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Interview with ZUN
P1: First of all I'd like to ask about the people in the Team Shanghai Alice group.
Z: I work as a programmer now for a certain company. When I have come home from the company I start with the doujin activities. It is by the way me alone who is the TSA group.
P1: What? You're all by yourself? May I ask what company you're working for?
Z: I can sadly not say that. Despite that I'm doing it on my own in my spare time, it seems like I'm working for two parts, something the company in question doesn't like.
P1: How did you start with Team Shanghai Alice?
Z: It's been five years since I started it and it has always only consisted of myself. The reason that I started TSA was that I couldn't find any games I liked myself. Year after year the games keep getting split between big games and cheap games. I wanted a game that appealed to me, so I had to start making games myself. I guess that was the main reason. Music is another of my spare time activities, so the fact that I could create both games and music made me pull myself to doujin circles.
P1: The Touhou series is very popular in Japan, but there's many people knowing about it in Sweden as well. I was very surprised when you said that you had made it all by yourself, so how did you start with the project?
Z: Actually the Touhou series has gone on for longer than Team Shanghai Alice. I made the shoot 'em up game when I was a university student and named it Touhou (east, to the east) because I thought that the atmosphere was very oriental. The first game for TSA was Embodiment of Scarlet Devil, which was the sixth game in the Touhou series. If you want to know why I made the atmosphere in the game very eastern like it's simply because I'm a Japanese and I love Japan.
P1: You're still fully at it?
Z: I release between one or two games a year. As TSA I have released five games and three music discs. The Touhou series consist of eleven games and three disc albums. I am also writing books, manga and other publications.
P1: Wow, how broad! Since you're releasing music as well I have to ask: what kind of music are you listening to?
Z: Usually it's world music or jazz and similar I'm listening to a lot.
P1: Any other things you like?
Z: I'm writing very much about alcohol in my blog, so sometimes at some events the people who like my games buy me booze, so I get to drive home totally drunk than and such (ha ha).
P1: With events you mean?
Z: The Comiket trade fairs. A Comiket trade fair is a trade fair where all the creators of doujin games, mangas etc. sit at small tables and sell their wares directly to the gamers without middlemen.
P1: Back to the games, one of the most interesting sides of doujin is that there's original and then there's secondary games, so like parodies, travesties. What's your thoughts about this?
Z: In secondary games the distance between the gamer and creator extremely small, this is one of the most prominent features of doujin in general. With a parody game the gamer already knows the game world. You can make games where both the gamer and the creator has the same picture of the game world. When you do original games it's more that you want to create everything from the base of your own vision, without taking the vision of the gamer into consideration. Doujin games allow both sides and therefore I was pulled to them.
P1: How are you doing when you create a game?
Z: At first I start with imagining the complete game. There I sit many days and only think about very slim details like the special attacks of the enemies, or how you're going to program them and what kind of music the game is going to have. When I have a sort of clear picture of how I want the game to be I start the creation process, there many things are removed and many are added and I touch up the ideas a little extra. The influences for the story, attacks and similar mostly comes when I read books. I seldom get inspired by other similar games.
P1: What do you think is the most honourable part of making doujin games?
Z: To be able to create everything, from planning, graphics, programming, cover and music - everything! And that you then can sell it to the players. I find a great pride in experiencing game creation to 100 percent.
P1: Do you have any exchange with people outside of Japan?
Z: Yes, there's many foreigners coming to the events. Most of them comes from Sweden, Germany, Taiwan, Korea and China. I don't know much about foreign doujin circles. But I meet many people doing doujin from Taiwan during the events. Apparently there's going to be an event dedicated to Touhou in Taiwan soon.
P1: Outside of Japan doujin is still regarded as hentai games, what's your thoughts about that?
Z: It's the same in Japan, and you can sadly not say that it's completely wrong. Though they are small in numbers I want people to understand that there's games like Touhou and not only hentai games.
P1: What games do you like?
Z: If we're talking old games I like Darius Gaiden [Arcade, Taito]. At the moment I'm taking it easy and play "Oide yo, doubutsu no mori" [Animal Crossing Wild World, Nintendo DS].
P1: Do you play online games?
Z: I have unfortunately more or less never played online games. One of the reasons is that I have so little time for playing games. In online games the game is getting close to real time, which is very appealing, if I get some time over I'd like to try.
P1: What games do you want to create in the future?
Z: I'm going to keep making games that stand out. If so all my fans disappear I'm still happy if I can keep doing the games I want.
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