During E3 week, GameSpot conducted an interview with some developers from Nintendo and Monolith Soft. The interviewed were:
Hitoshi Yamagami – Producer, Nintendo
Genki Yakota – Director, Nintendo
Tetsuya Takahashi – Executive Director, Monolith Soft
Koh Kojima – Director, Monolith Soft
Shingo Kawabata – Producer, Monolith Soft
Here’s the Q&A:
On the relationship between Nintendo and Monolith Soft:
Yamagami: At Nintendo, we’re always thinking of how we can reach a variety of different users. One thing that can help us reach a certain kind of user–that core gamer–is by partnering with other companies. We were looking for someone to help us design games with that specific audience in mind. All we need to do is look for a good partner out there who is willing to work with us, and after looking, we started discussing with Monolith Soft [and] it all came together.
On what about Monolith Soft makes them a good partner for Nintendo:
Yamagami: I think, what they bring that most impressed us, was the amazing quality of JRPGs that they’re able to produce.
On designing their games for a worldwide audience rather than just Japan:
Yamagami: Yes, I absolutely agree that good games are universal, and whenever we’re designing these games, it’s not our idea to add the “J.” Sometimes we talk about it that way, but in our minds, we’re just making RPGs.
Yakota: Certainly, we have the Japanese audience in mind. We want to ensure that this will be a comfortable experience for them, but we don’t mean to exclude anyone, we want to create something that can be picked up and played by everyone.
Yamagami: We’re looking to take all of the best qualities, even from what might be Japanese design impulses, but make sure they can be enjoyed everywhere.
On the designated separation between JRPGs and RPGs:
Yamagami: I feel like we just make RPGs I don’t need anyone to add the “J,” personally.
Kawabata: Certainly, I wouldn’t want anyone to use “JRPG” in a negative way, I wouldn’t want them to try to pigeon-hole a certain game with that designation if they meant something negative by it.
Takahashi: Personally, I don’t feel people are saying anything negative when they say “JRPG,” rather, I feel like it’s become a genre category at this point, the same way you might have an action movie or a horror movie. If people say JRPG, then they’re just trying to designate a certain approach to the subject matter or a certain way of dealing with themes, because it’s nothing negative in general. I’m very happy with that usage.
On why the designation between RPGs and Japan is the only genre in gaming that does this:
Takahashi: You may not be aware of this, but I think a lot of the time when people use JRPG in the Japanese market, they actually do have negative feelings that are building up behind that. Unless the rest of the world shares those negative connotations, then that’s not something I would worry about at all.
Yakota: Certainly, it often designated to people that they might see a similar presentation style that they see in anime or manga.
Takahashi: I like to think about the fact that even in the US market, you guys say “comics,” but you also say “manga.” The two words designate the country of origin, or the style, if it’s the case of someone emulating that. It’s the same in Japan where we say manga, but we also say american comics. I feel like this kind of usage is similar to what we’re seeing with “JRPG” being used a term outside of Japan.
On western developers making a JRPG:
No, it doesn’t bother us at all. It’s kind of interesting for us to see people try to present in that particular sort of style. We’d love to see what people come up with. (Consensus of the group, streamlined by the interpreter.)
On the state of the Japanese gaming market:
Takahashi: This is just my opinion, but sometimes I wonder about the health of the industry. When I walk around E3, I see some wonderful games that Nintendo and other manufacturers are putting out, and these are games that I truly love, but I also worry about the shift towards mobile, and wonder [what] the shift towards developing for smartphones might mean for the future of the industry. Certainly, if you talk about the scale of the market including them, then yes it’s doing well; there’s a lot of money and activity there.
Yamagami: I certainly want to stress that Nintendo is doing well. I think our state is rather healthy, our games are selling well in Japan and the rest of the world, so we certainly don’t see it as a problem. We do notice the trends of various developers embracing mobile, and we see a big push there, and people have different feelings about that when they think about it, but for us, smart devices can allow people to play games as well, so that, in our mind, is part of the market.
In addition to this, Game Informer also had a chat with Xenoblade Chronicles X’s director Tetsuya Takahashi and Nintendo’s Genki Yokota.
You can check the Q&A below:
On why X is part of the Xenoblade line:
Tetsuya Takahashi: So as it turns out, the idea of it being part of “Xeno” was always there. I have to clarify a little bit because not in the sense that it’s a sequel to the previous game but rather it is a new series that is still “Xeno”. That’s how I was thinking of it.
On whether X has the same level of connection to Xenoblade Chronicles as something like Xenogears and Xenosaga…
Takahashi: It’s maybe even a little more loosely connected than that, but yes there are a few links that you might be able to pick up on.
On finding inspiration from previous work:
Takahashi: So I do have the opportunity once in a while to play some games that were developed in North America or Europe. I guess it’s maybe not the best way to say that “I’m inspired by them”, as I “take the time to inspect them”. [Laughs]
On why Los Angeles was chosen as X’s main city:
Takahashi: [Laughs] Actually, much of the reason is because I do like Los Angels. There was even a period in development where we thought about maybe using New York as the model for this future city. Then we realized that it was going to be very difficult and costly in development-terms to create all of those tall buildings.
Takahashi: I feel that, although I really like MMOs, I think that’s a completely different kind of beast in terms of developing one of those. So that’s not something we’re really thinking about at the moment. We still are always thinking about multiplayer for future projects, because we feel like having multiplayer in a really big world tends to work out really well.
On Monolith Soft’s relationship with Nintendo and assisting with other first-party games:
Takahashi: There’s both kind of work that we do. Whenever we’re working on one of our own titles like Xenoblade Chronicles X, we’ll have weekly development meetings with Nintendo where we discuss our progress with the game. Whenever we’re not busy with our own projects, we have the opportunity to help out with some of the projects that are being developed at Nintendo. A recent example of this is Splatoon.
On HD development:
Yokota: So when we were first talking to Monolith about the technology, we spent about six months discussing how we were going to pull off creating a game that’s going to be in HD and that’s going to be an open world. We knew this was a really monumental task, but through the good cooperation with them we were able to succeed in finally making it.
On tips for the Zelda Wii U team:
Yokota: So as it turns out, in the development of this game we had a lot of opportunities to prepare reports and feedback on the technology and the different kinds of problems that we encountered. When we’re able to share those documents internally, they’re going to go to all the other teams so they’ll be able to draw from them and I hope that those guys working on that game will be able to benefit as well.
On supporting the Zelda Wii U team:
Takahashi: I mean I suppose it’s possible, but we haven’t heard anything. I would want to say that Monolith Soft is always available and we would love to help anytime people ask us.