Takayuki Suguro is director of Resonance of Fate
, known as End of Eternity
in Japan, and previously worked on Square Enix games such as the acclaimed Vagrant Story
Now at Star Ocean
developer Tri-Ace, he's leading the Sega-published HD gun battle RPG
, which seems to blend John Woo-style cinematic gunplay with a quasi-traditional JRPG interface.
Gamasutra spoke with Suguro, along with Sega producer Matsuhiro Shimano about the upcoming game's complex battle system, character creation (and avoiding the JRPG femininity stereotype).
The conversation about the game, which debuts in January 2010 in Japan and later in 2010 in the West, also encompasses the risks of making an HD RPG in a difficult market - not to mention the curious penchant Japanese game companies have for RPGs with words like "final," "end," or "last" in the title:
Resonance of Fate is very visually complex, whereas Tri-Ace's Infinite Undiscovery was quite simple and straightforward. Why the decision to go in this direction for Resonance of Fate?
Takayuki Suguro: First and foremost, we wanted to make this game very cinematic. You've probably seen in the battle system, it's a very cinematic battle. But at the same time, we didn't want to... When trying to make this game cinematic looking, we wanted to add the action game element as well. I tried to focus on the action element.
What's going to happen is that the [players] get better at the action genre -- the people that are very good at action games are going to look good when they're playing. And someone who's not really into the action genre may not be able to have the same gaming experience.
So, we needed to find a balance between not making it too easy and not making it too difficult, while also making it look cinematic. So balancing was the biggest difficulty when developing the game. Through that process we came up with adding this strategy element, which you might find a little more complex. Actually, the strategy part makes the game look and play much better.
It seems aimed quite squarely toward core users. How do you feel the market is for really core users these days as the market has been expanded?
TS: Because the market has expanded remarkably to casual users, there are so many games that are really casual, pick-up-and-play 15-minute or 20-minute games, but we wanted to make a game that satisfied core users, the traditional gamers who like challenge, and like to get really deep into things and into the gameplay experience. I'm not really too concerned. We wanted to make a game for the core market, so we did it.
This game has a focus on high-end graphics. Obviously, it's a full HD RPG, but there hasn't been an HD Japanese RPG that's been a breakout hit yet. Are you at all concerned? Do you feel that the market is there for a high-end HD level RPG?
TS: Obviously if you try to develop a game on the current gen consoles, there are a lot of risks, like development costs, scheduling, and so forth. What happens is that previous RPGs may not have experimented with new gameplay. They want to minimize their risks, so they kind of went for the traditional simpler gameplay or went with a series sequel. So maybe the users have gotten fed up with the similar-looking or similar playing in this high def RPG market.
With this in mind we wanted to make Resonance of Fate
a really, really different title from the competitors, so that what's you saw in the gameplay. That's what you saw in the story. By making something really challenging, it's kind of like a challenge to the market, trying to expand the current users. We want to also bring back those traditional core gamers who own an HD console. We want them to return to the RPG genre.
When making something of this scale, which is obviously high budget so it has to sell higher, how do you have to consider markets outside of Japan?
Mitsuhiro Shimano: Obviously, we did have to look outside the Japanese market. We had to look worldwide for it to make sense commercially. But that doesn't mean that we changed some bits of the game to be more Western. It's in line with the original plan that we had from the beginning when Tri-Ace pitched this project to Sega. It's in line with that.
Yes, Sega's American and European subsidiaries did have their say. They kind of had their input and opinions or marketing data research. "These kind of games sell in the West," this and that. Tri-Ace didn't just put [those suggestions] into the game straight away without thinking, though. They wanted to stick to the original plans.
They're all opinions. There are some really small or detailed elements that kind of make sense much better in the Western market as well, but it doesn't mean that whatever makes it in the Western market is input straight into the game.
I mean more like trying to create a global product rather than a local product. For instance, Capcom has succeeded recently by making games that are just overall good games, that will appeal to a wide number of people simply because they're not built around something that is local or colloquial. It appeals broadly.
TS: If you compared it to some other Sega RPGs or Sega titles, it is more of a worldwide title. Like the character design, some of the JRPG characters tend to look to Westerners as rather feminine, even the male characters. In terms of that, we kind of made some adjustments. But we also believe that what makes the game is interesting is quite the same wherever you're from.
Would you say you're trying to balance global appeal with local flavor?
MS: At a relatively early point of development, the development team and I went to Sega of America, and we had quite a few discussions about the game design and how it's going to turn out. Quite luckily, our American subsidiary didn't have any major issues at that point, so the game has been relatively more worldwide-targeted compared to some other titles.
What are the main things that you have to consider when designing characters? Like, obviously, there's the visual appeal, and the femininity you mentioned, but maybe also emotional resonance. What are your major considerations there?
TS: We were really careful when they were designing characters. In this game, what might be most intriguing compared to some other titles is that there isn't a single protagonist. We have three main characters. It's a balance of the three characters, where we don't want any one particular character stand out compared to the other two characters. That might be the most interesting part.
Other than that, it's a balancing of everything -- how it looks, how the players can emotionally resonate to the in-game characters. Though we didn't want any one character to stand out, in the marketing response a lot of people said, "Oh, that female character is actually very good." In terms of the ad campaign, we might have to focus a little bit slightly more towards the female character. [laughs]
I've noticed that a lot of next-gen RPGs have some kind of ending or finale to the title, so there's End of Eternity (Japanese title for Resonance of Fate), Last Remnant, Star Ocean 4: Last Hope, and so on. Why do you think there's so much fatalism in these game titles?
TS: [laughs] Originally, this game was meant to be called Resonance of Time
or Resonance of Fate
, and Sega was saying they wanted End of Eternity
, so people kind of say End of Eternity
was the first title and America and Europe changed it to Resonance
. Resonance of Time
is the original title. The guys wanted it that way.
To your question, one thing is that maybe the Japanese market likes the end, the final, the last for some reason. And also, if you look at all the RPG games that have those titles, the protagonist is usually the savior to a kind of ending world, so the name probably links with how the story is going to develop.
Plus, there's Final Fantasy after all.
TS: There is that! It can't be denied.