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Interview: 'Intuition' Led Keita Takahashi To Tiny Speck's  Glitch

Interview: 'Intuition' Led Keita Takahashi To Tiny Speck's Glitch

July 12, 2011 | By Tom Curtis

Katamari Damacy creator Keita Takahashi spoke with Gamasutra about his recently-announced decision to join online game developer Tiny Speck, saying that "intuition" compelled him to dive back into game development.

Over the last few years, Takahashi had expressed discontent with recent developments in the industry, and even said that the future of the medium "seemed a bit dark."

As his enthusiasm for video games appeared to wane, Takahashi turned his attention toward designing children's playgrounds. In 2010 he left Namco Bandai, and founded independent company Uvula with his wife to work on a range of media projects.

But last week's recent announcement reveals that Takahashi has decided to jump back into game design, where he will work with Vancouver-based developer Tiny Speck, established by Flickr co-founder Stewart Butterfield, on the side-scrolling multiplayer online game Glitch.

Takahashi and Butterfield recently got in touch with Gamasutra to discuss the nature of their partnership, as well as Takahashi's future role at the Canadian online game developer.

On Joining Tiny Speck

Takahashi and Butterfield first met through a mutual friend earlier this year, and Butterfield explained that as the two talked, they realized they shared a number of common interests: "I got Keita playing Glitch, and we went back and forth on a whole bunch of ideas for the game...The more we talked, the more we wanted to work together."

"I remember hearing about how he wanted to work on playgrounds, and I saw him saying he was bored of games, and we saw this as an opportunity to lure him back," he added.

Takahashi said that he decided to join Tiny Speck's team for one simple reason: "It was intuition. I just like Glitch!"

Butterfield added, "Keita told me that one of the reasons he wanted to work on Glitch was that there are no console developers, platform issues, and no publishers. There are fewer hoops to jump through," which Takahashi confirmed.

As for Takahashi's role on Glitch, Butterfield said that even though the game has been in development for over a year, much of that time was spent on technology and platform development, and Takahashi joined just in time to add some of his own unusual flair to the game's design.

"Going forward, Keita will be a part of [Glitch's] core game design," Butterfield said. "We'll also start working on mobile apps which aren't Glitch itself, but which tie into it mini-games that tie into the big game that help you progress. Also we'll have apps that are not quite games, but are more like toys, that have people doing creative stuff, like making art, that will tie back into the game."

Unlike with his previous projects, Takahashi is joining the Glitch team mid-development, and won't have the same creative control he had over Katamari or Noby Noby Boy; when asked how he felt working on a project started by another developer, Takahashi said, "I would like to try this now it's like a big trial."

He added that in his new role, he simply hopes to make Glitch "more unique and more fun."

Life After Namco Bandai

Since leaving Namco Bandai in 2010 and founding Uvula, Takahashi said that he has worked on several projects outside of the game industry, including a picture book and an Android app for the Japanese market.

Takahashi explained that the Android app is not quite a game, but an educational program for children. "The name of the app is 'Chikyuo's app' ... Earth is 'Chikyu' in Japanese and 'Chikyuo' is baby Earth. The characters tell Chikyuo about Earth and nature, and the player learns as Chikyuo learns. I designed all the characters as well as some other things in that app," he said.

Takahashi added that despite moving to Vancouver to work at Tiny Speck, he still hopes to design playgrounds in England, though these plans are currently "pending" due to the scope and complexity of the project.

"The Nottingham city council really wanted [Takahashi] to do it, but when you actually get into the design, there are all kinds of liability concerns, like perhaps one [design] is too dangerous, or another is too expensive to make. It's become mired in bureaucracy, but it's still moving forward, just very slowly," Butterfield explained, as Takahashi quietly agreed.

Now that he has joined Tiny Speck, Takahashi will live in Vancouver and focus primarily on Glitch, where he and Butterfield aim to capture the creative essence that helped Katamari Damacy and Noby Noby Boy make a strong impression.

"What we want to do is make something with a strong 'flavor,' just like Keita's previous work," Butterfield said. "We want to appeal to a broad audience, but we want to make something that's pure, that has a strong imaginative vision behind it. It might mean that fewer people will like it, but the people that do like it will like it a lot more." Of course, that doesn't mean the two are shooting for any particular demographic -- Takahashi added, "The game is for everyone!"

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