How long has Q-Games been established in Kyoto?
DC: About nine years now.
How many people do you have at Q-Games?
DC: About 40 people. About half the company is doing work for Nintendo, and then the other half is doing PixelJunk, and also technology research.
You guys developed the XrossMediaBar interface for the PlayStation 3.
DC: Yeah, we did all the rendering technologies and everything, and also the wavy bar and the dust that's in there, and the music visualizers as well.
I know that you have a long background and obviously a good relationship with Nintendo; you guys got into this business of making games and sort of also being a backend company, too.
DC: I think it's because we've always enjoyed making technology. I think that's a huge thing for us; we like blending technology with games. With PixelJunk Shooter, for example, we use a lot of the PS3's power to do the fluid simulation, and it's actually quite a serious task to do that amount of fluid simulating.
Obviously, you're making these downloadable games, and, like you said, you made Star Fox Command for the DS, but would you guys have the resources to pull together and make like a AAA packaged game? Would that interest you?
DC: Not really, because you can't really make a AAA packaged game with the sort of esoteric feel that we have. We'd end up making something that's a bit more quirky looking or interesting looking or a bit more artsy, and unfortunately those kinds of games don't really sell to the huge mass audience, which are more into a gritty realism. There are those kinds of games, which are great to play and stuff, but they're just not what we make, so... It's a bit of a different market.
Yeah, it is, and I guess it's an exciting thing because we're getting all of these voices. Thanks to the way the industry's shifting now, a lot more people are being forced out on the streets and into the independent scene.
DC: Yeah, it's true. And, you know, the iPhone has helped, as people just quickly knock off ideas and get used to the cycle of making games quickly again -- because back in the day, you know, games were made very quickly; you wouldn't have a game that you were making for more than a year or anything, but now you have three-year cycles and five-year cycles.
At that rate, you can't really get used to the whole process of making a game from thinking up the concept to taking it to the final production. Another reason why I made PixelJunk was to teach the people in my company how to make games quickly in a fast, iterative process. I think it's quite important.
Who do you recruit for Q-Games? I assume mainly Japanese developers, as you're in Kyoto.
DC: It's about 70 percent Japanese, and we have about 30 percent foreign.
I'm surprised that it's that high; maybe most studios will have one or two guys.
DC: We have a few more. We have a couple of French people, a couple of Italians, a bunch of English people, and a Spanish guy, as well. It's quite a good range of foreign guys.
Do you find that most of the people you're recruiting have backgrounds in doing big, packaged software?
DC: No, they tend to be smaller, more creative indie-type people.
So it's not so much about learning from the sense of unlearning; it's more about just learning how to really execute it.
DC: Yeah, basically get used to actually having to ship a game -- actually taking a game from beginning to end and doing it repeatedly is quite a good process once you get used to it.
Japan has been very closed; companies don't even talk interdivisionally. It's very famous that different divisions within the same company won't talk, whereas obviously Western developers are open -- and as indie stuff takes off more and more and more open. The spirit of openness and collaboration is very high. What is your take on how things are in Japan right now, and do you guys have any influence? Are you trying to get things to flow?
DC: Yeah, we are trying. There's a Kansai (Kansai is West Japan) game developer group that we're kind of part of, and we kind of go for dinners and stuff to try and talk to other companies. There's about 30 different game developer companies that join in. So we try and open up that side of things a bit more, but it's quite difficult, especially with people in the big companies like Nintendo or whatever. They really don't speak to anybody.
[Ed. note: the Kansai region of Japan includes Kyoto and Osaka among other cities, and is home to major developers such as Nintendo, Capcom, Dimps, SNK Playmore, and others.]
Capcom's in Kansai; do they participate?
DC: They don't really participate, no. They're also quite big. There's lots of small developers, as well, like the developer who made Rez HD, for example. Hexadrive. They're based in Osaka. But they're the guys who run the event, the Kansai group.
They're working on The 3rd Birthday for Square Enix, the Parasite Eve game for PSP. They seem to be an interesting company that kind of came up out of nowhere. I'm assuming it's veterans.
DC: They're ex-Capcom. I think they are very much a technology company; they have lots of programmers. They're pretty cool. They're interesting. I think they're trying to build their own engine and stuff; they quite like the challenge.
About how long are the cycles on the PixelJunk games? Has it been consistent?
DC: For PixelJunk Shooter, for example, it took about a year to do; but we were experimenting a lot. They had lots of new technology in there for the fluids and stuff, and that sort of takes a bit more time to develop and get right, obviously, so. For example, PixelJunk Monsters was about seven months to make.
How much time and how much effort do you have to spend on the "getting right?" That's the hard part of game development.
DC: Oh, completely. Yeah. It takes... That's pretty much the entire project from beginning to end! (Laughs)
The level design and production processes are actually a shorter part of the overall process?
DC: We go into kind of a production mode at the end -- the last 30 or 40 percent of the project -- and when we go into that mode, that's when we start looking at things from the consumer point-of-view and not just the creative point-of-view. We try to refine the experience to really kind of build up all the elements and things that you do as you're playing the game. That's a key thing that we do; to control the flow of the game.