Interviewing Susumu Takajima of Drillimation Systems:

Drillimation Systems is an established indie development studio transitioned from dream into reality in August 2014. One of the studio's successful game is Chuhou Joutai. Owner of polish Drillimation Systems is looking forward to flourish his studio into a company in future.

Drillimation Systems is approached for an interview and the request is granted. The interview session is conducted with the worthy programmer and owner of the studio, Susumu Takajima.

Hi Susumu and a warm welcome to Games Cover!

Susumu Takajima
Susumu Takajima

Q1. We are curious to know more about you and what pushes you into starting your own studio. Also tell us about Drillimation Systems.

My brother and I have always had a dream of creating a game of our own, but we lacked the resources and programming knowledge to do so for many years. After we saw the indie boom with the successes of games like Minecraft and Touhou Project, I realized it was possible to create a quality game all by yourself.

Drillimation Systems
Drillimation Systems

I originally founded Drillimation Systems to create GoAnimate videos. After GoAnimate transitioned to HTML5, which removed most of the site’s most popular themes, I decided to undertake software development instead. If I get enough money from selling Chuhou Joutai on Steam, I will eventually establish Drillimation as a company.

Q2. Which game do you like playing the most?

Some of my favorite games include Mario Kart, Mr. Driller, and Touhou Project. I do play other games, including Super Smash Bros. and such. Asides from being an arcade game fanatic, I’m also a huge fan of RPGs, with some of my favorites including Pok√©mon and Final Fantasy. I haven’t played Dragon Quest very much, but felt I should after seeing the Hero join Super Smash Bros. Ultimate last year.

Q3. What inspired Chuhou Joutai?

Chuhou Joutai
Chuhou Joutai

The idea for Chuhou Joutai apparently came from an unexpected place: frustration. Touhou 15: Legacy of Lunatic Kingdom had just released and a friend of mine compared our high scores. Danmaku shooters have never been a mainstay of western gaming culture due to their complicated nature. So, I sought to create a danmaku shooter for beginners and especially for young players. Since shooter games are a niche genre in the west, the problem with them is there’s way too much cruelty in the genre, and needed to come up with an alternative, family-friendly title. Chuhou Joutai was the end result.

I have been playing Touhou Project for more than a decade, ever since I was a child. My first Touhou game would’ve been the very first Windows game, The Embodiment of Scarlet Devil. That was the game that really made the series take off, and I have since played every mainline Touhou Project game ever since. I also downloaded all of the soundtracks and I’ve listened to them countless times. You might ask how I made a more modernized Gensokyo into Chuhou Joutai. ZUN’s content usage rules state you are allowed to distribute Touhou Project fangames on Steam as long as you adhere to his rules. He doesn’t care if you make an original title and incorporate elements from the series into the game, which we do (think Queen Marisa).

Q4. What makes it unique?

What makes Chuhou Joutai unique from other danmaku shooters is its health system. Because we wanted to make a game tailored for beginners, we decided to include it so that players don’t have to worry about one-hit-deaths, with other games in the genre have. We also included a dedicated tutorial to teach players how to play the game and such. I was inspired by a similar mechanic in The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords where if you die, you have to pay a fee to continue and if you don’t have enough, the game ends. Chuhou Joutai does just that.

Another thing that makes it unique from others is the cutscenes. We decided to aim for visual-novel style cutscenes as it was the only way to have the story unfold.

Q5. How do you handle art?

According to reviews I read for Chuhou Joutai after it was released, I noticed the art direction had mixed reactions, with some players calling it “odd.” It kinda does because I was not a very skilled artist at the time of Chuhou Joutai’s development. Things have changed if my fans saw my video of me building my new gaming workstation, I got a touchscreen monitor to make things easier and such. If I do get to a sequel for the game, I will likely use much more detail.

Early iterations had a more realistic, creepy art style, but we decided to settle on a more colorful, cartoonish art style, as this game was intended for western audiences. Formerly, I used Paint.NET early in development, before I moved to Photoshop and Illustrator. I really wanted to use a more anime-inspired art style, but settled on an art direction inspired by the Mr. Driller series.

When we were in the post-production phase of Chuhou Joutai, I discovered a new tool by the same guys who run Pixiv: VRoid studio. I was so happy I found it because I’ve always wanted to make realistically-designed anime characters and I prefer to work in three dimensions.

Q6. Which hurdles make developing games especially challenging?

Chuhou Joutai took a year and a half to make. The cutscenes were the reason why it took that long, as we had to draw a lot of stuff. Believe me, we did everything with a mouse and it was all on a Dell G7 gaming laptop, which had limited storage and RAM. We had to work around the clock and dedicate time to completing our homework and studying for exams. Each stage took over a month or two to write. We also have to translate and such for the other market and such.

Perhaps my biggest challenge was marketing it. Every time you need to market something, it costs money. Good marketers are tough to find as some never respond to emails, do work that’s rubbish, and want all of your money. Twitter helped me get 2,000 followers as I am very active and kept liking tweets and participating in discussions to get my name out into the public. Aside from using Sprizzy to promote, the 60-second trailers prove to work the best because the majority of people who watch it stay almost entirely. Spanish PR company Super Indie Games approached me and told me I can secure their services for a small fee. This was especially true because I was originally going to promote the game at two dining locations in my area: Grotto Commons at Mercyhurst University and The Cove Bay-Side Restaurant & Tavern, both of which are located in Erie, Pennsylvania, the city Kozankyo is modelled after. Their menus were going to be fashioned in the theme of Chuhou Joutai for a limited time to promote the game with the menus being directly inspired by the game. But then during the post-production phase, the coronavirus pandemic hit the United States so hard that I couldn’t do it due to the imposed quarantine. Because I was stuck at home and couldn’t leave, I used the quarantine as an opportunity to finish the game.

Q7. What does appeal you in indie games?

I really have nothing for this question. But one thing I can say about the creators who are also composers. Creating a video game takes the skills and talents of many people. But those who have all those skills can become superior candidates for job positions at the major studios. Another thing I want to say is Chuhou Joutai has an official wiki on Gamepedia called Drillipedia.

Q8. Which programs or developing engines do you use to create your games?

I used GameMaker Studio 2 to make Chuhou Joutai. I used a number of other programs, such as Photoshop and Illustrator, OpenMPT, Synthfont, Famitracker, and Tiled.

Q9. What else do you do for fun?

Touhou 1: The Highly Responsive to Prayers
Touhou 1: The Highly Responsive to Prayers

I made another game late in Chuhou Joutai’s development. That game ended up being an NES-styled remake of the very first Touhou Project game The Highly Responsive to Prayers. Doing this remake had me play Highly Responsive to Prayers for the first time in like years. I felt very nostalgic. A few months ago, I composed for a Touhou Project fangame called Catch Hina!, as they were looking for a composer. I was the first to jump in and immediately got the position. Kagami Ochiai, Chuhou Joutai’s female protagonist, also appears in the game as well.

Asides from that, another thing that influenced part of Chuhou Joutai’s world is a series of artworks I collectively call 19th Century Touhou. This series shows what the majority of Touhou Project’s characters might look like if they wore Victorian-era gowns and such.

Q10. What’s next for you?

In the video where I build my new gaming workstation, I mentioned an NES-style remake of Touhou 2: The Story of Eastern Wonderland, and a mystery game, which could possibly hint at Chuhou Joutai 2, which I first teased as an April Fool’s joke. Three songs from it appear in the video. As of this writing, I’m still waiting for Game Maker Studio 2.3 to release. In the future, in likely a few years, I will make Chuhou Joutai an established series and in the future become Nintendo exclusives. All those games will comprise the Drillimation Danmaku Universe.

Susumu is looking forward to make NES-style remake of Touhou 2: The Story of Eastern Wonderland.  He also plans to create Chuhou Joutai an established series and later as Nintendo exclusives.

We wish Susumu greater achievements. His remarkable work has paid him off & we would like you to help this talented developer by purchasing a copy of Chuhou Joutai on Steam.


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