🎤 Interview with Shiina Akutaro

2023年 1月 24日
Indie Tsushin 2023 January issueThis article was featured in our 2023 January issue. Check out more articles and interviews in the full issue.

Shiina Akutaro of V.V. Laboratory was kind enough to speak with us about the development team Bobdera 150 and their game, Whisper Whisper!

English (translated)

Translated by Renkon

Screenshot from Whisper Whisper of two ninjas in an attic looking down at a lord's chamber. The ninja on the right says, Let's go.

Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your team.

I am Shiina Akutaro. I work as a planner at a game company. When I started making games in my second year of university, I was mainly a pixel artist. For Whisper Whisper, I was the director and scenario writer.

There were seven members who worked on Whisper Whisper.

Together we formed the group Bobdera 150 and made Whisper Whisper.

Of these members, Masuda Taro, Sado, Syncfloat, and myself made a different group, V.V. Laboratory, and made SUPER UFO FIGHTER.

How did you get started making games?

Masuda invited me to make games, and that’s how I got started. He and I used to live in Okinawa, and when we were friends in elementary school, we would make and play card games together. But he transferred to a school on the mainland, and we were separated.

I followed after him and went to university in Tokyo, where we were reunited. That was when he invited me to make games together. We made the group V.V. Laboratory and made SUPER UFO FIGHTER.

Title screen for SUPER UFO FIGHTER


What does your general game-making process look like?

This was the first time for me to make a plan before starting on development, and the first step was to think of a concept that matched the theme.

We made Whisper Whisper for the Unity1Week game jam, an event where you make a game that follows a theme within one week.

We had limited time, so I came up with a concept that everyone could immediately grasp, then tried to come up with game mechanics that worked with that concept.

I wanted the game to maintain the atmosphere of Komoringa’s illustrations, and prepared funny scenarios to go along with them.

Can you tell us about some of your favorite games or genres?

My favorite game is Gravity Rush. It is a quality game that captures the sense of zero gravity, and I don’t think there is anything else like it. It is an impressive action game.

I basically play all kinds of games. I especially like roguelikes, survival crafting, and FPS games.

Title screen for Whisper Whisper

(2020) Whisper Whisper: Stealth Typing Game

Please tell us about Whisper Whisper.

Whisper Whisper takes the thrill of whispering in secret and applies it to a stealth typing game.

On school trips, we would stay up late at night and gossip while avoiding the teachers who were on patrol. We took that familiar thrill and combined it with the challenge of typing without making any mistakes, and aimed to create a game that was a little unusual.

To set it apart from other games where you practice typing quickly, our game evaluates you on your accuracy and avoiding mistakes.

In this game, there is a scene of two friends staying up late and whispering secrets with each other. Do you have an experience like this from your real life?

I think everyone has this same experience, but in my case, it was more often about staying up late and playing video games without getting caught by my parents. (laughs)

At the time, I had a PSP, and the physical discs would make a loud “WHIRRR!” sound when loading. In order to muffle the sound, I would play under my blanket covers, not even caring that my breath was fogging up the LCD screen.

Even now, I can’t forget that thrill. (laughs)

Screenshot from Whisper Whisper of two ninjas in an attic looking down at a lord, who has noticed them and shouts, 'Are you ruffians?'

What was your greatest influence when making Whisper Whisper?

In order to make a thrilling typing game, we used Yoru no Mori, a free typing game, as a reference.

In that game, you are searching for your lost dog in a forest at night. It is a typing game that has horror elements. It’s too bad that it is not possible to play it anymore.

Can you tell us about some of the changes between the original 2020 release and the 2023 update?

For this update, we added an English translation by Yamagami Yuka, who messaged us to offer to handle it. She took a university seminar to add English subtitles to video games. She asked us if she could translate the script for Whisper Whisper, and so we worked with her to get that done.

Originally, we were only planning to hand over the translated English build to Yamagami, but the English version felt like a different experience. We thought, wouldn’t it be nice if more people could play this? So after consulting with Yamagami, we released the new build publicly on Unity Room.

Screenshot from Whisper Whisper of two ninjas in an attic looking down at a lord. The ninja on the right asks, 'Is there another way around this?'

What was the most challenging part of making Whisper Whisper?

As I mentioned, this game was for a jam, and so had to follow a theme. That theme was 密 (mitsu, secret, closeness), but we wanted to avoid making our game tied to current affairs because then it would become outdated very quickly. We didn’t want our game to have anything to do with COVID-19, so we wanted to avoid “closeness” as our topic, so it was quite challenging.

(Editor’s note: When this game was in production, the government of Tokyo had an aggressive campaign against 密 “closeness” in order to promote social distancing. At the time, there were several popular free games riffing on that campaign and 密.)

Can you tell us about some other games you worked on in the past?

We made SUPER UFO FIGHTER. It is a one-on-one battle that has a UFO catcher (crane game) motif. It has both local and online multiplayer, and you can play with one or two players and have an exciting time. Please check it out!

Screenshot from SUPER UFO FIGHTER of two players launching attacks at one another.

Can you tell us about anything you are currently working on?

I’m not working on anything at the moment, but I want to start something soon…!

Do you have any messages for your players?

A lot of people played our game, and everyone in our group was very pleased! Not to toot my own horn, but I am confident there is no other game like ours. And since we added English support, if you haven’t played it yet, this is your chance!

Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us!

日本語 Screenshot from Whisper Whisper of two ninjas in an attic looking down at a lord's chamber. The ninja on the right says, Let's go.








僕も彼も沖縄に住んでいた時期があるのですが、その時に彼とは小学校時代に友人で、一緒にカードゲームなどを作って遊ぶような仲でした。 しかし、彼が本土の学校に転校し、離別することになりました。

そこから彼を追いかける形で大学進学と共に僕も上京して再会し、ゲーム制作に誘われたという流れです。 そこでブイブイラボを立ち上げ、「シューフォーズ」の制作をしていました。

Title screen for SUPER UFO FIGHTER

(2022) シューフォーズ







一番好きなゲームは「GRAVITY DAZE」です。あの完成度で無重力感を体験できるゲームは唯一無二だと思っていて、アクションゲームとして非常によくできていると感動しました。


Title screen for Whisper Whisper

(2020) 密密(ひそひそ)-ステルスタイピングゲーム-






当時やっていたハードはPSPだったのですが、ゲームの読み込み時に物理的にディスクが回転するので、「シャーッ!」という大きい音が鳴るんです。 その音を隠すために、布団の中に籠って、吐く息で液晶が曇るのも気にせずプレイしていました。


Screenshot from Whisper Whisper of two ninjas in an attic looking down at a lord, who has noticed them and shouts, 'Are you ruffians?'







Screenshot from Whisper Whisper of two ninjas in an attic looking down at a lord. The ninja on the right asks, 'Is there another way around this?'






Screenshot from SUPER UFO FIGHTER of two players launching attacks at one another.




この度は多くの方にプレイしていただき、メンバー一同とても喜んでいます! 手前みそではありますが、このゲームではほかのゲームでは味わえないような体験ができると自負しています。今回、英語にも対応しましたので、未プレイの方はぜひこの機会に遊んでみてください!


Shiina AkutaroYou can find more of V.V. Laboratory's games on their website, and follow Shiina Akutaro on Twitter @shina_akutaro.