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What was your involvement in Tomba! 2?
HS: I was working on the level design for the latter half of the game, and also setting up the AI movement, how the enemies moved around.
What came after Tomba! 2?
HS: The next game I worked on would be Extermination. The studio developing that game, Deep Space, was on a separate floor from Whoopee Camp, so I just switched floors and switched jobs.
You were the lead designer on Extermination.
HS: Yes. On the list of planners, my name came first. [Ed. note: in Japan, designers are called "planners".]
That's a big jump, going from doing enemy AI on a 2D game, to being the lead designer of a large, 3D game.
HS: At the time, when I was working on the game, I thought I was just one of the planners. I was eager to learn a lot, so I kind of volunteered. Like, "Hey, can you give me some more work?" "Hey, what are you doing? Can I help with that?" That kind of thing. Subconsciously I learned a lot, and toward the end of the project I was the lead.
Ah. So Extermination is not necessarily your vision, this was a project that started before you.
HS: Yes, that's correct. The project already had begun when I joined, so there were things that were working and weren't working when I joined. I tried to fix what I could and make the changes that were needed as a planner.
Deadly Premonition had a character named Forrest Kaysen. Spy Fiction also had a character named Forrest Kaysen. Extermination had a company called Forrest Soft. Are you connecting all of your games together?
HS: Uh, yes! They are connected. It's hard for me to reveal this. I'd like to keep it a secret...
HS: At the current time I feel it would be best to keep it a secret.
Are there more references to Forrest that I didn't see in your previous games, or is it just the three?
HS: In regards to games that have already been released, it's just those three. But you never know about the future.
I'm surprised that you noticed Forrest Soft. You're the first person to ask about it.
Also, SWERY 65 is a bar in both Deadly Premonition and Spy Fiction. I don't know if there's reference in Extermination. I didn't finish it. Is that part of the same secret?
HS: Extermination also does have SWERY 65 in it in a similar fashion. But that would be a separate secret from the Kaysen secret.
Spy Fiction was your next game. That was Access Games, which, if I'm not mistaken, you co-founded.
HS: Yes. Access Games was founded by six people, including me.
Did you all come from Deep Space?
HS: No, we came from separate companies. Of course there were a few that came from the same company, but we weren't all from the same place.
Was Spy Fiction the first project that you started at Access?
HS: Yes, that's correct.
You've remarked before that Spy Fiction was a particularly challenging project for your team.
HS: We had a lot of work to do with a very tight deadline and not very many people. We were doing stuff that we didn't have that much experience with, like English voiceovers and motion capture. We had to do all of that stuff. And while doing that, there was also the pressure of putting out the team's debut title. So we wanted to make sure this would be really good. Trying to do all that at the same time was really difficult.
What is the philosophy behind Access Games? Why did the six of you found it, and what do you hope to accomplish as a company?
HS: Our thinking is to make action games that can be sold on the worldwide market -- trying to generate like games like that in Osaka, and have them sold all across the planet.
What is the team size now? You started with six, what did it grow to?
HS: We currently have 50 people in-house, and maybe 20 freelancers.
Your next project was Rainy Woods, a game that was eventually canceled, though much of its work was recycled for Deadly Premonition. What was the genesis of that game?
HS: In the beginning, we were thinking of having some kind of scientific crime mystery-solving story, kind of like X-Files meets a murder mystery. I wrote up a proposal for that, and then we met with our producer. Through discussions, we were all thinking well, maybe it would be more fun if we gave it an occult theme.
It started as a story and world idea, rather than a game design idea?
HS: I don't remember all the details of that time, but I do recall we were working on the game design stuff and the environment and universe at the same time.
This game went through a lot of iteration and changes. In the earliest days, what did the game seem like in your head? What were you imagining?
HS: At the time, we were thinking, "Well, this could become a PSP game, a small action-adventure game that you can take with you." That kind of evolved into turning this game into an Xbox 360 and PlayStation 2 [Ed. note: Not a typo!] multiplatform game. It turned into an action-adventure, and we weren't anticipating that it would snowball into such a big thing.
It started as a smaller, simpler action game, but grew as you worked on it?
HS: Yes. That's right. Through discussions, the project became bigger and bigger. And through the process, I saw this as an opportunity to make the game I wanted to make, and utilize the free-roaming elements I wanted to make, and some of the story elements I had ideas for, and the gameplay ideas I had too.
It incorporated ideas that you wanted to explore before, but weren't able to?