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Yoshiki Okamoto: Japan's Game Maverick Speaks


May 2, 2008 Article Start Previous Page 6 of 8 Next
 

CN: Are you originally from Tokyo? Is that why you moved your company there? I know the guys from Platinum Games stayed in Osaka.

YO: That group sort of left Capcom all at once, though. They just sort of picked up and moved. I felt like my company would have to function well at the national level to succeed, so I ended up choosing Tokyo even though I was born and raised in Osaka. If you need to make business connections, Tokyo's the way to go. They were in a situation where they didn't need to hunt down business partners. From the start they knew where they'd be getting their funding from. I wanted our company to be open to international opportunities, and not limited to working within Japan.

I also thought that if I based Game Republic out of Osaka, we'd eventually butt heads with Capcom, especially if we hired people with experience in the industry. There are barely any game companies left in Osaka, so they'd end up being previous Capcom employees. And our goal wasn't to siphon people off from Capcom, anyway. We're not out to become Capcom Jr., so I thought I should put some distance between us.

It felt like if I stayed in Osaka, I'd always sort of be in Capcom's shadow, that we'd end up getting some of their former employees. I didn't think the situation would be good for either of us. People might think I had a grudge against Capcom, and that I was trying to lure people away from them, or something. Or if they opened an office near us, would that mean they were trying to lure people back? I think it would've made it look like the two of us were on really bad terms. Like I'd split off to form another Capcom.

YMG: Sort of like a civil war, you mean?

YO: Right. And that's not how I wanted to start my company. I wanted to wipe the slate clean and start from square one. That was my original hope, anyway. Now I'm wondering how different we really are. Like someone might look at our company and say, "Huh, they do things just like Capcom." (laughs)

I get a bit worried when I wonder if I haven't changed enough. Like maybe the only thing different about us is where we're based. It's no fun to feel like we're following in their footsteps, but it can't be denied that we need to come up with an engine of our own.

CN: Insomniac, the creators of Ratchet and Clank, only use internally developed technology, which is seen as sort of controversial considering the popularity of the Unreal Engine in America. Why do you feel an internally developed engine is so important?

YO: The way I understand it, Unreal seems sort of like an all-purpose engine; it's flexible enough to make nearly any type of game. But it's not like we're out to make games from every genre.

We tend toward specific types, like action, for example. A pre-established engine might be easier to work with, but we haven't found anything yet that meets all the conditions we're looking for.

Feelplus/Mistwalker's Lost Odyssey

CN: People who use the Unreal Engine sometimes end up having to create some of their own solutions - Feelplus made their own hair simulation for Lost Odyssey.

YO: Yeah, it lacks a bit in the uniqueness department, I think; like the catch-all for next-generation engines. In Japan, people tend to say that games made with that engine have a "western game" look to them. They take on that western "taste."

YMG: So, the two styles do have a different flavor to them.

YO: They really do. Sometimes they're as different as miso soup and olive oil. (laughs)

CN: Do you feel it's not as possible to make the games you want using western technology because you might lose something in the process?

YO: I do think it's possible, but that it would actually take more time and effort. If you're using an engine someone else has made, it's bound to take a lot of time before you can understand it 100%. Also, when you run into bugs, you're more likely to blame them on someone else. Like, "This has gotta be a bug in the engine!"

If we build something from the ground up ourselves, the responsibility's also all ours, and knowing that gives you confidence. To me, that's the biggest difference. If we want to do something, and we're told it's not possible with the engine we're using, that could end a project.

We might get stuck having to tell a client we can't do something they've requested because of the engine we're using. But if it's an engine we've made ourselves we'll know what it's capable of from the outset. More than anything, I want something that we're entirely responsible for, that will bind us together.


Article Start Previous Page 6 of 8 Next

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