In 2010, Keiji Inafune quit his role as the head of Capcom's R&D department, and he formed three companies in 2011. The most notable one, so far, is Comcept -- a studio he heads, which comes up with the ideas for games and other media, and then farms out the development of this projects to external partners.
The first full-fledged Comcept console game to reach fruition will be Soul Sacrifice for the PlayStation Vita, which is under development by Tokyo Studio Marvelous AQL (The Last Story) and will be published by Sony.
In this interview, Inafune talks about the hidden talents of Japanese developers, why there are few large independent Japanese studios, why he wants to work with Western partners to develop games, and how the back-and-forth of working with external partners works. It's a calmer, more optimistic interview than we've seen from the man who has, of late, become more notorious as the doomcrier of the Japanese industry than recognized for his game development skills.
Your Vita game, Soul Sacrifice, is being developed by Marvelous AQL. Do you intend to build a studio that can build games like this internally, or do you want to work with external development partners, primarily?
Keiji Inafune: There are things that become easier than I am making it by myself, but I don't think that will result in the creation of anything new. That's why I think it's more interesting if I'm working alongside people who have a different way of thinking about the project than I do. I think that results in something new. I figured it'd be better to work with assorted studios around the world, so I think it'd be great if, in the future, I get to work with more studios besides those just in Japan.
Can you talk a bit about the back-and-forth process of working with external developers? You've you deliver a strong concept, but how much back-and-forth is there?
KI: It can be rather difficult to get the other party to fully understand the concept, and that does take up time and work on both sides. But once the message does come across to the other party, you then see a lot of time savings.
The issue then becomes how to watch over the project so that this concept doesn't begin to waver. You have to take advantage of the powers of the developer; it's not just a matter of asking them to make exactly what you tell them. It's important to leave some of it to them, but it does get difficult to keep a given concept in place without having it waver around.
In Japan, there's been a way of developing games in which external studios are simply instructed on what to do.
KI: I know that very well. (laughs)
But I don't think that could work with Western developers, which is part of the reason I asked.
KI: That's certainly true, and I also know that Japanese developers, when they do try to work that way [Western style], can produce good results. I think that I am about the only developer who's actively trying to work in the way I am.
And that's the reason why I'm trying to do it this way, taking Japanese games and working with a variety of studios, including Western ones, to make them successful. It's because, if it works, it'll lead to other people taking that same path to success.
Even when working with Japanese studios, I think it would be a waste if you didn't have that feedback. I played The Last Story, the last game that was made by Takuya Matsumoto, who's making this game. I interviewed him at E3, and I was impressed with his creativity and ideas. If they weren't coming through in this game, I think it'd be a waste.
KI: I think you're seeing the same way of thinking about it in Japan now. Marvelous hasn't really done a title like this themselves before, but we are giving a lot of feedback to each other throughout, and I think it's resulting in a pretty smooth process throughout.