One of the things that stands out to me in Yakuza is the memorable characters, like Kiryu and Majima. That's a hallmark of those games; will you bring a similar level of characterization to Binary Domain?
TN: Well, for this project, a lot of the focus in the drama was to make the game scenes as exciting as possible. It's less of a cutscene approach than what you saw in Yakuza, not that we aren't using what we know, of course...
I think one main difference is that in Yakuza, you have one really strong, overwhelming main character in Kiryu, but in this game, the theme's more about a team bonding together. So while you have a main character in Dan Marshall, I want to make sure the rest of the cast shines, too.
In that way, the characterization will be a bit different from the Yakuza series. I think the characterization in Yakuza was built to emphasize the drama, but in Binary Domain, it's there to rev up the game.
There's a lot of debate among developers over how important story is to gameplay. I'm guessing you think it's pretty important, but it sounds like you're making concessions to make things more seamless.
TN: Certainly, and I think the technology we have that's driving this game is serving to make that transition between game and story more seamless than ever. Personally, I think that drama and storytelling is an important part of a game. Your response to playing a game is twofold -- the stimulus to your senses, and the motivation you have to continue playing.
With something like Tetris, for example, it's fun to try and get a high score, but essentially you're doing the same thing over and over again, which doesn't provide you with a lot of long-term motivation. One obvious way to build motivation in games, on the other hand, is to put some kind of story in there. There are lots of different approaches to that, of course. I don't think drama is absolutely important, but it's a very useful tool.
It's a question of balance, as well, between the different elements of the game that you feel will compel the player. It's about pacing.
TN: That's what I pay more attention to than anything else, really. But that balance isn't a thing that works across borders, I don't think. In the U.S. and Europe, it's more of a sensual experience, while story and motivation plays a much more vital role around Asia. So it's hard with any game to figure out how to work that balance. I'm proud of how it's turning out in Binary Domain, but I'm still a fan of dramatic elements. I don't think a shooter with a lot of drama necessarily won't sell to Western audiences, and that's something I wouldn't mind proving with this project.
Is this game primarily balanced or targeted for a Western audience?
TN: Well, I am a Japanese person, so certainly I'm concerned about whether Japanese people get into this or not. However, I also would like to see things that succeed in Japan also succeed in the West. My ultimate goals are worldwide, but I think there's a difference between something that's a hit worldwide and something that starts off big in Japan, then goes elsewhere. I like the idea of breaking out of Japan into the rest of the world -- maybe it's just an image in my mind, but that's how I'd like to go. That's part of why the game is set in Japan, after all.
You talked about technology developed to do the kind of story you wanted to create. Is that all stuff you've developed internally at Sega?
TN: It is stuff done within the company. The long answer to that is that, it's something where if we weren't releasing Yakuza on a yearly basis, I would have liked to do for that series. This is the result of having that time and really doing it right, figuring out how to handle loading the most effectively, and so forth.