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
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
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
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
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
Rudo: Is it possible to take this song and put it in another
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
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,
thats an ongoing process. Thats 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, thats 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
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
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
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
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
.. 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, thats
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: Thats 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
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
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 thats 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
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. Thats 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.
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.