For those who don’t know, can you explain a little about your company?
JUGAME STUDIO is a game design studio based in Japan, consisting of three members: Hiroshi Kawamura and Yu Maruno as designers, and Takayuki Mizuki as a business management. We have already released 4 titles since our establishment in 2016.
Your games are known for a beautiful, minimalist aesthetic. Do you hire artists, or produce this style yourself?
One of our unique qualities is that each individual designer handles their game’s entire process including choosing theme, design / game mechanics and artwork.
This was not intentional, but as designers both Hiroshi and Yu produces UI for apps/webs and motion graphics in their daily work, so it’s very natural to produce game titles in that way.
Under that principle, there is a drawback that the workload of each designer is relatively tough; however, in terms of of characteristics and consistency of design in detail, there are huge merits. In addition, it brings designers a lot of pleasures because they can handle all of details at their will.
And also, this process brings us new inspiration and ideas. In our understanding, visual images and game mechanics are closely related, so we get advantages from this production style.
We may happen to be involved in another production styles in collaboration with external art directors and illustrators, but we would like to keep this style basically.
What comes first for your process: theme or mechanics?
In terms of the detailed process, although it depends on each case, we usually choose the theme of the game first.
To elaborate, when a designer feels a specific theme is interesting to be a game, he starts to imagine the visual images and game mechanics. If it was imagine-able, production of the game starts in earnest.
Under the process, we usually make the prototypes of mechanics, then add artworks on them. It’s basically side-by-side process, regarding mechanics and artworks.
There are also cases of designing artwork in order to add spice to mechanics, or adjusting game rules in order to make the artwork more attractive.
The first mechanics did not have such emphasis on the panorama. However, since we got to know that players were more attracted to making panoramas by the feedback of prototype, we decided to adjust the mechanics to emphasize this panorama making.
In terms of Wine Rating, which is based on the culture of tasting and reviewing wines, we felt that atmosphere was not strong enough in the first version.
We tried to adjust the artwork of cards many times in order to solve that issue, but none of them were satisfactory. After all that, we decided to attach a start player marker made of cork, to infer the cork of a wine bottle.
It seems that it was a good idea, according to feedback from purchased users.
Many Western gamers might find your themes unusual – experiencing the cherry blossom, managing a hotel, tasting wine. Is it important for Jugame Studio to pursue these more ‘realistic’ themes?
In general, it seems that our customers tend to like our style of artworks and themes.
We are particular about selecting themes. At first, the theme should motivate a designer to make an artwork. That’s a very simple but very important point.
In addition, setting attractive themes sometimes enables us to expand our consumer target. In Japan, many people have experience playing video games, but the number of people who have experience with board games is relatively small.
That means, if we simply push our titles with the description of mechanics – like ‘auction and worker placement’ – it’s not enough to attract people who don’t have so much experience. So we are trying to be popular among those people by choosing familiar and modern themes to them.
If the theme is unique, we believe the game will be unique as well.
What can we expect from you in 2018? Any new titles we can look forward to?
We are fascinated to release more titles in the future, consistently. In the near-term, we will release two new titles in the Game Market 2018 Spring, held in Tokyo in May.
The first title is called Kamakura, focused on an ancient capital of Japan with the same name. The game introduces a lot of fantastic sightseeing spots there, and lets players to walk around virtually. Actually, the designer of the game, Hiroshi, lives in Kamakura, so it’s based on his actual experience as local resident.
This is the first title from our studio with a playing board in addition to cards and chips.
Secondly, we will release a title called Grand Opening! Gourmet Town, that enables those with epicurean tastes to build a restaurant mall. It’s a colorful, gorgeous game that introduces many kind of restaurants. Players are expected to launch their restaurants according to market trend that is shown in the game board.
It requires only 20 minutes to finish a game, so it’s quite replayable.
Last but not least, we have concluded a deal with Dutch publishers recently, so we hope our titles will be available in European countries in the near future. We are also planning to conduct a campaign on Kickstarter and attend Essen SPIEL this year.
It’s really a pleasure that many publishers and distributors outside Japan are interested in our titles.