Both Fear Effect and Panzer Dragoon caused heads to turn when they were first released on consoles during the 32 bit era, and were major sellers that also drew wide critical acclaim. However, with both franchises lying dormant since the early 2000’s, it wasn’t until Fear Effect Sedna came out last year that the franchise saw a revival in its fortunes – with a remake of the original Fear Effect (Fear Effect Reinvented) announced soon afterwards. And with Sega also announcing intentions of wanting to revitalize idle IPs, it wasn’t at all surprising to discover that a remake of Panzer Dragoon is also on the cards.
I spoke to Benjamin Anseaume (CEO of TA Publishing) about both games’ development, and got to ask him about the challenges which him and his company have faced in ensuring that both Fear Effect Reimagined and Panzer Dragoon live up to fan expectations. Enjoy!
You’re working on two projects – Fear Effect and Panzer Dragoon, and they both happen to be remakes. I assume your company has a history in making remakes?
Not really making remakes, but working on existing IP’s, yes. Bbefore owning TA Publishing and working with Forever Entertainment, I was leading a videogame studio. We were all working for Square Enix on Square Enix’s IP’s. So yeah, I know how to work with existing IP’s.
What is it about Fear Effect and Panzer Dragoon that attracted you to the projects, because you could have worked on any other remakes as it were?
It’s not like that, in fact it’s the opposite. It was there, so I took it. But both are great games. I really love the original ones and it’s a really, really fun and an interesting challenge to try to make a modern versions of those.
Obviously one of the challenges with a remake is that, unlike a bare bones HD port, the larger production effort often leads to higher commercial pressures. Have there been any gameplay enhancements with regards to trying to modernize the gameplay for modern audiences?
The funny thing with these two games, is that both left a very big impression for players and they still have an extremely big fanbase, but both didn’t age very well in terms of gameplay. So we have to think about the gameplay mechanisms and work a lot on modernizing the experience. But at the same time, what we really want is to stay true to the originals, so that the fans are happy to play the game again. But it’s a big challenge, it’s the biggest challenge in fact, modernizing the mechanism and also the art direction, because of course, a lot of time has passed and it’s changed a lot. Yeah, two big challenges for us on both remakes.
Did you use any of the existing code for the new games?
No, for neither.
So it’s completely from scratch?
It’s completely from scratch. We don’t need any source code because we are re-doing from scratch, on a modern engine such as Unity and Unreal. So yeah, we definitely don’t need it. We’ve got some materials like the concept art, and it’s much more useful for us, to understand the IP and to try to make something modern.
The original directors of the two respected games… have they had any say or have supervised the project in any capacity?
So it’s two different stories. For Fear Effect, we worked on the previous game in the series called Fear Effect Sedna. We worked with John Zuur Platten who was the writer of Fear Effect 1 and he was in charge of the scenario and story. For Panzer Dragoon, yes we are in touch with the original team and we got their impressions and feedback. It’s really important for us to involve as many of the people from the previous teams.
Panzer Dragoon is a Team Andromeda game, and the source code for the last game in the series – Panzer Dragoon Saga – was completely lost. I know that you are working on Panzer Dragoon and we’re probably jumping the ship here, but are there any plans for a Panzer Dragoon Saga remake? Because everybody and their grandma is clamoring for the opportunity to play that game on modern systems.
Yeah, that’s something we’re questioned extremely often (laughs). Currently, there’s no plans. But one thing for sure is that Sega are very happy with the feedback from the community about the remake. I’m sure they are open to any plan after we release Panzer Dragoon 1 and 2, depending of course on the success of the games and the feedback from the community. I think they are extremely interested in the community’s feedback, and if the feedback is good we can imagine anything, but today nothing is coming, no.
Just one thing quick, did I hear it right that you’re working on Panzer Dragoon 1 and Panzer Dragoon 2?
We said that, yes.
So when is the release date for Panzer Dragoon and Fear Effect?
For Panzer Dragoon, it’s this winter. For Fear Effect, I think it will take some more time, but we expect to release it in 2020.
For XBox, PS4 and Switch I assume?
We didn’t announce any platform so far, except for Panzer Dragoon on Switch.
Will Panzer Dragoon be coming out on PS4, or is that something you can’t mention at this moment in time?
I can’t say anything.
How many people are working on the Panzer Dragoon project?
25 on Panzer Dragoon and, I assume, roughly the same amount on Fear Effect as well?
I’m just going to ask one more question. I loved Fear Effect, and I loved Panzer Dragoon Saga. I know that both these IP’s have massive fanbases. How are you dealing with the pressures involved in bringing these projects to modern markets – because people want to be able to play these games in a way that they remember them.
Yeah, you are right. I think it’s the biggest challenge in fact, because in the same time we really want to convince the players who played the game 20-25 years ago that it’s the same game and has the same gameplay feeling. But at the same time the IP owner asked us to expand the fanbase… I mean, reviving an IP like Panzer Dragoon or Fear Effect is not only convincing the already convinced players, but it’s trying to find new players, new audiences, and it’s extremely complicated to do both, but we are working on this. We are helped by the IP owners. I mean, Sega is extremely involved in the development of Panzer Dragoon, so we trust them a lot on their own IP’s. They help us a lot, give us feedback very very often. We changed the game a lot. Nintendo is also involved in the development. So, yeah it’s a challenge but a lot of people have opinions and at the end we are very eager to get some feedback from the fans. So, we really want to get feedback from the fans and yeah, that’s how we manage it and at the end, we’ll see if we succeed but I think we are in the right direction.
Thank you so much, Benjamin. Thank you so much.