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Pokemon Mystery Dungeon :: Developer Chat

Check out our Pokemon game developer interview!
Courtesy of Nintendo

Heyo Seth! So, you're the guy in charge of taking the Pokemon games from Japan and making them ready for everybody in North America. Let's roll with the questions!

Gary: Tell me a bit about yourself - what Pokemon type and level do you think you'd be?
Seth: I would definitely say I would be Torchic and I could start at L1 and work my way up. And the only reason for that is Torchic is my favorite character of all time and I don't know why, I honestly don't know. It's a cute little chicken that's on fire, how could that not be adorable? Either that one or Dusk Noir which is a new character from the Diamond and Pearl series that makes an appearance in Dungeon.


Gary: Who's on your Pokemon dream team for the new Mystery Dungeon games?
Seth: Tough one, if I was rolling in with Torchic, I'd probably want my backup to be Pikachu to cover Torchic's water weakness. Then a legendary so Rayquaza because he's a huge green serpent from the sky (sic Dragon). I've never been too fond of Meowth. My main two would definitely be Torchic & Pikachu, they would be my starting dream team and then as you progress into the game I'd switch it up depending on the dungeons which are all element based. For example, if you're going to a fire dungeon then you want to bring a water type instead of a grass type.



Gary: Now that we know a bit about you, what about your job. It sounds like you get to do some pretty cool stuff; can you describe your job for us?
Seth: It's amazing working at Nintendo; I grew up playing my Nintendo probably like every other kid in the world and I never imagined I'd end up working here nonetheless working on Pokemon; that's exclusively what I do and what I've been doing for the past nine years. After a typical work day we play the latest games under development and we've got Nerf guns laying around. It's crazy, just imagine an office full of young hardcore gamers.


Gary: What other games do you work on?
Seth: I work on strictly Pokemon actually. It's pretty unique actually because I'm the only person in this group that works strictly on Pokemon.


Gary: Do you have a lot of fun at work?
Seth: Oh I do I do, certainly. We do something weird every day. It's amazing working with Nintendo. The department I work in, "The Treehouse", is amazing.


Gary: Do you get to decide what is done with the games when they're localized?
Seth: Yes! Absolutely. We work closely with the developers early on as the games are built and designed and put together. Localization is on such a quick time line that it helps to make any development type changes earlier on in the entire development process because those take time and time is of the essence when you're working on a world wide product like this.


Gary: What kind of changes do you typically have to make to localize a game?
Seth: The whole point is taking the game that was created in Japan and making it feel like it was developed for American kids. And that runs the whole gamut of things from characters in the Japanese game doing some things that wouldn't be as acceptable to an American audience; not that it's objectionable content we're changing its just all about perception. The best example was Pokemon Channel where there was a watermelon on the beach that you could smash, which is a traditional summer activity but we don't do that in the states so there's a bit of a disconnect so we changed it to a pinata which is something easily recognizable by North American audiences. It also has to do with changing the game text, the names of the Pokemon characters, the names of locations, and items, everything like that.


Gary: Can you speak on the games you're localizing right now?
Seth: I can't. Not even hints. I can explain so I don't seem like a snoot about it - with Pokemon, because it's so huge, there are a lot of things tied into it around the world; from cards to animation to movies to trading figures and more worldwide so everything, every tiny detail is planned and scheduled for release and for when we can talk about it. But if you look at what has been done in the past you'll have a good idea of what's coming in the future and there's no end in site: Pokemon will just keep getting bigger and better. We have some things planned that fans are going to love!


Gary: How many people do you work with on localizing the Pokemon games?
Seth: Um... I actually work with a really small team. Essentially it's me and my Japanese partner working on the localization process. Within Nintendo however there are a ton of people that work on it. There is Pokemon USA, including a guy named Tom Herzog who has been working on Pokemon since Pokemon Crystal and has been the lead tester since day one. Tom is the lead coordinator in testing. His job is to put together a team of testers to play the game and make sure everything works properly - making sure it doesn't lock up or do anything freaky. I call him "Shuckel" because that's his favorite Pokemon of all time. He keeps on talking to the developers about making a game based around Shuckel and is so hardcore that he sometimes ends up as Tom "Shuckel" Herzog in the credits.
I personally work with one other person, Rie, she's the Japanese half of what I do. She really helps when it comes to working with the Japanese side of things. She was brought over specifically to work on it. Then we have our marketing team, testing, legal and even more. It's such a joint effort from Nintendo, Pokemon USA and more.


Gary: Do you get to pick the game you're going to localize next or does a giant talking N tell you what to do?
Seth: Ha-ha! You know what, I only do Pokemon and we have them lined up back-to-back. I'm working on two more projects right now and I have to go to Japan in early September. I don't get to choose what I work on, but it's fun to be able to be so focused.


Gary: Do you translate the games into English as well?
Seth: No. We have someone who has been working on them since day one. His name is Nob and we're lucky to have had him working with us for so long. He'll translate things, send it to us and then we'll localize it and double-check the terminology and stuff to make sure things make sense. For instance, gods and spiritual stuff are a little more open in Japan. In the USA it's a little more strict and you don't want to go calling a Pokemon a god because we want to make sure it doesn't offend anybody.


Gary: There's someone who keeps slipping comments about how comfy shorts are into the English Pokemon games. Is that you? Do you know him or her?
Seth: Yes, that's Nob. Nob's a funny guy, he has a good sense of humor and he'll put little things in there to keep me on my toes. He'll put things in there for me to catch and they're fun. Because after reading thousands of lines of text for months on end it's fun to come across one of his lines and have a chuckle.


Gary: What fun, interesting or weird changes did you make for the new Pokemon Mystery Dungeon games?
Seth: Not so much with Mystery Dungeon. The thing with Mystery Dungeon and the main focus is that you are a Pokemon and everything happens within this Pokemon-only world so you don't run into any cultural conflicts because it takes place in an entirely different world. But one interesting thing with Mystery Dungeon that really applied more to the first Mystery Dungeon game is that these games have been around for years but have never been popular in North America because the games are extremely hard - ridiculously hard. I started playing one of the older games and found that when I was playing in a dungeon if I got killed I lost all my experience, any levels gained, everything learned in the dungeon plus it booted me back to the dungeon's beginning. And, I enjoy a challenge but I don't want the game to make me cry. One of the things we really worked on was to make the Mystery Dungeons easier while keeping the leveling system intact to make the game fun for the North American gamers.


Gary: Do you expect to see any evolutions in the next Pokemon Mystery Dungeon games? Are there any hidden evolutions buried in this game?
Seth: Yes absolutely! It's comes into play much later in the game but that's a major part of Pokemon. You have to wait longer for it but yes you can evolve all your characters and allies.


Gary: Can you give any previews about what kind of changes you're making?
Seth: Nope. I wish I could.


Gary: Are there any Pokemon games that have been just too weird to bring to North American gamers?
Seth: Um... There were a few that were pretty odd. Pokemon Channel for instance, that was in development for a long, long, long time. It first came out as an animation that you could play on your Gamecube and we decided that we needed to add more to it. Eventually it turned into a game where you watched TV with Pikachu. That seemed to me to be really weird - just kinda strange. In the past there was Pokemon TCG 2 that didn't make it, and Pokemon Stadium 3. Those didn't make it, not because they were so weird but because we just didn't have time - they were coming out way too fast in Japan. There are other non-Pokemon games that we've looked at and said "No, no way, that's just too strange." But Pokemon is such a worldwide thing and everybody loves it and it seems to work anywhere.


Gary: If you could pick a Pokemon and give it another evolution stage, which Pokemon would that be?
Seth: Oh wow, ok... You'll have to give me a minute I mean there's 490 of them... This is a really random answer - Spirittomb. I like the way that looks, that rock with the smoky aura around it to maybe some giant creature with a smoky aura and some sort of rock plating on it. That wouldn't be my first choice though... Ah, Turtwig! I'd love to see an evolution of Torterra because I love the name so much that when we submitted the name I told them that if they didn't accept Torterra I'd quit. I want to see him reach Godzilla-size proportions and become some sort of massive walking island or some other huge thing. So yeah, I'd say Torterra over Spiritomb.


Gary: How about Skarmory, think you could talk the Pokemon people into giving it an evolution? :oD
Seth: You know what, this is not me speaking from actually knowing anything this is just me speaking from just looking at things like Electevire and Magmortar, they've been around forever and now you can find evolutions for them in Diamond/Pearl. So, anything is possible. Not only will there be new Pokemon there will be post and pre-evolutions of existing Pokemon and based on what we've done in the past any Pokemon is fair game.


Gary: Any chance you could name it **********? ;o)
Seth: Oooh... That does sound pretty cool. Hang on, I'm going to write it down and, of course, I'll not take credit for that *ahem, chuckle chuckle*. I like it.


Gary: How about doing a Pokemon gamer vote or user poll to settle a new name on evolutions?
Seth: In terms of user polls, we are planning some things that will include some user feedback. Like the Pokemon Rock events, we polled for the top 10 Pokemon and then were giving those out at the events. I think you'll definitely see some polls out there but as for the upcoming names and evolutions that's a call that comes from Japan and the last time I spoke for Japan I got in trouble. (Heh).


Gary: What's the weirdest thing that's ever happened while you've been working on a Pokemon game?
Seth: Ahhh... Let's see... The weirdest one was actually wanting to work overtime. That's the strangest thing. I don't know how well that's going to translate to younger audiences. But, for instance, working on Diamond and Pearl. It was the first core game for the DS and the expectations the fans had for it were enormous. I was so excited to be working on it. I worked straight through work, at dinner, while I was playing with my kids. Late at night I'd get back on my computer and chat with the people from Japan. My wife said "Why are you working? It's a Saturday, you're at home!?" And I realized that I was working tons of overtime and enjoying it - that to me was just freaky bizarre.


Gary: Any final comments for the crowd here at Kidzworld?
Seth: You know, I don't want to sound like a sales pitch, but for fans of Pokemon who haven't played Mystery Dungeon, I beg you to give it a try. If a friend of yours has a copy, give it a try. For so many years we've just captured these creatures but to actually become one and live in their world is a whole new adventure.


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