Bishoujo Game Online Partners is a coalition of makers (mostly belonging to the Hokkaido Eroge Kumiai) who are releasing disassembled versions of their older games for players to muck around with and rebuild into newly altered creations that are then shared with others who’ve purchased the same game toolkit online, a bit like a limited functionality net-based version of RPG Maker. Without playing around with it it’s hard to saw how much freedom you have over the content; the GUI pictured in the basic tutorial seems rather limiting, though as long as it allows you to freely import your own CG, music and other components it’s probably sufficient for the task.
Whether they’ll be able to form the kind of online mod community necessary to sustain the project commercially (like the one that arose around Neverwinter Nights) is anyone’s guess at this point, though I personally don’t see much merit in the project; while I can understand the attraction of rebuilding a game to your own personal specifications, the touted appeal of “being your own game developer!” and “rating your games against those of others by comparing the number of downloads!” seems to target a class of creators who are already doing just that.
Ero-Cha, on the other hand, is a rather more intriguing proposition. Heading toward a limited beta test in early June, the service promises to be the closest thing to an actual interactive online eroge yet: the user logs on, chooses a character, and begins texting her (or mousing over her, if he’s not so good with the words). A voice actress employed for the purpose responds to your actions, as the character. It’s basically a glorified, lopsided phonesex / cybersex hybrid, where the longer you chat the more CG images you unlock and the more play options you obtain; the sort of thing dreamed about by anthropologists and sex-starved antisocial hikikomori everywhere.
The beta test is accepting applications until midnight tonight Japan time (May 22nd), from which 150 applicants will be randomly chosen to participate; I went ahead and threw my email into the pool just now. FOR SCIENCE. While the potential for things to go horribly, hilariously wrong with this is enormous, if they can overcome all of the logistical and freaky people issues I could see it becoming quite a success.
How will eroge fare in the brave new world of interactive online play? We’ll be following news of both of these services as their development continues…