Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Japanese RPG makers being coerced by Sega of America, a man who doesn’t want his games play more than once, Final Fantasy being influenced by Scotland’s Grand Theft Auto, and is Infinite Space a homage to Star Control 2?
Something I’ve always wanted to do is run my own games magazine, and if I did this, one thing I’d do is list the review scores from every other magazine (like Metacritic, except I came up with this idea LONG before Metacritic even existed), and I’d also reprint excerpts from said rival magazines, up to the maximum limit that I am legally allowed (I’ve heard that fair use is about 400 words?). In short, I would crib off their hard work, feature interview quotes and interesting paragraphs, and then add my own commentary. I don’t have a magazine, so I’m using this blog. This is what Dave Halverson’s wonderful PLAY magazine had to say: August 2009, issue 92.
As someone living in the UK, I love America’s PLAY magazine, because it’s better than that rag Edge, and for various political reasons I don’t read GamesTM. Also, PLAY always has a ton of cool interviews, and this month there were four key quotes which shook my world. I’ll try not to take them out of context.
Interview with Takayuki Suguro, director, and Mitsuhiro Shimano, producer, Ends of Eternity, by tri-Ace.
Suguro: We altered the characters’ faces a bit based on Sega of America’s input, didn’t we?
Shimano: We did. We had discussions with SoA during early development, and incorporated their opinions into changing some of the character’s appearances.
Now, I’ve known about Ends of Eternity (aka: Resonance of Fate) on PS3 months ago, mainly since the Japanese PSN had videos up. If you own a PS3 but do not a Japanese PSN account, stop reading this blog and set one up RIGHT NOW. Using it only for your domestic account is like having a pe... [EDIT] Having a mouth, and only using it to eat food. Anyway, once you’ve seen both PSN vids you’ll agree the game looks like an interesting RPG, with flamboyant battle system and ugly art direction.
The characters don’t look exactly western, when I first saw them I thought they looked like cheap Final Fantasy knock-offs. And this made me think, what the hell did SoA suggest? That it look like a Square-Enix title? SoA don’t exactly have a good track record when it comes to decision making, in fact I recollect they only ever seem to make stupid decisions (or maybe I’m just a jaded Saturn fan).
The interview also has them speaking about they didn’t want it to be a traditional JRPG, but neither could they make a western/PC-style RPG, since that’s not what’s expected of tri-Ace. Hmm, again, nervous when devs say they’re not allowed to do things because of expectation. I never like it when a publisher makes a developer change their style, or direction, when making a game. Not for structural/mechanical design, not for aesthetics, not to incorporate online components. The design team should have full control.
Anyway, regardless of all that, I am VERY interested by this game, and after watching the PSN vids, so should you. But I’ll forever be wondering, what exactly was Sega of America telling tri-Ace of Japan to do during development?
Interview with David Cage, of Heavy Rain
Cage spoke about his epic-sounding Heavy Rain thriller, and the auto-saving which is designed to stop people reloading after they make mistakes (Demon’s Souls has auto-saving, and let me tell you, I love it – takes me back to my Famicom days). The best thing though was Cage’s quote at the end of PLAY’s feature: “I know it sounds weird, but I’d prefer people play through [Heavy Rain] once, and then maybe never replay it again. But”, he adds with a laugh, “keep it, don’t sell it.”
That could be the most wonderful thing I’ve heard in the industry in a long time. Someone who desires each person to have their own, singular experience of a game. A unique experience. And never replay it again. Wow. I’m not sure what else to say, but I really like that.
Kawazu Akitoshi on Final Fantasy Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers
Heather-Anne Campbell asks about what influenced Akitoshi.
Akitoshi: As for this particular game, I was inspired by Grand Theft Auto.
H-AC: Because of its open-world experience...?
Akitoshi: You’re right on about that. I wanted to experience that freedom in the game world.
Talk about megaton bombshell drop. Japan’s darling series, Final Fantasy, taking cues from Scotland’s Grand Theft Auto? Wow. And just to emphasise that, Rockstar North, the developers of the GTA series, hail from the land of haggis, neaps and tatties. Aye, they do, young boyo, from ALBA as it’s known in Gaelic. Not America as many think.
Anyway, I have little interest in either the GTA or FF series, but I find Japan’s shift to a more western style both interesting and worrying (there is a fantastic column by Steve Haske at the back of the same issue of PLAY, which sums things up nicely). It’s interesting because the GTA games were released in Japan much later than the west, and their localisation originally consisted of little more than subtitles. So when games like GTAIV ends up on Famitsu, and the series is looked at by the FF guys (even if it is just an offshoot of the main series), that signifies some big changes happening in Japan’s view of the world.
Admittedly, he was referring mainly to an “open world”, which isn’t something Japan has done a lot of, but still. There is enough in those few interview sentences to flame internet debate for a hundred pages. Personally, I’m curious (and maybe even a little bit excited) to see what happens. What the Japanese do best is see what others are doing, and then copy and personalise it themselves. They did it with cars, motorbikes, and even the RPG genre to the point where console RPGs were eclipsed by Japan’s output. It’d be interesting to see them do the same thing with the GTA/Bethesda open-world model of design. So long as they don’t end up desperately pandering to the west and making a botched job of it – be influenced by, certainly, but make the games you WANT to make, not the ones you feel you should be making.
A conversation with Nude Maker’s Hifumi Kouno, director, and Platinum Games Atsushi Inaba, producer, regarding Infinite Space
(for those who don’t know, Nude Maker were behind Steel Battalion)
PLAY: Infinite Space seems to have a strong influence from classic western PC games, like Sid Meier’s Pirates!
Kouno: Definitely... I can’t name specific titles, but back in the PC-98 days, I loved the American games I played. Infinite Space is a little different than those space sims – characterisation is stronger for instance – but in the sense that you have freedom to explore and make discoveries, it is similar.
Another example of a Japanese developer saying how they were influenced by western games – and a very interesting example at that...
Now, the PC-98 heyday of gaming was late 1980s to mid-1990s, which ties in with American space-sim Star Control 2, my all time favourite game, ever. You don’t suppose he was talking about that, do you? I’m sure there were other space games released in this time frame (like Starflight – Elite was probably a little too early), and I could probably Google translations of Japanese reviews, or even westerners playing it on import, to see if my theory is correct. But frankly, this fantasy is just too delicious to tamper with. Until I get the game, which based on all I’ve read sounds ABSOLUTELY AMAZING, I’m going to sit here and pretend that Hifumi Kouno is indeed, a huge Star Control 2 fan.
And that’s that. If you’ve not done so, go out and buy this issue of PLAY, it’s a particularly strong issue, on several fronts. For the record, I am in no way affiliated with PLAY, I’m just a fan who subscribes.
(images stolen from the internet because I’m too lazy to screengrab this **** myself)