Thankfully, he wasn't at all turned off by my (completely honorable, I assure you) advances and graciously agreed to answer a handful of questions--I know only nine appear below, despite the promises of the headline above, but the first one originally was split into two--about the company's background, what prompted him and his colleagues to create the sexy Sugar Shooter and why they make gay games in general.
The Gay Gamer: Can you tell me a bit about Dudedle Studio's back- ground? When was the company founded, for instance? Also, why was it founded? What were your goals for the company?
Punipen: First of all, I think we're more of a studio or group of indie developers than a company. We started making games as a hobby, just for fun. And since we're all gay, we [decided we] would develop erotic games for gay people.
If you know about H-games, you'll see that there are literally tons of them on the market in Japan. Many of them are very good and were turned into animation afterwards, such as Air, Kanon, To Heart, etc.
Sadly, the gay audience is neglected [by the makers of these games]. If you're talking about gay games that feature manly men, they hardly exist. The only company that stands out [for making such games] in Japan right now is Underground Campaign, which is led by Senga Migiri-san.
When we checked [the availability of these kinds of games] outside of Japan, we found that the scenario wasn't so different. While there are Flash games that target gay people who prefer manly men, none of these are big games like the ones Underground Campaign has made. Also, there are many people who wish these kinds of games were available for English speakers.
So, you could say that we've been toying with the idea of making a gay game [for a worldwide audience] for a while.
We didn't actually start making one, though, until Takezamurai-san, the main artist for Sugar Shooter, tweeted me saying that he wished he could make a game. He's a great artist, and I've always been a big fan of his, so I was like, 'Why not?' I got in touch with him and that's when we started working on Sugar Shooter.
So, you could say that our group was founded on November 14, 2010--which is when Sugar Shooter was first released in Japan.
TGG: Is Dudedle Studio based in Japan, or somewhere else?
Punipen: I think it won’t be fun if there are no secrets, so let's just say we're based in Asia and that our team consists of Japanese people.
TGG: Do you make all of the games that are sold via your website (Sugar Shooter, Bukkake Party, etc.), or do you just translate games that are made by other developers? (Or is it a mixture of the two: Some games you make, others you translate?)
Punipen: We have made all of the games that are available on our website. We have no plans to translate games made by other developers, since [we already have] so many ideas that are just waiting to be made into a game.
With that said, now that Take-san sees that there are people outside of Japan who appreciate his work, we are helping him translate his new doujinshi and make it available to English-speaking audiences.
TGG: How do you decide which kind of game to make? For instance, with Sugar Shooter: Why did you decide to make a gay adult/ero bullet-hell shooter?
Punipen: The basic idea is that it must not be ‘just’ a visual novel. This is not because we hate visual novels or anything like that (I’m a big fan of this genre, actually, since I love bishoujo games), but because, as we’ve seen with the H-game market, there are so many [things that can be done with] the genre, ranging from visual novels to action RPGs. This drives us to explore genres outside of visual novels.
Another reason is that we want to make a game in which the gameplay is as enjoyable as the erotic content. Simply, the game should be fun even after you've unlocked all of the erotic content. [It should be able] to be played as a standalone game.
With Sugar Shooter, we wanted to make a game, but we didn’t want to make one that was too complicated, since we were afraid we might lose motivation and give up. So, we decided to go with a shooting game--mostly because I’m a Touhou fan. Anyway, many modern shoot ’em ups follow the Touhou formula of flying magical girls, so we thought we’d like to do something similar but with a theme that would be more suitable to our tastes: Cute muscular guys!
Producing an erotic game in that genre, though, presented an interesting problem: How do you design a danmaku/bullet-hell game that integrates a shoot ’em up scoring mechanic with erotic content? In the end, I came up with the ‘Armor Break’ system [for Sugar Shooter], which I think is pretty satisfying solution.
TGG: Why have you decided to focus on gay adult/ero games in general?
Punipen: As I mentioned earlier, we feel that this audience is being neglected. We are part of that audience as well, and if no one’s going to do it, we might as well do it ourselves!
With that said, at some point we might make a game that isn’t erotic but is still targeted at a gay audience. Some gay gamers aren't interested in erotic games and would prefer to play games with characters that better suit their tastes. Many H-game studios are like this, too, by the way--switching back and forth between erotic games and non-erotic games. So, I don’t think it would be surprising if some of our future games, while still being gay-oritented, might have non-erotic content.
TGG: Have you found that there's a market for such games in the US (i.e., have your games sold according to your expectations so far)? Also, do you sell your games in other regions?
Punipen: There certainly is a market [for these kinds of games] in the US. However, the lack of payment processors [willing to accept payment] for adult software makes it hard for people there to buy them. In Japan, getting adult digital content is very easy, thanks to digital content providers like Digiket, Surpara and DLSite. In the Western world, it’s more restricted. There aren’t many payment processing companies that will accept [payment for] adult software.
In terms of Sugar Shooter's sales, they were lower than we expected--five times lower than what we sold in Japan, actually. We expected [the game's US sales] to be similar to or more than that. This is probably due to the fact that not many people in the US have heard about us or our games.
TGG: I'm not sure if you know this information or not, but I'll ask anyway, just in case: Are gay men the primary buyers of your games, or are they bought by heterosexual women and men, too? I'm guessing gay men are your target customers, though, right?
Punipen: Unfortunately I have no idea about this information. I’ve never thought about it before now, actually, but now that you've brought it up it would be interesting to know. While I don’t expect to see any straight guys playing our games, it would be interesting to know if there are any! Maybe I should put a poll on our blog about this.
TGG: Do all of Dudedle's staff members work on a game together, at the same time, or do some work on one game while other staffers work on a different game?
Punipen: It depends, but mostly we work together on the same game. Basically, if one project gets stuck and we have to wait for something, the other team members switch to another project.
Currently we are focusing on two main games, which are Kemo Coliseum and Sugar Shooter 2--with around 30 percent [of our time being spent on] Kemo Coliseum and 70 percent on Sugar Shooter 2.
TGG: Speaking of Sugar Shooter 2, how is that coming along? It seems it will differ from the original in a few ways? If so, can you tell me about those changes and why you made them? Also, when do you think it will be released?
Punipen: It’s coming along really well, and we can't wait to release it! There are a lot of changes to the game. The biggest change is that the game is now a full-stage shoot’em up and not just a boss-rush one like the first Sugar Shooter was. The game will feature five stages and four difficulty levels.
The partner system also ties to the scoring system in the game. How well you play the game will affect the relationship between you and your partner. This will change your ending, too. With four partners to choose from, the game will feature at least four different endings and a lot more CGs than the first one.
We are also going to re-design the scoring mechanic, which is one of the most important elements in any shoot’em up game. We can’t reveal it yet, but we promise that we’ll make it much better than the last one. I find the last one to be pretty flawed. There is no reward for finishing off the boss early, so you can sugar-farm and use 'Sugar Burst' to build up your score until time runs out.
Apart from the game system, Sugar Shooter 2 will feature an original soundtrack by Woofle.
Note: If you'd like to see for yourself how Sugar Shooter 2 is coming along, check out the recently released demo of the game here.
See also: Previous Sugar Shooter/Sugar Shooter 2 posts and previous 'ten questions with...' posts