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The world of the Panzer Dragoon games was a startling revelation for those that played them. While the first two games were unexpectedly rich and engrossing shooters, the third game in the series -- little played but much revered -- 1998's Panzer Dragoon Saga, expanded the universe to encompass an RPG, seamlessly, showing that the amount of attention given to world-building by the developers wasn't put to waste. The game also had some of the most believable early 3D environments in games.
Now -- after working on the equally memorable and even more overlooked Phantom Dust for the original Xbox -- original Panzer Dragoon creator Yukio Futatsugi has reunited many of the developers he worked with at Sega's Team Andromeda to create Project Draco, a Kinect-based dragon-riding game for Xbox Live Arcade, at his new studio Groundling.
In this interview, in which he discusses his philosophy to building worlds with real texture and memorable detail, he's joined by Toshiharu Tange, Microsoft's producer for the game.
Is this the same world as Panzer Dragoon?
Yukio Futatsugi: No, it's a completely different world.
Can you use a controller?
YF: You're sitting on the dragon, and you control it by shifting your body weight around. It doesn't have support for that. Basically, it's a rail shooter. You control the dragon as it goes along the course and fights enemies.
In this game, you have one weapon for each hand, along with another that uses both hands, and you switch between them as you go. Your main weapon is on your right hand. That was the homing laser right now, but in total there are about 150 skills, and you're able to teach your dragon your choice of these and customize him in any way you like.
The Kinect can sometimes have lag. How does that affect an action game like this?
YF: At the moment, it hasn't become a major issue. We're helped by the fact that you're piloting a large dragon in this game, and so in the game world, there's going to be a little bit of a delay between your commands and his movements. There isn't going to be the sort of lag that causes stress to the gamer, however.
Is the Team Andromeda staff working on this game?
YF: Tomohiro Kondo, who was one of the original members, is the game design lead on this project. There's also Manabu Kusunoki, who is doing the design concepts here. The programming team, as well; the lead programmer on Draco was at Team Andromeda from pretty much the very beginning. Saori Kobayashi, too, on the sound side.
The dragon designs are kind of different.
YF: Well, there wouldn't be any point to having the same designs as before. With this game, it's set on a planet inhabited by dragons that humans are in the midst of colonizing, so they're designed to be a bit more organic -- previously the dragons were a lot more weapon-like, but this time we're aiming for more of a creature-like look.
How do you create that look?
YF: Well, it's hard to really say how, but for example, we've tried to work out the ecosystem the enemies and so forth live within. Now, depending on the results of the quest, you can obtain different food to give to your dragon. Between what you feed him and the experience points, or score, you obtain within the quests, your dragon gradually grows. In that respect, the game isn't a shooter so much as a mixture of shooting and character-raising.