Last time we checked in on La-Mulana 2 the team over at NIGORO had just launched the games’ Kickstarter campaign, and it was unclear whether or not they were going to hit their aggressive $200,000 funding goal. Now, with about two weeks left in their campaign, NIGOGO is poised to have the funding they need to create a proper sequel to their classic side scroller. La-Mulana 2’s jack of all trades development director, Takumi Naramura, was kind enough to answer some of our questions regarding his news games’ development, its difficulty, as well as why such a successful studio is crowdfunding.
Cliqist : Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? Who are you, and what’s your role in La-Mulana 2?
Takumi Naramura : My name is Takumi Naramura, and as NIGORO’s leader, I handle non-programming work such as direction, graphics, music, level design, and PR. As always, I will be at the reins of La-Mulana 2’s development, as director.
Takumi Naramura : I am absolutely floored! This is our first time with Kickstarter, which has been a challenge in itself. We started the project with no idea how much support to expect, but only a few days after kicking off we had already reached more than half our target. Our entire team is as enthusiastic and excited as could be.
There are still two weeks left in the campaign. After the initial excitement, the amount of new backers and funding is trailing off day by day, but we are quite confident that the strong start has us well on track to success.
The message of support we received from Mr Keiji Inafune, as well as tweets and links from Mighty No. 9’s official website, were part of our strategy to gather attention and support.
We also plan to continue with regular updates throughout our entire campaign. Our goal is to provide a more satisfying experience for our existing backers, and attract as many new supporters as possible.
Cliqist : How does La-Mulana 2 differ from its predecessor?
Takumi Naramura : The original La-Mulana has been remade and ported several times. We hope that a new La-Mulana scenario will delight our existing fan base, and win over new fans.
We will carry on La-Mulana’s established style as an adventure game focused on puzzle-solving. Since La-Mulana 2 is a whole new game, we’d also like to add yet another level of original features. We absolutely want to retain the sense of playful adventure from the original.
However, with improved controls and new actions, we’re going to build in new ways to approach puzzle-solving. In 2011, we poured our hearts into La-Mulana as a remake of our work from our amateur days. With La-Mulana 2, we want to take the same concept into a completely new world.
Takumi Naramura : A few of our Japanese fans have requested to make it easier. Very few, mind you!
Asking fans overseas always leads to a resounding “Make it even harder!” … I’m not sure how to interpret this.
We feel that La-Mulana is inherently a difficult game, and that dedicated players who can overcome these challenges will be greatly rewarded – more than with your average game.
I think this level of challenge-reward is intoxicating, and perhaps addictive! That’s why La-Mulana is so highly replayed. It would be very difficult to make La-Mulana easier without disappointing these fans. Be that as it may, we can’t reject potential new players of La-Mulana. The introduction and tutorials of for the original game were quite harsh. This time, we hope to guide first-time players in distinctive La-Mulana style, albeit up a shallower slope. Once new players understand the joy of the inherent intense challenge, they will be able to delve deeper and deeper into the world of La-Mulana.
Cliqist : Why Kickstarter? Aren’t you all swimming in pools of money from La-Mulana?
Takumi Naramura : Indeed, we are quite happy with the number of copies La-Mulana sold. However, the majority of our sales were through bundles or other promotions. We are excited that so many people have enjoyed the title, but we didn’t make that much profit.e also spent a lot of time between WiiWare development and PC/Steam releases. Our modest income from each release has already been used up on business costs.
In retrospect, had we released for game consoles, PC, and Steam simultaneously, we would be in better shape. However, I don’t believe that was really possible for us at that time. There is also another major obstacle for Japanese indie developers trying to take a game worldwide. We have come to the conclusion that initial funding is critical for a new game to be successful. A successful Kickstart will accomplish this, and also help make our product more visible in western markets – our weak point up until now.
Takumi Naramura : Being our first time, we are listening to backer opinions and continuously working them into new ideas, which we send back to our backers. We must of course get funded, but we also want to make sure our backers enjoy being part of the project all the way until the game’s release. Since we chose to use Kickstarter, we also consider the time until the game’s release to be part of the La-Mulana 2 experience.
Cliqist : Your decision on doing an open alpha, letting people post videos and share alpha gameplay, is unique. Why the extreme openness?
Takumi Naramura : Consoles like the PS4 and Xbox One have built-in streaming and video uploading capability. I imagine that these capabilities will not be fully functional in the Japanese market. In Japan, the viability of uploading gameplay video is still questioned, with debate over a number of issues including copyrights, spoilers, and promotional effectiveness. It is quite possible that even when the next-gen consoles go on sale, the manufacturers will limit these functions in Japan.
When we first began business at NIGORO, we announced a policy of being completely open towards posting of videos or images. We feel that sharing your experience is an important part of playing and enjoying a game. While I doubt that our efforts will spark a sudden revolution within the Japanese video game industry, we are determined to move ahead on our own. On top of that, the original La-Mulana has been released in three parts. Each time, we’ve received valuable fan feedback.
We have also started planning for each remake by gathering comments from our fans. This is one of the reasons that La-Mulana is so polished and feels complete.
For La-Mulana 2, we’ll need to achieve an even greater level of polish and completeness in a short time. As the lead planner, this was my biggest fear. Then it occurred to me: why not gather feedback during development? To this end, we decided to allow game footage and images to be uploaded from the alpha version. I am sure some of our fans will be worried about pre-release spoilers ruining the puzzles, a key element of our gameplay; no need to worry. We’ll make sure the game is un-spoiled before we call it done. And our alpha players had better watch out for some devious new booby-traps, just for them!
Takumi Naramura : We came up with this idea during a meeting with staff at Playsim, who are helping us with our Kickstarter project. Western Kickstarter projects often show the staff slacking off and having fun, to emphasize how far ahead of schedule they are, so we came up with a few joke stretch goals of our own. However, I am a bit worried that our backers might not believe that I really will have eaten that much curry. We’ll need photographic evidence.
Cliqist : What would you say to someone that’s holding off on backing because the project is already on track to hitting its funding goal?
Takumi Naramura : To be honest, we have set the funding goal at $200,000 in fear of running out of funds before we complete the game – this budget will develop the game, and nothing else. At $200,000, we would not have enough resources to port La-Mulana 2 to consoles, advertise the completed game, or participate in overseas game conferences. That’s why we actually need more support. If La-Mulana 2 appeals to you, I ask for your kind support from the bottom of my heart.
Cliqist : Can you close us out with a La-Mulana 2 inspired haiku?
Takumi Naramura :
Having fun making it fun
Working or playing?
Thanks to Takumi Naramura for taking the time to answer our questions. Additional thanks to PlaySim Games for helping make the interview possible.