As the company responsible for localising and publishing niche Japanese products in the west (and vice-versa), Degica’s recent contributions have included bringing the highly acclaimed shmup Crimzon Clover to the west, as well as negotiating with Enterbrain to distribute its RPG Maker product line internationally. And at Gamescom this year, I was able to track down Mitchell Scott (Global Director of Sales & Promotion) and ask him as to why some people were so resistant to the notion of Yotsubane’s Cave homage being released on Steam, as well as enquire about the viability of making games for the asset intensive RPG genre. Enjoy!
Now, you were responsible for bringing over a game called Crimzon Clover to the west. A game that has its roots in a very Japanese inspired genre that doesn’t really tend to do that well in the West. What were the difficulties in bringing the game over the west?
I guess the main difficulties was working with the developer getting it fully localized, then coming up with a promo video that would resonate with the Western audience more. And then also trying to figure out how to properly market and promote this game. It is a very kind of niche title. It already had quite a bit of a following in some smaller communities for these types of games, so we were able to reach out to those communities and kind of talk about it before. The original version of Crimzon Clover came out a couple years ago and it was quite popular, like people were importing it. They would buy the Japanese disc and get it sent over, so
Even though Crimzon Clover is a very niche title, what made you decide to pick up Crimzon Clover for international release?
Basically we were just looking at some of the indie titles in Japan, and we started talking to devs and Yotsubane was very receptive and interested… you know, because some developers want to keep their title fairly small and within their circle, but he was very open to getting it out to more people. He’d already had people interested in it from all over the world, so basically yeah, just him being willing to pick this title. Now we’re looking at doing more in the future because this has done quite well.
Most game makers from Japan have a stereotype where they are very insular [and] don’t like dealing with the West. They’re really unreceptive towards getting their games showcased in the West, especially from a doujin perspective. Why do you think Yotsubane bucks that trend? And as someone who has worked with him, how easy is he to work with when it comes to having his games be exposed in a manner that is beyond his control?
From what I’ve seen, he’s been very open to any ideas we have for further promoting the game, getting it in new places, getting coverage, developing new features and all the kind of stuff. He integrated Steam achievements and quite a few other things. I think he just wants to make the best game possible and get people playing it all over the place. I’m not sure why that’s different from potentially other developers, I think Steam is also gaining a lot of traction in Japan as of late, so maybe he sees it as a valuable platform that kind of enhances the game.
DRM… That’s a sticky subject for some people. I find them to be very backwards in some ways. A lot of people have argued that the game shouldn’t have been released on Steam because of its DRM implementation, which in a roundabout sort of way would have limited the game’s potential mass-market appeal. What is your philosophy when it comes to the publishing of games on Steam, and what is your opinion of DRM practices in general?
So, in the shoot-em-up community in general there’s definitely some people who are against DRM, against Steam, that kind of thing.
Yeah, they’re just backwards. I’ll say that as well…
Yeah, I personally think Steam… there is obviously bad DRM that doesn’t work well, and there have been cases in the past where DRM has totally messed up product launches, and people haven’t been able to play their games, all that kind of stuff. I think for the most part Steam is good and it enhances products. We use it for RPG Maker as well, and we’ve integrated the Steam Workshop which easily lets users share content, games, etc. It just makes the product itself better, so I think when used properly it’s good. For Crimzon Clover though, we are also going to be doing a DRM-free release on GOG. We’re always looking at seeing what customers want and putting it on the platforms that they use, so we are definitely going to do a DRM-free release and also potentially look at other distribution platforms for Crimzon Clover.
But obviously one of the things that Crimzon Clover benefits from when it comes to its release on Steam is the implementation of leaderboards and achievements. Given that Treasure’s Ikaruga and Raidant Silvergun games were so successful on the XBox Live Arcade service, which in itself is a form of DRM, where people could track their scores from an international perspective, but are also able to get live videos… Do you think Crimzon Clover will in any way suffer from coming out on platforms that aren’t necessarily tied to a specific ecosystem – such as say GOG?
Umm… you mean the release on GOG? Like the…
Just the fact… well, if you’ve stated that the game obviously benefited from its Steam release even though it is tied to a form of DRM…
I mean, yeah. It won’t be the same as the Steam version, but I mean–
Does that mean that it’ll be… a less-polished version?
No, we’re going to still release the whole game but it won’t have the Steam achievements. I believe there will be leader boards as well, [but] I’m not sure on that. It won’t be linked to where most the people are playing the game, which is on Steam. I might have a solution for that, I’m not sure though. It’s really just a matter of kind of giving people what they’ve been asking for. Some people prefer to have the game, have their DRM free copy that they don’t need to run through Steam to use, and we’re happy to try and provide that for them. I think they’ll realize when they buy it that they’re not going to get some of the features that Steam has built in.
Okay, so in their pursuit of a DRM-free copy, they’re actively getting a worse version of the game?
Yeah, and that’s their choice I guess. I don’t know if it’s a worse version of the game, it will be different.
It’s a manifestation of Pro-Choice at the end of the day. I just hope that they don’t impose their backward philosophies on the rest of the world [as] I think they’re idiots… Anyway, RPG Maker was released on Steam as well. What kind of RPGs can you make with RPG Maker? Is it just the traditional Japanese Squaresoft inspired RPGs or…
You can make basically anything you want. It’s a very powerful scripting system behind it… Ruby based. People have made basically any type of RPG. I’ve seen tactical RPGs.
So like Ogre Battle?
Yeah. I mean we’re always releasing different asset packs and resource packs with different art styles so people can use those. They can create their own graphics from scratch. There’s really no limitation on it.
Can you make a game like Zelda or Alundra?
Ys as well?
So you can have action elements?
Action elements? Yeah you can do action RPGs. I’ve seen almost, yeah. There’s not really any huge limitations.
The problem with a package like RPG Maker, from some people’s perspective, is it tends to be marketed toward indie developers. The problem with RPGs however is that they’re very asset intensive. How do you think RPG Maker is able to overcome these problems where people do need large resources (of assets etc) which do cost considerable amounts of money, which therefore in the grand scheme of things, puts the notion of creating RPGs out of the reach of a conventional indie developer?
So, to start with I mean we’ve got the basic RTP which has everything you need to make a basic RPG game. Then in the past couple years we’ve started creating a bunch of DLC packs. There’s already a huge community that’s creating resources and assets for each other and stuff, and we’ve reached out to some of those content creators and got them to do a bunch more work and put together an asset pack. We’ve released close to 50 of these I think. We try to keep the price point very reasonable. They usually range between $5 and $30. So you can get a huge range of art styles, and then we’re also always putting out free stuff, so there’s really a lot of stuff already out there. There’s also a lot of people in the community willing to do a free commission, or they have very reasonable rates for creating new unique assets.
But obviously these are assets that already exist. For somebody who wants to make a unique title, they would have to create those assets on an individual case by case basis. What tips would you give to somebody who isn’t, or can’t use existing assets for copyright reasons?
Okay, well with the copyright it’s an open license. You can buy this asset pack for $10, you can make a game with it and you can sell that game.
You can sell that game?
Yeah, the RPG Maker lets you sell it commercially or use it for your own private project or whatever. There’s quite a few games actually that have been released [that were] made with RPG Maker, made with these asset packs, and the developers are selling these games.
But do they look the same?
It really depends on how it’s used. Some people will do basic recolors on the assets or start with them as a base that they can modify and add pieces to. They can bring pieces from different parts and assemble them together to get a unique look and feel.
Game Maker is a 2D engine that allows people to be able to make games that are cross platform. I know RPG Maker is not necessarily quite the same thing, but are there any plans for RPG Maker to allow users to start making games that are cross platform – such as release games on Android, iOS, PS platforms or XBox?
Absolutely, we’re working on the next version now. It’s going to hopefully be able to do all that. We also have an exporter that we’re testing out that will take your existing RPG Maker project and put it on to all these different platforms. We’re working with a few commercial developers right now on this and we’re hoping to kind of put it out to public at some point.
When do you think this next version of RPG Maker is going to be released that will enable people to be able to release the games on a cross platform basis?
I don’t have a time frame on it. We’re still working with talking with the developers and Enterbrain and stuff in Japan about it. I’d like to see it within a year, it might be a bit longer than that.
You did a Humble Bundle Weekly sale, how successful was that for you?
It was great. At the same time we ran an indie game making contest, and we put together a bunch of exclusives for this Humble Bundle.
Was that on NeoGAF?
Nope. They also did a contest at the same time I believe. For the contest we had about 700 entries. For the Humble weekly sale it was our most successful weekly sale of all time, so they were happy with it, we were really happy with it. We just put together a great package of RPG Maker and a bunch of DLC packs, some games made with RPG Maker. Yeah, it was great.
This competition, can you describe it for me in terms of time limit and what the rules were?
Yeah, so users had one month. It launched the same time the bundle launched, and then they had a month to make it. There’s two categories: RPG and non-RPG. It was open, you can use any engine, you don’t have to use RPG Maker so we had a lot of entries made with Unity, Game Maker and other programs. So you had a month to make a game in that time period, and submit it. We had a contest portal setup so users could upload their game with a description and pictures. Other users could browse the submissions, vote on them, leave comments etc. We’re still finishing up judging but the grand prize is $10,000 and a bunch of other stuff. We’ll feature the winner on our blog, they can put their game on the Humble store, like polish it up for a commercial release and put it in the Humble store. It was really well received, we got some great entries. A lot of people checking out the contest and RPG Maker, it was great.
Obviously one has to lead by example. Game Maker, which is another tool that has been targeted towards indie game makers, has done pretty well in the marketplace – not from a game engine setting standpoint, but just in terms of allowing creators to be able to release games commercially. I know RPG Maker allows people to do the same thing by allowing them to release games commercially and hopefully make money and a career out of it. What would you regard as being the biggest examples of where RPG Maker has successfully enabled creators to make RPG projects and commercially release them?
Okay, so for RPG Maker some of the most… you want like the titles?
To the Moon, Cherry Tree High Comedy Club.
Is this on Steam?
Yeah. Another big one not on Steam actually is Corpse Party, this was like 5 or 6 years ago.
That’s been released on PSP hasn’t it?
The new one, the new version has been in Japan. There is also Always Sometimes Monsters that recently released on Steam that was quite successful. That was a Devolver Digital title. I’d say those are the 3 biggest ones made with RPG Maker. Yeah, so those are the… I’d say the 3 biggest RPG Maker ones. We’ve also launched Skyborn, it sold quite well.
How easy is it for people to be able to release their RPG projects using RPG Maker on to Steam?
Quite easy. It depends how much stuff they want to put in, if they want to do achievements and all that kind of stuff. But there’s a script that has already been built for integrating Steam achievements so they plug that script in and configure it, it’s fairly easy. Integrating with Steam itself is also fairly easy, I mean they’ve got a basic SDK and instructions and stuff. We do it for some of the games we’ve published, basically we just get the .exe project files from the developer and we just wrap it with a Steam DRM. It’s a bit technical but it’s not any harder than it would be to integrate any other game or product with Steam.
For somebody who’s thinking about making an RPG, why would they use RPG Maker rather than Game Maker or even Unity?
Just because it’s designed for making RPGs. It’s got all the tools you need. It’s a lot easier to learn and pick up than using one of those other game engines. Yeah, I mean that’s what it’s designed for and I think you’re going to save a lot of time by using it. Obviously you’re still making a game, you have to put in a lot of time and effort and hard work, but with RPG Maker we’ve kind of got a framework that will help you make RPGs. There’s a lot of community support behind it so if you have a question you can just jump on the forums and take a look around and people will help you out.
Game Maker enables people to be able to make games in wide variety of genres. Are games that are made in RPG Maker strictly tied to the RPG template?
I’ve seen other stuff. I’ve seen people use it for visual novels sometimes.
I don’t know if I’ve seen a driving game.
Shoot em’ ups?
I’m not really sure. We also have another product called IG Maker, which we’re actually hoping to refresh in this next year or two for Indie Game Maker. It’s more geared towards doing a bunch of other types like platformers, shoot em’ ups, and all that kind of stuff. That’s something we’re hoping to push in the next year or two.
The reason why I ask is because Final Fantasy 7 has a whole bunch of mini games in it…
Oh yeah, I’ve seen that in a mini game formant, yeah I’ve seen all that kind of stuff before. Farming mini games, driving, and all sorts yeah. I mean, it takes some custom scripting and stuff but yeah, I have seen it done.
How easy is RPG Maker to learn?
I’d say it’s very easy to learn, but it’s a bit harder to master. It does get quite complex if you get into the whole scripting side of things. But if you’re just looking to kind of get your feet wet, it kind of gets you started right away. You can go in and make a map, you can get your character, and you can then play the game and walk the person around and make him interact with stuff. So I’d say it’s easy to learn, but hard to master.
During your month long game making competition, what sort of results have you seen from RPG Maker enthusiasts, and what sort of results have they been able to accomplish in that one month? Anything that has come across as looking semi-professional?
Yeah, oh there’s some great titles there. I haven’t– we’re just finishing up the judging now. We’ll be showcasing the games then. There’s definitely some very promising titles that could potentially be viable as a commercial release with a bit of polishing. Yeah, there’s some great games in there made with all engines, not just RPG Maker.
What other stuff is Degica looking to publish in the future?
We’re looking to get more titles from Japanese indie developers. We’re just kind of keeping our eyes open for anything that interests us. There’s a lot of indie devs in Japan working on stuff and we’d like to try and get that out to a bigger audience. We’re also looking for taking games into the Japanese market. Its part of the reason I’m here just kind of walking around seeing what kind of games people are making, what they have planned for Japan, that kind of thing.
Given that you released Crimzon Clover, and with Treasure’s Radiant Silvergun and Ikaruga already out on Steam, do you think we’ll be seeing more shmups being released by Degica in the future on Steam?
Absolutely, I hope so. We’re talking to a number of different developers and we’d love to bring more. I’d anticipate in the 6 months to a year we’ll see some more shmups coming from Degica.