What was the inspiration for setting the game in the American Northwest specifically?
HS: When I was a child, I had relatives that lived in Winnipeg, in Canada. So I've been to that place many times, just to visit my relatives. But at the time we were thinking, we want to make this game be a successful game in the United States, so it would probably be better to choose a place within the U.S. And I was thinking, "Well, why not have that place be somewhere close to Canada?" And that just happened to be Northwest U.S.
Specifically you studied North Bend, Washington.
HS: I've been there to check things out for the game, for reference, yes. In a similar fashion, I've been to places in Washington, other places in Oregon, and places in California.
Also, we did the voiceovers here in California, and we took that as an opportunity to take more reference photos and footage. And when we returned back with all the footage, we'd give all the feedback to the remainder of the team to make modifications.
I enjoyed the photo gallery of your reference trips in Deadly Premonition. It's good to see some behind-the-scenes aspects of game development included in the package.
HS: For people who have played the game to the very, very end, I thought it would be a good idea to allow for the gamer to be able to see more of the stuff behind the scenes, maybe even see some of the faces of the people who worked on the game. I understand it's not for everybody, but it's something that we put in there.
It's something games could use more of. Like, disc 2 of a DVD set, where the special features usually are. You have quite a few extras like that in Deadly Premonition. Were DVDs an inspiration?
HS: Yes. When we were developing Deadly Premonition, we thought of it like an episodic TV drama. When you think of those DVDs, they usually have some kind of extras inside them. We liked that idea.
The original game, Rainy Woods, was cancelled, and then Deadly Premonition was signed as a separate project.
HS: That's right. We had to close the project for Rainy Woods, and we needed to start anew for Deadly Premonition, though we had a lot of assets to work with.
The footage we have of Rainy Woods looks like practically the same game, at least as far as art and story. How similar was the actual game design?
HS: When we rebooted, basically, we had to start over with the new project. I had to go through the process of thinking about what kind of gameplay we preserve, and what should we change. A lot of it, we had to go through a selection process, basically. One thing I remember changing was the controls of the character. That's something that was changed.
Deadly Premonition strikes me as being a much larger and more complex game than we had seen both from Access Games and from your U.S. publisher, Ignition. Is that because you were able to use the work that was already done on another game? In a sense, is it fortunate that Rainy Woods was canceled?
HS: After Rainy Woods was canceled, there was some time before it got rebooted. And during that time, I'm pretty sure I matured a little bit more as a game designer. I learned a little bit more. So when the project got rebooted as Deadly Premonition, that experience, that knowledge, I'm pretty sure was helpful in making the game better.
You mentioned earlier being energized by the interactions you've had with fans over Twitter. Is this the first time you've had a direct connection to your game players?
HS: In the time before Twitter we had questionnaires that shipped with the game. Whenever I received positive feedback from those, that was definitely an energizing experience. Also, when the games that I've worked on were actually released, I'd go to the store and sneak a look and see who's buying the game. That was another kind of energy-receiving experience.
But this time, the reaction from the people who are playing the game, the response from them, was a lot bigger than I was anticipating. The size of the energy, I guess, is much bigger than what I've experienced in the past. What you can do now is receive feedback not just in real-time, but from all around the world.
So this is probably your first time interacting with English-speaking players of your games.
HS: That's correct.
You seem very comfortable with yourself now to me, in person. You seem comfortable and confident. Have you gotten closer to finding yourself?
HS: Because of Deadly Premonition, I'm receiving daily tweets now. People seem to be enjoying the game. And that has really fueled some of my confidence and courage, which is probably what you're seeing. Did I find myself? Maybe. I'm not sure. There are probably other elements of me that I should still be looking for.
You once ended a Gamasutra interview with "I love you all." It also says that on your business card, here. Is this a recent feeling for you? Is this a result of this conversation that you've been having with your fans? Or have you always felt this way?
HS: This is not something totally recent, but I've started saying this after Deadly Premonition came out, because people would say to me that they loved the game. Or there are parts that they really adore, there's a lot of love in their comments. In order to kind of reciprocate, I wanted to use the word "love" too, and it turned into "I love you all." And that's a phrase now that I use often.
Thank you very much, SWERY.
HS: [In English] Thank you. I love you all!