May 4, 2012 3:00 PM | John Polson
In the following interview, Nigoro's Takumi Naramura, La-Mulana's director, sheds details on the WiiWare cancellation and candidly discusses the deveoper's dependence on overseas sales of its forthcoming PC port. He also urges Japanese indies to open up the export market, stating that there are several unnoticed masterpieces that need to be introduced overseas so that the Japanese indie game scene flourishes.
When speaking with IndieGames, Naramura shared he was "very surprised at this situation," and in a few days the team would post something new to La-Mulana's official website. Despite the ongoing Golden Week holiday in Japan, though, Naramura wanted to share as many details as possible now.
Was there an agreement to publish in NOA and NOE by a certain deadline?
I think the deadline was not fixed in particular. We have an agreement that we submit the game when it is finished. I say later, LA-MULANA had lot checks with Nintendo several times. When the problems are pointed out, we passed to Nicalis the fixed master data by about few weeks each time.
So, fixing the game for distribution in US and EU markets was your responsibility?
Fixing the game was in our charge, and we have left Nicalis to submit the game to NOA and NOE. We have a contract with Nintendo Japan, and Nicalis have contracts with NOA and NOE. Therefore, we have no way to check the progress of LA-MULANA English version for WiiWare directly.
Did anyone neglect their duties as developer or publisher?
We have responded quickly and in good faith, while we are puzzled that the matters pointed out received through the lot check of NOA / NOE is different from Nintendo Japan. I believe Nicalis had a sense of responsibility as a publisher in good faith, too.
Unfortunately we wanted to release DLC, but we were supposed to cancel the DLC because of a number of factors and Nicalis's request. If there is a person who has neglected their duties, it would be us. We are sorry that we could not publish any information for several months because of the contract and circumstances with Nicalis.
It has happened like this, and we should have talked to fans about it all sooner. In this regard we want to apologize obediently. We must keep an NDA (non-disclosure agreement) with Nintendo and Nicalis, naturally, so we could not speak details even if you wanted to talk about it.
Fans seem really excited about PC release, though.
In order for us to succeed as an indie game developer in the future, overseas sales are essential. In recent years downloadable content and indie games have begun to attract attention in Japan, the population of Japan is much less than in North America firstly. Also it sold a indie game in Japan, to acquire the sales equivalent to the development fund is very hard.
Indie game developers continue to work in Japan without also considering overseas sales is difficult. In order for us to distribute the games to gamers overseas from now on, we want gamer overseas to know details of indie game scene in Japan. We must open up the export market so Japanese indie games will be accepted.
The digital distribution only game is never "sold out" because it is a different from a physical package. Therefore, it can be expected to sell for a long period of time. So, we thought LA-MULANA must be exciting and perfect. We were encouraging the production without considering our profit...
I think that to get enough sales to fund our next games, sales in Japan only are not enough. We did our best in a situation where we didn't get income.
Unfortunately, the incident had happened like this, we hope you judge by whether LA-MULANA is exciting or not rather than to judge Wii or Nicalis and NIGORO. So, we have been developing the final part of the PC version with all our might, with nothing stop us anymore.
In conclusion, let me add a few words. If there was no offer from Nicalis, we would not have remade LA-MULANA. We are grateful to Nicalis even now. Before an offer from Nicalis came, we did not even know how to enter the consumer world. Because we have spent a lot of time in the making of the original LA-MULANA, we did not intend to remake it as our first consumer game.
Who will do the translation or localization of the PC version, and what languages and countries will La-Mulana (PC) be available in?
We are currently looking for cooperators or companies that can do translations in Japan. Anyway, we were only prepared for Japanese and English versions. The original LA-MULANA was made only in Japanese. Because volunteers translated it into English, LA-MULANA has spread throughout the world. Because we've come back to PC games, we will cooperate actively if there are volunteers who want to translate into another language as in the past.
We have already asked cooperators to translate the Japanese text into English for the new PC version.
Will La-Mulana sell on Steam or another distributor?
It is not decided yet. Of course, we want to sell on Steam. I hope we get a good offer from Steam... I have trouble in the situation that we can not manage the release date, although we want to released it abroad anyway.
We are looking for a reliable company that can solve the problem. For the WiiWare version, we had a hard time in collaborating overseas. We have contacted a company that can communicate quickly, can have a meeting if we need, and have good cooperation from overseas. I think that I can share this as soon as it's determined.
Will the PC version include the DLC (地獄) or will you sell that separately?
Because of WiiWare's size restriction, DLC is the only way we can release the Hell Temple. However we can use limitless bytes on PC, if we want. Although we can not say yet about details, we will publish the information at the official site in the near future. Please wait and see.
Do you want to publish future games with Nicalis?
I think it is difficult to be active in the consumer market for indie game makers, such as our small company. Since Nicalis has been also active in the consumer market, I think they will become one of the candidates as publisher if we make new consumer games in the future. However, I think we are the awkward developer for the publishers since we have a policy to make the game we want.
Speaing of small, what size is Nigoro now?
NIGORO as a game development team is composed of three people.
How many people work at the parent company, Asterizm?
Asterizm is composed of five people, including us. In addition to us, we have asked the people playing our game to debug. And we are familiar with Mr. Amaya, who developed Cave Story. We want to be friends with more Japanese indie game developers.
Is there a chance La-Mulana will come to Mac, iPhone, or Android?
Personally, I'm an old Macintosh user... but it would be more realistic to ask someone who is familiar with Macs to port the same product over time. About iPhone and Android, I think the game was made based on the assumption that porting gamepad controls to the touch device is not easy.
Are you developing or considering a game for 3DS/eShop or Vita/PSN?
I want to do so, if possible. It is very difficult for a game development team of three people to make consumer games. I should be very grateful if there is a publisher who says, "We want to port NIGORO's games to the consumers and publish them!"
What other things are you working on?
Since we had intended to devote sales of La-Mulana English version for Wii to developing the next game, we are currently not developing anything. However, we have continued to prepare for when the time comes.
On a lighter note, what fun Japanese indie games have you played recently?
I played Maou Monogatari Monogatari and Meikyuujou Hydra (Hydra Castle Labyrinth). And I played "Cave Story" thoroughly for a fan event named Doukutsu monogatari no Uragawa (it means "The inside of Cave Story") that I participated in. There are also other interesting indie games in Japan; I'm sorry I don't have the time I play them. These unnoticed masterpieces need to be introduced overseas so that the Japanese Indie game scene can flourish more.
*IndieGames spoke with Nicalis' Tyrone Rodriguez for additional comment. He didn't dispute any of the responses Nigoro provided here. When asked if both sides knew about the cancellation ahead of time, Rodriguez stated he couldn't reveal those details because of the NDA. However, he said that almost every week for the last few years they've kept in communication.
[On Nigoro's request, the interview was conducted in English. I asked follow-up questions in Japanese to clarify some ambiguities and added their English responses. The unedited text is here.]