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DS Fanboy interviews Treehouse's Rich Amtower


Today, DS Fanboy has a nice little treat for all of our readers. We sit down and speak with Rich Amtower, who works in Nintendo's Treehouse division. Responsible for adapting Japanese titles to the English, French and Spanish markets, you can imagine he's got quite the difficult job to do.

That doesn't stop us from bugging him for an interview, though.

First of all, explain who you are and what your duties are with the company?

My name is Rich Amtower, and I work in the localization department. Our job is to take games made in Japan and make them feel like they were made in America, basically -- that means recording English voices if there are Japanese voices in a game, translating and rewriting Japanese text into English (and now French and Spanish), and doing whatever sorts of alterations need to be made so that when gamers pick up a title, they feel like they're playing something tailor-made for them.

How did you get your start in the industry and what should aspiring individuals looking to break in to the industry do to get their start?

I started the way a lot of people get their start: I worked in testing for a long time while I was working on my degrees. It's a good way to learn the ins and outs of game development.

What was the most difficult project you have undertaken in your career?

Animal Crossing, without a doubt. I've helped out on both the GameCube and DS versions of the game series, and I love the series a lot. It's a challenge, because there's so much dialogue, so many characters, and so many events to think about and write for. But that also makes it the most fun -- writing jokes, making the villagers behave like real people (real CRAZY people), those things represent the absolute best part of this job.

You recently worked on DK Jungle Climber, what were some of the unique challenges you ran into in localizing this title?

The game was still in development while we were localizing it. This meant that every few days, whole levels might be tweaked so that we'd have to rewrite hints, clues, and tutorials. Staying on top of the changes was critical, because you want to make sure you're giving good, clear, and fun information to the player at all times. It was great seeing how much work the development team put into the game, and their efforts really show through in the finished product.

How does DK Jungle Climber differ from DK King of Swing? Would you say the game is better suited for the DS or GBA?

DK: Jungle Climber feels much more thrilling. The two screens give you a much bigger perspective, a grander view of your surroundings, so that when you're playing, you can see so much more of what's coming up and what's going on around you. In a game where you're literally throwing yourself from one end of the screen to the other, you definitely need to be able to see as much as possible. The game design makes good use of the two screens, and there are all sorts of fun tweaks to the gameplay that the team threw in--things like the foggy haunted forest levels, where you can't see where you're going on the top screen without referring to the map on the Touch Screen, really change the way you play the game and put a fun twist on things.

Are you already working on your next title for Nintendo? If so, what game is it?

Oh, I've worked on a ton of titles since finishing DK: Jungle Climber, but I can't talk about many of them (sorry!). I did finish up Picross DS right around the time DK: Jungle Climber was wrapping up, though -- it's a great, Sudoku-style puzzle game, but it's not just all numbers and grids -- in Picross, you're using puzzle clues to draw a picture on-screen, so it uses a bit of creativity as well as a lot of logic and puzzle solving. I'm... I hate to admit it, but even after working on the game, I'm still addicted to it.

Thanks for your time, Rich!

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