Today, I have the pleasure of interviewing Liam Robertson (Tamaki). In addition to his work on researching unreleased and beta games, Tamaki has recently reported on numerous rumors and ‘leaks’. Since he is a controversial figure, I figured it would be very interesting to hear his insight on himself, video game journalism, and allow him to address the common criticism that I’ve seen against him.
The questions were submitted to Tamaki, where he was given full control of his own wording. Please note that all of the links and pictures that are added added into this interview was 100% chosen by me (PushDustIn). This interview is pretty “meaty” so I hope it provides valuable insight.
Can you please introduce yourself to everyone?
Hi, I’m Liam! I’m a guy who researches games that were cancelled/never released, as well as the development cycles of those that were. I generally try to find the answers behind why those games were lost and to preserve more knowledge/media from them for the public.
This isn’t my day job; just something I’m quite interested in. I’m currently contributing to both Nintendo Life, and Unseen64.
What was the first game you’ve ever played?
My earliest gaming memory is probably the first Megadrive Sonic game. The true answer to your question is probably some terrible edutainment game for MS DOS though. I can’t quite remember. I must have been very young.
What is your favorite game of all time, and why?
I can’t begin to give you a definitive answer to this, because there are many I love, but let’s give a nod to The Wonderful 101. It’s a fairly recent entry to my all time favourites, and never gets enough praise.
That game is my obsession. The combat is so deceptively deep, the set pieces are absurdly cool, and it just makes me cry with laughter. I could talk about it all day, so let’s just leave it here. Everyone reading this needs to play it though!
Recently on twitter you asked your followers which Nintendo franchise they would like to see revived in the future. I want to turn that question back to you, what franchise would you like to see revived?
Elite Beat Agents. Or Ouendan. Take your pick. They’re both great. It is a great shame that Nintendo didn’t give either a nod in the most recent Smash Bros.
A lot of rumours are pointing towards the NX launching next year alongside Zelda Wii U. How likely do you think this is?
I can see why there is grounds to think this, but I personally would be surprised. EAD is ran by creatives. They will only put it onto their next platform as well if they think there will be a creatively beneficial incentive to do so. You can bet the Zelda Wii U game has been built all around the gamepad, like Skyward Sword was around the motion plus remote. That’s just how Miyamoto and the folks he runs with roll. They get excited for a new bit of tech like that and run away with the possibilities it introduces. I can imagine them getting in too deep with the Wii U’s unique capabilities to be able to produce a port for its successor. That speculation sort of hinges on whether or not it has a gamepad, but look at those Wii U sales. The tablet controller dream is on its last legs.
This autumn, Nintendo are planning on unveiling their first mobile game as well as their replacement for Club Nintendo. Part of this replacement is that it will create a unified account system for the Wii U, 3DS, Mobile and the NX. Do you think it is likely that more NX-related news will be announced around this same time?
I think they might passingly mention it, but otherwise, no.
Do you think Nintendo will hold off showing the NX until E3 2016 or do you think Nintendo will reveal substantial information about it before this date?
What is your impression on video game journalism?
There is not enough of it. Too much of ‘gaming news’ relies on neatly packaged PR statements from companies, and easily accessible media like tweets and YouTube videos. There’s very, very little actual journalism and investigative reporting going on nowadays. I think people need to have some ambition and take some pride in the medium they have the privilege to write about.
You’ve got to reach out, make those connections, dig, get desperate, problem solve, find your answers. If a chump like me can do this stuff, I think the people actually being paid to do it can.
#GamerGate advocates have presented themselves as defenders of “integrity in games journalism.” As a games journalist, do you feel their activities are helpful or harmful to the field, and why?
I wouldn’t describe myself as pro or anti GG, but I genuinely can’t recall a time in which I’ve seen them actually criticise a poor piece of ‘games journalism’, or real corruption in the gaming media. I’ve tried for over a year now to keep an open mind to their ‘cause’. On the face of it, it sounds like something I’d be all for. The GG I’ve experienced, however, largely just seems hellbent on pedalling this anti political correctness agenda.
There can be some absolutely awful pieces floating around that were put together solely to stir up controversy and bring in the clicks. Those are untouched, but if you step one foot into the realm of pro political correctness or advocating being progressive, THEN they take notice and kick up a fuss.
Look at the Machinima scandal going around right now. That is as true corruption; money exchanging hands for undeclared advertising, disguised as something else. I didn’t see them go after that at all.
‘PC gone mad’ is something I despise, too, but GG is not at all interested in standards of journalism, or even ethics, unless it gives them a new stone to throw at one of their enemies. It’s little more than a front for a group of people with a shared system of beliefs that demonises PC. The sooner they admit that, and drop that incredibly unfitting name of theirs, the better.
They’re not really affecting anything to do with games journalism because they themselves no longer have anything to do with it to begin with.
How did you get involved with Unseen 64?
I had been friendly with the owners for several years and had always really admired what the site was attempting to do. I must have found it around 2008 and sank hours into sifting through it, looking at all the games on there.
After a brief time spent working as a freelancer when I was a student, last year I decided I would start helping out by adding new games and updating older articles. It was just a fun little hobby for me to do, since I’d developed a number of industry contacts. I taught myself how to track the right people down online and how to get answers. It can take time, but it’s incredibly rewarding.
What is something surprising that you found in your research?
A good example of something that I had absolutely no idea about prior to discovering it myself was that Nintendo once tried to buy the media rights to Harry Potter. They even met with JK Rowling to discuss it with her, presenting Nintendo-made Harry Potter prototypes at their proposal. Imagine a world without any of the movies we have today, but with each book adapted into a game instead. That was what Nintendo envisioned. How crazy is that?
What is something that you would like to research, or find additional information on?
I think the cream of the crop in this category for me would be something like Donkey Kong Racing, or Marionette. We never saw protoype demos of either, which is a shame. We’ll probably never see Marionette as it was built at NCL, but I get the impression someone will unearth more material from DKR one day. I know there is some great art out there that hasn’t been made public yet.
How did you get involved with rumors, speculation and information leaks?
That is never something I actively pursue; at least not to begin with. This stuff just falls onto my lap a lot of the time. I’ve become fortunate enough to be acquainted with a lot of much more well known people than myself in the games industry. This includes gaming media personalities, developers, writers, etc.
Around May, I started to have a lot of info passed on to me from these friends, and decided to let the public know. Unlike many others in the media, who are locked down by embargoes and concerns of getting sites blacklisted, I have the freedom to do that since I never signed NDA’s. Too much of the press is tied down and gagged by publishers like Nintendo, and I refuse to be a part of it.
What are some rumors and leaks that you have debuted in the past?
Recently, I leaked that Mercury Steam had been working on a potential Metroid game earlier this year. That is one of many: I outed the PS4 port of Zombi U about 2 months before they announced it, I detailed the Skylanders 2015 weeks before reveal, plans for the Fallout 4 special edition, and that Uncharted collection pack. I’m sure I’m forgetting many of them. I’m not really including cancelled stuff in there, otherwise we’d be here all day.
What reputation do you think you have? Overall positive? Negative?
I have no idea. I’d like to think that it is generally positive, judging by the reception of my actual work. The YouTube thumbs are very much in my favour, so there’s that, I guess?
You can sometimes get weighed down in the negative comments. There are many of them that accuse me of being some enormous liar, and a puppet master of the gaming media, who is manipulating them into peddling my bullshit. That stuff just makes me laugh.
For instance, I reported that Devil’s Third had been dropped by Nintendo of America. Then, a number of sites, including Siliconera, Kotaku, Nintendo Enthusiast, and others came out and backed up my story. Two weeks later, it was revealed by Nintendo World Report and Nintendo Life that they were moving to reacquire the publishing rights amidst fan backlash to the initial news that they had dropped it.
After that, people began to spin these elaborate conspiracy theories that I was all behind that and that the press did that to “save face”. It amazes me how naive some people are. Do you really think I could get a bunch of major Nintendo news sites to report on that just to save my skin? Why would they do that? How does that benefit them? People need to think more.
You said recently in a couple of Tweets that you are fighting anxiety issues and depression. What keeps bringing you back to the rumor/ speculation / information leaks scene?
I am trying to move away from it, as of the Shovel Knight thing. Whether or not it turns out to be true, it doesn’t really matter. I don’t enjoy the boom of attention, positive or negative. I think the one thing I will continue to do is my historical research. I enjoy that a lot more. I really only kept sharing the rumours I heard because I felt an obligation to let the people know.
Maybe one day I will change my mind and get used to things. For now, I’m taking a break from it.
One of the common criticisms against you is that you make claims without naming your sources. Why is this your policy?
Well, this is a common misconception about me. I don’t always do this. There have been numerous times in which I have named sources. For instance, Alex Ward, the former VP of Criterion, was named as the source behind my F-Zero Wii U story. People just like to use this as “ammo” to poke holes in my stories.
The truth is that I maintain the anonymity of those sources so they can speak freely and say what needs to be said, without worrying about compromising themselves. It is often the case that they might be in breach of a non-disclosure agreement when sharing such info, so it is important that their identities are kept under wraps from the public. If not, they could very conceivably be sued by the companies they’ve been involved with and never find work in the industry again.
How do you establish trust with your sources, and how much do you trust them?
Personally, I trust them a lot, but that’s only because I’m very selective about the people I use. Many, many people come to me, claiming to have information each week. It is probably about 1 in about 20 people that have authentic information and aren’t just trying to troll.
I always ensure that they are who they say they are, and that they confide in me their identities and proof of their claims before even thinking about posting anything. I try to be careful, as to not waste people’s time.
How can the public know you aren’t making up information?
I don’t know why that would benefit anyone. There is enough misinformation and fake rumours out there about games. I try my best to cut out the bullshit, and deliver something worth taking note of.
If you doubt whatever I’ve said, look to my past reports. I think you’ll see that I am at least trying to help, as opposed to “lying for attention”, as some claim.
Users have criticized you for getting a couple of things wrong, such as saying that the next Fallout would be on the older generation (Xbox 360, PS3). What exactly happened?
I never said that. I speculated that it might be, based upon various factors: namely the graphics, and the fact that a GAF user found mentions of Xbox 360 and PS3 in the source code of the Bethesda site. I was certainly not the only one who thought this might be the case.
I knew that F4 was real, and spoke of it numerous times before the announcement, so everyone assumed this little bit of speculation was a part of my ‘leak’. It wasn’t. If you go back and read the tweet I posted that everyone likes to flag up as my big mistake, you will see that I never said definitively “it’s happening! F4 is cross gen” because I never claimed that.
Why did you delete that Tweet?
I didn’t delete that tweet. Go look it up. I believe it’s still there. If anyone wants to quiz me about things the Internet claims I was “wrong about”, then please feel free to. I don’t believe I’ve made any such errors, and if I did, I would be the first to own up about them. I have nothing to hide.
There has also been some criticism over your Devil’s Third coverage. Do you believe Nintendo of America radically changed their plans because of you?
Because of me? No, Nintendo doesn’t care what I do. It was because of how vocal the fan response was, according to the reports. Again, I had nothing to do with those stories claiming that was what happened. Do I believe it? Yes. Have I seen the proof myself? Yes, I have. Regardless, that was nothing to do with me and I hope people can separate that in their minds.
Nintendo is becoming increasingly flexible around fan feedback this year. The Devil’s Third 180 is only one example. Another is the Super Mario Maker 9 day unlock system, which they did a u-turn on for the same reason.
SHOVEL KNIGHT RUMOR:
Were you shocked to hear the rumor that Shovel Knight was potentially coming to Smash?
A bit. I wasn’t really expecting more third party characters, but it would be nice if an indie partner of Nintendo received recognition like that.
How confident are you in the rumor?
Fairly confident. I feel there is a lot of circumstantial evidence to support it outside of what the rumour source claims. That is only my speculation, though. We’ll see what happens.
What characters would you like to see in Smash Brothers? What characters do you think are likely?
Wonder Red is my instant first pick as a W101 fan. He’s the best Nintendo character to come along in years.
I think at this late stage that we are unlikely to see more “safe choices” like Wolf (as much as I’d like Wolf). I am preparing myself for more off-the-wall, unexpected choices like Shovel Knight, as the Smash ballot will apparently bring about much more “fan-driven” picks. Expect the unexpected, in other words.
When you first brought to light the Shovel Knight rumour, you said on Twitter there was more to this that you knew but just could not say. Was this information the Shovel Knight Amiibo and/or the ability to buy DLC from stores such as Amazon, or is there more to this?
Yes, there is more to the rumour that cannot be spoken of publicly, as it could very easily implicate the source. Let’s just say that whether or not it turns out to be true, this individual is in such a position that they would be able to find out. They’ve provided numerous ‘leaks’ before in the past that later turned out correct, thanks to their advantageous position.
Is there anything you would like to say?
Thank you for welcoming me into the Smash Bros. community. I have been a long time fan from a distance, and it has been a very warm welcome, despite initial hostility from certain individuals. Whatever happens, all of this speculation has been a lot of fun to be a part of!
If you enjoyed this interview, check out our other interviews.
Straight from the Source — Brendon Wilson (SSB4dojo.com)
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Mains: Yoshi (64), Game and Watch (Melee), Wario (Brawl), Wario/Pac-Man (Smash for 3DS/Wii U)