Agent 12 Radio Interview

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What follows is a transcript of the interview Agent 12 completed with Axtuse of Meteor Radio a few weeks after the Crimson Echoes team received a Cease and Desist order from Square Enix. Listen to the original audio interview over at Meteor Radio. The interview lasts from 30:45 through 50:05 in the episode of Meteor Radio entitled "Play Your Role."


Axtuse
Two or three years ago I visited a site - and it is now one of my favorite fan-based sites for videogames - it's called "chronocompendium.com." It's a website dedicated to the Chrono universe from Chrono Trigger over to Chrono Cross. Apparently Chrono Cross - it did bridge over from Chrono Trigger, but apparently there were some significant holes in it in regards to the progression of the story. [Omitted] So what the community of Chrono Compendium did was to make an encyclopedia, in a sense, that condensed both of the plots for both games - they did a good job, I read both of them - and what they did was, they've also dedicated a portion of their site to filling some of the holes in between the two games. If you're a fan of the series, I strongly suggest you go to the Chrono Compendium (chronocompendium.com). Check it out right now if you're listening online. Now, folks, when I revisited the Chrono Compendium site, there was a particular project that I took a lot of interest in, and the project was called Crimson Echoes. The purpose of Crimson Echoes was to be a game to bridge the gap between Chrono Trigger and Chrono Cross. As I said before, there wasn't a whole lot of bridging to begin with. So they started working on this project back in 2004. Well, recently Square Enix sent them a cease and desist. They ordered to shut it down, to get rid of it, to suffer the same fate as the Chrono Resurrection project, where they were going to remake the game in 3D. So joining me now is an applications programmer and he has been involved with the Crimson Echoes project since 2004. I'm now joined by Agent 12. Agent 12 -- report in!

Agent 12
Hey.

Axtuse
Good to have you on, buddy. [Omitted] I told everybody a little bit about the Chrono Compendium site, big fan of it, and I was a big fan of the projects involved. Initially I was going back to the site because I recognize Chrono Trigger as a game that, as far as JRPGs go, really fit in with what an RPG is supposed to be. From the middle of the game on, you basically decided how to complete it in a sense. But there was a project that you were involved in and I took a lot of interest in it, and when I went to revisit the site, I saw that the program had been shut down. It suffered the same fate as the Chrono Resurrection project. So what I wanted to do is just talk a little bit about the genesis of the project itself, about your involvement. How did you get involved with the Chrono Compendium and the Crimson Echoes project?

Agent 12
Back in my wee years of college, I was interested in Chrono Trigger - you have to be interested in Chrono Trigger...

Axtuse
You don't have a choice.

Agent 12
They released Demo 1 (the very first demo) back when I was a freshman and I caught wind of it and thought it was really awesome. Looking back, that demo is nothing - all they did was change some dialogue and NPCs and I think there was one new map in there, without any battles - but it was enough to get me involved in the project. I didn't want to join at first because I thought this was a bunch of really professional people that were close knit. So I looked up the tools they were using and I started making my own game. But when I saw Crimson Echoes was slowly but surely not being worked on more and more, I joined the group and eventually took over...and now you can watch it on Youtube.

Axtuse
So, you initiated a coup d'etat and you had taken over the project, correct?

Agent 12
It was a pretty smooth coup d'etat, actually...

Axtuse
That's so boring...so, as far as the progression of the project itself, tell me a little bit about how it progressed and how it evolved.

Agent 12
At first it was a completely open project. Anybody could come into the Compendium and read all the forums, but we were getting more and more spam from people, and people would try to join and be there for two weeks and then they'd disappear. So once we got a good group of people to work on it we went private. As far as I know I don't think it went private because we were worried about Square Enix. A lot of people think we did that, but I don't think we did. But that group of people I was talking about also slowly disappeared - that's the Internet, it happens - so we released Demo 2 probably 3 years ago now, hoping that we would get more people to join the project...It was mainly just me and one other guy - Chrono'99 - programming it, and then ZeaLitY [Omitted] basically wrote the entire plot.

Axtuse
Oh, wow.

Agent 12
There were a couple other sprite people who should get credited for making new graphics, but the majority of the work was done by those three.

Axtuse
So, the three musketeers of Chrono - you, Chrono'99, and ZeaLitY - and also some artists here and there, worked on Crimson Echoes...

Agent 12
If you watch the Youtube videos there's a message from those three at the very beginning of the [game footage]. But there's also a developer's room later on in the game where you can see everybody who had something to do with the project.

Axtuse
So, you all worked on this for the better part of four years, five years?

Agent 12
I took a year and a half off at some point. '99, when I was gone he worked on it a little but then he got busy too. We're all roughly the same age as far as I can tell, because we all hit a pretty rough time in college there for a good year.

Axtuse
Well, life happens and even though this was a good project to work on, there wasn't any profit off of it so of course you had to...

Agent 12
Yeah, but some people on the Internet don't see it that way.

Axtuse
Now, there was a point in time, Square Enix had initially contacted someone regarding the project, is that correct?

Agent 12
After the Cease and Desist?

Axtuse
Well, before. So there was no contact before the Cease and Desist?

Agent 12
No, no. I was in an airport when I got the email and I was completely shocked. Totally ruined the weekend.

Axtuse
Well, yeah, totally ruined the better part of about four years, I mean...

Agent 12
Yeah, exactly.

Axtuse
And that was May 8th?

Agent 12
Yes.

Axtuse
May 8th was when you all got that. And there was some conversation going on between [you and] the lawyers, correct?

Agent 12
Anyone who calls the number that's on the Cease and Desist gets transferred to a receptionist who will immediately transfer you to a PR person.

Axtuse
Of course.

Agent 12
And I had to call her - she transferred me eight times in a row and finally I was like, "Look, you're threatening me with $150,000 [worth of fines], transfer me to the lawyers, okay?" And she finally did after awhile.

Axtuse
Well, good.

Agent 12
So I got to have one not-so-productive conversation with a lawyer.

Axtuse
Probably just basically stonewalled, didn't take you seriously...

Agent 12
He was doing his job. Every single one of his answers was like, "Yes. No. Yes." And he didn't give me any information that I could possibly use...but he did - and this is the part that really makes me angry - I can see an argument from Square Enix's perspective to shut this down, like for some reason some guy a thousand miles away thinks that we'll somehow affect their profits, in some unknown way. But the lawyer told me if I didn't post to the Compendium about our conversation, how unproductive it was, he would get me an official response from Square Enix regarding the whole situation.

Axtuse
Good.

Agent 12
And to me, that was awesome. That means that they took us seriously and would stop all the rumors that this thing was fake.

Axtuse
Yeah, exactly.

Agent 12
And then, after that, they gave me this PR person that I would talk to, and every other day I'm like, "Where's the response?" And she's like, "We're working on it. We're doing research, we're working on it." And then, after three weeks, she was like, "I'm sorry, I can't give you a response anymore."

Axtuse
So...

Agent 12
And that was it. And I was completely infuriated by that. Because, that's not...there's no rational reason besides them being evil to do that to me.

Axtuse
[Laughs]

Agent 12
So then we were left with nothing. And it only furthered the arguments that, for some reason, we made all this up. The only good part about that was during those three weeks we started uploading video for the Youtube playthrough. And I don't know if you've seen it, but there's director commentary with the Youtube annotations there.

Axtuse
Yeah.

Agent 12
Which I think is pretty cool. It gives you a little of the inside story.

Axtuse
What's frustrating is, we're all consumers here. I mean, without the consumer there would be no reason for the product to exist.

Agent 12
And we're obviously the most hardcore consumers -

Axtuse
Yes, absolutely.

Agent 12
They went after the people that really liked this franchise. We liked it a little too much, obviously. It's freaky how much we like Chrono. We built a game from...

Axtuse
Well, the purpose of Crimson Echoes was to do what has not been done yet. And that was to explain some of the major holes in how Chrono Trigger translated over to Chrono Cross.

Agent 12
Yeah, and it did it exceptionally well. When you see these videos you're gonna be like, "Oh, it makes sense." Obviously it's not canon. I don't want to say that we're thinking what the original developers think happened between these games, because we're not. It's a fan fiction. But it's a fan fiction that did a lot of research. Here's another thing that's going to show how horribly obsessed we are - actually, this is how horribly obsessed ZeaLitY is - we got Japanese people to translate the original Japanese game. Not like, "translate it and make it sound good in English," like, a literal translation from Japan[ese] to English. Just so we could see what was going on, like what did the developers want to have happen? Because Ted Woolsey - I think that's how you pronounce his name - transferred it to English and he put English jokes and stuff in there, and it was basically up to his discretion, how to make it sound good. I mean, we wanted to know what the real story was. There [were] a couple interesting facts that happened. One, from what I know - this is mainly ZeaLitY talking - Frog doesn't have that Old English accent in the Japanese script, I think. And in Crimson Echoes, Frog doesn't have that accent. A lot of people get really up in arms about it, but honestly, I wouldn't want ZeaLitY writing Old English for Frog the entire game. It's probably better for everyone involved - we just wanted to make sure that there wasn't anything lost.

Axtuse
Yeah, you didn't want to make it seem like any part of the story was skewed in a sense...their translation, the English translation, still fit in the regard of the Japanese but may have strayed a bit for whatever reason.

Agent 12
Exactly.

Axtuse
Absolutely. Well, as far as the project itself, and going back to where I was a moment ago with "We're the consumer." That's what frustrates me the most about this, is that...I'm reading up about this and I remember ZeaLitY saying, "look at our site. The site doesn't have ad banners, no links, no sponsored links, anything...he doesn't even make anything off the site, which has existed for years upon years, and...no one ever said, "We're going to make money off this thing." But I think I heard, or I read that there were some people who were involved with the project, or just some people who were, I guess, trolling in a sense, that may have contacted some representatives of - or, contacted someone to state that Crimson Echoes was trying to make money off of this, is that correct?

Agent 12
There's an email out...it's basically an email out to Square Enix customer support saying that we were - first off, we were releasing just a patch. I want to make that very, very clear...

Axtuse
You didn't hack the ROM...
[Transcriber's note: Actually the ROM was being modified, but the hacked ROM was not intended to be distributed. Rather, a program called Lunar IPS would have applied the modification to the end user's backup of Chrono Trigger SNES. Up until now, this had been a practice widely tolerated by Square Enix and other videogame companies. Literally thousands of mods for NES, SNES, and Genesis-era videogames are floating around in the modding community's various hubs, ranging from Final Fantasy to Mega Man to Sonic the Hedgehog, with plenty of Chrono sandwiched in there as well.]

Agent 12
We're releasing a patch with our stuff on it, like the stuff we made, and when that patch is applied to a ROM - which you should legally have, if you own Chrono Trigger you're allowed to have a backup ROM...

Axtuse
Correct.
[Transcriber's note: The specific act of creating a backup of a videogame remains untested in court as far as we're aware, but the modding community holds that it should fall under fair use as a form of "format shifting," just as ripping audio from a compact disc has been a protected activity since RIAA v. Diamond Multimedia(1999). See the Electronic Frontier Foundation for more on the legalities involved.]

Agent 12
So, it's up to you to get this ROM and legally have it. And then you take our patch with our content on it and apply it to the ROM.

Axtuse
Yeah, an IPS patch.

Agent 12
There's an email to Square's customer service saying, like, "it's a full ROM, we're making money off of it, it was ridiculous. But it's not confirmed if this person actually sent that or if it was just...

Axtuse
A rumor of a sort.

Agent 12
He was just trying to get Internet popularity points. For some reason.

Axtuse
Oh, no one ever tries to do that...

Agent 12
Yeah, we briefly mentioned it but we didn't want to make a big deal because we're pretty sure he's just trying to get attention. There's a typo in the response back. I don't know if you've ever sent an email to Square Enix customer support but it's all responded by "Neil" and this posted email [has] "Neill" but with two "L"s instead of one. That kind of threw up a red flag.

Axtuse
Well, as far as the project itself, I see where you're posting the playthrough, and folks, the channel is called CEMemorial. So if you go on Youtube, type in "CEMemorial" and you should be able to find the channel. There's some people who have posted trailers and playthroughs of the demo, but if you want to see how the story was progressing then go to CEMemorial and check that out. Support them by rating the videos, commenting, and eventually what we're going to be able to see...the Crimson Echoes project. So I wanted to tell you - and everyone else who may have been involved or highly anticipated this project - that this is not necessarily a loss. Because what is effectively happening - even though we're not going to be able to play through this game, we're still going to be able to see Crimson Echoes in the regard of what it was. No different than if you had watched a longplay, like an Amiga longplay that you see so much of. So we're still going to see the game as far as what it was going to be, and still what it is. And hopefully people will watch it and take it seriously as a great piece of fan fiction and hopefully people will accept it, you know...as far as what the purpose was, to bridge the two games. I can't wait to watch it in its entirety and to be a part of it. This was amazing, that you'd taken all this time and this dedication to this project simply out of love of the game, which many people do, you know, just pro bono, or...

Agent 12
To me, this is the next progression of fan fiction. You're seeing it with all the new games, you can make mods for Half Life and stuff. They give you tools to make modifications to the original game. Five years ago it was all people writing fan fiction or drawing pictures or something. Now we've progressed to the point where we can actually make a new game.

Axtuse
It's a sign of the times, you know. It's interesting to see how technology has progressed, but it's also interesting to see how we have progressed as a people, as a society, and especially us in the gaming community. How we've progressed in the regards of programming, design, art, music production, and how people are kind of going on with these little projects. I don't want to say "little," I mean large in scale and in the regard of content and especially ability and talent. If you go on the web, there's a plethora of projects - especially musical ones - where you just, you can't ignore the talent of the gaming community, you can't ignore the passion of the gaming community. Crimson Echoes is a testament to that. So I want to thank you and everyone else in the project for your work and your dedication to this. And I really encourage everyone to to support Crimson Echoes, go to Youtube, like I said, rate it, comment it, share it with other people, so that way you can get a good following. So that way this project can be taken seriously for what it is, so, again, Agent 17 - I did it!

Agent 12
[Laughs]

Axtuse
I told you I'd do it, Agent 12 - folks, when we were initially talking I called him "Agent 17." So, I told you I'd do that. So, I want to thank you again for that, thank you for coming on to talk about this project with us, and just - keep on rocking the free world.

Agent 12
I'll go for it.

Axtuse
Alright, thank you man.

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