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

Sky Bldg

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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Interview with Saurian Dash (Part 1)

Platinum Games

Filed: Community, Games, PlatinumGames

Saurian Dash (or “Saur” as he is often known) has been a visible presence in the action game community for years. His work on Bayonetta: The Official Guide (Future Press) set the platinum standard for both quality and skilled play.

Saur’s tutorial videos for The Wonderful 101 helped introduce many fans to the depth of the game’s system, and take their skills to the next level.

Today, we chat with the man himself, to learn what began his love of action games, and the systems that form their core.

1. How did you get into action games?

I got into action games late; but when I did it completely changed how I viewed gaming forever. The game which brought me round was Viewtiful Joe. Here was a game with a deep and open-ended combat system which seemed to be built as a means for the player to express creativity. This system is then pitted against opponents and obstacles which were designed from the ground up to interact meaningfully with the core system. The course was fixed, but the method for dealing with that course was completely down to the ingenuity, skill and inspiration of the player. You play like you have a huge audience watching and the game constantly entices you to improve; the focus is not simply on getting the player from A to B, the focus is on getting the player to play “Viewtifully”.

2. How did you first learn about PlatinumGames?

I was very saddened by the closure of Clover Studio, so you can imagine my delight when I saw the Bayonetta reveal trailer. The spirit of Clover Studio did indeed live on! I couldn’t wait to play this new game and it was like a dream come true when I was asked to write the Combat System, Enemy and Boss strategy chapters for Bayonetta: The Official Guide (Future Press). The work I did on the Bayonetta guide massively expanded my knowledge of this type of game and led to all kinds of other work both inside and outside game development studios. It was the first time I ever had a complete game system inside my head; I finally understood the sheer amount of work that goes into a game system like this and how brilliant the designers at the helm must be.

3. What is your approach to a new action game? Do you aim for high scores from the beginning, or start to build strategies after a leisurely first playthrough?

I tend to take my time and make sure that I have an understanding of the game system before I move through the game’s stages. The first thing I get used to is the player system; which actions can I perform? Which actions can I interrupt? Which actions leave me locked in a recovery animation? Once I get used to moving the character I will often play the opening stage over and over, gradually learning more about the game system as I go. During this initial phase I believe it is very important to look closely at each enemy type the game introduces; I take note of their attack signposts and explore my options for dealing with those attacks. These are the enemies the designers are introducing to the player first, so they must represent the foundation of the relationship between the player and enemy systems. Once I have an idea of how the core game system works and how this applies to the structure of battle, I then begin to progress through the game’s stages in a casual fashion, always with the intent to return to tricky sections to learn them properly later.

I treat my first playthrough on Normal as an introduction. This session is simply a means to get acquainted with the game system and to note how the designers want to test the player. Once I have a good idea of how the game system works and have seen all the enemy types the game contains, I then move on to a “Score Attack” style of play. This is where I try to achieve at least Platinum rankings on Normal mode before moving on to Hard. I tend to throw all narrative progression out the window at this point. I play stages in no particular order; if I discover an interesting enemy encounter I end up playing that encounter over and over for hours.

Recently I spent over a week fighting Khamsin (the final boss of the Blade Wolf DLC) in the “Revengeance” difficult level of Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. Initially I was drawn to this fight simply because of the hype atmosphere of the encounter, but repeatedly fighting this boss completely changed the way I played the game. I noticed that my Heavy attacks were unsafe; I could not freely cancel Blade Wolf’s (LQ-84i’s) animation into an Evade at the precise moment I needed to. I was over-committing to the animation of certain attacks which quickly led to my demise. I then switched over to using Light attacks primarily; it turned out I could instantly cancel a Light attack animation into an Evade. This made learning to Evade Khamsin’s attacks much easier. I could concentrate purely on correctly reading the boss’s attack signposts and Evading at the correct moment while using Blade Mode to cancel and repeat my combo string.

I then realised that Blade Wolf differs from Raiden in that you can Blade Mode cancel all of his Evade animations as well as his attack animation! This fact led to a technique where I would cancel my current action with Blade Mode, execute an Evade to dodge an attack, but cancel that Evade with Blade Mode once the hit frames of the attack pass by. This enabled me to press my attack sequences far further than I ever could before; I was landing far more hits against the boss because I was trimming out the delay frames of my Evades. This exercise completely changed the way the game felt and how I played it. I have also just recently been having a huge amount of fun repeating a particular Secret Mission in The Wonderful 101; last night I had another mechanical breakthrough after spending a few hours exploring this fight.

This is what I love the most about these games: the more you put in to them, the more you get out. Most of the questions you need to ask the game system will not come to you until after you have reached a certain understanding of the system. You come to a particular situation where you hit a wall; you then ask a question and the game answers you. Platinum’s games are tuned to accommodate a very high skill ceiling and continue to surprise and delight the player after many months, or even many years of play.

4. How would you describe the various skills action games demand?

I believe the type of game design I enjoy the most started with Viewtiful Joe. Here is a game which looks like a traditional side-scrolling fighting game, but instead it turns the entire concept into something wildly different. The “lesson” of Viewtiful Joe I feel was “planning”: you don’t simply react to hazards and you don’t simply run up to enemies and start hitting them. Instead, you visually confirm the enemy set, formulate a plan based on your knowledge of those enemies and then execute that plan in the most stylish (yet efficient) way possible. The “plan” I speak of is the blueprint which dictates the correct way to do battle in the game, derived from the scoring system. The scoring system is the backbone of the game; it leads you into playing in a specific fashion to not only score more points but also deal damage more quickly.

The game system in Viewtiful Joe was like an invisible hand which guided the player towards creating a structure out of what initially seemed like chaos; it wasn’t simply about playing, it was about playing well. The Wonderful 101 takes the concept of planning and structure introduced in Viewtiful Joe and spins it into something far more free and dynamic. It blurs the boundaries between the different aspects of the scoring system which results in a game about “management” and “multi-tasking” as opposed to just “planning”.

In The Wonderful 101 you still have the same three aspects of the scoring system to consider: the combo timer, combo score and the combo multiplier. However, this time around all three aspects blur into each other, causing various aspects of the combat mechanics to merge together as a result. Look at the first aspect of Viewtiful Joe’s system as an example: to dodge an enemy attack to inflict a Stun you had to make a “binary” decision regarding which direction to dodge (up or down). In The Wonderful 101, however, the basic act of inflicting a Stun is done via the Team Attack button and full combo potential is only enabled once an enemy enters this state. Repeatedly hitting an enemy with Team Attack will cause more and more of your Wonderful Ones to cling onto the enemy and begin attacking it. Once a certain threshold is met the enemy will become stunned. This is not a binary decision with an instant result; it is a gradual “analogue” process which is independent of the main character’s animation. You are free to perform other actions during this process to manage other aspects of the scoring system as you prepare your target. In fact you are free to manage any part of the scoring system or any part of the enemy set as the situation dictates!

An excellent example to illustrate the way the three aspects of scoring merge together is the Unite Gun. You will notice that the Unite Gun fires not bullets but Wonderful Ones; as soon as a Wonderful One clings onto a target it signifies that you are now locked-on to that target. Pressing the [A] button at this point will trigger the Leader character to instantly zip over to that target’s location. But what happens when you fire loads of Unite Gun shots, causing many heroes to cling onto a target? You stun the enemy! Each Unite Gunshot increases the combo multiplier by x0.10 (higher than the base weapon multiplier value of x0.04), and if you manage to increase the combo multiplier beyond x2.50 your primary weapons (Unite Hand and Sword) gain a huge power boost. So the “simple” act of shooting an enemy is both your Lock-On and your means of inflicting Stun to enable a high scoring combo. It allows you to quickly increase the combo multiplier beyond x2.50, and encourages you with a boost to attack power so that you can kill the enemy even faster! All of these actions can be (and usually are) performed while you manage threats from other enemies. A great Wonderful 101 player is a person who is skilled at managing many things at once, and the game gives the player all the required tools with which to do so!

Unite Gun is used to lock-on to enemies, inflict stun, and build your combo multiplier.

Unite Gun is used to lock-on to enemies, inflict stun, and build your combo multiplier.

Increase your combo multiplier beyond x2.50 and your weapons get a power boost!

Increase your combo multiplier beyond x2.50 and your weapons get a power boost!

All of this is coupled with a brilliant new way of presenting the “entity” of the player character. Up to this point the player character has usually meant a fixed point of reference, but The Wonderful 101 plays around with this concept. The “character” the player controls is more like a “potential” instead of a fixed point, and as such you need to think about the way you interact with the game world and enemies in a new and different way. I love the way the player entity transitions seamlessly from being a spread out potential and then a single point, all depending on the current action.

Bayonetta is another game which I feel demonstrates the same level of brilliance with regard to finding new ways to present established concepts. If you look at other action games there are distinct boundaries between different types of action. We never once questioned the notion that melee attacks, gun attacks and evasive actions were separate and unique items which could be triggered at will but never mixed. Bayonetta presented a character which blurred the lines between these separate actions and established the genius mechanic of Dodge-Offset, which allowed the player to mix any and all evasive actions into just about any attack animation.

Bayonetta's Wicked Weave changes the way players think about their position relative to the enemy.

Bayonetta’s Wicked Weave changes the way players think about their position relative to the enemy.

These new ideas regarding movement and attacking were more than enough to establish Bayonetta as something unique, but I do not believe this is all there was to it. Bayonetta also asks you to consider a completely new way of thinking about 3D space: the brilliant Wicked Weave system. With Wicked Weaves (the action of projecting physical attacks through dimensional portals) you can inflict melee attack hit reactions at just about any distance. This causes the player to come up with completely different ways to deal with enemy sets compared to other action games; the fact that Bayonetta does not need to be near an enemy in order to physically attack it adds an utterly new dimension to a long established concept.

5. How does the Unite Morph System from The Wonderful 101 differ from traditional weapon switching systems?

Up until this point we have accepted that switching weapons in an action game is a mechanically simple process; you either select the weapon from within a menu or cycle through various weapons via a button press. However, The Wonderful 101 presents a completely new way of thinking about the “entity” of the player character; through the Wonder Liner mechanic, the mass of Wonderful Ones you control actually become the special attack command, they become the weapon! It cleverly establishes a new style of special attack command, specifically designed for an analogue joystick as opposed to a traditional digital input device, and requires that the player use both analogue sticks at once. The Unite Morph command glyphs are like analogue omni-directional representations of traditional digital special attack commands; the Unite Hand is a 360 motion/circle, the Unite Claw is an exaggerated “Dragon Punch” motion and the Unite Bomb is a half-circle then forward.

Using shape and color, weapon selection is communicated through visuals alone.

Using shape and color, weapon selection is communicated through visuals alone.

As players of fighting games know, special attack commands require practice. They are tricky to perform at first, but with time and patience you develop your own unique style of command execution. The Wonderful 101’s Unite Morph system operates in the same principle. The Wonder Liner mechanic is a brilliant way of visually representing special attack commands, and enables the player to not only select many different weapons quickly, but also freely manipulate the power level and scale of the weapon via the exact same command input.

The Wonder Liner mechanic is an analogue system, so by drawing a larger shape and sacrificing the speed in which the Unite Morph command is entered, you increase the attack power of the Unite Morph you want to select, visually communicated by the game as an enlarged version of the Unite Morph. Not only that; the Wonder Liner mechanic allows for the “storing” of a Unite Morph command! Once you visually confirm that you have entered a valid Unite Morph command glyph (signified by a color specific to each weapon), you are free to move the character as you like before you press [A] to activate the weapon.

Make it bigger: a tried-and-true method of showing increased power.

Make it bigger: a tried-and-true method of showing increased power.

On top of all this you then have to consider that you have two attack buttons, Normal attack and Team attack. Unite Morph commands can be activated via either attack button, triggering either the Leader character to equip the weapon or the team-mates to automatically attack with that weapon. As certain Unite Morphs have additional defensive abilities, it enables the player to eliminate a threat with one aspect of the team while dealing damage with the other. An example would be when faced with armoured enemies equipped with lasers: you can equip the leader with the Unite Sword to automatically deflect the laser beam, then command your team-mates to attack the target’s armour with the Unite Hammer. As incoming damage is only counted if it is inflicted upon the Leader of the team, I really enjoy working out ways in which I can keep the Leader out of trouble while using the team-mates to do the dirty work!

What I find most mind-blowing about the best action games is that they present a logical progression through their mechanics. In other words, once you gain a degree of mastery over one mechanic, it enables you to ask a question which leads you to the mastery of another deeper mechanic. In the case of The Wonderful 101, the first time I came across this logical path was after I got used to performing Unite Morph commands consistently. I began exploring simple combos; a few basic standing hits into a Wonderful Rising (launcher) leading to a basic aerial combo. I began wondering how I could string the attacks of different Unite Morphs together.

It was at this point that I realised the implications of the Wonder Liner being independent of the player character’s attack animation. It turns out that you are free to enter Unite Morph commands during any attack animation; if you enter a command during an attack animation and press [A] you will instantly cancel that animation and ready the newly selected weapon.

Naturally, the next logical step was to try this technique with special attacks, which are input via the left analogue stick. I discovered that if you do a special attack – such as the Wonderful Cyclone – you can enter the directional command for another Unite Morph with the right analogue stick and then perform an additional special attack command with the left analogue stick before pressing [A] to activate the new Unite Morph. The result was a means to instantly switch from the special attack of one Unite Morph into the special attack of another Unite Morph (dubbed “Unite Mix” in my tutorial video.) This technique massively expanded my options for building damaging combos; I could now string many special attacks together in order to keep an enemy locked in a high-scoring aerial juggle.

Once I gained a level of mastery over the “Unite Mix” technique, I was then led to ask another question. Certain special attacks (specifically the Wonderful Stinger) can only be performed once in mid air. How then can I use more than one Stinger during jump? Turns out you can do that too! To begin, you enter the command for the Unite Morph you want to use (right stick), input the command for the Stinger (left stick), and launch the attack with [A]. During the animation for the first aerial Stinger, you can input the commands for another, and perform a series of Stingers going back and forth between different morphs! This is what I love most about these games, the more thought you put in, the more cool stuff you get out!

Come back this Friday for Part 2 of our interview with Saur, where we discuss the past and future of action games! While you’re waiting, take a look at Saur’s Youtube channel.

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Training the New Recruits!

Platinum Games

Filed: Community, PlatinumGames

It’s April, so that means a fresh batch of new recruits has arrived at the office. And here at PG, it is customary for the newcomers to be trained in a variety of subjects over the course of roughly a week.

On the first day, they were instructed on the rules of work attendance, and how to manage confidential information, as well as business manners, organization, and general ways of working.

On the second day, they learned how to write business documents and mails, how to behave during visits or when attending conferences, and where to sit during meetings (an important part of Japanese culture, where the order of seating is related to the attendee’s status at the company!). There was also a lecture on the history and recent trends of the video game industry, and on the process (production/sales) involved in making video games. This is a valuable opportunity for fledgling workers to learn from management and their seniors* about what’s important when working in this industry (*Relationships between “juniors” and “seniors,” or kōhai and senpai are an integral part of Japanese society. See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Senpai_and_kōhai).

The third day offered a lecture on”Basic Rules for New Recruits” by two third-year employees (Ryu Hashimoto and Tadanari Takahashi, both graphic designers). This is an important first step when becoming part of an organization!

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It’s a very basic (but important) question, but the new recruits wondered how they were supposed to know whether the people they passed in the Umeda Sky Building (where PlatinumGames is located) and its surroundings are their colleagues or completely unrelated people.

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Of course, staff members carry a card key with the PlatinumGames logo on it around their necks, so that makes it easy to recognize them most of the time, but what if they’re not wearing it yet, because they just arrived at work for the day? There’s not much else you can do but to remember everyone’s faces, but there’s 170 of them!!

The answer their seniors provided was: “No one is going to be offended if you say hello, so when we were new, we just greeted everyone in plain clothing (contrary to many Japanese companies, the staff at PG does not wear suits at the office) that we came across!” (Never mind that there are lots of students and tourists in the neighborhood as well ;) )

It’s not likely that any PG staff member will go “Hey newbie, don’t you know how to greet your senior!?” but there’s no one who doesn’t appreciate a clear and energetic greeting either, so it’s better to be safe than sorry!

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They shared another nugget of wisdom: “Of course, if you run into someone from outside the company, you will be a representative of PG in their eyes, even if you’re new, so you have to be especially careful in those cases, and always strive to come across as friendly and motivated.”

The next topic was ”staff attitude”

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“Immediately respond when people address you > always take notes > swiftly take care of your duties!”
“Regardless of whether the task is big or small, always be responsible until the very end!”

“Report, communicate, and consult” etc.
Of course, understanding all of this is an important part of joining a company, but the most strongly conveyed message of the day was “Whatever you do, be passionate (about your job)!”

It is also customary for new recruits to take charge of collecting garbage, watering the plants, and keeping the various tea/coffee pots filled for a year. “You may think that these chores have nothing to do with game development, but they’re actually directly related to the improvement of the development environment, and, as such, the image of the company!”

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This year, the lectures were held by two third-year employees, but future support for the newcomers will be handled by second-year employees (probably because they’re a bit easier to talk to), who will provide them with advice and counseling. Apparently there will also be a big drinking party between all first-to-third-year employees (oops, perhaps that was supposed to be a secret), so, yeah, we’re all actually pretty jealous… :S

There was another lecture after this, about copyrights and the rules regarding logo usage, but we’ll stop here for today!

<A lecture on copyrights by executive director Kenichi Sato>

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Tagged:

PlatinumGames Employee Art Showcase

Platinum Games

Filed: Community, PlatinumGames

Hello PlatinumGames fans! Welcome to the employee art showcase.

It almost goes without saying – we’ve got a lot of talented artists here at PG. They’re usually busy with their jobs, but in spare moments they take the opportunity to work on their own art as well.

So, I thought I’d take this opportunity to showcase some of our artists’ awesome creations. As a non-artist myself, I’m always amazed when the artists call these “quick sketches”.

Without further ado…

4-Koda

By: Koda

I love Koda’s sharp, clean-edged art style. He’s great at portraying high-tech environments.

bg_concept2_fix-Koda

By: Koda
Title: “Cargo Ship”
Comment: Speed painting – 2 hours 30 minutes.

Check out this ship with the Platinum logo on it! This art makes me imagine that our company’s office is actually a giant starship exploring alien worlds with Mr. Minami at the helm.

bg-2-Koda

By: Koda
Comment: Speed painting – 30 minutes.

I also like the ethereal feel of this.

mudai-Koda

By: Koda
Comment: I drew this in about 3 hours.

He’s also great at these Earth-like settings. I enjoy the light and shadow in this one.

uma-Kan

By: Kan
Title: “Uma (Horse)”
Comment: A carriage horse is riding in a rickshaw drawn by a man.

This horse is getting the royal treatment in this image commemorating 2014, the year of the horse! I just love the character in this piece.

1101-Kan

By: Kan
Comment: 11/1 is apparently “Dog Day” because the date can be pronounced “wan-wan-wan”.

Here’s another seasonal animal from Ms. Kan. This was posted on November 11th, or 11/1. The date can be read as “wan-wan-wan”, which is the same sound a dog makes in Japanese. I love that the cerberus has one head saying each “wan” in the date.

140207-Nishii

By: Nishii
Title: “Stay!”
Comment: “Three… two… wan.”

Here’s another dog with a “one”-related pun! This kind of joke was prevalent in the office with the release of The Wonderful 101.

140221-Irie

By: Irie
Title: “Sculpt Test”
Comment: I created this while playing around with sculpt.

For a change, here’s some neat 3D work.

140404-Irie

By: Irie
Title: “Speed Sculpt”
Comment: This is the second piece I did while playing around in sculpt.

man_4_nnn-Kim

By: Kim
Title: “Black Mask”
Comment: This is a sci-fi-esque masked man.

Two cool but slightly unsettling masked characters by Kim.

140307-Kim

By: Kim
Comment: I just sketched this without deciding on a particular theme.

Again, I don’t understand how this is just a “sketch”. It looks close to a finished work to me.

140320-Yap

By: Yap
Title: “Speed painting”
Comment: This is a speed painting of a mech.

Yap calls this a speed painting, but it’s fun to imagine an in-game art style that actually looks like this.

hm_blog3_1025-Matsudaira

By: Matsudaira
Title: “Halloween Girl 2”.
Comment: Trick or treat… hmm… it’s hard to decide!

Yikes. This was posted for Halloween last year.

samui-Matsudaira

By: Matsudaira
Title: “Samui (Cold)”.
Comment: It’s cold outside, but here I am creating game environments.

And finally, here’s something cute and completely different from the rest. It’s interesting to see the variety of styles the graphic designers can work in. Can you believe that this one and the Halloween girl were painted by the same artist?

Well, that’s the crop for now! I hope you enjoyed this peek into the creative minds of our artists. You never know what they’ll imagine next. Get on Facebook or Twitter and tell us which art was your favorite!

If you’re hungry for more, check out the Paintboard section of our Japanese website. New artwork is posted there regularly.

You can also check out our Facebook gallery for the latest.

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A Day in the Life of an Environment Artist

Platinum Games

Filed: Community, PlatinumGames

Hello, aspiring game developers! In our last feature, we got a peek into a day in the life of a concept artist. This time we interviewed Ms. Shinohara, one of our environment artists. I hope this post can shed some light on an often-overlooked role in the game development process.

Environment artist

Q: What is the role of an environment artist?

There are two main roles within the environment team. One is actually creating the assets that go in the game levels, and the other is laying out the level design that makes the game fun.

On top of that, when we create game levels we don’t just create assets and layouts, but also do work like lighting and post-processing that has a huge impact on the game as a whole.

Both asset creation and level design are very important elements of the game development process. I think the role of an environment artist is to integrate both of these elements at a high level of quality.

In recent years, it has also become common to split these two elements into a level design role and an environment artist role to achieve even greater job specialization.

In my current role, I don’t do much asset creation on a daily basis. My job is to research and test the most efficient and cutting-edge environment creation technologies and share that knowledge with the rest of the team. You might even say that I’m a hybrid between a technical artist and an environment artist!

Q: What is the most important skill or ability for an environment artist?

Many different skills are required to become a successful environment artist.
These are just some examples: the composition ability to lay out environments, lighting skills, the knowledge and skills needed to create assets, and the technical ability required to do development work using a variety of different middleware tools.

There are so many different skills that you need that it’s hard to pinpoint just one that is the most important! However, the environment artist job can be sub-divided into layout, asset creation, lighting, etc, so I think it’s best to choose one area of expertise and acquire the specialized knowledge for it.

Q: Tell me about an experience at work that you’ll never forget.

Once I was asked to create assets for a level that we didn’t have any concept art of yet! I was just given two or three keywords and told to freely use my imagination to create the assets. However, I found it hard to come up with many good ideas, and the assets I made ended up getting rejected. :)

Usually, the concept art gets created before the environment team begins their work, but at that early stage of development, the concept artists hadn’t even joined the team yet, so that’s why I found myself in that situation.

I didn’t have much of a sense for concept art at the time, and I also didn’t have much background in game development, so this was a high bar to clear. However, I learned a lot about how the concept artists do their creative work – how they make “something” out of “nothing”, and this ended up being an educational experience for me.

Q: What do you want to learn next for your job?

This isn’t just for work, but I really want to brush up my English skills. I want to be able to read English well enough to get technical information from English websites, and to be able to communicate fluently in English. I would love to be able to have discussions and exchange information with artists from around the world.

A Day in the Life

8:00 AM Wake up

9:30 AM Arrive at work

10:00 AM Do research for an environment creation spec I’m writing

12:30 PM Lunch with coworkers

1:30 PM Write documents on environment creation and tech

3:00 PM Give team members guidance on how to best create their assets

4:00 PM More work on documents

6:00 PM Chat with coworkers

7:00 PM Go running at the gym

9:00 PM Return home

9:30 PM Cook up a healthy vegetable soup for dinner

11:00 PM Study English

12:00 Go to bed

That’s all for now, folks! Be sure to let us know what you thought in the comments or on Twitter and Facebook.

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MGR Contest: Interesting Submissions

METAL GEAR RISING

Filed: Community, Games, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, PlatinumGames

FanArt3

To celebrate the one-year anniversary of Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, we recently held a contest on Twitter. We were touched by the outpouring of support and wacky videos we received.

Until scientists invent a device to measure raw enthusiasm, we didn’t feel that there was any fair way to objectively judge the submissions, so we decided the contest winners by random drawing. There were, however, several entries in particular that brought a smile to our faces.

The contest asked fans to tell us something they loved about MGR, or send us a video that had something to do with the game. In this post, we will share some interesting facts about what people enjoyed about MGR, and a few of the most memorable video submissions.

ResponseChart4

The soundtrack was a common theme running through the entirety of #mgrcontest. While individually it didn’t come out on top, many people mentioned how the soundtrack integrates into other things they love about the game, such as the boss battles, or how it elevates the action to new heights.

Speaking of music, check out our interview with MGR composer Akira Takizawa from last week. We asked you to tell us about your favorite Takizawa piece in the comments. Rules of Nature came up multiple times, with The Hot Wind Blowing and I’m My Own Master Now following close behind.

The battle system, including Blade Mode, was a popular choice among fans. This was reflected in the fan videos in…surprising ways.

Nutella Rising

Cat-Datsu

Characters matched the battle system shot for shot in popularity. We are thrilled that our designs inspire amazing fan art. @rtcifra was even kind enough to take a video of a beautiful painting in progress.

PlatinumGames is filled with fans of classic games. While we may have missed our chance to release a genesis title, this video gave us a glimpse into an alternate reality.

Keepin’ it Old-School

Finally, what would a contest be without a little Cosplay? Happy B-day Raiden!

B-day Costume Party

It takes guts to punk a guy who rips out spines as a hobby.

One individual enjoyed a very specific aspect of MGR. No comment.

FanArt5

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