What goes into making a game like Resident Evil 6? Think about it. The game stands at the absolute head of its publisher's lineup, and also has to draw on 16 years of accumulated franchise history while still surprising fans. It also has to outdo all previous installments in the franchise -- and match up to the current generation state of the art while being built in a reasonable time frame.
Executive producer Hiroyuki Kobayashi has called the game "by far, the largest-scale production Capcom has ever embarked on". How do these developers deal with such a massive undertaking?
How would you do it? In this interview Kobayashi, producer Yoshiaki Hirabayashi, and director Eiichiro Sasaki discuss this task at length, describing how the game was developed using an entirely new production methodology for the studio, and how that lead to better results for the game and the satisfaction of its 150-member strong team of internal developers, which swells to a massive 600-plus when you include external contractors and outsourcing.
When you sit down to do a sequel to a franchise like this, what is the first thing that you think -- the first thing you have to think, with so much history, and so much pressure as well?
Hiroyuki Kobayashi: I think, especially with numbered iterations in the Resident Evil franchise, you have to think, "What are we going to do to surpass what we did with the last iteration of the game?" So with 6, I think the first thing we all thought of was how are we going to surpass what we did the last time out.
What defines "surpass"?
Eiichiro Sasaki: I think, for me, "surpass" means to create a new experience. So you want to create something new, something that you didn't do in Resident Evils 1 through 5.
And when we're talking about "experiences" -- is that a gameplay experience, is that a story experience, or is it a holistic experience?
ES: Definitely a holistic experience.
How much pre-production and pre-planning goes into a game like this, if you want to get a holistically new experience? How much work goes into defining that, before you even set foot on developing it?
ES: Pre-production on this game started in July 2009.
HK: Yeah, I think it takes at least half a year for something like that.
Yoshiaki Hirabayashi: For just half a year, we gathered everyone's input and feedback before really starting the game.
What kind of size team does a game like this have?
YH: Just internally alone, we had about or over 150 members working on the game -- internally. But when you consider external partners and all outsourced elements, and things like that, there were over 600 people involved in the making of this game.
Managing that process must be so complicated. You can't just have one person managing all of that; just the level of which you manage that is just so complicated.
ES: Well, we have everything broken down into different sections. So we have, like, the game designers, the environment designers, the artists, and each of those groups has its own, you would say, director controlling that. But then within the team, itself everything is comprised of different units, and each of these units is like its own game development company. So they're working on portions of the game individually.
Now usually, what you think of when you think of something like that is, you have a group of, say, artists, programmers, and designers, and you say, "Okay, you guys are working on zombie movement," and then, "You guys are working on the controls for the player characters", and things like that, and it's really a piecemeal process.
Well, we didn't do it that way. Our units were in charge of actual stages of the game, and so they had to create everything for that section of the game. So it's as if each unit was its own company, creating its own individual product, and so then we had to bring that together. And so you had all these separate units working on their own things, and then it becomes much easier to manage them overall.