Lately, with indie games, there's been a resurgence of that flat-shaded, high-FPS, low-polygon look. Have you noticed this trend at all?
YS: Really? I'm not familiar with that. I do like, though, how DirectX has gotten so easy to use that all sorts of people are making games now.
In the case of this stuff, I think it's people who have a nostalgia for how that looks, who think there's a sort of beauty to its simplicity.
YS: That primitive kind of look makes things easier to grasp, I suppose.
You mentioned that you're doing what you want to do now; is that Shenmue Town, or some other thing?
YS: Well, you could say that Shenmue Town is a step toward what comes next. I still want to make something with more of a fantasy/fantastic flavor. There are a lot of ideas I have in that area.
Do you still do any programming yourself?
YS: I hadn't done any in a while, but I've been going just a little with it just recently, for the first time in 15 years -- mainly simulation and algorithm checking and stuff. It's surprising how easy it is to pick up again.
You did most of your programming before C++ became a big thing, when assembly was still the main language. Do you feel the coding environment has changed much since the old days?
YS: In the past, we had things like assembly, Fortran, Pascal, Forth... We still had a lot of languages to work with, and I worked with all of those at one point or another. I never really had much resistance to learning new languages. I learned BASIC in the very beginning, though, and I still love BASIC as a language.
The latest BASICs, like Visual Basic, have a lot of C-like aspects to them. From my personal standpoint, though, I don't have much need to write final production code any longer; instead I can concentrate on logic and algorithms and other things like that. As a result, I never feel constrained by changes in language.
For a long time, we've had game directors that are seen as "famous," such as yourself. If the name is on a project, people get excited about it. That has always been about big games, and it seems like games are kind of getting smaller and more spread out with Facebook and iPhone games and things like that. Do you think there might be a next generation of directors of that nature, and where might they fit in to the new landscape?
YS: I think there will be a new generation, sure. Lately, the big makers pretty much make nothing but big franchise titles, right? Small companies can't compete with that sort of thing; projects with 4 billion [$50 million] or 6 billion yen [$75 million] budgets competing against those with 300 million yen [$3.7 million] budgets.
However, if you make nothing but these big titles, the game industry's going to falter because of it. So I think it's great that small developers can get into these new platforms and compete on there on a more level basis. It takes up less of their money, and if they get a hit, I think that'll lead to the directors getting attention from the media.
I've been thinking about that because -- everyone plays Angry Birds in the West, but does anyone know the designer of the game?
YS: Well, even at most Japanese companies back then, they told developers that they couldn't put their names into the game in the first place, because they were afraid some other company would headhunt us. So the industry kind of got off on a bad start from the beginning that way, didn't it? I suppose it's just a matter of people going out and publicizing themselves.
Even on a larger scale, a lot of Japanese companies still don't send their employees to GDC because they don't want them to be influenced by other people or talking to other people.
YS: That's one thing about the industry I really don't like at all, yeah. With the music industry, you see the composers and singers show up in the media constantly, after all. Everyone knows the directors and the screenwriters for films, too. Video games have become just as big as both of those industries, and yet there's still this drive to hide things from each other. It makes you realize how shallow the culture of gaming still is. They're all creative fields, right?
How much rein do you have to work on Sega products at the moment -- your old series?
YS: I pretty much have to negotiate with Sega on a one-by-one basis with that sort of thing.
When do you think we can expect to see something -- a new original IP from you and your company?
YS: There are lots of projects in the works, but until I can get a budget for them... [laughs]
The financing is always the hardest part.
YS: But, you know, if one of them becomes a hit, then again, that becomes the step up to the next level. I have a lot of original ideas in the works.