Hello, everyone. It's Kou from FLYHIGH WORKS.
Today, we would like to present an in-depth interview with Quang, the original creator of “Phoenotopia.” The interviewer is Ochoko, "Phoenotopia Strategy Memo. ( フェノトピア攻略メモ。)" blogger who is also considered to be a representative of the Japanese Phoenotopia fans.
Interview list is available here→
Thank you both for your cooperation today.
First of all, Quang, could you please introduce yourself again by giving us a brief background of yourself and the part you are in charge of in this work?
Sure! My full name is Quang Hue Tran, 34 years old. I was born in America to Vietnamese parents. I loved video games and anime when I was growing up and it was a childhood dream of mine to join Nintendo and create Zelda games one day. I even minored in Japanese when I was in college. 日本語できるぜ! ちょっと... (I can speak Japanese! Just a little bit...)
After college, I worked as a programmer for a couple of tech companies, but I still burned with a desire to create games. Getting a job at Nintendo seemed unrealistic, but games like Cave Story, which was created by one man, impressed upon me that there were other avenues to scratch the creative itch I felt. When I was 25, I decided to quit my job and go full-time into indie games development. It was a long hard road filled with trial, error, and learning, but I think I made it out okay.
For Phoenotopia, I'm the programmer and director. We're a very small studio, so I also did most of the story writing, sound effects, level layouts and so forth. What I don't do is graphics, art, and music - I rely on my teammates for that.
Thank you. Now then, Ochoko, could you give us a brief self-introduction?
Ochoko My name is "Ochoko," and I am the creator of the Phoenotopia Awakening's strategy support blog. I would like to thank you for giving me this opportunity today. Kou has asked me to "Please ask Quang maniacal questions that only Phenotopia fans can ask"... (lol) So today, I would like to ask you questions with that intention.
Thank you very much. Now, I would like to ask Ochoko to take it from here.
Ochoko First of all, congratulations on releasing the Phoenotopia physical/retail version. In fact, I have already pre-ordered the retro version and am looking forward to its arrival... Is there anything that impressed you about this packaging that you didn't have when you produced the downloadable version?
Quang Thank you for ordering a copy!
I've actually yet to hold the physical version of Phoenotopia in my hands myself. I'll receive a physical copy at the same time when everyone else gets a physical. I did order a copy of another game from the same publisher I'm working with (Premium Edition Games) to ensure they were capable.
While I haven't held a physical copy yet, I have worked with the physical publisher to decide things like the art for the boxes and what collectible goodies go inside the box. And I have been impressed by many things!
There's a lot more red tape and bureaucracy if you want to launch a game physically over digitally. The age ratings board will scrutinize your game more intensely for the age rating, and they charge a big fee (there's no fee if your game is digital only). You'll also need to apply their ratings logo and serial codes on the box art which makes it look uglier. So those parts, I didn't like so much.
However, things like creating the keychain was really fun! You can order them from an online website - you just have to order in bulk and specify exactly what you need, but it's not much tougher than ordering from Amazon.
The whole process of producing physical goods used to seem so foreign, but after getting a peek behind the scenes, it wasn't as scary as I thought. It turns out the publisher I'm working with is a bit of an amateur in this industry too, and they once made the mistake of forgetting the ratings logo on the box and getting in trouble with our country's ratings board. Everybody starts somewhere!
Ochoko I see...So there were some concerns with the physical version.
You mentioned Zelda earlier. Phoenotopia was influenced by “Zelda II: The Adventure of Link.” I thought I should play that before this interview, so I cleared it a few days ago. After playing that, I felt that Phoenotopia’s origins derived from there…. There are many similarities, such as the time of setting in the battle on the field, the tunnel turning into a cave at the beginning of the game, and the shape of the goddess statue…
And Gail can play the flute. Is this also an homage to "Zelda: Ocarina of Time"? Could you tell me more about that and elaborate on your love for Zelda?
Quang Of course! Zelda is my favorite game series! I've played them all (except the CD-i ones, which don't count). And "Zelda: Ocarina of Time" is my #1 pick for best game ever! Even 24 years after its release, no game has dethroned it in my heart.
When I first played it as a kid, it blew me away and left quite an impression. That was when I feverishly repeated in my heart over and over, "I will create games!" It opened my eyes to what games could be as a story-telling medium and as a place you could explore and get to know fondly. In some ways, I don't think of them as games, but as places you can visit. And what made "Zelda: Ocarina of Time" such a fun place to visit was the interesting people and the sheer variety of activities you could do. So Phoenotopia's flute was inspired by Ocarina of Time! I'd also say the towns, NPCs, fishing, and other minigames were inspired by Ocarina of Time in some way as well.
I think if I had a big AAA company, I would want to make a big 3D game like Ocarina. However, as a small indie team, I had to scope realistically - a 2D game was more manageable. And there's where Zelda 2's influence comes in. One of the final bosses in Phoenotopia is Shadow Gail which is a clear nod to Zelda 2's Shadow Link.
In any case, now that I have more perspective as a game developer, I no longer wish to create Zelda games. Because if I created Zelda, I wouldn't be able to play Zelda!
”Ocarina of Time,” along with Phenotopia, is one of my favorite games. Zelda fans may feel tempted to pick on Pero (chickens found in Phoenotopia) and counter-attack it…I feel sorry for the poor thing (Haha).
Quang Haha, about the Perro, one of the game's fans found that if you attack them, it counts as a point towards the achievement "Quick Hits". He asked me to patch it out to discourage bullying against the animals. I looked into the code and decided it was too difficult to do easily, so I skipped it >_>
I didn’t know that. By the way, this is a bit off-topic, but....（To be continued in #2）
So what do you think of「Phoenotopia」Long Interview＃１?
Here is the Phoeotopia: Awakening store pages. Feel free to check them out if you are interested!