Recently, Famitsu sat down with Murdered: Soul Suspect creative director Yosuke Shiokawa and localization producer Gen Akaishizawa and asked them about the challenges of working on a collaborative project with Western development studio Airtight Games. Airtight Games are notable for creating the first-person puzzle shooter Quantum Conundrum which has drawn many parallels with Valve’s Portal.
The interview touched game mechanics which you can we have already learned from about this trailer. However we found the interview’s look on collaborative cross-cultural development to be interesting. The attitudes of the participants involved also offered insight into Japanese perceptions of western games.
We’ve translated some of the juicier bits for your benefit:
Q: Murdered: Soul Suspect is notably different from the rest of the Square Enix’s Extreme Edge series* as this time someone from Square Enix Japan [Shiokawa] is standing in as creative director. Can you tell us a little more about how that came to be?
[Translators note: The Extreme Edge series refers to western games that Square Enix publishes in Japan. This includes games such as Tomb Raider, Thief, Murdered and Sleeping Dogs, and so on.]
Shiokawa: Certainly. I worked on Kingdom Hearts as a [battle] planner, on Kingdom Hearts II as a game designer and I also had my hand in Dissidia: Final Fantasy. After that Square Enix commissioned studios abroad to make games. […] As part of that push at around 2010 a plan was set in motion to have numerous Square Enix creatives sent out to those non-Japanese studios and try their hand at collaborative development.
I drew up my own plan and, after getting approval, I looked for a studio to work on Murdered: Soul Suspect. And that’s the short-version of how Murdered: Soul Suspect came to be.
Although development was collaborative effort with Airtight Games I made it my job to act as an overseeing director; covering the story draft, ideas behind the characters and game balance and so on. I spent around 4 years giving direction from the ground in Seattle [where Airtight Games is based].
Q: Where there any difficulties communicating with the staff in Seattle?
Shiokawa: I wasn’t particularly good at English so at first I was relying on an interpreter. But over time I was able to understand what was being said to me and managed to have interactions [with the staff] about the game directly.
I guess it’s something you can do once you get used to it *laughs*
Q: Airtight Games are the same studio that worked on another game that was part of the Extreme Edge series, Quantum Conundrum. Was that a consideration in why they were chosen to work on Murdered: Soul Suspect?
Shiokawa: Actually what sold the deal was their enthusiasm for the project. They went as far as saying they’d hire new people to build a team for the project.
Q: Ah, so it would be correct to say that Murdered isn’t your typical so-called “western game” – the kind that’s a combination of Japanese taste married with Western development technology know-how?*
Translator’s note: We’re genuinely curious as to which games Famitsu feels matches that descriptions. Perhaps they had western developed takes on games such as Devil May Cry and Silent Hill in mind.
Shiokawa: That’s right. This game was drawn up as a Japan project rather than as a western game by an overseas studio. It’s completely different from a western game that would be drawn up overseas.
Akaishizawa: As part of my job I play western games all the time but even I felt Murdered was a fresh experience. Even though this project is being developed by an overseas studio it has a Japanese creator [Shiokawa] at its core so it has a tangible “Japaneseness” permeating it at every level. So it’s not going to be the kind of game where it’s too hard and you simply can’t proceed*.
The rich visuals, hardboiled approach, look and core mood of the game are western game-like. But once you get your hands on the controller you’ll feel that it’s different from how it appears – in a good way. It’s a combination we’ve not seen before.
Translator comment*: Interesting to note that Akaishizawa considers this style of game Japanese when many say the same of Western games.
Q: We thought it [Murdered] was strange as it’s a Mystery Adventure and we don’t see many overseas made games of that genre. But it makes sense when you factor in that the project got its start in Japan*. What was your reasoning behind doing a Mystery project?
[Translator’s note: Mystery games are certainly in no short supply in the west, but perhaps indies/unlocalized games weren’t being counted here. Still, it’s interesting that Famitsu felt this way about the overseas development of mystery games.]
Shiokawa: Nothing in particular. I just like Mystery games, I guess. *laughs*
I watch a lot of foreign dramas. I really like JJ Abram’s works such as Lost and Alias. Many of his works feature a Mystery setting with a tinge of the supernatural. I really like that kind of story structure. That’s why Murdered turned out as a Mystery game with the supernatural element of ghosts.
Q: What was the reason behind setting the game in Salem, Massachusetts?
Shiokawa: It’s known in America for what happened there. It’s got the characteristics of a creepy place.
Q: Ah, so it’s a place with a shady history?
Shiokawa: Bingo. We researched areas around the world linked to ghosts and our findings took us to Salem.
Q: So was it possible the game might have been set outside of America?
Shiokawa: Yes. Prague was also a contender.
The rest of the interview covers game mechanics and other familiar areas. Murdered: Soul Suspect will be released for PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One and PC on June 3 (North America) and June 6 (rest of the world). Check back with us for our review. We’ll be sure to see assess whether it’s a successful combination of Western and Japanese development or if it’s derailed by cross-cultural development issues.