From VRoid to Pixel Art: The Making of Chuhou Joutai 2: Paraided!

Video game development combines the power of cartoon animation and computer programming in order to create an entertaining environment. Even though creating a single video game requires years of work and the talents of many people, Chuhou Joutai 2: Paraided!, alongside the other games developed by Drillimation, was done entirely over the course of seven months by a single person: the Prophet Driller.

Chuhou Joutai 2: Paraided! took a different approach than to what we used for its predecessor. We wanted it to be better and revolutionary. The ‘revolutionary’ aspect had to come from its art direction and a more reliable game engine, which garnered better praise. It is also the most challenging game we ever developed, and a single boss or even the entire game could be on the brink of smashing a Guinness World Record, that being Most Number of Cutscenes in an Arcade Game (had the game been released in arcades), Most Difficult Boss in a Bullet Hell Shooting Game (the latter record would’ve gone to Queen Larsa of Mushihimesama Futari), or even Most Difficult Game Made in GameMaker.

Wanting to know how Paraided! was created, we’ll tell you about the new tools that we used for developing the game. We’re diving right into the source at Drillimation Systems Co., Ltd. in Erie, Pennsylvania.

Jumping from Cartoony to Realistic with VRoid

The previous game, Touhou 2: The Story of Eastern Wonderland NES Demake, also used this approach for its character designs. It’s always a good idea to draw a single character in a variety of art directions and letting your players decide which art direction would be best for your game. After some experimentation was done, we decided on a more realistic anime approach so that we could satisfy players, and ultimately stuck following a better reception over Chuhou Joutai 1‘s art direction.

Another praised feature had to be different sprites depending on the theme of each stage. This may just be like Mario Party 2, which had different outfits depending on the board you were playing. This included the duo’s regular clothes, yukata for summer festivals, and biking (though they still wear their regular clothes). What about being a maiko or geisha? You’ll have to play further to find out.

Some of the outfit ideas that were rejected include having the duo transform into merpeople, which would’ve looked stupid for Susumu Takajima but perfect for Kagami Ochiai. In fact, another design around the same concept would’ve given Driller a tail starting from his genitals and extending far out similar to what a dinosaur had. Of course, if the stage was long, they would have to eat gillyweed to sustain themselves. In the end, Paraided! never got a water stage like in the first game.

Another outfit idea that was rejected included having the duo dress in Japanese imperial attire, being a sokutai for Driller and a junihitoe for Kagami. Sure, they would’ve looked regal, but walking in 35+ pounds/20+ kg worth of clothing would’ve been a nightmare. If you saw Emperor Naruhito’s enthronement ceremony in October 2019, he had to walk slowly when he was approaching the throne.

Anyway, how are character portrait sprites created anyway? Firstly, the character must be created in VRoid Studio. The program is user friendly, meaning anybody can pick it up and use it. I’ll have to wait until VRoid opens testimonials. While it is easy to design hair, creating the clothing textures are a challenge. If you want to be an advanced user of VRoid, we recommend Photoshop do it all. Once everything looks fine, it’s time to take pictures for the sprites. Once they are done, we go into Adobe Illustrator and trace over the images we took to turn them 2D. Firstly, we must do the outlines, followed by applying the facial features, and finally the shading. The last thing we do once an image has been exported is to apply the colors from our color palette.

New Enemies and Characters

While we did bring back a few fan-favorite enemies and characters to satisfy players, we did throw in a few enemies from the SoEW demake, such as the Karanah in place of the raven to Bakeboo, a couple of enemies are entirely new. This included Kedama, Takotenki, and Karakasa.

Planning the Gameplay

We had a strict time deadline to get the game done in time for its release over the US Independence Day and Canada Day weekend. How was development done over a seven-month period? Well, just ask the Prophet Driller, as pre-production began before Chuhou Joutai 1 had even released.

We had two full weeks to get a whole stage done, compared to the previous game which took a whole month for a single stage. Because it took place during a semester, programming was only done on the weekends to ensure schoolwork didn’t get in the way. One course that got in the way of development had to be Communication Theory and Research, which consisted of writing a seven-page term paper with assignments due weekly. The course was a mini and was overly complicated. The professor on Rate My Professors ended up getting an overwhelming dislike, with all of her reviews being one star (as of June 2021).

Cutscenes are crucial to the development of a whole stage, and we planned a bunch of them during the week in our free time. Once they were done, besides the musical themes that accompany the stage, we had to program it all into the game on a Friday. If we weren’t able to get it all done that day, then it may extend into the weekend. Although we had two weeks to complete a whole stage, all but one stage was done in a week, compared to the second stage which required the full two weeks because it required a bunch of images for the cutscenes that eventually set the search for the Mini-Hakkero in motion.

The musical score for the game was done entirely by the game’s creator himself. Looks like Erie, PA may have found the only solo dev. He has visited Japan only once, and he saw a bunch of originality for the game from this country. In search for inspiration for themes to be present in Paraided!, we toured Tokyo, Nagoya, Kyoto, and Osaka. During his next visit to Japan, which will probably be in a couple of years when the coronavirus pandemic there winds down, he would probably want to tour either Hiroshima, Nagasaki, or Sapporo, whether it be in-person or Google StreetView. We can only wonder what it can inspire (hopefully not Duke Nukem).

Conclusion

Although the development team consisted of only one person, Drillimation did bring in other players for quality assurance. In the week before the demo was released, a QA session brought in incredible success. Other than a few minor issues we had to fix, not a single bug was found, though a couple of exploits went unnoticed even after the demo had released. This means we may have to make a new version of the demo before release. We can’t wait to see our players react to all of the content in the game when it releases next month!

Extra stuff

We did have some trouble trying to get the game approved for sale on Steam. For more information about those failures, we recommend you read this dev log here.

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