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Developer Q&A: Ohayou! Beginnerís Japanese
October 11, 2016

Finger Gun Games, a two-person development team consisting of Cordero Wilson and Samuel Skidmore, has announced that its next project is Ohayou! Beginnerís Japanese. The title, due this Fall, is an educational game that aims to help players as they strive to learn and practice Japanese.

You can view a recent trailer if you would like to get a glimpse of the game in action. I watched it myself and, since I'm interested in learning Japanse and also like to see developers continuing to support Wii U, I had some questions that quickly morphed into a Q&A with Cordero Wilson.

Q: What made you decide to develop a game that teaches players Japanese?

There were two reasons. The first one is aside from the Japanese Coach game on the Nintendo DS, we havenít seen a Japanese educational game in a while. And Nintendo fans tend to be Japanese friendly, which brings us to the second reason. There are many Japanese enthusiasts who love Japanese culture and may be wanting to learn the language, yet do not know how to get started. This game was made to fulfill that purpose, and to help teach these people the basics of Japanese in a fun and interesting way. People are taught best through engaging games, so I hope this motivates players to dwell more into the language.

Q: Is Ohayou! Beginnerís Japanese intended for complete newcomers, or do you need to be comfortable with Japanese before you start playing?

Itís intended for both. To beginners, it introduces them to the basic sounds and characters of the Japanese language. For the more experienced Japanese students, it serves as a supplement to practicing and keeping their memory fresh of the various kana. I still have trouble remembering katakana cause of its more straight-edged shapes. This is primarily due to English speakers being so use to the elegance and curved nature of the English alphabet, so you have to use more brain power to embed it into your head.

Q: What type of Japanese lessons does Ohayou teach? Are dedicated players likely to come away with enough knowledge, for instance, to play import video games or enjoy manga and anime?

This game serves to teach the player how to read Japanese. Not read it necessarily in the way that we can read a sentence and know what it says. But being able to recognize the writing and sounds so that they can at least acknowledge what is being said. So for instance, they could speak and read the Japanese characters in manga, but they wonít know what is being said unless they have knowledge of some of the words being spoken. Once Hiragana and Katakana, the two basic systems of Japanese, are mastered, players can easily move on to the next step, which is grammar and vocabulary. Kanji is also important for learning at this stage. And in the game, Asuka and Kenji will comment on the reality of that third character set. Itís quite a challenge.

Q: People come by their knowledge of the Japanese language a lot of different ways. How did you come by yours?

Me and Sam, my colleague, came by it in college. However, due to our degrees in computer science, we werenít able to take full-fledged Japanese classes. That didnít stop me, however, from continuing my own study, using books from the library, listening to youtube videos (one from a former Japanese teacher who gives very good lessons), and using special computer-based learning implements like Anki. Thereís so much learning material out there available to us that nowadays, you can teach yourself a language to create a foundation. Ohayou is simply another tool to introduce.

Q: Why did you choose the Wii U as the platform for the game, rather than the 3DS or Vita or even PC, and is it possible that youíll port the game to other systems if the initial release is successful?

The WiiU was chosen primarily because the console is so intuitive for educational-based games, especially the GamePad. People learn better with their hands than just their eyes, and the GamePad gives the best foundation for this experience. Instead of having to maneuver slowly through flash cards with the stick controls, they use their fingers to touch it. This way, the player feels like they are engaged in the practice, a fundamental quality for teaching toys.

We have been asked why this game isnít being brought to the 3DS. And the answer is that we do want to bring it! It was actually something we wanted to do at the beginning, too. However, we were already use to the development process on the Wii U, so felt we should release it on there first, then worry about porting it. Porting will require us to get a new dev kit, but once that happens, it wonít take long considering how little tweaking weíll have to do. The gameplay isnít taxing on the cpu and the graphics are only 2D. We also eventually hope to bring it to mobile phones.

Q: Is Finger Gun Games a full-time project, or something you do around other work?

Itís a full time project for me. For my colleague, Sam, itís part time. He handles a lot of the business work, like legal documents. Heís the producer, per say, while Iím the lead programmer. I use to do programming and web work for other companies, but decided to get into game development full time since I always wanted to start my own video game company.

Q: Your developer blog mentions that you worked with the Unity engine for your previous release, Stone Shire, but that you also code in C# as needed. Is Ohayou! Beginnerís Japanese coded primarily in Unity, or are you trying a different development engine or process?

Ohayou was made in Unity, yes. I used C# to code it, just like Stone Shire.

Q: A Minecraft-style game such as Stone Shire and an educational game like Ohayou! seem like very different projects. Were there any particular lessons learned when you developed your previous game that you were able to put to good use this time around?

I learned a lot. It taught me better programming habits, customer-developer relations, and just how critical your players can be about your game if you donít have something working properly or if itís not very fun. Stone Shire was a huge lesson in this for me, and drove me to make Ohayou not suffer the same criticism it received. Iíve crafted all aspects of the game to make sure it remains pleasurable to see, hear, and touch, so I hope it lives up to expectations.

Q: What advice do you have for readers who might be thinking about developing games of their own?

Start now. Do not wait on someone to teach you anything. You have to go out there and start learning and making games yourself. And I will not lie: it will be hard at first. And sometimes boring. But when the game is done, youíll receive a sense of happiness when you see players commenting and enjoying what you spent months, or even years, creating. It is a feel only true developers will experience. So if you ever get that emotion, then you know youíre in the right craft.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to let gamers know about Ohayou! Beginnerís Japanese or Finger Gun Games that I didnít ask you about?

In terms of Ohayou, we very much will like to expand the game by adding vocabulary and grammar teaching in a later update. However, due to the news of Nintendoís next console just over the horizon, weíre going to wait and see what the new console will offer. For instance, if itís backwards compatible or how people will be able to bring their game to its library. This will be the deciding factor for the future of the game.

Finger Gun Games is still a small studio, but we hope to one day be a driving force in the industry just like the other companies we look up to. We are happy for any support we get, and hope our games continue to entertain you.

Thanks go out to Cordero Wilson for answering my questions, and within a short time of me asking them, to boot. Does Ohayou! Beginnerís Japanese sound like a game you might enjoy playing? Are there other indie developers that you would like to see answer questions for a similar Q&A in the future? Let me know!

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