Siliconera sat down with Falcom president Toshihiro Kondo for a lengthy chat that started with Trails in the Sky before moving on to topics like PlayStation Vita development and the international marketplace. Today, we’re going to present the first half which covers Ys Celceta and Kondo’s thoughts on balancing new IP development.
As the president of Falcom, you’re a leader and the characters in your games are leaders too. Which Falcom character best personifies your leadership style?
Toshihiro Kondo, President: [Laughs.] That’s a tough question. I’d have to go with Lloyd from Trails of Zero (pictured above). He’s young, the leader of a police force, and he has a lot of problems. But, he tends to think through them and continues on to overcome them. I think that’s the character I could relate to the most.
Retail orders for Trails of Blue have exceeded your other titles, which means new players are jumping into the Trails series at different points, but the games have so much mythology. How do you get them up to speed?
Trails of Blue has 200,000 retail orders, but even though initial orders were not that high Trails in the Sky [FC] shipped more than that. In terms of opening orders, Trails of Blue will be our biggest opening day shipment. When Trails in the Sky first launched the opening orders were maybe in the tens of thousands, but the game did ship over 200,000. We think it’s the same fans that are following the Trails series and who have learned of the quality of the series. We feel like we are catering to those fans and they do know the history of the series.
There are people who would see the artwork or try the series because of good word of mouth and perhaps start from Trails of Zero or play Trails of Blue as their first Trails title. Those same people tend to go back and check out earlier titles like Trails in the Sky [FC] as well. We do feel most of them are familiar with the series and know what it’s about.
I think word of mouth is spreading in the West, but we have a lot of catching up to do.
Because the Trails series are such huge games with large amounts of text to translate, although Xseed released the first title it not that easy to release SC and the other games in the series. We would like to continue to work with Xseed and come up with some kind of way to release all of the Trails titles together. Perhaps, Vita would be an option in the future because the PSP market is down right now.
I’m sure you know this, but my readers really want to see SC and Third in the West.
Yes, I know. We’ll do our best!
Falcom is already working on a PlayStation Vita game too. What can you tell us about Ys Celceta: Sea of Trees?
The subtitle is related to Adol’s adventures in Ys IV. Falcom has never worked on Ys IV directly on the development side. Those games were made by other companies using Falcom’s intellectual property. For close to 20 years, we’ve been hearing from fans they would like to see a Falcom developed Ys IV.
When Sony first approached us about the PlayStation Vita and showed us what the hardware was capable of, there were things we could not do in Ys Seven that we now know we can do on PlayStation Vita. This is why we decided to make this game for PlayStation Vita.
The new fans that found out about Falcom through our PSP releases don’t know Ys IV. Even the older Ys fans, as I explained earlier, have been asking us to create our own Ys IV. This seemed like a good way to satisfy both customer bases.
Is the battle system going to be done like Ys Seven?
It will be based on the Ys Seven party battle system.
And is Xseed going to be bringing this over?
That is something we will have to discuss with Xseed’s president when he meets with us at the end of the month.1
1This interview was conducted in September.
The Ys series like The Legend of Heroes have been Falcom’s core titles and now Trails feels like it branched off and became its own thing. Falcom used to make quirky games too like Gurumin. Are you going to continue to develop new IP that takes you out of your comfort zone or are you going to focus on the IP that your company is known for internationally?
The way we make games now is different than before when we were primarily developing PC games. We would like to take the knowledge we gained and use our development skills to create a new IP.
How do you balance the risk and reward? On one hand you have a title that will be your biggest launch ever with the Trails series and at the same time new IP is often difficult to launch?
Falcom is a small developer even compared to other companies that make RPGs. In terms of series we make, a lot of the games tend to be a large story split into a couple of different games. For example, Trails in the Sky FC and SC continue in the same story. At first, we had some fans complain that in SC it takes place on the same world map as FC does. But, once they played more of the game they got to see the new areas and content added in SC. They found they enjoyed being familiar with the world from FC, as well. In that sense, it can work out well where we are working on one long term project and splitting it into a couple of releases.
The reason I gave that example is because one Trails game is so large it takes up a lot of our development resources. By comparison, Gurumin or a comparable new IP would have a much smaller development team. Less than half the members of the Trails team. We would test out a new IP that way and if it’s successful we would expand the team and the world. Gurumin was made by five or six people.
Western developers tend to have a very big team working on one title. Here, we tend to focus on the creator’s main idea and expanding from there with a small team. That’s how we probably differ from other developers when it comes to our development philosophy, we’re much more focused from the start to the end of a project.
Tomorrow, Kondo will talk more about how Falcom plans games and using the PhyreEngine.