I heard you recently recruited some Westerners into your studios. Can you talk about that?
TI: Certainly. As far as I'm concerned, as long as the communication skills are there, then nationality really doesn't matter to me -- as long as they can respect other people and deal with the social norms of Japan. Other people like that can know a lot of things that we never would, stuff that comes out a lot while we're drinking, or whatever.
You see a lot of Japanese outfits looking toward the West because of what they lack. I get the sense you hire people based more what they have, over what you lack.
TI: I think it's more that we went through a recruitment cycle, and we got practically nothing but foreigners. (laughs) I'm serious here. There just weren't that many Japanese.
I think part of it might have to do with our homepage. It's kind of a unique one, you know? The message on it is "Come to us if you want to emerge victorious by your own hands," which may've seemed like too high a hurdle for most rank-and-file Japanese developers.
When you founded Valhalla, you talked about how you would address technology, collaborating with THQ on that. Can you talk more about how that's proceeding?
TI: Well, it's proceeding like this. [Itagaki moves his hand totally vertically.] (laughs)
Up and up?
TI: Makes sense?
That you're progressing upward?
TI: Very fast.
Are you building it all internally?
TI: No. The cutscenes are being made by a Hollywood director, for one -- Danny Bilson, who's now one of the higher-ups at THQ. The original story is ours, though, of course, the geopolitics and so on.
Are you having fun? [Itagaki asks this while lounging on a sofa.] (laughs)
Oh, yeah. I always have fun interviewing you because you're very different from any other interviewee.
TI: Maybe a little. (laughs) Thank you.
Are you building a game engine internally?
TI: We're using a customized version of the engine developed by Relic, up in Vancouver. To that we've added some middleware both of our own creation and from outside firms.
Does Relic offer Japanese language support for it?
TI: Yes, of course. I mean, THQ has that long history of having Japanese outfits like Yuke's develop wrestling games for them, so they actually have a pretty large Japan staff.
THQ recently closed a lot of studios. Do you still have the same confidence now as you had when you signed up for the project?
Is that primarily due to Danny Bilson?
TI: Well, not just him; I mean, we have a lot of friends in the outfit.
It's interesting that you talk about the relationship they've had with Japanese firms like Yuke's. Have you found it easier to work with THQ for that reason?
TI: That's something I found out about after the fact, really, so I wouldn't call it a deciding factor. I can speak basic-level English, after all, although it's not very nuanced or anything. I think it's much more of a relief to the rest of the studio's staff than to me personally.
You have a reputation for games with, let's say, well-endowed women. Do you feel that image is outdated as gamers mature? Is that something you want to continue to pursue?
TI: I think it's something important, yes, but the people who actually appreciate those sorts of things aren't there in the way they were when I began to get into that in 1996. Do you like that sort of thing?
TI: (laughs) Well, there's the Internet now, so if you want to look at naked women, it's right there. In 1996, the net wasn't as ubiquitous, so you had this scene where you had to go to a video store and overcome your shame as you went up to the clerk. Dead or Alive, in part, allowed people to enjoy that sort of thing easily while also enjoying the game itself.