- Pervert Action: Future
- Pervert Action: Crisis
- Let Me Out
Interviewed by: Sihil
Alright, today I have something special for you guys. I recently interviewed with BBBen. He’s one of the most experienced Western erodevs in business, probably one of the best, certainly one of my favorites. Chances are you’ve come across his game Pervert Action: Timelapse before. I am a fan of him through games like Let Me Out and Pervert Action: Legacy.
We’ve had a very interesting conversation and I can’t wait to share it with you. Here’s a brief, more or less, chronological rundown of our conversation:
Pervert Action games series is quite a long-running series. The conception of it was inspired by an old flash dating sim and hentai games like True Love and The maid’s story. Interestingly, PAT was not inspired by a particular game but the series but is what BBBen describes as a natural continuation of the series. As the games have switched from their text-based format to a more VN-styled game in the most recent game, the transition has been a bit of a trade-off. BBBen notes that the lack of insane freedom and open-endedness of the text-based games has given way to greater interactivity and more dynamic gameplay.
When asked who his favorite waifu were from PAT and PAL, he proved himself to be a man of culture, choosing Iku and Nobuko respectively. Which gave way to an interesting point about the division of the H-scene between the characters, generally, it’s common to assume that for each character you’ll have equal amounts of H-scenes but BBBen deviates from this game-design philosophy. “(I think) forcing every character to be evened out in terms of content means you're not making stuff based on what seems like the most interesting ideas but based on arbitrary numbers.” He also generally tends to go for 2-4 characters in a PA game, one of whom is usually an outsider to the system and power dynamics. (Think Masami from PAL)
As we noted how varied the casts of his games are, not just in body types or skin colors but also personality types, social standing, and power dynamics, the conversation flowed to the personality of the MCs in his games, where generally you find the character in most games to be as much of blank slate as possible, he doesn’t use this approach in his games because as he notes having an 18-yo white guy from the States as many games do is not as much of blank slate as one might think.
With so many great games under his belt, I was curious to know which one he was the proudest of. Of course, there were many aspects in each game to be proud of but PAL caught his attention the most. “The game is both huge and was a wonderful test bed for so many ideas that I got to try out. I enjoyed layering it with hidden depth, exploring every little corner of the manor, spinning out heaps of little possibilities, etc.” That being said, he does feel like the graphics have aged a little.
IT'S OFTEN THE MOST ENGAGING AND MOST APPEALING WHEN A CHARACTER IS ACTUALLY NOT VERY LIKEABLE, OR MAYBE JUST NOT VERY AVAILABLE TO THE MC
Fetishes are a distinct part of any H-game but interestingly enough, BBBen doesn’t go out specifically to scratch a particular itch, instead preferring to let the fetishes grow naturally from a character’s arc so that it takes place organically, rather than being something that was forced upon a character. And one of the best ways to make the character’s growth believable is through convincing, well, writing good characters and that’s something BBBen is good at. He tends to create characters based on one or more contradictions (like Iku from PAL being naive and prudish but having a secretly filthy side to her that the MC (or Hiroshi if you prefer it that way) helps uncover. Another appeal of his games is the excellent voice acting cast which PAT has plenty of. “Sacci Salt, who was the voice of Iku, returned to play Nobuko and she brings a great passion to her roles and kind of vocally embodies what I want from those characters. Shiyon, as Shizu, is an accomplished adult VA who's captured something great with her character, and SilkyMilk, who plays Emi, is one of the real stars of adult voice acting across the industry. (She's on the cast of so many things - the big recent one being Subverse, of course.) Oh, and I should call out VoiceLikeCandy's work on Mika; I've finally been able to start showing off her fun, brash characterization too, just recently.”
One thing that struck me as odd was that the setting in the Pervert Action games has been distinctly Asian. That’s rare in a Western game. BBBen explains that as this series was inspired by cheesy hentai games, the setting made sense but now, especially after PAL, in my opinion, the games have evolved into their selves rather than being an imitation of something else.
The conversation lasted for roughly two days and we wrapped the conversation on day 1 by talking about him as a dev. Well, our Australian fans would be glad to know he’s from there as well. He’s been making games straight out of high school and has been making H-games for almost a decade now. His favorite H-games right now are Harem Collector, Seeds of Chaos and Sanguine Rose, Future Fragments, and Pure Onyx. I also asked him how he manages to keep his update schedule so regular to which his reply was proper planning and realistic goals but I also feel he works harder than most devs. To wrap things up for day 1, I asked him if there are any tips he’d like to share and he gave us plenty of insights that you can find below.
Day 2 started with a sneak peek of the early development process of the characters and their designs.
The first girl was Emi:
Followed by Nobuko:
And then finally Shizu:
For comparison, here’s the final version:
After that, our conversation moved on to the more technical side of the erogame development. I don’t think people who haven’t used these programs would be interested in the nitty-gritty of the 3Delight engine vs the Iray engine so I’ll give you all a very brief summary. Unlike the earlier games except for PAL, PAT is his only game that features the Iray rendering engine. It’s more taxing on the GPU but it lets him create cool effects like this here:
Finally, we had an exclusive announcement from the man himself, he’s working on a 2-d game named “Lord Goblin.” It’s set in a fantasy setting (duh) inspired by medieval England. The game will feature the usual charm of Goblinboy’s writing with gorgeous art and light management elements inspired by games like Crusader Kings 3. Don’t worry, you won’t need to take hours-long tutorials to play this game.
Anyway, this interview was really fun and surprisingly educational. You can find the transcript of it all below. A reminder that this conversation took entirely on discord chat so in a few places it might feel like there’s small miscommunication happening but that’s simply because transcribing a chat like this leaves out a few ultimately trivial details
We invite you to read the whole Interview below:
Sihil: Yeah, I'm excited to see how Mika's character shapes up in this department
Okay so one thing I really appreciate in your games is the voice acting, the voice actress for Iku was just perfect for that role.
So, hypothetically, if you were to choose anyone to voice-act Shizu, Nobuko and Emi, who'd you pick?
BBBen: I'll be honest, I can't really imagine anyone else voicing those characters than the cast I have! Their voices are really clear in my head and very strongly associated with the characters now.
Sacci Salt, who was the voice of Iku, returned to play Nobuko and she really brings a great passion to her roles and kind of vocally embodies what I want from those characters. Shiyon, as Shizu, is an accomplished adult VA who's really captured something great with her character, and SilkyMilk, who plays Emi, is one of the real stars of adult voice acting across the industry. (She's on the cast of so many things - the big recent one being Subverse, of course.) Oh, and I should call out VoiceLikeCandy's work on Mika; I've finally been able to start showing off her fun, brash characterisation too, just recently.
The one thing I've learned about voice actors, though, is that a lot of them are really good at their jobs and they can play a lot of different parts with an extraordinary range, so if any big professional VA like Grey DeLisle or Jennifer Hale wants to work with me, I think they'd make some interesting choices for Nobuko and Emi, respectively. :smile:
I hope my replies aren't reading too much like essays every time. :/ I feel like these questions are very thought provoking so I have to write a really long reply and it feels a little formal when I do.
Sihil: Oh I absolutely do enjoy your replies and I am sure the readers will too
Okay so as a writer, I really would like to ask you this: What does the writing process of your games look like? How do you come up with such unique, colorful and likeable girls?
I've asked this question to both of the previous devs in interview: Are you more of a discovery writer or an outliner?
BBBen: To the first part:
For a start, thanks very much for saying so. I suppose the thing I most like to work with in developing characters is one central contradiction - for example, Nobuko is a loyal wife who's nonetheless dating outside her marriage. How does that work? Well, that's where the characterisation comes from and how I find a story.
A lot of the time those ideas come out of little details; an idea for a moment, a scene, an image or something like that. Shizu standing on the train, alone and nervous, was one image like that which struck me. Then a contradiction - she's the one sneaking around after the main character, not him after her.
I also always want to take players on a journey with a character. I don't think it's nearly as interesting or satisfying if a character appears to be one thing at the start of the game, maybe a straightforward fetish character, and they never develop beyond that. Therefore, it's often the most engaging and most appealing when a character is actually not very likeable, or maybe just not very available to the main character at the start of the story. Then slowly uncovering their personality reveals why they're more sympathetic and even more attractive than they appeared at first. That's pretty conventional story-telling, I suppose; you have some tension when characters first meet if you want them to end up together, but there's at least a bit of an art to it.
Occasionally I find that impatient players actually don't give some characters a chance - characters like Emi who at first seem not to have flaws or vulnerabilities can put off certain players, for example, or they might jump to conclusions about someone like Nobuko - but for the most part I can hook people in and players at least tend to want to see the girls get their clothes off, if nothing else. That's really all the chance a writer needs.
To the second part:
I've asked myself this quite a bit and I feel like I'm kind of both. I do a lot of planning and outlining and I do tend to stick to those plans most of the time, but I also like to discover characters and possibilities as I go forward.
To give an example, Pervert Action: Legacy has some huge plot developments that were set up throughout the entire length of the game and were planned right from the start, and I also had a pretty clear sense of all the characters when I started writing, as well as the major plot events and their character stories. At the same time, the process of developing them over several years meant I really discovered those characters and probably the most interesting and fun scenes in the game through the process of development. If it was just what I planned at the outset I don't think it'd be half the game it is.
And while I have big, elaborate plans, I like to leave myself a lot of room to discover as I go, a little like writing a TV series, I guess.
If I had to pick... I think it differs for me a little based on the project, but maybe I used to be mostly a planner and now I'm leaning slightly more toward being a discovery writer.
Sihil: An interesting thing to note here is this is inline with both the previous devs I have interviewed
And building characters off of contradictions such an obvious yet brilliant strategy
BBBen: Interesting. I wonder if maybe it's the process of working on games through Patreon that forces us to combine planning and discovery that way.
(Also, thank you.)
Sihil: It definitely could be a factor.
BBBen: The contradiction thing isn't something unique to me, but I do find it a helpful strategy
Sihil: Yeah, I am writing my own game and characterization is turning out to be a problem so far, I feel like your approach will help me big time
BBBen: Please do try it, then!
Sihil: One thing that differentiates your game from other Western H-games is that your protagonist in both PAL and PAT are Asian
Is there a specific reason for this?
BBBen: There is... and it's not really an obvious reason. I'm not Asian myself, I guess it's worth pointing out.
To answer this, I need to go all the way back to the first of the Pervert Action games, Pervert Action: Crisis, which was designed to be kind of a cheesy pastiche of hentai tropes that I would then explore in my own way and mash up with the conventions of adult interactive fiction. As part of that, a natural element was just to make all the characters Japanese, except for the token white girl.
That was fun, if a little dumb and maybe it hasn't actually aged very well. But I enjoyed it, so I made a sequel and had fun getting into a more complex science-fiction setting for Pervert Action: Future, as well as making the characters a little subtler. The main idea was still there, though and the main character was descended from the star of PAC, so it made sense to keep him Asian. Additionally, I had this idea of carrying forward tropes between games, the way I'd seen happen in Final Fantasy, or Star Wars, so you might encounter characters with the same names, or who fill similar roles, or just thematic echoes, but now things are inverted or mixed up in imaginative ways.
Then came Pervert Action: Legacy. Naturally, I carried forward the idea again. By this time I wasn't interested so much in the cheesy hentai stuff and I was more just telling a story to be its own thing, but the original inspiration was still in there on some level. I had a lot more fun just developing the characters on their own, really, and their ethnicity didn't actually come into the story much because of the nature of the setting, so it was kind of a moot point.
By the time I started work on PAT I had actually taken to travelling a bit. I've now been around a few places, in particular South East Asia, and I found a lot about the place to be really interesting. Therefore, the logical extension of this series' "Asian-inspired" roots into a modern, city setting felt to me to be creating some kind of fictional city that would capture the Asia that I saw in person and the things I found really interesting about it.
The characters still feel like "Pervert Action" characters, I think, even if they're less like the obvious tropes that I was at first using for inspiration.
Sihil: The evolution of this series is absolutely amazing to behold
Anyway, this marks the end of this section and now we move on to the section about you as a dev. It will be brief I promise lol
BBBen: No problem. :laughing:
Sihil: Who are your favorite devs that are currently working and devs that are not
BBBen: think I need to point to some of my friends in the industry here, although it's a little tough because I like a lot of the work I see out there. There's really some great stuff being done right now.
The most direct game I feel common-cause with is Harem Collector by Bad Kitty Games, which is kind of this grand passion project about collecting a giant harem, slightly concealed behind a low-key exterior. Well worth giving a chance. Seeds of Chaos and Sanguine Rose are both these gorgeous VNs with beautiful art and great writing, and the developers are really serious about their craft. Then there's platformers like Future Fragments, and another one to watch out for is Pure Onyx, which is going to be amazing (I've seen a lot of their stuff in development and it's going to be incredible).
There's a lot of others and I'm leaving people out that I shouldn't be, I'm sure.
Sihil: Oh I love Seeds of Chaos, one of my favorites.
BBBen: The devs are friends of mine, so yeah, that's got to be on the list. :smile:
I also just keep track of a lot of artists I like who do great stuff; maybe I'll be able to work with them one day or if not, I'll just enjoy their work for now.
I try to stay in touch with a lot of other developers because it helps me in all sorts of ways.
Sihil: That'll be a crossover I'd pay hefty money to see
Moving on, where are you from? You can answer this broadly or not at all, of course. What did you do before developing adult games?
BBBen: G'day from down under in Australia, mate! :koala: :flag_au: :kangaroo:
And I was pretty much into developing adult games straight out of high school, at least at a hobby level, so I don't have much to list before that, but I have done other stuff at the same time. I was kind of looking to become an academic for a while and I drifted around through different jobs while trying to pay my way, while still writing a lot in my spare time.
In the end, once Patreon worked out for me, I kind of decided that I'd like to just be my own boss from now on and make this work. It's the kind of job where it's risky to get into a rut and you need to keep trying new things, so I'm planning to push myself forward and diversify more in the not-too-distant future, but as I can kind of set my own rules, I can also hang onto what I'm doing now. That's one of the great things about it.
Sihil: Absolutely know what you mean
So how do you get your updates so regularly despite working solo
BBBen: I guess that comes down to just figuring out how much you can realistically scope for a monthly release and designing the project around receiving those kinds of updates. Needing to put something out each month is sometimes unhelpful, if I need to work on stuff that isn't really going to show up well as a monthly morsel of content and needs more time (like a big feature addition) but mostly I can kind of work on stuff for a few weeks and just see what I've got that's more or less ready to go, polish it off and make that the release for the month. Anything unfinished can be set aside to finish off for the future.
Also, working solo sometimes makes that punctuality easier, as I don't need to wait on anyone else to get things done. I can always judge my own schedule in real time and adjust if I know I can't get something done promptly. Teams take a lot more careful communication and management.
Sihil: Indeed, feel like I've grilled you long enough so the final question:
What's your advice for someone who's considering becoming an adult game dev
BBBen: Oh, I wrote up a whole big thing about this that I never published at one point! But I feel like some of my opinions have changed since then and I should be much more concise, anyway.
Sihil: Oh do tell
BBBen: 1. Start simple and small. The project you work on will be much bigger than you think it will be, no matter how you conceive it, so do something really small and learn.
2. Don't worry about monetisation at first (unless you're coming from a professional art/game dev background already, in which case ignore most of my advice). At the very beginning you just want to get some work out there, get a little experience and maybe a small following. Don't be afraid to pull the trigger and start a Patreon once you have a bit of a following, though - it's okay if you don't make much at first.
3. By the way, you are going to have to market your own work a lot. Sorry, but it's just unavoidable. You have to do it everywhere you can find. Mostly the projects that should take off but don't end up failing because people just aren't noticing it.
4. You'd also damn well better enjoy doing this, because it's not a good get rich quick scheme. Get into crypto currencies or something if you're looking for that.
5. Don't worry about being bad at stuff - you will be bad. Your games will not be good until you're more experienced. Just don't worry about that. You can improve later, or move on to new things and that's good and natural.
6. 6. I personally think it's okay to start a game in development with a lot of placeholder assets if you can't afford art, then replace them as you go if you get monetisation for it. That limits you a little, but if that's your only option, just do it and don't worry about it.
7. You need to bring some skills to the table beyond being the ideas guy. If you have no obvious talents, then programming is the one that's easiest to pick up (just start messing about with Ren'py - it's free and easy - or pick up Unity and have a play around if you want to skip to something cooler).
8. All that said, being willing to pay others up front for their work is better than any skill. All you need to do then is be a good manager (which is also a skill that I can't fully cover here). If you have the ability to put money aside to pay people then you can get stuff done.
9. The hardest skilled contributors to find are programmers, so don't count on finding one.
10. If you're making a game with 2D art you're going to need more than one artist working on it. Divide up the project in a clear way - for example, it might be better to have backgrounds or environment art handled by someone different to your character artist.
11. Voice acting is an underestimated value addition you can make to a game. It's not ridiculously expensive and there are some really good professional adult VAs available now. They are very friendly and approachable, by the way, and are more than willing to work on projects that are just starting out and still at an early skill level! (Just so long as you're paying, you're polite, you give clear instructions and you give them enough time to get the job done, they don't mind if your art is crappy or you've got loads of bugs.)
12. Getting every line voiced on a very wordy game, however, might be impractical and too expensive, so consider just getting partial voice acting.
13. Final big tip: network with other developers! I find Discord is great for this; there are several good servers for developers to interact and I've found this invaluable. I've also been able to help some other developers starting out find their feet (and I've seen other very successful devs offer great advice and assistance, too).
All of that is presented in no particular order, but those are all things that have occurred to me over the years. (Not that I have all the answers, or anything.)
Sihil: Wow, I was looking for a penny and found a gold mine instead
BBBen: There's probably way more to be said, but if I keep going on about it we'll be here all day.
Sihil: This really helpful. Anyway, I think that's it from my end. Thanks a lot for such great, in-depth answers! I'll send you the link as soon as the interview is up!
Sorry I gotta hurry a bit. I should've seen that this interview will take this long and started an hour or so earlier but daily obligations call now
But yeah, thanks again and see ya later!
Continuation on the next day:
Sihil: Hi so I am ready to see the previews if you are
BBBen: Oh, sure, I'm ready.
I was going to mention first, you asked about some early concept shots from PAT, so I can actually show a few of those.
Sihil: Sure, let's start with those
BBBen: Emi's model hasn't changed much, even though my rendering style has - I got this basic look of her down pretty early.
Sihil: Love the lighting here, really looks like she's in a professional photoshoot
BBBen: I ended up using a version of this as one of the ads in the game, although the lighting engine I use now is different, so I redid the version that made it into the game.
BBBen: This one was an early Nobuko shot; she changed a lot even getting to this stage, but this is the first time she started to look right to me.
Obviously I changed her base outfit a lot - this one was supposed to be a "sexy casual" look for when she's around her own apartment block, while she would dress more elegantly when she went out. After a while I decided that it was better to emphasise her more sophisticated side and save revealing casual clothes for special scenes.
I also changed her model quite a bit in subtle ways after that - her face ended up being different and I tweaked her body shape quite a bit to feel more convincing.