Saturday, 6 August 2011

An Inside Look at Operation Moonfall

In a time where video game companies and the fans of their products can interact through social media - fans are lucky enough to have gotten an increasingly powerful voice in regards to the things they want from their games; and in some cases the companies can definitely benefit from listening.

One such project is Operation Moonfall, a campaign to get Nintendo to re-release the N64 classic The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask for the 3DS (In a similar vein to the recent release of Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D). In my interview with one of the project leaders, Nathanial Rumphol-Janc, we get a better look at the inner workings of Operation Moonfall, and the effects of Fan Participation.

Tell us about yourself.

I'm Nathanial Rumphol-Janc, Co-Owner and Webmaster of Zelda Informer. I have partaken in some college but I haven't graduated, and my main source of income is indeed full time at McDonalds. It's not nearly as bad as most people fear it is.

I've been running websites and been part of the Zelda community for over a decade. First with Zelda Domain (8 years!), and then with Absolute Zelda which eventually melded into Zelda Informer, which at the time (2008) was still a relatively new and unknown face on the internet. Things blossomed from there. I love playing sports (despite being overweight), and of course I love video games. Believe it or not, Zelda is not my favourite series, and Nintendo is not my favourite game company. Of course, they have great respect from me and I do enjoy their products.

What made you decide to start up Operation Moonfall?
To say I started up Operation Moonfall would discredit all the behind the scenes conversations with several parties, including the staff over at Zelda Universe. I did create the petition and the twitter account, while another fan set up the Facebook page and handed me the reigns. Still, creating accounts and petitions is meaningless without support.

The idea for Operation Moonfall really started when we broke an interview a few weeks ago where Eiji Aonuma talked about the potential of making Majora's Mask 3D. He essentially said Ocarina of Time (OoT) 3D happened due to fan demand, and that similar demand would be needed for Majora's Mask. Of course, the issue was that an OoT remake has been in demand for many years; so trying to show Nintendo the demand is there for Majora's Mask is hard, considering that we wish to do it in a smaller time frame with the same impact.

From there, Alex Plant, one of our lead editors at Zelda Informer, and myself pretty much instantly coined the phrase "Operation Moonfall". It's debated still who actually came up with the name - it was just so fitting, and decided by too many people to really give proper credit. Even Zelda Universe was involved with it at some point. After deciding we were going to do this, a centralized support system was needed. We couldn't have several of these projects running around if we wanted to make the impact we hoped to make. Alex, at that point, immediately went to Zelda Universe to see if they would in turn want to jointly make this happen.

As those discussions were on going, fans were really excited - over 10 different fan projects for showing support had shown up. I knew something had to be done to unite the efforts before it got too out of control. Thus, I rushed and got Operation Moonfall kicked off at Zelda Informer as fast as possible. So, after some brief talks with member Super Decimal at Zelda Universe, as well as Cody their former webmaster, we got things all organized properly and made the big push. We still have some ideas in store, but the foundation is definitely present now.

What are Operation Moonfall's aims, and how are they going to be achieved?

The goals in general are to show Nintendo that just as much, if not more, fans are in support of Majora's Mask 3D happening as there was for OoT 3D. To do that, you need to have a movement that is big enough and strong enough to make a serious impact. We want 20,000 Facebook fans, 10,000 Twitter fans, and 50,000 petition signatures before truly taking it to the next level.

We have a lot of work ahead! We have contacts inside Nintendo we would like to submit a case to that go beyond the usual PR stunt. While no direct response is guaranteed, the generic response received has been much more positive compared to other previous fan movements. I'm sure this is something Nintendo already wants to do.

Why Majora's Mask in particular?

Well, for those who aren't aware, Majora's Mask is essentially worshipped as the pinnacle of gaming at Zelda Informer. That being said, this was truly fuelled because Aonuma told us it was possible. At one point it was one of the most under appreciated games in the entire Zelda series. It always played second fiddle to OoT in the N64 era, and at the time some of it's concepts were off-putting to most gamers. Ever heard complaints about the game's '3 day system'? That is the #1 reason Majora's Mask has been ignored for so long, yet it's one of the reasons the game is truly great.

Some would argue a giant movement for things like Operation Rainfall and the Mother series would be more warranted; the difference is we were told a fan movement could make this happen. Every other idea for a project (and I mean no harm to those movements) hasn't had such a direct statement made about it. This makes the project more likely to succeed where others have failed.

What's the initial fan response like so far?

To say it's been universally supported among all Zelda fans would be false. We're aware that there are people that oppose the idea. No one seems to not want it to happen; though people would rather that we get new games instead of remakes. There are arguments on both sides, but in the end the fan support has been mostly positive. At the time of this interview we have 10,000+ fans on Facebook, around 1,000 Twitter followers, and have achieved almost 17,000 signatures. As a comparison, we've already surpassed the overall support Operation Rainfall has gotten in significantly less time. Needless to say, the response has been better than any of us had anticipated.

Are you supporting any other Fan Participation projects?

Presently Operation Moonfall, and any major push to get the Mother series released for Wii Virtual Console and/or 3DS download. I mean, these movements are about providing the United States with some of the best games ever made for a Nintendo platform, so how can you not want to support them?

What do you feel the impact of Fan Participation has on video games, or other types of media?

In terms of convincing companies to release games, I think the impact is mixed at best. A lot of fan projects and fan demands are let down all the time. A recent example would be the cancellation of Mega Man Legends 3. Clearly, it caused a spiral of negative fan responses which hasn't been met with anything positive from Capcom. Operation Rainfall got response from Nintendo, but it was nothing we didn't already know.

Now, I do think fans can influence the creation of games. As an example, Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess was essentially Nintendo's response to all the fans that were hating on Legend of Zelda: the Wind Waker. It was, in essence, what the fans "wanted". So, in the end, I think the impact of fans is a mixed bag and is too unpredictable to really gauge the rate of success. Especially when you consider fans in general are fickle and always seem to like best what they had no idea they wanted.

Clearly, the project name has a relation to Operation Rainfall. How do you feel about their project?

I think what they are doing has to be done, regardless if it is successful in getting localized Nintendo of America (NoA) versions or not. Nintendo has to know that in going forward, especially in setting a new attitude with Wii U and the 3DS, not releasing the best titles available for their systems in the US is no longer acceptable behaviour.

And Nintendo's Response? What is your stance on how they handle Fan Participation?

Nintendo's response, honestly, was a non-response. After hyping it by saying they had something to say, they came back with absolutely nothing. Nintendo of Japan (yes, NoJ controls what gets released in North America, not NoA) simply doesn't want to put false hope out, nor do they want to really put out the flames. At this point, Nintendo can go either direction and no one would be surprised, and I think that is just the way they want it. In terms of how they handle Fan Participation, it's hard to really gauge - it's always been hit and miss.

In what way do you feel Operation Moonfall will succeed where other Fan Participation projects may have failed?

Well, I think it will succeed in that Majora's Mask 3D will happen some day. In fact, it likely has already been under consideration before Aonuma said a word about it. So in that sense, it will be a success in motivating Nintendo to release the game sooner rather than later. In that sense, it would have achieved it's goal, and that is something many Fan Participation projects ultimately end up not doing.

How do you feel about the potential for new Intellectual Properties (IPs) in the 3DS lineup, as opposed to sequels or remakes?

Honestly, the potential for new IPs never truly rests with the hardware, and instead rests with the developer. Sure, a lot of sequels and remakes are happening right now, but the system hasn't been in developers' hands very long. So, at this juncture, people are just trying to make sure there is content available for the system. Lack of software is a killer for any new system.

Still, the potential for new IPs is present; as it is for the Wii and DS, and will be with future formats. Creative ideas are truly a never ending cycle, though there is a lot of risk in making new IPs. It costs several million dollars to create a top notch game these days, so developers are less willing to take risks like they use to. Even Nintendo gets it wrong, as Wii Music was a pure flop that I am sure they spent a decent chunk of change on.

Still, the potential is always there. It's up to the hands that have the power to make the games for the 3DS to give us these new franchises and experiences without relying on previous success stories. I love Zelda, but what's stopping Nintendo from starting a new Adventure game series? They certainly never shied away from Platformers because of Mario. So, why not? We'll see how it goes. Miyamoto has stated a few times in the last 2 years he wants to create a truly new core IP, so we'll see if that ever comes to fruition. Third parties are pretty much in the same boat.

Do you see more Fan Participation events like Operation Moonfall in the future?

If warranted, sure. Fan Participation projects should never exist for the sole purpose of making yourself popular, or just because you want to bitch about something. That is where the line has to be drawn. Still, something has to happen for there to be a reaction. I don't think you can simply spurn a project for everything under the sun, because it makes the efforts more meaningless.

You can follow Operation Moonfall via their Website, Facebook, or Twitter.

This interview can also be found on the Operation Moonfall website and the VG Resource.

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