Interview: Capcom's Nakai On Remaking Dead Rising
[A migration from Xbox 360 to Wii is not only uncommon, but deceptively complex, especially for a title like Capcom's Dead Rising. Producer Minoru Nakai talks with Gamasutra about the process, from reducing polygon counts by hand to adjusting the game's mechanics to make it more approachable to casual players.]
Originally released for the Xbox 360 in August 2006, Dead Rising has players taking on the role of photojournalist Frank West as he fights off zombies and rescues survivors in a shopping mall infested with the undead.
A Wii version, titled Dead Rising: Chop Till You Drop, is due this February, using a modified version of the Resident Evil 4 Wii engine (itself a modified version of the RE4 GameCube engine), instead of Capcom's in-house MT Framework engine used for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC titles.
With the different engine and the system's hardware limitations, Chop Till You Drop now features an RE4-styled over-the-shoulder perspective -- but also loses the original's photography feature and offers less onscreen enemies, according to initial previews.
To find out more about the changes to Dead Rising on its journey to the Wii, as well as Capcom's process for the migration, we talked with producer Minoru Nakai.
So, you're porting Dead Rising to the Wii. Obviously, the big challenge there is that the MT Framework engine isn't available on the Wii. I was wondering if you'd talk a little bit about the process of porting a next-generation game to the Wii console.
Minoru Nakai: This time, it's not really a port so much as it is a remake. We made it from the ground up -- from scratch -- basically saying, "This is what we had in the 360 version, and this is what we want to do, so we're just going to remake it from scratch."
Were you able to bring over most of the content, like assets, models, recording of voices, and other things, or did you have to remake a lot of that for the Wii version?
MN: Things like voice, of course, stayed the same. We were able to use the original versions. But things like polygons ... the Wii can't handle as many polygons, so we took the models from the 360 version and we reduced the polygon count and things like that, and we were able to recycle and reuse them that way.
Did you use an automated process to reduce the models, or did you have to go in by hand and have someone on the team and the art staff manually reduce all of the models using your tools?
We had to have a designer and programmers go in and do that by hand.
Most often, companies make distinctly different versions of a game for Wii than they'd have for the PS3 or Xbox 360 -- as you said, it basically has to become a remake. What other changes did you have to make to the game in bringing it over to the Wii?
MN: For this one, of course the foremost [goal] is making the Wii Remote control fun for users. That was a big thing. The other thing was also making it easier to use and control, for even casual players. We've also included difficulty levels, so you can choose Easy, Normal, and Hard. Those are some new additions to the game that we've made.
Did you actually change the fundamental design of the game at all, either to evolve the original or to tailor for the Wii audience?
MN: We've read a lot of different reports. People said things like, "The fonts are too small. We can't read them. There are too few save spots," and things like that. So, we've taken some of that feedback that we've received from people and taken that into consideration when making this game.
The Wii seems to have a shortage of high-profile, mature action games. Did Capcom decide to port Dead Rising to the Wii because you perceived a void in that market, or did you just think that this would be a fun game to play on the platform?
MN: When we first made the Resident Evil 4 port for Wii, it was a new system, and we thought it might look interesting.
We also felt that it would match pretty well with the world of Dead Rising. That's when we started thinking, "Oh, maybe we should make Dead Rising for Wii."
I see. When it comes to planning a new version of a game and remaking it for the Wii console, you probably had to prioritize what you would need to change. Did you have a good sense going into the project about what could stay the same and what could change, or were there any surprises that you found?
MN: From the very beginning, of course we knew of some things that we wouldn't be able to do, but along the way, we've had a couple of surprises -- things even that we'd looked at and been like, "Oh, we can't put this in the final version." Things like that. Every day, even now, we continue to have new surprises popping up.
Can you talk a little bit about what some of the surprising things that you uncovered as you were developing the remake were?
MN: One thing, for example, is when you have to take survivors to the security room. We had to redo the layout for where we would put the enemies in order to keep it more interactive.
Also, the order in which you have to rescue the survivors, or where the survivors themselves are located. Things like that took a lot of adjusting, fixing, re-fixing, and figuring out how to make it more fun.
So, basically, you're taking the chance of making the remake as a way to put a little polish and balance into the game, where maybe the original version didn't, and try to make it a little more fun basically. It's a chance to rebalance the game?
MN: This time, we really wanted to make it more for the casual users. The original version was much more for hardcore users, so it's just been a transition of trying to make it more fun and easier and accessible, even to casual users.
Did you work on the original 360 version of the game?
MN: I did not participate in the original.
I'm sure you've talked to many people on the team who worked on the original version. Was there any feedback that you guys got from the audience anywhere in the world -- not necessarily just in the West -- that really surprised you and that you were able to act on for the Wii remake version?
MN: One surprising thing was feedback from people who liked the ability to change Frank's costume. So, this time, we've made it so that you can change into more costumes.
I may be wrong, but I believe I read that you guys are actually repurposing the Resident Evil 4 engine for this game.
MN: We are kind of using it, but we've also adjusted it and tweaked it a little to adapt it for Dead Rising.
Something that interests is that Dead Rising was a really good looking game when it came out for the 360 -- better than a lot of the games that came out at the time -- and it had really good shaders.
But the Wii doesn't do hardware effects. Are you trying to preserve those sorts of things, or did you have to create software shaders? Or do you just have to accept the fact that it's not going to be able to pull off the same kind of polish and effects?
MN: Of course, we had to compensate for that with software, and in places that we couldn't, we would do layers and effects like that to make it appear as though it had shaders on it.
If I recall correctly, it's been quite a while since I've played the 360 version, but there wasn't much loading. The mall was very large and you could go through it, but obviously the Wii has a lot less memory. Did you have to reconfigure the maps or write a streaming system or anything like that?
MN: The map size is the same, and we were willing to keep it so that people could still play what they were playing before. The Wii hardware spec itself makes for fast loading times, so it's really largely unaffected.
On one hand, a Wii game should have very Wii-like controls and be very fun to play -- but on the other hand, Dead Rising was originally designed to be played with button presses, which are more precise and faster. Can you talk about how you were able to change the controls and still make the game feel accurate and fun to play?
MN: Last time, with the Xbox 360, we had buttons, and it was very complex. Of course, you could do whatever you wanted at the press of a button, but the controls were very difficult, so they were really more for hardcore users.
For casual gamers, we wanted it to be easier to understand and easier to use, so of course, even hardcore gamers will be able to point and do whatever they want to do very quickly, but this also makes it more accessible for the casual users.
Did you have to do anything to modify the design of the game to incorporate the Wii controls, or was it really just about mapping them directly to what you had before? Or did things have to change, in terms of maybe enemy speed, or their health or anything like that?
MN: We didn't want to keep the zombies too slow, because if we made them too slow, it wouldn't be much of an action game anymore. In that respect, we sped up some of the zombies.
We've also introduced new enemies into the gameplay, and we've also made the map a little bit more maneuverable, so that it's easier to get across the mall and things like that. So, in those ways, we've tried to improve the gameplay.
The original version of the game had really good character animation. I was wondering if anything about the character animation -- in terms of follow-through with an attack, or anything like that -- had to change based on users' reaction time is with the Wii controller.
MN: The motions were taken from Resident Evil 4 and Dead Rising, so those were from the originals.
But we did make it match up to how the player swings the Wii Remote, so if the player's swinging something, then Frank will also be swinging at the same time.