Originally written for Gaming World, this interview was conducted with Don Miguel, a Russian man who translated RPG Maker 95 and RPG Maker 2000 and released both digitally.
These days, many people are not sure where Don Miguel resides. Some people believe he is, of sorts, a legend now due to his contribution to the amateur game making community, and due to him being the very reason that sites such as this were even created. As his deeds are well known, but the man himself is seldom seen. Well, I decided to do the RPG Making scene a favour by catching up with the elusive programmer and translator and asking him a series of questions.
Daniel: Don, let me just say that it’s an honour to be interviewing you. Not only do you have a reputation as a legend in the RPG Maker scene, but from my own recollection, you’ve always been a pretty cool guy too so hey, why don’t you tell the folks who you are and what you do? Give them this opportunity to “know” Don Miguel.
Don: I have to greet all the readers. Yo all!
I’m a programmer and translator. I’ve graduated from 2 universities so far. I started working right after the school and haven’t moved from my place yet. It’s very reliable and, well, fine to keep. Since 13, I always had a gamedev hobby. I continue making games for myself and sometimes I’ll sell them. It doesn’t bring in much, so it’s just a hobby.
What do I like doing? Well.. I like visiting friends, like Japanese RPGs, books and anime… I plant cactuses, and I like cats. That’s all I can tell you.
Daniel: You sound like a pretty laid back guy! That’s pretty cool.
Don: My personality is just a mask on the internet, I think. But my real friends find me easy going and such.
Daniel: Anyway.. In retrospect, you’re responsible for a lot of sites existing such as Gaming World, Gaming Ground Zero, RPG RPG Revolution, and so on. Even though someone else would have likely translated RPG Maker 95 and 2000 if you had not, how does it make you feel knowing that you’ve had such a significant impact on the hobbies and leisurely activities of so many people?
Don: I like the feeling of that impact. Some people have become game developers, designers and work in the game development industry. But I also regret that I spent so much time supporting the RPG Maker products Which were nothing more than warez. I made my own maker made in 1995, “Platformer maker”.
And the fun fact is… localization isn’t hard. I finished the RPG Maker 95 translation in two hours and made the RPG Maker 2003 translation in 2 days, I think. So it was easy for anyone with some experience.
Daniel: With experience, yeah. A lot of people who work with the RPG Makers really don’t have that, so people like you really do them a large favour I would say. You say you regret spending so much time on the RPG Maker products.. Was this part of the reason why you decided not to translate RPG Maker 2003? What was the precise reason?
Don: I just waited for a letter from Enterbrain, it was like a nightmare… I mean, I used to put all my free time into the RPG Maker community in place of my own projects. So the letter was a good reason to stop. A few months later, I sold my commercial game. So it all was for good! I won’t name my games though. It’s not on topic with the question.
Daniel:So Enterbrain asking you to stop was your reason for not continuing?
Don: It was the last straw. So yes, it was the reason. I even believed them, helped them to gather some feedback from “future buyers” of the official English RPG Maker 2000, but they postponed the release. It doesn’t matter now.
Daniel: Definitely a good thing for you to do, then. A lot of people don’t know what you’re up to these days, and they seem to think that finding the legendary Don Miguel is a difficult challenge. For these people, why don’t you tell us what you’re currently involved in? Making a game? Programming anything?
Don: I have a bad habit here! I like coding game engines. My latest engine uses LUA (see http://lua.org) as a script language. The engine is very portable and it works on both PC and some ARM based handhelds.
Every year, in July, I teach children how to program at a summer school for young programmers. This school is going to be devoted to some sound effects library coding. It’s my my own workshop.
I have three work in progress game projects, but I have to polish up my engine first before continuing them!
Daniel: Here’s a thinker for you, Don. If you had not translated the RPG Makers, do you think that Enterbrain may have considered releasing them on their own? And if they had, do you think that they would have had as much success as they have had through your translations?
Don: Well, I believe that they would have never released it abroad. I don’t count some Playstation stuff, those are not as serious as the PC RPG Makers.
I know some Japanese people in real life, and they say that domestic market of Japanese RPGs is devoted to “smart people”. Who does the domestic market consist of? You know.
My translations and free advertising brought much attention to their products in many countries. They could have even released it in Russia despite the software piracy.
I don’t know how much they had earned on RPG Makers abroad, but I believe the sum could be less without my “help”. That’s just my opinion. There are many similar (and more professional) products for game making, which became forgotten right before the release of the RPG Makers.
How ironic that back in the nineties I had so much trouble when my commercial games were pirated. I haven’t covered my expenses, but I’ve got some “fame” because my products were wide spread. My next projects were pirated as well…
Daniel: So you rose to fame through piracy? Sounds more like infamy, eh?
Here’s another RPG Maker question for ya. Don’t worry, this whole interview won’t focus on the RPG Makers. This will be the last question focusing solely on this subject.
What are your thoughts on the newer RPG Makers, XP and VX. You may not use them, but I’m sure you’re aware of them? Do you think that they are a step forward, or a step backward? Is Enterbrain giving the amateur game designers the proper tools? I ask this because a lot of people are still using RPG Makers 2000 and 2003 despite these newer engines, and they are reluctant to change. What are your thoughts?
Don: I haven’t used the new makers, but I’ve read about their features and I’ve seen some screen shots. They kept backward project compatibility, that’s good. They added Ruby. That’s good, too. However, I don’t think they (new makers) vary much. So if people want to make games, they could use any tool.
One day users realize that the RPG Makers have their limits. They’re good for starters, good for fun. Being a professional programmer, I still like the idea of RPG Makers. The key is in their simplicity.
Daniel: So you still have a soft spot for the RPG Makers?
Don: That spot is my friends, the friendships that I made through my work with the RPG Makers.
Daniel: That’s pretty nice to hear, but I suppose it was evident since after passing on RPG Maker 2003, you continued at your ezBoard for a bit, followed by staffing at Gaming Ground Zero and then, finally, ending up at Stifu’s forum. You seem to have a close partnership with Stifu, even being featured as a playable character in his Mario Kart hack. How would you describe your relationship with Stifu, another well known figure from RPG Maker’s past?
Don: I didn’t pass on RPG Maker 2003. I just got a letter from Enterbrain and stopped distributing their products. I kept my forum online due to some friends of mine. It was the place to meet. Somehow I parted with GGZ (I never liked to be manipulated and such). It seems that Stifu is a very reliable man. Just look at his site. Stifu is my friend. For me, it’s a honor to have such a friend and be a tiny pixel in his (and his pal’s) project. I like Stifu’s pixel-art talent. Our friendship has grown up from the fight. I hope we’ll finish our cooperative projects and have some projects in the future.
Daniel: Well, I wish you luck! Thanks for taking the time to talk to me, Don, and again, best of luck to you in your future endeavors.