Author Topic: Crimson Echoes interview  (Read 2116 times)


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Crimson Echoes interview
« on: October 05, 2014, 05:35:51 am »
Someone from a Russian gaming site contacted me about an interview. I wrote all this up, but I'm not sure when/if the interview will be posted or how it'll be edited, so here's this to preserve it:


What do you think about the situation?

During development, the demise of Chrono Trigger: Resurrection was always on our minds. However, we assumed that because our project was a ROM hack and not a 3D creation, we'd be safe from any cease & desist activity. The team was also small, and progress was so slow; we never hyped the project too much, apart from posting random images sometimes, such as the one we uploaded in December 2006 promising a 2007 release date. It was only in January 2009 that we felt we were getting close. I created a page on the Chrono Compendium specifically for the project and linked it on the sidebar in a prominent position. Interest started to become intense again. Meanwhile, we had created a beta testing forum and had 10 trusted beta testers playing the game multiple times to search for bugs. Agent 12 set up a bug tracking site, and we probably dealt with almost a thousand different bugs and suggestions. We wanted to release in June 2009, if I remember correctly, but we were still finding bugs in May. Nonetheless, the product was mostly complete, except for planned music and song replacements and an optional patch to replace Frog with Human Glenn.

There are still rumors that a Dutch troll intentionally turned in the project to Square's legal department, but we were aware that others had tried to report Crimson Echoes to Square multiple times before with no consequence. It was almost definitely the mounting buzz that finally attracted the cease & desist. Prophet's Guile, the short ROM hack released the previous year, had been a wonderful success, and a lot of buzz was generated at the same time telling fans to look forward to Crimson Echoes. Looking back, there were two enduring tragedies:

1. The modification community was mostly destroyed for the Chrono community. The Chrono series is a dead franchise, and so it was important to have a very public ROM hacking community so that people searching for tutorials or information would come to the community and contribute. The community had to go into hiding (without my influence) afterwards, and this removed the possibility of new entrants. Only last year did it resurface at, but the damage is done. The Chrono series fan community is just too dead. The Chrono Compendium still gets about the same amount of hits as before, as people are still discovering and playing these games. However, the forums are virtually dead. There's a critical mass that needs to be achieved from a game's freshness, but everything's been discussed and laid to rest.

2. The cease & desist came shortly before all the chief team members went on to careers in their lives. Agent 12, Chrono'99, and I were all in various states of university education while developing Crimson Echoes, and we had ample free time to devote to the project. Most of the team members graduated either that year or the year after, and we all got jobs that required a lot of time, especially for our American team members like me, as we're in fields that demand unpaid overtime. (What a nightmare, by the way...I'm still trying to get out to Europe and have a sensible work/life balance.)

So really, we don't even have much time to think about it these days. There's zero chance of reviving the community unless a new Chrono game comes out, but there's also not much interest in reviving it, period. Crimson Echoes utilized a lot of the "low-hanging" fruit of sequel ideas. I've thought many times about making a short ROM hack, but for the life of me, I can't think of something immediately natural like Prophet's Guile. There are no more good ideas for me, and there aren't many other people with ideas to come forward now that the community's dead. It's all kind of laid to rest. Other people have tried to "finish" Crimson Echoes; we only really endorse the efforts of one team, which contacted us. All the others tried to finish it with their own visions, which makes them sad derivatives of a fan interpretation of an original work. At that point, any cohesive spirit is lost. We're still hoping that the team we support (they're not affiliated with the Chrono Compendium) finishes their polished version one day.

How the publisher pushed on you? What was your first reaction? Did you try to resist?

We all received the cease & desist letters by e-mail. Square's attorney in this case sent us PDF files. I was coming back from a two-week vacation in Europe when the e-mails were sent; they arrived literally the day I landed back in the US. I was driving 3 hours back home from the nearest international airport, when Agent 12 called me on my cell phone. I checked my e-mail, and the the PDF files contained the attorney's last name (and the first letter of his first name). Coincidentally, a few days before in Europe, I'd checked Facebook and saw a friend request and a message from someone asking to ignore the request. He was listed as a lawyer working in the entertainment industry. I didn't think much of it, but in retrospect, we now know that it was Square's attorney trying to dig information up on us to verify our identities before sending the cease & desist orders. I don't hold any ill will towards him, as Agent 12 repeatedly called Square's PR department that day and the day after, and was told that Square's legal department in Japan had ordered Square US to send the cease & desist order. So it wasn't that attorney's fault—Square Japan is to blame. Agent 12 asked them to release a public statement, as some people didn't believe the cease & desist order was real. We could have released the PDF files, but they have the attorney's name in them, and we worried angry fans might stalk him online. I still have the e-mails, including the headers showing that they came from Square's servers.

There were discussions in May 2009 about defying the cease & desist order, but the Compendium was still hosted on American servers, and we knew that one word to our host from Square and they would probably shut down the Chrono Compendium instantly. The cease & desist letter was carefully worded to specifically call out the modification section of the site, not the entire site itself. We  were thankful for this, as we could keep the rest of the site. Thousands of hours went into the Chrono Compendium—the music pages; the encyclopedia; the theory pages—it was the last true old-style fansite to be created before Wikia dominated everything, and as it had a Wiki itself (and could host copyrighted items WITHOUT ADVERTISEMENTS, like Wikia sites have)—it was truly unique as a fusion of the old and new styles of fansite. We wanted to make sure the Compendium would be safe, and so we decided to comply with the cease & desist order.

What did you do after that: any new projects or anything really different?

Everything after that event has been a slow death. I still updated the Chrono Compendium and still have an update I'm trying to work on (it's a very busy time of year at work; I'll be doing 40+ hour workweeks until March, still desperate to emigrate to Europe). But no fan project has materialized. I always wanted to do another short hack, but I've never had a good, natural idea since then, apart from ideas for an entire new Chrono game. But the point of ROM hacking was to create a work of art in the SNES's 16-bit limitations. To try and use a new medium, like RPGMaker or something else—it defeats the purpose for me. If a new Chrono game should truly be made, it should be made with current video game technology, not amateur engines. All the old ROM hackers have moved on in life, too, so there really is no corps of personnel necessary to create a ROM hack, anymore. I can teach myself what I lack, but it'd take a lot of time. I often think of making another ROM hack years from now in the future, after I'm settled somewhere else (after having a family and living somewhere with more sensible labor rights) and have time. I still think ROM hacking is a beautiful craft.

If I had time, I'd probably make a website for Unreal series beta versions and other ephemera. I started playing Unreal Tournament in 2001, falling in love with its fluidity and futuristic style of gameplay. A batch of new Unreal betas was released recently, and it's exciting to investigate the development of those games. Users at BeyondUnreal forums, like Leo(T.C.K.), Delacroix, and gopostal have done a lot for the Unreal community (they can be found at Leo(T.C.K.) in general has done an incredible amount of work on these games. I still post there and follow their progress, even though I don't have the time to make a site presenting everything they've found and helping them catalogue it.

And, of course, we want to know something interesting about developing of Crimson Echoes. How was it?

It never would have happened without Agent 12. I'm not really good at raw ROM hacking, and my skill in Temporal Flux was limited. I couldn't shift all the programming and mapping responsibilities off on Chrono'99, either, and it was hard to find other dedicated team members who could help with ROM hacking. Towards the end, this improved (as FaustWolf, utunnels, and several others with a lot of skills popped up and made key contributions), but from 2004-2007, Crimson Echoes was just a dream, probably never going to be realized. Agent 12 arrived in 2005 and made the "Chrono Trigger Coliseum" ROM hack, hoping that the Coliseum would be used for Crimson Echoes. In 2006 and 2007, he saw that the project was stalled and no one was actually programming the story events and other content. He then single-handedly programmed almost every single major event and location in the game, using rough placeholders where necessary. Agent 12 built the technical heart and soul of the game, and probably deserves the most credit of anyone for Crimson Echoes. He poured countless hours into it, to the point where I don't even feel like it's "my project", in essence. He made the dream real, allowing Chrono'99 and me to finish the details. If anyone owns Crimson Echoes, it's him.

Another tidbit would be that the Singing Mountain map was made very early in development, around 2005, for the second demo, by Chickenlump, one of the very first Chrono Trigger ROM hackers with JLukas and Geiger. When I first created the Chrono Compendium, I came to know these three as the three Gurus of Chrono Trigger ROM hacking. They became less and less active due to real-life concerns after 2005, but Chickenlump contributed that map, and it's one of the most beautiful ever and my favorite in the game. We added the peak part of it later, and that map in particular is what makes me feel emotional when I think of it. There's that cloud background effect on that peak map; it looks like swirling blue and gray clouds...remembering it always makes something in my heart wish for more. I specifically requested that a scene showing it be put in the ending for that reason.

If there's anything else, I would just caution anyone from buying Crimson Echoes in any form, especially on a physical cartridge. Crimson Echoes and Prophet's Guile both used a hack to expand the ROM's memory to allow the addition of new content (from 4 MB to 6 MB). This unfortunately breaks the game at one point or another on a real console. It also creates issues in some emulators, as a request to load a map would just lead to a black screen at some point. (Famously, we ran into this problem with the Chrono Trigger Retranslation patch by KWhazit; if you climb the ladder on the Blackbird to reach the wing, the game goes to a black screen.) There is no conceivable way that these physical cartridges are playable. Someone even tried to flash a hardcopy Prophet's Guile cartridge and play it, and found that things were even more broken on a real SNES, including audio glitches. So please, don't buy a real cartridge; you're just giving money to a scammer and receiving a broken product.

Hopefully the other team can keep polishing Crimson Echoes, and a version can be released that gets the endorsement of the original creators. It's so difficult when everyone's working. It truly speaks to the sad state of this world that, despite rising productivity, inequality is still such that we are all forced to desperately cling to what economic opportunities we have. Meanwhile, personal development rusts, including personal projects like Crimson Echoes. There is no doubt that if I had more time, I'd return and try to at least put something together new. Chrono fans deserve it after so much silence from Square.
« Last Edit: October 05, 2014, 05:37:35 am by ZeaLitY »


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Re: Crimson Echoes interview
« Reply #1 on: October 10, 2014, 09:06:12 pm »
Thanks for sharing this! It would be great to create a blurb tracking down and linking to all the CE-related interviews. We have a transcript of the one Agent 12 did with axtuse hot on the heels of the C&D, but damn it all if I didn't save the MP3 from Meteor Radio. And Meteor Radio looks like it's been down for a while.


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Re: Crimson Echoes interview
« Reply #2 on: November 04, 2014, 06:35:20 am »
I want to say that this post is very good information to read up on. I'm reading things simple. Not too labyrinthine