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[In this interview, famed composer and producer Akira Yamaoka discusses what his Silent Hill legacy means to him, what he's been up to since he joined Grasshopper Manufacture, and his vision for what the developer must become.]
Since Akira Yamaoka accepted the role of chief sound officer at Grasshopper Manufacture, the only project the company has announced that features a significant contribution from the storied Silent Hill producer and composer is the EA-published Shadows of the Damned, for which he has handled soundtrack duties. That game is due out in June.
It turns out that Yamaoka has moved into a more undefined role at the company -- one where he can touch many different aspects of production rather than lead one aspect of a specific project, he reveals to Gamasutra in this interview.
Given the evolution of the industry, he says, "there's a need for someone like myself -- who has more experience than just one department, overseeing a single component of a game -- to at least make my contribution, and try to look at [a game] from a different perspective."
In this interview, Yamaoka also explains what it might mean for him to create a project again -- so don't count him out of a direct creative role on a project just yet.
So can you speak in a larger sense about what you have been up to at Grasshopper since we last spoke? I know that you had hoped to both contribute to sound and production.
Akira Yamaoka: So yeah, I've gotten used to commuting to Grasshopper, I have my place there, I'm completely in sync with what's going on at Grasshopper.
So since the last time we've talked -- you're right. I've probably been working a little bit more and spending a little bit more time on the overall product development area. And that's the bulk of the company, yes.
But more specifically, trying to bring my experiences into not just the sound department -- but the overall producing department, and even into game design, and concepts, and whatnot. So my responsibilities are not just limited to the sound department, and my role as a sound person, but I have a better view of what's going on in its entirety at Grasshopper.
And what probably is making me want to do more, or contribute in that way, is because our industry -- the video game business and video gaming -- has evolved into something with so many dimensions to it, now, with mobile, and social, and all the great things that everyone in this tech field is talking about.
And it's very hard to just say that, "Okay, we make video games, and here is our content." There are so many directions, dimensions, angles to look at in this business that I think there's a need for someone like myself -- who has more experience than just one department, overseeing a single component of a game -- to at least make my contribution, and try to look at it from a different perspective. So that's something that I'm really trying to channel my energy and my time into at Grasshopper.
In the past there's been a very compartmentalized structure within Japanese companies, so I understand what you mean. However, I think people care about what you work on, and I think they would like to know what titles you've touched in what ways, where are you contributing your own design and direction for games.
AY: So, there are few things that have come from me. Whether they're ideas born out of just myself, or it's a result of some other conversations we were having internally, or we reached a point where my ideas or suggestions were better than the others, it isn't game-specific at this point.
But if I can talk more as a big picture, overall direction that we think we should be taking or ought to be taking as a Japanese developer, it's that we do need to look at it not just from, "Okay, let's create this content, and hope that it fits the audience in this area, this region." It's for the global audience.
No matter how small we are, even as a boutique Japanese developer, we need to take a step back and look at the global marketplace and see what it is that, let's say, we're missing, or we've already reached our expectations. How can we enhance this? How can we grow this? How can we channel our content to an audience -- to the rest of the world?
So there's a more taking a step back and looking at it from a very different standpoint, and seeing where it is that I can provide my skills, my experiences. How can I fill some of those holes, and in what way can I do it? That's where a lot of my energy, a lot of my thinking has been happening these days.