Goichi Suda, aka Suda51, has become the darling of video game fandom in recent years, with his brash and bold games, his unique moniker, and his company's devotion to unique visual and audio style. Is he purposefully forging new paths, or has he simply fallen into the right groove at the right time? Gamasutra set out to map this designer's brain, and in this extensive interview, we discover some of the method to his madness.
From open world games, to current influences, to violence, to mascots, to designing for the west, we discuss his creative methodology, his desire for emotion in games, and the paramount importance of linear story.
Has Grasshopper Manufacture grown much in the last few years? It seems like you're doing more projects now.
Suda: We've added about 10 extra people to our staff. That's about it (laughs).
How big is your entire staff now?
Suda: Now… about 50 people. Somewhere around there.
Are the company's goals still the same? I've seen a few more licensed games from you, but it's still all in the same Grasshopper style.
Suda: It depends on the project. There are clients who put in orders that request we bring out a strong Grasshopper style in the game, and of course there are also licensed projects where the client already has some degree of a set image in mind and they ask that we hold back on the signature Grasshoppe style. It's always different.
So I guess that's the difference between (Grasshopper's) Shining Soul games and the Samurai Champloo games.
Suda: That's right. Especially for Samurai Champloo, which is based an anime, so there's a basic contract that we don't destroy the style of the original work. So by making anime-based games, we learn a lot.
It's interesting. When I say that we learn a lot, creating games within set boundaries requires an entire different skill set than creating games freely without restrictions. In other words, our staff develops new skills while they try to work around these limits. So that constitutes a learning process.
What was the inspiration for the Wii title No More Heroes?
Suda: I was inspired the most by the movie El Topo, by Alejandro Jodorowsky. I've always wanted to create a game like it, where the story progresses with a series of battles.,In No More Heroes there's also a killer. I visualized the game to be one where this killer battles and defeats his enemies one by one with his light saber.
Have you played Red Steel? What did you think of the sword fighting in that?
Suda: I played it a little. When the Wii hardware was announced, my initial thoughts were that there would definitely be games of Red Steel's style produced. It's a game that encompasses everything. I think games like this are ones that become example models for other developers. Red Steel and Made in Wario, these two games are perfect, or in other words probably serve as models for all Wii game developers to find out exactly what the Wii can do.
A lot of people said that the sword fighting was too simple, so I wondered if you learned anything from it.
Suda: I think both the good qualities and the bad qualities were examples that I could learn from. Also, from a Japanese perspective, I was confused by the unrealistic recreation of the Shinjuku setting. Ridley Scott's portrayal of Osaka in the movie ''Black Rain" was really cool, but the Shinjuku created in Red Steel wasn't really that great.