Wolf Team – 1990/1991 Developer Interviews

Wolf Team – 1990/1991 Developer Interviews

These three short Wolf Team interviews from the GSLA, arranged chronologically from 1990 to 1991, offer a look at the concerns of a third-party developer amid the shifting sands of the 16-bit era. Aside from the brief interview focusing on Granada, this is mostly “industry” focused; I hope to find more Wolf Team interviews in the future that take a deeper look at the mechanics of their games.

Megadrive and X68000 Development – 1990

We decided to get into Megadrive development last summer (1989). We’ve had an interest in console game systems like the Famicom, PC Engine, and others, but the Megadrive has the largest available memory, which suits the style of our games well. Taking limited hardware and making the best game you can within those limits is not our style of game design; we want to make things that make players go “WOW”. For that, the size of the memory is a deciding factor.

When the Megadrive first came out, we weren’t really thinking that seriously about developing for it. But the hardware and controller design was changed a bit, and it shares the same CPU as the X68000 making arcade ports easy, so I think the future holds some exciting things for us and the Megadrive.

The userbase for the Famicom is mainly kids below Junior High age. I think the Megadrive definitely appeals to an older age group, high school kids and above. That’s just speculation at the moment though, I don’t have detailed stats for that yet.

Top: Final Zone (PC-88) Bottom: Final Zone Senki Axis (x68k).

Our first Megadrive game will be a port of Final Zone II, which we are also releasing for PC Engine, but the Genesis version will feature very different action, with a very different look and possibly an updated title.1 It doesn’t look anything like the PC-88 version. But for its time, the color scrolling of the PC-88 Final Zone was revolutionary, and in the same way, we plan to incorporate new groundbreaking ideas into the Genesis version.

As you know, the X68000 and the Megadrive share similar specs, so it’s easy to port from x68000 to Megadrive. However, that means we can also port things from Megadrive to X68000, too. Rather than “port”, I think it’s more accurate to say that we’re creating a x68000 game in the style of a Megadrive game, and vice versa.

For games we’ve developed on floppy disk, we compress them to fit on a Megadrive ROM. We have to make everything look as good as possible within that limited memory space, so we spend a lot of time on that aspect our games. Our Megadrive development staff currently consists of one group with 4-5 people, but by Spring we plan to expand that to three groups. In total we have about 35 development staff. Close to half will end up working on Megadrive development. We also want to continue working on PC games. This year we want to focus on creating simulation games, sure to please adult players in their 20s and 30s.

For Megadrive peripherals go, we’re interested in the floppy disk drive since we want to make games with more memory. We haven’t given much thought to any of the other peripherals.

As for the Super Famicom, our company was never asked by Nintendo to develop for it. (laughs) But since most people own 2 or 3 game consoles, we don’t see it as that big of a problem. From our perspective as developers, the Megadrive has the merit of being easier to port to, and with the Megadrive we can more readily respond to the requests of our fans who want to play games from the game center at home.

Many of Wolf Team’s games have been very visually impressive. We have a lot of confidence in our ability to make entertaining games with detailed settings and worlds. Moreover, I think we’ve recently achieved a high level of substantive quality in our games too. I think we’re moving in the right direction as a company, and we will continue to aim for games that proudly show off their originality.

Granada – 1990 Developer Interview

Kazuyoshi Inoue – Planning
Toshio Toyota – Main Programming
Masahiro Akishino – Producer
Masaaki Uno – Sound

—What would you say Granada’s appeal is?

Toyota: Granada’s sales point? I would say it’s all fronts: graphics, sound, and the extensive enemy algorithms. You can take any big character sprite from any stage—we revised them over and over, only using the ones that finally satisfied us.

—What were some of the influences for Granada?

Inoue: Toyota is by nature a huge fan of arcade games, so there may be parts in Granada that unconsciously reflect that influence. Granada itself is (Assault + Grobda) ÷ 2, right? (laughs)

Namco’s Assault (L) and Grobda (R), two major influences on Granada.

—How long did Granada take, and what were some of the challenges you faced?

Toyota: If you include the work I did in my own free time, Granada took about 2 years. Compared with my early versions, the final product is an order of magnitude more polished.

Akishino: Up till now, the way we’ve preceded with our game production is to first create a story, and after that match a game structure to it. Thanks to that, our games have always had sections with very poor balance. This time, with Granada, we created the gameplay first and made up the story afterwards. Maybe this means that Granada will have a weaker story than our previous games, but by the same extent, the action has had much more importance placed on it.

—I understand Granada features full MIDI implementation.

Uno: Yeah. Regarding the MIDI features, technically this is something we’ve had in our games since the PC-98 version of Zan -kagerou no toki- released last year, but it wasn’t fully realized. With Granada we’ve finally got a worthy MIDI implementation. We didn’t just use the stock Roland MT-32 patches, but actually edited them to create our own sounds. That might be a first for this industry. Also, if there are any users out there who want us to implement KORG M1 functionality for Granada, we’d like to hear from you. That’s possibly something we could sell customers via mail order.

—Please tell us what the future holds for Wolf Team.

Akishino: We’ll be putting all our effort into the gameplay itself, rather than the story, for our future games. While it may be a step backwards in terms of story, it will be two steps forward for the gameplay.

Granada on the X68000, with MIDI playback.

Wolf Team – 1991 Developer Interview

Masahiro Akishino – Wolf Team Dev Group #2, Section Chief
Masaaki Uno – Wolf Team Dev Group #2, R&D Assistant Director

—Please tell us about your new game, El Viento.

Uno: El Viento was created by the same staff that made Granada. Thanks to them we were able to carry over the technical expertise from that game. The comic cutscenes are another feature. Using anime in our games has been a specialty of ours for some time now.

Akishino: The explosion are really impressive and flashy. If you are able to memorize the timing of dodging bullets though, I don’t think it’s that hard of a game.

Uno: El Viento stars a woman, and the next game in the series, Earnest Evans, will feature a man… for the third game, we’re thinking maybe it will be a side story, with a different protagonist entirely?

—What are the advantages of developing for CD-ROM?

Akishino: CD-ROM games allow us to really go deep on the story and cutscenes. Previously we’ve been limited by memory, but we can now practically ignore those limitations, and whole new variety of game structure is open to us. It’s really nice.

Uno: One big merit of CD-ROMs is that it shortens that production process. On top of that, CD-ROMs are cheaper compared to ROM memory, so the retail price of our games can reflect that lower materials cost. With the “Annette Evans” game we’re making now, to include the sprite zooming functionality with ROMs, it would end up costing over 10000 yen at retail.2 Being able to release the same game at 8000, 7000, or 6000 yen is one of the advantages of the CD format, I’d say.

Akishino: Basically, from here on out we’re no longer making ROM (cartridge) based games. We plan to switch over entirely to CD-ROM. We’re hopeful that we’ll be able to do many things on the Mega-CD that we were able to do on computers.

Sprite scaling and zooming has been difficult, even on the Mega-CD. At present we’ve had to add software support for it, and it’s been hard. If we were only using one CPU that’d be one thing, but there’s two 68000 CPUs, and if you add in the z80 its 3.3 There’s amazing potential there though. We didn’t really start making use of the scaling and zooming functions until our fourth Mega-CD game, Aisle Road.

An anime cutscene from El Viento.

—What are your future plans?

Uno: We want to reach as wide an age range as possible of Megadrive users. It’s difficult to target younger age groups.

Akishino: Our Genesis port of the STG Sol-Feace should be the equal of, if not exceed, the x68000 version. The Megadrive sprites will all become a bit bigger. I think it will look good. Hopefully we can also sell it at a very low price.

As for Fhey Area, we’re working very carefully on it. It’s a top view game, but I feel like the character design is still a little weak. It’ll be a fun game though.

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  1. In fact, it was titled FZ Senki Axis.

  2. About 100 USD, given rough parity with the yen. Square also ran into this problem with their later Super Famicom RPGs, some of which cost over 120 USD.

  3. I believe this refers to the fact that the Mega-CD has a 68k processor, and the Megadrive has a 68k processor and z80. I’m not sure why multiple processors complicate things, though, or why software routines would be needed (the Mega-CD was supposed to have hardware scaling / zooming).

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