For those of you who may not know, back in 1995, a daring group decided to translate Princess Maker 2 and attempt to get it over to the English speaking market.  This project took some time, and unfortunately did not fully pan out.  There were rumors for years as to the exact reasons why the project had been ended.  Some ranging from the outlandish (the game was too sexist), or to the most logical (the company went bankrupt).  The Beta version of the game got out to the world and it had changed some peoples' lives forever, including my own.

Here's where this starts.  I, like some people do, decided to randomly look up "Princess Maker" on the internet to see how many times my webpage would come up, and how high on the list it is.  I don't bother with things such as actually registering my website anywhere, so it's fun to see what results I come up with.  I tried Dogpile this time.  To my surprise, it came up with the homepage for SoftEgg, the publishers of the elusive "Princess Maker 2" English version.  I decided to go to the website, and it explained in COMPLETE detail exactly what had happened to the project.  I was excited, it was about 3 days until I left for FanimeCon, and the writer of that SoftEgg page had mentioned that they attended FanimeCon the year before.  Perhaps it would be my luck that he would attend this year, and I could get an interview.  My luck was working for me, because he responded in less than a day to my email request and said he would love to be interviewed, as long as he was quoted accurately.  I, armed with my friends' video camera, went to FanimeCon and got my interview.  Here it is....

I actually had arranged to meet him at a panel featuring import video gaming.  There I acquired an orange egg filled with Konami silly putty and an El Hazard CD.  My cameraman acquired a really cool orange t-shirt from a video gaming conference and a Metal Gear Solid 2 specs sheet.  There wasn't much of a turnout, considering it's an anime con and right next to that room was a video game room featuring Dance Dance Revolution 4th Mix Plus and Dance Dance Revolution Solo 2000.  It was still a very insightful panel.  We meet Tim, and attempt to find a quiet place to do the interview.  We were granted permission to use a room I'm not at liberty to mention.  Either way, it was quiet enough for the long interview, and I only got about half the questions I wanted asked.  Either way, here it is!  Format and Editing done by Kevin Eav.

I asked him to introduce himself:

Tim:  I'm Tim Trzepacz.  I'm a Leo from Washington, D.C.  I like Japanese
animation and video games and I'll be your video date. *laughter*
No, not really.  I'm Tim Trzepacz.  I'm from SoftEgg.  I did the US
release of Princess Maker 2, or the US unrelease, I guess, as the case
may be.  And I've also worked for Working Designs, on such great games
as Magic Knight Rayearth and Lunar: Silver Star Story.  3DO, on bad
games like Portal Runner.  Microprose on Pirates! Gold, and Magic: The
Gathering.  And now about to start in Insomniac on whatever their new
thing is called.  So uh, I've been around.

Me: I guess my first question would be, what inspired you to choose
Princess Maker 2 instead of Princess Maker 1?

Tim: Well, I'd been uh... when I was at Microprose.  They used to have a
section that did localizations of their games to Japan.  And as a
result, they got all sorts of Japanese PC game magazines.  Uhm, the PC
game magazines at the time (it was around 1992, 1993ish),  were just
awash with pictures of Princess Maker 2.  So I was like, 'Oh, it sure
looks like an interesting game.' And I didn't really think much of it,
because it was something I saw in a magazine.  Then I found this FAQ on
the internet (The internet was text back then, by the way.  For those of you
who don't know, the Internet used to be text) so, it was by someone who
called themselves Pro Student Mii, and it made the game sound even more
interesting!  So I was like, "Gosh, that game sounds really interesting."
Now, they had laid off the entire Japanese develop/porting staff from
Microprose, so I was getting all their stuff.  And there was still a guy
in Microprose's Japan office who was overseeing the dissolution of
Microprose KK.  So I sent him a fax and said "Hey, I'd like to buy
Princess Maker 2, could you get that for me?"  He's like "Sure!  Give me
your Credit Card Number."  So I gave him my credit card number and they
charged it to me and they sent me a copy of Princess Maker 2.  It was $152
dollars to buy that game.  I mean, Japanese computer games are very
expensive, and I guess that was a good one. It was very, very expensive.

So I got it and I was like 'This game is pretty cool', it was head and
shoulders above a lot of the other PC stuff out there.  So, I talked with
my friends and was like "Hey, why don't we try to get this out in
English."   Originally, my intention was that we would sort of license it
and then I would kind of sell it to Microprose.  Which I'd then lost my
job at Microprose in the third or fourth round of layoffs, you know, Magic
The Gathering was 2 years into a 6 month development cycle.  We just
decided to shop around to someplace that would still be around.  And so
that's how we got started.

Now as far as 2 as opposed to 1.  Well, 2 was the most recent one.  So we
figured that would be the one which is closest to keeping up with current
technology.  Course, in the process of getting it out, uhm, while we were
doing the port of the DOS one.  Well, DOOM came out. Everybody who wanted
PC games suddenly wanted first person shooters. And Windows 95 came out
which meant nobody wanted DOS games anymore. So, uhm, suddenly we were
stuck with this albatross which we couldn't sell and Gainax wasn't really
interested in giving us anything else until we sold what we had.  So,
that's kinda the story in a nutshell. PM2 vs PM1 was an ATTEMPT to get the
latest technology, but it wasn't latest enough to get us to the end of our
development cycle.

MeIn this world of political correctness, translation errors, and
cutting corners, how accurate was the Princess Maker 2 translation?  And
were there any "artistic interpretations" taken in that?

Tim: Let's see.  Uhm, it was pretty much very accurate except for one or
two things.  There is one deleted scene where the daughter is
raped by bandits.  And, as a result, her sex appeal goes up.  We decided
that that was reprehensible in any language, and we changed it.  I don't
remember exactly how we changed it.  I seem to recall we had it be that
like she escaped or something.  Yeah, it was just having your 10
year old daughter raped was just a bad idea.  The other changes we made
were mostly...uh... we changed like one or two names - and that was
actually to protect our copyright.  Like, there was a bartender guy
named Sabu or something like that and we changed his name to Sam.  It
wasn't because we thought that Sabu was necessarily a bad name, but we
wanted it to... if somebody, like, if somehow ... Let's say, if Gainax
decided to sell the game to somebody else behind our backs and use our
translation, that there'd be this character named Sam who's not supposed
to be named Sam.  And that way we'd know that they ripped off our
translation - proved without a doubt.  There are a couple of other things
like that.  But for the most part, we tried to be REALLY really
accurate.  Much moreso than like a Working Designs translation.

There's even stuff where even one of our translator guys added this thing,
you know, from this old computer game called "Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves"
when you a hit a monster, or you got it'd go "Aiyee!" or "Such and Such
turns their toes up to a daisy." or something like that.  So my friend
had written that into the game with Princess Maker script, it's a little
PM basic interpreter.  I made him take it out, cause I was just like
"Well, as amusing as that is for us, that's not Princess Maker.  That's
not the game.  I don't want it to have extra stuff.  Even if it is
amusing, I want it to be a literal translation.  I really want, as much
as possible, to be a translation which has to makes sense in English.
I'm not trying for like the Pioneer translation where it's literal to
the point where it doesn't make sense anymore, alright, you know.  I'm
trying for a translation which is going to give the player in English
the exact same experience that the player in Japan had.  Right, that
it's transparent.  It plays as if it were originally made for English."

There is one other, some other things of censorship.  There are some
things like, pictures of the daughter where she was not wearing enough
clothing.  Uhm, I've said she's supposed to be under 18 for the entire
arrange of the game.  I did actually draw clothes on her.  I did that
myself, I'm not much of an artist, but I did manage to draw clothes on
her.  And when Intercorp licensed the game to Ignite / Inscape / Graphix
Zone / whatever the hell they were called, they asked us to put all that
stuff back in.  I don't know what kind of sickos those guys were, but
they... you know, you don't show underaged girls nude.  But they wanted
us to put it back in.  I seem to recall I sent them a version which had
it back in, I wasn't very happy about it.  Fortunately, that version
seems to have been lost.  So uhm, I'm very glad that that didn't made it
out.  Cause I'm not a child pornographer, I don't want to put out games
like that, that wasn't the goal, alright.  Princess Maker is a very
clean game, except for a couple of things which kinda go over in Japan
that don't go over here.  I tried to sort of make it, you know, correct
for the US without destroying it, without over-censoring it.

Me: Very understandable.  Next question, although it was never intended
to get out and be played and discovered by people in the beta stage,
what do you think about the popularity and 'cult status' of the
unreleased game?

Tim: I'm very happy that people have had the opportunity to enjoy
Princess Maker 2.  I mean, that was my whole goal.  I wasn't even sure
that we were going to make any money off it.  I was, I just wanted
people to be able to play the game.  I wanted everybody else to enjoy
Princess Maker 2 as much as I have.  That being said, I am now
contractually obligated to make sure that nobody can get copies of the
pirated version of the game.  My contract very specifically says that
Intercorp is supposed to distribute the game and as the sole remaining
US rights holder it is my job until 2002 to make sure that there are no
illicit copies floating around on the internet.  Alright, to protect
Gainax's copyright and Intercorp's copyright - even though they are
bankrupt and the trustee for the state of Florida won't return my
calls.  I have to live up to my terms.

If it was up to me, I'd put it on the internet and sell it myself, but
uh... I can't do that.  So yeah, I'm very happy that people have the
opportunity to play and see the fine game.  But just be aware, that if you
got the game on your website, I have to tell you to shut down.  Take the
game off the website.  After 2002, I have no rights anymore, so I can't
tell you what to do.  But uh, so... but until March 2002, I'm afraid,
please don't pirate the game. Anyway after that, you're still not supposed
to pirate the game.

But, I'm glad that you like the game.  I really am, honest!  An
interesting comment actually, to that regard.  When I was submitting the
game to publishers.  I had to make copies to publishers, obviously.  A lot
of publishers saw the English version of the game in various states of
disrepair, but they saw it.  I was a game developers conference [where]
someone was actually talking about the game in one of the sort of before
one of the roundtables, not knowing I was there.  When I introduced
myself, he was like 'Wow! That's really cool that you brought this game
out.  Even though the thing didn't come out, still, because developers
have seen it it's actually had an impact on game development in the United
States even though it didn't get a wide commercial release.  It's been an
interesting thing for game designers.' So i thought that was really cool,
we actually had this response even though the game never actually came
out, and only a handful of people had seen it.  That it actually did have
some impact on American game design.  Though, based on the games I have
seen here in America, I can't imagine what that would be. At least I know
some designers have seen it and claim to have been influenced by it.

MeHypothetically if Princess Maker 2 HAD became a success in the US,
did you have any plans to continue trying to bring over other Japanese
only games to the English speaking population.  Things such as
Graduation, etc, of the same genre.

Tim: Uhm, well I've had a look at Graduation which did actually come

Me: It did, but not at the time when you had originally picked up
Princess Maker.

Tim: Yeah, but I did have a look.  It was my intention actually, to
follow up with other Japanese games.  I kinda wanted to go more for
Roleplaying type games.  I think Princess Maker (2) was right at the
edge of level of interactive which I wanted for a game title.  When you
go to Princess Maker 3 and you're just setting the schedule, and you
don't go to the town, and you don't do adventures or anything... I just
felt there's not enough gameplay there.  It's like a multimedia
presentation, it's not really a game so much.  No offense to Takami
Akai.  I understand the different styles of games in Japan.  I just was
not satisfied by that type of interactivity.  And I really didn't like
the whole digital comic style which they have in Japan where it's
basically a slideshow with yes or no answers.

So, but I was looking at some Japanese games.  There were a bunch of
things.  I think one of them was like, Zack 3, The Final Recurrence.  It
was a PC based roleplaying game.  It was on PC-98 only at the time, but I
don't know if they made a DOSV version.  That was one of our limiting
factors was in Japan, at the time, all the good games made for PC-98 which
is a NEC Japan only MS-Dos based platform.  So you have something that
runs on PC-98, it will not run on a US DOS machine.  Now, it was probably
pretty easy to port, but we weren't really in the business of doing cross-
platform porting, we were trying to take games and do localization on
them, things that already worked.  Princess Maker, we were very lucky on
that, cause that was actually available for DOSV.

And come to think of it - that may have been actually one of the reasons
we didn't do Princess Maker 1*, because it wasn't available for DOSV.  DOSV
was Microsoft's MSDOS for... it was the Japanese version of DOS.  It would
run MS dos programs and allowed you to display japanese text.  But a game
had to be specifically made for that, as opposed to it didn't run pc98
programs.  It only ran DOSV programs.  Even though they're both based on
MSDos, the hardware different.  Very slightly different, but it was
different.  So, see, that was a major factor.  There weren't that many
games for DOSV.  And that changed when Windows 95 came out, more and more
games were available for Windows 95 - I think it's sort of the dominant
platform. Though, things still have not gotten back to when they were
DOSV.   I still don't see as many roleplaying for windows as there used to
be for DOS.  I don't see as many puzzle games and action games.
Everything was for PC-98 in Japan.  And a lot of things were for... there
are still other systems there, like the FM Towns, like uh... Sharp Ecstasy

You can actually get emulators to some of these on the internet now.
But yeah, they had a lot of computers there.  Actually the Mac was and
IS still very popular in Japan.  I don't really like the Mac that much
myself.  There's even a Princess Maker for the Mac.  We got a copy of
that to evaluate it but uh, the original Windows and Mac versions, I
seem to recall they were kind of buggy.  That was the issue though,

Me: Do you feel America now is more accepting to Japanese styled games
than maybe 5 years ago when you started the project?

Tim: That depends on what you mean.  I think they are not. I think
Princess Maker is just as far as being acceptable now, if not even
farther than it was back then.  Primarily because the PC has shifted
over from a platform which is primarily a strategy game platform like it
was back in the days I was at Microprose, where "Civilization" was the
big game, and shifted towards action games, towards first person
shooters and real time strategy which is very different.  And I think to
try and sell Princess Maker 2 today on the PC would be a tremendous
folly.  It was probably a tremendous folly when I did it too, as in, it
didn't come out.  I think it's not even really an acceptable game for

Even though Japanese RPGs and Japanese style of art have made
inroads, uhm, a game -- like I said it was really on the edge of
interactivity for 1993.  It didn't really have enough player action
going on, and now it REALLY doesn't have ... it's just not for the
American market anymore.  And that's too bad, I think it's a good game,
and it's got really interesting gameplaying esthetic and really takes
some of the RPG things and kind of the whole character development
thing.  It's all about character development, it's all about raising the
daughter.  And I think that's a really valuable thing.  The aspects of
Princess Maker could definitely be included in today's games.

I actually came up with a design for a game myself, which was very much
like Princess Maker but replaced all the jobs and schooling with mini-
games, like "Mario Party" or something, and she'd work in a warehouse and
pushes boxes around like in Sokoban, and there'd be various puzzles you'd
have to do instead of just watching her do them, you'd get to them for
her, or as her.  Serve as a higher level of interactivity starting with
the Princess Maker thing of building your character, building the girl
and her stats and something like that, with a more hands on approach.
That would sort of take the concept and move that to someone which would
go forward today.  I think, yeah, as it stands, I don't think Princess
Maker 2 would really go over well here.

Me: How do you feel about things such as "Tomorrow's Princess Maker
Petition"?  I understand that there is an honest want for the game to be
fully published for the fans of the series.  Do you feel that they are
basically fighting a lost cause at this point?

Tim: Uhm, yeah, pretty much.  As I said, we had a 5 year agreement with
Intercorp.  That agreement runs out, I believe in March or April of
2002.  Until then, nobody can legally do anything in North America with
the game.  The trustee for the state of Florida, Marsha Dunn, is
basically responsible for liquidating Intercorp and she won't return my
calls.  I talked to her lawyer at one point, as far as I know... they
don't even have a copy of the contract.  And if they DID get a copy of
the contract, they might liquidate the rights of the game to some
company for a pittance in order to pay Intercorp's bills.  Now, in that
case, I probably won't get paid, and Gainax probably wouldn't get paid,
and then Gainax would sue me because somebody is publishing the game
without paying them.  So it's actually better for me to sit back and
wait for the rights to run out, then actually actively work to move to
end the rights, because I doubt somebody else could do something with
it.  And the fact is, and nobody else is going to do anything with it.
If I wasn't able to sell it, and God knows I moved hell and high water.

I talked to everybody in the industry.  I actually had somebody,
Debbie Minardi from SSI say "MSDOS... EWWW!"  They actually said that to me,
on the phone.  I talked to companies like Software Sculptors, talked to
the two lead guys there.  They basically made us an offer, a pittance,
it was like 7000 copies guaranteed.  And my friend said it may have been
better to take that offer, but we were trying to negotiate with them.
They were not willing to negotiate, and finally they just said "Actually
we've decided that everybody in the US just wants first person
shooters.  A game like this is not going to sell, and please do not
contact us about this game ever again."

I guess if that's what they think of the fans in the US, if that's what
they think about the US game market.  For whatever truth there is in the
fact that it's hard to sell something but a first person shooter, you'd
think that an anime company such as Software Sculptors would have a better
impression, would have an idea that there's maybe there's something beyond
that.  If that's what they think, then they obviously weren't the company
to sell the game.  I was very offended by that.  To this day, I will not
buy products by Software Sculptors because of that attitude.  I understand
that the fellow who told me that has moved on.  He's now at... whoever has
the Kitty films label.  He's doing like porno anime now.

CameramanOh, Media Blasters.

Tim: Is it Media Blasters?  Yeah, I guess I can buy stuff from Software
Sculptors, but it left a bad taste in my mouth.  I talked with some
other anime companies and they weren't very helpful.  I do have to say
that when we did license the thing, originally, we got our contact with
Gainax through Robert Woodhead of AnimEigo.  He was very helpful and
supportive all the way through the process.  I mean, we couldn't have
done it without him.  So if AnimEigo ever decides to release more
anime, please buy anime from AnimEigo.  God knows they've always been
the best.  They've always had the highest quality of translation.  And
actually, when we did the negotiations with Gainax we went through their
translator, which is Michael House who used to work for AnimEigo.
Right and he's now translating Gainax's website.  He's a fine fellow.  I
can't say how much of a help AnimEigo and Robert Woodhead were to us.
Please support them.

Me: To follow up with the last question... You did mention logically
that your contract isn't up until 2002.  Although Akai had mentioned at
Fanime last year that all foreign language rights of the game were given
to another publisher, the chances of it getting published in America are
slim to none.  If you had the ability to get Intercorp to release their
end of the project and sign the contract at this moment would you go
forward with contacting Gainax again to attempt to get it published, or
would you just leave it as that being the conclusion?

Tim:  Well, you see, first of all the thing with Intercorp is that they
did sign the contract to publish the game, but they can't sign a
contract to NOT publish the game.  They can't sign a contract to end
it.  My contract with Gainax had already run out by the time I finally
got Intercorp to say that they would sign something.  I had to go back
to Gainax and sign a 3 way agreement - Me, and Intercorp and Gainax all
signed on this one piece of paper.  So that Intercorp would publish the
game, with my translation and Gainax's software.  In order to end that
contract, it cannot be ended without a signature from all 3 of the
parties.  Intercorp, myself, and Gainax.  Intercorp is no more.  The guy
who was running Intercorp, Lee Rothschild, was deposed when they went
bankrupt.  The state of Florida signed a trustee to liquidate their
assets to sell off everything which was owned by Intercorp.  That
person is Marsha Dunn.

Theoretically, Marsha Dunn could sign an agreement that would end their
rights to Princess Maker 2.  End their publishing agreement.   Then I
could sign it, then Gainax could sign it.  But, they have failed... when I
tried to communicate them, they generally did not really want to talk to
me. And when they did talk to me, it sounded like I could get myself into
worse trouble.  As I said, they could sell the rights to somebody else and
not pay us a red cent. Cause it's part of their bankruptcy, right.
Although, at the time I signed the agreement with Intercorp it was
promised that it wouldn't be part of their bankruptcy.  And they stalled
when I was trying to get them to sign the agreement to end the agreement.
And made it so they went bankrupt before I had chance to get it cleared
out.  So basically nothing can happen with that product until the rights
run out [in] April of 2002.

After that, as I said, Akai-san's already licensed it to somebody else.
Evidently Nine Lives has all the rights to all the Princess Maker Products
now.  They've already licensed it to somebody else, and that company has
no plans for the US market.  So maybe they would be willing to do
something with it at that point and I'd be happy to license the
translation to them and let them publish it, or if they find somebody else
to publish it, I'd be happy to let them do that.  I'm sure we could
arrange something, if it as sold, get payment.  I could probably arrange
with the other guys on my team and give away the translation for free - if
they wanted to put it on the internet for free.  I'd be happy to do that
too.  So long as they get paid, I'd like to get paid, if they'd
like to put it on the internet for free, then I'd give it away for free.
But... (cameraman gets call)...

//We're told to cut it short now//

So I'd love for Princess Maker to come out, and I wish I could do
something.  But at this point, I'm powerless.  If anything is going to
happen, it's going to happen on the Japanese end of things.  That's why
I went and talked to Akai-san last year.  Do you have a last question

Me: I have a few but... uh... Were you surprised that I had emailed you
in regards to the interview?  Or do you always get random Princess Maker
related emails?  Happy?  Angry?

Tim:  I haven't gotten a Princess Maker email in several years now, so
it was kind of a pleasant surprise.  I used to get them occasionally
when it was announced we were doing it.  When I was at Working Designs,
for a while I was active on the internet, I'd post stuff in the
newsgroups, so i'd get some email from there.  But yeah, I was kind of
surprised.  I'd seen your website before, so I knew of it.  I don't
think I'd sent you email.  I seem to recall sending email to the
Princess Maker Petition guys letting them know that it's hopeless.  But
I don't know if I actually had contacted you about your website.  Yeah,
I think it's great that people have fansite stuff for Princess Maker 2.
It's very flattering.  Like I said, I appreciate that people have played
the US version.  I just wish I could get them a real one, that people
can actually buy in stores and that I didn't have to shut down  all the
websites that had copies of the game on it.  But then... so be it.

Me: We have to wrap this up.  Is there anything else you would like to
let the Princess Maker community know that I've somehow missed in my
scattered questions.

Tim: Well, Princess Maker, I think we all... everybody has sort of their
own interpretation of what happens in Princess Maker.  Their own
feeling as to how they raised their daughter and what the world is
like.  I tihnk the game allows you to sort of impose your own feeling on
it.  Some people out there play the game as sort of a softcore porn
game.  Other people play it as it's kind of like an RPG.  Other people
play it thinking it's like Tokimeki Memorial.  And it's got aspects of
all those things in it, but really, you know, it's own type of game.  It
really 'fathered' so many things.  The Tamagotchi wouldn't have existed
without Princess Maker 2.  Pokemon, I think, goes a great deal into
Princess Maker 2.  The whole 'raising up' genre, which is barely hitting
the US.  It really stems from that first game.  That first unique
simulation and I think we all owe a great debt to Akai-san for bringing
that out.  It's a shame that it didn't make it to the US, but I think we
can still see the influence of that game on other games, you know, from
now and well into the future.  And, you know, as far as Princess Maker
itself goes, I'm very glad that people had the opportunity to play the
game.  I wish other people did.  Keep on enjoying Princess Maker 2.
Thank you very much.

Me: Thank you for letting me have the interview.

*  Princess Maker 1 was in a PC-98 format, but also a IBM-PC Teradrive version, which does work on most DOS/Windows machines ( I should know, it works in mine!).  However, that was most likely the problem at the time - they were looking for specifically DOSV versions.  Princess Maker 2 was released in both a DOSV version and later a Windows 95 version.  The Windows version included voices and better music, while the DOSV version was the one used for the English project.

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