Grasshopper is taking a different approach to the West than others have, trying to make games that appeal to Westerners without pandering to them. How do you think your approach to the Western market differs from those with less success in that field?
GS: I wonder, actually. There are few things that I keep in mind. One is that, from the very start, we think about a worldwide audience -- not just the West, but Japan as well. Something that anyone can get into, that common language. Maybe it doesn't all come across to every region, but that language is still there. That's a sort of training process, because it's something you have to think about constantly, for every idea you come up with, until it becomes your baseline. You can't compartmentalize projects for Japan or the U.S. in your mind, and that's harder than it sounds.
Do you think having a multicultural staff helps with that, bringing their different viewpoints to the table?
GS: I think that certainly helps, yes. We have foreign people right up to the concept staff, not just Japanese people, and that goes for the art and level design departments too. It adds a fresh perspective that I think has helped us, just as the Japanese influence has probably helped the Westerners in our staff. I think there are a lot of cases where the two sides have helped each other to improve.
I think one mistake that's often made in these discussions is to presume that the Western ideas are the only good ones. Japanese game companies also make this mistake, forgetting about the great stuff within their own culture already that should be preserved and mixed in with Western ideologies.
GS: I agree with that, definitely. Every country has its own culture, and the games each one makes might be different, but perhaps nations don't play as much of a role in this as people think. This industry is about more than two-billion-yen ($25 million dollar) projects, and it's not a two-horse field between huge projects and everything else, like social network games.
It's about choosing the right ideas for the right project instead of choosing a direction and sticking with it, like a train on the rails. So why do you think Shadows of the Damned didn't have the success that everyone expected? I don't understand why, because there's nothing especially wrong with it -- there's no reason it shouldn't sell more.
GS: I think there are several conditions a new IP has to meet in order to succeed, and we just didn't meet them. You really need a lot of power, a big push on your side, in order to make a new IP succeed these days. I can certainly understand why it's more important for a title like Battlefield 3 to be successful, too.
Working with Digital Reality; how has that collaboration been, being in the supervisor role? Will you do more of that in the future?
GS: It's on a title-by-title basis. Work on Sine Mora is being handled over there, with the visuals and sound being done by Grasshopper. That sort of structure. For Black Knight Sword, meanwhile, we're the developers. So it depends on the collaboration.
Lollipop Chainsaw is a collaboration with a Hollywood writer. A lot of those haven't been successful, since they often don't know much about games, which makes them difficult to work with. Why did you go with that approach, and how has it been working out?
GS: Well, it was Warner's suggestion to start out with, and James Gunn... He's a director who came from some really interesting roots. He really knows his stuff when it comes to the zombie genre, and I think it's been going really well. He's been really proactive to work with us throughout the process. We've been holding lots of videoconferences and so forth.
I'm not writing the script in this game, because I thought that we both collaborated on it, the things that make our writing unique would clash with each other. He has the final judgment in story matters, and the system is set up clearly in that way, which I think is an important step toward making this really work.
Hopefully that will go well. When I see Hollywood writers involved and I see the final product, well, it doesn't take a Hollywood writer to come up with "girl fighting zombies." We already have Oneechanbara.
GS: I agree, and I think this will turn out a lot more interesting than that. We haven't announced it yet, but there's a well-known Japanese director handling a lot of the cutscene work in the game. That's something we need to keep secret for the time being. So there's two directors from these two different countries, which I think is another neat thing about the project.
I've never seen anyone collaborate with Takashi Miike yet. Someone should do that sometime.
GS: Ah, well Miike is pretty busy, so... He has a cameo in No More Heroes 2, though, did you know that?
GS: Well, he's in there, although it didn't get reported on much. He does the voiceover as well. Nobody's asked about that apart from you. It's surprising how few people know about that.
His Gozu is one of my favorite movies.
GS: I had Miike sign my copy of Gozu.
Well, I'm a little jealous.