Kid Icarus Developer Talks About Western Developers; So Do I
Actually, that’s kind of a misnomer. He talks about most developers, just signals out the west for sake of easy comparison. And sure, there’s a big interview here about Kid Icarus (which I’m increasingly excited for, since it sounds like a Treasure like re-imagining of the franchise) here, with lots of fun, exciting details like how the control scheme will work, and some neat tidbits about the process of game design. You can find it here, on Techland. Which I’d never heard of before today.
The bit of the interview I found most interesting was this one:
Don’t get me wrong: I’m really impressed with Western game design and enjoy a lot of those games. But, personallyâ€“and this is something that Nintendo also follows the same philosophyâ€“I trend towards focusing on a gameplay mechanic and working on that mechanic. I start with something that’s very, very simple but is perfected for its gameplay qualities and not try to force it into becoming a larger, more expensive big-budgeted experience. Unfortunately, a lot of developers get caught in trying to out do each other and what ends up becoming is a simple competition in graphics or in scale and whatnot. I think the most important thingâ€“and maybe my overall message for this answerâ€“is that developers just need to focus on what they’re good at. And, while some may be good at these big budget experiences, others are not, and that could be telling of different trends between Western and Japanese game companies.
Some thoughts after the jump.
Western game developers, until more recently, modeled their games after Star Wars. Because everyone saw Star Wars, and loved Star Wars. You can tell, too. Western developers before 2000 more rarely had major divisions in the plot, in terms of worlds, and there was usually a big bad who revealed himself early on as the big bad. Who you had to fight, over a long period of time. Japanese games had a freak of the week every couple hours, while Western games had a big, oppressive, omnipresent empire who caused everything.
The former, of course, is how games work best. And I think we’ve had an ironic role reversal over the past few years. Western developers, now raised on Star Trek: TNG and Firefly and, ironically, anime, have realized the way they want to pace a game is as a television show with an overarching plot, but with a lot of subdivisions. Levels, worlds, breaks. Broken up action. Alan Wake and Mass Effect 2 are recent, obvious examples, but a lot of developers are doing it.
The Japanese, ironically, have switched. They’ve seen westerners do cool, movie like games, and their games have become more like movies, with central, overarching plots and little in the way of episodic pacing. I disagree with Masahiro Sakurai in that sense: the Japanese, not the West, are involved in an arms race to build the most epic, most motion picture like game. That’s why JRPGs have drifted a bit: instead of going from town to town solving problems like a wandering samurai, now you fight one enemy in tense, mortal conflict the entire game. Which doesn’t make for good pacing in such a lengthy medium.
That’s just my thoughts, though. Whaddya think?