Indie Developer Pow-Wow - Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale Interview
Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale
Developer: EasyGameStation
Publisher: Carpe Fulgur
Release Date:

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Originally when the Indie Pow-Wow was conceived, it was for developers only. However, there was one indie title that received mass success this year, so it didn't feel right to exclude them considering they are localizers by trade. Carpe Fulgur released a game that received wide praise during its release, and continues to see constant success through the sales of its first project Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale. Easily one of my favourite games of the year, Recettear is the little indie RPG that could, that saw constant success through reviews and ranked fairly high during its release on Steam, GamersGate and Impluse. Today, we're talking to Carpe Fulgar's Andrew Dice about Recettear's success and Carpe Fulgur's plans for the future.

Hello again, Carpe Fulgur. First off, congratulations on the success of Recettear! How does it feel to see such an overwhelming response to the game?
Andrew Dice: Hello! Man, it's kind of hard to put into words. We started off only expecting to sell about 10,000 – 15,000 copies by this point in time, if that; there was a serious question as to whether or not this business model was even viable. Now... well, we'll be releasing some new numbers for everyone at the start of the new year, but let's just say that we're a bit beyond that now. Heck, we're quite a bit beyond the 26,000 we announced at the end of September. Knowing that so many people have enjoyed the game is a humbling experience, and I'm even more glad now that we decided to take the risk of bringing the game over.

How did EasyGameStation respond to the success of the game outside of Japan? Was Muracha pleased?
AD: EGS is fantastically happy with Recettear's success to date. Recettear's overseas success has, at this point, possibly made them the greatest amount of money they've ever seen. They've loved working with us, and we've loved working with them.

What's next for Carpe Fulgur, more work with EasyGameStation or do you have other plans? Will we possibly see Chantelise or Territorie?
AD: We're going to be making some Announcements™ in the near future – but I'll say right now that after the success of Recettear and how much both we and EGS enjoyed working together, we at CF would be absolutely mad not to try and bring over some of EGS' other titles. So expect some announcements down the line a bit! And I'll also say that we are starting to branch out and hook up with some other developers in Japan, although work on that front is still in its infancy and there isn't much to talk about just yet either way (although we've gotten at least one positive response so far).

You've been very vocal about wanting to localize DS and PSP RPGs from Falcom and Gust. What are the roadblocks you'd need to overcome to make that happen and would it be worth it?
AD: The biggest roadblocks would be affording DS or PSP devkits, and getting the games through the approval processes for each platform. The immediate roadblock after that, of course, is the actual physical distribution of such titles, since CF doesn't yet have the resources to purchase DS cards/burn UMDs and produce packaging, never mind ship them to retailers. Some of these games are ones I'd really like to see come over, they deserve to come over (Atelier Lina in particular is too good to not hop the sea), but for a built-from-nothing startup like ours, the barriers to console market entry are rather steep without help from an existing publisher or mortgaging the company (which I won't consider).

Seeing your desire to have worked on Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky, any thoughts of working with XSEED and Falcom on a PC release of those?
AD: Well, I'll say this much: I know that there's a lot of dudes at XSEED who have wanted to get Falcom titles on PC digi-distro for a while, and I know a lot of people have been following the progress of Recettear very, very closely. I'd love to work on Trails in the Sky and I think it's almost criminal that it hasn't been exported before now, but it'll ultimately be up to XSEED as to whether or not we help out with the later games. (Obviously, with the first chapter pretty much in the bag, we didn't get to help with that one.)

Any thoughts of doing what Monkey Paw and Gaijinworks have done and bringing over PSN releases of original PlayStation RPGs?
AD: Well, with the Monkey Paw stuff in particular you have to realize that pretty much all of that was stuff that had already been translated and they just got the rights to the actual translated software so it could be distributed again. That's different from what we do, wherein we actually produce a translation of the game and then distribute it. There are some PSX-era games that the West missed out on that I'd like to see come over, but those titles would need to be ported to run natively on a modern system first. Fiddling with the source code for the original games to "emulate" them on, say, a PS3 is usually out of the question... sometimes the source code isn't even available anymore! I appreciate what they do, but it's not really something we're in a position to pursue right now.

Considering how strong the localization for Recettear is, what were some hurdles you have faced in the localization process?
AD: Well, I've discussed before how the item list almost broke my will to live, especially dealing with the edits we had to make to the game code to get everything to read properly in English. I'm still grateful to Thor of EGS for being willing to put up with all our requests for code changes as we sussed out what needed to happen where.

A few of the characters also posed a challenge in terms of getting them "right" in terms of voice and characterization. For example, about halfway through the script I realized that I had to go back and redo all of Tear's dialogue as I realized I hadn't gotten her diction and voice right – she didn't sound businesslike enough, so I had to go back and re-check every line I'd done to make sure her diction and voice was consistent. (And for the record, no, translating her "literally" wouldn't have helped with that, for a few people who keep suggesting that.) Arma was also a bit of a challenge to get right – it was difficult to make her "robotic" enough to get the point across without making her so robotic that the player couldn't engage with her. I think we got her right in the end, however.

Will you continue to strictly on localize RPGs or are there other games outside the genre that you wish to look into?
AD: Well, even if we work on some of EGS' other titles, we'll already be branching out a bit – Chantelise has more in common with, say, the Zelda or Ys games than it does with a really static, story-heavy "classic" RPG, and Territoire is more of a strategy game than anything else. That said, we'll probably stick with games with a fair amount of text for now, since that's what we can provide the most support for (and those kinds of games are the most likely to fall victim to a lack of export). Several of the games we're very tentatively looking at are text-heavy, for example.

If you could work on any RPG series, past or present, what would it be and why?
AD: Well, I've made no secret of my love for the older Atelier games – both Robin and I are big fans of the older Salburg games in particular (Marie, Elie & Lilie). Unfortunately, even if they were on a modern platform, they're a little dated in terms of design at this point (they don't even have "properly" realized dungeons) and I have to admit they'd probably be a hard sell. I'd still love to work on them (or possibly a more modern variation like Atelier Lina) even if the audience that would enjoy them would be small.

With your success with Steam and digital distribution, do you have any desire to consider physical media? How big of a factor do you think Recettear being available digitally was in its success?
AD: Funny you should ask this. I'm of the belief, at this point, that Recettear's success could only have happened with digital distribution.

Shelf space for PC games has been shrinking for years, and that's for the big boys, even. It's been virtually impossible for new publishers to break into the retail space in the past half-decade, and only a few non-gamer-focused retail outlets like Wal-mart and Best Buy really stock PC games in volume anymore... and they aren't generally interested in stocking a potentially niche title from Japan. They want things with wide appeal that will sell for sure – the Sims and Warcrafts of the world.

The digital space, meanwhile, now has an atmosphere that I can only liken to the halcyon days of the mid to late 1980s of PC development – a time when a few goobers with a computer could burn their game to discs, hang it on a shingle in the local PC shop, and possibly have it get picked up by someone from a distribution firm (this is literally how Richard Garriott, of Ultima fame, got his start).That's basically what we did – we put out the Recettear demo, in English, to drum up interest, and when there was interest we were able to get onto several digital distribution services, including the biggest in the world. No messy distribution politics, no console license wrangling, we simply produced something and were able to sell it.

But even compared to the 1980s, our ability to reach people is tremendous. Recettear will never "sell out", never be impossible to find. If someone wants the game, they can always find it on Steam or Impulse... even if the pirate torrents for the game go dead, they can still find the game legally. Strictly speaking, we may never stop making money from the game, so long as even one of the digi-distro networks persists (and lord knows Steam isn't going anywhere). And the Internet of today is capable of reaching more people than the magazines and BBSes of the 1980s ever could.

What does this mean for physical distribution? Well, as far as the PC goes, I'm seriously beginning to question whether physical distribution is even necessary for our titles anymore. Steam and its ilk are more convenient, faster, and more efficient in terms of returns than physical distribution ever was. I know some people prefer physical purchases, but Recettear was built specifically to be easily copied to a CD or other storage device for easy backing up – so you won't lose the game to a hard drive crash or whatever, no matter what happens. With the ease with which the game can be backed up, there's basically no other reason to consider physical distribution. It's slower, less profitable, and takes longer to see a return on investment.

If the brick-and-mortar stores don't want to carry PC titles any longer? Well, doesn't really seem to be any skin off of our back... digital distribution is bringing us success I never thought we'd see, and is fostering the most creative surge of independent software development interactive entertainment has seen since the 1980s – and may have already eclipsed that golden period of gaming.

Any final words that you’d like to share with our audience?
AD: Only to say thank you, so much, for supporting Recettear and for making the dream come true; I hope the game has measured up to people's expectations and more. We plan on bringing everyone even more titles in 2011, so stay tuned!

RPGamer would like to thank Andrew Dice for all his enthusiasm and excitement on Recettear. RPGamers can check out Recettear via Steam, Impluse, GamersGate and other various sites if they wish to purchase this gem. Later in the week, we'll be concluding our Indie Developers Pow-Wow interview series with our final interviewee, RosePortal Games and its release, Whisper of a Rose: Gold.

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