I had a very long, but very awesome day yesterday. I had some business in Osaka so I left my house in Yokohama early, hopped on a bullet train, and was in Osaka by 10:30 AM. I lived in the Kansai area (Osaka and Kyoto–I was in Kyoto) more than ten years ago as a college student, but I haven’t had many opportunities to go back since then. Since I needed to be in the area anyway, I called up some of the cool game developers I know in Osaka and asked them if they’d have time to meet (well, I “called them up” by sending them e-mail; I wonder if younger kids even say that any more).
So at 11:30 I met SWERY for lunch at his offices near Shinsaibashi. He, along with another designer and the head of production, took me out to a nice tonkatsu place, and we had a pretty fascinating conversation. Couple of tidbits that I thought were particularly interesting about Deadly Premonition: the original design was much less combat-oriented, and though there was some shooting, it was originally spec’d as a way to fight local gang members. Part-way through development the shooting sections were added specifically as a way to increase the appeal to Western audiences. Also, SWERY mentioned that they started with the characters long before they had a story. The characters were designed, and they took a trip to Oregon and Washington, and then later the story grew out. Perhaps that’s why the characters are so strong in that game. The game wasn’t originally designed to be horror: it sort of turned out that way after some of the other elements, such as the shooting, fell into place. We talked about a few other games as well; SWERY played Nanashi no Geemu, but was too scared to finish it (“I was worried that I might really end up cursed!”).
After parting ways, I hopped on a train and shot down to Kyoto to meet Pixel, the lone artist, programmer, musician, and designer behind Cave Story, which was a pretty big influence for me when I built Replica Island. We had an interesting discussion about the common soullessness of modern games (“Art and graphics are great and all, but I think it would be ok if there was a story too,” he said), and the way that platforms like the iPhone have created a new market for non-pro games, but are still home to a lot of mediocre stuff. Turns out he’s a big horror game fan too, though he says that most of the games he’s enjoyed as a viewer rather than a player.
From there I hopped in a taxi and made a short trip over to another part of Kyoto, where I met Dylan Cuthbert of Q-Games (PixelJunk, etc) for dinner. I’ve known Dylan for a while and it was cool to hang out again.
Finally I caught the last bullet train back to Yokohama at 9:30 and made it home just after midnight. Whew. What an awesome day!