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Shinji Mikami On Mechanics

July 2, 2010 Article Start Previous Page 3 of 3

What did you want to accomplish with Vanquish -- is it just a pure exciting action game for you, or is it more of a larger experience? Where did the idea come from for you?

SM: Part of it was a desire on my part to give the shooter genre a try, but I also wanted a shooter with a heavy traditional-action element to it.

How much time did you spend in San Francisco to determine the setting?

SM: many times did I visit San Francisco? Around four or five times.

Is the city itself actually important to the game, or is it sort of an iconic place that's incidental to the story?

SM: There's no very deep importance to it, no.

I did appreciate seeing Coit Tower explode.

SM: Oh? I just felt like destroying the Golden Gate Bridge, so...

I feel like that sometimes too.

SM: (laughs)

The game's genre could generally be associated with Western design, but it has the look of a game made in Japan. How do you reconcile those things -- and do you even have to?

SM: I do think the visuals lean more towards a Western style, but the original inspiration was from Casshern, a Japanese animated show, and a lot of the game's taste comes from that. I don't think worrying about reconciling those two ideas was a big concern when we began development, though.

The original inspriation for the visual look is from the movie version of Tristan and Isolde; that was the initial spark, although the look wound up evolving into something completely different in the end.

How do you determine the camera position for third-person perspectives? It seems that the whole genre has been influenced by your decisions.

SM: It was very much trial and error. We played around with the camera angles over and over again for something like one to three months until we got it right. I wanted your character to be visible onscreen, but in a shooter the enemy has to be plainly in sight as well, so I had to strike that balance in my experimentation.

In most game projects, the main character sort of grows new animations through the course of development, and we kept revising the angles to make new animations clear and present onscreen as well.

It's been a really good solution for showing as much of the playfield as possible while showing the player -- not going into full first-person mode where the screen is your very existence. It also removes a lot of clipping errors where the camera will go into things when it's further back.

SM: That's very important, yes, and something that gave us a lot of trouble in this project. From a development standpoint, FPSes are easy as pie to make. (laughs) In third-person, though, the player's viewpoint is different from where the character's bullets or whatever are coming from.

So you have to reconcile the gun versus the viewpoint.

SM: It's never something you can pull off perfectly, because there's a physical difference in the locations of the two points, you know? With Gears, they show the track of your bullets rather than where the actual bullets are hitting. I think that's a really clever solution, but I want Vanquish to show the actual bullets themselves onscreen. That's led to a lot of headaches. (laughs) The fact that there's no online in this game is the one thing that makes it possible.

So considering that first-person is so much easier, what made you decide to keep with third-person?

SM: It was because of the sense of speed we were trying to convey here, the sort of quick, fluid motions your character is capable of. If this was an FPS, we'd need to make things a lot faster than they are now, and even then, that sense of speed just isn't there unless you're showing the character onscreen pulling off those speedy, acrobatic moves.

Article Start Previous Page 3 of 3

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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.