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Interview with Victor Ireland (E3 - May 1998)

The following interview was conducted by Webber and Rudo, back when LunarNET was first getting started (well before it was known as RPGFan). The interviewee is none other than Victor Ireland, CEO of Working Designs. Working Designs is a North American localization company that is responcible for bringing over our beloved LUNAR series. The interview happened at E3 of 1998, which was the last E3 held in Atlanta.

 

Webber: You don't like to have your picture up anwyhere, we've never seen it?

Victor Ireland: I don't like pictures of the actors, I don't like pictures of me, because it takes the focus away from the game. Its not an ego thing, a lot of these people are in it for the prestige.

Rudo: Like the Bernie Stolar Superman Picture!

Webber: He looked like an idiot in that picture!

Vic: The majority of SOJ was mad about that picture, they didn't want their CEO portrayed like that. Phil Harrison, for Sony, and he looks like you expect a CEO to look in his picture, in the same issue(Next Gen). He(Phil Harrison) looked really in command and really great, and you've got Bernie leaping off a desk with this crazy look on his face. Thats the whole thing with pictures....

Webber: How is Magic Knight Rayearth Coming?

Vic: It was supposed to be right here(E3), but our Saturn got left back at the office. It will be here tomorrow(friday), thats where I was this afternoon, frantically driving all over Atlanta trying to buy a Saturn, and there are none to be had in this whole city.

Vic:The text is 100% done fourth draft, we really only have about one more draft to go with the text part.

Vic: Did you read about the Diaries(Audio) which are all spoken in the US one?

We made a trade, the Japanese one talked a lot in the game, but you couldn't skip it(Audio). I know people are gonna be mad that we took a lot of the audio out in the middle. The thing that pissed me off was once you talked to the people(NPCs) If you were going around town cleaning up trying to talk to everyone again to make sure you didn't miss somebody, every person you talked to, you got the same speech over again and you couldn't speed it up. So, we just dumped all the audio in the middle. The opening was like 45 minutes long, its a blend of anime and actual gameplay, we kept that, that is all audio. The intermissions which you get in Inova at the castle, in between parts of the story, those are all spoken, those are intermissions and you can't play them, and it felt like to move the story along they had to be spoken, and Inoa's voice is great.

A lot of those(Intermissions) are recorded, some of the intro is recorded, all of Foo's diary is recorded, part of Ikaro's is recorded, and Umi's is gonna start when we get back. We are probably about 40% done with the audio, but I haven't really been trying that hard with the audio because I want to get the text really clean before we actually went an recorded it.

It should be out July-ish, but we are basicly just moving the games we are making money on, because Rayearth is going to lose buckets, but it has to come out so we are releasing it. It basicly is being released when its ready. Its almost a no pressure thing because it's not going to make any money, so there is no pressure for a timeframe.

Webber: I think now everybody excepts that!

Vic: We awanted to make it the last Saturn game released. We wanted to make it so far out that there are no other games coming. So that all the people who said "we suck" "you ditched Sega". Well hey we stuck with it til the very end, beyond enyone else. You know everyone was jumping ship, they just weren't saying it publicly, they were all doing it privately, but I'm to retarded to keep my mouth shut.

Webber: Everything else is getting canceled now, even in Japan!

Vic: Its dead(Saturn), well especially in Japan. Japan actually it's a healthier market, its number two in Japan.

Webber: Six Million units!

Vic: Nintendo64 is a distant third, that shows you how bad Nintendo64 is doing in Japan.

Rudo: When you check the top ten selling games in Japan, every week there are Saturn games in there, last week five Saturn games out of ten.

Vic: Especially in Japan, where they(Sega) are introducing Dreamcast. Saturn is seriously dead over there, and it had a lot more games announced, so it has a lot more games to be canceled. Where as in the US it had already dwindled quite a bit by the time people got hip to the fact that it(Saturn) wasn't going to be around, so there wasn't a lot to announce cancelation-wise.

Now Vic explains more on why Rayearth has taken so long to be released:

Vic: Something people don't understand about that game, when we got it(MKR), it(MKR) was in seriously bad shape. They had server crash in Japan, and they lost a lot of data.

Webber: They didn't have it backed up?

Vic: This is the dirty little secret of game development, they are just as bad about back-ups as everbody else in the world.

Webber: That explains a lot!

Vic: There was a lot of stuff that was missing, and one of the things that was missing and is still missing and we are trying to fix right now and having trouble, is the opening animation! The opening animation we have here is off the LD, just for a place holder, because the source animation without the title credits on it doesn't exist, we have to rebuild it, we have to make it from scratch....

They lost several important files, a lot of lip movement files for lip-synch, and some graphic files were missing or courrupted, and some animation files, most notably the opening, which was just gone. We don't even have the source for it, so we are trying to rebuild that, there are just a lot of technical problems in addition to all the other problems....

Webber: Seems like almost full game development just about?

Vic: It's a lot of work, I wouldn't say it's full game development. It's a lot of work though.

Webber: How is Lunar(Complete) Coming?

Vic: Text is first draft like 90%, we'll be starting the second draft......

The second draft we are going to crib about half of the stuff(text) from the Sega cd version. Because there is a lot of stuff(text) from the Sega cd version I liked a lot. The way it played, of course it changes because the story changes a little, but there is some things certain townspeople said, certain sencarios, that I really liked a lot the way they went. So about half the text will be cribbed out of the Sega cd version. Some will be updated, because there are some sort of time sensitive jokes, my favorite one is the Shannon Doherty thing, Shannon Doherty is a way has-been, so we have to take that out.

We should have disks in english for first round testing in about six weeks!

Rudo: Will it be possible to put back some of the original music(from Lunar:TSS)?

Vic: We've got three themes from the original one(Lunar:TSS) which were redone and expanded. We took the original music and we stretched it out, like the Grindery theme is redone, it's the original theme plus more in the middle....

Our plan is to replace three themes at this point, like the opening town, has to be the original music, with the flute and the triangle. It has to be the original music!

Rudo: Is it possible to take this song and put it in another village?

Vic: We are not ditching any music completely! We are moving the stuff thats there, and adding it back, the original ones in the original places.

Rudo: Because both songs from Burg were good!

Vic: Which one do you take?

I like the first one, I'm partial to it. The original sounds to me a lot more inoccent. The new one is good, but it doesn't sound so inoccent. The older one with the flutes and triangles sounds very inoccent and child-like.

Webber: Next, who will be doing the voice acting for Lunar(Complete)?

Vic: Everybody is the same, except for Alex, because he grew up, Alex got a deep voice. Hal Delahousse moved, he's Quark, but we are pretty sure we can get him back. He is the quintissential dragon, his voice is awesome as the dragon, a little bit hard to understand, but he sounds like a dragon. They should have used him for Dragonheart, he sounds like a dragon should sound.

Rudo: What about the characters who didn't have voices in the original(TSS)?

Vic: All those are going to be cast.

Rudo: Jessica in the original didn't have any voice.

Vic: Ramus didn't either, actually I haven't cast Ramus, but my thought is to use the voice that I used for Glug in Popful Mail. Remember the little dwarf-minor guy, had kind of like a stuffy-nose sound to him, little fat sound, that is sort of the voice I want to put on Ramus.

Webber: Okay, you haven't announced your Winter RPG yet?

Vic: Still Can't!

Webber: Any timeframe, when do you think you will be able to make the announcement?

Vic: When the contracts are done, that’s an ongoing process. That’s the bad thing about the way this company operates is, we don't get out deals done and hold on to them for three months before we announce them. As soon as they are done we announce it. Typically a really bad time is E3 because we have nothing new to announce, and then three weeks later it comes through.

Now to Squash some Rumors!

Webber: People have asked you before if you were considering Slayers 2?

Vic: No, I havent' said anything on the internet because I think it's hilarious to watch the speculation.

Webber: And Y's 4?

Vic: To my understanding, because I talked to falcom about that, they are doing Y's Eternal for the PC, but Y's 4 supposedly isn't in active development for playstation. It's been talked about, but they are not actually doing it, that’s what they(falcom) told me at least. I think they'd tell, hopefully they'd tell me if they were really doing it, because I said "I'd really like to license it, can you tell me whats going on"(to falcom). Y's Eternal is just a rehash of one and two(Y's 1 & Y's 2), I was kind of disappointed, because I thought it was Y's 4 or Y's 1-4, but it's just a rehash of one and two with not that many improvements.

Webber: Lunar 3, have you heard anything?

Vic: It's in production right now. It's actually the early stages of production, design, story, that kind of stuff. It really just started maybe three months ago.

Webber: Is it going to be on Dreamcast?

Vic: All I can say is that in the US we have the Lunar trademark, if we don't do it nobody can. If they try to do it they can't call it Lunar, and we are not publishing for Dreamcast. So thats the long round-a-bout, so it doesn't really matter what system it's originally published on, it will be on whatever system we are publishing on here. That is about as specific as I can get. Unless Bernie is gone Dreamcast is a serious no for us.

Webber: So your stance with Sega, even after Bernie's press conference the other day where he said that RPGs, fighting games, and...... he mentioned three genre's as being the most important for Dreamcast, and RPGs was one of them?

Vic: Only because he found out that they sell. He's not a leader, he is a follower. Sony legitimized that segment, and he has seen the money. Because when he was at Sony he was the one who said RPGs were not significant. He told us, one person removed from him, his representative said- Bernie said RPGs are not a significant portion of the market, we do not want to support them in the US. Thats why Arc the Lad didn't come out, we were pushing for Arc the Lad. We were going to release that game, and they wouldn't let us license it from Sony of Japan, and they wouldn't let us release it here. Because they said they(RPGs) weren't significant. The only reason he changed that tune is because he's seen Final Fantasy 7 sales, and he's seen that if you put money behind it(an RPG), and it's a good to great RPG it'll sell, and it always would have. He's a follower, he's a business man who has no idea about games.

Webber: Well, he said that after the press conference in Japan, where supposedly Square and Enix attended the Dreamcast announcement in Japan.

Vic: He's a follower, he's a business man who crunches numbers, and has no clue about what makes games great.

Rudo: The bottomline is no WD titles for Dreamcast?

Vic: It's very unlikely Lunar will be seen on Dreamcast from anybody(In the US), because if anybody else tried to do it they couldn't call it Lunar. And its very unlikely Gamearts would license it to them anyway because that would affect their relationship with us.

Webber: Its a couple years away anyways.

Vic: It's a least two years it might be three, Grandia took four years

Webber: By that time Sony's new system will be right around the corner.

Vic: It's a pretty good bet.

I'll talk about Sony now, one thing people don't understand about the whole Sega Sony thing. They are like, you suck, you used to say Sony was the worst, you'd never go over to Sony, and as soon as there was money to be made you switched over to Sony. They just don't follow the fact that the reason we weren't at Sony was because of Bernie Stolar, when Bernie Stolar came to Sega very shortly thereafter we made the switch to Sony, because he made it intolerable to be at Sega, just like he made it intolerable to even try to be at Sony. That was when the switch happened. People are like you did it for the money, No! We go were the games are, and we go were the people appreciate what we do, and the management at Sega just doesn't get it at all.

Like Phil Harrison is a very cool guy....He gets games and he gets what we do. It's a completely different enviroment from Sega, it's like Sega used to be. When Sega was like Genesis/Sega cd era when we were doing those games, completely supportive. They were giving us trouble to get Lunar out the door, they said it would never sell. It was one of their top five games for Sega cd, and it did very well for us, it was number one for us until Alundra came out and just blew it off the map. After Lunar they got to the point where they just trusted us, they said do whatever you wanna do and we know it will be great. Thats the kind of support we are getting from Sony now. In part because a lot of people that used to work at Sega at that time now work for Sony.

Webber: Yeah, I remember when Sony hired a bunch of Sega employees.

Vic: Oh lots, I'd say that 40 % of the staff, maybe more is ex-Sega employees.

Webber: Grandia for Playstation, is there any thought, is Gamearts thinking about it, considering it?

Vic: The fact that I cannot say anything at all should say everything!

Webber: Yep, read between the lines!

Vic: I can't say a word about Grandia for Playstation. I can't say anything about it!

I say a word about everything, and I can't say a word about that!

Webber: Perfect Answer!

Ok, we wanted to ask you a little bit about Gamearts? What makes them so great?

Vic: The companies that we generally work with and do a lot of stuff with, and get along with, are the companies that know games and dig games. Gamearts staff is 100% gamers, they totally dig games, they play a lot of games, they play a lot of other peoples games. They are just gamers.

I don't speak Japanese very well at all, and they don't speak english hardly at all, but when it comes to games we are totally on the same wave length. We can have a conversation about games just with motions, and talking about levels and stuff because we both have common frame of reference. They get it, they dig games, and they have a really cool bidet in their bathroom...

First time I went there it was hilarious. It wasn't hilarious at the time, but it was hilarious looking back. Have you ever been to Japan?

Webber & Rudo: No!

Vic: The big thing there is western style toilets, all the rage. In general they have squat toilets everywhere, which are nasty nasty things to use. They are supposed to be very higenic, but I'm sorry I just can't do it. They have western style toilets in the bathroom at Gamearts, but they sort of go for overkill. They have western style toilets with control panels, heated seats, built in bidets, air pump-up cushions with ladders for different sensitivities, for when you sit down. I'd never seen a toilet like that. When I walked in I'm like oh my god, it's like Star Trek or something. I sit down and I look at this LCD readout with like knobs and stuff, and all in Japanese of course. Kanji of course, which I can't read at all, you'd think it would be nice if it was in hiragana or katakana. I'm going what does this do and what does this do, and so I get up go to check out some of the buttons to see what they did, and I push this one button and this little hook comes swinging out from underneath the toilet, shoots a stream of water right in my crotch, all over it, it was this built in bidet….. I jumped out of the way, it shoots past me and goes all over the mirror and everywhere. I came walking out of there with this completely wet crotch that I could not dry. Everybody knew exactly what happened, because apparently whenever a Gaigin goes over there they always come out with a wet crotch, because they always push the button. So, that’s the cool bidet.

Webber: They're never going to tell anybody either.

Vic: Oh I'm sure they tell people to go use the bathroom, and then wait for them to come out.

They are just way cool people, Miyaji(Gamearts President) is a little bit older than I am, a couple years, but real similar, we both have kids almost the exact same age. It's just a really cool relationship. We have very similar interests game-wise. Game-wise and personally we are very similar…

The programmers are way cool. We always have suggestions for making it(games) better or changing them, and they are always like "we'll do it". Like the Lunar thing, at then end of 1(Lunar:TSS) we changed it. In the Japanese game, to get to the top of the ice path(at the end, to get to Althena/Luna), you didn't have to do anything, she(Althena/Luna) just bolted you all the way to the top. You didn't have to play the harp. We thought that was kind of lame, cause why did you have to carry this harp through the whole story.

Webber: They didn't use it?(the harp)

Vic: Nope, you didn't have to use the harp.

The one thing that could remind Luna who you where was the music you played. So we added the thing where if you got to the top without playing the harp, the last bolt would kill you. So you had to remember to play the harp to remind her, to get to the top of the ice path. They(GA) thought that was just the coolest idea, and they did it, and it was great. We were real happy they did, and it made the game better I think. The Japanese one(verion of TSS) they kept the same.

Webber: That’s pretty unbelievable, we've never played it. So if we played the Japanese game?

Vic: You could just walk to the top, if you keep your health up. It doesn't get progressively harder, not like the US version….

Rudo: So you guys work a lot with each other. Did they start making playstation games because of the US, because of you guys?

Vic: We pushed hard, the Saturn market was dead, it had to happen. It made sense for them in Japan too.

Webber: They would have stuck with the Saturn, or just not done games for awhile?

Vic: I don't think they would have done games for playstation as soon.

Webber: One more question, the voices you did in Popful Mail, will you please tell us?

Rudo: You never answered that, the big secret?

Vic: I really don't remember, seriously. I was talking to the engineer the other day, and he reminded me of some that I had done that were pretty major. I'll tell you in Vay, I did the Wind Elemental. In Popful Mail, I think I was one of the guards, one of the penguin guards. One of the penguin guards was Craig Sydea, and I think I was the other penguin guard. I was either the penguin guard or like a mine guard. It was a bit part I had like one or two lines in the whole game. One of those two was me. But yeah, we were talking about all the little bit parts I had done in games, and I completely forgot about the Wind Elemental.

Webber: So that’s not like a secret anymore, if you knew you'd tell?

Vic: No, I don't tell. All the ones(voices) I've done don't sound like me, except for two. There is only two that I've done in my own voice, that were not shifted, or changed, or phased in some way, and both were on Turbografx. All the rest of them(voices done by Vic) have been shifted or changed.

I'll tell you one more, this one is the best one. The Lunar song(Lunar:TSS intro Song), with the "Hey Hey" in the middle. That’s five of me, we took a "Hey Hey" and did it five times, and shifted them into different pitches so it sounded like a group of people, but I'm all five people.

I'm the "Hey Hey". I've got good parts(voices), but that is my favorite one.

End Interview

 

We'd like to send a huge thank you to Victor Ireland for the time he spent with us at E3. It was easily the highlight of our trip.


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