DS Fanboy interviews Starmen.net's Reid Young (part two)



If you didn't catch the first half of our two-part interview with Reid Young, co-founder of Starmen.net, an online community for all lovers of the Mother series, make sure to check it out when you have a chance. We discussed a number of topics -- what makes the series stand out from other RPGs, why EarthBound (Mother 2) failed to sell in the U.S., and how Starmen.net is building awareness on the games with its EB Siege and Earthbound Anthology campaigns.

Reid also took some time to update us on what our chances are of ever receiving a western localization for Mother 3, whether or not we'll receive EarthBound on the Virtual Console soon, and the current status of the Mother 3 fan translation project. As an admirer of creative and heartfelt games, you owe it to yourself to read the rest of our interview past the post break.

Alright, three reasons why you think Mother 3 will be coming to the states eventually, if not soon?

Honestly, I think our chances of getting Mother 3 stateside are pretty slim unless EarthBound sells incredibly well on the [Virtual Console]. We've had our ears to the ground for a year, and from what we've been told, Mother 3 was never even seriously considered. Instead, Nintendo has spent time, resources, and money on games like ... Magical Vacation. Lame! Nintendo always plays their cards very close to their chest, though, so we could be wrong, and of course we hope we are.

To answer your question, though:
  1. The Virtual Console and/or Wii Ware. They make distributing games so much easier and less expensive -- no need to risk money on advertising, printing, carts, distribution, etc. Either platform would be a perfect venue for a game whose performance Nintendo is apprehensive about, like Mother 3.
  2. The EB Siege. I really think it's driving home the point that the Mother series deserves another chance.
  3. EarthBound on the VC. It's going to get a lot of downloads; if Nintendo considers translating Mother 3, it will be because of EarthBound's popularity on the VC.
How much contact do you have with Nintendo, both in Japan and the US?

We have pretty much no contact with NCL, although we were in contact with a former Brownie Brown developer. Brownie Brown is the development studio responsible for Mother 3.

We've had quite a bit of interaction with Nintendo of America, though, and as the latest issue of Nintendo Power shows, we recently had a chance to visit the company during one of our site conventions which we hold every year in a different part of the country.

Over the years, we've had probably six or seven contacts in/around the company, some of whom we now consider good friends. The information they've shared with us has really come in handy, especially over the past year. Most of the things they tell us are sensitive/revealing enough that we can't pass them on, but that's usually for the best, since every piece of good news we receive is quickly balanced out by something bad.

How long would you guess before Nintendo brings Earthbound to the Virtual Console?

Soon -- we've actually been planning the entire EB Siege around it. We were expecting to see it after E3, but once the Metroid month started, we uncrossed our fingers. Now that Metroid is out of the way, the fingers are crossed again. I'll be surprised if we don't see it in the next few weeks.

So what happens now? What's the Starmen.net community's next step to ensuring that the US gets more Mother?

When EarthBound is released on VC, we're relying on the community to make some noise. The staff and I have ideas and projects to help "market" the game, but I'm exhausted from the work I've put into the other parts of the Siege. And, frankly, I think of the Siege as a marketing project; the ultimate goal of the Siege is to get people to download EarthBound on the VC. If that works and EarthBound posts some awesome numbers, Nintendo would have to be insane to continue ignoring Mother 3.

Of course, we've said that a number of times in the past, like after we mailed them a petition with 30,000+ signatures, and Nintendo has proven again and again that the satisfaction of their fans is low on their list of priorities. I don't say that out of spite; it's just an unfortunate fact. They got burned when EarthBound sold below expectations, and because of that, they've been too scared to pick it back up.

Of course, that was 12 years ago. Come on, Reggie, stop being such a sissy.

And if all else fails, there's always the Mother 3 fan translation project?

Yup. If you don't know about the fan translation, you can read the original announcement at [our "Do It Yourself Devotion" page].

Since then, our team -- Tomato, Demi, and Gideon Zhi -- combined forces with a couple of guys who were working on a separate translation -- sblur, Doctor Fedora, and Jeffman. Now that the teams have merged, they're making tons of progress. We've actually got a dev blog where you can keep up with progress and see some previews/screenshots.

We've had a few people question our motives for working so hard on the Siege while hosting an unauthorized fan translation, but our goal is to get the game into the hands of the fans as legally as possible. The "Do It Yourself Devotion" page has more information on why we've taken this stance, but I'd like to reiterate that the team has agreed to cancel the fan translation project as soon as we have confirmation that Nintendo is going to do something (anything!) with Mother 3.

We don't want to release an unauthorized translation -- it's not like anyone on the team is getting paid for their time. We're doing it for the fans because Nintendo won't. In keeping with our commitment to make this as legitimate as possible, we've actually looked at options for licensing/distributing the game, whether it's through an established company or whether it's something we do on our own. No news or progress to report there, but for the record, we're open to suggestions ... *glances in Atlus' direction*

Projects like these don't happen overnight. What's keeping the translation team busy right now, and could you give us a guess on when it will be completed?

As for when the project will be done, the team's goal is mid-November. The reason we're shooting for that time frame is because we've been told that Smash Bros. Brawl will potentially have some Mother 3 spoilers. We're hoping to get the patch released a few weeks before Brawl comes out so that people will have time to play the game before Brawl is like, "Hey, English-speaking losers -- guess what?!"

Having eavesdropped on the [translation] team's conversations, I can say with certainty that the biggest obstacle is the ROM hacking. I tried to think of a good reverse-engineering simile, but there's no simple way to explain it -- what they're doing is immensely complicated. They've actually enlisted the help of a hyper-talented hacker named byuu to help with the huge to-do list. Not to imply that sblur and Jeffman haven't been hard at work ; it's just that the workload is too huge for one or two people, especially given the time constraints.

Does Starmen.net follow Shigesato Itoi's (Mother's creator) other works?

Definitely; there is a huge amount of respect for Itoi in the EarthBound community; we're actually holding a "Thank Itoi" campaign as a part of the Siege. Once in a while, a forum topic pops up about a book or interview he was involved with, and Tomato has translated/summarized a lot of the stuff he's been involved with -- interviews, novels, TV shows, etc.

He's a famous and well-respected copywriter in Japan, and as such, he's been a celebrity guest on tons of TV shows, including Iron Chef. One time my wife and I were watching the show, and he complimented the chef by saying something like, "These green beans are very happy," which struck me as a hilariously EarthBound-ish comment.

As far as video games go, apparently he loves bass fishing and has made one (or maybe more?) fishing game. Honestly, I've never played them, since real-life fishing is boring enough. But when I get to be Itoi's age, I'll probably be like, "Whoa, this is an action-packed thrill ride!" so who knows.

Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions about the Earthbound Anthology and the Starmen.net community. Is there anything else you'd like Mother fans to know about?

The only thing that matters right now is ensuring that EarthBound gets downloaded when it's released. Every download is pretty much a vote for Mother 3. Put it in your signatures. Talk about it on your favorite forums. Tattoo your eyelids. Join us!

This article was originally published on Joystiq.