That's what I've heard. So with Afro Samurai, it's kind of a return to the character stuff.
RH: It is definitely a character kind of thing.
You mentioned that the ethnicity was exaggerated to make for more character expression potential. How was that decision made, and what do you decide to do?
RH: Well, we've been working very closely with the creators of the whole thing. The TV production group is called Gonzo, and Samuel L. Jackson is part of the team, and Mr. Okazaki, who is the original creator.
All of these different entities all have a little bit of different spin on what they want to see, but it's been very fortunate for us that everything that we've done has exceeded their expectations, and not by just a little bit, but by a whole lot.
Because of that, they've given us real free reign. They've said, "Look, if you want to create new things that don't exist in the world, go right ahead." That's kind of unusual in a property licensing environment.
So you're able to expand the universe somewhat.
RH: And they've been extraordinarily nice about it.
That's nice. Obviously, you have some experience with building things on licensed properties, and that is one of the areas where there is the largest potential to just make a game, and not put any real thought or effort into it.
Because quite often, you don't need to.
RH: The license carries it, you know.
But some of those early Disney games were actually quite good, like Aladdin and Castle of Illusion, as you mentioned, were excellent ones. How is this being approached in a way where that's not going to happen? It seems like it...
RH: I'll give you some examples. There's the standard licensed game that we all know and generally dislike, because it's just a license slapped onto some kind of action thing. Specifically, it's easy to do that, but it's unenlightened. It's stupid to do that when you have a character like in Afro Samurai. He has a very rich, deep world to begin with. There's a lot of original, creative aspects to what his personality and his story is all about.
Namco Bandai Games' Afro Samurai
I didn't talk about it in [my DICE] presentation, but the entire show takes place in his sleep. He's dreaming. The existence of characters in that kind of dream world... that's where a lot of these original characters are dreamed up, as part of his imagination. When he gets effectively killed in the game and the player loses, Afro wakes up.
Well, in order to avoid doing some stupid Afro-slash-sword thing, we have built the game and completely structured it around the concepts of what makes the story interesting, by being very sensitive to what the reality of the property is. What's the real value in this license? It isn't just this cool, urban black guy with a big sword.
It involves his story and mix with characters and the weird reality that is the undercurrent of motivation for everyone in the game. If the game itself embraces that as fully as the original property, then the game itself will hopefully be every bit as good.
The licensed games that I think are successful are ones that allow players to do things that they would really like to see happen. When I looked at the Naruto game that Ubisoft made, you can run on top of buildings and run on walls and things. I never watched Naruto really, myself, but it's neat. It's fun stuff to be able to do. It looks like you're trying to take that tactic.
RH: Yeah. That is an example like with Afro. We are able to expand the world, and we are expanding the world based upon the licenser's acceptance of us as a sensitive creator to the property. You can't be thought of that way without really convincing them that we know it every bit as well as they do, or at least we're completely in tune and harmony creatively.
The new things that we've come up with have blown them away, and they've been very happy with seeing them. That's the ideal kind of licenser/licensee relationship, and it's how you make a good licensed game.