Koei's Takazumi Tomoike
Takazumi Tomoike is an Executive Officer of Koei's Software Department 4. He is currently heading the company's PlayStation Portable projects. He has also worked on console games for the company, such as the Sengoku Musou (Dynasty Warriors) series and Winback.
GS: Koei is developing Sengoku Musou games for both the PSP and the DS. How different are they?
TT: They're both totally different. The PSP game is a port of the PS2 version, but the DS game is going to be made in a different way. At this point, we can't talk about the DS version, but the PSP version was just finished.
For the PSP version, we know that people won't be satisfied with just a port from the PlayStation 2. People are used to playing games on their cellphones, so we had to make something that would be more entertaining for a short time. We made the game around that kind of theme.
GS: Were there any issues with the port?
Dynasty Warriors 4
TT: There were many problems. For instance, you can't use the exact same models. With the specs, it should work the same as it does in the PS2, but on this hardware it doesn't. So we had various problems like this. We also had problems with the library that Sony gave us. There are still quite a few bugs, and they haven't fixed them yet.
GS: Of the two handhelds, which are you most interested in?
TT: It's hard to say, since I'm not working on any DS titles. But the PSP version's team is Omega Force, the same team that made the whole Dynasty Warriors series, and the DS team is going to be totally different. That's all I can say.
GS: What are your impressions of the PSP in general? How does it compare to the PS2 in terms of power?
TT: Comparing it to the PS2… well, since it's a portable system, it's like a simplified version of the PS2. Our development model for PSP is that it's a portable system, and mobile like cellphones. With the PS2, you can play games at home for as many hours as you like. But we consider the PSP a mobile device, so people can play for a short time, then stop whenever they want.
GS: How easy is it to port a game straight from the PS2 to the PSP?
TT: Of course, ports are easier than making brand new games, but that's not to say that it's easy. The graphics make it tough. The PSP can't keep the framerate high enough. We like to keep the framerate at 60 fps for the PS2, but you can't do the same with PSP. It's very difficult to get it that fast with the lower polygon models. So, in order to get it (Sengoku Musou) fast enough, we lowered the polygon count of the models, and broke up the stage maps.
GS: How long has the game been in development for the PSP?
TT: About half a year. We got the development kit six months ago, and started immediately.
GS: Which game is it specifically based on?
TT: Dynasty Warriors 4.
Koei's Yoshiki Sugiyama
Yoshiki Sugiyama is an Executive Officer in Software Department 2 at Koei. He is currently heading the company's Nintendo DS projects.
GS: So you are working on Sengoku Musou for the DS?
YS: The DS version of Sengoku Musou isn't done - it's still in development so we can't talk about it yet. But we're also making a Mahjong competition game, and a simulation title. The Mahjong game will be our launch title, but Sengoku Musou is planned for Q2 of next year.
GS: what's it like to develop for DS?
YS: Because of the two screens, there are lots of new ways you can use the DS. There are lots of possibilities, so we had to think about this during development.
GS: Have you come up against any hardware limitations? Were there any difficulties in development?
YS: Well, the 3D memory isn't very good, so we can't remake PS2 versions like you can with the PSP. Therefore we're developing entirely new games, more reliant on 2D.
GS: Do you find the DS easy to work with?
YS: Hmm, is it tough? We haven't finished development on any of the DS games yet, so I can't really say, but it's not so hard to use so far.
GS: Are the DS libraries easy to work with?
YS: Yeah, totally fine. The library Nintendo provided allows us to do various things, so we're satisfied.
GS: Which games are you planning to put out on PSP, and which for DS? How are you deciding?
YS: We don't really know the targets yet, since they are both new systems, so we're making the same franchises for both, in the interest of getting games out quickly for both.
GS: Have you worked with both of the new handhelds?
YS: Yes, I have development experience with both.
GS: Which is easier to develop for?
YS: (nervous laughter) Uh…which is easier? You mean, right now? Well it's not really a question of which is easier to develop for - the DS environment is more prepared, so it's easier to release games on it at this stage.
GS: You said that you're releasing the same franchises on both systems. Are you using similar designs, or totally different?
YS: The games aren't the same, just the titles. It's the same lineup, but the games themselves are totally different for each platform. The PSP version of Sengoku Musou is close to the PS2 version, for instance. The DS can't do the higher quality graphics, so the 3D models are pretty tough. As a result we decided to make a game that's simpler looking, and plays simpler too, when compared to the PS2 version.
GS: Are you using totally new game resources for the DS version?
YS: Well, we could re-use art and maps for my version of Sengoku Musou, so it was easier than starting from scratch.
GS: Would people want to get both versions if they had both systems?
YS: Yeah, since they're totally different.
Konami's Yasumi Takase
Yasumi Takase is a director in KCET's production division. He is responsible for the recent console versions of the Dance Dance Revolution series, and has recently been working on the EyeToy-compatible PlayStation 2 DDR title Dance Dance Revolution Extreme.
GS: How do you go about developing games that require physical motion on the part of the player? What challenges do you face?
Well, of course, we wanted to make a game that makes moving your
body fun. In normal character games, moving the character around
is the fun part, but we wanted to make a game that moves you instead.
At the beginning, we were very nervous about whether or not players would actually want to move their bodies.
GS: How did you overcome that?
YT: We figured it out, just wait for the release and see!
GS: Is your market the same as normal arcade gamers, or somewhat different?
YT: Yes and no (since this is the home consumer version). Of course, some arcade gamers play it, but there are also those who only play at home.
GS: DDR seems to attract a lot of female players - is this intentional?
YT: Not specifically, but with the two dance pads in the arcades, the original development team was hoping that couples would play together.
GS: Was it your intention to slim down the gaming public (by including diet modes), or was it more for a diversion?
YT: Yeah, not at first - at first it was just for fun, but if people use the game to get thinner, that's great too! I guess maybe some people do that now.
GS: This is also the first time that DDR has involved the EyeToy (in a video-capturing role). How did that partnership begin?
YT: Well, the EyeToy is just another piece of hardware, so we didn't work with the EyeToy team specifically. Sony made it and said that anyone could use it if they wanted to, so that's what we did.
GS: When you first saw the EyeToy, did you think of bringing it into DDR?
YT: Well of course since it's a device designed for body movement, we saw the connection. DDR is the type of game where you want to show off your moves. You can use the camera to capture movies while you play, so we were pretty excited about that.
GS: Did you have to think any differently about developing for the EyeToy, compared to what you are used to?
YT: The hardest part was pretty much just that we hadn't used the hardware before. We had to think carefully about what it could do, and what we could allow it to do without letting it overwhelm the DDR aspect. So it wasn't really difficult to implement, the issue was balancing it.
You know, DDR is played with your feet, and we figured the player's brain would get confused if we used the EyeToy too intensively. It would be too hard.
GS: So how do you gauge difficulty for DDR? Because it seems to have great structure and learning curve.
YT: Basically just trial-and-error, and experience really! Mostly this was done by the original arcade team. In terms of making the game difficult or easy enough for all players, originally they tried to make the machine gauge the ability of the player, but it didn't quite work out. So they set some levels, and tried them out.
GS: Do you test out the levels yourselves?
YT: Uh… sometimes (laughter)!
GS: Where do you think movement games will go in the future, say five years from now?
YT: By now it's been six years since Dance Dance Revolution first came out - 1998, I think. Since DDR has been going strong for six years, I imagine that in five years it will be the same. But of course with the evolution of technology, with hardware like the EyeToy, we think it's necessary to make DDR evolve. So whatever new appropriate hardware comes up, we'll use it.
GS: What kind of new technologies would you like to bring into DDR?
YT: Well if you've got any good ideas, let me know!
GS: How about pairing DDR with Para Para Paradise?
YT: Might be too tough, right? But we've thought about things like that. The first EyeToy games were really simple, which makes sense, because everyone needs to be able to figure it out. But as time goes on, use of the technology gets more complex. So we're not sure where it's going just now.
And of course, the complexity of the foot movements in DDR has been evolving as time goes on, which would make something like that even harder to integrate at this stage.
GS: This is the first major 3rd party title to integrate the EyeToy in Japan, what advice would you give to other companies creating games for the EyeToy?
YT: Well certainly there are some difficult aspects… the DDR pad is a lot more responsive to input than the EyeToy is. But it does have a lot of potential. This is the first time you can really get the user inside of the game. I think that I can really make a game that will surprise people…and actually I'm open to ideas from other developer as well.
GS: How difficult was it to incorporate the interface?
YT: Since our game isn't just about the EyeToy, we focused a bit more on the traditional parts first. Since the main draw of DDR is the pad, it wasn't too hard to integrate the EyeToy. But the interface was a kind of difficult, because the control over the sensors is too sensitive. The interface isn't as transparent as the pad, which has the arrows already on it.
GS: How did playtesting fit into your development process?
YT: Basically we just tried things, then would test if they were fun or not. If it wasn't fun, we had to change it. After all, it's a body movement game… so it's somewhat different from a normal game with a pad. So it's harder to tell what's fun or not for the users, because the standard hasn't been set. We don't know what movements can and can't be done until we test it.
GS: DDR is a game where you see what's happening on the screen, and it's very clear what you have to do. Did you create the EyeToy portion using a similar model?
YT: It should be very clear. We'll use normal arrows and everything.
GS: What games are you playing now?
YT: These days I'm not really playing much… test-playing my own game, I guess? Does that count? I actually like the testing more than the development!
GS: Yeah, it must be fun to try out your own work.
Translator: Well, it's probably not that fun to play your own game…
Hey, it is fun! What are you making me say?