Did you ever go to publishers with only a concept on paper to show them?
MM: You can do that, but you know, a project document is a pretty thin piece of work. It's, like, a couple pages. (laughs)
That's what I like about them.
MM: If that's all you have, then your publisher better have a lot of trust in you to accept it! Our basic game ideas are pretty simple, though, and usually the planning documents and art that we have is good enough to present from.
I don't really write them myself, but lately it's been seeming like a ton of documentation and design material has to go into planning documents [of other companies]. They're like over a hundred pages or so.
Writing lots of Excel spreadsheets and so on.
MM: Exactly. You have to be sure that your concept is focused and plan to everyone; once you have that, you start building the game and finding ways to make it more fun as you go.
Was the concept for Ikaruga decided on from the start? It didn't change any afterward?
MM: Once we had the prototype for the idea running on the PC, it didn't change much at all after that.
With LittleBigPlanet, when those guys want to show each other a new idea, they'll do it within the engine and show a video of it, but it's actually useful because they have the tools built in.
MM: I've often found that I have this wonderful idea in my mind for a level or a concept for a game, but then when I actually try making it, it all falls apart in reality.
In that way, having the basic construction process be as simple as possible is a good thing for us -- and, with LittleBigPlanet, for the users working with it.
Some of the [user-created] stages people have been made are incredibly complex -- maybe too much so, even -- but people are doing great stuff if they put a ton of work into them, working together on the net. But my friend and I have probably spent over 200 hours playing Bangai-O Spirits, and the stage editor on that game is just excellent.
MM: Well, thank you very much! I've played around with a lot of editable games in the past, but a lot of them have a pretty major learning curve.
It takes you a good two or three hours to even begin learning how to build anything. That's why being able to get started immediately was one of the main concepts of the editor.
You can see all the possibilities available within 10 seconds.
MM: It's easy to get in, but the more you mess with it, the more tangled it can get. (laughs)
What inspired you to make another Bangai-O?
MM: Well, we wanted to. (laughs) The director said "Okay, I want to do this, period!"
Did you want to have the stage editor in from the start?
MM: It was there from a pretty early point. Since our platform's the DS, we wanted to have something that used the touch pen, and an editor was the obvious choice there.
Did you use the editor to make the stages in the game?
MM: We sure did, mostly. The first version of the editor was a little rough for that stuff (laughs), but mostly, the stages were done with the built-in editor.
You've got to have some kind of editor when you're developing a game, right? Usually, if we just took our editing tools and gave them directly to the users, the learning curve would be so high that they'd have no idea where to begin with the thing.
If the developers know how to use it, then it doesn't matter how complex it is -- that's usually the thought process. But it was surprising how easy it was to make our editor for this game user-friendly, and it led to a lot of side benefits, obviously.