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Toshihiro Nagoshi began to stand out from the pack of developers at Sega about 10 years ago, at the launch of Nintendo's Gamecube's. He showed the press his launch title, Super Monkey Ball, which he grew into a franchise for the then newly-minted third-party developer.
After that, he launched the Yakuza franchise. While it's only been a cult hit in the West, it's Sega's most reliable performer on the console side in Japan, with its latest annual installment selling hundreds of thousands of copies every year since it launched in 2005.
Now Nagoshi is taking a new challenge. He's set Yakuza Studio, the internal team he heads at Sega, to develop a shooter targeted at Western audiences: Binary Domain. Due to launch on Valentine's Day for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, it's a fusion of Eastern and Western gameplay tastes and talent, he says, designed to challenge his studio to produce something global -- despite the fierce competition from experienced Western shooter developers.
"I feel like if someone like myself doesn't try to take what I'm good at and bring it up with the competition, the gap between Japan and Western developers is just going to get worse. This is where video game culture really got started, after all, with Nintendo. I do feel like I'm fighting for my pride here, and I think we can claw our way upward," Nagoshi told Gamasutra.
What prompted you to create Binary Domain?
Toshihiro Nagoshi: I would say the main inspiration was to create a game that was squarely in the science-fiction domain. Our team has been working on games set in modern-day Japan for a while now, and through that, I think we've learned a lot about how tell a good story and work it into the gameplay experience. I think we all wanted to experiment with that knowledge and try something different.
Nagoshi appears on stage at Sega's TGS 2011 booth to promote the Yakuza series.
I'd agree; playing several of the Yakuza games, they do have a great sense of drama and good storytelling. Is that what you're attempting to bring over to the shooter genre?
TN: Certainly. I think the action and the visuals are there, but if you are into the drama that can be told in a medium like this, there's a lot to enjoy. In fact, all of the acting -- and all of the motion capture, as well -- is being done by American actors and directors.
At the same time though, the people who are taking that data and putting together the cameras, the visual and story package; they're all Japanese and working with a Japanese perspective. So it's an American-style drama done with a bit of a different perspective, and I think Yakuza fans in particular should take special note of that.
Is it the same development team, or did you assemble a different one?
TN: It's the same one.
You've launched a new Yakuza every year since the series launched. Is Binary Domain going to throw that off?
TN: Well, I don't think it'd be a lie to say that the series as we've been creating it from the PS2 era is coming to an end. It's the end of one era for the Yakuza series.
Since you concentrated on the PlayStation 3 recently -- this game is on the Xbox 360 as well, right? So did you have rework the technological pipeline, so to speak, for this game?
TN: No, I wouldn't go that far. And when I say that -- just speaking in terms of going between the PS3 and 360, though this sort of goes for the PC as well -- there's really no obstacles or anything to hinder that. Some of the middleware support you receive differs between the two, that's true, but really, it's the same, more or less.