon Genesis Evangelion can be seen as a “mysterious robot future thing”, and you can also speculate about the secret organisations and other things. Trying to figure out the mysteries of this world from little information that the show gives you is very fun. However, it doesn’t force you to solve it. Evangelion can be simply “cool” and “fun”, but you also can try and solve it. It doesn’t press you to choose either one or another. I wanted to imitate this style with Ciconia. This is what I call “Evangelion genre”. The motive of small children having to deal with the world’s fate is also here.
It seems that Ciconia has a similar world-view to previous WTC entries, but it also has that “genre Evangelion” thing going?
Ryukishi: Yes. Higurashi was set in an isolated village, Umineko takes place on a small island cut from the outer world by the typhoon, so the setting was getting smaller and smaller. I wanted to try to make a game set in a big world for once. It would be tough to make it even smaller (laughing). Plus, taking part in conventions overseas and getting to communicate with foreign fans in these 9 years has influenced me a lot. I had received a lot of passionate messages from my foreign fans, and I wanted to answer their feelings. I thought that maybe by making a game with characters from different countries, I will be able to make those fans happy and show them my gratitude. So, I tried to come up with a story that would have children from all over the world.
Ciconia is set in a world “100 years after the WW3” and has an apocalyptic feeling yet to be seen in the series. Is it also the influence of Evangelion?
Ryukishi: Maybe it has similarities in terms of the atmosphere. I also sense some vague feeling of isolation in the world right now. Probably, even more than in the 1900s, there is a feeling that there could happen a war between some countries soon. In the 20th century, even during the Cold War, there was a feeling that a real war won’t happen. I think that young children who live now can sense the feeling of isolation that is characteristic of this time. So, this game is a message to these children. That’s why I picked the title “For You, the Replaceable Ones” for Phase 1.
That’s a pretty deep title… Is there some antithesis to that feeling of isolation in the story?
Ryukishi: People often misunderstand this, but my works are not the manifestation of my own thoughts. As in the Trolley dilemma, presented by philosopher Philippa Foot in 1967, I want everyone to think about problems that I present with my stories.
Speaking if witch, “For You, the Replaceable Ones” sounds pretty poignant.
Ryukishi: I think, they more than anyone else understand that. This world is big, so I can’t say “Become number one”. At least, I want you to become the number one for someone. I hope that young people who are battling with a fear to be forgotten, with the help of this story could find some source of sympathy. And that it will allow older people to begin understanding children.
Creators hustle in order to make this game’s charm shine
What was the process of developing from the point when you had the original idea?
Ryukishi: It was 2 years ago. 2 years ago in November dai-san and others created Haworthia Drama CD, which was a test-case for Ciconia’s concepts. Of course, from around that time, I was carefully developing plot and setting, while also working on a number of side projects and also started the production of Ciconia. I was working on scenario and art, and one by one other staff members began coming in. First, Nakao-kun, who was working on script, staging and also post-processing backgrounds and unifying the whole world-view based on my scenario.
Nakao-san, what were the points in staging that you put the most effort into?
Nakao: That’s will be battle scenes, after all. I tried to make scenes of characters flying the sky with their Gauntlets fascinating. Because they fly in the sky, the backgrounds tend to turn out blue or red, so I wanted not only to implement those colors but also to give a feeling of flying.
Ryukishi: You’ve put a lot of effort into that flying scenes.
Nakao: I wanted to implement some comics elements there. Like comas in the manga. Showing sounds as letters… And other such things. In the latter part of Phase 1, there are scenes where people talk to each other wireless, and I wanted to show it with comas.
Ryukishi: The script is pretty complicated this time. Next, there are character illustrations. For this work, I asked Remotaro-san to help with coloring. It’s pretty obvious, but when you lay in colors nicely, illustrations shine. Thanks to Remotaro-san, even my sprites started to look better (laughing).
Remotaro: At first, I received sketches for the sprites, then I created line-art from them, and then did coloring. There are characters from different countries in this game, so I tried to divide groups of characters based on their countries and teams to some extent. Because of that, I experimented a lot with colors of eyes, hair and clothes and different color patterns in order to give each character a unique vibe. Especially at first, I spend a lot of time on colors, shadows and texture for the protagonist Mitake Miyao.
Is coloring that important?
Ryukishi: It’s very important. When Higurashi became a hit, one person gave me an advice: “If you ask a pro to color your sprites, they will look totally different”. From that point, I started to pay close attention to it.
What in coloring was the most important for you, Remotaro-san?
Remotaro: There are a lot of people who are hardcore fans of sensei’s art and who’s motivation is “I will play it because it has art by Ryukishi-sensei”. Because of that, the scariest thing for me is to destroy that motivation. I made sure to preserve the charm of the original Ryukishi-sensei’s sprites as well as possible. I tried to guess what is the ideal form that sensei has in his head and to add more details and make the sprites shine even more while exchanging opinions with sensei. In other words, the thing I was conscious the most… is how to make it so the charm of sensei’s art will be communicated to fans.
Nakao: Remotaro-san is a passionate fan of Ryukishi-san. She has thought a lot about how to “communicate the charm of his art”.
Ryukishi: And, there is the music. In charge of sound is dai-san. He has been in charge of music since Higurashi, so he is one of our oldest members.
dai: Regarding the music in Ciconia, Ryukishi-san and Nakao-san usually had an idea for a song, and I either tried to grasp that image and make a song out of it or selected tracks that fit that image from songs that other composers created. That was my main job.
What was the main direction for music in Ciconia?
Ryukishi: It can’t describe it with words well, so I listened to lots of different music and asked dai-san to listen to those tracks that fit the vision in my head. Then, after dai-san has digested that vision, he gave other composers instructions in terms that only a musician could understand. Of course, dai-san himself also created some tracks.
In some sense, he was like a translator.
Ryukishi: I guess so (laughing). I also often gave instructions like: “Please make sure you will be able to feel the mood of the song in the first 2 seconds”. Some composers sometimes make songs with very beautiful melodies, but with long preludes, so it takes like 1.30 minutes before you can feel the mood. In those cases, the scene could be over while the prelude is still going.
What were the biggest obstacles during the developing?
Ryukishi: In my previous works, the text for the first arc usually was somewhere in the range of 300.000 characters, but this time the first arc turned out to be 400.000 characters. Because of that, we struggled with how to distribute the responsibilities even between our most experienced staff members and misunderstood the time we needed to finish the work. In the end, we had to postpone the release 2 times.
It was the bloodbath in the end, wasn’t it?
Ryukishi: It also depended on whether it was a battle scene or not. In fact, if it is just one character doing a monologue, even if it’s 10,000 characters, it doesn’t take a lot of time to do. However, if there are ten people performing a majestic air fight, it can take the whole day to do just 3.000 characters.
Nakao: I decided to put extra effort into action scenes, so it took a lot of time to do them.
Ryukishi: Nakao-kun is an enthusiast, so he always does his best when working on staging. However, we needed to decide where to put extra effort and where not to, because of how long the whole production took. Even so, it didn’t make sense to invite Nakao-kun to the team and not to allow him to do what he does best, so I gave him permission to go wild in those action scenes.
Nakao: It was fun (laughing).
Condensing Questions and giving more space to Answers
Was there any reason why the first arc turned out to be 400,000 characters?
Ryukishi: We are planning Ciconia to be four arcs in total, and this first arc contains a lot of information. Lots of themes and things to think about… It’s like “exploring” a dungeon. I left a lot of room to do so. Usually, in the first arc, I am focusing on presenting setting and characters, and the story starts out pretty slow. In Higurashi, an incident doesn’t occur until the first 150.000 characters. In terms of a normal light novel, it would be roughly 1.5 volumes until something happens (laughing). In Ciconia, it feels like it’s Episode 3 or 4 of Umineko. Before we could think things like “It would be a waste to throw this away, so let’s put it somewhere in arc 2 or 3”, but now we decided to put everything in arc 1. That’s why the volume of text increased.
Why did you decide to cram so much information into it?
Ryukishi: The flow of the times… I guess. Both Higurashi and Umineko took 4 years and 8 arcs each to conclude, and for many players waiting for 2 years just to finish Question arcs would make it hard to arrange all that information in their heads… So, we tried to condense the information from the “Question arcs” part and put give more space for the “Answer arcs” part… We thought that maybe it would be better that way.
Even if you condensed the information, all the characters have distinct personalities.
Ryukishi: In Sound Novels, the biggest part of distinguishing between characters is the way they speak. Even if it doesn’t sound very natural, when a character has a unique speaking manner, it’s easier to distinguish between them. Maeda-sensei (Maeda Jun from Key), whom I have a lot of respect to, also gives his characters distinct speaking manners, so it’s easy to differentiate between them. Also, each character should have their own visuals and face expressions. I think it’s important to put as many emotions into expressions as you can. In fact, when a person acts on their own, they tend to become expressionless. For that reason, I try to do as few such scenes as possible. Characters should always act together, have conversations and show their hidden emotions. I think it’s the next big thing after you managed to make your characters distinct.
You don’t differentiate them with their backgrounds that much?
Ryukishi: I don’t. I try to show it with their actions. If you try to do that with backgrounds, it will just tun into a pile of setting materials. For me, it’s important to show individuality with actions and speaking, things that have the energy of human relationships. Actually, I decided to enter the world of Sound Novels thanks to games like Kamaitachi no Yoru and Otogirisou that left a deep impression on me. I think I create in order to make things that combine text, visuals and music together. It’s also reflected in how I do characters.
By the way, let me ask you about the title. Why Ciconia?
Ryukishi: I’ve been thinking about different things, and, after I decided to make childer the theme, I remember storks (kounotori). However, “Kounotori no Naku Koro ni” would sound like a title for a sub-replacement fertility counterplan, I though… Then, I asked one person on a con overseas, how you would call “kounotori” in English so it would sound cool, and he answered “Ciconia”. It seems that “kounotori” can be directly translated as Ciconia in English and pronounced as チコニア (starts with “chi”), but in that person’s pronunciation it sounded like キコニア (starts with “ki”). I liked how that sounded… I thought it would fit the SF setting, so I decided to use it.
What will be the development after the release of Phase 1?
Ryukishi: There will be 4 Phases in total, and right now I am slowly starting to build the plot of Phase 2. The goal is to release it somewhere around May. However, it’s just the goal, so I hope you will be patient!..
In conclusion, please leave a message to all the fans who enjoy this game.
Remotaro: We did our best so you could dive into the world of Ciconia. There are a lot of characters in it, and I hope you will love them all. As a fan, I wish each character will find their happiness.
dai: Speaking of characters, I hope all of you will be excited for a character named Naima, and send messages so she meets a happy ending (laughing). Though, I don’t know at all, what awaits her in the future…
Nakao: The scenario for this game turns out great. I hope you all will pay close attention to battle scenes.
Ryukishi: I put a lot of mysteries in Ciconia, and created it so everyone who loves to solve and speculate could engage in it. On the other hand, you can enjoy it casually as well. There are many ways to enjoy Ciconia, so please have fun with it.
- "Famitsu Special Interview" on Rena-Rena Toshokan https://0707toshokan.wordpress.com/2019/10/13/famitsu-special-interview/