Nicole (Sumire) asked all of the questions, except where it's indicated that Damian (Sensei Phoenix) or Eric (Citan Uzuki) asked them.
RPGFan: Dragon Quest VII came out last August, but was only announced within the last month. Everyone assumed it would come out in the US at some point in time, but why did it take so long to officially announce it?
John Laurence: We kind of wanted to wait for the right time to make the announcement and to build excitement for the game. And we didn't want to have it announced so early, because basically we're releasing four games in the Dragon Warrior world this year, and we wanted them, because of our marketing efforts, we wanted to sort of synergistically come together so the Dragon Warrior III reannouncement would boost the VII announcement and there would be a lot of press on all of our games at the same time. It was a marketing decision and then we wanted to have everything kind of crescendo, like when we did that whole feature on our website. I don't know if you guys saw that.
RPGFan: The movie...yeah, we did.
John: Yeah, cool. Where we gradually made it happen, you know, we just wanted to draw out the announcement and it worked. Everybody was really excited about it, so...
RPGFan: No one had really heard anything about it for a while.
John: Well, they're going to be hearing a lot about it now.
RPGFan: We kept getting e-mail about it, like "You know, this means they might announce it." We had people e-mailing us constantly, and we're like "Well, you know, it's pretty much been assumed that they're going to do it." So, um...next question. There are controversial issues in Dragon Quest VII involving religion and...(turns to Eric), mostly religion? Yeah. We heard that there would be some censoring taking place. Is this true?
John: Uhh, no, it's not true. We're going to keep it as true to the Japanese original as we can. And Dragon Warrior III demonstrated that we're willing to do that. We've done an all-new translation in Dragon Warrior III and kept in a lot of the humor that was in the original Japanese game, like the massage parlor and the Puff Puff thing, and all that stuff. And there are the encounters, like if you have a female character and she hangs out with the pirate queen...stuff like that. It wasn't in the NES version, and because of that we've gotten a Teen Rating (holds up Dragon Warrior III GameBoy Color box). It's the first GameBoy Color RPG to ever have a Teen Rating, so our sales guy is a little disappointed because it may hurt our sales slightly, but it keeps it truer to the original and the end result will be better for our franchise.
RPGFan: Did Nintendo give you any problems about the rating?
John: Nintendo really doesn't give us any problems about the content in our RPGs. They're pretty hands-off now that the ESRB is around. The only company that has given us problems is like Sony. They had some problems with the issues in Valkyrie Profile, but we didn't change anything because of them anyway. The issue was kind of at the beginning, when the grandmother slapped Platina. Sony was saying "That's kind of child abuse" and our stance was "She's supposed to be an evil character, do you want me to change it so she's good? What the hell is that?" What do they want; you can't have bad people in your games anymore? If you can't have a bad guy, who's going to be the antagonist, right? If everybody's good, I would totally be baffled.
RPGFan: (Eric) It also helped Platina's story.
John: So anyway, I don't...actually I do know where that rumor came from. There's stuff that came on the wire in Japan a number of months ago and I think it may have originated in Japan, but Enix of America is 100% responsible for the localized product, so if there are any changes in it, we would be aware of it and we would be making those decisions, and we're not going to be making any kind of censorship changes just to censor parts of the game.
RPGFan: Good! We don't like censorship.
John: Neither do we. George, the localization manager, and I, we kind of have final say of what goes into the game and we're gamers, right? And I've played Dragon Warrior growing up and it's not fair to the gamers here if you change the stuff and we don't want to do that.
RPGFan: When did you start translation work, or localization work I should say, on Dragon Warrior VII?
John: We started it soon after the release of the game in Japan. There were a lot of last minute things that had to happen in order to get the game out in Japan on time, and we didn't start the US version until after the Japanese version was completed and had actually remastered once, to solve some of the last minute problems in the game. So, we started around about an October timeframe with the translation. And it's the biggest localization project in the history of video games. It's something like 70,000 pages of text, but in our offices we have these binders (holds up hands) that are this thick. Each one has two pages printed on it and we have 30 of those binders, full of text. We have about 20 translators and 5 copy editors.
RPGFan: I think I applied actually to be a copy editor, but never heard anything back.
John: I actually saw your resume, sorry I didn't respond.
RPGFan: Did you really? (laughs) Oh, it's okay.
John: Yeah, we got a lot of responses, but we really wanted to keep it in-house, since copy-editing is part of our Quality Assurance process. We outsource most of our other stuff, but we keep QA in-house. We also went for people in the Seattle area.
RPGFan: How far along is the localization?
John: Most of the text is translated. We're going to be completing the translation in the next month or so. The game is already going to go into testing soon after E3.
RPGFan: Do you know why Dragon Quest VII was delayed so long in Japan? It was first announced in what, 1996?
John: The development team was kept rather small. It was probably around 35 people the whole length of the game. That was one of the reasons it was delayed so much. The expectations were so high and the team members who did it just wanted to make sure it was perfect. And when it came out, it was pretty much what everybody expected and it sold more than any other PlayStation game in Japan.
RPGFan: It was a mind-blowing number. (Eric) Is it true that another reason it was so delayed was because it had trouble running on the PlayStation 2?
John: I don't think it's true because I played some of the early revs of it on the PlayStation 2 and it worked.
RPGFan: It looks a lot sharper on the PlayStation 2, also. So...can you give us any info on Dragon Warrior VII? Characters, story, gameplay mechanics. I personally haven't played it at all.
John: Sure. Well, we're kind of going to be, up until the game gets released we're going to be mum about how the stuff gets trickled out in the game, but I'll tell you about the first part of the game. Basically the game takes place on this island called Estard Island and you just start...well, I just want to put the game in and I'll show you some of the stuff at the beginning and we can talk about it. Or actually, better yet, why don't one of you guys play it?
RPGFan: Go for it Damian.
John: So the game starts out on this island and the island is peaceful, but you learn there are rumors of other lands out there and you gradually learn what's going on. You and your friends Maribell and Keefa start to discover the secrets of this shrine that's supposed to be off-limits but they go and explore it anyway. There they discover a secret shard that can unlock a hidden continent. And then they go there and it turns out what happened in the past was that there was a demon lord who locked away these continents, so you have to go to the past and unlock them, so gradually the world gets bigger and bigger.