Interview With Ryan Kelley of ZigZaGame, Inc.

For starters, let’s learn a little about ZigZaGame, Inc. How large is your staff currently, and are you still heavily involved in Flash games, or would you say your focus is shifting more toward the mobile gaming industry?

The core team consists of seven people. The number goes up to around 15 if we include contractors and interns. While we operate a Japanese Flash game website with NTT Resonant, our current focus is mobile gaming. We started off by porting successful Flash games to iOS.

Let’s jump straight into Adventure Bar Story. Has the press excitement surrounding ABS surprised you at all, or does it just reflect a hunger for RPGs you already knew existed in English-speaking markets?

We are very thankful for the excitement surrounding ABS. We believe in the title; at the end of the day, who doesn’t enjoy owning a bar and slicing up monsters for your main dish? It’s so much cooler than owning a game development company (just kidding). Recettear’s success also played a role in the decision to localize the title. If I may add, while there have been tremendous enhancements, Adventure Bar Story was released in 2006 as a Japanese mobile game. It’s older than Recettear.

Tell us about Siela, the game’s main character — how she ended up in charge of this bar, what her responsibilities are as owner, and how that factors into gameplay. Would you say the game is heavily story-driven with a linear central narrative, or does it turn the player loose to find and complete quests that are loosely connected in the context of bar ownership?

There’s a rich jerk trying to take over her sister’s bar, which also happens to be her house. The only way to save it is to become the most popular bar in town. The sister’s a horrible cook, so Siela has no choice but to do it herself.

While there are side quests, I would say the game is story-driven with a linear central narrative. You pass certain milestones in the bar management simulation aspect of the game to trigger RPG events.

What’s the battle system like in Adventure Bar Story? It looks like the positioning of player characters and enemies might play an important role.

Yes, positioning is important in battles. There could be up to six enemies in the 3×2 grid and, as you might expect, you cannot attack enemies in the back row if there are some in the front row unless you use special skills (or use a bow and arrow as your main weapon). Positioning is also important for your own characters (three of which can fight at one time). It’s basically the usual “front row does and takes more physical damage, back row does and takes less physical damage” situation. And since this game is somewhat special, the skills you learn will be different from the normal RPG stuff. A skill called “Butcher,” for instance, would let you collect “Pork” from Hog-type monsters.

If Adventure Bar Story performs well, do you see ZigZa porting and/or localizing more games to iOS in the future?

We will be back with more Japanese games!

Moving to Dragon Island – how far back does your partnership with Greyhound Games go? It looks like this isn’t the first time ZigZa and Greyhound have partnered up on a game.

We’ve been working closely with Greyhound for about two years on various projects. We actually met in person for the first time a few weeks ago at Macworld!

We’ve heard a lot about Dragon Island’s monster-raising gameplay, but we haven’t learned much about the game world or story yet. Just who is that knight whose portrait is displayed in the battle screens?

To sum it up, he is pissed. Dragon Island’s world had been oppressively ruled by dragons until someone learned how to imprison monsters, gathering them into armies that were used to kill all the dragons. Their remaining eggs were likewise imprisoned. After hundreds of years of being absent, dragons suddenly reappeared one year before the game starts and divided the world into their territories, leaving the population in fear. When the hero’s village is almost destroyed by a dragon overlord, the village elders send him to the capital city to earn a monster hunter license and find the one responsible for unleashing the dragons.

What work remains to be done on Dragon Island? Is a release date in sight yet?

We are working on the UI for managing monsters. We should be in beta within three weeks, hoping for a mid-March launch.

Finally, we saw that ZigZa has started a manga project?

In the near future, expect to see a lot of Japanese manga on iOS and Android!

Big thanks to ZigZaGame COO Ryan Kelley for squeezing our questions into his schedule as the ZigZa team heads for the finish line on Adventure Bar Story. If “konichiwa” is a perfectly normal greeting for you, you can find out more about Adventure Bar Story at Rideon’s site for the PSP version. The rest of us will have to keep an eye on ZigZaGame’s website and Facebook pages (one for Adventure Bar Story, one for Dragon Island) for the latest.