Kazunori Inoue (Programmer) x Takaaki Yamaguchi(Graphic and Animation Designer)
The two components necessary to make games are often said to be technical ability and an engaging idea. But even with both these components in place, there is no guarantee the game you create will be interesting. Two of the men who have helped make PlatinumGames what it is today, veteran programmer Inoue and animation designer Yamaguchi speak about what it takes to make games and what they enjoy about creating.
Inoue: My first project working with Yamaguchi was “Devil May Cry.” I was a programmer and he was in charge of animation, same as today. I started studying programming when I entered a computer science college. Of course I played games as a kid, but it’s not like I dreamed of being a game creator since kindergarten or anything. I was lucky enough to get a job at Capcom after graduation and… here we are.
Yamaguchi: Unlike Inoue, I was more the type that dreamed about working in the game industry from a young age. I played all kinds of games back in elementary school, but the ones that left the most lasting impression were the action games I played on the Mega Drive (TL note: SEGA Genesis in North America.) When in middle school my older brother, who was a bit of a rebel, went against the flow and bought a SEGA Mega Drive. Thanks to him I would retreat to a Mega Drive cave every day after school. It was a bit of a niche piece of hardware back then, but it had its share of great action titles. Right around the time I was graduating university 3D computer graphics started becoming popular, so I decided to go to a specialty college to learn about the field.
Inoue: I was always under the impression that I was going to take over our family’s gardening store, until one day my brother told me that he was going to inherit it… I had to find something else to do with my life and I ended up in programming college. I entered Capcom after that, but it took me 6 or 7 years to become a programmer worthy of working on major titles.
Yamaguchi: Luckily I was able to enter Capcom after getting my graduation project approved. At the time, it seemed to me that the game companies in Tokyo were all making the same kind of games over and over. I didn’t want to work on any half-hearted projects; unless a game has some unique aspect to it, I really can’t see its value. With that in mind, a company that was making the type of games I was interested in was Capcom.
Inoue: I had aspirations to enter Capcom as well, but fate had it that even after joining the company, there was a period I just wasn’t given any work. It was tough. Unable to be of any use to anyone, in the beginning I spent my days kind of lost. Back then there was no such thing as a college specialized in game design, and no one really taught you the practical skills you need on the job either.
Yamaguchi: I was also shocked by how little of what I learned at school was any use on the development floor. It was a real challenge learning everything I needed to know. That’s one thing about this job that will never change. There will always be hardware upgrades and new techniques developed to force you to stay on your toes.
Inoue: Very true. If you get shifted to a different project, the approach to design and tools being used may be entirely different. It takes tons of research and studying to make sure you are able to capture the right feel of the game. That’s one aspect of game development that calls for more than just honing your programming skills.
Yamaguchi: As game development has aged and grown, the jobs designated by the term programmer have broadened, and now demand more specialization. A system designer is doing a totally different job than someone in charge of character behavior, who in turn is doing something different from someone doing environment scripting. Each job comes with its own set of required knowledge and experience.
Inoue: My job focuses on character and stage scripting, but outside that specialization, I wouldn`t be surprised if even a new recruit knew more than me. The graduates from modern specialty colleges possess a lot of technical knowledge. There are some people who are even able to get right into real development work as soon as they enter the company.
Yamaguchi: Of course, whether they are able to put together an interesting game is another story. They might be able to put together a program to make some pretty pictures move around the screen, but designing a single enemy may be a challenge. As a character and stage design specialist, I’m sure Inoue is acutely aware of this. At a company like PlatinumGames, that puts huge emphasis on the creativity of its games, programmers like him are indispensible.
Inoue: You could say that working at PlatinumGames requires a little something extra; perhaps the ability to have your work be consistent with everyone else piecing together the game’s look and aesthetic.