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BS: Where did the CD-ROM² [pronounced "CD rom-rom"] branding come from?
TT: Well, our main audience were gamers who already had a lot of HuCARDs and Famicom cartridges, so that naming was meant to communicate that this is more than just another ROM-based medium -- it was something bigger, better, more powerful.
CN: Something I read is that at the time, you couldn't burn CDs the way you can today, so the developer kits actually had to emulate CDs via interlinked hard drives. Was that the case at the time?
TT: The development kit? Well, you see home servers and so on these days that have terabytes and terabytes of storage, but back then hard drives were more like 80MB or 40MB.
If I'm remembering it right, we would connect eight 80MB hard disks together and used that as our CD-ROM development platform. As time went on 120MB and 240MB drives came on sale, so the number of drives you needed eventually went down.
BS: One risk you took with the PC Engine system was the Multitap. I think Hudson was the first company to have five-player support, and I think that was important, to have the whole family playing.
TT: I'd say we weren't the first with the idea of multiplayer gaming so much as we were the first to produce Bomberman. We wanted to have five people -- well, it could've been four, really, but -- all lined up in front of a single screen playing together, and it just so happened that the Multitap made that possible.
BS: What do you think of Xbox Live? You could call it the logical conclusion of Hudson's idea.
TT: Yeah. Whether you're all in the same room or you're playing over the net, the fact that you're all playing together naturally doesn't change. I don't think the concept is all that different; it's all in the method.
BS: Did Hudson have any online-play ideas at the time? Via modem or something?
TT: Not at the time, no. Later on, we made a version of Bomberman for the Game Boy that let you connect two or four GBs with cables and enjoy multiplayer that way.
Even with the cables, though, the communication speed between consoles was really slow; keeping things in sync was a huge pain. You'd only get a few updates per second, and the program would sort of have to bluff the other players' movements on each individual screen. That was what we dealt with even with dedicated hardware, so the conventional wisdom was that gaming via modem in realtime was even more impossible.
BS: The CD-ROM System was an add-on to the Core System. Hudson and NEC managed to make that work, but other companies like Sega and Nintendo had a much more difficult time making its own peripherals, like the Disk System and the Sega CD, popular. Why did that succeed on the PCE? Or was it a problem? (laughs)
TT: Well, it was mostly Hudson making these requests for new hardware -- they'd come up with ideas for games, then formulate the hardware they needed to make it happen. The Arcade Card came about because the programmers asked for more internal RAM to work with. Hudson discussed these concepts with NEC, of course, but it was largely Hudson that conceived and prototyped these peripherals, so the whole process was pretty smooth.
BS: In my mind, Hudson's add-ons were largely driven by software. For example, if you wanted to play Fatal Fury 2, you needed an Arcade Card.
TT: Right, and if you wanted to play Tengai Makyo 2, you needed a Super CD-ROM System. The projects were really based off the needs for the programmer. In the case of Tengai Makyo 2, the programmer would say "To implement this, I'd need to load four times on a single map, and I don't want to do that. I wanna do it in a single load, so give me four times the RAM I have now."
The negotiations that would result from requests like that is what ultimately led to the final product. So Hudson was usually the outfit that conceived the add-ons, and for the most part those add-ons were inspired by the programmers' needs.
CN: I was 13 when I got a Turbo CD, and since I was getting a little older, I thought that this is cooler, more technically advanced than the NES. Was that intentional? Were you trying to get the same audience as the NES?
TT: Our target audience at first was kids from five to 10 and up. Later on that got expanded, though. The real goal for us, though, was to create a console that would make it much easier for a programmer to take whatever idea he had and put it into action.
CN: Back when Hudson was getting its first popularity with the Famicom and the PC Engine, the market was mostly for kids, like you said, but there were a lot more original games.
Now, it's a lot harder for original kids' games; it's much more based around licenses. Hudson still does some, but what do you think about the transformation of the market? It seems like the drive's been toward doing original games for adults and then kids' games based on movies or whatever.
TT: I think it's really a shame, yeah. I think it'd be nice to see more original characters getting debuted in games and then moving on to other forms of media. I'd like to see that happen, but -- and this is as true in the U.S. as it is in Japan -- the sales department is primarily interested in whatever character sold the most product last year
No matter what you do with an original character, it's always going to have an uphill battle in this respect. Developers want to put out all kinds of new characters, of course, but the marketplace is just not ready to accept them. That's the way things have become, and it is a disappointment.