Famicom World

Family Computer => Famicom / Disk System => Topic started by: dragon1952 on June 11, 2014, 02:50:01 PM



Title: Sunsoft Famicom and NES
Post by: dragon1952 on June 11, 2014, 02:50:01 PM
My name is David Siller and I was for four years VP of Product Development for Sun Denshi in the US also known as SUNSOFT.

I will try to answer any questions as well as tell accounts of what Sunsoft was doing back in the Famicom/NES era. I will tell as accurate an account as I can, keeping in mind that I am still under "non-disclosure" and still in communication with them. I will must also say that of all the video game companies that I worked for, Sunsoft was the best. I enjoyed my time there and was sad to see a new President channel away their resources into a golf course that never happened! There may be some interviews on the Internet with other people that do not necessarily tell a true account of what was going on there at that time.  :redcart:


Title: Re: Sunsoft Famicom and NES
Post by: fcgamer on June 11, 2014, 02:54:07 PM
Hello!  Welcome to Famicom World, glad to see you here :)  Do you know why some of the Sunsoft games, such as Ufouria and Gimmick, never made it to the USA?  From my understanding, some American NES prototypes for these games had been found, suggesting that they were possibly going to get released in the USA.


Title: Re: Sunsoft Famicom and NES
Post by: UglyJoe on June 11, 2014, 03:10:18 PM
Thanks for doing this thread!

What years were you at Sunsoft? I'm gonna guess around '90 to '94 :D


Title: Re: Sunsoft Famicom and NES
Post by: dragon1952 on June 11, 2014, 04:05:45 PM
Yes, 90 to late 94 is correct.

The reason that Gimmick and Ufouria, among others were not released is a problem that is as old as the Game Industry.

I believed in both of these games, especially Gimmick, but management often does NOT listen to those who know what the true market wants. Rather, management listen to their "sales" staff who in turn are influenced by the "reps" who talk directly to the store "buyers". The store buyers are often people who know very little (or nothing) about the product and they study the sales reports that tell them what is selling (last week) and they then arrogantly tell the reps what they want, which is often the "new" stuff. They seem to forget that an installed base of millions is better to support when new hardware comes out, but they still want the early hardware adopters dollars, believing that to be a safe bet. Later, or late in the Christmas selling season they suddenly want the "old" stuff because that what the shoppers are buying and they don't have enough stock! They forget that as of that point, there are zero consoles of the new one yet in the hands of consumers and leave for dead the millions that are supporting the older console yet. It is a vicious cycle that is repeated every time a new hardware comes to the market. The blind leading the blind. The end result is that newer projects on the old console are cancelled and they now want shovelware to sell to the unsuspecting consumers. Usually the new console software is not that effectively made.

The irony is that by that point, we developers have found new and more clever ways of extracting great software from the older console but those games will never be made...! In the case of NES/famicom, developers have invented newer chips to add to the original specifications and therefore produce better games (that will never be seen or played).


Title: Re: Sunsoft Famicom and NES
Post by: L___E___T on June 11, 2014, 04:09:42 PM
So much of this rings true from certain things I've seen in my experience.  Sadly, this can happen to any industry.  Unfortunately 'marketing' usually gets the blame :)

Having spoken to you before I know you were involved in all of the development scene back then, I'd love to hear what plans there were for the follow-up games on NES and Famicom with the new kinds of chips you guys were looking at.

Obviously if anything is confidential then nobody will try and pressure for details, so it's cool to call out what can't be discussed.  Really good of you to take the time to share some of these memories we all chase..


Title: Re: Sunsoft Famicom and NES
Post by: dragon1952 on June 11, 2014, 04:54:26 PM
We were in the planning stages of several famicom games that would exclusively feature the Sun 7 video chip for enhanced graphic presentation and Sun 5 chip for better orchestrated sound. These chips were used in the "Battle Formula" and "Dynamite Batman" games. Gremlins used an earlier enhancement chip set, but I did not like that game so much as I thought that with additional dev time it could have been much better. The problem is always that management is LATE is green-lighting a project and then wants it tomorrow!

No one can or will support the following accounts but it was what was discussed between myself and Japan R&D in Nagoya.

SUNMAN
We sometimes used other studios, such as the one headed by the late Kenji Eno, whose studio in Tokyo developed "Sunman". I was involved with that project which was intended to be a "Superman game, but Eno and I could not agree on direction and he didn't understand the culture of "Superman". Unfortunately, this contract allowed him to have the final say and that is why it got changed into "Sunman". Warner Bros. loved us but would not accept this version so the rest is history now. Kenji was a talented gent and he had his own vision whether it was correct for us at Sunsoft or not.

RETURN OF THE JOKER / DYNAMITE BATMAN
We were able to convince WB to allow Batman to have a weapon in "Dynamite Batman", also known as "Return of the Joker". Batman was at that time entering a creative phase where he would be older and known as the Dark Knight. It was imagined that Batman would then resort to the use of weapons as criminal elements were getting armed more heavily themselves. It was always a fight when dealing with "licenses", something that frustrated both Japan R&D and myself, but that was the direction that we were heading due to the zealous nature of Sunsoft of America's marketing director.\

More later...


Title: Re: Sunsoft Famicom and NES
Post by: fredJ on June 11, 2014, 05:52:11 PM
I read that Blaster Master was a surprise hit in the US.
It didn't sell in Japan at all, even if the developers thought it was a great game.
Do you have an idea why it became so popular in the US? Better marketing?

Also, I have the impression that SunSoft's best selling games were their earliest games, at least in Japan. I think their first game Ikki was the one that sold the most, but it also is arguably the worst game. Thoughts?
And was there any particular reason why many SunSoft games were released in such small numbers? (in Japan at least) Such as Wing of Madoola, Hebereke, Gimmick, Dynamite Batman, Gremlins 2, Ripple Island, Maharajah and some others.

Games like Gimmick and Hebereke weren't popular back then. In Scandinavia (where I live) you could buy it for 10$ after a while. It wasn't a cult hit until later.
Bad marketing? Not enough kid-oriented? Too advanced?

Also, I am curious about why the quality of games declined....  Or am I wrong? Did SunSoft try every genre without knowing how to? Such as the fighting game Waku Waku 7, some pointless Hebereke puzzle game, a few generic RPGs, some Pachinko games...  Thoughts?

Thank you.


Title: Re: Sunsoft Famicom and NES
Post by: UglyJoe on June 11, 2014, 05:57:32 PM
Did SunSoft try every genre without knowing how to? Such as the fighting game Waku Waku 7

I hope you're not implying that Waku Waku 7 is a bad game :'(


Title: Re: Sunsoft Famicom and NES
Post by: dragon1952 on June 11, 2014, 06:31:22 PM
Wow, that's a lot to chew on...!

"Blaster Master" was a HIT in the US more so than in Japan because at that time US players wanted a newer or better action game experience. Japanese players were still into the "me too" syndrome or games that were similar to popular games but a little different. Also RPG's started to dominate in Japan as early action games were too tough for the mass appeal audience. Regarding "Blaster Master" it wasn't the marketing in the US that succeed, as that only helps make customers aware of what is out there. The proof was in playing a game with some depth and unique features that other games didn't have.

In Japan, the earlier Sunsoft games were popular because the themes were more to the liking of that culture, farmers - fantasy heroes, etc... They were simpler to play and understand for children playing in a dark bedroom while kneeing in front of their small TV's. Most companies outside of Namco and Konami would always "short" the market to insure sell through. Japan companies do not like to have any left stock, not even one!

It is always that games are not treasured when they come out, only years later when they are better understood. Then, because there is only a short stock they become rare and more valuable. The Industry retail market in Japan was also a tough sell and they didn't automatically accept or distribute every new game product. That was due to so many games being released and they could not afford big stocks of all of them until they were somewhat proven. Even then, it was time to move on to the next one and although some games were popular and out of stock, it would take months before more were available. This was due to the large lead times of mask ROM's.

Sunsoft of America US management did not even support "Hebereke/Ufouria" or "Gimmick" although I believed that both could find an audience. The characters were deemed too strange or quirky compared to the Disney/Warner Bros. world of cartoons. I believed that they would fly because consumers really don't know what they want until you present it to them. That is the mother of invention!

Lastly, in later eras staff would depart for more money somewhere else and more rookie development teams would take over. That is why quality could not be maintained as the Industry evolved.


Title: Re: Sunsoft Famicom and NES
Post by: UglyJoe on June 11, 2014, 07:56:20 PM
It seems Ninendo of America had a policy of not allowing third-party mapper chips (like the Sunsoft 5B) and instead insisted on using their own MMC chips.  I'm curious how much of a headache this was to deal with.  Gremlins 2, for example, uses the Sunsoft 5B in the Famicom version and the MMC3 in the NES version.


Title: Re: Sunsoft Famicom and NES
Post by: dragon1952 on June 11, 2014, 09:44:14 PM
That's a very good question.

It was a major pain and required a lot more time to reprogram various aspects of the game further delaying the schedule. It certainly affected what we were hoping to do with the game and is a reason that it was not as good as it could have been. The MMC3 could digitally split up the screen easily for separate displays and was a good chip. but NOA was a bitch to work with since they NEVER compromised. If you didn't do what they said, you didn't release that game. Later they restricted companies to only five game releases per year. They were very arrogant and had a monopoly that was contested in the courts. This was another factor that killed the NES, which they wanted to do anyway.


BTW, fcgamer, we did indeed make prototypes of those games but only a small few.


Title: Re: Sunsoft Famicom and NES
Post by: 80sFREAK on June 11, 2014, 10:30:11 PM
Hi, David. Do you have any tech info about FME-7. Thanks.


Title: Re: Sunsoft Famicom and NES
Post by: dragon1952 on June 11, 2014, 11:44:33 PM
Unfortunately no.

Japan would not let me have those specs and I did request all of them for the entire group of famicom chips. Sun Denshi had a hardware division and that kind of information was certainly proprietary. I wanted to then and still do want to make brand new high quality famicom games, but that is probably not a realistic goal.


Title: Re: Sunsoft Famicom and NES
Post by: Dire 51 on June 12, 2014, 03:38:05 PM
Hi David, good to see you here! There's definitely a lot of interesting stuff you've posted in this thread so far.


Title: Re: Sunsoft Famicom and NES
Post by: Voultar on June 12, 2014, 07:57:47 PM
Hi David,

This might be before your time, but what (if anything) can you tell us about the development cycle of Batman: Return of the Joker? Who was the person directly responsible for producing such an unusually horrible title in the Sunsoft library?

It absolutely pales in comparison to it's predecessor. Sunsoft was always underrated, especially in the music department.

Thanks!


Title: Re: Sunsoft Famicom and NES
Post by: dragon1952 on June 12, 2014, 09:26:27 PM
You are correct, it was before my time and after J. Moon's tenure as well when there was no PD Director in the US.

That game, "Dynamite Batman" started off as a "tech demo" for the new Sun FME-7 chip, which enabled larger characters made from more and better sprite manipulation. An upgrade so to speak from the then standard "Castlevania" type/sized character which was most common in that era for serious action games. Apparently the dev-team in Nagoya, Konan City more specifically, built a demo with a larger character with some action techniques and some horizontal flying capabilities. The US marketing people of course wanted to tie-in a license and since Sunsoft was already in the Warner Bros. fold, it got finished off as a Neo-Batman games with Dark Knight tendencies.

Yes, Sunsoft had some extremely good composers since that was also a mainstay of the hardware division. They certainly rivaled Capcom and Konami's sound composers at that time.

there was a new third generation stable of famicom/NES games that would have been killer if they would have seen the light of day. Unfortunately, the Genesis and later the SNES killed that development. It always seems that once developers get a good handle on producing greater software, the hardware changes and it's an all new ball game.


Title: Re: Sunsoft Famicom and NES
Post by: Voultar on June 13, 2014, 12:45:36 AM
That's very interesting, thank you for that tidbit of "in-house" knowledge. I found it remarkable that Sunsoft fell short on Batman: Return of the Joker. Both the NES and Sega Genesis / Mega-Drive port were just disappointing.

And yes, Sunsoft really pulled some beautiful tunes out of the NES. I believe Aero the Acrobat was the last redeeming game that company made. It was such a shame to see it fall south, it was quite a contender during the branding wars of the late 80's / early 90's.



Title: Re: Sunsoft Famicom and NES
Post by: fredJ on June 13, 2014, 08:57:49 AM
Thank you for your answer.

I am curious, what do gaming companies do with games that don't sell? Do they take them back and put in a storage somewhere...?  :)


Title: Re: Sunsoft Famicom and NES
Post by: FamilyMan on June 13, 2014, 03:58:35 PM
Hello, I would love to hear stories about your time with SunSoft. Any weird/fun things happen in development? Also, what was your first impression on Mr. Gimmick/Gimmick! ?
Lastly, what game had the most lasting impression on you?


Title: Re: Sunsoft Famicom and NES
Post by: NintendoKing on June 13, 2014, 04:38:57 PM
I read that Blaster Master was a surprise hit in the US.
It didn't sell in Japan at all, even if the developers thought it was a great game.
Do you have an idea why it became so popular in the US? Better marketing?

Also, I have the impression that SunSoft's best selling games were their earliest games, at least in Japan. I think their first game Ikki was the one that sold the most, but it also is arguably the worst game. Thoughts?
And was there any particular reason why many SunSoft games were released in such small numbers? (in Japan at least) Such as Wing of Madoola, Hebereke, Gimmick, Dynamite Batman, Gremlins 2, Ripple Island, Maharajah and some others.

Games like Gimmick and Hebereke weren't popular back then. In Scandinavia (where I live) you could buy it for 10$ after a while. It wasn't a cult hit until later.
Bad marketing? Not enough kid-oriented? Too advanced?

Also, I am curious about why the quality of games declined....  Or am I wrong? Did SunSoft try every genre without knowing how to? Such as the fighting game Waku Waku 7, some pointless Hebereke puzzle game, a few generic RPGs, some Pachinko games...  Thoughts?

Thank you.

I am a fan of Ikki. I don't know why it's "arguably the worst game", what's so bad about it?


Title: Re: Sunsoft Famicom and NES
Post by: dragon1952 on June 13, 2014, 05:41:33 PM
I did not state that.

"Ikki" or "Farmer's Rebellion" reminded me somewhat of Namco's "Rally X" utilizing a radar map to locate and track enemies. I remember that it was a game about revolting against an evil overlord and fighting ninjas. Kind of like Kurosawa's Seven Samurai film.

I did not get to play it extensively enough and it was also an earlier arcade game, but will probably revisit it again soon.


Title: Re: Sunsoft Famicom and NES
Post by: P on June 14, 2014, 10:15:52 AM
Most stories of how it is to develop for the Famicom or NES I heard is from all-western developers like Software Creations that made Solstice. They often say that they got badly translated development manuals that was still mostly in Japanese and they had to figure out the rest themselves of how to develop for the NES. Rare apparently successfully reverse-engineered the NES and was able to develop technically advanced games for it.

How was developing for you? Did you get more complete development manuals or tools from Sunsoft in Japan?


Title: Re: Sunsoft Famicom and NES
Post by: dragon1952 on June 14, 2014, 04:50:29 PM
fred J:
Most Japanese companies control production very carefully so that they do not have to play the "price protection" game that is or was prevalent during the Nintendo NES era. Even Nintendo Japan taught NOA this control game of essentially "shorting the market". Rarely did Japanese publishers have left-over stock, but when they did they would discount it to stores like Yodobashi Camera or hold on to it until it eventually sold through. Because the famicom and SFC era were cartridges with masked ROMs, they played a very careful game of inventory control. Masked ROMs required three months waiting time after an order was placed, therefore it was a risky business if your game did not find favor.

P:
Nintendo initially wanted NO third parties, so they didn't make it easy for any of them even in Japan. As Western publishers sprung to life, documentation of the development was in Japanese. Even if you read the source code carefully, it was noted in Japanese, so the best developers were forced to reverse-engineer that code in order to make software.

In Japan, Nintendo. or NCL, lost out on the ability to limited publishers from making their own cartridges, so for the US market and essentially everywhere else, they invented the "security" chip that would prevent external cartridge production. Eventually, Tengen would break that mold with their own domestic cartridge product and forever alienated Nintendo. NOA argued in court that Tengen used proprietary knowledge from being a legitimate third party.

Lastly, I did not have NES/famicom development started in the US, as we worked with Sunsoft Japan on development. That was also because Sunsoft was now using a line of enhancement chips known as FME 5a, 5b and 7. They did not want to orientate us in the US regarding their tools. It was agreed that we would design and plan and then let Japan develop. The third generation of NES/famicom were going to be killers! I kid you not!


Post Merge: June 14, 2014, 05:25:11 PM
Voultar,

"Aero the Acrobat" was originally created to be a NES/famicom game! We in the US product development studio office were helping to plan a whole new third generation of product for that console. Although many believe that "Aero" was a Sonic clone, nothing could be further from the truth. Aero game-play was totally different!

When I created the concept for Aero, my thought is that he was similar to Mickey Mouse in his character body structure. I wanted to take the trampoline technique found in "Mappy" and create a whole new type of action game where a cartoon bat could jump and bounce himself into the air and eventually have limited flight. He would find platforms to assist this type of technique. It was possible to accomplish those original goals on the 8bit Nintendo, but by that time Sega had just released the Genesis and Nintendo would eventually follow that lead or suffer Sega's aggressive marketing of superior power and performance. The President of Sunsoft of America had been shown my designs for Aero by the Marketing Director Rita Zimmerer. She loved this concept that I had been working on long before joining Sunsoft. President Robbins, who was a great gentlemen and believer in my contributions then sent the GDD to the Chairmen of Sega, Mr, Nakayama. He thought that Sega would want it as a sequel to the then new hit "Sonic the Hedgehog". Nakayama also liked it, but suggested that Sunsoft develop and market it as a companion product to Sonic so that Sega could deliver a one - two punch to the game war! President Robbins then approved the licensing of Aero from me in addition to my employment as Director of Product Development. I then hired Punk Development to work with me on this game. They soon after changed their name to Iguana Entertainment and did a great job on these games. Nigel Cook at Iguana became the designer that managed the transformation from high concept to detailed plan and eventual fruition. In fact the entire Iguana team contributed design aspects to the finished product.

Aero never did make it to a Nintendo platform until I redeveloped it years later with Atomic Planet for the Gameboy Advance system.

Too bad Nintendo did not desire to have Aero join them in the console wars, as subsequent designs were killer. Universal did want Aero and bought the game from me when I went there, but soon thereafter, Universal was sold by Matsushita Electric the Seagrams and everything changed there. When I finally left Universal I bought the property back. When I joined Capcom, Bill Gardner was was President of Capcom Entertainment  and he wanted this property, but Japan said "No!". My agreement with Capcom was that I could develop independently any existing property if they passed on it. That is why Metro 3D then licensed that game from me while I was Director of R&D for Capcom Digital Studio.


Title: Re: Sunsoft Famicom and NES
Post by: macbee on June 15, 2014, 01:46:48 AM
there was a new third generation stable of famicom/NES games that would have been killer if they would have seen the light of day.

I always suspected that 8-bit NES could have games even more impressive than Batman 2 (but didn't due to the release of SNES).
And it's sad to confirm it from a reliable source.

I really would like to see what sort of crazy new chips would be created to improve the (already) old NES in the mid-1990s.
Thank you very much for posting all this information here dragon1952! :)


Title: Re: Sunsoft Famicom and NES
Post by: nerdynebraskan on June 15, 2014, 02:29:06 AM
How expensive were some of these newer chips like the FME-7? I've seen things that suggested the MMC5 (Nintendo's most powerful chip for the NES) was unpopular with game developers because they were too expensive. I would love to have more high-end games like Kirby's Adventure and Little Samson for my beloved NES, but doesn't there come a point where it becomes more cost-effective to migrate to the newer console and not have to pack so many enhancement chips into every cart?


Title: Re: Sunsoft Famicom and NES
Post by: dragon1952 on June 15, 2014, 03:30:57 AM
Yes, the Nintendo MMC3 and eventually the MMC5 their most advanced chip, were a bit more expensive than the Sunsoft-FME series, but that's how NOA made more money. They totally exploited the third parties. The clever ones, like Sunsoft and Konami could accelerate development and have greater enhancement in their newer games using their own R&D efforts, but that did not add to Nintendo's bottom line. It was all about $$$ MONEY $$$ to Nintendo and if they could control everything they did!

It's too bad that hardware always became a marketed factor, since it's easier to sell the idea of technology supremacy over pure and clever creativity!

I am tempted to further convince you and everyone by revealing just one of those projected third-generation NES/famicom game titles and conceptual planning, but I should not due to contractual obligations.


Title: Re: Sunsoft Famicom and NES
Post by: macbee on June 15, 2014, 04:40:18 AM
I am tempted to further convince you and everyone by revealing just one of those projected third-generation NES/famicom game titles and conceptual planning, but I should not due to contractual obligations.
I perfectly understand. But if you ever get authorization from SunSoft (to reveal these cancelled games) *PLEASE* post it here.  :'(

The evolution of Famicom's games/graphics is (IMHO) one of the most interesting subjects on video game history.
I'm sure that some overpowered 8-bit games would still call the attention of the press from all over the world.

And I personally would love to see how "16-bitish" these games look.



Title: Re: Sunsoft Famicom and NES
Post by: P on June 16, 2014, 10:09:32 AM
Thank you for your answers! It's nice to hear these things from a first hand source for once. :)
It's interesting that Sunsoft had that kind of structure where you planned and they developed in Japan.

Many late games on consoles like Gimmick! or Just Breed are often incredible and I suspect they would have sold in big numbers if they had been released earlier. But people like new things and it would be bad for business if Nintendo did not push the new consoles when SEGA and Hudson/NEC is doing the same. It's really unfortunate.


Title: Re: Sunsoft Famicom and NES
Post by: dragon1952 on June 17, 2014, 03:56:47 PM
I agree, but Nintendo could have introduced the Super Famicom and continued to promote the original Famicom as an entry-level console never giving up on it as there was quite an installed base of customers.


Title: Re: Sunsoft Famicom and NES
Post by: macbee on June 17, 2014, 11:06:16 PM
I agree, but Nintendo could have introduced the Super Famicom and continued to promote the original Famicom as an entry-level console never giving up on it as there was quite an installed base of customers.

I agree. Here in Brazil Sega always gave equal attention to their 8-bit and 16-bit consoles (both Master System and Mega Drive coexisted in perfect harmony in my country).
There was no need to "kill" the Famicom like Nintendo did.


Title: Re: Sunsoft Famicom and NES
Post by: L___E___T on July 06, 2014, 09:44:43 AM
That game, "Dynamite Batman" started off as a "tech demo" for the new Sun FME-7 chip, which enabled larger characters made from more and better sprite manipulation. An upgrade so to speak from the then standard "Castlevania" type/sized character which was most common in that era for serious action games.

Hi David,

I was looking at the sprites for Batman in comparison to Castlevania and the difference is huge, are you able to elaborate at all?

I knew the Batman sprite was bigger, but I just did a count - it's 46 pixels tall!  Compare that to Castlevania 3's Belmont sprite, 30 px tall....

Add to that the colouring on Batman's sprite and it appears it was also overlaid with another sprite to achieve the flesh coloured details (like Megaman).

Now I know that the basic machine specs allow for 8x8 sprite tiles, so in the case of a 3-colour + alpha sprite like Belmonts, that would be 4 sprite tiles for a basic walk cycle, unless they used the 16x16 sprites which I suppose they coild have.

TL;DR -   How on earth did the FME-7 chip achieve those kinds of sprites?  What do you think the next step of tech would have been?  I read that WayForward imagined this to be parralax features and multiple layers but that's wholly theoretical and the machine isn't natively capable of that it's all trickery, so I remain unonvinced it would have been parralax. 

The Hellraiser game was experimenting with multiple colours but that was dropped as it needed so many overlaid sprites. 
Do you think it could have simply just been more sprites allowance and graphic memory had the SMD and SNES come along much later?

 


Title: Re: Sunsoft Famicom and NES
Post by: Gentlegamer on July 08, 2014, 01:38:56 AM
Hi David!

Do you know any details about Sunsoft losing the license for The Terminator game that became RAF World/Journey to Silius? It was previewed in Nintendo Power as The Terminator, and obviously was changed before release.

(http://www.videogameden.com/fc/extra/raf04.jpg)

Also, do you know why the main character sprite was altered for the US release?

(http://www.videogameden.com/fc/extra/raf03.gif)


Title: Re: Sunsoft Famicom and NES
Post by: Dire 51 on July 09, 2014, 02:22:18 AM
Just thought I'd stop in here for a moment and issue a shameless plug: there's an interview with David in my upcoming book Memoirs of a Virtual Caveman (http://www.memoirsofavirtualcaveman.net). It's an excellent read, covering everything from his time at Tecmo, to EGM, then to Sunsoft, Capcom and more.

However, there have been a lot of questions asked here that I didn't cover, so I'm hoping to see him stop back in and share some more behind the scenes info with us.


Title: Re: Sunsoft Famicom and NES
Post by: Gentlegamer on July 09, 2014, 02:50:01 AM
Re: Aero

Aero the Acro-Bat 1 and 2 were released for SNES... did this slip your mind?


Title: Re: Sunsoft Famicom and NES
Post by: L___E___T on July 09, 2014, 08:48:17 AM
Holy smokes that Terminator question is a stonker - surprised nobody asked until now.

I had heard that the sprite was changed for a younger audience and to add better readability of the features etc.


Title: Re: Sunsoft Famicom and NES
Post by: Dire 51 on July 09, 2014, 04:49:24 PM
Holy smokes that Terminator question is a stonker - surprised nobody asked until now.
No one seems to know. David apparently had little involvement in it. As he put it in the interview, "Batman and Journey To Silius were also not my work directly. Those fell under the previous Product Development Director, Jay Moon. He did not contribute to the design, only the localization. I was Mr. Moon's consultant before taking over that position. We both laughed at how Japan R&D changed the character to look like Lucy Ball for the U.S. version."

I also interviewed Jay Moon and asked him what happened, but even he has no idea.

Quote
I had heard that the sprite was changed for a younger audience and to add better readability of the features etc.
It's certainly possible. Here's what Jay had to say about it: "Mr. Yoshida at Sunsoft Japan knew I didn't care much for the game, and changed the character to a guy that looked like Lucille Ball with a blonde perm named Jay McCray, for Journey To Silius. Japan came up with the U.S. name and story line, I thought it was all crap. I think they thought it was funny to give me that awful looking character, however at the end of the day no one was laughing their way to the bank."


Title: Re: Sunsoft Famicom and NES
Post by: L___E___T on July 09, 2014, 05:43:58 PM
Wow, it really does look like Lucy Ball - I find that frankness refreshing as well, it hints at the stress of international business relationships.


Title: Re: Sunsoft Famicom and NES
Post by: Bob-Bob on July 09, 2014, 05:51:11 PM
Part of the reason I want r/\f world rather than Journey to Silius is because I like the design of the main character more. The helmet and suit is really cool.  8)


Title: Re: Sunsoft Famicom and NES
Post by: Jedi QuestMaster on July 10, 2014, 06:34:02 AM
David, I'm planning on developing a Sunsoft homage game sometime in the near future.

Do you have any recommendations on how I could possibly get Sunsoft's blessing to use the DPCM bass (designed by Naohisa Morota?) used in Journey to Silius, Batman Dynamite, Super Spy Hunter, and others?

I'd hire someone to create original slap bass samples, but... it wouldn't be the same. :'(


Title: Re: Sunsoft Famicom and NES
Post by: Protoman on July 11, 2014, 05:09:08 PM
I just want to say thank you to you and the whole of Sunsoft, you were great back in the day, Gremlins 2 and Batman are two of the best ever movie-licensed games and Journey to Silius could have been. Blaster Master, Uforia and Gimmick were awesome as well. And the music... Top 5 composers, no question.

Interesting to see people just react with "oh, hello" to a NES-age developer and from a company like Sunsoft too... maybe this kind of visit it common and I've not been browsing this forum enough.


Anyway David and Sunsoft, thank you for the entertainment given!


Title: Re: Sunsoft Famicom and NES
Post by: dragon1952 on July 15, 2014, 09:35:26 PM
Gentlegamer,

My mind was only on famicom when I posted that comment, and obviously I mis-stated as of course Aero 1 & 2 and also Zero were on the SNES, but the original development was on the Genesis. President Joe Robbins was anxious to show Mr. Nakayama of Sega what it was going to play and look like. Iguana also ran the development and they had already been developing on the Genesis machine so it was natural to start there.

Although some art files were used and sound files as well, all of the coding on the GBA were new, done by the former Iguana guys in the UK then called Atomic Planet.

Post Merge: July 15, 2014, 09:46:32 PM
L_E_T:

You asked some great technical questions and I will ponder some decent answers, but it will take sometime. Essentially, the FME chips enabled a great color palette choice and didn't require complex solutions to add more colors. Better sound was also achieved by adding a music synthesizer that played through the fewer channels allocated by the famicom's original audio channel architecture.

If unabated, the next generation of NES/famicom games would have featured more animated backgrounds of more contrasting color choices. The greater main character sprite size and manipulation was a feature of the the improved math processing power the additional chips utilized.

Protoman:

Thank you.

More as I can recall....


Title: Re: Sunsoft Famicom and NES
Post by: Doommaster1994 on July 17, 2014, 08:45:12 AM
Hi, David.
First of all, I want to thank you for all of the stuff you've been telling us. It's great to know the development behind those games.

I wanted to ask, if by any chance you know the real name of Chou Musow? I am in touch with a couple JP Sunsoft staff, but it's hard to get a reply out of them. I know Hiroaki Higashiya went by the name Don Gavacho. Thanks!

On another note, you wouldn't happen to know who composed the NES Xenophobe, would you?


Title: Re: Sunsoft Famicom and NES
Post by: dragon1952 on July 17, 2014, 01:39:15 PM
Doommaster1994:

Most often when the credits roll on a Japanese developed game, all of the names are "pseudo" or nick names, because the head office does not want other studios to steal their staff with better offers, so they can't use their real names. That is also why some programmers will put in secretive Easter eggs that reveal their real names. Not always the case though. I do NOT know who that is without having been in the actual studio in Japan when those games were finished.

Higashiya is a great technologist for Sun Denshi a.k.a. Sunsoft.

Xenophobe was before my time at Sunsoft by a year probably. Even though I probably met and worked with that person, they are not allowed to discuss their previous works as management is only concerned with the NEXT one!

I have started writing a book on my illustrious career that will detail many things yet unsaid and unknown! It is going to be a barn burner! More detail later...


Title: Re: Sunsoft Famicom and NES
Post by: Doommaster1994 on July 17, 2014, 10:33:48 PM
Thanks for the reply!

I totally understand about using fake names. Or sometimes, they didn't put credits in the game at all. I understand some of their games didn't have credits either because there wasn't enough cartridge space, it was too early in the NES lifecycle (I think that's the reason for Xenophobe), or the people in charge decided against it. Another former Sunsoft composer told me that Naoki Kodaka did Fester's Quest with Naohisa Morota doing the sound, which was pretty interesting. I am wondering if NES Freedom Force was partially developed by Sculptured Software? That game does use real names, but I saw some staff members who I've seen credited in Sculptured games. Or maybe they were just working at Sunsoft at the time the game was made.

Higashiya informed me that he programmed the NES Spy Hunter and Naoki did the music conversion. That's pretty cool!

I don't know if Higashiya's under an NDA or not, but if he is, it would probably be wise of me to stop asking him questions, as I don't want him getting in trouble.


Title: Re: Sunsoft Famicom and NES
Post by: Bob-Bob on July 17, 2014, 10:38:23 PM
What I wanna know is why Fester's Quest even exists. Why a game based on the Blaster Master top-view engine? Why an Addams Family game? Why have aliens that don't even match Fester on a stylistic level? The whole thing just baffles me.  :P


Title: Re: Sunsoft Famicom and NES
Post by: Doommaster1994 on July 18, 2014, 01:19:24 AM
I'm pretty sure it uses Blaster Master's engine because it's easier to re-use a game engine rather than completely make a new one from scratch. As for why it exists, I have no idea. I'm also wondering why it never got a release in Japan as well as Spy Hunter/Xenophobe? Sunsoft was pretty good at releasing their games in Japan. I'm thinking it was because they didn't think they would have sold well enough.


Title: Re: Sunsoft Famicom and NES
Post by: dragon1952 on July 18, 2014, 02:46:34 PM
Sunsoft as well as other companies do not release games that they believe have no market in Japan. Art is an issue since the Japanese judge everything by their eye. Artwork style and licenses that are not favorable to the Japanese eye are not sold there. Even Warner Bros. style is not so favorable, but Disney is. Anime or Manga style is generally accepted in the Western world, so it is easier to sell games that have global appeal.

"Fester's Quest" and other titles were due to Sunsoft of America Directors that loved to wine and dine Hollywood for expensive often stupid license material!

Yes, it is common for an engine to be utilized over and over. Sunsoft is no different from Konami or others in that respect.

"Super Spy Hunter" or "Battle Formula" was a great title that utilized interesting technology in the form of the FME-7 chip.


Title: Re: Sunsoft Famicom and NES
Post by: L___E___T on July 18, 2014, 03:20:43 PM
Gotta love that FME-& chip ;)

I can easily see what you mean with some of these point, reading between the lines.  So David what do you think would have been the next step for chip expansion on the Famicom? 

The FME-7 allows for mroe sprites and more processing, what would have come after do you think?  Even more processing, or more sound channels or more colours even??  Very interested in your thoughts on that one!


Title: Re: Sunsoft Famicom and NES
Post by: Bob-Bob on July 18, 2014, 05:26:32 PM
Sunsoft as well as other companies do not release games that they believe have no market in Japan. Art is an issue since the Japanese judge everything by their eye. Artwork style and licenses that are not favorable to the Japanese eye are not sold there. Even Warner Bros. style is not so favorable, but Disney is. Anime or Manga style is generally accepted in the Western world, so it is earlier to sell games that have global appeal.

So how did games like Happy Birthday Bugs, Tiny Toon Adventures and Roger Rabbit (Crazy Castle) get released there? And what about games based on movies like Rambo, RoboCop and Predator? I thought those movies were big in Japan.

Quote
"Fester's Quest" and other titles were due to Sunsoft of America Directors that loved to wine and dine Hollywood for expensive often stupid licence material!

So basically Sunsoft of America bought the Addams Family license for no apparent reason and decide to make Sunsoft of Japan make a game out of it? That's it?  :P


Title: Re: Sunsoft Famicom and NES
Post by: Doommaster1994 on July 18, 2014, 05:45:37 PM
Kemco owned Disney licenses in Japan and Warner Bros. licenses in the USA, so they developed Disney games in Japan and released them based on Looney Toons (mainly Bugs Bunny) characters in the USA. I think Disney is a big thing in Japan (hence the Kingdom Hearts games) so that's how they got released in Japan, and as I mentioned, Kemco probably thought the games sold well. Whether they did or not in Japan I'm not too sure.

As for Tiny Toons, that have been a thing in Japan, too. Not too sure about games like that being in Japan.


Title: Re: Sunsoft Famicom and NES
Post by: macbee on July 19, 2014, 01:36:13 PM
Mr. Siller,
Do you know why all Sunsoft games based on 'Batman the Movie' (Famicom, Game Boy, PC-Engine and Mega Drive) had 100% original soundtracks?
Not even the famous movie theme (composed by Danny Elfman) was present in any of these games. Was there a special reason for this?

Thanks! :)


Title: Re: Sunsoft Famicom and NES
Post by: dragon1952 on July 19, 2014, 02:44:07 PM
L_E_T:
The point is not what technology can do, but rather what can creativity accomplish. The reason that Konami and Sunsoft pursued enhanced chips was because the famicom needed the help. Of course more color palettes and better sound were the natural extensions as well as greater sprite manipulation. It was not possible to add channels to the famicom, but having a better "Yamaha" style synthesizer was. It was inevitable that newer hardware would eventually come and take over the marketplace. It would not have evolved much further than that, but we can only speculate.

Bob-Bob:
Every company decides what to do and where to sell their "licensed" stuff and some would sell anywhere they could so they could recoup the development costs to cover the license fees. Not all were successful even when offered in Japan.

I can't say why Sunsoft bought the "Addams Family" license as that happened at least two years before my time there, but a Director at Sunsoft, Rita Zimmerer, was hell bent to license everything she could and spent the money to do it. That is why she was fired when they could no longer tolerate that agenda.

Macbee:
I simply don't know as I was not there at that time. I would suppose that the original Batman theme would require an additional license that would make the costs unacceptable unless it was a HOT seller beyond what was possible.


Title: Re: Sunsoft Famicom and NES
Post by: Doommaster1994 on July 19, 2014, 03:47:24 PM
Wow, never knew about Rita getting fired, but I've seen her name on countless Sunsoft games.
Speaking of which, I'm interested about Porky Pig's Haunted Holiday. The Beta version says Dark Technologies developed it, but the released version says Phoenix developed it, so I'm thinking they're the same company. They went under the Dark name when they made Lion King for the NES and GB.


Title: Re: Sunsoft Famicom and NES
Post by: dragon1952 on July 21, 2014, 01:58:01 PM
Rita Zimmerer got fired because she was over zealous about spending or committing Sunsoft dollars for worthless licenses!

She fancied herself as one of the most powerful women in the Industry and she was out-of-control, so the enviable happened. She thought that everything good that happened at Sunsoft was because of her. After Sunsoft she claimed that she was the "development" guru that created "Aero the Acrobat" and everything else. She got several jobs in development but soon lost them because she could not do what she said she had done. Caused me a lot of grief. In the beginning she was tolerable, but it all went to her head and she did a lot of things that pissed everyone at Sunsoft off.

Even though Aero was MY creation, she had generated the cover for the packaging that was rendered and NOT truly representative of the character, but she said "too bad, it's too late to change it!"


Title: Re: Sunsoft Famicom and NES
Post by: L___E___T on July 21, 2014, 03:28:59 PM

I think there's somebody like that at every company - it's a very annoying character type to have to deal with.

Just had a look at that cover - that's a shame, it looks rushed and doesn't communicate what makes the character cool in my opinion.

Taking credit for work that isn't yours though, really makes my blood boil to see - sorry you had to deal with that nonsense. Reminds me of the Tim Langdell story - check that out if you haven't already read about it.

David a quick side question - how easy is it to code for the SMD - think you could still do it? ;)


Title: Re: Sunsoft Famicom and NES
Post by: dragon1952 on July 21, 2014, 06:41:38 PM

L_E_T:

My job was always "designer" and "producer", not programmer. My programming was limited to "Basic" which I would always use to write the programmers a logic script. That helped them understand how everything would work and correlate together. I did that for  "Crash Bandicoot" and Andy turned it into his own "GOOL" language and never even gave me any credit. GOOL stood for "Game Object Oriented Language".

In my career, I got ripped off and never properly credited for loads of stuff in the games business that I did or was responsible for. The games business has always been saturated with very fragile egos that love to claim what they did not do!

Doommaster 1994:

"Porky's Haunted Holiday" was developed in the UK by Phoenix. I believe that they did change their name (maybe), but they were Phoenix when I hired them to do my Porky Pig concept and they did a great job. They contributed the code to change and alter the weather every time the game was played. An innovation that had never been done before. WB did not appreciate what we tried to do with that game, but later they "got it!".


Title: Re: Sunsoft Famicom and NES
Post by: Protoboy on July 23, 2014, 11:24:09 PM
Dragon1952, I'd just like to take a moment to thank you for Porky Pig's Haunted Holiday. I've been reading the thread for a little while now, but it slipped my mind that Sunsoft developed that long-lost game from my childhood. I had no idea the weather thing was an innovation with that game! Thank you so much for all your hard work in the industry, it's so cool that you've made an account and are indulging us in the pleasure of seeing some of the inner workings of the industry back when the games you were making were shaping the special memories of our childhood we'll never forget. Now if I can just find the Porky Pig's Haunted Holiday soundtrack, that would be great!


Title: Re: Sunsoft Famicom and NES
Post by: dragon1952 on July 24, 2014, 01:01:15 AM

Protoboy,

Thank you for the kind words! That is why those of us do what we do or did, because not everyone got rich doing it but that is not what it should be about. I was passionate and loved working in amusement game development and the true rewards and happiness was being successful at making a player customer enjoy themselves, if even for a short time. Maybe we can positively influence others to excel at their own chosen direction in life.

You made my day, my week,.. my month!

David Siller


Title: Re: Sunsoft Famicom and NES
Post by: Gazimaluke on July 28, 2016, 03:49:25 AM
Did this thread just die back in 2014?


Title: Re: Sunsoft Famicom and NES
Post by: UglyJoe on July 28, 2016, 11:47:46 AM
Yeah, pretty much.  Dragon1952 is still around.  Doommaster1994 hasn't logged in since 2014, although if you PM him he might see your message in an email (depends on his profile settings).


Title: Re: Sunsoft Famicom and NES
Post by: Gazimaluke on July 28, 2016, 12:21:48 PM
Now I found the real pm button haha ^^
It just seem wierd that people stopped asking questions :) This thread is really good. I hope David gets to releasing that book he talked about.


Title: Re: Sunsoft Famicom and NES
Post by: P on July 28, 2016, 12:44:53 PM
I guess we ran out of questions to ask, and this is a small forum so not many people were aware of the thread.