Almost anyone with an interest in original English language visual novels must have heard of Zeiva Inc. The duo (Mirage and Nitarou) has been around for almost a decade, producing many memorable games, the last one being X-note, a supernatural otome mystery. We wanted to know more about their game-making process, as well as future plans and Mirage kindly agreed to answer a few questions.
OG: Do you have any programming or artistic background?
M: I'm mostly self-taught. I've been drawing for as long as I know. It wasn't until 2001 before I owned a computer. Late 2002, one of my classes taught basic animations and how to create websites using Flash. That was when I became interested in making games. At first, my games weren't really programmed. They were actually gigantic websites disguised as games. I decided to learn more from tutorials online as I made more games. I know some basic programmings now, but I'm still a beginner.
OG: How long have you been working on games?
M: I've been making games since 2002, so that's about 9 years now.
OG: How many of those were otome games?
M: *Laughs* If you also count Other Age, then it would be 2. Actually, we didn't intend Other Age to be one. It was meant to be a parody of dating-sim. X-note is the first pure otome games we've ever made.
OG: What kind of games do you usually play?
M: I mostly play JRPG. My partner in crime, Nitarou plays much more wide ranges of games than me. She was the one who introduced me to otome games.
OG: What do you consider your biggest influences?
M: Considering I'm a huge fan of JRPG, most of our games have a strong influence of them. Genetic Glow is influenced by Breath of Fire 3, Lufia 2, Suikoden 2, Final Fantasy 7, and Chrono Cross. Imaginary Realm is influenced by Boku to Mao (Also known as Okage: Shadow King in US.) Other Age is influenced by Tokimeki Memorial: Girl's side.
OG: What inspired you to create X-note?
M: Before X-note, I honestly didn't have confidence in my own writing. I often ended up writing jokes and parodies. The less serious the better, that way I didn't have to take everything seriously. But after making almost 10 years of games, I realized that most people didn't really care for our poor jokes *laughs*. In attempt to salvage the poor sales of OASE, I decided to try and venture writing a serious story for once, and thus the birth of X-note.
The basic idea of X-note was inspired by Ghost Hunt, Kindaichi Shonen no Jikenbo, and Tantei Gakuen Q. Ever since I watched Ghost Hunt, I've been fascinated with paranormal series. I thought it would be cool if I combined those elements with a murder case.
OG: Some of your previous games also had artbooks - can we expect to see one for X-note, too?
M: Hmmm, this is a difficult question to answer. I say it depends on X-note's sales. It needs to break a certain number before I feel safe investing time to make one.
OG: What are your plans for future games?
M: Currently, we are working on 2 projects. The first is Area-X, a time travelling otome game set in the same setting as X-note. The second is Dragon Essence, a joint project with Kaze-Hime.
OG: Can you tell us more about Area-X?
M: Area-X follows the story of Elcia, a time negotiator who time travels to obtain lost natural resources from the past. Starts off as an innocent little adventure, it's not long before Elcia discovers that everything is not as simple as it seems. As the story goes, Elcia will uncover hidden conspiracies, the twisted nature of the world, and its relation to her mysterious past. Altogether there are 5 obtainable guys. Area-X will also expand many things left unexplained in X-note---particularly Rexus' past.
OG: Zeiva Inc is one of the rare indie game developers that make commercial visual novels in Flash. What would you say is the advantage of using Flash over other engines for these kind of games?
M: Flash is multi-platform, so it can be played anywhere as long you have web browsers. It doesn't matter if it's Windows, Mac, Linux or Android. You can also play it online and offline. It's very convenient. It's also a visual-based engine, which is good for someone like me who works better with visuals over writing scripts.
OG: What advice would you give aspiring otome game developers?
M: To be honest, I'm not good enough to give advice. *Sweat* I think majority of game makers I know have trouble of finishing their games rather than lacking of skill. For beginners, I suggest going for something small. Being ambitious is good, but knowing your limitation is also very important. If you like making games, chances is your first game isn't going to be your last game. So, it's better to save your ambitious ideas for later when you have a much better grasp of your own ability.
If you want to learn more about Zeiva Inc. and the development of their upcoming games, here's where to go: