This is how the developers created the still-deepening and widely-being played & loved world of Oratorio Tangram. What we could do is just see it as played like the eyeball of Tangram. Here is an interview where Juro Watari, the producer of Oratorio Tangram, which stocked the arcade world in many ways, answered questions all Oratori Tangram players demanded to be answered.

This is the way Watari observed the National Tournament of VOOT

Interviewer: So, please let me hear your overall impression of the national tournament that took place a few days ago.
Watari: I'm very impressed to see how far some players were able to go in terms of skill and technique. I was very satisfied.
Interviewer: You've told me before that Temjin would be the strongest VR, and we witnessed what you said came true, didn't we?
Watari: Oh, it was his [E.K.D's] skill that made it possible. What amazed me especially was the footwork used to move behind Angelan and evade her ice barrier. It was very technical.
Interviewer: What did you feel about the strategies the other players in the tournament took?
Watari: I, personally, wanted to enjoy a shooting game; and, on this point, they amused me very much, and I appreciate it. (Scott: Satoru originally used "succeeded to amuse" instead of "pleased".)

The Controversial Game Balance

Interviewer: The "Virtual-On" series experienced a lot of changes with VOOT, but this also caused more than a few (Scott: Originally "not a few" this phrase is used often) players to feel a slight sense of disappointment. Let me hear more of these stories, please?
Watari: I hope I can answer as many of your questions as possible.
Interviewer: My first point is the game balance, because quite a few players are having the feeling a restriction in terms of VR unbalance.
Watari: Could you tell me, specifically, about what unbalance they think this game has?
Interviewer: This VR is no match against this VR and such. For example: Temjin and Apharmed BT can never win against a Specineff who keeps escaping all the rounds. This kind of mismatching problem is one point. Also, the features of some stages give high advantage to a VR, and disadvantage to the other, don't they?
Watari: I've got your point.
Interviewer: The field bias might may be so problematic because some players overcome this kind of disadvantage with technique and skill; however, certain strategies with certain VRs create a desparate situation for which some VRs are almost undefeatable. This is one of the reasons for the confusion I mentioned. And, some highly skilled players are suffering from this problem.
Watari: I don't think the present game balance is permanent. For example, the common play style of OMG four months after the release of the game was obsolete when the national tournament took place in Spring of 1998.
Interviewer: Yes, I agree.
Watari: Suppose the game balance has not been fixed after more than one year, then I will admit there must be a generic problem in this game. However, I don't think there is, if the rumored game balance is shifting every half a year. I'd rather consider other reasons, say the interface of the game: like the strength of levers and the volume of input, or maybe it is caused by players' mental abilities.
Interviewer: For example?
Watari: This might be called "drifting phase." A die is considered to be a cube and we expect that the probability of the outcomes when one is thrown be evenly one out of six; but, sometimes, we have the same outcomes continuously. So, the conclusion about the game balance may have been drawn from the fact players' have been sticking to one stragegy too long.
Interviewer: Then the prevailing playing style is the cause?
Watari: That is one possibility. The intention to create a certain balance will trap us in a situation where we have to add artificially more and more restrictions to this game, like rensyo hosei (Satorou: a penalty imposed on players in the game who win continuously, or an auto balancing system).
Interviewer: What kind of problem do you think it creates?
Watari: I suppose players may become distressed because of a feeling of more imposition from the developers. Our developing team also knew this claim would occur before the release, and we tried to implement the game so as not to cause a sense of inbalance. I woudn't say we minimized it. I can say only, comparatively, we tried to drop the level of unfairness as much as possible.
Interviewer: I can only imagine how difficult it is to moderate the game balance "Virtual-On" needs.
Watari: For instance, the relative locations of VRs are not exactly the same. It may appear to be the same, but it is not completely the same, so the result of a game inevitably varies. There are more chance factors, so the result may differ from what the player expected; but neither will unnecessary modificaitons be what they want.

Users' Play Style and Game Balance

Interviewer: I understand that the current game balance might be temporary, but I think more consideration on those with an escaping stragegy or machi (waiting/chicken) style would let players avoid having only one fixed and optimized stragegy. Don't you think so?
Watari: It is true that whether players take the escaping stragegy or not is thoroughly in the hands of the players themselves. I also admit that the tuning of the game is weak on this point. This game was not made to reward you chasing even though your opponent keeps escaping far, far, far away. I have to concede this is the limitation imposed to players. We, as developers, are to some extent negative to the thought that chasing those escaping (Satoru: implying chicken) players make a good and enjoyable game. Our starting point is the place where both two players agree on their playing style with at least 60% aggressiveness. So we didn't make much concern about escaping and this is one point that we have to review.
Interviewer: In the OMG, it seemed that some players concluded they should seek more possibilities of this game by admitting any kinds of playstyle rather than limitting it. (Satoru: to close combat) The same argument has recurred in VOOT.
(Scott: Satoru's translation wasn't too clear on this point. I think I cleared it up and got the gist of it, though.)
Watari: I can hope this argument will be concluded on at some point and time too, can't I?
Interviewer: Here's the point the previous story comes in: players are definitely allowed to escape in this game, and indeed, more than a few players take this kind of strategy. If you underestimate this problem, then I'm afraid the players' opinion was not acknowledged by the developing team.
Watari: Um, I think this is a misunderstanding in a sense. We did simulate what would happen if a player escaped whole, say, 90 seconds. And when we assumed a player running away in a direction, we could say "Oh, I see, this is the point where we should put some blocks". But we wondered if this is a good solution. I'm afraid my word "negative" confused you too. I'm not saying that escaping equals bad or escaping equals unpreferable, but what I meant was it is just absurd to "correct" or "prohibit" actions in this genre of videogame. It is true that we must reconsider this problem if Specineff continues to be, by far, the strongest until the release in Dreamcast. This may also be a temporary and non-generic problem discovered in the process of this game maturing and the problem overcomed as time goes by. Speaking of balance, using only Temjin will give players the complete fairness. Then why are there unique VRs and fun VRs? Well, some will let you win easily, and some will require much effort which leads you to a satisfactory game. We've created this variety of VRs in terms of this kind of characterization.
Interviewer: And we can see that characterization by comparing Apharmd ST and Fei-Yen Kn's VR ranking history, huh?
(Satoru: I don't know about ST, but Fei-Yen was said to be one of the strongest VRs for a few months after the release of VOOT, which later turned out to be false.) (Scott: Satoru used to wipe the Seattle scene's floor with our VRs against his ST.)
Watari: This is why I need at least one year to finalize my thoughts on the balance of this this game. No way I can say "OK, this is a problem, I'll fix this." It is my responsibility not to do so. In other words, I would be very irresponsible to rush to a conclusion by judging the current conditions.

New Features In Oratorio Tangram

Interviewer: Let me move onto the next topic, which is somehow related to the game balance. Why did you give "rowing" (Satoru: kogu(v) kogi(n) - a VOOT jargon meaning moving two levers back and forth rapidly to make VR move/slide very fast. Seen clearly in Angelan and Specineff, the new 2 VRs) factor to many VRs? Rowing has got to be very important indeed, hasn't it? To be honest, Angelan and Specineff are overwhelmingly strong where this technique is concerned, and some players are complaining why some can, and some can't.
Watari: Hmm. It is possible to "row" all VRs.
Interviewer: Oh, is it so?
Watari: The only difference is that some are easy to row and "others" are not. The "others" require player inputs beyond human ability (Satoru: =P), so only some are considered to be rowable.
Interviewer: Then, why so many VRs are allowed to be rowed in VOOT?
Watari: The twin stick of VOOT has been made to be sensitive enough in order to recognize player's input more accurately, and this lowered the level which divided rowable and unrowable. This led to so many VRs being rowable.
Interviewer: Well, so many people are complaining about this because it is unreasonably hard to hit a rowing Spefineff or Angelan. By the way, taking (Scott: ???) of Ajim, why did you create that enormously strong VR?
Watari: Oh, Ajim was a joke character.
Interviewer: A joke?
Watari: When you are playing Mahjong, you must have seen some jerk players Pon and Che-ing without consideration to other fellows, haven't you?
Interviewer: Yes?
Watari: In VOOT too, I thought it would be fun to have a jerk character.
Interviewer: Hmm, it seems Ajim is not so widely accepted character according to the interview. Indeed, I had a chance to talk with more than 100 players, this time, but there was only one self-proclaimed Ajim user in them.
Watari: Oh, I think it is because of the outlook towar Ajim. Well those inconsiderate players will be soon neglected. However, it is true that those kinds of people are out in the world... and I let there be a disgusting character in the world of VOOT (Satoru: to mimic the real world). Of course, there might be some people who try to play this game seriously, and they would think Ajim is unacceptable. But not all players expect this game to have the same kind of 100 yen (Satoru: approximately 80 cent) worth of fun, and I think it very important to let a videogame have various kinds of fun factors players can enjoy.
Interviewer: But those who take VOOT as a fun like sports, where fair games are guaranteed, must be resentful about this feature.
Watari: I understand the stoicism some players uphold. When thinking of the whole arcade business, I believe it interesting to argue on how common the core players' playing style is in one videogame. At least in VOOT, I left room for the freedom of choice to some degree. Yes, it is totally up to players. But don't be rushy and enjoy Ajim, because we see a lot of jerk people like Ajim. (Satoru: =p)

Auto Balancing and Arcade Games

Interviewer: So, what do you think about the auto balancing system, the so called rensyo-hosei?
Watari: Hmm, every arcade videogame has an auto balancing system.
Interviewer: Yes, that is true. But a lot of eager players who want to get better, in a true sense, seem to want to create serious games out of their own skill instead of auto-balancing to have more fun.
Watari: I see. However, if the idea is serious, their demand is something beyond what I can deal with with the current coin operation. One fundamental idea is that our videogames are not just for players, but our first clients, or operators. We have to satisfy the demanding condition where both the players of a videogame and the buyers of the videogame are satisfied. It is true the priority is to the players, who actually pay 100 yen for a game, but we absolutely cannot neglect operators as well. It might be hard to have this idea accepted without argument, but there is a certain line that clearly divides developers, operators, and players. True, it is tough problem to explain.
(Satoru: coin operation - Japanese & English - it's a jargon I don't think is so common, meaning arcade business, I guess)
(Scott: I frequently interact with operators and distributors. It's definately industry jargon, though in the States there is the seperation between "arcade"/"coin vender" and "console.")
(Satoru: He uses operators just like gameshops. Gameworks in Seattle is also an operator refered to by this term.)
(Scott: I don't know how much it is like this in Japan, but in the States "operators" must first purchase or, more frequently, cost-share from "distributors." The "distributors" handle the importation issues and maintain a stock. I imagine in Japan "operators" more often purchase directly from the manufacturer due to less issues.)
Interviewer: But your words would make large difference, and I believe some players will understand what you mean.
Watari: Some people might say it is an excuse, and I must apologize for this. This is really tough point.

Why VOOT Was Developed

Interviewer: So let me go back to a basic point. Why did you make thorough changes, such as the innovation on the controlling system, even though you expected some rejection from the players of OMG?
Watari: Firstly, OMG was meant to have highly stoic gameplay. So, the game has been completed in a sense. Considering that, I thought it was natural to change the orientation when new world was created. Making something much like OMG would make OMG meaningless. So, we wanted to make it up to the players. If they prefer OMG, they should play it; if they like to play VOOT, then they've got it. So VOOT is not meant to be a cutoff from the previous version.
Interviewer: But in fact, it is hard to find OMG downtown, isn't it?
Watari: This might be also a misconveyance of our concept. If our idea was accepted, some operators would have installed these two videogames in parallel. In fact, more than a few operators did so in the beginning. However, I understand it is hard for them to do so.
Interviewer: It is kind of itchy not to be understood completely by operators and players, isn't it?
Watari: Certainly. By the way, I am frequently asked about the meaning of Tangram, which is officially, "Tangram, regulating system of chrono-space cause-result chain" (Satoru: It is hard to go translate what he meant. It's an oriental philosophical term) but my feeling is just like Tangram.
(Scott: Tangram -
Space Time Causation Control Mechanism
Pan Dimensional Reality Synthesizer
You'll notice the interviewer also didn't understand.)
Interviewer: What do you mean?
Watari: The storyline of VOOT has not revealed officially yet, but the game is about a chaotic conflict between DNA and RNA sides. In the real world, some people would like OMG rather than VOOT. I imagined, before the release of VOOT, that VOOT will be a challenge for OMG players. Some players would say "I'm OK with OMG, but I'll never play VOOT again". What I can do is just keep watching how VOOT is accepted by some of them after the release, just like the Tangram's eyeball.
Interviewer: So, VOOT isn't a cutoff.
Watari: Never. Nor do I say "Ok, done. Just do this videogame. I don't care what you think about this though." Instead, I'm saying "I will take care of these two games like Tangram's eyeball." Yeah, it sometimes beams you up.
Interviewer: It does extend its hands, too.
Watari: Right. Though its punch never hits. I want the players to know I do have some idea.

A Comment to All VOOT Players

Interviewer: So, please give a comment to all VOOT players.
Watari: In a sense, I'm afraid that we didn't have a correct vision. SEGA is basically trying to produce as many as possible rather easy-going videogames, but since the release of "Virtua Fighter II", some people have started to formulate a different way to play a videogame. Videogames turned out to have an aspect of so-called self-training or self-seeking tool which some players try to reflect themselves in, and I don't think this should be under-rated. This is a very recent trend, so we still don't know how to respond to it. However, I somehow doubt this kind of videogame will be widely accepted.
Interviewer: What do you mean?
Watari: Well, "Beat Mania" (Satoru: Konami) is popular out there in arcades. A lot of people like the kind of videogames that are easily playable and enjoyable with other people and friends, so I wonder if it is worth while continuing to create off-trend games. I wonder if current operators need products dedicated to core players when I think of the three layers of developers, operators, and players. "Gradius" (Satoru: Konami, also) made a legend in old arcade history, but the sales of it were not so successful for its legendary story. We know that some people are really into this kind of game. (Satoru: for core gamers) But the percentage of the videogames those core players are likely to play is very small, considering whole the world of arcade games. It is something beyond the ability of a videogame company's business to make core players' games. But of course, we surely try to do our best. (Satoru: to satisfy eager core-players)

Translation By: Satoru on May 16, 2001.
HTML Conversion & Cleanup: Scott on May 19, 2001.