Nude Maker designer Hifumi Kouno has earnestly described his company's name as an entreaty for developers to shed their pretensions to fame and lay their feelings bare.
Of course, his company has also spent a few years making adult PC games for the Japanese market, so he has a different take than most.
Kouno himself has worked on a broad variety of games, in and out of the gaming mainstream. He directed the first two installments of the Clock Tower survival horror series, which began on Super Nintendo and moved to PlayStation. With Nude Maker and Capcom he developed 2002's mech action title Steel Battalion, which famously shipped with an intricate $200 controller that included foot pedals.
Most recently, Nude Maker has been announced as working with the ex-Capcom all star team at PlatinumGames, developing an ambitious sci-fi RPG for Nintendo DS. Entitled Infinite Line, the game is said to draw heavily from classic works of science fiction, notably 2001: A Space Odyssey author Arthur C. Clark's 1953 novel Childhood End.
During a recent PlatinumGames event, Kouno sat down with Gamasutra to discuss his recent activities, his attitudes towards developing adult titles, and why people are afraid of the adult game market.
What has Nude Maker been up to, between Steel Battalion and Infinite Line?
Hifumi Kouno: You may know this, but we've been making adult titles in Japan on the PC.
I didn't see them on your site when I looked, some time ago.
HK: There's a title called AV King.
And you were previously a part of [defunct Japanese publisher] Human Entertainment, is that correct?
Are you still using [Grasshopper Manufacture composer and frequent Human-splinter company collaborator] Masafumi Takada for music on your game?
HK: He's my best friend! Him and Suda51. But anyway, yes. He is also doing the sound on Infinite Line. We asked him to.
How many people are working at Nude Maker now?
HK: 9 people.
Yeah, I thought it was a smaller team. Is that the entire team making Infinite Line, or are there more people from Capcom helping?
HK: This is the same as what we did with Steel Battalion. The main programming is all done by people inside Nude Maker - all core members are Nude Maker. However, we are working with some external developers that are helping.
How does that outsourcing work? Do you create the initial assets and then ask them to create similar ones, or do you give them specific tasks to do?
HK: Yes, it's exactly as you said. At Nude Maker, we make early assets for everything: character designs, space ship designs, and then we show that to the external companies that are working with us and ask them to work along those lines.
Can you name some of the mech designers that you're working with?
HK: The first one's Junji Okabo, who worked on Steel Battalion and who's also working on Infinite Line. He's making one design every ten days.
Impressive! What made you decide to return to standard consumer-facing games, as opposed to the hentai titles and whatnot?
HK: I will answer this very seriously. I won't take this lightly. I do not feel that there's a big difference in my thinking between standard adult titles and consumer titles. We don't have the idea that we're really shifting gears as such.
Generally, people looked down on adult titles just because they're adult titles. But this is just one genre that I want to experiment in as a game designer -- just one avenue for my creativity. There may be other avenues for my creativity. I don't want to limit what I can explore as a designer, based on expectations.
What kind of things do you think you can achieve in the adult game market? What do you want the player to feel?
HK: First, I want to say that I'm not just the game director, but I'm also the scenario writer for my titles. As part of writing scenarios, it's very important to understand human behavior. You have to address the basics of human feeling and motivation. The sexual urge and sexual motives are absolutely a core part of human behavior and a really primal urge. I think we can't forget that. I don't want us to forget that part of ourselves.
Why do you think so many people are afraid of it?
HK: If you take any given game designer, I think most of them are concerned - perhaps too concerned - with appearances and how they're perceived in the outside market, and by other game creators, even. They don't want to be seen as too unique.
I think that's also the background of the main company Nude Maker. I think that we need to be more honest with ourselves, and people should not worry about how they're perceived and do whatever their creative drive is. It really comes back to appearances, with many people.
I don't need to hide anything about adult games, and I really appreciate an interviewer who'll ask these kinds of straightforward questions and understand where I'm coming from.
What do you think of the state of the adult market right now? There have been a lot of closures this year.
HK: The budget on adult games is very small. On one hand, it's possible to really experiment and implement new and creative ideas, but on the other hand, I think people have gotten too conservative and just go in one direction and do the same patterns over and over again.
People seem to be targeting specific fetishes. Like the moe [cute anime girl fetishism] market, or the lolicon [more sexualized underage animated fetishism] stuff, all targeting very specific things.
HK: I agree with you there. I think there's a lot of those titles with moe or lolicon. My titles are definitely games first. I'm not just trying to sell them due to moe factor.
These are real games, and they happen to also contain things about sex or hentai. In a way, I think that unfortunately the effort we put into those types of things sometimes isn't rewarded, and if you just make it an easy-to-sell moe-type game, it'll sell much easier.
Do you think that you could create feelings of love within a player in a traditional game as well?
HK: I definitely think that's possible, but I think people get love and sex mixed up a lot of the time, of course. Just straightforward sex in games, I don't think that represents love.