Interesting article by one of the Rez dev team

Discussion in 'Gaming' started by paul h, Apr 10, 2003.

  1. paul h

    paul h Supporting Actor

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    posted on tokyopia ... makes very interesting reading, especially about them playing Halo and GTA [​IMG]

    "Let's begin at the top. In my experience, as well as that of most (if not all) of my gaijin developer colleagues here in Tokyo, the game-making formula is very set, very defined.

    Games tend to be slight extensions of projects done before, over and over, for years and years. Is it any surprise that people are losing interest in another 3D fighting game with marginal improvements from the last 10 before it? Another RPG with the exact same play mechanics as five years ago? Another racing game with absolutely no new elements except minor changes in scenery?

    I grew up idolising Japanese video game design, and moved to Tokyo four years ago to work on highly rewarding Japanese titles including REZ and Space Channel 5. But if I look back at the five games that I played the most over the past three or four years, none of them are Japanese! Games like Wipeout, Tony Hawk, Halo, SSX, GTA3... new concepts being created in new and interesting ways, with the quality increasing by leaps and bounds with each new installment. Even the grand masters like Nintendo are losing their touch. I really didn't enjoy Super Mario Sunshine -- I think it was the worst 'real' Mario game ever. What's happening? Why am I looking so much more forward to Jak II than EAD's next huge project? Five years ago I would have slapped myself for saying that, but now its true! The world has gone nuts!

    Space Channel 5 and Rez were both the result of one of Japan's leading visionaries trying to break away from the formula, and find new ground. They were huge critical successes, and marketed aggressively. Yet how poorly did they sell? It's an impossible situation -- only big mega-franchises are being bought, yet people here are getting tired of playing the same old crap. As the cycle continues, I don't know what's going to happen, but I don't think its going to be pretty.

    I recently had to give a speech in front of my entire team at UGA about Western games - what's really selling now and why. The three games I used in my example were Halo, Tony Hawk and GTA3. Concepts like real AI and free-form gameplay. Foreign concepts to all in attendance. After that, I started playing Halo with a bunch of my teammates and they were astounded! I was so happy that they "got it" and all of them got TOTALLY hooked, some of them even sleeping over at the office so they could play all night. After most of them had a chance to play through the game (the better players playing with me co-op on Legendary), the one thing they all had to say was, "There's no way this game would ever come out of a Japanese company. The thinking is too different from Japanese game theory."

    I was even more shocked when it turned out that my three closest friends (the Rez design team) all became total junkies of Halo, Tony Hawk -and- GTA3. Besides Halo, they kick my ass at the other two. They all finished GTA: Vice City in English, even though they don't speak a word! Since then, we've talked a lot about the differing game theories and why Japanese development has gotten stuck in the mud.

    Our theory is now this: in the old days, when optimization was a big deal, Japanese developers got the early hand up and created some of the forefathers of the modern game industry, establishing many of the rules and styles that have become international standards, some franchises continuing even to this day. Back in those same old days, Americans and Europeans mostly just aped Japanese games without really understanding many of the concepts or "tskuri-kata" (roughly translated, "ways of making"). And for you old enough to remember, non-Japanese games mostly sucked back then. At least in the U.S., anyway -- many an English friend has romantically reminisced about the Spectrum and all the other early PC games of the day, but we Americans never really experienced most of these games.

    Of course, early American arcade stuff had its share of innovative, incredible software as well. Centipede, Joust, Defender... ahh, the glory days. And old Apple games... Wizards of Wor, Miner 2049er... But it seems in the late 80s and early 90s, the Japanese were just fiercely setting the trends and making the most polished, playable games. And they continued to innovate and update and tweak... the PlayStation picked up where the Super Famicom (SNES) left off, and the Japanese were still kings of the hill. But then things started to change -- hardware started to catch up with PC developers' expectations, and suddenly, more and more talented world-class PC developers were creating console software, bringing with them new approaches and a grittiness that comes from years of working with unpredictable hardware and scaleable software, whereas the Japanese developers had more or less always had a set platform with set limitations and rules to develop by.

    Now, the Japanese are still making games by these old rulebooks, never innovating too much, just bits and pieces, updating the same tired franchises over and over. People are getting sick of it, especially in Japan where people have been playing only Japanese games for as long as they can remember! And unfortunately (for everybody), Western games -still- don't sell in Japan. People here just aren't interested. I think the Tony Hawk series averaged a 7 in Famitsu and sold only a handful.

    So we're stuck in a situation where Western games and all the new ideas and standards that are taking off abroad are not being allowed to take root in Japanese games culture. And while the Japanese continue to do what they've always done, things just grow more and more stagnant. It really is unfortunate for everyone. And I don't see a way out. It's going to be an interesting couple of years -- I mean, look at the last few! Nintendo and Sega in bed? Square and Enix merging? Zelda and Mario both selling record lows?! Something big is going to snap, and soon."

    - Jake Kazdal
     
  2. JamesH

    JamesH Supporting Actor

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  3. Allen_Appel

    Allen_Appel Second Unit

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    Interesting article. I wonder if Western games don't appeal to the Japanese market in that there are no characters for Japanese gamers to identify with. I assume so many Japanese games feature characters with more Westernized features to appeal to our market, but we certainly don't do the reverse.

    While Rez' mechanics may not be revolutionary, the music-making action of the shooting was.
     
  4. Morgan Jolley

    Morgan Jolley Lead Actor

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    I think there's a revolution going on with more interest in Western game design, but that some people (mainly the Japanese) are either stubborn or content with what they've already got. Tony Hawk, Halo, Metroid Prime, Eternal Darkness, Grand Theft Auto, and more are some of the BIG games that have changed how games are by coming up with brand new ideas, and none of them are Japanese.

    Good read.
     
  5. Allen_Appel

    Allen_Appel Second Unit

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    When are we gonna get dating sims? [​IMG]
     
  6. Dave Smith

    Dave Smith Stunt Coordinator

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    Metroid was developed by a team in the US, sure, but the design was led by Miyamoto, and elements of the design team took monthly trips to Japan for meetings. A lot of the basic concepts came directly from Miyamoto and other Japanese design staff.
     
  7. Mark Evans

    Mark Evans Supporting Actor

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    I don't think we should completely give Nintendo the praise for Prime though, I don't doubt Retro had their own input, though to a slighter degree.

    Interesting they should mention the fact that innovation sells well. It's true though, people get so pigeonholed into liking the same old crap that they shell out for it non-stop. Even I, Res Evil lover, will admit that the series has not exactly evolved over the years [​IMG].

    But people refuse to try anything new. If any other company besides Konami had brought out DDR it would be dead in the States right now, period. It took a longer time than most games to find its fanbase and without company support it would've died hard.

    The last system that had truly original games WAS the DreamCast. I remember looking over its line-up and thinking what a great variety there was. Not that I ever bought one, but it was impressive. That's just it though, nobody ends up buying the system and it dies.

    Another factor that's not really addressed in the article, however, is that concepts sometimes take a couple of tries to get perfect as well. The first two Grand Theft Autos, for instance, were decent little time wasters, but the concept really pulled itself together with GTA3.
     
  8. Morgan Jolley

    Morgan Jolley Lead Actor

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    Based on the reviews I read from Miyamoto, he pretty much just said "this is what we did before that worked" and then looked over their shoulders to see if he liked what he saw. It's not like he (along with other Nintendo staff) sat down and made the game on paper and Retro only programmed it.
     
  9. Dave F

    Dave F Cinematographer

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  10. Andy Sheets

    Andy Sheets Cinematographer

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  11. BrianB

    BrianB Producer

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    To be fair, I think Dave might have better information on the process considering he's based in Austin than some of us.
     
  12. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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    Can you provide a link to the original posting of this comment/article? Thanks [​IMG]
     
  13. Morgan Jolley

    Morgan Jolley Lead Actor

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    In fact, I cannot. I remember reading one interview on GameSpot, but I'm not sure that was where I saw it.
     
  14. Dan B

    Dan B Screenwriter

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    Thanks for the article, paul. It's always nice to read about a developer who "gets it". I share his frustration about gamers who don't "get it" and don't buy well-made games with novel concepts but buy "Fighting Game Part 15".


    -Dan B.
     
  15. Dave Smith

    Dave Smith Stunt Coordinator

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    I work with several ex-members of the Metroid team (and other cancelled Retro games), and have been told the following:

    1) The first-person perspective mandate came directly from Nintendo.

    2) They were specifically directed NOT to do the same stuff that had worked in 2D - as an example, the team spent some time implementing one of the weapons from Super Metroid directly. When Miyamoto saw it, he said "Why did you copy what was done before?" and they had to get rid of it.

    Obviously a lot of the credit belongs to the guys at Retro, I'm not claiming Miyamoto designed the whole game or anything.
     

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