Interview with Victor Ireland (E3 - May 1999)
The following interview was conducted
by Rudo, during the second E3 of LunarNETs life. The interviewee
is again Victor Ireland, CEO of Working Designs. Working
Designs is a North American localization company that is
responcible for bringing over our beloved LUNAR series.
Rudo: Okay, I guess Lunar 2 is now officially announced
so that'll be coming...?
Vic: This winter... you'll believe...maybe!
Rudo: Oh yeah? This winter? Really? *laughs a bit*
Vic: Well, winter goes to March so we've got a pretty big
window. I seriously doubt it'll be out in December but if
you realize that winter starts at the end of December, then
we've got some margin.
Rudo: When did the translation actually start or are you
taking most of the text from the Sega CD version?
Vic: Well, in Lunar SSS, the text was changed about 80%
from the Sega CD version, some of the text was changed completely
and there was also a lot of stuff added on top of that so
there was tons of text, tons of changes and it was a nightmare
to test and debug. On the other hand, Lunar 2 is approximately
80% the same, textwise. Most of the upgrades in Lunar 2
are graphical or gameplay so our Sega CD stuff can go almost
completely over so my goal is to have it running in english
completely by the end of July, 1st draft. In comparison,
we weren't completely in english with Lunar SSS until about
3 months ago. Lunar SSS was a nightmare with all the text
change, the testing, the debuging, I mean it's worth it
in the end but while we're doing it, it's like: "Is
this ever going to end?". Have you played it yet?
Rudo: Well, I played a demo of it 3 years ago but not the
Vic: Also, a lot of the audio and the animation is compatible
(in Lunar 2). I'm guessing that half or 3/4 of the audio
is compatible so the studio time will probably be cut from
6 months to about 2 or 3 months. I think it's possible...
Also, we're adding new employees soon. So, it's possible
and Silhouette now is almost ready to go, finally, which
has been dogging us for a year. Basically the reason we
haven't announced anything new, like the mystery RPG...
Rudo: Oh yeah! The mystery RPG is Detonator Gauntlet?
Vic: No, it's not, I'll explain that. We're gonna come
clean next week. But we've got this huge backlog of stuff
that got stuck in problems, political problems, programming
problems, you know, like 4 titles that just got backlogged.
We used to announce stuff about 6 month to a year before
we did it and then we were like: "let's just catch
up now, let's not announce anything new". But then
people were saying like: "hey! you guys haven't announce
anything new for a long time!!" and we're like: "well,
we're trying to catch up!
Rudo: But then again, if you announce it, people are going
to start saying: "Hey! How come it's taking so long?"
Vic: Yeah, exactly, it's a catch 22. But I understand that.
I just wanted to get caught up. We're almost shipping Silhouette
Mirage, a couple of months, Lunar is like a week away. And
now, we're at a point where we can talk about Lunar 2, Detonator
Gauntlet and complete on the mystery RPG.
Now, here's the story on the mystery
RPG. That was originally supposed to be Samurai Showdown
RPG. We talked to SNK about doing it and the deal was way
far along and then, the deal fell apart, for reasons I shall
not disclose but it fell apart. But I really wanted to do
it bad. We wanted to announce it litteraly 2 weeks after
we first put it up on the board..
Rudo Note: *Interview interupted by DaveZ who comes
in to get something from the fridge. Vic offers me something
to drink and I gladly take a Pepsi, which is then followed
by a short discussion about Anakin Skywalker which is on
the pepsi can.*
Anyway, there was supposed to be a 3
minute intro to the game and I had 2 minutes of that new
animated intro completely done with music and everything
in AVI format on my laptop. Damn! I should have brought
that. I could have shown people what it would have looked
like if we had released Samurai Showdown. It was a really
awesome intro too cause I took the animation from that..crappy
movie... Actually, I shouldn't say crappy movie.. The Samurai
Showdown OAV. They were going to let us take animation from
that and with the music and character from the game and
let us do whatever we wanted with that. They gave us all
sorts of material to do that and it was an awesome intro
but nobody will ever see it.
Rudo: You don't want to make it public...
Vic: No, legally I can't. I can show you what it looks
like here but I can't post it on the site... I'd LOVE to
post it on the site cause it's a really cool intro but I
Vic: Anyway, it was supposed to be that, that deal falls
apart. So we're like: "Oh geez! What are we gonna do,
we've got mystery RPG in there". It would have been
better if we had just said that Samurai Showdown RPG was
canceled and all that but..
Rudo Note: *Interview interupted by Working Designs
staff looking for a copy of the Lunar SSS packaging to show
people outside (they are down to only one copy left because
some copies were given to people and others just kinda TOOK
them thinking it was a gift)*
Vic: Anyway, so we're wondering what to do and we've got
this other game in negotiation and it should come through
in a couple of months so let's just leave the mystery RPG
there for now and we'll come back to it once the deal is
done. That game was supposed to be Spectral Force 2... which
sucked... Cause, we found out that the team from Dragon
Force had left for Idea Factory and they did Spectral Force
1, which also sucked but it had the artist from Dragon Force.
The art was identical cause it was the same artist. Anyway,
we thought they'd get their act together for the second
one. So, we were hoping the sequel would be great and we
got a beta copy of the game and after about 20 minutes of
play, we said: "this is NOT going to be the mystery
Rudo: Yeah, you've got this big hype around the mystery
RPG and all...
Vic: Yeah... that sucked but anyway we said, okay this
isn't going to work but we've got this other game coming
down the road, we can license this title, this can be our
mystery RPG and this one I can't tell because it hasn't
happened yet and may still happen but there's another game
that was supposed to be the mystery RPG and this one still
isn't done but next week we should be able to complete on
the mystery RPG. And some people think the mystery RPG is
Detonator Gauntlet and you know... if my name was Bernie
Stolar I'd probably say: "Yes, that has been the plan
all along, that was the mystery RPG", but the truth
is, it's not.
Rudo: Yeah, cause I wouldn't think that this is the kind
of game that you hype that much...
Vic: Yeah, exactly, a year and a half to announce a strategy
RPG as the mystery RPG, it's not exactly... You know, we
needed a strategy RPG in there and this is a really good
strategy RPG but if it was the mystery RPG, it would have
been a traditional RPG or an action RPG. But there are still
a number of titles in the work but the mystery RPG we'll
be taking it down next week and we'll come clean with a
nice little story but maybe you can beat us to the punch
with a story on your site about the mystery RPG.
Rudo: There's a lot of rumors about the mystery RPG and
what it could be...
Vic: Yeah, Langrisser won't happen. People were saying
it would be Langrisser but.. Langrisser is too big, it's
like 4 & 5 in tribute 1, which is awesome. It's an awesome
package and it's an awesome game but it's way too much conversion
for as limited a market as it's going to be and the presentation
is not enough to pull enough people to sell enough. It would
sell to ultra hardcore people only and considering the amount
of time we'd have to spend on that game, easily a year or
more since it's Langrisser 4 & 5. Also, there's a lot
of voices in the game and spending a year on that when we
can spend it on something like Lunar 2 or Lunar 3, I mean,
those are better choices. I'm willing to spend 6 months
on a strategy game but a year is too long especially since
there's not enough market for it.
Vic: Then, there was like Slayers 2. IGN for some strange
reason said we we're going to do Slayers 2.
Rudo: And then, there were people saying that Grandia was
going to be the mystery RPG and we know what happened with
Vic: Yeah, so anyway, that's the whole story about the
mystery RPG and next week we should have more info on the
game and we've also got 6 to 8 titles in negotiations right
now but you never know which ones are going to come through
or not because there's so many things that can happen that
you never know.
Rudo: When is the release date for Detonator Gauntlet?
Vic: October! The translation is completely done on paper.
Just a direct translation though, not the final one. It
hasn't been massaged or anything yet, this is strickly a
direct, basic translation. Except for the first scenario
which is shown here in the demo, that text has been massaged
a bit more.
Rudo: What company is this game originally from?
Vic: Human. We did Vasteel with them before. Actually,
it's kinda funny cause when we were trying to get Vasteel
on the TurboGraphX 16, the guy over there in Japan didn't
understand what we were about and didn't understand what
we were trying to do. Anyway, 2 years later, a new guys
came in and he was really cool, about the same age as me
and he totally understood what we were trying to do and
we made a deal. So, anyway, that was his very first licensing
deal and 4 years later, Detonator Gauntlet was his last
licensing deal because he left the company after making
that deal. So, we were his first and last licensing deal
which I think was pretty cool.
Rudo: What was the original name of the game in japan?
Or was it something in japanese?
Vic: No, actually, it wasn't in japanese but I'll let you
figure this one out. I'm not going to tell you. We went
to great pain to cut out the original name because it SUCKED!
It was terrible! There's a very good animation intro for
the game but it had the original name in there and we didn't
have time to fix it so we just cut the intro completely
from the E3 demo but there will be a very cool intro for
the final game that says Detonator Gauntlet on it. Anyway,
I'll let you try to figure out that the original name of
the game way. By the way, the game has 56 scenarios and
5 endings so there's a lot of gameplay.
Rudo: Last year, you talked about replacing some of the
songs in Lunar SSS with some of the original songs in the
Sega CD version. What happened with that?
Vic: Didn't work. No memory. We added so many features
to this game. Dual-shock, analog, memory support. The thing
about Lunar that's different from all the other RPGs, well
most Playstation RPGs use DLL's (Dynamic Link Library),
they pull in stuff as they need it. In Lunar, the whole
system is in memory all the time, that's why the loads are
real short, in the battles. That's really cool but it leaves
you with very little memory to do anything and we couldn't
change the whole system. After we put all the text in, we
had like 7k to add crap to. After we put in all the memory
card, dual shock and all that, we were left with 200 bytes.
You never program that tight, it's really bad. And to rip
the music out and replace it with stuff that required more
samples of a different kind. All the songs in Lunar SSS
use the same sample set and to put the original Burg song
for example in there, we would've had to have a whole different
sample set in there and it was just impossible to do with
the memory and everything.
Rudo: Yeah, cause the original music on Sega CD was more
Vic: Yeah, the polyphony was much greater on the original.
It was impossible to do and I really wanted to do it but
we didn't really have a choice. You work with what you got.
And we're trying to do the same thing with this (Lunar 2)
but we've got more memory to work with. Change some of the
Rudo: Who's going to make the music?"
Vic: We will!.
Rudo: Oh yeah?
Vic: Yeah. You know the Lunar 2 music in the demo here.
That was done in-house. That was the original Lunar 2 song
and you wouldn't have heard it unless you were at the CES
show when we were showing Lunar 2 for Sega CD. It was a
great theme and I loved it and I was like: "more people
should hear this" so I used it again for the demo here.
And also, the Star Tower theme in Lunar 2 in the Epilogue,
that was ours.
Rudo: Oh yeah? It wasn't in the japanese version?
Vic: No, we added that.
Rudo: Damn! That song was one of the best in Lunar 2. You
guys should do all the music for Lunar *laugh*!
Vic: *laughs* Yeah, well...
*Rudo Note: Interview interupted by my friend Steve
Thomason from GameNet who comes in. We ask Vic if he can
join in since I'm teaming up with them for E3 this year.
A discussion follows on a number of unrelated subjects*
Vic: Anyway, I think you'll be happy when you hear the
soundtrack CD. Everything on there with the exception of
the opening song, the closing song and the original Sega
CD song are remixed arrangements and they all have about
1 minute or more added to them so they're longer. It's an
awesome soundtrack, it's really really good. We also added
some tracks. In the ad it says 22 tracks but now we've got
24 tracks in there cause we remixed the closing credits
song and originally, the soundtrack ended with the boat
song but the credit song came out so good that we added
it to the master CD and now we've got 24 tracks. Always
giving you more *laughs*.
Vic: Oh, another thing we added was that the game discs
were supposed to be high resolution full-color and the making-of
and soundtrack CDs were just single color discs. Anyway,
now they're all high-resolution full color.
Rudo: Okay, what about Ys? Are you guys discussing with
Falcom about bringing Ys Eternal over here or are there
no discussions whatsoever and you guys will never bring
a Ys game over?
Vic: Well, if they make a good one. All the ones they have
are rehashes of older Ys games that they made in the 80s
or early 90s. So, the current Ys is not coming. Ys eternal,
a lot of people don't know about this but it's only Ys 1.
It's a nice game but it's just a slightly upgraded version
of Ys 1 and it's really short (about 6 to 8 hours). Actually,
I was talking to Falcom this morning and I was telling them
the same exact thing. If you upgrade the system and make
a new Ys based on the old Ys, if they took Ys 1 and renovated
it, I would love to do that. I'd do it in a second but it's
too old and you know like Lunar, it's pretty old but it
balances with very strong upgrades, they made a lot of improvements
and when you play, you don't care. It's just about the game
and the animation is incredible but Ys has no animation.
It has full-talking heads, nice graphics but it's not enough.
Not enough changed and too short. If they made 1 & 2
together or ever 1, 2 & 4 forget about Ys 3 it sucked.
But I don't think they're going to do that, Falcom is a
bit lost. They have all those great properties and they're
just rehashing what they've already done.
Rudo: Yeah, like Legend of Heroes and such...
Vic: Dragon Slayer, Legend of Heroes, Xanadu, Ys, they
have tons of great properties, Popful Mail, I'd love to
do a new one, we lost a ton of money of that one but I'd
love to do another one anyway cause I loved it. Most people
who played it, loved it but the problem is that not many
people played it. So, they have all those properties but
they don't seem to know what to do with them. They just
do what they did before on a new system and upgrade it a
Rudo: Talking about PC, I saw in the E3 booklet something
about Lunar SSS on PC?
Vic: Yeah, somebody asked me the first day and I was like:
"Where did you hear that?" and they'd say it's
in the book and I was like "how did it get in the book?".
There's something wrong about that, it should not have said
PC. It was a misprint. Yeah, this year it's Silhouette Mirage,
Detonator Gauntlet and Lunar 2, that's a full plate, that's
as full as we can get.
Rudo: You'll be spending most of the year on Lunar 2 anyway
Vic: Yeah, Silhouette is almost done, Detonator is mostly
done but it's going to take a while to test because of the
56 chapters and then we'll be working a lot on Lunar 2.
Also, we're switching over to a new system in the recording
studio. We haven't upgraded our audio/video system since
Vay. It's all digital and it's great but compared to what's
available today, it's kinda old so we're gonna upgrade that.
Rudo: Okay, what about Lunar 3?
Vic: It's in planning. That's basically all I can say.
Rudo: Any word on the system it's going to appear on?
Vic: Let me put it this way, for the US, it's going to
be Playstation 2, absolutely.
*Rudo Note: Now, you won't believe this but my
camera actually ran out of tape at this precise moment and
I'm missing all the rest of the interview with Vic. However,
I remember some of the things that he said and I will at
least print those quotes. I e-mailed Vic to make sure that
those quotes were correct and he told me they were so even
though this part won't be a word for word account of what
was said in my meeting, at least, you'll get a few samples
of the important things that he shared with me*.
Rudo: What about in Japan?
Vic: The system hasn't been decided yet but it's unlikely
that it will be on Dreamcast in Japan and it's certain that
it won't be on Dreamcast in the US!.
Rudo: But isn't GameArts really close to Sega?
Vic: Yeah, but it's mostly ESP who controls all of that.
The thing is that the 3 most important people in the making
of the Lunar games aren't actually GameArts employees. Kubooka
(the art and character designer), Iwadare (the music composer)
and Shigema (Scenario) all worked on the Lunar games but
they aren't part of GameArts. All GameArts did was do the
programming for the games and it's possible that for Lunar
3, the programming end will be handled by another developer
(Kadokawa Shoten) but the game will still include the work
of Kubooka, Iwadare and Shigema. The GameArts programmers
are mostly the ones who are big Sega fans.
Vic: I'll say one thing about Lunar 3. It's coming sooner
than people expect but not in the manner that people think.
Rudo: Ah! An enygma. I guess we'll have to figure that
Vic: Yep, that's all I can say about it.
Rudo: How are the pre-orders of Lunar SSS coming along?
Do you expect Lunar to be your best selling title ever?
Vic: It already is! Lunar SSS will be our best selling
title ever. It's not even close. We already have 250,000
copies sold and we expect that we'll sell around 500,000
copies in the end.
Rudo: 250,000? WOW! That's amazing.
Vic: Sony can't believe it either. They're like: "How
the hell are you selling that much of this little 2D RPG?".
It's all about word of mouth. All the Lunar fans keep talking
about it and people want to experience the game and Lunar
has a great reputation since almost everybody who played
the original loved the game.
Rudo: What about Europe? Are people in Europe going to
be able to get the game or will they have to import it?
Vic: Well, I can't really talk about it but there are some
discussions in the work about that and because it's not
done yet, I can't say anything.
Rudo: Okay, so basically, there are some good chances that
Lunar SSS will be released in Europe but nothing can be
comfirmed at the moment?
Vic: Yeah, there's a good chance that it might come out
in Europe. If it does however, there won't be any extras
like the American version. It will be only the game itself
without the Map, artbook, music CD, etc...
End of Interview.