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Red Ash: A Brief Q&A With comcept's Keiji Inafune

The Internet has plenty of questions about the outspoken designer's latest project, so we dug up a few answers.

This article first appeared on USgamer, a partner publication of VG247. Some content, such as this article, has been migrated to VG247 for posterity after USgamer's closure - but it has not been edited or further vetted by the VG247 team.

Earlier this month, publisher comcept launched its second Kickstarter campaign to help fund the development of a game. Like Mighty No. 9, Red Ash: The Indelible Legend appears to be clear spiritual successor to company president Keiji Inafune's work on the Mega Man series during his days at Capcom - in this case, a follow-up to Mega Man Legends.

But where comcept's first run at Kickstarter yielded a chart-topping success, Red Ash has struggled; while it's nearly halfway through the campaign, the project hasn't quite hit the halfway mark for funding. Though it's not impossible to imagine Red Ash could hit its target with a concerted PR push in the coming weeks, this is by no means the slam-dunk that Mighty No. 9 was.

Why the difference? Online speculation has come up with a number of theories, including resentment; with Mighty No. 9 yet to be released, some feel Inafune has yet to prove himself. It includes poor timing; Bloodstained just wrapped up a record-setting Kickstarter campaign, and the equally anticipated Shenmue III fundraiser ends tomorrow. And it includes uncertainty; the proof-of-concept video for Red Ash lacked the satisfying punch and "take that, Capcom!" of Mighty No. 9's... not to mention the fact that Mega Man Legends, the games Red Ash so clearly riffs on, was always the most obscure of the franchise's offshoots.

Rather than simply fuel the fires of speculation and conjecture, we reached out to comcept directly to ask him many of the questions that have been circulating the Internet since Red Ash's debut. In this brief Q&A, Infaune clarifies the timing and structure of the Red Ash campaign, and underlines his determination to make this project a reality no matter what.

USgamer: I've seen excitement for Red Ash, but also skepticism about the Kickstarter campaign ? mainly centered around the fact that Mighty No. 9 hasn't shipped yet, and some think it's unseemly to begin asking for contributions to a new project so soon. I know Mighty No. 9 is close to launching. Why not wait just a little longer to begin the Red Ash campaign? Was there a reason to announce now?

Red Ash definitely captures the spirit of classic Japanese animation that defined Mega Man Legends

Keiji Inafune: At comcept, we are constantly developing new ideas. We believe gaming companies have an obligation to constantly deliver innovative worlds and ideas, so even as we developed Mighty No. 9, our heads were always open to new inspiration.

The thing to understand is development cycles of a game. The development on Mighty No. 9 is complete – all that's left is the porting and polish. If a small studio like comcept were to sit on their heels until the previous game has been released, it would be a waste of resources in both finance and talent of the team. We wish to be proactive in our development cycle, rather than reactive. That is why we announced the Red Ash campaign before the release of Mighty No. 9 in September. We also had the unique opportunity to work with STUDIO4?, so it was an opportunity we did not want to wait on. Besides, the sooner we start, the sooner we can finish!

In order to challenge ourselves to push the status quo, we've set up a new development team, company, and even PR company to bring the world of RED ASH to life. It's also a different genre of game, so saying "Red Ash is a completely different game" would be true!

USG: Why was there initially no mention of console versions, even as future stretch goals? Of course Mighty No. 9 began in the same fashion and console ports were added in later, but Red Ash doesn't exist in a vacuum ? obviously people have the Mighty No. 9 Kickstarter as a basis for comparison now and I think have certain expectations for this new project as a result.

KI: We've just begun talking about console ports on our Kickstarter page this week. We've heard the concern about putting off the console announcement loud and clear.

From M9's development, we learned exactly how massive the production costs are to get the game to all consoles. M9 allowed us to do that thanks to its massive stretch goals. For Red Ash, we wanted to focus on fewer consoles initially to ensure that our content goal is met. We would love to make the world of RED ASH available to gamers on all consoles, but we want to be reasonable about costs as well.

Some of the confusion surrounding Red Ash also has to do with the simultaneous Kickstarter comcept launched for an anime alongside the game.

USG: You pointed to the Legends 3 "developers room" project as an inspiration for Mighty No. 9; now here's a game that literally seems like a second chance. Based on your experiences with Mighty No. 9 and termination of the MML3 project, how do you think your approach to Red Ash will be different than your approach to MML3 was?

KI: My experiences with the DASH DevRoom are what informed my management of the Mighty No.9 community. I believe my creative vision and the feedback and opinions of hackers were realized through Mighty No. 9.

I intend to continue this development philosophy with Red Ash.

The most important thing for me is to get Red Ash made. That is why we are not trying to make RA in its entirety with this KS campaign. In fact, a conservative estimate for making a great open world game would be millions of dollars! Hence, the intent of this KS is to launch the game in a form we can show first parties and sponsors, so that everyone can collaborate on a higher level. Through partnerships and support from backers, players, and the community, we can embrace this second chance to bring my vision to life.

Balanced communication between players and creators is what makes all of this possible.

USG: It seems like the Legends games could never get a break... the last one debuted 15 years ago, though the lack of sequels clearly was not for lack of effort. It was a wonderful series, but it never seemed to find the audience it deserved. If for some reason Red Ash fails to hit its campaign goal, will you take that as a sign that this concept isn't commercially viable? Or will you continue to seek a way to bring this world and spirit back to life?

KI: There are several reasons why a project might not be successful. Since we are not yet sure of RA's success or failure, this is a difficult question to answer.

During a previous event in the States, I had made the comment, "Japanese game makers are avoiding challenges," but at my previous company and at my current one, I never stopped pursuing new challenges.

Mega Man Legends was in many ways a game ahead of its time. Unfortunately, the series always had trouble finding its proper time — and Red Ash could prove to be similarly troubled.

This is not limited to RA, but everything that I do. It would not be an understatement to say that I doubt many creators have used as many IPs as I have. And my reasoning is quite simple: I welcome the challenge.

I try not to think about the possibility of RA's Kickstarter failing, but in the event that it does, I will not give up on creating it, no matter what challenges lay before me.

USG: Even though you're returning to the Legends concept with Red Ash, obviously this is an unconnected story. Does that mean poor Mega Man is never going to get off the moon?

KI: I, too, am looking forward to knowing the answer to that question. Perhaps when the day comes that I can be involved in another MML series, we may know.

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