Cities and Waterways

BAYONETTA 2

Filed: Bayonetta 2

Hello, my name is Hiroki Onishi. I was the lead environmental artist for Bayonetta 2.

A large section of Bayonetta 2 takes place in Noatun, a city filled with waterways and rivers. In order to design Noatun, we traveled to Italy and Belgium to see cities that fit this aesthetic up close. The trip ended up being more rewarding than we could’ve imagined.

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Our journey began with a 12-hour flight from Kansai to Brussels. We planned on visiting Bruges and the Cathedral of Our Lady first, but when we arrived, we heard the Royal Palace was currently open to the public, so we rearranged our schedule to make that our first stop.

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The Belgium Palace

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In Game

The Royal Palace was perfect for helping us figure out the some of the game’s grander architecture. A lot of the places we visited prohibited photography, so we were thrilled that the palace allowed cameras as long as the flash was off. It was a great start to the trip. The building we created for Bayonetta 2 ended up being a little more stylized than we originally planned, but I’m happy with how it turned out. I think its impact on the player is stronger than before. Look forward to seeing it in the game.

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Church of Our Lady

Can you see the color reflected on the floor from the stained glass in the picture above? These kinds of antique glass have a high transparency that clearly reflects color onto walls and floors when hit with sunlight. This photo was taken in the Church of Our Lady in Bruges. If the sunlight is too strong, only white will be reflected, but if it’s too weak, the colors will blur and be indiscernible. If you don’t have the correct amount of light, the phenomenon won’t occur. We saw several cathedrals on our trip, but this was the only time we were able to catch light reflecting on the floor. I saw this and thought… I really want to recreate how beautiful this is in a game. It ended up being everyone at Platinum’s favorite location inside the cathedral in Bayonetta 2. It’s nice to be able to just turn on a game and see it any time I like.

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In Game

After we were done in Belgium, we moved on to Italy. Our time in Italy provided two breakthroughs to Bayonetta 2’s environments.

The first were these stone walkways. The picture below was taken in Florence–notice how thick the stones are and how the road curves upwards in the middle so rain will naturally flow down to the waterways on the side. On narrow roads with no waterways, the path slopes inward, so the water will collect in the middle.

We designed several paths like this for Bayonetta 2. In an action game, it’s more beneficial to the player in battle to have the camera looking downward, so the ground will usually take up a significant portion of the screen. Therefore, we put a lot of emphasis on making these textures look realistic. I think if Bayonetta really did fight here, she’d probably get her heel stuck between two rocks in the road.

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Florence

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In Game

Our other major takeaway was the tiled roofs. Most of the roofs in Italy are made with orange bricks that turn white or black when aged. Only bricks that have been newly thatched are orange. Houses that didn’t regularly repair their roofs would have nothing but white bricks. However, if you look from the distance, the city’s buildings look like they are covered in a uniform layer of orange. Our hotel in Venice had bricks low enough that you could stick your hand out of the window and reach up and touch them. They must have been considerably aged, but they felt sturdy and held in place surprisingly well. In Japan, there are places that try to imitate European style by selling pre-aged, multi-colored bricks, but after going to Italy, it terrifies me that Japanese people probably don’t understand how different the real thing is.

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Florence

The cities in Italy were full of flowers—the terraces on buildings would usually be decorated with colorful flower arrangements. I assumed this was done for tourism, but when I asked someone, they told me everyone grows them because it’s easy. They’re mostly geraniums that need to be watered or looked after very little. It’s true, we were in the city taking photos from early in the morning until late at night, but I never saw anyone watering anything. When I came back to Japan I bought some geraniums myself to see if they really were that easy to take care of. They were all right when it was still warm out, but every last one died in winter. Maybe Japan isn’t the most welcoming climate for them.

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Santa Margherita Ligure

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Venice

I saw something interesting when I was in Venice. Can you see the picture below, and how the knobs are close to the middle of the door? When I asked why, I was told it was because older locks were made separately from handles, and it was hard to fit both in the same place. The picture below wasn’t the exception; a lot of doors in Venice looked like this. They seemed like they’d be tricky to open.

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Venice

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Venice

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In Game

I think the most challenging thing we faced after our trip was conveying how important water was to the everyday lives of the city’s inhabitants. In Venice, there were no roads for cars to run on, because there were no cars—everything was handled by boats. There were no gates in the rivers to make sure travel was simple. Even refrigerators and laundry machines were carried to houses on small boats before being loaded up on push carts. We had to carry all our equipment on a boat to our hotel, and then drag everything along bumpy stone paths. It was a new experience for all of us, and it gave us some slight culture shock. Yet I think it was things like these that gave Venice a unique artistic quality that was interesting to express in the game. If anyone from Venice were to play the game and actually relate with our depiction of the citizen’s daily lives, I’d be honored.

Going abroad provides new experiences, information, and teaches you to view things in a broader, different way than before. Even outside of work, I still make an effort to travel abroad every year. If anything, just because I learn so much from it. I actually still haven’t traveled anywhere in Asia outside of Japan, but I hope I’ll eventually have the chance to. Thanks for reading all the way to the end!

 

 

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At E3

BAYONETTA 2

Filed: Bayonetta 2

Hi everyone. My name is Akiko Kuroda, and I’m the producer for Bayonetta 2 and the Wii U port of Bayonetta. This is actually my first job as a full-fledged producer, so being given two titles was quite a sudden crescendo to climax action. I’m doing my best to make sure both games are as amazing as they can be.

As far as technical talk goes, I’ll leave that to the other staff. For my entry, I’d like to discuss my trip to the industry’s biggest gaming expo, E3. Similar to last year, we brought a playable demo of Bayonetta 2. This year we were able to announce the Wii U port of Bayonetta, and that it will be sold packaged with Bayonetta 2, which met with a very positive reaction (Thank you to everyone who showed their enthusiasm. Wait just a little longer guys!).

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Here’s a pic of one of our stations in Nintendo’s area. The wicked witch was very popular!

Hashimoto and I had a very important reason for attending this year’s E3. We were there to promote. Media journalists from around the world gather at E3, and it’s our job to make sure they leave with a story that makes gamers happy. Luckily for us, a lot of the media wanted to hear us talk about Bayonetta and Bayonetta 2. I’m sure a lot of their articles have already gone up by now. Have you had the chance to read any of them?

We were asked all sorts of questions. A favorite question of mine was, “Most games fall back on a hero rescuing some helpless female character. What were your reasons to have Bayonetta feature a strong female protagonist?” This was more a question directed toward the Bayonetta series rather than just Bayonetta 2. There were people who doubted the choice of a female protagonist ever since we first revealed the original game’s development. Our internal team, on the other hand, didn’t mind. We just thought it would be interesting to have the main character be a witch. From there, we expanded on the concept: instead of thinking about how a female protagonist would limit us, we thought about what we could do because Bayonetta was female. Of course, a likeable character is an important thing, but to us, getting the controls right is always top priority. I’m sure there might be fans out there that have some reluctance towards playing as a female, but we’re confident that we’ve made Bayonetta look and feel as great as any PlatinumGames character should.

We also had some questions about the Touch Controls we implemented for the Wii U GamePad. We were able to show the controls in action at E3 and how easy it can be to perform huge combos with some simple Touch Controls. The Touch Controls really give the game a unique new feel and it only takes a simple tap to switch over. We’re sure there are some hardcore action fans who think they don’t need them, but we recommend you try it out at least once. You might be surprised.

Of course we got questions about the possibility of Bayonetta 3. You guys are so impatient. Bayonetta 2 isn’t even out yet! But yeah, we’d love to make 3 if we could…

In addition to the regular media runaround, this time Nintendo also held a special streaming event called Nintendo Treehouse Live*, and we got to take part.

*One by one, developers introduce their titles on a live broadcast across the web.

Nintendo’s goal for the event was to present titles with a more real, at-home approach instead of just deliver something scripted. There was some prep before we went on, but most of the talk was Hashimoto doing ad-lib.

To refresh your memory, Hashimoto, director of Bayonetta 2, was the producer of the first game. Back during its development, he traveled around the world doing countless press interviews, so he’s a pretty seasoned media veteran. He can improvise and go along with each situation without ever missing a beat. That means I was left to mostly sit quietly and play the game. Still, I had to be able to show off anything he would mention at the drop of a hat, so it required some level of skill… okay? (I actually hurt my right hand before the event from practicing too much… lol)

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Believe it or not, you don’t really get the chance to convey what you want about the game, or show it to your fans in such a direct way so often, so it felt great to be able to take part in Treehouse Live, and I hope to be able to do more events like it in the future. Also, as a game fan myself, it was pretty cool to see Miyamoto-san and Tezuka-san (Yoshi’s Woolly World) up so close! I heard 60,000 people tuned in to hear about Bayonetta 2. Normal numbers for attendees at a conference stop around the 100s, so it’s hard for me to even imagine that large of a crowd.

If you haven’t seen our Treehouse Live presentation yet, you can check out a digest of it here:

You’ll get to see what we included in our E3 Bayonetta 2 demo, as well as other info we only made public there!

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I was able to score a shot of Miyamoto-san playing some Wii U. I’m just now realizing we were in the same seat with the same controller!!

Most of my work at E3 was media interviews and Nintendo’s event, but if I get the chance later, hopefully I can share even more. We’ve only got three more months until Bayonetta 2’s release as well, so keep checking here as we reveal more new information.

I spent a lot of time at the Nintendo booth during E3, but that meant being able to meet Miyamoto-san, Code Name: S.T.E.A.M.’s developers, MonolithSoft’s Xenoblade Chronicles X team, and talk about a lot more I can’t elaborate on! I also got to meet Aonuma-san, the current producer of the Zelda series, and thank him for letting us borrow Link’s costume. His reply was, “Anytime you have any other interesting ideas, let me know!” I’m holding you to those words, Aonuma-san…

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Here’s a pic of me and Tezuka-san. Yoshi’s Woolly World definitely takes the cake for cutest game at E3 2014.

P.S. I’ve been making some character-themed bentos on my twitter (@pg_kuroda). Have you been checking them out? I made a special bento for this blog: the Masked Lumen from Bayonetta 2.

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Who is this guy? Well, you’ll just have to wait and find out.

I’d say follow me for more Bayonetta 2 info, but my twitter’s mostly in Japanese, of course. Follow me anyway!

Thanks for reading my blog! See you again!

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Figuring Out Damage Motion

BAYONETTA 2

Filed: Bayonetta 2

Hello everybody! I’m the lead motion designer for Bayonetta 2, my name is Takaaki Yamaguchi. I’ve been making motion in action games for over ten years now. That fact is starting to make me feel old.

Anyway, let’s talk about what a motion designer does. We discussed this back in our old Bayonetta blogs as well, but basically, we give movement to anything in the game that requires motion. We end up playing an important role in several areas of the game—making sure all the characters don’t look like they’re stumbling around, getting the main character’s controls to feel right, making enemy movement easy to understand, and so on.

Working on a sequel, it was our job to carry over the feel of the motion from the original Bayonetta, and make it even better. For this blog, I’d like to talk specifically about damage motion for enemies. You know, that motion you see when you land a huge deathblow on an enemy and they get knocked back and explode or whatever. You might have never thought that deeply about it, but for an action game, getting the right reaction out of the enemy after you’ve pulled off a killer combo is absolutely critical. Do a slack job and the thrill of battle will turn into a total letdown. Enemy damage motion is something I’ve always regarded as highly important in the games I’ve worked on. I always am asking myself if there’s not something new I can try to create more satisfying combat than before.

My challenge to myself for Bayonetta 2 was to create the right enemy motion for each attack. We had plenty of enemy reactions that would change depending on what attack Bayonetta performed, but I wanted to take this further for Bayonetta 2. It’ll probably be easier to understand if you just see it, so take a look at the videos below.

This is Bayonetta:

This is Bayonetta 2:

What’d you think? It’s easy to focus on Bayonetta, but if you watch the enemy in both videos, you’ll notice it plays the same motion for each attack in the first video, while in the second, the enemy’s reaction changes based on the kind of attack being performed.

This is just one example from the game, but each little detail like this I think really added up to make a great feeling game overall. Doing a little research, I realized that the enemies in Bayonetta 2 have an average of 3.5x the number of reactions as those in the original.

Well, I could keep writing and posting videos about how this game feels, but obviously there won’t be any way for you to know until you’ve actually put the controller in your hands and are playing the game yourself. If I’ve driven anyone’s curiosity, please try playing the game after its release.

Until next time!

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Character Design Pt. 1: Bayonetta and Jeanne

BAYONETTA 2

Filed: Bayonetta 2

Hello, nice to see you again. My name is Mari Shimazaki and I’m a freelance designer.

I worked on the concept art for Bayonetta and now Bayonetta 2. Today I’d like to give you a little insight into Bayonetta and Jeanne’s new designs.

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First, let’s talk about Bayonetta, the “modern witch”, and this game’s main character. Those who played the previous title are likely to notice that her trademark hairstyle has been given a complete makeover. After talking with Hashimoto and Kamiya, the three of us came to the conclusion Bayonetta’s not the kind of girl who’d show up with the same hairstyle for her sequel. A girl can be known to change her hairstyle depending on her mood, so I guess Bayonetta was in the mood for something short. Still, knowing her, there’s no telling when she’ll decide to change it again.

Bayonetta’s overall theme this time is “Solid.”

She’s still wearing black, and I think her shorter hair gives her a generally more masculine look. While her design in the last game focused on curves, this time we see more straight lines. All of her accessories follow this, except her glasses, which I gave a slightly softer design.

There was some debate about where to show skin. Once we decided her new cape would come around to the front, we closed the front of her suit off to let the cape stand out. In exchange, we opened up a lot in back.

As water is a big theme of the second game, Hashimoto requested to make her key color blue. This turned out to be a lot more difficult than I thought it would be.

Blue doesn’t have the sharp quality of red, her previous key color. As it’s relatively easy on the eyes, making it stand out among all the other textures and colors in the game is a huge headache. On top of that, I had to balance it with black and silver (these colors were also decided right off the bat), which also is not easy. Ever since we decided Bayonetta should wear a sleak, black outfit, it’s always been a nightmare trying to have her properly stand out.

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With her guns, finding a good balance of color took a lot of brainstorming. Accenting blue too strongly or giving it too much space didn’t fit Bayonetta’s look. We arrived at the final design by giving them a more striking shade of blue, adding some gold to match her chestpiece, and spreading a silver luster across each gun.

We’ve given Bayonetta’s new guns some antique charms to match her new look. I drew flower cameos that I felt matched the respective gun’s color, and emotion connected to that color.

Taking a step back and looking at how Bayonetta’s design turned out, I realize we went in a direction completely opposite from the last game. That also makes me think Bayonetta’s new look is possible because of her previous one, and will stand out because of that contrast.

I think she gives off a different impression than before, but still owns the name Bayonetta.

Jeanne

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Okay, next, let’s talk about Jeanne’s design.

The keyword for Jeanne’s concept design in Bayonetta 2 is “casual.” Design started when Kamiya came up to me and said “I want to put her on a bike. Draw me a biker suit.”

Jeanne is one of Kamiya’s favorite characters, so most anything Hashimoto and I said would get shot down instantly. I just drew biker suit after biker suit until one was approved. There were actually a few more he liked, but they all maintained a relative simplicity similar to her final approved outfit.

I didn’t intend to accentuate this part of her in my concept art, but Kamiya said Jeanne looks flatter than ever. He was happy about it too, so that’s fine I guess.

Thinking of how she would look side by side with Bayonetta, we decided to give her long hair. I wish I was a witch and could just summon my hair into any hairstyle I wanted.

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Jeanne still uses her All 4 One’s in Bayonetta 2. Her charms, though, I decided to update with a personal touch. For the last game, I based her charms off each respective gun’s name, but this time I used the name of the whole set as the motif and made Three Musketeers plushes. I borrowed the color scheme from the Three Musketeers Anime.

If I gave these charms to Bayonetta, I feel it’d be a little too much altogether, but I think they add the perfect pinch of sugar to Jeanne’s design. Personally, I’m happy with how they turned out.

Okay, that’s all for this time.
Please look forward to the game’s release. See you again.

 

 

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Wii U Bayonetta!

Bayonetta

Filed: Bayonetta, Bayonetta 2

Hi, this is Isao Negishi, director of the Bayonetta Wii U port that comes specially packaged with Bayonetta 2!

Those who saw our Wii U Bayonetta announcement at E3 can agree we didn’t just make a simple port of the first game. This special Wii U edition gives you all the thrills of the original, plus a ton of exciting, new features.

We’ve prepared a video of how Bayonetta plays on the Wii U, so take a peek:

What did you think? Bayonetta’s world looks as stunning as ever.

Let’s discuss some of the added content that was causing a stir at this year’s E3: Bayonetta’s new costumes!

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One of the things that made the original Bayonetta so fun was the ability to choose from a ton of costumes—queen, schoolgirl, you name it—and this time, there’ll be even more. These new costumes are inspired by classic Nintendo heroes and heroines, all carefully checked by the game’s original director, Hideki Kamiya. Let’s just say Kamiya was very particular about how each costume should look before passing approval.

Of course, these costumes are more than just a fun change in appearance. We’ve prepared special abilities to go with each one!

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Put on your Peach costume and you’ll be able to summon the flagship villain of the Mario series, Bowser!

Maybe she didn’t draw a big enough magic circle, because it looks like we can only see his arms and legs, LOL. Yet watching Bowser pummel enemies with punches and kicks is a sight to behold. That first thrill you get when Bowser slams the enemy with his fist is quite an unforgettable experience.

Personally, I love the stomp attack he has… and don’t forget to call him out during some of the climax scenes as well.

All right, next is Link.

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By equipping the Shuraba with Link’s costume on, Bayonetta will be able to use the iconic weapon of the Zelda series, the Master Sword! Wicked Weaves will create a giant Master Sword that slices enemies clean in two.

This costume also changes some of the sound effects in the game. Remember that classic Zelda jingle that plays every time you open a treasure chest? With this costume on, you’ll get to hear it! We’ve included a few other sound effects well, all taken from A Link to the Past with Nintendo’s permission. Those classic sounds really do still hold up.

Last is our Samus costume!

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Samus has gone through more than a few powered suits in the Metroid series, but we ended up using the first game as our motif, per Kamiya’s request. Fans of the series should be able to tell looking at the shoulders.

One special feature that comes with the Samus suit is the ability to put the visor up or down during cut scenes. I think you’ll be surprised how fun this is. See how good it feels to slam your visor down right after telling an enemy off, or discover the amusement in endlessly going up-down-up-down during the game’s more serious moments. This can put the game’s cut scenes in whole new light!

That wraps up our blog this time. I think you can see why I’m not hesitant to call this Wii U port a “Special Editon.” This actually isn’t everything new the game has to offer as well—you might see me here again to tell you more in the future!

 

Until then!

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Bayonetta takes the stage at E3 2014!

Bayonetta

Filed: Bayonetta, Games

Bayonetta is back in a big way at this year’s E3!

Our favorite witch’s adventures take a whole new turn in the Wii U-exclusive Bayonetta 2. Pass through the Gates of Hell and take part in even bigger battles with crazier weapons as we push Bayonetta to the next level. But that wasn’t our only surprise this year.

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Your feedback was loud and clear, so along with announcing more info on the release of Bayonetta 2, we made it happen: the original Bayonetta is coming to the Wii U with all new Nintendo-inspired costumes and added features!!

Both Bayonetta 2 and the original Bayonetta will go on sale in the US in October 2014, and will be packaged and sold together! It’s the perfect way to experience the story of the Umbra Witches in a single go!

Bayonetta, and Bayonetta 2, are both rated M for Mature.

Keep your eyes on this blog for more Bayonetta news in the coming days and weeks!

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The Bayonetta 2 Developer’s Blog Begins!

BAYONETTA 2

Filed: Bayonetta 2, Games

Hi, this is Bayonetta 2’s director, Yusuke Hashimoto. How are you?

E3 2014 is finally here, and as attendees are trying out our new playable Bayonetta 2 demo, we have even more exciting information to share with you today.

First, take a look at our newest trailer!

 

 

Adding to the bow and arrow we saw in our previous trailer, this newest trailer reveals a set of flamethrowers and one absolutely huge hammer. What did you think?

We also see more of the mysterious boy in this trailer—he seems to know something about the Gates of Hell? Then we take a peek into Inferno itself, see some enemies that definitely aren’t angels, and hear some concerning words from Rodin. Will Bayonetta be able to save the soul of her best friend Jeanne from the grips of Inferno?

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We’ve also learned more info on the game’s release date—Bayonetta 2 will be heading to the US in October 2014!

Every copy of Bayonetta 2 will come with a special Wii U version of the original Bayonetta! See how amazing Climax Action can feel playing with touch controls on the Wii U GamePad! This exclusive Wii U version will also contain a special set of costumes hand-picked by the original game’s director, Hideki Kamiya himself! From hardcore action fan to complete novice gamer, this Bayonetta is guaranteed to be a thrill ride.

All right, let’s bring the discussion back to Bayonetta 2.

Now that the official teaser site is up (http://bayonetta2.nintendo.com/), expect to be getting regular updates of exciting info right up until the game’s release. Be sure to bookmark it! We’ll be posting developer blogs with making of videos and other behind the scenes info you can’t find anywhere else right here, so don’t forget to keep checking us out as well!

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Next blog:

We’ll hear from the director of the original Bayonetta’s Wii U port, Isao Negishi. See what he has to say about how we’ve powered up the Wii U version, the thought process that went into Kamiya’s new costume selection, and a whole lot more. Stay tuned!

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The Platinum Collection: Composers, Pt. 3

Platinum Games

Filed: PlatinumGames

Hi, this is Hiroshi Yamaguchi. The piece I’ve selected from my works to talk about is “ST10 Roll Out, Wonderful 101!”

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For each game I’ve worked on here (Bayonetta, Anarchy Reigns, The Wonderful 101), each song has its own special meaning to me, so this was a hard question to answer. In the end, I decided to go with the staff roll of our most recent title, The Wonderful 101.

The staff roll has a special place in a game’s soundtrack. To the player, it’ s the music that gives you that sense of release after overcoming the game’s many obstacles and defeating its final boss. To the development team as well, this is the music we see while our names flash across the screen, telling us “well done” after a long, hard production cycle. It goes without saying then, that this music needs to be a triumphant, celebratory piece. The three keywords I always keep in mind as I write it are “catchy”, “lively”, and “moving.” As the production cycle comes to an end, I gather up my remaining strength and filter all of my energy into writing this song, so I always end up having strong memories of it.

As an aside, I’d say my favorite staff rolls would have to be Secret of Mana’s “The Second Truth from the Left” and Chrono Trigger’s “To Far Away Times.” Either piece still gives me the chills when I listen to it now.

Below are some of Yamaguchi’s other compositions. Which is your favorite?

From Bayonetta:
One Of A Kind
Riders Of The Light
Fly Me To The Moon (∞ Climax Mix)
Let’s Dance Boys!

From Anarchy Reigns:
Sound The Alarm
Play My Ass Off
Here We Go
Asylum

From The Wonderful 101:
The Won-Stoppable Wonderful 100
ST01 Roll Out, Wonderful 100! Battle in the Blossom City Burbs
Tables Turn
ST04-1 Defend Neo Mu

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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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