Greetings, people of Doujins! We're here for another interview, this time with an incredibly talented team of game designers and artists, collectively known as MITY! This team has made a great eroge called Four Elements Trainer, whose trailer can be viewed HERE. It's a game based on the Avatar: The Last Airbender series, with an Avatar from the future going back in time to learn bending from the masters, and having some lewd fun, as it is an eroge.
Kasaix: Thanks for sitting with me for this interview MITY. How are things going for you guys?
Coder: No problem, we're always bustling, but happy you reached out to us. I don’t think there has been a moment lately where we didn’t have a thousand things to take care of, but it’s often a fun sort of busy where you can enjoy it. There are a lot of people enjoying the game so that really makes us want to push onward. We’re getting a lot of support from our patrons, who are the reason we managed to expand the game as much as we have, so except from the usual time crunch each month, things are going great.
Kasaix: What inspired you to create Four Elements Trainer?
Artist: I always sorta liked the idea of making a game but was convinced it would forever remain one of those “maybe sometime in the far future”- things. I wouldn’t know where to start and just doing it all by myself seemed like too big of a thing. The Avatar cartoons have always been among my favorites so making a game where you can see those characters in the most outrageous and funny situations is the best fuel for motivation there is.
The coder approached me out of the blue and asked whether I was interested in making an erotic Avatar game. Although it took him awhile to convince me he was someone I could take seriously my initial unspoken reaction was “dude, it’s the ONLY sort of game I’m interested in making!” Seriously, if he had approached me suggesting any other cartoon as the inspiration for an eroge I doubt my answer wouldn't have been "No thanks, good luck finding someone else to help you out."
Coder: Honestly, I just love the show and felt it would make a great lewd universe. I'd been considering making an eroge and happened to start re-watching the show when it kind of hit me that this was a great context, and that everyone could use more avatar love. It took some time to get the artist on board, but it was clear to me pretty early on that we'd make a good team. I'd actually intended to make a much simpler game, but widened my ambitions when I realized we had the potential to create a big, fun adventure. The artist has kept pushing me since. Well, we push ourselves, but I think that joint desire to improve is a crucial part of a strong team.
Kasaix: How did you gain the skills necessary to create this game? Did you attend schools for art and game design, or are you self-taught? The art alone is top-notch, and very close to the art from the series itself.
Artist: Like a lot of artists I’m self-taught. Actually I hesitate to call myself an artist. I started out just wanting to see some of my favorite cartoon characters do unspeakable things to each other and since I couldn’t find what I wanted to see I drew it myself. You’ll never see me with a sketchbook drawing mundane things or situations for fun since those bore me to death. I’m just an addict making his own meth ;) And when you do it often enough you just stumble upon better ways of doing things.
Coder: Self-taught. There's a lot of work involved, but there's such a thrill in getting real, tangible results from just a language. I started out trying to learn in a more traditional way, but figured out pretty quick that it's best just to dive in and adapt as you go. I look back at the wild heaps of early code and writing, and remember how complicated the simple things felt. There's always more to learn, and that's a beautiful thing. I'm frequently guilty of aspirations, trying to pack in lots of nifty features that aren't really necessary, but I hope are appreciated all the same. The artist is no slouch in the coding department either -- he's learned quickly too, and does a great job of keeping me on my toes.
Kasaix: If you needed to choose one piece of work to represent yourselves, what would it be?
Artist: Our hooded, grinning, player character comes to mind. When you get right down to the basics it’s all about having a good laugh in the end. We don’t mind things getting a bit serious, but it should always find its way back to slightly devious humor.
Coder: I personally love the guards from Book 2: they're good-natured, humorous, shameless, and just trying to deal with whatever's getting thrown their way. Which is almost always more than they can handle. To me, they sometimes feel like the only sane characters. I'm also tempted to just say "the whole Ember Island section", since that's full of simple fun, eroticism, and felt like a vacation adventure, but honestly, I think the artist is right: our mischievous avatar does it best.
Kasaix: As you are a team, and in different time zones no less, how do you delegate the project work? You’ve told me that there have been communication challenges, but it looks like the game doesn’t suffer in the slightest, given how good it is!
Artist: I’m guessing that has more to do with a lot of luck than anything else. We are very different people who just happen to share the same streak of insanity when it comes to smut games. I'm usually the foot on the brake and the coder/writer is the person who wants to see if that man in the white unmarked van is really selling candy. Yin and Yang so to speak. We allow each other a lot of freedom and can usually understand what the other one is aiming for with a minimal amount of words. It does slow things down a lot when we do find something problematic, but those moments rarely pop up anymore. At the very beginning we’d lose a lot of time syncing up with each other, but nowadays *knocks on wood* that rarely happens anymore. It’s usually when we start a new book (effectively the chapters of our game) when we need to do most of our “quarreling.”
Coder: Dedication, good communication, and not being dicks. I think the biggest roadblocks in any venture probably come down to those three hurdles. We're passionate about what we're doing, we're always hashing out ideas (though I have a tendency to get distracted), and we're both genuinely interested in a healthy team. I think we lucked out quite a bit, actually. We have a similar mindset on the important things, but our approaches differ: I'm prone to spontaneous bursts of direction, while the artist plays a more thoughtful, close-to-the-chest game. There's good balance. As for delegating... there's just a lot of trust and freedom. We just know that the other will do their best to make it work.
Kasaix: What struck me at first was that, while FET seemed to be little more than a normal eroge, there are combat mechanics. It's a bit simple in the Water chapter, but this gets deeper in the Fire Chapter. What brought up the idea for combat mechanics, and how was it to implement them?
Coder: We just thought it'd be fun. We're pretty gung-ho about including as much as we can. Combat mechanics help create a good progression and setting context for each book. The fights in Book 2 were built from scratch, using what we'd learned from Book 1 to create something a little more complex, and Book 3 is even more complex with the maze and crab battles.
Artist: The combat mechanics bring a lot to the table when it comes to keeping things fresh and different from each book. Especially with book 3 that takes up a lot more time to draw and code, but I absolutely think it's worth the effort.
Kasaix: As well as the battle mechanics, the mini games were an interesting addition too. Mixing drinks, that was made easier in the Earth chapter, Blackjack, cups, and so forth. Where did the ideas come from, and what made you implement them?
Coder: Just like the battle systems, we include them mostly because I have fun seeing how much we can pack in. The erotic content has priority, but why not play some mini-games along the way? Most of the ideas come from me wondering if a certain mini-game would be possible, and then just kind of figuring it out. We pay close attention to comments from our patrons on what they enjoy, and go from there. We have a firm policy on not punishing the player -- there's lots of options and rewards regardless of what they want to spend time on.
Artist: We also do our best to make them fit the context of the story and that helps us coming up with new ones.
Kasaix: Let's be real here, the Crab Battle from the Fire chapter is just Pokemon. This is not a knock, it was funny to discover, and I did have a bit of fun with it. I will, however, need to know WHY it's there.
Artist: It certainly is! The crab fights have their origin in the love route of Book 2 where they first appeared. They were a lot simpler and served as a fun little aside for those who wanted to fight but couldn’t because they were on Ember island. I think it planted a little seed of curiosity within the coder to see if he could expand upon it. And that he did!
Kasaix: Can you explain a bit about the story? A future avatar goes back in time to learn the elements from past masters like Katara, Toph, and Azula. Where in the timeline does this take place? It’s been my guess that this takes place one avatar after Korra. Like, Korra, some other avatar, then the avatar we’re controlling.
Coder: The future avatar, indeed not the direct follow up of Korra, is horrible at bending. Like all great legends, he has humble beginnings; even wet cardboard boxes are enough of a barrier to make him reconsider putting up a fight. It’s when he’s playing a game on his console that he's suddenly kidnapped by a mysterious spirit lady, who warns him of havoc with the other spirits and he’ll have to shape up to put an end to all the turmoil. Since he’s useless the way he is, she takes him back in time to master the elements. Along the way, he meets some familiar females who teach him about more than just bending -- intentionally or otherwise. Each book has its own story, with a developing over-arching plot that ties the books together. More specifics on the what’s, who’s and why’s of the story slowly unravel as you travel from one book to the other.
Kasaix: The player-controlled avatar wondered if any of his actions have real impact on history as he was on the Earth train in the beginning of the Earth chapter. However, Katara recognized him, so I’m guessing he does.
Coder: You don't really want us to spoil future plot twists, do you? As tempting as it is, we don’t want to say too much about this yet as it’ll become important later on.
Kasaix: Getting back into the ero part of this game, there are two routes to play: Love and Slave. I personally went down the Love route and quite enjoyed it. What are the major differences between the two routes?
Coder: We've found that the love routes are generally considered the better part of each book by the players. Since we were pretty green when we started out, Book 1’s love and slave routes follow each other closely; there are a few different scenes, and a lot of different dialogue, but the main story is pretty much the same.
When we reached Book 2, we had a lot more experience and because of that the love and slave routes are very different from each other: different scenes, dialogue, story, and even bodies the player gets to possess. Book 3 is still in development, but we’ve got some cool things planned for that as well.
The slave route is basically the route where the player wants to have sex with anything on two legs (and not too old), and isn't overly concerned with the well being of the main girl. During the love route, he genuinely starts caring for the main girl(s). He still wants sex, but also their heart. Another crucial difference is not just in the MC's motivations, but his personality as well. In the slave route, he's dominating, self-serving, manipulating, and borderline vindictive; in the love route, he's more empathetic, a little less pure sex-drive, and a little less sarcastic. The important thing is that you can shape the girls, and your relationships with them, both by the routes you pick and your in-game choices. There are no bad endings!
Kasaix: I believe you did more with Azula's character in your game than they did in the show itself. As I played down the Love route, she came off as both tsundere and yandere, and loved every bit of it. I grew to actually care about her. Tell us about the process of giving her a real personality beyond "that's mine, and I'll burn it if I want". She really did represent fire in the show.
Coder: Azula is certainly fiery, but much-maligned. She isn't "bad", she's misunderstood. She ticks a little differently. Unfortunately, no one in her world relates, except her father, and that's limited to ambition and violence. I believe she sees in Zuko the caring aspects of her mother, who spurned her, as well as the ambition and passion of her father. Her jealousy and pride conflict when she thinks of Zuko, and as he is her family, and thus both required to love her and worthy of her affection, is it really any wonder that Azula is obsessed with him in FET? He's nemesis and solace, rival and comfort. She desperately wants to be loved, but struggles to understand what that means, and the only person worthy and capable of slipping inside her walls (heh) is Zuko. Well, I say Zuko, because that's who she sees, but of course it's the player in control, and not actually Zuko.
In the slave route, the thief has a harder time of it, but he comes to fill a similar role to Zuko. He's powerful and ambitious, which entices her, even as she struggles with being the victim of those traits. The slave route replaces empathy with manipulation, or Azula could very well have fallen for him. But that's why we have two different routes!
Azula is a sexy, violent, egomaniacal creature, but she's riddled with insecurities and uncertainties; she's worthy of pity and honestly, a smack. She both deserves to be broken and to be loved. The power is in the hands of the player. She's certainly an intriguing character, and interesting to write.
Kasaix: In the ending of the Fire chapter that I played, Zuko/Avatar took Azula as his queen. I tried to balance Azula and Mai, aiming for a harem ending with this one. Did I hit the mark, or favor Azula too much and lose Mai? I can still visit her in the shop for lewd times, so I think I hit the harem mark.
Coder: If you favored Azula you can be sure she wouldn’t let you fuck any other girls! So yeah, well done getting best of both worlds!
Artist: Of course I got to see all the options, but my personal favourite is the 100% Azula ending because of the Fire Nation guards banter between each other. Yeah I know that’s a weird reason for picking one ending over the other. Most people would just go for the girl they like instead of some extra guard dialogue!
Coder: Each ending has its own pros. Oddly enough, I think a fair number of people don't realize there's an option to get both girls, but choosing to be exclusive to either one will give you more intimate scenes with that one.
Kasaix: In the Earth chapter, Toph is the master we're trying to romance. I give lots of credit for aging her up to 18 years old to make all this acceptable to the general public. Can't really take Toph to a dance when she's her actual show age. As well, can we expect her to finally figure out Katara's trick for sizing up her bust?
Coder: Let’s just hope as soon as she does she’s too hooked on sex to care and whoop the player’s ass! But seriously, in order to have the player option open to enlarge her breasts during the first couple of scenes, it will probably remain one of those things she’ll forever be ignorant of.
Kasaix: The Spirit, who looks much like the Painted Lady, mentioned that the player Avatar can visit the previous time
periods down the line. Is this a planned feature to visit the previous chapters at will? I kept separate saves for each chapter in case I wanted to see Katara or Mai and Azula again.
Coder: In a way. Sorry, you’ll have to wait and see!
Kasaix: Are the choices we make in one chapter carried over in the following chapters? Visiting Katara in the tea shop in the Earth chapter, she recognized the player Avatar and discreetly flashed him, about where I had her in the Water chapter, as a love bug unafraid to flash the general public.
Coder: Some choices follow over for the sake of continuity, but most choices only affect the book they're in. Because you can start a new game and jump to any book right away, we try to balance previous decisions with fresh starts in a way that hopefully flows smoothly.
Kasaix: As the game develops, are you proud of where it is now?
Coder: We always set out to make something we’d like to play ourselves. It’s our main motivator and in that regard we’ve succeeded, so that’s something to be proud of. Especially when considering we truly started out with almost zero knowledge about how to build a game like this. But we won’t be truly proud until we’ve finished it in its entirety and our supporters can look back on a sexy/funny (but hopefully sometimes also touching) story, which can be played from beginning to end. There’s still a lot of work we’ll have to do before we can call this game finished and don’t want to get too satisfied with ourselves before we do!
Kasaix: Where do you expect it to go from here? There's still a silhouette in the banner.
Coder: After mastering earthbending there’s still one element for the player to deal with and the fourth silhouette has to do with that. We don’t think it will be too hard for anyone who has seen all of the avatar cartoons to guess whose silhouette it is exactly.
Artist: Tenzin with a wig!
Coder: It's not Tenzin with a wig.
Kasaix: Do you have a set update schedule?
Coder: We always try to have a new build ready around the end/beginning of every month. We’ve had a few times we couldn’t because of sickness or other special circumstances, but a monthly update has been our aim from the beginning.
Kasaix: Beyond this project, what project do you feel you must absolutely work on? Do you have plans for other great games?
Artist: I’d be happy if we can just finish this one successfully and whatever happens afterwards, happens afterwards. I mean…. of course I’d like to make a 3d rpg with cell-shaded characters doing all sorts of nasty things in between killing monsters, but other than those sort of vague fantasies I don’t have any.
Coder: I have a bazillion ideas, but I'd happily follow along something new, too. Our hivemind is focused pretty hard on the present. I just like what we do!
Kasaix: Let’s wrap this up here. Are there any words you’d like to share with your fans?
Artist: Thanks for your support! We couldn't have done this without you guys! Also, If you’ve always wanted to make something of your own, like a smutty game, but have no experience doing so, it’s very easy to think you can’t do it. God knows I’ve spent most of my time not giving it any serious thought. And maybe it’s too hard with the time or skills you have right now. But nobody is saying whatever you make has to be perfect. Slowly building up your skills as you go along, maybe try and find a kindred spirit who has the same passion and perhaps the skills you lack (and vice versa) could be the start of something you didn’t dare dream of before.
Coder: That they're fucking awesome! We have such great support, it's really humbling. We read and consider everything we see, and really appreciate the passion we've found. There's a lot more good stuff on the way.
I’d like to thank MITY once again for sitting down with me for this interview. If you’d like to check out their work, and I do highly recommend Four Elements Trainer. The link to their Patreon, where it can be found, is linked above in the article, as well as HERE.