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Shinji Mikami On Mechanics

July 2, 2010 Article Start Page 1 of 3 Next

At E3, Shinji Mikami -- best known as the creator and revitalizer of the Resident Evil series with its first and fourth installments, respectively -- showed his new third person shooter, Vanquish. Developed by Platinum Games (Bayonetta) and published by Sega, it continues the work he started in the genre in 2005, with Resident Evil 4.

Here, Game Developer Magazine editor in chief Brandon Sheffield presses Mikami for the concrete reasons behind the gameplay decisions he has made with Vanquish, a battlesuit-toting action title set in San Francisco.

The shooter genre, after all, has become tremendously important this generation -- but there's still a lot of room for evolution of gameplay expression within it, and Mikami and his team at Platinum Games are going down a specific and different path with this game.

Let's start by talking about the third-person shooter genre. After Resident Evil 4 came out, most games in third-person style followed the same camera angle, the same aiming scheme; it did a lot to re-launch that genre -- have you noticed those similarities?

Shinji Mikami: Well, I like all kinds of games, really, and I try out a lot of them, but I don't think that a lot has been done with the action genre in general since, whether you're talking first- or third-person.

What's your philosophy for moment-to-moment gameplay in this genre, going up to Vanquish? In the past you always had something new to throw at the player -- they have to reinterpret the situation differently with their existing controls.

SM: When development first began on this game, the design was centered a lot more around QTEs. QTEs were a really big thing you saw in games all over the place at the time, no matter where they were developed. There were tons of QTE games coming out, and honestly I got sick of them.


So we started cutting down the QTE sections and concentrating on keeping the gameplay simple and fast-paced -- something that you could enjoy and get really enthralled with without things getting too complex. You know, give the player a chance to control all of that on their own instead.

In your mind, what's a good strategy for pacing the player action over the course of a level? 

SM: Basically, first I decide how the player moves -- his movement speed -- as well as how much time it takes for him to dispatch an enemy. Then I add that up to figure out the total amount of time it takes to go through a given area of the game. That's the usual order of things.

Article Start Page 1 of 3 Next

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Matt Zeilinger
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Ever since the first Resident Evil game, I've been fascinated with Mikami's process of game design. While this is not a horror game, it's very intriguing to see him making a change and how his process does not fundamentally change. And I have to say, kudos to him for avoiding the overused QTEs. We really need a new innovation for this type of game interaction, and I feel confident that Mikami can pull it off (if anyone). I'll be keeping an eye on this title, and thanks for the informative interview!

Brandon Sheffield
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Andre, this is a web site for game developers, and meant for intelligent discussion. If you wish to participate, please think carefully before you decide to comment.

Shooters have their roots in America, beginning with Spacewar, developed at MIT, if you want to go so far back. It was developed in 1962. But that isn't what I was talking about. I was talking about the third person shooter genre, which is utterly dominant in America, for better or for worse. I happened to know that Mikami was interested in this genre and wanted to get an interesting answer out of him, so I posed the question that way. Since I am answering you seriously, please endeavor to make serious comments in the future.

Lo Pan
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Vanquish, coming out of E3, has moved into must buy territories. I am optimistic that Mikami-san can properly balance the game and add a logical save system. The visuals are outstanding and to me quote refreshing...

nana koduah
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first off: *facepalm* @ Andre(getting too personal) and brandon(he kind of got your goat didn't he?)

It's interesting to see what SM is doing with the 3ps genre. I have been eager to see a concept like this since i played lostplanet and gears. I found gears a bit too slow and lostplanet well...lets say it had loads of potential.

I bet it really gets to SM when people refer to Vanquish as a fast paced gears (when in fact gears is inspired by killswitch which was made in the east. talking about the whole cover mechanic thing).

seeing the gameplay vids, there seem to be a lot happening on the screen at any one time. I hope the controls will be simple enough to allow split second decision making (i read about the slowmo feature my above comment about gears)

As a fan of Treasure' shooters (Alien soldier and Gunstar) it was easy enough dealing with the onslaught in two dimensions but in three with a 3p camera?! I'm thinking intuitive controls would be the make or break factor here. Looking at a game like lostplanet especially the mech battles it always took a second too long to activate the strafing boosters which frustrated me(much more than getting knocked down). i see vanquish has a smiliar mechanic for closing the distance. Shinji if you pull it of i owe you 1yen.

oh,and the story, the whole Russian and USA thing...i'll be looking forward to only the gameplay then.

Chris Remo
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I can't imagine Mikami would be offended by comparisons to Gears of War. I've seen him bring that game up unprompted numerous times, including in this interview. In another interview, he said, "Of late, most of the games I personally like are foreign, so if asked what I referred to, it would be the Gears of War and Call of Duty series."

Given that answer, it would be very odd if Mikami let Gears comparisons get to him when he so strongly makes them himself. It also makes it unlikely he would be irritated by comparisons to Western games generally, since they are what he seems to be enjoying most at the moment.

Also, as far as Kill.Switch goes, I don't think that game in fact was developed in "the east." Check the credits list: I don't know where the studio was physically located, so it's technically possible you're right, but the actual people there seem to be Westerners. (As an interesting note, at least one member of the team went on to work on Gears of War at Epic.)

Dedan Anderson
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Great interview brandon, now to ask a tough question. What is it about Vanquish that gives it that Japanese feel? Or not just Vanquish but I see this point brought up all the time...

looking at vanquish and comparing it to say a gears of war, there's a subtlety that Vanquish has, it says to me that a player doesn't have to be a football player on steriods to be a hero. The world doesn't have to be dark browns and grey to be foreboding. Plus the animation system on Vanquish seems second to none, no robotic "my-legs-have-a-mind-of-their-own" side strafing here.

Anyway great interview! Can't wait for the release! Here's hoping that sega has locked down another batch of P* titles!

nana koduah
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@chris. Thanks for the link. hmmm... interesting the game was developed by Namco but most of the credits read western(non asian). I wonder if these may be the credits for the localization team(i could be wrong though since there are modelers and other on the list).At times like these i wish i had explored the game disc more. Yeah, i know about the ex-dev from killswitch who is at Epic. In an interview i saw on, Cliffyb/dude huge made mention of him being on the initial concept team.

I like that SM is taking the best of western design and removing the worst part of it (he's not the only person who's sick of QTE i mean i was nice as a mini but when it becomes the major it feels like theres DDR in my GOW) which were actually great till they got stale.

Taure Anthony
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Great article interesting answers. I especially want to point out the "From a development standpoint FPS's are easy to make" thank-God this was said....thats why the industry has a boatload of them....easy to make and equals $...sad but true.

Taure Anthony
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Great article interesting answers. I especially want to point out the "From a development standpoint FPS's are easy to make" thank-God this was said....thats why the industry has a boatload of them....easy to make and equals $...sad but true.

Bryan Fu
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I'll get any game developed by Shinji Mikami. Goof Troop for the SNES is still one of my favorite games.