Friday, August 21, 2015

R.I.P. AGTH Code Database: A major Japanese text-hooking resource vanishes without a trace

The AGTH Code Database, a major Japanese text-hooking resource, has vanished from the Internet and no one even noticed.

Anime Game Text Hooker (AGTH) was a tool conceived to hook Japanese text from visual novels (VNs), which allowed users to play the games with machine translation or machine-assisted dictionary lookup in real-time. Originally released in 2005, it stirred a renaissance in interest in VNs among hardcore fans. In a dark age in VN history when the fan translation scene was in its infancy, VNDB didn’t exist, JAST was the sole English VN publisher, and Steam was little more than a platform for distributing Valve’s own titles, AGTH was a revolutionary tool that allowed English users to bridge the language gap and access the cornucopia of untranslated Japanese visual novels.

AGTH was succeeded by Interactive Text Hooker (ITH), and later by Visual Novel Reader (VNR), but one innovative concept from AGTH remains to this day: game and version-specific custom hooks, termed H-codes. While AGTH and its successors natively supported an increasing collection of VN engines, H-codes allowed tech-savvy users to create their own custom hooks and share them with others users, allowing almost every VN to be hooked that garnered sufficient interest.

Before long H-codes began to flood the Internet, and there was a need for an aggregator that would collect them all in one place. Boys’ Love Games Headquarters hosted a fairly impressive list, and the AGTH Wikia endeavored to do so as well, but none was more comprehensive and widely-used than the AGTH Code Database (AGTHDB). A crowdsourced effort, AGTHDB allowed users to search on titles in Japanese and romaji and also by developer, submit their own H-codes to the database, and even had an optional desktop client.

AGTHDB abruptly went offline several weeks ago. Unusually, an Internet search reveals no announcement, no explanation–no complaints from users even. Merely silence.

VNR’s automatic updates and expansive built-in engine support has largely made hunting down custom H-codes a relic of the past. Yet VNR’s hooking engine is not perfect. While it works with the vast majority of newer titles, compatibility with older titles may be limited. The age of H-codes has not yet passed.

Yet this year, the year 2015, the greatest collection of H-codes the Internet has ever seen has passed away. The majority of users may not notice, content with their new releases and their fancy VNR CPU-guzzler that takes 30s to load. But this user will mourn its passing.

R.I.P. AGTH Code Database. Your memory may have faded in the collective consciousness, but there are those of us who will remember–who remember a time when a successful hook was not something you expected, but something you earned through a journey of discovery. You made that journey just a little easier. Thank you.

[This is a safe-for-work mirror of my original article on LewdGamer]

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