A Global Phenomenon: Andersson and Judd on Capcom/GRIN's Bionic Commando
December 5, 2008 Page 1 of 5
Capcom has positioned itself, over the course of the generation so far, as being one of the Japanese companies best-positioned to capitalize on the western market this side of Nintendo. Yet, unlike Nintendo, many of its games target the core gamer demographic.
Following up on some of the firm's internally-developed successes, such as Devil May Cry 4, Lost Planet, and Dead Rising -- is the Q1-due Xbox 360, PS3 and PC big-budget title Bionic Commando. This is a fully re-envisioned sequel to the beloved 20-year old NES game, which was recently remade for Xbox Live Arcade, PC, and PlayStation Network.
Both new editions of Bionic Commando are developed by Swedish software house GRIN. Recently, Gamasutra had a chance to sit down with GRIN co-founder and game director Ulf Andersson, and Ben Judd, the games' producer at Capcom Japan -- and the company's first American-born producer.
During the course of the interview, conducted at Tokyo Game Show, the discussion turned to the strength that the company has shown this generation, the nature of the collaboration between the two companies, and much, much more.
Has it been an interesting road? For both of you, I'd imagine that it's been interesting. Ben, being your first next-generation title as a producer at Capcom of Japan, which is craziness, and Ulf, it's your first major next-gen disc-based product for Capcom.
Ben Judd: Console, right?
Is this your first console game?
Ulf Andersson: Yes, it's my first released console game. I've done one game that got shitcanned, because the publisher went bankrupt, and then I made arcade machines, which is pretty simple. But yeah, it's the first one.
BJ: It's the submission process, I think, that's the scary thing when it comes to console titles.
What about you, Ben? What's your reaction now that you're far into the development process of this game?
BJ: After you spend a couple of years of your life on something like this, you go through... When I first started, the first year was great. Everything was perfect. I was like, "Oh, people talk about how painful design is. They don't know what they're talking about. This is great! I'm having a great time. The GRIN guys are fantastic, Capcom's a great company, and this is a huge game. Awesome. I love life!" Now that it's nearing the end...
UA: Just invert all of that. "Everybody sucks!" (laughter)
BJ: I hate him! I hate GRIN, I hate Capcom Japan... Oh, it's just a huge amount of pressure, a huge amount of work, and a huge amount of, "Now that you're getting close to the end..." You don't know. Because games are a gamble. They're a bit of a crapshoot. You have no idea whether they're going to do absolutely fantastic -- better than you ever imagined -- or whether they're going to tank.
UA: Well, I think it sort of shows, if it's got the potential or not. You can play a game and go, "Ah, this is going to be shit." But of course marketing can do an excellent job and push out shit. I don't think we're in that area, though.
BJ: If you'd asked me before we did [downloadable 2D 'side project' Bionic Commando:] Rearmed if that would be the highest-ranked Capcom Xbox 360, PS3, or PC title...
UA: Of course! I'd say, "Of course."
BJ: Well, you would say, "of course", because you're full of Swedish shit.
BJ: But I would say, "Oh, that's not going to be possible," because I have so much respect for the Japanese designers, and their skill level. So I was just, "Oh, no, not my first time out. It's not going to be like that." But in the end, that's what it is. So again, even if it's going to be a great game, I didn't know that at the time.
Capcom/GRIN's Bionic Commando: Rearmed
Did that lend you some confidence on this project? Obviously, when Rearmed came out, you were still very far into this project. Once you saw that working on a project, and this huge international collaboration, could be a big success, did it uplift your spirits a little bit, in terms of working on the main Bionic Commando project?
UA: I think it did for everyone. I know from the team side it really picked up. It was really cool. And we got a lot of attention from it, so on all sides it worked out.
BJ: The one difference I think between Rearmed and the 3D one is that since Rearmed is based on the original game, people knew what it was going to be. Since it's 2D and the hardcore people just flock around that now -- 2D is like the cool, hip thing -- it was much easier to be like, "Oh, we know exactly where this is going. We know people are really excited about it and it's going to be great."
But when it comes to the 3D one, there are more unknowns. Every time there is an unknown, you just don't know what the ultimate result is going to be.
But at the same time, I think the hardcore fans would've really hung you out to dry on the 2D remake if they felt like it didn't live up to their crystalline, 8 year old's memories of the NES game.
BJ: Yep. That's also one of the things which is great. The negative comments we got for Rearmed were that people thought the mechanic was too archaic. They weren't able to do what they wanted to do with it.
But when it comes to a 3D game, with the fact that it's online, and the swing mechanic is much easier... it's more standardized with the two thumbsticks. I think that people who are complaining about the 2D one not playing the way they thought are going to be able to play the 3D one. You can sit there and control the direction you want to swing. It really works the way I think everyone wants.
UA: I think everybody is going to get their piece of Bionic Commando. I mean, I love BCR, and you might love both of them, and I think a lot of people will. But if you're like, "Oh, I can't play BCR!" you're going to be able to play BC, and vice-versa.
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