Japanese developers weigh in on E3 2014 (Part 1)

Kojima Feature

It’s been nearly a month now since the biggest gaming news event of the year, E3 2014, closed its doors. Now, a month on, Famitsu Weekly has asked 19 Japanese creatives for their views on the boisterous press event. We translated the pertinent details for those that happen to be unable to read Japanese.

There were some noticeable trends: Japanese developers were taken by the potential of VR devices such as Project Morpheus and Oculus Rift, and on the software side of things Batman: Arkham Knight and No Man’s Sky impressed, but many expressed concerns over the decreasing Japanese presence in the global videogame market.

In the first part of this interview industry greats such as Guilty Gear’s Daisuke Ishiwatari, Suda 51 and Metal Gear Solid creator Hideo Kojima give their take on this year’s biggest gaming Expo.

1 | Daisuke Ishiwatari (Guilty Gear, Arc System Works)

Overall Impression

There were many big hitter foreign titles on show, it felt like we were finally getting to experience what the next-generation machines are capable of. I also got a taste of the future of hardware with the Oculus Rift and Project Morpheus – for the first time in sometime they made me genuinely feel “I want it! […] I want to experience this!”. I felt I’d experienced a new kind of game experience, an evolution that went beyond simply improving the number of resources or graphics.

Of all the titles at the show, which one left the strongest impression?

There were a lot of games that caught my eye so I can’t narrow it down to just one game. I was bowled over when I saw The Division. I didn’t get to play it but the graphics were impressive enough that I just stood there. Oh, and No Man’s Sky. Yeah okay, so the game world is being procedurally generated [as opposed to being crafted by hand] but I still can’t believe it’s being developed by just 4 people. Lastly, personally, I felt the choice of song for the Assassin’s Creed Unity trailer, “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”, was really cool.

After E3 2014, what is your outlook for the videogame industry?

In recent years digital technology has progressed unimpeded. Big overseas developers have responded to that change quickly, releasing many truly rich titles. I felt that the gap in technology between them and the Japanese development scene has just gotten bigger and bigger. I’d liken it to the gap between Japanese films and Hollywood. Of course, it’s not simply a case that bigger is better, but I do worry that sooner or later Japanese games will gradually disappear from these major events. I want to believe that even if our games don’t stand as tall [as their western counterparts], that they’ll still be the ones on the huge stage [that is E3] that draw the most attention.

2 | Yoshinori Ono (Deep Down, Street Fighter IV, Capcom)

Overall Impression

This years’ E3 was kicked off with a day filled with little mishaps for us (laughs). Last year we announced Dead Rising 3 for the Xbox One, and had it playable. I was really gutted that this year Capcom didn’t have any new games for high end systems [new generation consoles] playable. I think this years’ E3 was defined by an expanded line-up for both the Xbox One and PS4 over last year, and the fact that there were a lot of native Xbox One/PS4 games in development rather than simply high-end ports of 360/PS3 games.

Counter Spy_01Of all the titles at the show, which one left the strongest impression?

Counter Spy for the PlayStation 4. Rather than simply being a conveyer-belt, side-scrolling game, there’s strategy in how you can switch perspective and make use of the 3D game field, a sensible number of QTEs, the inclusion of puzzle elements and of course, the characteristic graphics and animation. It reminds me of Klei Entertainment’s Mark of the Ninja which was released two years ago, but I felt the Counter Spy demo allowed me to enjoy changes in perspective and game mechanics even more than that game. I personally like these kinds of games, when I have downtime at E3 I’d play this I was playing this.

After E3 2014, what is your outlook for the videogame industry?

There were many indie developed games on show which made me re-appreciate that there’s still explorative potential in the medium of videogames. […] I felt acutely aware that in the AAA-space, although on the one hand it’s become easier to develop with the Xbox One/PS4, the scale of content has increased.  So we have to learn more [from other developers] on how to manage production/production time efficiently.

3 | Hideki Kamiya (Bayonetta, The Wonderful 101, Platinum Games )

Overall Impression

I was once again hit with the realization that, wow, videogames are a huge business now.

Of all the titles at the show, which one left the strongest impression?

I felt foreign games had a lot of momentum at the show. There was a trend of hardware specifications getting higher being matched by those striving to create photo realistic graphics. Speaking personally, I appeared on-stage at the Xbox E3 2014 Media Briefing, I got a direct sense of how high the expectations of overseas players were  for these new games.

After E3 2014, what is your outlook for the videogame industry?

I was pre-occupied with my thoughts. Thinking, wow, I really have to put my best foot forward.

4 | Masato Kimura (The Evil Within, Tango Gameworks)

Overall Impression

Bloodborne_02

A grim look at Bloodborne

There were a lot of follow-up announcements at this years’ E3. I got the impression a lot of announcements had been made prior to the event. Even looking at the games on the show floor, it felt like the games there were simply a response to expectations we had before going into the show. It felt like this year’s E3 was “playing it safe”, or put negatively “lacking in surprises”. However amongst all that, there were announcements from Japanese developers such as Scalebound, Let it Die and Bloodborne  – These announcements came as a surprise and I’m looking forward to them. We put out a demo stand for The Evil Within for the first time; I felt being able to get people’s live, unfiltered reactions to the game was a big takeaway.

Of all the titles at the show, which one left the strongest impression?

I was held down  by interviews and such so I didn’t get much of a chance to look around, so I might be a bit biased here. There was a lot there so it’s difficult to narrow it down. I felt confident in the quality of several games which made me go “Yep, this is sure thing”. Speaking in terms of quality, Division and Batman Arkham Knight stood out to me. In terms of game mechanics, Evolve stood out to me. And in terms of technological prowess, the one that made me just go “wow”    was No Man’s Sky. Both of the latter two made me feel “That looks interesting. I have to try this!”.

After E3 2014, what is your outlook for the videogame industry?

For better or worse I felt it was a safe, reliably constructed E3. Maybe I felt that way because seeing stuff for the high end machines was something we were already expecting and looking forward to? Or maybe it was the result of all the time and effort that had gone into making these games for high end machines being apparent from the games themselves? Or maybe something else entirely? I’m still not sure, but personally I think it’s important to get that kind elated shock you get when you’re simply expecting something ordinary. After all, we also want to create games like that. This is something indie developers are ripe with, and I’m excited to see what they do next.

5 | Hideo Kojima (Metal Gear Solid, Konami Digital Entertainment)

Overall Impression

I felt that E3 had returned to classic form. Of course, indie games and SNS made up the mainstream, but we had and E3 where there was new hardware and new high-end big titles taking front and center stage, for what felt like the first time in a while.  On the other hand I didn’t feel the presence of Japanese developers was being acutely felt in the global market. And there’s been a drop in Japanese media outlets reporting on this sense of danger [of not having much presence], this lack of presence, which is a shame.  What stood out to me wasn’t software or hardware, but next-generation input-output devices such as the Oculus Rift, which hold the key to the next form of entertainment.

Of all the titles at the show, which one left the strongest impression?

I only got to see videos of games [as opposed to playing them], but I would say the PS4 version of Grand Theft Auto V left the biggest impression on me.  It’s a port of a last generation game, but wow! The degree of freedom, the graphics, all the things you can do. It’s impressive on last generation machines, but the level of expression [fidelity] in the PS4 version is much, much higher. To be honest, I think it overshadowed the new games that hardware makers (first parties) are at work on.

After E3 2014, what is your outlook for the videogame industry?

There’s a tendency for people to focus on the realistic worlds being rendered by complex high-end engines and incredible visuals and complex scipting [of story and set-pieces] made possible by the progress in hardware and [development/software] technology. But at E3 it’s the content of those games and the degree of freedom in them that’s important. The western media in particular differentiates between the role of a film and that of a game. These days games don’t get positive critical reception based simply on brand, scripting [of story/set-pieces], graphics, scale and promotion. The level of expression [fidelity] in games has risen significantly becoming bigger then film. On the other hand you could say that we’ve entered an era where the games’ meaning or correctness as games [as opposed to being of any other medium] is being correctly evaluated.

6 | Norihiza Kochiwa (Fairy Fencer F, Monster Monpiece, Idea Factory)

Overall Impression

The central focus of this years’ show was announcing new Xbox One and PS4 games aimed at a western audience. I get the impression that games Japanese players will be excited about will announced from next year onwards. As expected, the PS4/Xbox One games had sumptous visuals, I really got a sense of how large scale the projects were. Animation, feel, lighting and effects were on a different level from the PS3 era.

Of all the titles at the show, which one left the strongest impression?

I liked the unique vibe/setting of Bloodborne [PS4 exclusive] and Scalebound [Xbox One exclusive]. Both of them are Japanese-made so I’d imagine they’d have a role to play in driving their respective platforms [in Japan]. The pair of them were only shown in trailer form but I have high hopes for their game [mechanics] systems.

After E3 2014, what is your outlook for the videogame industry?

This year all major home console platforms are out so I’m hoping the home console game makes a comeback. Abroad there’s a good line-up of games that overseas players will respond positively towards so I’d imagine the move over to the PS4/Xbox One will be happen relatively quickly. After all, there’s some good sales momentum for the hardware.  Speaking of the PS4, we’ve announced that we’ll be releasing Omega Quintet and Shinjigen Game Neptune V II [V II is read as “Victory Two”] for the PS4, so we’re hoping that interest at home picks up from around Fall.

7 | Chiyomaru Shikura (Chaos;Head, Steins; Gate, MAGES)

Overall Impression

Unfortunately my schedule meant I wasn’t able to go to E3 this year so this will be my impressions based on having seen the conferences online. This was the first E3 after the new generation hardware went on sale, so naturally people were focused on the software this time around… I went in with those same expectations and I felt it was a bit anti-climactic […]. Overall, there hadn’t been much information about eagerly awaited new titles before the show so I thought maybe, just maybe, they’ll be some announcements at the show itself, only to find there was nothing that really stood out… that’s my overall impression. With E3 you look forward to something that excites you, makes you go “woah!”, that’s what E3’s about. Someone should do a Japanese programme where they go around the booths in real-time, I’d bet the ratings would be pretty good for something like that. Yeah, I got the sense that E3 has a flavor of its own, one different from the Tokyo Game Show.

[Translator’s note: It’s interesting that Shikura felt the opposite of Kimura who felt there had been many announcements prior to E3, and attributed that to the lack of exciting new announcements]

Of all the titles at the show, which one left the strongest impression?

The game that got me amped up the most had to be Assassin’s Creed Unity. This is going to sound like really superficial reasoning, but I just thought wow, that looks really cool (laughs). I’ve always liked the setting/vibe of these games, but the evolution in this series is truly incredible. As you’d expect from a new-generation Assassin’s Creed game, the amount of data in play is impressive. The textures being drawn, the masses of people seen from that can be seen from above in a single scene, and the number of objects is truly magnificent. It’s worth having a look at. There must be a significant number of people working on it. It looks like the credits for it might roll on for over an hour, as was the case with Grand Theft Auto V.

After E3 2014, what is your outlook for the videogame industry?

Impressive graphics, visual effects, photorealistic expression, massive open-worlds and detailed levels comprised of massive amounts of data and so on – these are areas where Japan has fallen behind the average in global competitive development. However, thanks to dramatic improvements in hardware and development tools I feel this gap may well close. The evolution of hardware means that the level of potential expression [fidelity] has increased, but at the same time this evolution has significance in making development easier.  In any case, for Japanese players Western games, which are very different in terms of culture, taste and preference [from those of Japanese players] may still taste a bit flat. For example, the invasiveness of story is peculiar of Western games. We want to focus on creating games for Japanese players. After all, if we create fun games for Japanese players, players abroad will start to take interest. We’ll handle worldwide matters after sorting things out at home.

8 | Gouichi Suda (Killer is Dead, No More Heroes, Grasshopper Manufacture)

Overall Impression

I got to announce the PS4 exclusive Let It Die at the Sony E3 Press Conference. Let it Die is an F2P game reincarnarted from Lily Bergamo, which I announced last year in September. I took the opportunity to convey that Let It Die wasn’t influenced by Let it Go, but inspired by a Foo Fighters song […].

Of all the titles at the show, which one left the strongest impression?

Batman: Arkham Knight. I want to drive that Batmobile, ASAP.

After E3 2014, what is your outlook for the videogame industry?

At E3, every year you can feel the excitement of gamers from around the world. This year the excitement I felt wasn’t focused on new hardware as it was last year, but a direct excitement for anticipated games and works of particular studios. I’d like to think my future holds promoting excitement for Let it Die.

9 | Yoshinori Terazawa (Danganrompa, Conception, Spike Chunsoft)

Overall Impression

First impressions, I noticed how active and healthy western publishers were in comparison to their inactive Japanese counterparts. And I think that’s why there wasn’t much wasn’t much sense of surprises or excitement. If we want edgy games we really need Japanese developers to put their best foot forward.

Of all the titles at the show, which one left the strongest impression?

Let it Die, A.K.A the-game-formerly-known-as-Lily Bergamo. Suda-san has a way of always surprising us.

After E3 2014, what is your outlook for the videogame industry?

I could never have imagined when I was asked for comment a year ago that the Xbox One would still not be out now [note: Japanese release is set for Sept 4]. The spread of home consoles in Japan is further along than I anticipated, so I’m really hoping platform holders will pull out all the stops. Of course, third-parties have some responsibility here too, but l wonder if there isn’t more cooperation they [platform holders] could lend us in helping to liven up the Japanese games market. Having said that, I didn’t get to go to this years’ E3 (laughs).

10 | Keiichirou Toyama (SIREN, Gravity Rush, Sony Computer Entertainment)

Project-Morpheus2Overall Impression

We’re finally coming out of the cross-generation window, so naturally my eyes were drawn to the AAA titles which are finally picking up pace with their high fidelity visuals. However the increased presence of indie games and the earnest start of VR as seen with Project Morpheus and Oculus Rift also left an impression on me. And, I think the increasing wide spread of online infrastructure might have something to do with it, but games seem to be breaking out of their shell and evolving into numerous forms and styles. The fact that even a small scale project can attract attention might motivate young developers into a positive spiral of creating more of the same.

Of all the titles at the show, which one left the strongest impression?

I think No Man’s Sky stands out as representative of the diversity of videogames. Indie games are demonstrating a respect for 8-bit style visuals, which has lent them a distinctive style of their own. The western market tends to be thought of as being entirely committed to the pursuit of photo-realism, so it’s exciting to see various art styles emerging. Personally I’m really looking forward to Inside, which looks like it’s building on Limbo’s aesthetics/vibe.

After E3 2014, what is your outlook for the videogame industry?

In Japan the smartphone market is very active. Of course, I think that’s one avenue that has a bright future. However with that said I’m concerned that in the home console space – in this age of progressive globalization and diversity – that Japanese presence is shrinking. I think we need to reflect on making games that clearly express what’s good about Japanese games, and also convey that to players worldwide.  Hidetaka Miyazaki, the creator of Bloodborne, is one of the few developers in the current climate who embodies that sentiment, so Bloodborne’s one I’ll be keeping my eye on.

The Japanese development community seems to be in awe of the technical accomplishments of western developers, and at the same time concerened by their diminishing presence in overseas markets. However, some did express a postive outlook, that the technology gap  between Japan and the West may well close in time thanks to new hardware and software tools.

Join us again for part 2 where we see what Tekken project director Katsuya Harada, Yakuza head Toshihiro Nagoshi and Kingdom Hearts III game designer Tai Yasue, amongst others, had to say.

Shehzaan Abdulla

Shehzaan Abdulla

Writer
Shehzaan grew up playing SEGA consoles and has a soft spot for retro games seeing as he was playing the Master System his parents bought him when all his friends had Playstations (this was also around the same time he realized he was probably adopted).
Shehzaan Abdulla

Latest posts by Shehzaan Abdulla (see all)

Written By
 

Related posts

  • nonscpo

    It’s very true the Japanese and the western scene have really evolved over the years, the Japanese have retained domination of the handheld market while the west rules consoles. However as Keiichirou Toyoma put it its the smartphone market that everyone needs to keep in the back of their head!

Top