So Dewi, with Haunt, was this the project you were working on most?
DT: Yeah, I've mostly been running the ship on this one; Matsuura-san's the guy upstairs, overseeing the whole project.
How has that been for you? Because you haven't really gotten a chance to really lead a project before, right?
DT: No, no I guess not. It's been a pretty intense project. [Everyone laughs] Especially in this occasion -- it's our first time working with Microsoft Studios. And so having a publisher in the States a development team in the UK and us in Japan, trying to merge all these different cultures together.
Yeah, it's difficult to have a lot of different viewpoints to put together.
DT: But out of conflict often comes good ideas, so I think it's made the project much stronger, to have all these different standpoints. But the game doesn't seem to have a concrete national identity, which is something I think we really wanted; we didn't want it to be too Japanese, or too American, or too British.
That's kind of the ideal -- to have something that is culturally agnostic, but still interesting.
DT: That makes the most of the implicit strengths of each region.
But instead, the Japanese industry has mostly been trying to follow what works. There's a lot of kind of same ideas being done over and over, which is a shame. But it seems like you guys try to do new things, which is good.
DT: I think we've done something like five new IPs in five years now.
I personally think the only way to make something interesting is to try to do something different.
MM: Yeah. It is. So for us, the very important thing is working with the different creative people in an equal position. Yeah, obviously the publisher has big pressure, and bargaining power, of course. But still they have to act in a reasonable kind of way, to accept or deny any kind of action... Reasonable, reasonable, of course.
But on the other hand, they always -- the developer and the studio -- has difficulties to have to accept new ideas, or those kinds of changes. And so all the information is controlled from here [at Nana-On Sha] so that these kinds of connections are very thrilling, and a new kind of thing for us.
As far as I know, Microsoft tends to have a lot of strong ideas about things. That can sometimes be difficult to work with.
DT: And which tend to change from month to month as strategies and departments shift like tectonic plates.
Yes! And people come and go quite rapidly -- that sort of thing.
DT: But at the same time dev studios that we work with are very used to working to three year schedules with concrete deliverables, and contracts, and stuff like that. And it just doesn't seem to work anymore like that, because things are constantly changing. And what's fashionable in games changes rapidly, too, so it requires a huge amount of power to pull the ropes from both sides into a place where you're happy with.
Yeah, I feel like the business is changing faster and faster now; it just keeps going. Two years ago nobody would've thought that social games -- like Zynga -- would be anything.
DT: Two years from now we might have forgotten about them. [laughs]
There is a lot of potential in social games. If you really think about it abstractly, from what most games are right now, there's a lot of interesting possibilities there. But it hasn't been all explored yet.
MM: One of the very remarkable things for me about Haunt was that we invited the voice over actor, Tim Schafer, for the main character.
Wait, Tim Schafer is the main character?
MM: Yeah. He's very, very interesting for it.
I bet! Well, he's a really funny guy, that's for sure. I'm surprised that he had time to do that.
MM: Actually he didn't have time! [laughs]
DT: We managed to squeeze him in nonetheless.
DT: There's not too much narrative in the game, so a couple of afternoons and we were pretty much done.
MM: It was very strange idea, I think. So we decided at GDC, last time. So already at the time, we had some other voice over track already put into the game. And since everybody was satisfied with that voice character already...
DT: Maybe not me.
MM: [laughs] But we talked about "maybe something is missed," still. And one day that you told me that about how Tim would be a good voice over actor.
DT: I think we met him at a Ngmoco party, and the next day at breakfast, we talked about it.
Was it after seeing him present at the Choice Awards?
MM: Yeah! [laughs] That was a very huge input for me. I really loved his speech at the Choice Awards.
DT: And it's a really specific mood that we were looking for in this game. So it's a haunted house game -- we don't want it to be like slash horror -- so we wanted to keep a little sense of humor, and a little bit impish, in that sense. And I think Tim really has that kind of passé humor, which really comes out well. You can never know if you can really trust what he's saying.