This is a report of the “BanG Dream! Girls Band Party! × Scenario Course” program, which is a seminar sponsored by Creek and River Co., Ltd where you can listen to stories of the creative process and various tips from the industry’s professionals – this time featuring Craft Egg as the developer of the BanG Dream! Girls Band Party! (Garupa) mobile game. The seminar was held on June 17, 2018 at Shibuya Prime Plaza.
Originally published in Creative Village on July 11, 2018.
Creating Things, the “Garupa” Way
The first person who went up on stage was the leader of Craft Egg’s scenario team, Eisuke Sawamura. As Sawamura began by saying “The one thing that we always keep in mind is the fact that we are ‘creating with everyone‘,” he started elaborating on Garupa’s unique production flow.
At Craft Egg, there are divisions in charge of specific areas like illustration and development, and all works produced from each of these sections are shared to the whole company via a team chat app. For example, when a new illustration is completed, requests like “I’d like to change it a bit to fit the production”, impressions such as “It’s cute!”or “That’s great!”, and constructive feedback like “I’d like to make it more like this!” are directly communicated.
“As every employee is a big fan of Garupa themselves as well as having the user-oriented mentality in mind, they can come up with opinions from a very close perspective with the users,” Sawamura explained. This environment where anyone can voice their opinion beyond the boundaries of their respective division is the essence of Craft Egg’s “creating with everyone” philosophy.
Sawamura continued by talking about Garupa’s characters. At the company where each one of the 25 characters from five different bands is thought of as real individuals, these girls are referred to as “members” rather than “characters” within the company. This treatment isn’t limited to exchanges within the company, but also extends to the game itself in which you can hardly see the word “character”. Maybe this is why Sawamura looked a bit sad when he said that he would be referring to them as characters to make it easier to understand for that day.
“The one thing that we always keep in mind is the fact that we are ‘creating with everyone‘.”
In order to think about the future of these girls and deepen the team members’ understanding of the characters, the scenario team holds a training camp once every six months. “Wouldn’t she have this kind of goal for her future?” “Since she has this kind of personality, don’t you think she’s going to see things this way?” By asking these questions, they then figure out the relationship and future of the characters beyond the boundaries of their respective band. It’s easy to tell just how important the “creating with everyone” aspect plays into the flow of writing the scenario.
“There is no such thing as there being the same conversation regardless of who is in the picture when it comes to Garupa. There is a sense of inevitability that we treasure, in which certain stories are only possible when two particular characters interact,” Sawamura explained. Craft Egg’s attention to details seems to have reached the fans, by the looks of it.
“There are limits to what one person can achieve. I think Garupa has been well-received because everyone’s figuring out things together.” Craft Egg’s production flow incorporates both the multi-faceted perspectives of its employees and user-oriented ideas which aren’t normally present in a conventional top-down approach pivoting on a single opinion like the producer’s.
Depicting a Character’s Growth in a Story
The second person to grace the stage was not only a scenario writer of Garupa, but also the one responsible for managing the quality control of the game’s world-building, Yuuko Nishino. In order to depict a character’s growth, Nishino described how important it is to note the character’s thought process originating from all the experiences she has accumulated over the course of the story. In the scenario course, the Hikawa siblings who appear in the game were used as an example.
She first elaborated about the story of the siblings from the first Band Story (Main Story): Sayo who holds a complex towards her sister who has penchant for mastering anything she does right away, and her sister Hina who really loves and want to get along with her sister but lacks the ability to understand others who aren’t prodigies like her. During the first Band Story, Sayo who didn’t want to get involved with Hina said the following line:
“Sister this, sister that! I’ve had enough! You have no idea… You have no idea how much pressure there is being an older sister!!
The “Past Aspirations and Pastel Futures” (“あゆみ続けた道、彩られる未来”) Event Story which was originally released on May 2017 brought a slight change to their relationship. In the event, Sayo told Hina how the two of them became the motivation for each other, exchanging a promise not to “suddenly go and quit the guitar”.
And then, two months later, the siblings spent a moment together after a long while during the “Wish Upon a Tanzaku” (“星に願う短冊”) Event Story released on July 2017. Hina had viewed the opportunity as a chance for her to get closer to Sayo, but on the other hand, Sayo realized how she was the sole reason why her relationship with Hina wasn’t going well and wrote “I wish Hina and I could be open and honest with each other” as her wish on the tanzaku paper.
“I don’t even remember the last time Hina and I were able to have a lighthearted conversation like this… I know that it’s… Because of me… I’m sure of it…”
By reviewing the siblings’ predicaments and the current status quo throughout the course of all the events leading up to that point, Nishino explained how both of their growth can be felt.
Current Status Quo
- She wants to be able to talk things out openly with Hina.
- She wants to get over her complex towards Hina.
- She wants to get along with Sayo.
- She’s learned that there are people different from herself.
“It may look warped, but we can see that their line of thoughts align with each other. If at this point, the two of them were to honestly clash their respective feelings out in the open, both of their problems could have been resolved properly.” True to what Nishino mentioned, the siblings got ahold of that clue in the next story.
It was during the “Umbrella for the Autumn Rain” (“秋時雨に傘を”) Event Story released on October 2017. Sayo who felt that her performance was lacking any appeal expressed her feelings toward Hina and confessed that she wanted to quit the guitar. In response to her sister’s words, Hina expressed her anger. “Sis, you… You lied to me!!” She had cherished the promise they made not to “suddenly go and quit the guitar”, even more than Sayo had thought. Completely moved by Hina’s feelings, Sayo resolved to be able to walk alongside Hina and swore to find her very own sound.
“I’m not the type of person who deals well with you always outperforming me. However… One day… I’ll be able to walk by your side… And that’s why I’ll continue producing that lifeless sound with the strings of my guitar.”
“With Hina who was the very source of Sayo’s complex becoming the one who pushed her forward, the two of them were able to have a much better relationship. The important thing to underline here is that Sayo’s complex towards Hina was not broken at that point. She simply found a path to get rid of it one day. However, being able to perceive that path alone provides a connection towards Sayo’s growth as a character,” Nishino elaborated. Listening to this explanation does make one expect a lot from the siblings’ future.
The last point Nishino brought up was the difference between “growth” and “character breaking”.
“As we grow slowly over time, the characters themselves also grow up through all the events that transpired. It took the Hikawa siblings a long time to be able to achieve character growth. If all of this occurred within only two months or so, it would feel like they were going out of character, and the readers would all be like, “Sayo, what happened to you!?” Nishino’s explanation led to a healthy amount of laughter filling up the venue.
In a story which depicts character growth such as Garupa, it’s very vital for every scenario writer to have a complete understanding of all the events that all the characters have experienced, as well as everything which has influenced the characters’ mindset in the process. In order to prevent any discrepancy in interpretation, Craft Egg has prepared a complete chronology detailing each character’s events. By looking at this material, one would be able to see the relationships between the characters and the necessary elements for weaving future stories. It’s definitely interesting to find out what’s written inside it.
“We want these girls to experience something and grow, not as characters appearing inside a game, but as individual human beings.” Nishino’s remark closed the lecture, followed by a round of applause across the venue.
Following the lecture, a Q&A session was held where the audience can freely ask questions to Sawamura and Nishino. The following are some of the questions.
—How do you put together differing opinions during a discussion?
Sawamura: We talk things out without opting for a majority decision. It does take quite a while sometimes, but we believe that’s necessary.
Nishino: The setting for the characters are summarized in the documents, so there aren’t much of a deviation in terms of direction. If we still face problems in spite of that, we will take the time to discuss them with the whole scenario team.
—What kind of preparations did you make before the release?
Nishino: We held a training camp with the other company members everyday. We spent one day for each band in order to deepen our understanding of the characters.
—How did you decide the position of the players in this game?
Sawamura: The important thing in Garupa is to depict the girls as “human beings”. In order to provide a realistic depiction of them alongside their relationships with the surrounding characters, we decided not to place any importance in the player’s presence when writing the story.
—Were the relationships of the characters planned from the start? Or were the relationships decided as you were writing the story?
Nishino: Both of them are true. The relationship between the Hikawa siblings were planned from the start, but there are other relationships born when we felt “it seems interesting if these two characters interact”.
—Are limited voice lines and 4-panel comic strips on Twitter created accordingly with the characters’ growth?
Nishino: We are creating them with the characters’ latest development in mind.
—Do you feel that the number of characters appearing in the game is too many or too little?
Nishino: I think it’s enough. There is still a lot of depth to explore for the characters that we still haven’t written enough yet.
The event was closed with a social gathering with the speakers included, where the participants exchanged information and formed new communities. Several participants expressed their thoughts after the event.
“The character’s inner aspect is the key of scenario writing. I’ll apply what I learned today in my future works.”
—Scenario writer, female
“It’s very unusual to find a developer with a creation process similar to Craft Egg. I would like to teach young creators that there is a way to create a game like this.”
—Scenario writer – lecturer, male
Both of the speakers also shared their thoughts on the seminar. “It was my first time standing on a stage like this, so I was very nervous. It was fun being able to meet a lot of people interested in learning about writing a scenario in the social gathering,” expressed Nishino. Sawamura admitted the event served as a great motivation for both of them, stating “There are people who asked fairly sharp questions, and it was a very good opportunity.”
BanG Dream! Girls Band Party! is a rhythm game released for iOS and Android, based on the BanG Dream! franchise. It was published by Bushiroad and Craft Egg and was released on March 16th, 2017 for iOS and Android devices. The game won both the “Popular games of the year 2017” and “Games of the year 2017” category of the Google Play Awards 2017 in Japan.
A Taiwanese version of the game was released on September 26, 2017. A Korean version of the game was released on February 6, 2018. An English version of the game was announced in September of 2017, and was released on April 4, 2018 with an early release in Singapore on March 29, 2018.