Afro Samurai's David Robinson: New Studio, New Problems, New Chances
October 6, 2008 Page 5 of 5
So, was the game co-developed alongside the animation, or was it adapted from the animation?
RD: Well... Between you and I, we were way ahead of them, from the start.
RD: And because they had to go from the manga translation of script, back to more correction and drawings, their process was a lot slower than ours. We're just like: "We see that picture! Let's get it moving!" You know what I'm saying?
And the series was originally supposed to be black and white, right? And we thought "Woah! That's gonna be great!" because no-one had ever done that before. Marketing squashed it, in their infinite wisdom, and, well, in the end, they were kinda right, so -- but you never want to tell marketing that!
RD: So we had to create a color palette, and so we had to go to Eric, and Okazaki and his guys, and say, "Hey, look. We had to create a color palette, because our marketing department says we can't go black and white. Will you accept it?" And Duke Mighten did an amazing job coming up with the original color palette of how the game was going to look. And it got approved by Gonzo.
And then it started showing up in their art. So there's been a lot of cross-pollenization. Where I had originally sold the franchise on, "I'm gonna get all this free art! We can save all this money!" Nnnnever happened! We were always so tied together that no one could get ahead of each other, to even help each other out.
I really like the watercolor look that the backgrounds have; it's pretty neat. And I saw did put some of that black and white in there.
RD: Yeah, well, we had to sneak it in. We changed art directors almost a year and a half ago a cat named Brian Johnson, who literally sat down with Danny Chan, who was old school from Naughty Dog, from old Crystal days. Just one of those programmers who are keyed into the industry; who just literally never say no. They always just say, "This isn't good enough. We can do better. We can do something wicked cool! Never mind the milestone, I'll talk to Dave!"
And they said they could create something -- I remember, the milestone was coming up, and they just had this idea of literally taking it from the stylistic, to the, like, hyper-stylistic, and the crosshatching and all that was born. And I remember the day Danny told me, "Hey, man, I think I have a great idea. It'll push us..."
Because we were worried -- our original prototype looked nothing like the current Afro; and it would've shipped a year and a half earlier, but it was late by game standards, and would've not survived in the current game market. It just was way underperforming in the look.
But we took six weeks to get it to work, and we missed an enormous amount of milestones trying to get it pulled off, but it changed everything once they got it. The dynamic crosshatching through the engine -- they hammered on it for weeks and weeks till they got it right.
It's nice when a game can go in a visual style that's actually interesting and different; it's not just, like, you know, closer to reality; it's actually trying to use next-gen power for what it should be used for, which is to try to do something unique, that we could only do with computer graphics.
RD: A lot of the decisions we made were not because we thought we were the smartest kids on the block. We definitely knew we were the poorest kids on the block, and we had to take a lot of... Not shortcuts, but we had to get there. Especially with fifteen guys.
So, the whole cutting and crosshatching was, we knew that we couldn't survive, competing with the Gods of Wars; it's always on a really big games; it's just a lot more of everything.
So we had to say, "Hey, Danny, how can we catch up, and make ourselves as different as those games, without spending all our money on it?" And Danny said that we just had to be different, and stay different, period. We can't be realistic -- too many titles do that amazingly well. We can't do the movie fantasy -- way too many teams do that amazingly well. We had to just literally find our own path, stick to it, and hit it. He was right.
Same thing with the cutting. We simply, doing the math, didn't have enough money to animate all the permutations of Afro killin' people. So Danny Chan again said: "I've got a solution, and I think I can have it prototyped in a week." It took him four days. Boom. And I think that in 30 years of gaming, no-one has ever had this, and DC, as we call him, pulled it off in four days.
Since then we've been thinking, "Oh my god. It's just a time bomb ticking in our game." And I don't know what that cutting is going to do, because all these other teams never pulled it off, and I was sweating that for the longest time. I'm still sweating! There's got to be something there waiting, some ogre under the bridge, that says that that can't work -- but it's worked. We can't imagine why no one ever thought of it.
There are still ideas out there, to be found, potentially. It's just, you know, sometimes necessity is the mother of invention, but also I think some people are, on the other hand, too busy just making a game --
RD: Spider-Man 50.
RD: Just makin' the same games, right? And it takes a lot of trust, and a lot of professionalism on both sides: From the management side, to know that, hey, we're going to have to take some risks, and we're going to miss some milestones; do we still believe? And I found myself in a lot of meetings with management, saying, "Do you believe?" and they did. And again, and again, Mr. Iwai did; again, and again. And so, it worked.
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