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I feel the same way as you do, or maybe similarly, in the sense that I always felt that with new games pushing forward, we never quite got everything we could out of the ideas from the old games before moving on.
DA: There have been a lot of games in the past where the ideas were all there, but then they weren't able to do it technically. Now, a lot of the big companies are putting a lot of their efforts into the actual creation of games, but a lot of their focus primarily goes into the visual parts of it. Their styles haven't changed at all; it's just that they're creating what they always wanted to do in the past.
It's interesting also that you chose to do a 2D game on the 3DS. It's a little ironic, isn't it?
DA: Yes. (Laughs)
If you look at the kind of indie games that are coming out now, you see people who are, I think, looking back and saying, "We like this stuff. We didn't want to let go of it." I don't know if you've seen Super Meat Boy, for example -- and when the Nigoro guys obviously started out they wanted to make a new MSX game, essentially.
DA: I just think that those types of games are very easy to understand. It's not complex, so it's more for everyone.
It can be quite challenging, though. I think that it requires a certain literacy of knowing what came before. These games, I think, mostly will be played by people who miss old games, not by average people.
DA: I do think so, partially, but at the same time there are a lot of people that purchased Cave Story via WiiWare, which also means that young people are buying it and liking it. So there is hope that you don't really need prior knowledge of those old games to actually enjoy what we have now.
Cave Story is about exploring a cave system alone. Is there any connection there between the theme of the game and the way you made it, by yourself?
DA: It doesn't really have anything to do with that. But I want players to project themselves onto the main character; that's why I made it a single character. If there were multiple characters, you wouldn't know which one to relate to. That's also partially why the main character has amnesia, and doesn't know anything, or remember anything. He has no idea of the world setting, either. That's how I want the player to synchronize with the actual character in the game that you control.
For the original PC version, did you every single element yourself, including all the programming, all the art, and music?
DA: Yes. Everything, I wrote myself.
So how did you decide all of those aesthetic elements? Usually it's multiple people. Even in an indie project, you probably wouldn't have someone do every single thing. How did you decide them? Was it based on your capabilities, or was it based on your personal taste?
DA: Everything that I did was step-by-step. I started with Point A, then moved on to the next point, thought to myself whether it was good or not, and then moved onto the next one, little by little.
When you were making decisions, was it more about whether it was good, or whether it fit your idea of what you wanted? Was it more about getting something that worked in the context of the game you were making?
DA: It's everything that I like; whether it fits the world or not is secondary, and comes after I decide. That's why there are so many different elements to those caves. I really like how the fans see all of those different elements and reconstruct a world for themselves.
It's funny because there's sort of multiple schools of thought about what games should be -- how much the developer gives the player a ride, versus how much the player can bring to the game and sort of bring themselves into it.
DA: I think it's extremely important that players guide themselves because, ultimately, it is something the player should do. Personally, I prefer, instead of going to a park to play, I would rather go to ruins to play. Because you can think, feel, and search, for yourself, your own way to play.
I interviewed Yuji Hori, the creator of Dragon Quest, and I asked him a similar question. He said that Dragon Quest is like climbing a mountain, and when you get to the top of the mountain you can see the beautiful view. It's interesting for you to say that your philosophy is like exploring ruins.
DA: I actually think that the mountain climbing idea very accurate, also.
For example, in commercials, they always show the best parts, and I think that's really bad. I like it when you play through the game and learn things piece-by-piece, and that's very important. There's things like the gameplay system that you just learn it as you go along. I think that games that require tutorials that tell you: "Okay, you do this, and you do that" -- those are actually really bad.
But in terms of Cave Story, similar types of games had already appeared by the time that it was out, so everyone already knew how to play it, because there are so many similar games around; you don't really need a tutorial to actually know how to play it.