Inaba speaks at Bit-Summit

Platinum Games

Filed: Community, PlatinumGames, Uncategorized

Last weekend was the 3rd Bit-Summit, a game festival held in Kyoto where indie Japanese developers are given the opportunity to showcase their latest projects. Last year’s BitSummit saw attendance rise from 200 to 5,000, demonstrating the growing interest in the indie community of gaming in Japan.

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This year also proved to be a success for the show: attendance was high, and there were plenty of interesting titles displayed along the floor. Some were from larger indie teams such as Q-Games, and some were projects developed entirely by a team of one.

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(Even 8-4, the localization company who helped us out with Metal Gear Rising, were extending their scope to the indie scene)

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(Chance meeting with star PlatinumGames game designer Abebe)

In the midst of all of this was a special talk featuring PlatinumGames’ own Atsushi Inaba.

“Having been a producer all these years, I feel indebted to the community, and want to share what I’ve learned with smaller developers who may just be starting out,” Inaba expressed to the crowd.

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“There was a time when I was in your shoes: the original Phoenix Wright was developed with a team size of around six people. Viewtiful Joe only had about 13. Even when we started PlatinumGames, we weren’t the size we are now. We were a small developer that put everything on the line just to  cut a deal with a publisher and try to make the game we envisioned.”

“I can’t say much about the West, but while Japan’s indie market had almost no presence ten years ago, I feel that’s changed now. In Japan, there has always been a stigma towards standing out and being independent. People think joining a large company and becoming part of the system is the correct thing to do. But independent developers continue to expand and make their place in the industry.”

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“I think the most interesting games I saw here today, however, weren’t games that tried to bank off of the indie feel, but games that chased after a truly original concept and wanted to take gaming somewhere that it hasn’t been yet. At Platinum, I discuss the same kind of possibilities with Kamiya on a daily basis. He’s a bit crazy, but I think that in order to be a creator, that should be the norm.”

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It was a brief talk in the middle of a long day, but the speech no doubt made an impact on many of the start-up groups who had assembled at the event.

Club Activities at PlatinumGames! (Part 2)

Platinum Games

Filed: Community, PlatinumGames

Hi there! This is Hiroto Tanaka, leader of PlatinumGames’ fighting game club.

The fighting games circle is a place where fans devoted to the genre can congregate and compete in tournaments with each other.

In one of our recent meetings, we had a special unpackaging ceremony for an arcade controller: an indispensable item to any fighting game fan.
After that we played a few rounds of Ultra Street Fighter 4 together.

It was a good opportunity for a lot of staff to loosen up and revisit some of their childhood gaming memories.
Or maybe for a little more fanatic gamers like me, it was just like having my friends over for a few hours of gaming.

So far we’ve played all different sorts of titles, from new to old. I want everyone to feel like they can drop in whenever they want, so we usually play in meeting rooms in the office. Next time I’m thinking maybe to do some Guilty Gear or Smash Bros.

Anyway, that’s all from me. We have a ton of other clubs going on, so expect to hear more from another one sooner or later!

Thanks!

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PG Inside: Atsushi Inaba & Hideki Kamiya (Pt. 3)

Platinum Games

Filed: Community, Games, PlatinumGames

The Instrument Called PlatinumGames

Kamiya: I feel a certain bond of trust with all of us who entered Platinum the first year it was founded. It makes you wonder why they chose to come to our company in the first place. My team: Shirai, Sada, Ohkura.

Inaba: We couldn’t do the usual recruiting cycle right after founding the company, so instead we went around asking at game design colleges. I was surprised how many hopped on board this brand new company whose name they had never heard. Of course, it’s those very staff who today form the core of our development teams.

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Kamiya: I believe there is something about our company that attracts people who like to try new things, explore uncharted territory. The reason we are able to split up into teams and make games is that we respect each individual’s originality. Of course, this style can cause some conflicts with new hires who are used to the culture of other companies. But there are also many cases where they are able to move past those conflicts and embrace the PlatinumGames way.

Inaba: That’s true, since you cannot expect a company’s culture to change to fit what you are used to. When you are committed to creating brand new games, the individuality of each staff member becomes very important.

When you think about it, in time this leads to the company taking on a personality of its own. For you, Kamiya, if you cater to the users’ every whim and compromise your vision, it will probably be the last game you ever make. That is why you have to let that personal touch permeate your games. If you have an idea you cannot just keep your mouth shut. If you betray the players’ trust, it will come back and bite you in the ass. It is true that from a management perspective it makes sense to forget inspiration and uncharted territory and go for stability with sequels to proven series. But stability is not the be all and end all. There is nothing wrong with a sequel to a great game, but sometimes there are other things you want to do, things that you need to do.

Kamiya: This may not be directly related, but the games I played before entering the industry hold a special place in my heart. They represent something I aspire to, something I devoted myself to more than studying or relationships. To a certain extent there has been a retro revival in recent years, with many games from the 80s being made available on download services like PS, etc. However, many of the minor titles never have a chance to see the light of day. I think this is the one of biggest shortcomings of modern gaming culture. There is a treasure trove of great games out there, but they are being thrown out and forgotten like yesterday’s trash. A lot of those games are no longer playable. This is a challenge that we, as an industry, have to face.

Inaba: I agree. We grew up alongside games – they are more than just a job for us. I am sure there are others out there who feel the same way about video games. Who knows, in the future there may be fans who feel just as passionately about PlatinumGames titles.

Kamiya: If those people, in turn, end up pursuing a career in the game industry, we can really say we had an impact on their lives. Those impressionable years back in middle school ended up determining the direction of the rest of my life. If we can inspire others to devote themselves to games, nothing would make me happier.

Inaba: To make that dream a reality, it is up to me to foster an environment that allows people like Kamiya to continue to express their creativity. At the same time, I have to keep an eye on the next generation, and make sure they are able to produce Kamiya’s games after me. Well, until Kamiya’s career is finished, I’m prepared to keep supporting him as his producer.

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Kamiya: Yeah, I have been getting all self-important about my style as a director, but at the end of the day I’m just happy to be able to make games in a place like this. I mean, there are plenty of companies who keep you on a tight schedule, making sequels to games where they could change the entire development staff without anybody noticing. The only reason I am even able to go on like this about creativity is that I work in this environment. I’m not out there making games by myself – it is thanks to the development staff and everyone at PlatinumGames. I can’t picture myself anywhere else.

Inaba: I agree that our development environment is essential. But for me as a producer, I have to take a more active role in creating and maintaining my ideal office space. I don’t mean that in the sense of a floor plan or anything like that – I see the PlatinumGames environment as an “instrument”, a tool to bring out the best in our employees. In a way, it is a bit similar to a theme park, guiding the experience of those inside. I can’t say I have realized my ideals yet, but slowly but surely I am getting there.

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PG inside: Atsushi Inaba & Hideki Kamiya (PT. 2)

Platinum Games

Filed: Community, Games, PlatinumGames

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For the Sake of a Better Game

Inaba: One of the projects I worked on together with Kamiya that I remember particularly well is Viewtiful Joe. He had been a director before for Devil May Cry, but for Joe, I had him do the original game design documents and control the direction of the entire project. I told him, “I want you to work this out alone, without anyone’s help!” In order to give him free reign over the feel of the game world, I oversaw the project as a producer, and kept the team size small.

Kamiya: When I first entered the industry I went right into work on Biohazard. There was already a large team involved, with many experienced staff ready to lend me a hand. But with Viewtiful Joe I was in charge of all the planning and directing from the beginning.

Inaba: I still remember, during the days of Viewtiful Joe and Okami there were times when I thought you had totally lost your way. At one point during the latter half of development, you stopped giving people directions and handed the staff a design document that was basically a blank sheet. I should point out, the way Kamiya makes games is not logical; it starts from a feeling, “This scene looks good.” A director`s job is to fix an overall direction that a game will take, look at what his teams brings him each day, and decide whether it is good or bad. The problem was that there was a while when you weren’t able to make those critical choices. When a director is able to logically oversee a game without any issues, a producer like me can just focus on the people, resources, and capital management needed to deliver a solid product. But back then, I was mostly preoccupied with supporting you and making sure you were able bring things together.

Kamiya: I honestly had no idea what kind of game it would turn into.

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Inaba: I still occasionally reflect on the project. It wasn’t a logical game from the very outset. Whereas with Okami it started with you saying “I want to draw nature,” and I was just like, “Wow, that`s cool.”

Kamiya: I put a large emphasis on the quality of graphics in my games; I want the player to feel like they can almost taste the air around them when they are moving through the game world. Unlike the horror games I had worked on in the past, I wanted players to feel good when they saw the vast and beautiful landscape. That was the thought process that gave birth to the idea for Okami.

Inaba: However, the original concept you pitched back then was impossible to realize on consoles at the time. It would probably still be impossible today. About 2 months into the project we realized this and changed the art style accordingly. Originally “Okami” was supposed to be a game in which players could create realistic drawings through gameplay. It became clear this was just not feasible. However, through this process the concept of drawing a 3-dimensional ink painting was born, so I can`t say we were just wasting our time. That said, even though we had the art style in place from quite early on, the all-important game system itself took much longer to come together. I remember getting pretty angry, not just at Kamiya, but at the rest of the team as well.

Kamiya: Unfortunately, no matter how much I get yelled at I can`t come up with ideas I don`t have; I mean, it`s not like I was just fooling around all day. That said, the work we did at Clover Studio felt like the beginning of a large swell of creativity that continues to this day.

Inaba: The title was already announced and was being held up as the first big original game from Clover Studio. The only thing we had at that point was the promotional footage, but man, did it ever look pretty, haha. I`ve mellowed out quite a bit so I can no longer bring myself to get mad at people who are at least in their seat each day trying their best, but back then I didn’t show much compassion, and I was basically just yelling at people all the time.inside_4

Kamiya: At the time the team got together and we were all wondering if Okami would end up a failure. There was even some talk of it being cancelled. I responded saying that it would be a tragedy to release the game out into the wild in the state it was in; that`s how rough a state it was in for a while. I would start to shudder just imagining the users trying the game and feeling disappointed…if it was going to come to that I`d rather the game be cancelled.

Inaba: Yeah, and just forget the whole project ever happened. The time and love you put into it won’t be returned; those scars remain. But at least the users are spared. In that sense it can sometimes be better to cancel a game.

Kamiya: It`s true that both Inaba and I have a ton of treasured memories about games, but on the other hand we`ve suffered our share of disappointment at the hands of ill-fated projects. Back when we were kids, games were even more expensive than they are now. If you could get even one game per year you were lucky. Make a mistake and you wanted to scream, “I spent my hard-earned cash on this!?”

Inaba: We still face challenges as a small-staffed studio working on high-spec hardware. There are certainly times when we have to cut various features due to limitations on our end. However, I refuse to let challenges on our side dictate the entire course of production; it is not fair to the player. Instead of using these difficulties as excuses for compromising on quality, we just need to be that much more creative.

Kamiya: I`m not the type to organize all the individual moving parts of a game beforehand, so there are often times when I haven`t worked everything into the schedule. I often come up with good ideas in the middle of production, and the finished product ends up even better than I expected. I know it is a bit risky; I often think, “Man, I really came up with that in the nick of time.” But if that idea will make the game better, you have to do what it takes to get it in there.”

inside_5Inaba: Kamiya`s experience combined with a certain logical backbone are what allow him to see how the parts of a game fit together, but he comes out with the wildest ideas at the 11th hour. “Oh hey, I just came up with something!”
We have all come to dread those words. But when it turns out to be a great idea – and as gamers ourselves we all know a good idea when we see one – we just have to pull up our bootstraps and get it done.

Kamiya: It just so happens I was talking about this with a second-year programmer named Hirate today. If we as creators start deciding right off the bat that something is impossible, we will never be able to make anything. Imagine a game designer who is told by his artists and programmers that what he`s asking is impossible. It`s not like he can do those things himself; he`s finished. Good designers and programmers don`t let it end with “impossible.” The type of staff I trust the most are the people who will offer suggestions: “I can`t do that…but what about this?”
I believe that there are many people like that at Platinum. The thing that gets me most annoyed is when people come to me asking for me to okay some decision. I think I`ve broken everyone`s bad habits, but in the past it was rampant. I`d ask them to do something for me, and they`d come back saying “Is this okay?” I`d reply: “Don’t ask me what’s okay, show me what you think is okay!”

Inaba: On the other hand, you’re putting a lot of responsibility on their shoulders like that. But I have to admit that I too, as a producer, most enjoy the moments when someone reports back to me with an idea that exceeds my expectations.

Kamiya: Exactly. As a game fan myself, that joy even rivals that of trying a brand new game. That feeling of excitement takes me back to my experiences as a kid. The games I`ve worked on are filled with ideas that I didn`t come up with, ideas I couldn`t have come up with… in a way that`s what allows me to keep making games I truly enjoy.

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PG Inside: Atsushi Inaba & Hideki Kamiya (Pt. 1)

Platinum Games

Filed: Community, Games, PlatinumGames

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Carrying Forward Gaming Culture

Atsushi Inaba (Executive Producer): Atsushi Inaba has helped produce almost every game Platinum has released to date. His role is to support and manage each project’s team.

Hideki Kamiya (Director): Hideki Kamiya has been a director of such games as Resident Evil 2, Devil May Cry, Viewtiful Joe, Okami, Bayonetta, the Wonderful 101, and now Scalebound. His job is to create a vision for the project and act upon it.

Remember the times when almost every day you’d go to some friend’s house in the neighborhood and spend the whole afternoon playing video games? I’m sure there are a lot of us who can answer yes to that question. Out of the ones who can are two of the founders of PlatinumGames, Atsushi Inaba and Hideki Kamiya. Now working as an Executive Producer and a Director, this interview delves into why they chose to work in the game industry.

Why I Make Games

Inaba: The first time I thought I wanted to make games was when I was 12 years old. The PC-8801 was at its peak, and I played games all the time. Back then, hardware and software were fairly simple, to the point that the art, sound, and even programming were often handled by a single person. If you wanted to make games, the easiest way in was to learn how to program, and that’s exactly what I did.

Kamiya: I got into making games in almost the same way Inaba did. I said I wanted to study programming and my parents bought me a computer. Ultimately I played a lot more than I programmed though (laughs).

Inaba: It used to be that you had to go to an arcade to play anything, so it was amazing to actually be able to play games in your own home.

Kamiya: Back then, hardware had limited capabilities, but their limitations made them very logical in design. They were almost like paper, rock, scissors in a way. You would pick from a small number of options, and what you chose determined whether you would win or lose. They were simple with easy to comprehend rules. I entered the industry during the Playstation era, so these kind of games were already long out of production. The first game I worked on would be Resident Evil (which used polygons to make 3-D characters and environments), so I never got to work on a 2-D game.

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Inaba: The PlayStation really ushered in a time of change for video games. I think that’s what first brought us together.

Kamiya: My approach to making games is mostly spontaneous so there’s some doubt as to how well my style would have fit with the logical design methods of the 8-bit era. Maybe that’s why I’m drawn to them so much.

Inaba: They definitely have a unique appeal. What I find so amazing about 8-bit games is how I can remember the smallest of details about them, even now. I can still remember buying certain games, how excited I was.

Kamiya: It’s too bad but I don’t feel like the games of today can inspire memories as vivid as the ones back then did. Maybe it’s just because I’m older now. It was different when I was a kid. Back when I was most impressionable, back when I would absorb anything like a sponge, I chose games over school, and that’s what really defined who I am. Ummm, I’m not saying you shouldn’t go to school, kids.

Inaba: When you’re a kid, you have no income, so you put an unbelievable amount of concentration into that one quarter you have to spend at the arcade. You would grip the quarter tight in your hand and think, “I’ve got one shot. I can’t let it go to waste.” So much weight was placed on each attempt, it’s no wonder I remember them all so well.

Kamiya: When my parents brought me to a big department store I would think extremely carefully about the most effective way to spend the little cash my parents gave me. I’d take a good look at everything there and make sure I chose whatever gave me the most for my money. That’s probably how those dot graphics and bleeping sounds became so deeply etched into my identity. They still really mean a lot to me.

Inaba: When I was in middle school I’d frequently drop by the arcade near my house. Getting a new machine in was a big deal. My friends and I would all try to guess what it might be. Also, games didn’t get soundtracks released back then, so you’d have to hold a tape recorder next to the cabinet and record the BGM live. Usually you’d do it while you or somebody else was playing so you’d get a lot of sound effects thrown in—enemies blowing your ship up and the like.

Kamiya: Everyone was engrossed in countdown music shows and pop radio and whatever. I couldn’t care about any of that in the least. Back in 1985, I was all about Gradius. I was still in my first or second year of middle school, but I don’t think I’ve ever felt anything that can top how I felt then. I would go home and strategize endlessly about how to clear that one part I couldn’t get past yet (laughs). Before I knew it, I couldn’t take it anymore and I would jump on my bike, going as fast as I could to the arcade, wearing pretty much pajamas.

Inaba: I feel where you’re coming from. The smallest amount of money and time used to have so much value to me back then. All of those “unfair” games really honed our gaming skills. The NES especially—so many games spared absolutely no mercy for the player. For the survivors of that era like you and me, a lot of the games today feel like a complete pushover. They’re too easy.

Kamiya: Exactly—way too much hand-holding. I don’t know if people these days remember that sometimes you’d have to sit 10-20 minutes in front of a screen waiting for a game to load before you could even determine if it sucked or not.

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Inaba: I remember this one time I was playing this game and waited 20 minutes for it to load up. After it finally did, the first thing it did was ask you to choose armor for your character before you started playing. I chose what I wanted, pressed confirm, and finally thought things were going to get underway, when I got the following message: “Your armor is too heavy for your character. GAME OVER.” I just looked at the screen and thought, “You’ve got to be kidding me!” (laughs). But that’s just how games were back then.

Kamiya: Back in middle school, I went over to my friend’s house after I heard he got a computer. Playing games at your own house was like a dream to me, so I was elated to just sit in front of the screen while the game loaded. After everything finally finished processing, I remember the picture appearing on the screen piece by piece.

Inaba: Right. It would take time for the processor to draw something, but what you have to understand is, that didn’t make us bored or frustrated. Every minute we waited just made the excitement build that much greater. It’s probably those memories that inspired us to choose a career in making games.

Lunch with the President

Platinum Games

Filed: Community, PlatinumGames

The latest employee event here at PlatinumGames is birthday lunch month with the president! As the name implies, all employees who have their birthday that month are treated to lunch by president Minami.

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The company started 9 years ago with 40 or so members, but now, with over 170 employees, it has turned into quite a sizeable establishment (from our perspective, anyway). The president suggested this event because he wanted a chance to sit down and talk with all of the employees.

The lunch might also be a way of expressing his gratitude for our work? In any case, it’s a voluminous bento box that looks pretty fancy! (I’m getting jealous…)

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For lunch this time we had quite the range of participants: from new employees who only entered the company in April to veterans who’ve been with the company since its founding, for a total of 8 people.

First of all, the president wanted to know how everyone was doing! So he asked about what they do for lunch. One employee who usually brings her own lunch said, “I’ve been having trouble getting up in the morning to make my lunch these days…” The president shot back with: “But you’re not that busy right now!”

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Then there was some chat about the early days of the employees who’d been with the company since the beginning.

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Next, the president badgered a nervous new employee in his typical fast-talking Kansai dialect. “Don’t you feel homesick, living away from home? Are you doing okay?” It turns out the new employee’s first name is the same as his beloved daughter. His familial feeling must have kicked in, and he just kept spouting out the cantankerous old dad phrases. “Don’t have too much fun!” he chided, chuckling.

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By the time everyone had finished eating, the talk turned to serious work matters. Concerns about how to train new staff, the difficulty of sharing information throughout the development floor, how to pass on expert know-how, how to use lessons learned on subsequent projects… the topics just kept on coming. The lunch had turned into an exchange of opinions that crossed all boundaries of job type and position.

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At one point it got so serious that the president and the CTO, Ohmori, were both holding their heads in their hands in desperation!

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Well, the lunch was only an hour and a half long, so there’s no way all the issues were going to get solved. However, by continuing these opportunities, we hope that horizontal and vertical communication will become smoother, and employees will feel even more comfortable and motivated working here. And of course, we want to create amazing games to pass it back to all of you!

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This was a little longer than our usual lunch hour of 12:30-1:30, but it sounds like it was really worthwhile. Everyone’s looking forward to next month’s lunch!

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A New Year’s Greeting from PlatinumGames

Platinum Games

Filed: Community, PlatinumGames

Happy New Year!

This year, we have a greeting from the president and a video from all our staff. See both of them below!

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Hi everyone, Happy New Year from PlatinumGames.

 

In 2014, we were able to see the sequel to Bayonetta, our flagship title, released to the world, as well as the release of The Legend of Korra, a game available only outside of Japan.

I’d like to express my thanks to all of our fans who supported us by purchasing and playing these titles, and to the staff who worked so hard to make these games’ releases possible.

As a video game developer, a new year doesn’t actually mark an achievement in the history of our company. Our milestones are made when we finish a game and can release it to our fans. Each of those successive milestones has brought PlatinumGames to where it is today.

One way we gauge the success of a game is if our users finish it and think, “I want more.” We strongly believe that Bayonetta 2 would not have been possible without the critical reception of the first. Both of these games represent important milestones for our company, and we are deeply proud of them.

Our other release of 2014, “The Legend of Korra,” involved the game adaptation of a highly popular TV show in the west that has never been released in Japan. The fact that we, a Japanese company, were entrusted with this property, reaffirmed our faith that PlatinumGames is respected across the world. This too, may have been a major turning point for us.

Looking back on last year, PlatinumGames may have advanced from where we were before 2014. Something tells me that, at least. To use videogame parlance, I feel we’ve come to our second playthrough.

In video games, there’s a term called “New Game +”. This is a term for starting the second run of a game with all the experience from your first playthrough carried over.

In a New Game +, you’re powerful enough that you can mostly button mash your way through the repeated areas of the game with little trouble at all, but that’s not what we mean when we say we’re on our second playthrough. We intend to challenge ourselves and explore possibilities we may not have been able to realize until now. This is the attitude we try to maintain everyday as we come to work.

The video game industry is one that is ever-changing. New technology and approaches to game development are introduced daily, constantly giving our staff volumes of new study material. We can’t rely on our past experience to get us through everything. We intend to press forward strongly in 2015, experimenting with new ideas for how to give our fans across the world a thrilling user experience that could only come from Platinum. Thank you as always for all your support.

 

PlatinumGames President and CEO

Tatsuya Minami

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Also, take a look at this New Year’s message from our whole team:

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PlatinumGames’ End of the Year Party

Platinum Games

Filed: Community, PlatinumGames

Hey everyone. This is Kazuyo Tsukuma, PR rep at PlatinumGames. Today’s our last work day of the year, but plenty of staff are still busy trying to wrap up the few final tasks they have. We had some company wide Spring Cleaning (though yes, it’s not Spring) today in between the furious typing away at keyboards.

Earlier this week we held our company-wide end of the year of the party. Including a few guests from outside, attendees totaled to be somewhere over 200.

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Kenichi Sato, head of HR, gives a toast.

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After the initial toast, everyone takes their glass and makes some rounds, expressing thanks to those who have helped you out over the past year. Up until this point it was the same ol’ end of the year party as every year. But…

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Suddenly, a mysterious figure appeared upon the stage. Hey, who the heck are you?

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Allow us to introduce the new unofficial mascot character of PlatinumGames: P-Man. He seems to have been put together in secret by the graduate hires who organized the party.

The designer who originally proposed the idea claimed to have the suit finished in a week. A month later, the suit was complete, just in time for the party. Everyone was pretty impressed with this display of young spirit, really putting in extra effort just to make the night that much more special. It’d be nice if we could eventually find some other way to use P-Man outside of this party…

At PlatinumGames, our end of the year party is typically five percent mingling and 95 percent bingo competition. This year we had over 150 presents donated by different members of the staff as prizes. A few days before the event, a catalog was distributed to everyone’s desks so staff could dare to dream of drawing the some of the more illustrious prizes. Or so they could start to fear how they would manage getting home some of the huger gag gifts.

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By some strange stroke of luck, it just so happens that the staff member who landed the prize contributed by President Minami himself was…

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P-Man?!? The luck of this guy… nice one, P-Man!

Thanks for all the support you’ve given PlatinumGames this year. It’s been a fantastic year for us, and we hope it will be for you as well. We’ll take a short break and see you back in 2015–let’s all make it a great year.

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A Day in Life at the Sky Building

Platinum Games

Filed: Community

If you’re a regular reader, you may be aware of the fact that PlatinumGames is located in a big, rather unusually-shaped office building on the edge of Central Osaka, called the “Sky Building.” This building was named one of the top 20 buildings around the world by British newspaper The Times, which deemed it worthy of standing shoulder-to-shoulder with world heritage edifices like the Parthenon in Greece, the Taj Mahal in India, and the Sagrada Familia in Spain.

The Umeda Sky Building in Osaka

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Recent tourist guidebooks have lauded it as a “futuristic Arc of Triumph,” and in the 21 years since its completion it has become quite a bit of a tourist attraction!

The Umeda Sky Building and its environing Shin Umeda City are visited by many tourists every day, who flock there not just for the interesting architecture, but for the many entertaining seasonal events as well.

A few weeks ago, there was a special green tea ceremony on the square at the foot of the Sky Building, and an illumination show in the nearby park. The organizers had kindly invited some of our staff as well, so we decided to join in because, hey, free tea!

Green Tea Ceremony

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Some of our designers decided to have a taste as well.

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After the tea party, it was time for the illumination event in the adjacent garden. After taking in the breathtaking night view of Osaka from the observatory at the top of the building, attendees got to experience a leisurely evening stroll in the garden at the foot of the building. From this day on, the trees in this garden were going to be illuminated in the evening throughout the year, in a variety of vibrant colors that change with the time of year. Since this was a special event, we got to see a six-minute special performance showing the various colors of the seasons!

Illumination in the Garden

Disco Trees

This garden is actually a popular spot for PG staff to take a stroll and relax during their lunch break. It helps to take your mind off the bustle of the city! (You can even see fireflies here in early/mid-June every year!)

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And on some days, when the weather is clear, you might even spot (a slightly chubby version of) a famous personality crawling through the framework! (The website is Japanese, but the pictures should speak for themselves)

You can see how even the building we work in bolsters our creativity!

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Interview with Saurian Dash (Part 2)

BAYONETTA 2

Filed: Bayonetta 2, Community, Games, PlatinumGames, The Wonderful 101

Hello all, and welcome to Part 2 of our interview with Saur, renowned for his in-depth action game analysis and tutorials.

Read Part 1 of the interview here .

6. From your perspective, how have games changed over the years?
As someone who loves deep game systems and challenging tests for the skills developed within these systems, I am very disappointed with the treatment of skill-focused games recently. I grew up playing arcade games: smaller, skill-focused games which you played over a long period of time to hone your skills. These were games which I always used to play with other people. It was the melting pot effect of many different people all bringing different personalities, techniques, and skills to the table which enriched the games we enjoyed and the community and friendship we developed around those games.

These days, however, especially in the case of single-player games, many titles are treated almost like passive entertainment. The “personal experience” of the game’s narrative is placed above the quality of the core gameplay. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good narrative. I play role playing games quite often and love losing myself in the lore of such games. However, I am seeing that time and time again really brilliant skill-focused games are completely misrepresented and misunderstood because they are being judged on the quality of their narrative experience instead of the quality of their skill-focused mechanics and how much scope these mechanics allow for creative challenges and player self-improvement. These days you will often hear the phrase “This game is xx hours long”. The “value” of a game is quantified based on the total length of its narrative, not on the depth of the game’s mechanics or how long it holds the player’s attention as they strive to perfect their skills. This, I believe, is an attitude which is very damaging to the gaming medium as a whole. Games can be so much more than vehicles to tell stories.

I understand that professional game reviewers today have a very large number of games to review and cannot take the time to completely learn a particular game system, and at the same time it is also not reasonable for a studio to entrust the communication of a brand new set of game mechanics to the gaming press. But I would love to ask both parties to consider the implications of this situation: games which truly raise the bar in terms of play mechanics are suffering in reviews and in sales. What is the point of employing talented game designers to build new, original, and exciting game mechanics if the gaming press, and by extension the gaming public who trust in the press to provide them with information on new games, are not giving mechanically deep games an analysis which respects the purpose of these games?

I believe there are a significant number of players who want to be mentally stimulated by games which treat them with respect, and are brave enough to challenge themselves to the edge of their ability so that their eventual success is more meaningful. The whole point of these games is to learn how to play them well – it is this journey which makes them so satisfying to play and makes sharing ideas with other players so much fun. I would humbly ask that professional reviewers please consider trying to engage in this journey of discovery – if you need any help along the way I would love to provide it!

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7. What do you feel is the most important aspect of an action game?
I believe the most important aspect of an action game is the way it respects and reflects the potential of the player. As such, I value a game system which allows the player to express their individual creativity and ingenuity. I love the idea of a game system which allows the player a great deal of freedom to develop their own unique style of play, then presents that player with a course designed outward from that core system to test the skills they have developed. I also believe the communication of hazards should be treated with the utmost care: the player should be able to develop a precise sense of the exact moment enemy attacks are triggered. To this end, clear audio/visual signposts are an absolute must. I especially love the idea of linking audio cues to the triggering of enemy attack signposts. With an audio cue in place, the player can know the exact moment an enemy attack is triggered, whether the attack is activated on or off-screen. I find I have the most fun when I achieve an acute sense of the precise amount I can push my attack before I need to take evasive action, and audio cues especially enable me to achieve that sense.

Of equal importance is to build an incentive into the game system to encourage the player to play well. Far too many games today have very simple game systems with no incentive whatsoever for the player to improve their competence within that system. The last thing I want to see after blundering through an enemy encounter is the equivalent of a perfect rank and praise for my valiant efforts! No, I want to be rewarded a genuine victory for learning how to overcome a challenge.

8. What do you look for in a sequel?
I find sequels most interesting when the game designers are allowed to iterate and evolve the systems they had previously designed, allowing the player to explore new ways to think about established concepts. With a new set of weapons, abilities, and enemies which have been designed outward from the newly evolved player system, a sequel can feel completely fresh and mentally stimulating.

9. Where will people be able to find your work in the future?
I am very surprised that so many people have found my work helpful! I have very little confidence in my ability, but I try my best because I love these games so much. Lately I have received a lot of support and encouragement from other players I have become acquainted with through mutual enjoyment of action games, and I would like to try and do my part to give something back to the gaming community. I want to really step up my video production, I want to cover more games more often, and finally learn how to work with a microphone for voiceovers. I have bought a camera, a decent microphone, audio interface and video capture equipment and everything I need to get started on this project. Please subscribe to https://www.youtube.com/user/Saur and stay tuned as I will have brand new content to present soon!

10. Your tutorial videos for The Wonderful 101 are a helpful resource for many new people getting into the game. Do you have anything similar planned for Bayonetta 2?
Thank you very much, I’m glad that people found them helpful. Ultimately I would love to fully cover the system mechanics and enemy strategies of Bayonetta 2. Perhaps a Bayonetta retrospective would be interesting in the lead-up to the release of the game’s sequel? It would be very interesting to start playing the game again from scratch to rediscover the brilliance of the game system and help other players to get the most out of it!

Saur, thanks very much for taking the time for this interview. We’re looking forward to your next video!

Check out Saur’s YouTube channel here.

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