Talking to Alex Jones and Motohide Eshiro, producers of the upcoming Devil May Cry game, DmC, gives you an interesting perspective. On one side is the American producer who helped select Ninja Theory, the Cambridge, England-based developer to take on the Japanese series. On the other side is the Japanese producer, based in Osaka, where all previous installments of the game had been developed, and who was relatively new to working with Western studios -- his prior collaboration being the regrettable Bionic Commando, developed by the now-defunct Grin.
The good news is that the new DmC game is a significant step up fron that title -- fast and responsive as the previous games in the series, but with a new attitude born of its UK breeding. Fans who were once horrified by the change of development teams are now receptive, say the pair, as more journalists have gotten to play the game and report back on its quality.
In this interview, the two talk about how Ninja Theory was selected to develop the game, lessons learned by both of Capcom's offices regarding international collaboration, and precisely how and why the developer was allowed to inject its own sensibility into the franchise while maintaining continuity with a franchise which defined the action game genre for years.
Can you talk about working with Ninja Theory, and how the Japanese side approached the collaboration on a Japanese IP like this?
Motohide Eshiro: Initially, the way the whole thing went down, Capcom U.S.A. initially found Ninja Theory, approached them, and began that relationship. Capcom Japan jumped in right at the beginning of production.
The role of Capcom Japan has been to be the vision-holder and the standard-bearer as far as DmC -- the essential Devil May Cry-ishness; what it is that is the heart or the core concept of Devil May Cry, especially with Itsuno-san, who directed some of the previous Devil May Crys.
He's sort of the been the ambassador, if you will, of getting across what these core concepts are -- what it is we need to maintain for consistency's sake between the previous titles. He's spent a lot of time with Ninja Theory explaining these core concepts and elements, and their creative team worked in what we wanted and put their own spin on it.
The relationship with Ninja Theory started at the U.S. office?
Alex Jones: Yeah.
So how did you find them? I mean, I obviously know their previous work, but how did you say, "This is the one we're going to approach for Devil May Cry"?
AJ: Well, we were familiar with what they had done before, and, in fact, our director of product development at the time had worked with them in a previous version of themselves when he was at Microsoft, and knew of them.
So there was already a semi-personal relationship there, but what really sealed it was the fact that we would look at Heavenly Sword and Enslaved; both of those games contain things that are really important for a DMC game to do well -- narrative, cutscenes, and these sorts of things. Then, they had shown just enough capacity for combat that we felt bringing in a booster shot of some of the CJ [Capcom Japan] experience of 25 years of making fighting games would get it over the hurdle completely.
And given the fact that those guys had a reverence for the previous franchise, or previous installments of the game, they were super receptive, very easy to work with, and took direction very well in that regard. Once we had surveyed the landscape, it kind of was a no-brainer; they were one of the few people that we considered.
When Capcom U.S. came to you and said "We have this developer we'd like to propose," how did you go through the process of seeing whether or not "Okay, this is a fit"?
ME: Basically, it was a pretty simple process. When it was first proposed, we pretty much got on a plane and went out to Cambridge, met with those guys personally, took a look at what their capabilities were, met with their key members, and the rest, as they say, was history. It wasn't what I would describe as a difficult decision, given their pedigree.
In particular, combat's very important to Devil May Cry; Western games with melee combat don't tend to feel very much like Japanese games. I was curious specifically about that, and working with the team to create a game that felt consistent, combat-wise, with the original games in the series.
ME: Once again, it was a really close collaboration, with the Capcom Japan guys consulting with Ninja Theory throughout the process. You do hit on something important when you talk about the differences, generally speaking, between Japanese and Western games, when it comes to the control feel in these types of games.
The main difference, if we were to really simplify things, is it seems that Western games tend to focus a lot on realism in animation, so that, if you're walking along and you stop, you should go through a natural and proper stop animation, which tends to look very good. But, when we're talking about something like Devil May Cry, the concept has always been letting the user do what they want when they want -- cancel things in mid-motion and suddenly turn on a dime, this sort of thing. We had to spend a lot of time getting this concept across, and bringing their way of thinking over to the mind space that we were in, and finding that balance between realism and ease of use.