Victor Ireland of Working Designs Interview at E3 1999

Victor Ireland Interview E3 1999 Featured

This interview is with Working Designs’ President Victor Ireland from E3 1999. In this interview, you’ll find a lot of information about the various Lunar games, the mystery RPG, Detonator Gauntlet [Editor’s Note: Detonator Gauntlet would be renamed Vanguard Bandits after this interview] and much more.

Lunar 2 and the Mystery RPG

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, text-wise. 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 debugging. 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 English version.

Vic: Also, a lot of the audio and the animation are 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 announced 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 literally 2 weeks after we first put it up on the board.

Interview interrupted by Dave Zdyrko, 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, who 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 can’t.

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..

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 RPG!”

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 are 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, 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 & [Langrisser] 5. Also, there are 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.

Then, there was like Slayers 2. IGN for some strange reason said we were 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 that.

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.

Detonator Gauntlet, Falcom, and More

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 strictly 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 guy 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 elaborate.

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 music.

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…

Interview interrupted 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.

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 rather 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 on 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 little.

Wrap Up Lunar Talk

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 so…

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.

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 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.

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 enigma. I guess we’ll have to figure that one out.

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 confirmed 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…

I would like to thank Victor Ireland for taking the time to talk with me at E3 and for giving us all of this information. Also, I’d like to apologize if any information is wrong for this last portion of the interview since I didn’t have that part on tape and I was trying to remember what was said but some of it could be misinterpreted by me, but I think this was pretty much what he meant even though it’s not exactly in his own words.

Eric Farand

Eric Farand

While Eric didn't technically co-found RPGFan/LunarNET, he joined so early that he may as well have! Editor-in-Chief for nearly his entire tenure, Eric brought in countless people that all happily worked with him to mold RPGFan into what it has become today.