Capcom has been very public about the fact that, moving forward, you are going to work with Western developers on properties like this. Do you think that it is working, and do you think that is a good solution? From your perspective, as someone in the trenches working on these games, are you happy with this?
ME: Yeah. It really boils down to the importance of balance. Obviously, trying to get new IPs out whenever possible is still really important, but also the idea of revisiting existing IPs and tackling them from a different angle -- in these cases, Western devs -- is a very good and healthy thing to do. To use a timely example, if you look at Batman, for instance, it's such an established IP. You can look at it from different angles; you can have movies that have different visual motifs and different tones to them. I really like the idea of doing that with our video game IP as well, while simultaneously exploring other avenues and new IPs at the same time.
How much of an approval process was there? How formal was it? When Ninja Theory wanted to do something, for example, with the art direction, for example? Did they have to show you everything or could they say, "Let us mess around with it for awhile and see what we do"?
ME: As with any developer–publisher relationship, there's obviously an approval process: milestones submitted and comments given. We took a really collaborative approach, we'd like to think, with this, where there was a lot of discussion.
We obviously recognize that we're dealing with real professionals here, so we respect their point of view. If we saw something that we thought could be improved upon, we would give advice to achieve the goal that they were after or potentially explore a different way of getting to that goal; but, from early on, we knew we didn't want to just come in and say no to things or reject things if we weren't completely happy with something.
Our position was "Let's find together another way to tackle this issue." I think it very much felt like a collaboration and not like the kind of top-down relationship you ordinarily see in these sorts of situations.
A lot has changed in terms of the generation since Devil May Cry 4 came out. We've been through a lot. Do you think Devil May Cry really had to change as an IP? Is that something where you felt like it was time for it to change?
ME: In any series in any form of entertainment, really, there comes a time when you've done a certain number of sequels when things stabilize, they feel good, but, at the same time, you stop taking risks and doing new things. It definitely did feel like it was time to try something new, to try a new approach.
At the same time, we didn't want to completely scrap everything and make something completely different. Our goal has always been to maintain a level of what it is that's at the core of Devil May Cry -- be it the controls, certain story elements, etcetera -- while at the same time striking out in new territory and trying something new. Timing wise, it felt like "Why not take this and see what we can do when approached from a different angle?"
When the game was announced, there was a lot of complaining from some of the hardcore fans of the series. Did that surprise you, and did that affect you -- or did you have such confidence in your vision going forward that you just said, "They'll see in the end that we made the right decision"?
ME: Honestly, we were not horribly shocked at all. I think we knew whenever you take any sort of iconic character, or iconic series, and mix things up a bit, that you're bound to upset some people and make people nervous and understandably wary. So it wasn't a surprise to us.
At the same time, we were confident in the game we were making, and we knew that if we maintained that vision, that the gameplay itself was so strong and the visuals were so tight and the game itself was so compelling that if we just stuck with it and did what we planned to do from the start, people would eventually come around once they got a controller in their hand. I think, if you look at the way things have evolved since then, I think we made the right decision. People are indeed coming around to understand now that they're dealing with a really good game that fits within the Devil May Cry framework.
Is that a matter of community management, or is that just a matter of more and more people seeing the game and changing their opinion on it?
AJ: The passionate fans really aren't going to be swayed by something like that, what the community manager says; what really mattered really was getting the game in front of people. That probably started at Gamescom here last year, where we first showed some gameplay footage, and it started to turn a little bit. And every time we had a subsequent drop of assets, or opened the game for people to touch, hands-on, then it did start to move opinion.
First, all they had was the black-haired Dante, which to some degree was a lot of change, in addition a new developer, new thoughts, and all of that. We always thought that, as Eshiro-san said, once people started to see the game, starting last year at Gamescom, and we've gone to [Capcom showcase event] Captivate, where we started doing hands-on demonstrations, and people could report back their experiences to the crowd, that it started to turn.
I think what we're seeing now is a far more positive to wait-and-see than the "What the hell?!" and "I'm never getting this game!" And I assume that that will simply continue as there is a demo, and things of that nature.
It really did come down to getting it in their hands. There was no community guy that was going to be able to bewitch the people into buying into it; they were going to need to see it and eventually touch it. And that's ultimately why we had a lot of confidence: we knew that we were making something that was going to be great once you put the controller in their hands.