RPGamer Feature - Class of Heroes II Kickstarter Interview with Victor Ireland
Class of Heroes II
Developer: Zero Div
Publisher: MonkeyPaw /
Release Date:

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There is a lot of talk about Kickstarter lately. With companies like Double Fine raising millions of dollars for an old school adventure game, it has quickly become a place where risky opportunities can receive funding directly from the fans. Now Victor Ireland, formerly president of Working Designs and now of Gaijinworks, has teamed up with MonkeyPaw Games to release Class of Heroes II digitally in North America. With the help of Kickstarter, the pair is looking to release a deluxe physical version, as well as make some improvements to the game before release ( We were able to talk with Victor Ireland about the project.

Michael A. Cunningham (RPGamer, Editor-in-Chief): This is a very interesting Kickstarter, one of the first dealing with localization, but it seems like the message is mixed. Is the point to pave a way for more JRPG localizations? Or to create deluxe editions? Or to simply support physical releases?
Victor Ireland (Gaijinworks): It's really a hybrid of that. Support of a physical release was the primary focus, but it's also somewhat of a referendum on RPGs that haven't come over because the market has deemed them to be for a platform that would not be profitable here. Actually, we changed the reward tiers a little after the first day of feedback because we missed very obvious rewards like including a digital version of the arranged soundtrack for people that are on the "digital support only" tiers. We continue to tweak the program where we are able based on the feedback of fans that also want to see it happen.

MAC: Just to clarify, if this does not get funded, you still plan to release Class of Heroes II (PSN on PSP) and Class of Heroes IIG (PSN on PS3) digitally, correct? They will simply lack the planned gameplay upgrades?
VI: It will still get released, but the localization will be scaled back substantially as a digital only product. No voice work, no interface improvements, no extras like additional save slots, pretty much a straight across job without any changes. It's not the version we want to release, or the fans deserve.

MAC: Why the lack of a reward tier that offers a digital copy? Seems like fans would be more willing to support this if there was. (ED: This has since been added.)
VI: We set the threshold of Deluxe Packs to a little over 6600 units to fund this. If we can't make that level, there's not enough manufacturing volume to do them. Adding a digital tier like you're requesting might make it so we still fund, but without enough Deluxe Pack orders to hit manufacturing minimums which would raise the cost per unit of each Deluxe Pack substantially. In that situation, we'd lose money. We love doing this, but we can't do net-negative projects. The Kickstarter is structured so we can fund a project and do nice things that fans will want to see. Console is a substantially more difficult proposition than PC to do in this way. More moving parts and approvals are required to even get to the starting point.

MAC: Regardless of how much better Class of Heroes II is, the original didn't seem to do too well for Atlus, so you don't have a great foundation to work from. You've stated that Acquired "gets" what you're trying, but why is Class of Heroes II the game you've chosen for this? Was it your first choice and why?
VI: Well, I like the game is a good place to start. I did not like the first one. It was way, way too tedious to play and there were interface issues that just irritated me. From two forward, Acquire has steadily improved the game, the look, and the stories, so it was good from that standpoint.

The other consideration is that this is a new model a new way of doing something and it's really, really hard to get a Japanese company that is risk-averse to jumping on board. We have a large list of games we want to do and are in discussions with most of the companies, but they're taking the wait and see approach to this. Acquire was willing to roll the dice with us and try this new way to reach fans that really want the games but have been denied, which is a huge credit to them.

If we can succeed and get this to fund, it will help move publishers we're talking to off the fence and everything gets a little easier for the second time. We could have kept talking to all of them to try to get a different game for another 6-8-12 months, but that would have been no guarantee of success, either. So we found a great partner in Acquire to get this done now and get the ball rolling. Its success is key to helping us start checking off other games in our long last of titles we want to do and making them a reality.

MAC: Class of Heroes II seems rather niche even for a JRPG, so what would you say to hardcore JRPG lovers who have little interest in this style of game?
VI: When I was at Working Designs, I built a trust with fans over the years. The ones that bought our games soon found that they didn't have to necessarily even worry about the title or content of the game if they saw it in the store or in an ad. They could buy the game based on the trust that there was a certain level of quality and enjoyment in a Working Designs game. That's exactly what we're continuing here, although, clearly the company names have changed, the people behind the games have not. If we fund and can do the voice acting, they'll see names in the credits and hear actors they like playing these parts. I have a certain benchmark for games I do, and they can trust that the game will meet that level for them to enjoy.

And if we're talking about the Deluxe Package, I have enough experience in that and enough ideas about this one that they really have nothing to worry about. I *started* the whole Deluxe Pack category in console games. Look back prior to LUNAR on PlayStation. How many companies were doing what we did there? None that I'm aware of. This is a continuation of the work I started there.

MAC: Since we don't have any images to see for ourselves, can you give us a better description of what some of the bonus items will look like? The plushie? The pin? Regarding the CE itself, will the game come in a standard UMD case surrounded by all the goodies or will it be something completely different?
VI: Well we have talked about the full-color faux-leather bound manual/artbook and the arranged soundtrack that will be by Bill King, who made some exceptional original music for us at Working Designs (Star Dragon Tower theme from LUNAR2, Dragon Force theme, Alundra opening movie theme, etc) as well as some great arranged tracks.

We have plans to do more than one plush, and they will be based on the characters and monsters in the game. We want ones that are cool and make an impression. There are two potential directions for the pin. We will either go with a classic coat of arms with a school logo in Latin and a couple winged griffons or the game logo. I personally prefer the winged griffon concept, but we'll see where we end up. Our goal on the UMD presentation and manual is completely different than anything that's been done before. The entire package will look like it came from a prestigious sword and sorcery academy with a history dating back generations.

MAC: Working Designs was great at creating deluxe editions, but I imagine many fans were simply interested in the great job WD did on localizing these games. Why not have a lower tier with a standard physical edition as a reward?
VI: Again, like with the digital only edition, it would unbalance the financials of this Kickstarter and put us in a situation where we would potentially lose money making less Deluxe Packs at a higher price per unit. Also, we heard about some fans that wanted regular editions of WD games, and when we finally gave them what they wanted with Growlanser Generations in both versions, we got complaints we didn't make enough Deluxe Packs. The demand was stronger for the Deluxe than the regular, and we under produced it. And, back to minimums, we couldn't go back for a short fill-in run because the cost of goods goes way up the less you make. So that was that, and lesson learned for me. I just do Deluxe Packs at a reasonable price for everyone.

MAC: If this Kickstarter does not meet its goal, do you plan to abandon physical releases or try again with a different game?
VI: It will make it really hard to go back to the Japanese publishers we've talked to that are on the fence who are risk-averse and say, "Well, that didn't go so well, but can we try again with your cherished property instead?" I can't imagine that will go well. Anything's possible, but I really think it will chill anyone from trying it for console games for a while because it's so hard to get everything set up for Kickstarter with a console game. There are a lot of moving parts.

MAC: Kickstarter lists the rewards for physical copies being available in Sept 2012. How sure are you of that release date?
VI: We're already well into the localization of the dialogue, etc, and we have already mapped out general costs and timelines for most of the candidates for pack in items, so it's looking good. The only unknown is the special mechanism for the UMD presentation. We're making it from scratch and it could be a problem if the initial prototypes don't function as expected, but we have enough time to adjust, so I'm sure we'll work it out.

RPGamer would like to thank Victor Ireland and the team from MonkeyPawGames for their time in answering our questions. Check out the Kickstarter project here.

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