Note: Princess Maker 2 is not, nor has it ever been, freeware, abandonware, or shareware. The rights to the game still belong to NineLives, Gainax, and their licensees. SoftEgg is no longer in a position to grant publication rights to anyone, but still retains the rights to its English language translation (without the source code and art). So please stop pirating the game! Thank you.
Gainax's premier computer game was set to come to the US. So what happened?
At the time when we started looking at the game, the PC was pretty much ruled by simulation games. Doom had just come out, but it's full impact on the industry had yet to be felt. Windows 95 was very late, and I had just lost my job at Microprose during yet another round of layoffs at that company (They are now owned by Hasbro...)
Since David Leary already had a small shareware text-adventure company called Adventions, we decided that his company would be our official face for conducting business. Our friend Bryan Buck was to handle the translation, but before long he brought in Chris Nebel (now at Apple) to help with the vast amount of translation work. I (Tim Trzepacz) handled a variety of concerns, including licensing (with David Leary), programming (with Bryan Buck), art modifications, and manual layout.
We contacted Robert Woodhead of AnimEigo, who had licensed products from Gainax before for advice in conducting the deal. As it turns out, Gainax was looking for somebody to license the game too at the same time, so Mr. Woodhead became Gainax's representative in licensing the game to us.
Contract negociations stretched out over a rather lengthy period, and it took quite a while to get all of the necessary materials to do the conversion. The game turned out to be written mostly in 8086 assembly language and it's own interpreted language, which made the conversion quite difficult. We felt that it was important to get the game mostly translated before showing it to potential distributors, as much of the game's charm is lost if you can't read the text. The delays were very unfortunate, as they pushed us past the release of Microsoft Windows 95 and many companies were no longer interested in MS-DOS based games by the time Princess Maker 2 was ready (Debbie Minardi of SSI actually said "MS-DOS?! Ewwwww!" I'm not kidding!)
After we had completed the licensing, translation, reprogramming, and even a new layout of the manuals in full color, we were having a hell of a time trying to sell the game. It dragged on for a couple of years, and Adventions had to close it's doors as David Leary had taken a new job at Westwood Studios. So I created SoftEgg to handle the task of trying to sell Princess Maker 2.
I had all but given up, having taken a full-time position at Working Designs, when one of the companies I had initially tried to sell the game to contacted me again, It was Jeff Sass from Intracorp Entertainment (aka Capstone) who claimed that they had a company lined up who wanted to sell the game. Their company was theoretically recovering from a previous bankrupcy filing, but I was assured that the bankrupcy would not affect any deal I made with them at that point. They said that I would be signing a deal with the company that they were licensing to which didn't turn out to be true, but I was rather desperate to sell the game, so I was willing to give them a shot. Bad move.
It took some time, but eventually the deal was concluded. Intracorp licensed the game to another company called Ignite, also known as Inscape, Graphix Zone, and probably a few other names as well. I was in touch with some folks at that company, and things seemed to be going well, other than they couldn't seem to get me a reasonable picture of their logo to put in the game. I finally redrew it myself and sent them the final disks. As it turned out, they couldn't wait for the final version, and manufactured CDs of a much earlier, unfinished version of the game which they handed out to random people at the E3 trade show. That year the show was in Atlanta, so I was not attending, which was unfortunate because if I had been there I would have known that they had fired their entire staff.
I'm not sure how it took so long for the news of Ignite's troubles to reach me, but I went on thinking that everything was alright for some time. It wasn't until a few months later at Anime Expo that Ron Scovil of Mixx Magazine told me what had happened. I suddenly became very ill. After the convention, I was staying at a friend's house in the Los Angeles area, and since Ignite was in that area, I decided to pay them a visit. First, I found Ignite's padlocked office. Questioning the neighbors, I determined that they had moved out at least 6 weeks ago. Fortunately, I was able to find some information on the internet that linked Ignite to Inscape and Graphix Zone.
Next I headed off to Inscape and Graphix Zone's headquarters in Irvine. They had several buildings in an industrial park, but all were abandoned. The last one I found had instructions for the mail to be delivered to another address. So I went to that address, a mile or so away. In a building in another industrial park marked for some other business, I finally found them. They were not too happy to see me. The woman who seemed to be in charge accused me of harassing her secretary and claimed to not even know about SoftEgg, as their agreement was with Intracorp. I did get some new contact information from them before I left.
Upon my return, I immediately apprised Intracorp of the problem. Their contract with Ignite was better written that the one that I had with them, so they were able to pull out rather quickly when Ignite failed to manufacture the game. They said that they had another distributor waiting in the wings, so I gave them another chance. During this time, I was e-mailing Gainax with the news to so that they knew what was happening.
Finally, by January I realized that Intracorp was not much longer for this world, and tried to end our agreement. Now, my rights to Princess Maker 2 had expired by the time we licensed to Intracorp, so we actually had a three-way agreement between SoftEgg, Gainax, and Intracorp, which could only be ended by a signature of all parties. By this point, Jeff Sass was gone and I was dealing with the head guy Lee Rothschild. He didn't want to end the agreement, but he finally agreed to end it as long as he was the last one to sign it. Nice stalling tactic. It takes time for me to get stuff through Gainax, and by the time they were ready to sign, Intracorp had gone into full bankrupcy and any attempt to end the agreement would end with the Florida state-appointed trustee assigned to liquidate the company, Marsha Dunn.
Trying to deal with the trustee was impossible. I was never able to talk to her directly. At one point I was able to talk to her lawyer, but I soon realized that nothing good could come of this. They didn't seem to have a copy of the contract regarding the game, and the lawyer asked me to send a copy. But something about his wording bothered me, and I realized that they might turn around and try to license the game to another company to help pay Intracorp's debts. And since Intracorp was in bankrupcy, they probably didn't have to pay anything to SoftEgg or Gainax. Now, if I hired a lawyer, I probably could have straightened things out, but it would have been a lot of money to spend to basically end an agreement and leave myself with no product and no rights. So I just let it go.
That is pretty much the end of the story. The 5 year contract with Intracorp expired in 2002, but an MS-DOS based game was pretty much dead the minute Windows 95 came out. As a child-rearing simulation, it had little chance of competing in a market that had pretty much turned to Quake and Command-and-Conquer clones. And the newspaper articles that said "Princess Maker Sexist" didn't help us either.
Nobody made any money on Princess Maker 2 that I know of, certainly not myself or any of the other folks who actually worked on it. Ultimately, my attempt to bring Princess Maker 2 to the United States brought me very little but pain and heartache. It's a line on my resume, and a deduction on my taxes... I've literally written the game off.
Last year, I met Princess Maker 2's creator, Takami Akai, at Fanime Con. It seems that all rights to the games outside Japan have been granted to some other company in asia, which seems odd, considering that our agreement hasn't run out yet, but I have no reason to push the issue, best of luck to them. I printed up a special copy of the english language version, complete with the full color manual, which I presented to Akai-san in a public ceremony at the convention. I said "I've been a bad father, the daughter has turned out poorly. I am returning her to you now." In the tradition of the game, I returned the child to the creator at the end.