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Japanese development discussion takes place.

Romier S

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Posted over at Gamespot as a news article:


Japanese developers discuss the state of Japanese game development.





The final panel of the day saw Monolith Soft president Hirohide Sugiura, Square Enix developer Yuske Naora, Capcom developer Tatsuya Minami, and former Sega UGA president Tetsuya Mizuguchi together on stage. The session dealt less with the actual development of CG content, and more on current issues that developers face when producing the games.


After a short introduction, the panel was kicked off by a question from moderator Kouzy Watanabe, who asked if, compared to a few years ago, developers are able to do pretty much anything with CG in terms of technology. That question quickly sparked a response from Monolith Soft's Sugiura, who pointed out that today's limits have more to do with budget than the technology.



One very telling (and a bit dire)remark by the Square representative:


"Final Fantasy has been [developed] after much trial and error," said Naora. "We have core members who plan out the project, and we work from checking out successful examples in the past. But when I look at my company, I see that we have a lot of staff, and we should be able to come up with newer, more creative titles--if we tried. We were supposed to be able to do that. There's some sense of danger among the staff that the way we're heading, we may only be able to produce Final Fantasy games."


Please share your thoughts. As successful as the game industry "looks" to the outside world anymore its interesting to see things from a developer perspective. Especially with smaller dev houses closing thier doors and budgetary concerns continuing to rise. (recently Mucky Foot being one of which.)

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Ah, I wondered if anybody was going to mention this. A very, very interesting article. I think the Square comments are particularly interesting, at least they acknowledge that they are basically the Final Fantasy company more than anything else. I really didn't expect that they would.

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There's a trend towards using more and more CG in games, where it can feel like you're playing a game half the time, and watching a movie the other half. Xenogear is a good example, going back to even the first of the series:


Xenogear's gameplay actually takes a back seat to the cut-scenes. Take the initial 10 hours of play, for example. In those 10 long hours, you probably get to control the player for 3-4 hours at most. The other 7 hours are cut-scenes.


7 out of the first 10 hours are cutscenes!


I'm glad that at least Minami realizes that CG should be used sparingly to advance the story. And he poses a good question: Does more CG always lead to more sales? My answer is no. Focus your time and resources on the game. If I want to watch a movie, I'll put in Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within. Why not have beautiful illustrations with text or voice over to move the plot along instead of expensive and time consuming CG?


Minami also mentions that "game development in Japan is not always organized, and does not always follow a logical path. ...Minami suggested that the project management techniques used in Hollywood studios might have a place in the game industry as well."


I'd like to point out that game development in the U.S. isn't always organized and doesn't always follow a logical path. Or at least, it shouldn't: There's a great interview with Seamus Blackley from Planet Gamecube by Billy Berghammer where Mr. Blackley discusses this very thing. It's a fairly big MP3 (23.6MB), but a great interview, and I highly suggest listening to it. Blackley blames many shitty games are made because of impossible restrictions placed on them because of financial reasons, and are unable to let their creativity loose. The developers must follow paths and work schedules laid out even before work begins on a game, which is ridiculous. If they have a game idea that might take them in a different direction than originally planned, they can't do it because deadlines and quotas must be met in order to keep their project afloat, even if it means they end up making a bad game!


"Japanese companies are still making everything in-house", said Minami. "The producer, the creator, the distributor, the studio, everything fits into one company. I think that makes it hard for jobs to be clear-cut, and also for individuals to recognize what kind of responsibility or role they have. In that sense, I think that working as a professional producer or creator independently may be the ideal style, although it isn't happening too much yet.


I'm afraid if they start to farm out work, they could lose a great deal of inspiration and creativity. Look at the Warner Brother cartoons from the 40's, or Disney animation who do everything in-house, compared to say, the Simpsons. Not that the Simpsons is bad at all, but it's all in the writing. The Simpsons animation (and most other cartoons today) is farmed out to Korea. Their animation can't hold a candle to old WB or Disney. It's too spread out... animators in Korea are trying to figure out what jokes layout artists in California are trying to get across. The whole 'Termite Terrace' WB cartoons were made by brilliant people who were left to their own devices, and able to bounce ideas off each other and work creatively together as a tight unit.


Taking the movie "The Matrix" as an example, Mizuguchi commented that the movie might not have been as complete if it hadn't been produced by two creators (both Wachowski brothers).


The Matrix probably isn't a good example, as they are brothers who obviously know each other very well, and work with each other very well. Same with the Coen brothers. I'd rather see one person's vision like Lynch or Miyazaki undiluted, than have them having to make compromises and spend energy possibly fighting and such with other people. The phrase "too many cooks in the kitchen" comes to mind...


Sorry this is so long. It IS a very interesting article, and thanks for pointing it out, Romier...

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