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Azel Resurrection Project Interview with Panzer Dragoon World

With last year’s release of Panzer Dragoon: Remake by MegaPixel Studio, and the scheduled release of Panzer Dragoon Zwei: Remake later this year, fans are eagerly waiting with bated breath for the eventual announcement of a remake for Panzer Dragoon Saga. Some die-hard fans are willing to take matters into their own hands. The Azel Resurrection Project has been announced by the Panzer Dragoon World YouTube channel as “an opportunity for the fans to support a modern vision of Azel.

Now, if you were thinking that the Azel Resurrection Project plans to develop a full fledged remake of Panzer Dragoon Saga, you might be disappointed. Their Patreon explicitly states that they do not have the license from SEGA to develop for the IP – thus – the reason they are calling the project “Azel R“.

What they do promise is an opportunity to have the fans’ voices heard by supporting “a fresh take on Azel while being involved in Azel R project’s design process“. The Azel Resurrection Project plans to spread awareness of the Panzer Dragoon series by creating high resolution concept art and possibly a demo of a Panzer Dragoon Saga remake using the Unreal Engine 4 platform. The project does not promise a full game, for aforementioned reasons.

Indie developers creating fan projects are nothing new in the gaming industry. Recall Christian “Taxman” Whitehead created a concept demo of Sonic the Hedgehog CD on his own Star Engine. His fan projects propelled him to eventually team up with Headcannon and PagodaWest Games to develop Sonic Mania in 2017. Also consider the Sonic Amateur Games Expo (or SAGE), an annual event showcasing both original and Sonic-inspired projects.

The difference here is that these developers operated under the condition that the games were created for “educational” purposes – they could not financially benefit off of SEGA’s copyright. But Azel Resurrection Project is offering patron tiers from a dollar to five hundred dollars. Some of the incentives include high-resolution artwork, exclusive voting power for the direction of the project, behind-the-scenes footage, exclusive merchandise and branding deals.

These are all very concerning developments, so we reached out to Panzer Dragoon World for comment:

MV: Being a diehard fan and supporting the Panzer Dragoon Community for 20+ years, I could understand the desire to motivate SEGA into taking the Panzer Dragoon more seriously. However, we’re already seeing MegaPixel Studio moving forward with Panzer Dragoon Zwei – which is due out sometime this year. Why pull the trigger on a project for Panzer Dragoon Saga when MegaPixel and Forever Entertainment could very well have Saga in queue after Zwei’s release?

PDW: According to my contacts, Panzer Dragoon Saga Remake has not been greenlit. So as being a fan for 20+ years and having been waiting for so long, if you really want something done, you have to do your part. But my problem was that I was not a developer. And I had never seen a modern vision of AZEL that had convinced me so far.

That was until I was contacted by the developers behind the “leaks”. Let’s call them unofficial art because I see some people who clearly lack respect treat these artworks “fake”. They are not “fake”, they are “unofficial” for now. Which doesn’t authorize a minority of people to be disrespectful of the art and talent. Jealousy will not make this community better. We can do better and we should call out these behaviors .The large majority of the fans have shown enthusiasm about those designs. So disregarding the talent here would be an insult made to the fans themselves.

The Azel R Project was in the works before the first Panzer Dragoon Remake was even announced, and even before I joined them. Because AZEL is not a rail shooter, our dev team has worked hard on the R&D and gameplay mechanics, before starting production. To avoid these problems you see in most games these days with big D1 patches because not everything has been thought correctly in the early stages.

Again, the dev team is composed of veterans of the industry. The general public will see that more and more in the quality of the production we deliver over time.

MV: Do you think this project could help influence Forever Entertainment’s creative direction?

PDW: I am pretty sure we inspired a company like FE to do the Remakes and I am confident without Panzer Dragoon World, the series wouldn’t have had the exposure it has today.

Azel Resurrection Project 1

MV: In your Patreon post, you openly acknowledge Azel Resurrection Project is not operating under license by SEGA to produce content for the Panzer Dragoon IP – which isn’t anything new. We have examples of Taxman, Stealth, and the countless indie devs creating fan content for SAGE, but under the condition that the project continue under “educational purposes”. I have concerns regarding the production of Azel Resurrection Project and the Patreon. You’re asking for up to $500 per Patron to fund your project. Where do you have the legal freedom to produce products and services that’s directly tied to SEGA’s IP?

PDW: We started a Patreon because we believe we need to involve the fans, so that they understand the creative process behind such a project. And so that they adhere to a vision. Our vision.

I mean, a Kickstarter is different: dev can take the money and flee. And if it goes well, interactions are quite minimal. With Patreon, our patrons have much more control. They can provide feedback, vote, they can stop pledging. No one is forcing anyone to support our project.

We also believe this is only helping SEGA to decide which direction to take with this IP. It has never been re-released before, probably for several reasons. The reception of our project and of our vision can certainly help SEGA see more clearly. Polls are one thing, actually developing concept arts, models, animations is something the team does in their free time for now.

Let’s make this clear: the Patreon is a baby, it may make some people envious but it is just a baby for now. So we give more than we get. I mean, people can clearly see this project is done with love and care for the original AZEL game.

Regarding the [$500] Patreon tier you mention, it clearly is NOT aimed at fans of the game. It says Sponsor for one reason.
The Patreon is there to fund the production. Each patron commissions us to deliver month after month.

MV: Are you concerned that SEGA may threaten you with a C&D?

Everything the team does is produced from scratch, so the author/artist remains owner of his creation. We are not using assets from SEGA at the moment. We create everything the fans commission us to do. We don’t do a production open to the general public with items manufactured in China copying existing items or designs. We create. Everything is done by our artists for our patrons.

Think about it that way: many people commission random artists on the internet for a variety of things. Many people commission artists to draw them Panzer Dragoon content. Well with us, you are sure to get a consistent quality coming from fans of the series who are also veteran developers. And we make it clear that our creations are not labeled as Panzer Dragoon. We will see if this changes in the future.

Azel Resurrection Project

We want to work intelligently and with the principle of good will. As I said, we are making the Panzer series more visible with this project. We are not taking anything away from an existing project as there is no Panzer Dragoon Saga Remake announced. There is some AZEL content supposedly coming into a game but this will be a VR experience – not a RPG experience. As you can see, there is a strong appetite for what we do.

Yes, SEGA can absolutely interrupt this project. I don’t know if this would be the wisest option though. It would disappoint many fans who want to see our vision fulfilled. We do want to discuss with SEGA at some point. But I think it is best for both parties that we wait a bit and see how our fan project goes. A sort of test of concept, a test of the vision if you will, both for SEGA and for us. Also we have to ask ourselves this question: what is the alternative to our project? We are talking about an ambitious modern remake of AZEL with fresh ideas.

Either way, we are absolutely fine with our strategy: this project can absolutely turn into its own intellectual property if needed. Assets can be modified. It would simply be a game “inspired by” instead of a licenced game. Worse case scenario, we can totally release a nice hard cover book with all original artworks/concept arts that the team has created and is still creating. Fans have already asked about it. Our work won’t be go to the bin.

MV: My understanding is that you are working with a developer “Black Fenrir”. We have not had much luck in finding information on this individual or team with the short-term research we’ve done. There has also been concerns that this “Black Fenrir” is connected to the allegedly faked screenshots of Panzer Dragoon assets in the past. What can you tell us about this developer/artist? What projects have they previously worked on?

PDW: Black Fenrir is an artist’s name. As stated before, these “leaks” were one way for the artist to share his vision with the public. At the time, I didn’t know who the artist was but I saw these designs as the best thing AZEL fans had ever seen since 1998. I shared them with the community and they expressed similar sentiment. So I don’t understand where the concerns are here. The real question is: do fans enjoy those designs? Do they want this vision to be pursued? If so, they need to be vocal about it, only them can make a difference. If they don’t like them, then they can say so but to be honest, I haven’t seen any single critic about the art itself. I might be wrong 🙂 

Black Fenrir has 25 years of experience in the digital industry, working for TV, cinema and the gaming industry. He has 13 years of experience in the gaming industry and has had several roles including character artist, lead artist.. He also funded a studio and designed a game engine in the past. He is leading this project. There are other team members and all of them are senior developers. They have worked for Square Enix, Eidos, EA, Warner Bros, Ubisoft, Marvel, and have experience on all platforms: Console, PC, mobile, etc.

The skills of the team are pretty much covering the whole scope of the Azel R Project, at least for now: Concept artist, 3D modeler/sculptor, light specialist, shader technician, animator, technical animator, engine integrator, coder/scripter, technical artist. The Patreon would also allow us to do more when needed: bring in additional resources/skills, licence music, etc. Currently, the team uses Unreal Engine 4 and plan to transition to Unreal Engine 5.

MV: So this is a much larger undertaking than just two people working on a passion project? The funds will support an entire team…

PDW: None of us work for free, much like how MegaVisions has a Patreon. We have bills to pay. At the moment, the dev team members are working on this project in their spare time. But if we want to see the project go into full speed, we probably need the team to go full time on this project. As you know, days have a limited amount of hours so again, the Patreon is there to commission the quality and the work that is to be done for this project.

Also, do you have an idea of the cost of preproduction character? It can go close to $10k. These are the prices the industry applies (Warner, Capcom, Batman…) So yea, this is to give context to what the “funds” are for. They are here to pay for the quality and execution of the work.

I want to express my gratitude to the overwhelming majority of Panzer Dragoon fans who support our idea and our vision of the Azel Resurrection Project. We are not quite there yet but you can make a difference. A few years ago, we didn’t have that chance, we didn’t have this option. It’s time for us to take our chance. I really mean it as a AZEL Panzer Dragoon fan. If there were other options, we might have never had this conversation.

Undertaking a fan project of this magnitude is daunting, and while there may be some legal red tape the team will have to maneuver through, Panzer Dragoon World remains optimistic and flexible. At the very least, it leans on being a noble cause, as Panzer Dragoon Saga is already gatekept by multiple factors such as an insane second-hand asking price and being on a platform frankly underperformed. While I am personally tempering my expectations, I wish PDW the best in their future endeavors.

Get caught up on our previous coverage on the Panzer Dragoon IP, along with our review of Panzer Dragoon: Remake for the Nintendo Switch.

Christopher Wenzel

Mega Visions Operations Manager and Co-Host of the ScrubVerse Podcast. Soulsborne masochist. Guilty Gear Shill. All Hail Daisuke Ishiwatari.

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