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Q&A:  Time Crisis 4  Producer On The Return Of The Gun Game

Q&A: Time Crisis 4 Producer On The Return Of The Gun Game

November 29, 2007 | By Christian Nutt

November 29, 2007 | By Christian Nutt
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One might think that the arcade-style gun game isn't a good console game proposition in 2007 - but Namco Bandai's Time Crisis 4 is trying to prove that wrong with their PlayStation 3 exclusive arcade conversion, bundled with the new Guncon 3.

The title also ships with a home version-exclusive FPS mode, as well as the full arcade version of the latest iteration of the classic lightgun title.

Thus, Gamasutra recently sat down with Namco Bandai Time Crisis 4 producer Teruaki Minami to talk about the game, its history, and why the company is calling for more Guncon 3 games from other publishers in an attempt to continue the genre.

So, Time Crisis 4 is for PS3, but it's based on an arcade title, and I was curious about the arcade market, and how arcade games work in the home setting nowadays.

Well, since the '90s, as far as Namco Bandai, our winning strategy is to port arcade games to home gaming consoles. So that is the winning pattern for Namco Bandai since the '90s. This applies to Soulcalibur, Tekken, and the Time Crisis franchise as well.

Not only for those old Namco titles, but also for the Bandai titles such as Dragon Ball Z -- as you may know, we have the arcade versions of the Dragon Ball Z franchise titles. We do the same stuff for that, too. Whether to release a PS3 version first or an arcade version first depends on the situation -- like, the target consumers and so forth.

Home games keep increasing in complexity, but a game like Time Crisis has to be simple to play because it's in the arcade. How do you find balancing that, so you can release it in the arcade but also satisfy home consumers?

Well for the arcade version, consumers will pay only about a hundred yen -- or maybe fifty cents in the case of the United States -- and they play maybe 30 to 40 minutes. That's the arcade version. And as you may know, Time Crisis 4 costs around 90 dollars. We understand that we need to add more features in terms of quality, and in terms of gameplay time. So for the home version of Time Crisis 4, we are adding FPS mode.

It's interesting, because in America the arcade scene is pretty dead, but you still see Time Crisis machines everywhere. So do you find that you still have a lot of popularity with the arcade versions selling in America?

Well we know that the fighting games are not as popular now as they were in the early '90s, but in the case of Time Crisis 4, the game system is so simple that it's still popular in the United States.

Could you talk about why you chose the PlayStation 3 as the platform for this title?

All [of the previous games in the] Time Crisis franchise were developed for the PlayStation consoles. So that's one of the main reasons. The arcade version was done with a Super System 256 system, which is compatible with the PlayStation 2 system, but it's actually a little bit higher than the PlayStation 2. That's another reason.

Since Super System 256 is compatible with the PlayStation 2 console, some people might think, "Why didn't Namco Bandai port Time Crisis 4 to PlayStation 2?" The main reason is that the Super System 256 is compatible with PlayStation 2, but in terms of specs, as I already mentioned, it is a little bit higher than PlayStation 2, we decided to make it for PlayStation 3. And as you can imagine, the creators always want to release their titles for the next generation gaming consoles.

Can you talk a little bit about the FPS mode? Where the idea came from, and what it's all about?

When releasing Time Crisis 1, 2, and 3, we always kept adding new features to the Time Crisis franchise, such as voice navigation and so on. As for Time Crisis 4, we added FPS features to the Time Crisis franchise. The main reason is that we know that the Time Crisis franchise is really, really popular in United States and Europe, and when you look at those nations, FPS games are really, really popular.

Were you able to get any feedback from the U.S. fans, and do you use that when you are developing games here in Japan?

Of course, we receive feedback from U.S. fans. Surveys, and stuff like that. We always try to respond to their questions and listen to their opinions. In the arcade version, for example, you'll see that one of the player characters is Giorgio, and we received U.S. fan letters from fans who are women, who are really, really big fans of Giorgio.

You have to release the controller alongside the game, and, as you said, it increases the price. Can you give me your thoughts on how that affects the decision to start development of a home version?

The difficulty that we had in developing the Guncon 3 is that we had to have a certain balance in the quality, the price, and the design of the Guncon 3, as well as the quality of the game itself. And, also, the accuracy of the gun sights.

For example, if we need to make Guncon 3 much cheaper, then we have to reduce the number of buttons -- but if we do that, then it becomes hard for us to develop future titles that use the Guncon 3. Having more buttons means having more development possibilities for future titles.

Did you have to design it differently to work with a high definition TV set, as opposed to a standard definition TV set?

For the Guncon 1 and 2, those controllers are capturing the flashes from the standard definition TV, however, that method is not compatible with the latest high definition plasma and LCD monitors. So that is one of the reasons that we had to create a new Guncon. And, do work with all different kinds of monitors, we decided to introduce new LED markers - basically for Guncon 3 there is a little camera here [indicates the barrel of the gun] which is catching the position of the LED markers.

Is it similar to the sensor bar from the Wii?

Basically it is the same, but Guncon 3's LED markers are actually much more accurate. Much better than Nintendo Wii's controller. In the Wii, there are only two LED points, but for the Guncon 3 there are six LED points, so it is more accurate than the Wii. The PlayStation 3 will be able to recognize the tilt of the Guncon 3, its distance from the monitor, and these things cannot be done with the Wii system.

So the gun has SIXAXIS capabilities as well?

Yes.

Interesting. Now, one thing that I want to ask about is the fact that you're making a PS3-exclusive game. Right now, what do you think of the PlayStation 3's market, in Japan, America, and Europe?

We are sure that the PlayStation 3 market is still growing. This applies not only to Japan, but also to Europe and the United States. We plan to release new titles for the PlayStation 3 and we are sure that some of the titles will work with the Guncon 3.

By the way, currently we are looking for other publishers to make titles for Guncon 3. I know that the number of titles which work with Guncon 3 is not enough for consumers, and we definitely need more titles that work with Guncon 3. As you can see, we only have Time Crisis 4!

That's kind of interesting. For Guncon 1, there were several games from other developers. But for Guncon 2, were there any games by a third party?

Sega's Vampire Night, and Resident Evil: Dead Aim, by Capcom...

But now they're doing Umbrella Chronicle for Wii, so...

Ah, yeah. Well, we are asking all publishers, whether it's Capcom, Sega, Konami, etc, whether they have any titles that they'd have a chance to develop for Guncon 3. And by making Time Crisis 4, we are trying to show other publishers that FPS titles can work with the Guncon 3. We definitely want other publishers to create FPS titles that work with Guncon 3! But we have not yet received any official feedback from those companies at this moment.

The Nintendo Wii has shown that there can be a new gaming control system. In the case of the PlayStation 3, we haven't seen that kind of stuff. We have only seen high definition graphics -- it's only an updated version of the PlayStation 2. And we know that a lot of consumers are a little bit bored with that kind of stuff, so we are trying to show a new style of game playing with the Guncon 3.


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