(Continues from Part 3)
Kai: Sometimes it’s not until things have finally taken shape that Kamiya realizes they have to change. I can understand why he feels the need to make those changes at the 11th hour, but due to schedule and budget constraints, it’s not something that is usually done. At the end of the day, however, what he does, he does for the players.
Shibata: When talking about the actual development floor, the topic usually shifts to Kamiya pretty quick, but I think Executive Producer Atsushi Inaba is even more impressive. Even a small change in the schedule or budget can put you in the red, but he manages to steer us through every time.
Kai: After working with him for so long, I couldn’t agree more. Especially at a place like PlatinumGames, where we put so much focus on quality, he allows us to put out games we can be proud of.
Shibata: Putting out games that are beloved by players is one thing, but games take a lot of money and time, and if you can’t keep paying your staff your company won’t be around for long. I respect Inaba for that – if it wasn’t for his management, Kamiya wouldn’t be able to do all the crazy stuff he does.
Kai: The games we produce are a result of them working in sync. Shibata, as a game designer you work as Kamiya’s right-hand man, helping him come up with ideas. But if given full creative control, what kind of game would you like to make yourself?
Shibata: I don’t have a preference about game structure, but I’d love to make a game with a lot of eroticism and violence, things that are usually a bit of a taboo in the real world. I think what games need are an edge, showing the dark side of the world as much as society will allow.
Kai: Why is that?
Shibata: Let me put it this way: there are acts that, in the real world, would be destructive or hurt others that, in games, are perfectly harmless. Of course, you could say the same about animation, comics, novels, etc., but since games allow you to actually take control of a character in that world it somehow makes you want to break the rules that exist in our society. Allowing people to do evil things, rather than things they would be praised for in real life, is a tried and true tenet of game design. In fact, I am always trying to sneak that kind of content into our games. To an extent the director of that particular project allows, of course.
Kai: I didn’t know you felt that way. Games are separate from the real world, so I can understand the desire to make game worlds something that would never be possible in reality.
How do you feel about the recent changes in production environments?
Shibata: Since we’ve started doing everything with 3D CG, every team has gotten more specialized and separated. I’m not a fan of this. Back in the 2D days, there were only two classes of graphic designer: objects and environments*. Nowadays the object group alone has splintered into various groups. You have design, modeling, animation, effects, and so on. Sometimes I feel that having so much granular separation takes some of the fun out of creating. Even if we do have these different categories, I think it’s important to give our young employees a chance to experience a wide range of tasks, to keep them from being pigeonholed into a single specialization.
*Objects: creation of the main characters, weapons, and items that appear in the game. Environments: creation of backgrounds.
Kai: It might be bad for efficiency, but I’m sure they enjoy the variety. When working on Street Fighter II, I remember that the texture of Ryu’s Hadoken and Dhalsim’s Yoga Fire were completely different. It was clear that those two effects were made by two different people, but in a way there was something nice about that lack of uniformity.
Shibata: I understand the need for efficiency, but there is something fun about making an entire character by yourself. It would be great to handle everything from the original design and modeling to the animation and effects.
Kai: For stuff like that, it would be nice to have an environment where we could just pick from a handful of options floating in the air and say “leave this job to me,” and have full control over it. I feel that this is a more healthy approach than doing what you’re told and then waiting until you’re given your next task. Even when straddling multiple sections, I’d like to consistently have the type of attitude where people can just go: “Hey, if nobody is going to work on this, can I give it a shot?” Whether that kind of system would actually be viable is another thing altogether. Back when I was just starting out I had no experience, and I just wanted to do everything, so I would always wonder “why doesn’t anyone give me anything to do?” or “They should just leave this all to me!” Of course, if someone actually HAD given me free rein to do something I’m sure I would have ended up going “wait, I can’t do this at all!” But it is thanks to experiences like those that I became who I am today. I just wanted to try everything that had to do with making games, even if it meant I just had to input quiz questions. I think there are not enough of these types of environments in game development today.
Shibata: Maybe you’re right. My goal from here on out will be to simply leave something for Inaba that will sell really well. Since we live in a time of tight schedules and even tighter budgets, I just want to help Inaba by giving him something that actually sells really well. It’s the really good games that earn their place in history, so rather than focusing on short-term sales, I want to make something that has a lot of staying power. PlatinumGames was conceived as a company that would strive for more than just financial success, but making good games takes money. For that reason I want to make something for Inaba that I think will sell well and survive the test of time in terms of quality. And with the money we earn from that game, we can keep on making more crazy games in the future. That will be my goal for the time being. I’m not as young as I used to be, though, so I want to make a hit in the next 4 or 5 years.
Kai: That’s a good goal to start off with. After all, if we can’t sell any games now, you’ll never be able to make you dream game down the line. And I do feel like I just get to make whatever pops into my head. I always keep in mind that when you aim to create things, you cannot afford to compromise on your vision. We are able to cross those barriers and speak our minds to staff in other sections. We aim to create an environment where people on the development floor are able to share their own points of view, even if they differ from that of the director or producer.
Shibata: To be honest, I’m not really interested in the particulars of the development environment itself. No matter what situation you may find yourself in, those that can manage to keep up will keep up.
Kai: That phrase nicely sums up your stoic approach to making things, haha. However, as someone who learned a lot in an environment that allowed for trial and error, I’d like to ensure that we make our studio that kind of place as well.