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The Philosophy of a Ninja: Tomonobu Itagaki Speaks
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The Philosophy of a Ninja: Tomonobu Itagaki Speaks

October 1, 2007 Article Start Previous Page 4 of 4

You say that you are not interested in listening to other developers, and do not look at other games. Obviously there is an element in which your games come directly from your artistic inspiration, but there also has to be some reconciling that with the direction of the market. Where does that fit into your philosophy?

TI: I think it's all about luck, in a sense. If I am at E3 and TGS, and I'm walking on the show floor, there are things that are going to catch my eye, and things that aren't. If something catches my eye, then I'll play it for five minutes and analyze exactly what makes it good and what doesn't. But whether something catches my eye or not is nothing; it's just luck.

Now, you may think that's kind of a loose type of attitude for someone who is responsible for making popular games. But as someone who gambles a lot, I think it's only natural that I should take that kind of stance. It makes a lot of sense. You can't expect to be able to gather data on everything, because then you're just going to be derivative.

Look at a roulette table: there is always going to be a guy at the roulette table who is taking down every winning number. Are those guys guaranteed to win? No. The guys that win are the guys that just play their instinct. So I think that there is a very important balance there that has to be made. Just to kind of wrap it up, I think that it is important to understand the mechanisms of the world industry as a whole, but it is hundreds of times more important to know your own rhythms. To know what makes you tick, yourself, if you want to make a good game.

You're right when you say that a lot of the games in the west are developed from a marketing perspective, and features are designed to appeal to the perceptions of the market. But there is also a lot of talk among developers about what makes a game "next generation." What sort of things we can do that are different from what's been done before, that really push a game forward. I was wondering what your philosophy on that is.

TI: It's rare for me to talk about this kind of business-related topic, or "industry philosophy" as it were. In typical interviews, when you ask, "what do you think about the future of the industry?" I almost always just answer that I haven't really thought about it much. So it's rare for me to talk this much about it.

Now, getting back to your question, I think it's important to do what you said: thinking about, "What is the next generation?" A lot of my games rely on elements that are not necessarily easy to be quantified. A lot of my beliefs on what is fun, is not about having X number of levels, or X number of weapons, or anything like that. So, I think it's important that while we have these kind of amorphous philosophies about what makes a game fun, that we include some easily quantifiable things in it as well: that this game uses this type of technology, this type of lighting, or it's got this new feature that is quote-unquote next-gen.

And that can be used as bullet-points when talking about a game to get people to pay attention to it. And that might bring their focus onto things that aren't as easily measurable. I think that that's an important aspect to have. In the past, I have not really focused on the elements that were easy to be quantified. I have always approached my game design, and talked about my game design, in a way that reflected my beliefs that it's not about the numbers, and it's not about the features. Is the game fun or not?

That being said, looking at the past products that I've made, through the years a lot of Team NINJA fans have said that I'm kind of moving more towards an auteur standpoint rather than a game designer for the fans. So I think it's important that I also look at those kinds of elements as well; to try to bridge the gap. In the sense of the past three years or so, I have basically been making games for the fans. However, looking at the future of Team NINJA, I think it's necessary to pull some more arrows out of my quiver, and have a lot of new methods in order to bring in new people as well. I don't just have one or two arrows; I have a whole quiver full! And they're all tangible, and they are all very easy to understand.

Team NINJA's upcoming Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword for the DS

That just leads me to a great wrap-up question, I guess -- or, I hope it's good -- which is: when you first announced the DS game, you said it was something your daughter can play, and looking at the DS audience, I don't think people expected it to be a Ninja Gaiden game. Is creating a different kind of game something in your future? Obviously you guys have done a great job developing on the DS, but as you say, you have other arrows in your quiver -- is that the future of Team NINJA?

TI: My daughter's playing this and she's enjoying it. But it's more popular with her boy friends than it is with her, herself. Just as a final note: I am very happy with what we've done in the past. But I'm sure that there are a lot of fans out there that have kids -- as I do myself -- and there haven't been a lot of Team NINJA games that you could play with your kids, together.

So, I think something in the future could be, certainly, something that a father and daughter or son could play together, and try to beat each other, or compare scores and things like that. But it isn't just those kind of heartwarming feelings that I have when I make this game. This is obviously designed to destroy all the action game competition on the DS as well. Don't forget that.

Article Start Previous Page 4 of 4

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